Linguist Admits Vietnam Era Deception
By BOYCE TERGIVISET
Published: December 7, 2009 (Special to The New York Times)
In yet another of a series of embarrassing Vietnam- era deceptions, noted linguist and critic of American foreign policy Noam Chomsky admitted yesterday that far from participating in the anti-war movement during the Vietnam war, he had, in fact, served two tours of duty with the First Air Cavalry in Vietnam as a second lieutenant commanding a particularly feared unit known as “Hell’s Hounds.” The story came to light last week when photographs of Chomsky dated 1966 were sent anonymously to this newspaper. Apparently authentic, the photographs depict Chomsky in the field uniform of the Cavalry carrying a bandolier of cartridges over his left shoulder and wearing what appears to be a necklace of severed Vietcong ears.
Reached for comment in his MIT office, Chomsky at first denied that he had ever served with American armed forces in any capacity whatsoever, saying that the claim “would have made Orwell turn over in his grave.” In a statement issued a day later, his spokesperson, Roberta Pilger, insisted that Chomsky had, in fact, spent the period from 1964 to 1969 in his MIT office in Cambridge, where he was occupied in issuing a scathing series of attacks on American foreign policy.
Attempts to verify Chomsky’s non-involvement in the Vietnam war through Department of Defense military personnel records, however, revealed that while on leave of absence from the Department of Linguistics at MIT, Lieutenant Noam Chomsky served with the First Air Cavalry from 1964 to 1967, reenlisting for a second tour of duty in 1967. Pentagon records further indicate that Chomsky was the recipient of several citations for “conspicuous gallantry in combat,” and the Purple Cross.
Faced with what appeared to be incontrovertible evidence, Chomsky himself confessed yesterday to the deception and subsequent cover-up, attributing his forty year effort to hide his Vietnam era military background to what he described as “a very hectic lecturing schedule.”
Said Chomsky in a hastily called press conference arranged by officials at MIT: “I very much regret not getting these facts out earlier, but whatever I may have done pales in significance to American foreign policy in Nicaragua,” adding that “that’s just a moral truism.”
Reached for comment by The New York Times at his home in Council Falls, Arkansas, one of the men serving under Chomsky’s command, retired insurance adjuster, Robert Percival Bensonhurst, vividly recalled Chomsky’s battlefield persona. “That boy was rabid as a coon,” said Bensonhurst, adding that even hardened combat veterans in Hell’s Hounds were reluctant to inquire when and under what circumstances Chomsky had acquired his chain of Vietcong ears. “We figure we ask one too many questions,” said Bensonhurt, apparently willing to reveal the secrets he had guarded for more than forty years, “next thing we know be our ears on that chain.”
Friends and associates of the noted activist and critic reported themselves saddened by the disclosures. Said Robert Fisk from London, “It’s too bad Noam didn’t realize that the cover-up is always worse than the crime.”
Officials at MIT refused comment but acknowledged that an investigation into Chomsky’s wartime activities was ongoing.
From the Berlinski Collective