Without Honor updated


~ musings, rants, life stories, and publications ~

Arnold R. Isaacs

Arnold R. Isaacs is a writer, educator, and the author of two books relating to the Vietnam war, Without Honor: Defeat in Vietnam and Cambodia and Vietnam Shadows: The War, Its Ghosts, and Its Legacy. He has also written From Troubled Lands: Listening to Pakistani and Afghan Americans in Post-9/11 America, available online at this link fromtroubledlands.
He was formerly a reporter, foreign and national correspondent, and editor for the Baltimore Sun. During six years as the Sun's correspondent in Asia, beside covering the closing years of the Vietnam war, he traveled throughout Southeast and South Asia. Since leaving daily journalism he has taught or conducted training programs for journalists and journalism students in more than 20 countries in Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, and has written studies for the Critical Incident Analysis Group and the Academy for Critical Incident Analysis on subjects including the Virginia Tech shooting, displacement after Hurricane Katrina, the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, and other events that challenged American society and its institutions.


In November 2022, McFarland Publishing released a new edition of Without Honor: Vietnam and Cambodia. It's updated with some new material in the concluding chapter, reflecting on a longer span of Vietnam memories and that war's echoes in our more recent wars. The first 13 chapters, which narrate events in the final years of the war in Vietnam and the "sideshow wars" in Laos and Cambodia, are unchanged from the original edition. The new version is available in paperback and as an e-book. It can be ordered from the publisher or from Amazon or other online booksellers. For a sidelight on the cover photograph, see here.



"Playing Politics with Tragedy"  Far-right congresswoman is an extreme case but represents many Republican politicians who use personal suffering and distorted facts to promote a political message.


War, truth, and denial in a post-fact world War crimes, truth and denial

Is the era of "alternative facts" another legacy of Vietnam?  "How the trauma of the Vietnam War led to the age of "alternative facts""

50 Years Later: Eyewitness to the Last Day of US Military Command in Vietnam  Remembering March 29, 1973, at Saigon's Tansonnhut Air Base

"Reporting and Commentary about the Vietnam War" (video)
I was a co-panelist with an old friend, photographer Neal Ulevich, at Texas Tech University's annual Vietnam conference. Neal's presentation, showing a collection of his wartime photos, shows why he was one of the most respected photographers who covered Vietnam.

Reflections 50 years after the January 1973 Paris peace agreement on Vietnam:

In an essay for the History News Network, "No Golden Anniversary for the Paris Peace Accords" , I recalled that on the calendars in Washington and Paris, the day the agreement was signed was January 27, but in Vietnam, where I observed the first hours of the failed truce, it was already the next morning. Accordingly, I wrote, "the date that remains etched in my memory 50 years later is the 28th of January, not the 27th" -- a difference, I added, that seems "not just numerical but symbolic, a telling metaphor for the wide gap between Washington’s vision of reality and the true situation in Vietnam."

I also recalled that day in a panel discussion (once again together with Carolyn Eisenberg) titled "The Paris Peace Accords: Lessons for Today?" (video) presented -- on January 27, of course -- by the Quincy Institute.

"Ending the American War" (video)   A joint book talk organized by the Vietnam Peace Commemoration Committee. I appear along with Carolyn (Rusti) Eisenberg, a Hofstra University historian and author of Fire and Rain: Nixon, Kissinger, and the Wars in Southeast Asia

"The 'Christmas bombing' of 1972 — and why that misremembered Vietnam War moment matters" The 11-day U.S. air offensive in December 1972 is widely remembered as decisive in forcing the Vietnamese Communists to make concessions and sign the Paris Peace agreement, thus supposedly showing that air power was a crucial factor in ending the American war on terms that would not otherwise have been available. Irrefutable facts show that that claim is provably false.


"After 50 Years, the Truth About the Vietnam Peace Agreement Remains Elusive"
a piece for the History News Network tagged to the 50th anniversary of Henry Kissinger's notorious "peace is at hand" statement on Oct. 26, 1972.  It reminded readers of  the larger and seldom remembered story of what actually happened that month that led to Kissinger's pronouncement, and how those facts contradict persistent myths about events in the next three months and the peace agreement that was eventually concluded in late January 1973.


Leaving Saigon
: I wrote this in 2005, 30 years after the end of the Vietnam war and my last flight to a Navy ship in the South China Sea. In the summer of 2021, as another failed war came to its chaotic end, this essay sounds hauntingly resonant.

Missing Voices from the Vietnam War: unpublished, originally written in 2018. I have no doubt that similar voices have been similarly missing in Afghanistan.

Three last letters (all unanswered) to my Republican representatives about Trump's stolen-election lie.


A post-election email discussion: For weeks after Election Day 2020, my Republican representatives in the state and county legislatures studiously avoided expressing an opinion on voter fraud or on President Trump's campaign to overturn the election result.

Remembering Timmie: The woman whose chronic anxiety made me a reporter. First of two unpublished essays reminiscing about my early days in journalism.

Mr. Dorsey's World: Second reminiscence, about my first managing editor. 

An Open Letter to My Old Tribe: Suggestions for journalists covering the final weeks of the 2020 presidential election campaign.

"A very small close-up from a very big picture": a report on a Black Lives Matter protest in very white, very Republican, Pasadena, Maryland


"A new type of wound in a new type of war": some musings on Moral Injury 

Review of The Education of an Idealist, by Samantha Power

President Trump's latest anti-refugee, anti-immigrant actions reach a new low of inhumanity

Remembering Vietnam Veterans 

Whatever the Democrats are having in Miami, it's not a debate. What should we call it?

Echoes from 100 Years ago: On immigration and other issues, some surprisingly strong similarities between 1919 and 2019

A Catalog of Heartlessness: Trump's inhumane policies on refugees and other immigration issues are cruel to large numbers of legal immigrants and those seeking to enter the U.S. lawfully


Making America's Wars Great Again: The Pentagon whitewashes a troubling past

Review of Anatomy of Victory: Why the United States Triumphed in World War II, Fought to a Stalemate in Korea, Lost in Vietnam, and Failed in Iraq, by John D. Caldwell

Moments of Truth About Truth: Old lessons on the power of lies, and reflections on facts vs falsehoods in the Trump era

A remembrance of John McCain

Real Facts About the Islamophobes' False Facts

Review of 1947: Where Now Begins, by Elisabeth Åsbrink,

In America, anti-Muslim bigotry is more acceptable than other prejudices

In Present Wars, Repeating Past Mistakes -- Reading about Iraq and Afghanistan, remembering Vietnam

Review of The Violent American Century -- War and Terror Since World War II, by John W. Dower

Excerpts from Frederick Douglass's last published essay before his death in 1895, "Why Is the Negro Lynched?" These quotes were prepared for a program on Douglass's bicentennial, organized by the local chapter of the Fulbright Association. The essay gives a remarkable view of the post-Reconstruction era, which restored white supremacy rule in the South and largely nullified the emancipation -- a period in America's racial history that is usually overlooked in our customary celebratory narrative. The full text is available online.

Podcast interview 3/15: "calling out BS" about immigration and terrorism (ARI segment begins at minute 17:00; follows an earlier segment on a college course called -- really! -- "Calling Out Bullshit," which is worth a listen too)

Using Fake Facts to Make Us Afraid: On Immigration and Terrorism, the Trump Administration misleads about its own misleading data

Review of The Ghosts of Langley: Into the CIA’s Heart of Darkness, by John Prados



Fact-checking the Pentagon's misleading Vietnam War 50th Anniversary Commemoration website

A video accompanying "Remembering Vietnam"
I am one of several talking heads appearing in this video, which accompanies an exhibition of Vietnam war documents at the U.S. National Archives in Washington (third of three segments, arranged chronologically; this one covers the years 1970-1975)

Review of Anatomy of Failure: Why America Loses Every War It Starts, by Harlan K. Ullman

Review of Bringing Vincent Home, a very unusual Vietnam war novel by Madeleine Mysko

"Facts About the Vietnam War," 5-part series in advance of Ken Burns-Lynn Novick Vietnam documentary: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V

Podcast interview, 9/7: separating myth from facts about the Vietnam War

Review of A Rift in the Earth, by James Reston Jr., on the creation of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

In shaping Trump's immigration policies, Jeff Sessions misrepresented his own data on refugees and terrorism

Lies have power even when we know they're lies

Remembering a long-ago encounter with John McCain -- reprise (originally published in 2000)

Podcast interview 7/24: telling the truth in the Trump era, and whom do you trust on the facts? (go to minute 30:55)

The Real Danger of Fake News

Are David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt (Planned Parenthood sting videotapers) really journalists?

Review of Generation Revolution, by Rachel Aspden

Podcast interview 3/7: more perspective on American fears of terrorism and the roots of Islamophobia (go to minute 22:25)

Fact Sheet 1: Refugees and the Risk of Terrorism

Fact Sheet 2: Real Facts About Islamophobia Fake Facts

Podcast interview 2/24: Trump's fear-mongering on refugees (go to minute 7:00)

How scared should we be of refugees? Jeff Sessions claimed to make the case, but didn't.

Podcast interview 1/31: Trump's travel ban, false fear of refugees, and anti-Muslim hysteria (go to minute 21:20)

Are We Safer Yet? Part 1: Some facts on refugees and terrorism -- an imaginary danger

Are We Safer Yet? Part 2: Islamophobic influence in Trump's White House and why it is dangerous

Review of A Great Place to Have a War: America in Laos and the Birth of a Military CIA, by Joshua Kurlantzick

Review of Debriefing the President: The Interrogation of Saddam Hussein, by John Nixon


Review of Retire the Colors: Veterans & Civilians on Iraq and Afghanistan, Dario DiBattista, ed.

Remembering two friends whose lives were upended by the Vietnam war

Is Islamophobia a blind spot in American journalism?

A look back at the reporting of Vietnam

Review of Children of Paradise, by Laura Secor

Review of McNamara's Folly, by Hamilton Gregory

Donald Trump's call to bar Muslims from entering the country got all the attention, but an even uglier thread of anti-Muslim bigotry exists inside Ted Cruz's campaign


Who lost the Vietnam war? Forty years after the event, the facts on that question have been increasingly challenged by a series of myths (first of a four-part series)

CICERO ARCHIVE: Writings originally in Cicero Magazine.com



last edited 4/4/24

Without Honor

Vietnam Shadows

From Troubled Lands