Fighting Words

Fighting Words


Fighting Words

Gerald Nicosia, author of Home to War: A History of the Vietnam Veterans' Movement, here replies in detail to Michael Uhl's review of that book, which appeared in the July 9, 2001 issue of the magazine. Nicosia earlier rebutted Uhl in the more constricted space available in the September 17/24 "Letters" section.

San Francisco

Two months ago I complained about the irresponsible, ad hominem 4,000-word review by Michael Uhl of my book Home to War that appeared in The Nation. I submitted a response to the numerous misrepresentations and falsehoods that ran to about 2,000 words, and even so I was not able to deal with all of the vicious, unfair attacks and lies in the piece. I was told at first that I could only have 300 words to reply. I complained and was told I could have only 500 words; ditto, then 700 words. Finally I was given an absolute ceiling of 1,000 words.

I did my best to reply to the most egregious errors in those 1,000 words. Now, it turns out Uhl has been given yet another 1,500 words to throw even more lies at me and my book–and to reprint another bad review from a different publication. Not only is this dirty pool–giving him 6,000 words and me 1,000– but letting him print the substance of another bad review is totally unjust, since I was not allowed to print the substance of one of the dozens of rave reviews the book has received, in places such as the Boston Globe, Newsday, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Dallas Morning News.

In his first piece Uhl claimed I had conducted 100 interviews. Now he claims it's 211. My acknowledgements name 431 principle interviewees (page 669-671) and there were at least another 200 spoken to more casually. Would it be too much to ask The Nation to simply count names before letting Uhl make his wild claims? Even more outrageously, The Nation allows Uhl to print unsubstantiated and completely false, malevolent libel: that I had "an explosive urge to blow up" his house. Is Uhl now a mindreader? What evidence is there of this plot to blow up his house? In printing such vicious nonsense, The Nation has descended to the level of The National Inquirer, and should be ashamed of itself. What will you print next week, Uhl's assertion that I was involved in blowing up the World Trade Center?

There are other outrageous lies as well–the claim that Home to War is merely "oral history." The sources and notes to Home to War cite over seventy book-length works and hundreds of articles, as well as scores of other documents. Once again, a cursory look by the editors of The Nation would have shown this statement to be one more blatant, libelous falsehood.

While Uhl is given no length limits in his attacks, even my short reply was substantially cut. Most damningly, a key sentence was removed, which revealed that Uhl himself had met with the Concerned Officers Movement only a month before the Dellums Committee Hearings. Why was that sentence cut?

Once upon a time I believed the The Nation was a reliable critical voice on the political left. Once upon a time, I was even a Nation subscriber. I am now convinced that you are publishing some kind of trashy, political hit sheet. Again, in view of what was at one time an honorable publishing history, you folks should be ashamed.

Now to the substance of Uhl's remarks: Once again, Uhl cannot spend enough words misrepresenting Home to War. He has now upped his count of my interviewees from 100 to 211. Try again, Mike. Pages 669-671 list 431 principle interviewees by name; there were hundreds of others spoken to more casually. He also claims my book is nothing but "oral history." The Sources and Notes to Home to War cite some seventy books and hundreds of articles and thousands of other documents, many acquired through Freedom of Information Act requests. Most vilely, Uhl claims I was beset by an "explosive urge" to blow up his house. Besides being poor at arithmetic, he also flunks mind-reading.

Likewise The Nation allows Uhl to disparage my claim that I helped Andrew Hunt with his book The Turning. I would be happy to show my letters from Hunt to Uhl, The Nation, or anyone else–but, typical of these unfounded attacks, no one bothered to ask to see them.

Perhaps most unprofessionally, The Nation allows Uhl, in continuing his attack on me, to quote substantially from another bad review of Home to War (by Jan Barry). Since I was severely limited in the length of my reply, I had no such opportunity to quote any of the dozens of rave reviews of the book. Where is the pretense of fairness here? How about giving equal time to these lines from the lead review in the Dallas Morning News (August 26, 2001) by Wilbur Scott, a Vietnam veteran who spent more time in combat and earned more medals than either Uhl or Barry: "Home to War: A History of the Vietnam Veterans' Movement is far-reaching and exhaustive…the tapes, field notes and press clippings on which Nicosia has based his account constitute an impressive archive…the value of Nicosia's account lies in the details…"

Yours truly,


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