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Deception: US Government And Public War

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War has been a had a pinnacle role in human history and continues to have an important role today. Throughout time, our government has provided the public with information on updates with ongoing wars in the form of physical and digital documentation. But what is not common knowledge is that not all current information is released. The Plan Operation Northwoods, a plan that would orchestrate various acts of terror on US soil in order to create a pretext for a war with Cuba in which many civilians would die was not released until years after it was pitched. In the book “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien, there are multiple stories incorporated about the Vietnam war, but what tends to confuse people throughout it is that not all of the stories told are true. Tim O’Brien said “I don’t have a daughter named Kathleen. I don’t have a daughter. I don’t have children. To my knowledge, at least, I never killed anyone. Jimmy Cross never visited me at my house in Massachusetts, because of course Jimmy Cross does not exist in the world of objects, and never did. He’s purley invented, like Marth, and like Kiowa or Mitchell Sanders and all the others.” ( Articles 1) O’Brien makes it a challenge to understand the difference between what is real and what is fiction, paralleled to war constructs of what is real and fiction.

No ones story will ever be considered the same as the others, but they can have certain situations in common. Tim O’Brien includes several emotions in his stories such as guilt, fear, intangible which helps provide meaning to each story. During World War II, it was determined that the average age of American soldiers was “mid-twenties”, and that the average age of soldiers in Vietnam was “nineteen”. (Moyer 1) The reason why they wanted young soldiers in the Vietnam war was that they were susceptible to the psychological pressures of combat. Through this information everyone believes that most of the soldiers were 19, but that it actually a myth. The average age of the soldiers was 22 years old, although there were soldiers as young as 16 years old, most of the soldiers weren’t in their teenage years. In this day in age many aspects of the military have changed. For one thing that isn’t usually brought up in conversations is that women now serve in combat roles. During the Vietnamese war approximately “11,000 women were stationed in Vietnam, where 90% of women served as military nurses”, though women also worked as physicians, air traffic controllers, intelligence officers, clerks and other positions in the U.S. Women’s Army Corps, U.S. Navy, Air Force and Marines and the Army Medical Specialist Corps. ( Women 1) In November 1972 Commander Elizabeth Barrett became the first female naval line officer to hold command in a combat zone.

The information given in the book “The things they carried” is an example of deception in literature provided by the author. “It’s time to be blunt. I’m forty-three years old, true, and I’m a writer now, and a long time ago I walked through Quang Ngai Province as a foot soldier. Almost everything else is invented.” Calling his stories “story-truth” and his non-fictional stories his “happening-truth”. (O’Brien 171) O’brien makes it difficult to tell the difference between fact and fiction. An act of deception the government had planned in a similar case was Operation Northwoods. A government plan to construct false terrorist attacks on US soil in order to create justifications to provoke war with Cuba. The plan entailed staged terrorist attacks that included the killings of innocent civilians. Some staged terrorist attacks would have included staged vessel hijackings of civilian vessels, The use of drone aircraft strikes, staged terror campaigns. The government planned on having deceived the general public in order to go to war with cuba on the grounds of terror attacks on the US through orchestrated acts of terror. The plan Operation Northwoods relied on deception in order to be able to push its purpose of having a pretext of going to war with Cuba. By having this plan come to light there is a possibility of other acts of deception the government has done by making plans not told to us. Many people have come up with conspiracy theories of what could have been government orchestrated plans and it makes you think of what is and isn’t a new Operation Northwoods. The book provides lots of examples of events in the Vietnam war that is put together in a way that makes you think the author was there experiencing those things. His deception through emotion and storytelling captivates the audience into believing his writing as the truth. One should not take single information at face value but go through avenues of information to one thing to come to a definite conclusion. The parallel between Operation Northwoods and The things they carried is in the concept of both. Using deception in order to push an agenda to one thing. Operation Northwoods constructing the acts of terror in order to have a pretext to go to war with Cuba and O’Brien bringing a wonderfully written story on experiences that never occurred.

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Analyzing the details that are provided in the book “The Things They Carried” helps determine the difference between the truth and the real truth. As for the real truth Tim O’Brien does not have a 10 year old daughter or a daughter in general. In an interview that was done with Tim O’Brien and he says “The two kids that I mention aren’t physically here, there all around me and the person I have become”.( The Things 1:02-1:08) Through this, it gives readers the chance to view things from a different perspective. It doesn’t have to be the real truth to understand what the author is trying to inform readers about. In “The Things They Carried” it says “I remember his face, which was not a pretty face, because his jaw was in his throat, and I remember a feeling the burden of responsibility and grief. I blamed myself. And rightly so, because I was present. But listen. Even that story is made up”. (O’brien 171) Although it is clear that the story was made up, by wording it the way he did, he gives readers the chance to get the feeling he felt during a similar moment. Even if the story is made up the story truth is truer than the happening truth.

Through Kathleen O’Briens made up daughter provides the chance for O’Brien to consider the emotional truth of his stories and to tell the truth whether or not he did or didn’t kill a man in My Khe. The main purpose of O’Brien’s daughter Kathleen is to raise the emotional stake of O’Brien’s work. O’Brien wants his story to be told as if he were told it to his daughter, and have the same connection that he is having with her. Which builds a bond and interest towards the reading. In the beginning of the book O’Brien mentions how he spent a few days on the Canadian border, but in reality he never spent time there. “Instead, he played golf that summer in southern Minnesota, but the anxiety of having to report to his induction base a few weeks later produced a tightness in his chest similar to that felt by the fictional O’Brien, who finally decides not to dodge the draft”.(Moyer 1) Through this specific genre O’Brien is able to explore the harsh realities of war and communicate them to a wider audience, instead of just focusing on war. By relying on imaginary and dialogue, O’Brien is able to create his stories more realistic. As the author uses his own name in the book and informs readers that he did fight in the Vietnam war, it makes readers question if the book is based off of facts, making it difficult to distinguish if its fiction or nonfiction.

Through Tim O’Brien’s writing style it providers readers with the chance to devote readers to figuring out whether or not what they’re reading is fact or fiction. As for the government it can be easy for them to make secretive actions that no one would know about. By the author adding fictionalized emotional events into his stories, it provides and gives each story a deeper meaning and a clear picture of what the author is saying. And at the end of the day the story “The things they carried” should be taken as a fictional story with exaggerated details on the “truths” of war. Full information regarding Operation Northwood wasn’t released until years after it was pitched, myths regarding war or buildup for war are very easy to create and are commonly believed. Although times have changed, one should not always believe that what is written in a book to be the only truth, but instead a resource to help determine what truly happened.

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Deception: US Government And Public War. (2022, March 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 25, 2023, from
“Deception: US Government And Public War.” Edubirdie, 17 Mar. 2022,
Deception: US Government And Public War. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 25 Sept. 2023].
Deception: US Government And Public War [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Mar 17 [cited 2023 Sept 25]. Available from:
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