Michael C. Hiam’s Monument to Deceit, a history of the Vietnam numbers controversy
February 11th, 2014
Following a surge of interest in patriot-hero (and recalcitrant CIA analyst) Samuel Adams, the University Press of New England (UPNE) is bringing out a new and updated edition of Michael Hiam’s acclaimed book on Adams and the so-called Numbers Controversy over Vietcong troop strength during the Vietnam War.
Interest in Hiam’s book surged last year after whistle-blower Edward Snowden won the Sam Adams Integrity in Intelligence award (see related post); the book was originally published in 2006 by Steerforth Press under a different title. This new edition, published in March 2014, carries a foreword by noted historian Thomas Powers, who has written widely on military intelligence and was a personal friend of Sam Adams.
It was an enigma of the Vietnam War: American troops kept killing the Viet Cong—and were being killed in the process—and yet the Viet Cong’s ranks continued to grow. When one man—CIA analyst Sam Adams—uncovered documents suggesting a Viet Cong army more than twice as numerous as previously reckoned, another war erupted, this time within the ranks of America’s intelligence community. This clandestine conflict, which burst into public view during the acrimonious lawsuit Westmoreland v. CBS, involved the highest levels of the U.S. government. The central issue in the trial, as in the war itself, was the calamitous failure of our intelligence agencies to ascertain the strength of the Viet Cong and get that information to our troops in a timely fashion. The legacy of this failure—whether due to institutional inertia, misguided politics, or individual hubris—haunts our nation. And Sam Adams’ tireless crusade for “honest intelligence” resonates strongly today.
To detractors like Richard Helms, Adams was an obsessive zealot; to others, he was a patriot of rare integrity and moral courage. Adams was the driving force behind the CBS ninety-minute documentary The Uncounted Enemy, produced by George Crile and hosted by Mike Wallace. Westmoreland brought a lawsuit seeking $120 million in damages against Adams and Wallace in what headlines around the country trumpeted as the libel trial of the century. Westmoreland dropped his suit before the case could be sent to the jury.
Monument to Deceit is the first serious narrative history of Adams’ controversial discovery of the Vietnam “numbers gap.” Hiam’s book is a timeless, cautionary tale that combines the best elements of biography, military history, and current affairs.
Praise for Monument to Deceit
“An excellent book … should bring [Sam Adams’s story] to the attention of many who know nothing of the passions or the conflicts of that time.” —Larry McMurtry
“In this time of White House obfuscation , it’s a pleasure to be able to read about the candor—against all odds—of courageous patriots like Sam Adams.” —Mike Wallace
“A rich oral history.” —Library Journal
“A tightly written narrative history.” —Harvard magazine
“If you like history, intelligence, and gossip, they’re all here, in spades. Boldface names abound: Seymour Hersh, Mike Wallace, David Boies, and Renata Adler. And if you don’t think these same debates about the number and nature of ‘enemy combatants’ are taking place right now at the CIA and the Pentagon, you’re kidding yourself.” —Alex Beam, The Boston Globe
“Will enlighten the general reader. … Brings fundamental questions about the relationship between intelligence and policy into sharp relief.” —Studies in Intelligence: Journal of the American Intelligence Professional
“In the late 1960s, CIA analyst Sam Adams was almost alone in showing what one honest person can do in the face of political and bureaucratic corruption that twisted the truth about America’s enemy strength during the ten-year war in Vietnam. Now, C. Michael Hiam provides new insight into Adams’s epic battle.” —Patrick J. Sloyan, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for Newsday