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Who the Hell Are We Fighting?

The Story of Sam Adams and the Vietnam Intelligence Wars

By C. Michael Hiam

“A tightly written narrative history.”Harvard magazine

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.

Who the Hell Are We Fighting? 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.


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 times 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 tightly written narrative history.”Harvard magazine

“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.”—Alex Beam, Newsday

“Hiam’s book offers a rich oral history relying upon the recollections of many key players, friend and foe alike, as well as Adams’s meticulous notes, court documents, and other relevant sources.”Library Journal

Will enlighten the general reader . . . Brings fundamental questions about the relationship between intelligence and policy into sharp relief.”Studies in Intelligence

A definitive contribution to an understanding of the most acrimonious intelligence controversy of the Vietnam War.”—George W. Allen, author of None So Blind: A Personal Account of the Intelligence Failure in Vietnam

“Take up this book and let Michael Hiam lead you toward a final understanding of how military and civilian intelligence failed us during the Vietnam War.”—John Rolfe Gardiner, author of Double Stitch

Who the Hell Are We Fighting?
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