Vietnam Veterans for Factual History

Facts not myths

Who Was Ho Chi Minh? A Deceitful Mass Murderer.

Millions of words have been written about Ho Chi Minh.  He has been called the George Washington of Vietnam, Whitman, Alden “Ho Chi Minh Was Noted for Success in Blending Nationalism and Communism.” New York Times 4 Sep. 1969 New York Times Web. 4 Sep. 2010 a devoted nationalist who loved his country, Duiker, William J. Ho Chi Minh: A Life (New York: Hyperion, 2000) a brilliant leader who fought for independence with a ragtag army of sandal-clad peasants and defeated the greatest power in the world. Associated Press “Legendary Vietnam Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap Dies.” USA Today Online. USA Today, 4 Oct. 2013

It all sounds very romantic, but it is also completely false.  Ho Chi Minh was a dedicated communist, Honey, P.J. “Vietnam: If the Communists Won” Southeast Asian Perspectives , No. 2 (Jun., 1971) , i-iv, 1-26 a member of the inner circle of the Soviet Comintern and a protégé of Dmitry Manuilsky, the right hand man of both Lenin and Stalin. Ton That Thien. Ho Chi Minh and The Comintern. (Singapore: Information and Resource Center, 1990), 21-23  His supposedly ragtag army of peasants was trained by the Mao’s Red Chinese Army The Pentagon Papers, Gravel Edition, Vol. 1 Chap. 4 (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971) and armed with modern weapons by the Red Chinese and Russians. The Pentagon Papers Vol. 1 Chap. 5

After all this time, why do we still argue about the Vietnam War?  About who Ho Chi Minh was?  As William Duiker wrote, Duiker 3 “The question of Ho Chi Minh’s character and inner motivations lies at the heart of the debate in the United States over the morality of the conflict in Vietnam.”

As a young man, Nguyen Tat Thanh was a Vietnamese patriot from a patriotic family agitating for independence for their country.  His father refused positions with the government because he disagreed with their policies.  His brother and sister were both imprisoned by the French for supporting Phan Boi Chau’s revolutionary movement. Judge, Sophie Quinn Ho Chi Minh: The Missing Years, 1919-1941 (London:C. Hurst & Co 2002) 21

Thanh seems to have been a follower of the non-violent Phan Chau Trinh. Judge 23-24  In 1911 he left Vietnam searching for a way to help his countrymen gain their independence.  For a while he lived and worked in France with Phan Chau Trinh.  Eventually they parted, as Ho became an increasingly more militant communist.

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How to Lose A War: The Press and Viet Nam

By Robert Elegant

Reprinted from Encounter (London), vol. LVII, No. 2, August 1981, pp. 73-90

The author has given VVFH permission to reprint here.

IN THE EARLY 1960s, when the Viet Nam War became a big story, most foreign correspondents assigned to cover the story wrote primarily to win the approbation of the crowd, above all their own crowd. As a result, in my view, the self-proving system of reporting they created became ever further detached from political and military realities because it instinctively concentrated on its own self-justification. The American press, naturally dominant in an "American war," somehow felt obliged to be less objective than partisan, to take sides, for it was inspired by the engagé "investigative" reporting that burgeoned in the United States in these impassioned years. The press was instinctively "agin the government"—and, at least reflexively, for Saigon's enemies.

During the latter half of the fifteen-year American involvement in Viet Nam, the media became the primary battlefield. Illusory events reported by the press as well as real events within the press corps were more decisive than the clash of arms or the contention of ideologies. For the first time in modern history, the outcome of a war was determined not on the battlefield but on the printed page and, above all, on the television screen. Looking back coolly, I believe it can be said (surprising as it may still sound) that South Vietnamese and American forces actually won the limited military struggle. They virtually crushed the Viet Cong in the South, the "native" guerrillas who were directed, reinforced, and equipped from Hanoi; and thereafter they threw back the invasion by regular North Vietnamese divisions. Nonetheless, the war was finally lost to the invaders after the U.S. disengagement because the political pressures built up by the media had made it quite impossible for Washington to maintain even the minimal material and moral support that would have enabled the Saigon regime to continue effective resistance.

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The Vietnam War: Realities, Myths and Misconceptions

The General Andrew J. Goodpaster Lecture
Presented at the Meeting of the American Veterans’ Institute
Army-Navy Club
Washington, DC
3 June 2014

John F. Guilmartin, Jr.

Conventional wisdom holds the Vietnam War to be the most divisive and controversial war in our history, second only to the Civil War. That view enjoys support from all points of the political compass and all segments of the body politic, from the intelligentsia and media pundits to military veterans and everything between. For once conventional wisdom is right... except that there is no consensus on why conventional wisdom is right. Indeed, within the political and ideological spectrum just outlined there are starkly different interpretations of why the war was fought, how, and to what effect. That, I submit, is important, for if we are to draw meaningful lessons from the Vietnam War we must first understand it.

From whence comes understanding? The answer is history, and there we encounter immediate difficulty for the history of the Vietnam War is fraught with divisiveness, controversy and incoherence that rivals that of the war itself. The cause lies in the manner in which the history was written.

The first drafts of the histories of our previous wars were written by historians based on official records, supplemented by memoirs of senior leaders and intelligence on enemy capabilities and intentions that came to hand during and immediately after the war. The result—call it the orthodox interpretation—generally followed government policy. Then, as sources surfaced that were unavailable to the first wave of historians, new interpretations emerged. Call the resultant interpretations revisionist. Historians tested revisionist insights, and if they were valid incorporated them into their work and the quality of the history improved. That, at least, is how it worked in the past.

In contrast, the first draft of the history of the Vietnam War was written by journalists during the early stages of our military involvement. Moreover, the journalists in question were not detached observers, but were engaged in turning American public opinion against South Vietnam’s President Ngo Dinh Diem. Far from accepting the validity of our government’s policy, the authors of the first daft rejected it, beginning with support of the Diem regime, as they labeled it… and I should explain at this point the difference between a regime and a government: A government is a regime of which the writer approves. A regime is a government of which the writer does not approve.

Preeminent among the journalists in question were Malcolm Browne of The Associated Press; Neill Sheehan of United Press International; David Halberstam of The New York Times; Peter Arnett of Associated Press; and Stanley Karnow who reported for Time, Life, The Saturday Evening Post, The Washington Post and NBC News.

The journalists’ campaign against Diem bore fruit, turning the Kennedy administration against him, leading to his overthrow and murder in a November 1963 coup implicitly endorsed by President Kennedy. Contrary to the journalists’ expectations, Diem’s removal did not lead to an improvement in the political and military situation. Instead, political chaos and military incoherence ensued, leading to the near collapse of South Vietnam in 1964 and massive American military intervention from the spring of 1965.

By then, the journalists’ revisionist interpretation had become orthodoxy, turning the usual process on its head. The new orthodoxy was well entrenched by the time of Diem’s fall and had been embraced by the bulk of the intelligentsia and the nascent but growing anti-war movement. It has showed remarkable staying power, the more so as it informed two popular television histories: The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation series, Vietnam: The Ten Thousand Day War, for which Peter Arnett was Chief Correspondent; and the Public Broadcasting Service series, Vietnam: A Television History, for which Stanley Karnow was Chief Correspondent. Both debuted in 1983, as did Karnow’s book Vietnam: A History, based on research for the PBS series. To the best of my knowledge, that book remains the most published and widely-read work on the subject in English and, together with the two television series, effectively forms the basis of what most Americans know—or think they know—about the war.

The underlying narrative in all these works holds that America’s military engagement in Vietnam was unjust, unnecessary and unwinnable. I am painting in the broadest of strokes and some orthodox works are more nuanced, but I am confident that my generalization is accurately descriptive of main stream orthodoxy. Beyond rejecting the validity of American policy, the orthodox interpretation is America-centric, holding that everything of consequence that happened did so as a result of American initiative. By contrast, Vietnamese are portrayed as stereotypes: passive peasant-victims; doughty Viet Cong; well-motivated and disciplined North Vietnamese regulars; brutal and corrupt ARVN (soldiers of the Army of [South] Vietnam); and so on. As is usually the case, there are elements of truth in these stereotypes, but there is much more to it than that.

Let me begin with the circumstances in 1960-1963 during which the orthodox interpretation was forged. The journalists who gave it birth had little if any previous experience in Vietnam. Much of their information concerning South Vietnamese society and politics came from Vietnamese journalist Pham Xuan An, a Reuters stringer who later became chief of Time magazine’s Saigon bureau. As we now know, An was a communist agent of influence. We can be sure that he spoon-fed his interpretations of the Diem government’s crackdown on Theravada Buddhist demonstrations to his American colleagues: Karnow and Halberstam were particularly dependent on him.[1] It was, of course, reportage of the crackdown that led to the Kennedy administration’s decision to support Diem’s overthrow. American media coverage of the self-immolation of Buddhist monks as an act of protest—coverage that was orchestrated by the communists, Buddhists, or both—was the tipping point.

News of An’s role as an agent of influence did not emerge until after the fall of South Vietnam in 1975, by which time the orthodox interpretation had gained general acceptance within academia and the mainstream news media. In the meantime, the imbedded notion that our military policy—citing a more extreme anti-war characterization—was one of atrocity, had gained legitimacy if not universal acceptance. In a gentler interpretation, we were doing more harm to the people of Vietnam (Cambodia was seldom mentioned and Laos largely ignored) with unrestrained firepower than would result from communist victory.

But what if Diem had been unjustly pilloried? What if his policies had, on the whole, been well-suited for the circumstances? What if our military policies, from beginning to end, were more humane than those of the enemy? If that were the case, then our failure to prosecute the war more aggressively after Diem’s overthrow and our abandonment to communist rule of the peoples of formerly-French Indochina was itself a crime. That was—and is—a difficult pill for exponents of the orthodox interpretation to swallow, hence the historiographical impasse.

To be sure, there were revisionist rebuttals, notably Guenter Lewy’s America in Vietnam published in 1978. More recently, Mark Moyer’s Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965, a strong but not uncritical defense of Diem and his policies, appeared in 2006. Both works accuse the orthodox interpretation of being dead wrong on every matter of substance and have, predictably, been greeted more with derision than rebuttal.

In addition, a handful of authors writing in English approached the war from non-American perspectives. Douglas Pike, the only American scholar to write about the war during the war using Vietnamese sources, published extensively on the Vietnamese communist party and its military arm, producing Viet Cong (1969) and PAVN: People’s Army of Vietnam (1986) in addition to numerous journal articles.[2] He dismissed the orthodox interpretation as irrelevant and was ignored by its exponents. Peter Dunn, The First Vietnam War (1985) addressed the earliest stages of the conflict in southern Vietnam from the British perspective. Bernard Fall, Austrian by birth, French by upbringing and American by higher education wrote prolifically on Vietnam from a French perspective. His Street Without Joy and Hell in a Very Small Place, dealing respectively with the French phase of the war and the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, are classics. Both appeared during the American phase of the war and the second, 1964, edition of Street Without Joy covered the American experience to date. Though Fall had a great deal to say about the American conduct of the war prior to his death in 1967 he was thinly reviewed in American scholarly journals[3], no doubt because his interpretations didn’t fit the orthodox mold. A staunch anti-communist, he criticized American policy not on the basis of its supposed immorality, but its ineffectiveness. I would add as an afterthought that the French have done a better job of documenting and analyzing their phase of the war than we Americans have done for ours.

How do we sort this out?

Turning first to realities, the Vietnam War was a major episode in world history. French defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 marked the end of Western colonial empires. To be sure, we had agreed to give ours up, promising before World War II to grant the Philippines independence in 1946. The British gave up India in 1947 and Indonesia threw off Dutch rule to become an independent nation that same year. The Portuguese—remarkably—hung on until 1974, but Dien Bien Phu marked the beginning of the end.

American failure in Vietnam, marked by the fall of Saigon in 1975, saw the waning of the pax Americanus that had prevailed since the end of World War II. America would soldier on as the World’s policeman, but with diminished authority and credibility. Of arguably equal importance, our experience in Vietnam changed the way in which we Americans view our government, with trust giving way to eternal suspicion. Finally, the Vietnam War was a major campaign in the Cold War, though to what effect is a matter of debate. Did Soviet expenditures in support of North Vietnam—which were considerable—start the Soviet economy down the slope to collapse? This old soldier would like to think so, but the matter is up for grabs.

Now for myths and misconceptions. The orthodox interpretation holds that the underlying cause of the war was Vietnamese abhorrence of foreign domination, beginning with the thousand year struggle to throw off Chinese rule, followed by a renewed struggle for independence fueled by hatred of French colonialism, indeed, hatred of all foreign domination including American. After repeated failures to overthrow the French, this nationalist motivation found its opportunity in 1940 in the aftermath of France’s defeat by Germany and its direction in the leadership of Ho Chi Minh, portrayed as a nationalist first and a communist second. A pivotal factor in these developments, one glossed over in the orthodox interpretation, was Japanese intervention, beginning with military occupation of strategic points in French Indochina in September 1940, an occupation that first undermined the colonial regime’s credibility and then destroyed the regime itself.

Fueled by the peasantry’s acceptance of communist policy—land redistribution was the key issue—and given teeth by Vo Nguyen Giap’s training program and communist discipline, the anti-French resistance morphed into the militarily formidable Vietminh, a nationalist front organization with communist leadership at the top, and progressed from guerrilla resistance in 1941-45 to victory at Dien Bien Phu in 1954.

In fact, the thousand year struggle was real, but consisted almost entirely of Vietnamese civil wars with one side accepting Chinese rule and the other opposing it. Significantly, when the anti-Chinese faction won, the victorious leader invariably petitioned the Chinese emperor for recognition.

Resentment of French rule, though by no means universal, was deep and real. So, too, was communist skill at forging guerrilla resistance and—the critical point—at determining when to engage in open revolt. That point, however, was determined not by the Vietnamese communists but by the Japanese Army in a March 1945 coup de main that disarmed and incarcerated the French security forces and colonial army. That gave the Vietminh, hard pressed by the French up to that point, breathing room and released from prison a thousand or so trained and indoctrinated communist cadres who went quickly to work organizing—and intimidating—the rural masses. To their credit, the communists moved swiftly to exploit the opportunity presented them by the Japanese, but it was the Japanese who created the opportunity, a point on which the orthodox interpretation is silent.

During this interval Ho Chi Minh and his group moved their base of operations from China into Vietnam and from April 1945 obtained American backing in money, materiel, and, in mid-July, the OSS equivalent of a Special Forces A team parachuted into the wilds of northwestern Tonkin.

Ho portrayed his organization as anti-Japanese to secure American support, but Vietminh operations against the Japanese were minimal. In fact the Japanese Army, in anticipation of defeat, had thrown its support to the Vietminh, meaning—as the Japanese surely knew—the communists. An American officer who parachuted into Ho’s base in mid-June stated that the Vietminh were backed by the Japanese, who supplied them with arms and ammunition from captured French stocks.[4]
When World War II was brought to an abrupt and unexpected end by the atomic bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Communists were ready to act, pulling the Vietminh in their wake. With remarkable prescience, Ho had earlier called for a Communist Party Congress that convened at his headquarters on 13 August, only four days after the Nagasaki bomb. It was followed by a Vietminh Congress from the 16th through the 18th. At Ho’s bequest, the Congresses declared Vietnam independent and declared war on Japan… ironically in that the Japanese had already notified American authorities of their willingness to surrender.

Meanwhile, the Communist Party’s Committee for Hanoi, meeting in secret and acting independently of Ho and the Party leadership, had decided that the moment for insurrection was near at hand. The moment came on August 17th when an armed propaganda team hijacked a mass rally of the Civil Servants Commission called to support independence under the Japanese-installed government of Emperor Bao Dai. Taking over the podium, the communists called for total independence and led a mass march on the Governor General’s palace. In the wake of the hijacking, the Communist leadership called for a general uprising. It went down on the 19th with columns marching on the Governor General’s Palace and the barracks of the Garde Indochinoise, the Bao Dai government’s army, where they took control of stores of arms and ammunition. Precisely how that transpired is unclear—Peter Dunn's sources say it was by pre-arrangement with the Japanese—but it is apparent on the face of it that the Japanese backed the coup that gave the Vietminh control of Hanoi.[5] It was a major communist victory, the first of the war, and essential to all that followed.

Nor did Japanese support for the Vietminh end there. Japanese Army “deserters” joined the Vietminh in significant numbers, including a military advisory group of 4,000 to 1,500 men—the numbers are in dispute—under a Lieutenant Colonel Mukayama.[6]
Ho Chi Minh’s famous proclamation of Vietnamese independence on September 2nd, using words that drew liberally from the American Declaration of Independence, formalized what had already transpired. The presence on stage behind the podium of members of a newly-arrived OSS team under Major Archimedes Patti reinforced the impression of American support.

There is considerable irony in the fact that Ho and the communists—who were not yet in full control of the Vietminh—had gained their first, essential, victory with American aid, more apparent than real, and Japanese aid, more real than apparent.

A persistent myth holds that Ho Chi Minh was a nationalist who turned to the communists when the United States failed to recognize and support his government. In fact, it is clear from a cursory review of his résumé that Ho was a dedicated Marxist-Leninist revolutionary from the start.[7] Any doubts on this score can be seen in his March 1953 initiation of an “Identification of Class Enemies” campaign, a land redistribution program modeled after Stalin’s kulak (rich peasant) purges of the 1930s. Based on the dubious notion that there were significant class differences among the Vietnamese peasantry in the north, it empowered local tribunals that identified “rich peasants”, “reactionaries” and landowners, many of whom were summarily executed and their land seized [8] At its peak, the program took on the aspects of a witch hunt, sparking open rebellion in Nghe Anh Province in the autumn of 1956, over a year after French defeat and the separation of Vietnam into North and South. It is noteworthy that the uprising took place in that part of Vietnam that had been under communist control the longest. The uprising was put down by the People’s Army of Vietnam with considerable bloodshed.

The Identification of Class Enemies program was called off and Ho Chi Minh publicly apologized for its excesses on national radio. There followed a “Rectification of Errors” campaign accompanied by a wave of bitter recrimination as unjustly accused survivors were released from prison.

In the ensuing chaos, the Party recalled Le Duan from the south, where he was orchestrating resistance to the Diem government, and installed him as Party Secretary in which post he became North Vietnam’s leader, reducing Ho to a largely ceremonial role. This episode is significant for revealing the actual attitudes of Vietnamese peasants toward land redistribution and collectivation. It is also important for placing in power Le Duan, who used aggressive prosecution of the war in South Vietnam as a rallying point for political unity, a point for which we are indebted to recent work by historian Lien-Hang Nguyen.[9]
A byproduct of Le Duan’s consolidation of power was the elimination of any serious possibility of a negotiated settlement to the American phase of the war, for he was adamantly opposed to accepting anything less than a unified Vietnam under communist control. That is Hang Nguyen’s conclusion and I believe correct.

 
More myths and misconceptions with an emphasis on the American phase of the war:

Myth: It was a guerrilla war, a central tenant of the orthodox interpretation. Sometimes it was and sometimes it wasn’t. While it is true that guerrilla warfare—revolutionary war is a more accurate characterization, for propagandization and coercion were at least as important to communist theory and practice as small war tactics—went far to bleed French resources and exhaust American patience, the communists repeatedly turned to large-scale conventional operations as the key to victory as communist doctrine said they must. That was true of the French phase of the war where the Vietminh mounted four major conventional offensives, two of them abject failures, before victory in thoroughly conventional battle at Dien Bien Phu.[10] During the American phase, the communists mounted massive conventional offensives during the 1965 Pleiku Campaign, the 1968 Tet Offensive and the 1972 Easter Offensive, the first producing an equivocal outcome and the second two unequivocal communist defeats.[11]
Next in our list of myths, “The sorry little bastards won’t fight”—meaning the soldiers of the Army of the Republic of South Vietnam, or ARVN—is one of the most pernicious. It has its origins in the reaction of the first wave of American military advisors to what they perceived as a lack of aggressiveness among their Vietnamese charges. From their perspective, that was no doubt true. Heirs of a tradition of willingness to accept casualties in return for immediate tactical gain, they found themselves dealing with an army that was in it for the long haul in a war in which clear cut tactical victories were rare.[12] Their complaints were echoed by politicians of hawkish and dovish persuasion alike: “Why should American boys die for Vietnam when Vietnamese boys won’t die for Vietnam?” was the cry. In fact Vietnamese boys did die for their country, and in huge numbers.

The official ARVN casualty toll for the American phase of the war—not counting the final year for which records were not kept—was 1,394,000 including 224,000 killed in action.[13] Given South Vietnam’s population of about fourteen million, an equivalent share of America’s populace of some two-hundred million would have been 3,200,000 killed-in-action. Nor is the myth vitiated by mere numbers. The quality of leadership at corps and division level deteriorated in the chaos following the widespread purge of loyalist officers following Diem’s overthrow and the ARVN had its share of marginal units, but by and large elite units—Airborne, Marines, Ranger battalions and, later, the 1st Division—put in exemplary performances and ordinary units fought well more often than not. That includes elements of the oft-derided Regional Forces/Popular Forces (local militia, the so-called “Ruff-Puffs”), right up to the bitter end. To be sure, some units dissolved in the chaos of the final, overwhelming, 1975 invasion, undercut by drastic cutoffs in ammunition allowances and the reduction of South Vietnamese air power’s effectiveness by Soviet-provided surface-to-air missiles, but the ARVN put in some of the finest combat performances in the annals of warfare during the awful spring of 1975. A case in point is the 9-20 April Battle of Xuan Loc on the eastern approaches to Saigon, where the ARVN 18th Division reinforced by the remains of the Airborne Brigade fought a reinforced North Vietnamese corps with massive armor support to a bloody standstill despite artillery inferiority.[14] Another case in point is the last stand on Tan Son Nhut Airfield of the 81st Airborne Ranger Group, who fought on after the departure of the last Americans, taking out T-55 tanks with unguided, shoulder-fired anti-tank rockets until they ran out of ammunition.

Myth: Our bombing of North Vietnam and the Ho Chi Minh Trail was unnecessary at best and inhumane at worst. This myth is closely linked to the “It was a guerrilla war” myth. If it were, in fact, a guerilla war, then the logistical requirements of communist forces in the South would have been satisfied by locally-obtained food and captured arms and munitions and little external supply would have been needed. This belief at times bled over into American intelligence estimates. A May 1966 appraisal endorsed by Secretary of Defense McNamara held that the external re-supply requirements of communist forces in the south could be met by seven 21/2 ton trucks a day.[15] That, of course, was utterly untrue. In fact, the supposed insurgency in the south was dependent on arms, supplies and reinforcement from the North from the beginning, unequivocally from 1959 (the opening of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the overland route through Laos) and preemptively so from 1964.

The critical importance of the Ho Chi Minh Trail to the communist war effort is emphasized in Victory in Vietnam: The Official History of the People’s Army of Vietnam, 1954-1975, published in 1994 and released in English translation in 2002[16], a significant embarrassment to exponents of the orthodox interpretation. Selected passages underline the critical importance of maintaining the flow of men and materiel from China and the port of Haiphong through North Vietnam and down the Trail to the South. They also underline the impressive scale of resources devoted to maintaining the flow.[17] Nor were those resources limited to surface-to-air missile batteries, an air defense radar net, MiG jet fighters, anti-aircraft guns, road repair crews, earth-moving equipment and the maintenance of a large truck fleet. “Peace feelers”, advanced in exchange for bombing halts, were an integral and successful element of communist strategy. So were attempts to influence US media coverage of our bombing.

The latter focused on our bombing of targets in North Vietnam, and had the dual purpose of making our bombing appear inhumane on the one hand and ineffective on the other. Perhaps the most egregious example involves December 1966 reportage from Hanoi by New York Times assistant managing editor Harrison Salisbury in which he stated that we were "dropping an enormous weight of explosives on purely civilian targets." He further stated that "on-the-spot inspection indicates that American bombing has been inflicting considerable civilian casualties in Hanoi and its environs for some time."regious example involves December 1966 reportage from Hanoi by New York Times assistant managing editor Harrison Salisbury in which he stated that we were “dropping an enormous weight of explosives on purely civilian targets.” He further stated that “on-the-spot inspection indicates that American bombing has been inflicting considerable civilian casualties in Hanoi and its envions for some time past”,[18] In fact, contrary to his representations, Salisbury was not an eye-witness. Moreover, much of his copy was written by Australian communist Wilfred Burchett, Salisbury’s “facilitator” during his visit to North Vietnam, and copied from official North Vietnamese press releases.[19]
Another telling example can be found in the New York Times lead editorial for Sunday, February 4th 1968. Written four days after the start of the communist 1968 Tet Offensive, the editorial proclaimed that if the “spectacularly successful Tet offensive had proved anything it was that the bombing of North Vietnam had failed to reduce either the enemy’s will or capacity to fight.”[20] As we now know and as some journalists realized at the time, the offensive was a military disaster for the communists. The prominence given to discrediting the bombing as opposed, for example, to excoriating the misguided and politically-motivated optimism in LBJ’s, McNamara’s and Westmoreland’s public statements in the months before the Tet Offensive or extolling the fighting spirit of the Viet Cong and NVA suggests an eagerness to influence our policy in a way most likely to be helpful to the communist cause.

Next on our parade of myths: The news media did not lose the war. This myth reflects the belief that waning support for our war effort by the American public, and ultimately by our political leadership, was based on an accurate appraisal of military failure and the immorality of our policies rather than on biased and negative media coverage. Belief in this myth was and is a staple of the orthodox interpretation and an article of faith to the bulk of the intelligentsia, to mainstream media pundits and among the anti-war faithful. In a neat bit of intellectual ju-jitsu, exponents of the orthodox interpretation reverse the polarity, portraying as a myth revisionist arguments that the news media did play a central role in losing the war.

The data relevant to supporting or debunking this myth is enormous, and I turn to my own observations to condense the argument. I enrolled as a graduate student in history at Princeton University under Air Force sponsorship in the autumn of 1967. I had returned from my first Southeast Asia combat tour in the summer of 1966 and had spent the intervening year as a flight instructor at the Air Rescue Service Combat Crew Training School where I kept track of current intelligence. As soon as my fellow graduate students recovered from the shock of having a combat veteran in their midst, they asked me what I thought about the debate about the war, very much a hot topic on campus. I responded that I would be happy to tell them about the war on the ground in Southeast Asia, but that they would not learn about it from coverage in what we have come to call the mainstream media, meaning in context the New York Times, the AP and UPI wire services and ABC, CBS and NBC television news. “The debate,” I said, “is not about the war at all. It’s about who should run the country based on what foreign policy assumptions.” Today, over forty-five years later, I stand by that characterization.

To hold my own in the ensuing discussions, for the next two and a half years I tracked on a daily basis relevant coverage in the New York Times and watched the ABC, CBS and NBC evening news roundups (in those days, they were only thirty minutes long and aired in sequence). Coverage of the war on the ground in Southeast Asia was short on operational and strategic context and long on details that called into question the morality and effectiveness of our commitment. The adverse effects of American firepower on the civilian populace were highlighted. Communist atrocities were downplayed or ignored. The classic example of the latter, and a telling one, is the contrast between the extensive coverage given to the My Lai massacre and the sketchy coverage accorded the Hue massacres, where communist forces during the 1968 Têt Offensive rounded up and executed some six thousand civilians.

It seemed clear at the time, and is clearer in retrospect, that the mainstream media were unwilling to publicize unsavory aspects of communist policy. An example from February 1968 makes the point: Viewing the disinterment of a mass grave containing victims of the Hue massacre, West German journalist Uwe Siemon-Netto in company with American journalist Peter Braestrup encountered an American television crew standing idly by. It was clear from the condition of the corpses that many of the victims had been buried alive. “Why?” asked Braestrup, “don’t you film this?” “We are not here to film anti-Communist propaganda” said the camera man [21], a small, but telling detail.

I should add that Braestrup, Saigon Bureau Chief of the Washington Post at the time, broke ranks with his mainstream colleagues by publishing a thorough, critical account of media coverage of the 1968 Têt Offensive, The Big Story (1977).[22] It is worth noting that Braestrup, in contrast to his media colleagues, was a combat veteran, having served as a Marine infantry officer in Korea.

Braestrup’s critique applies to media coverage of the entire war, both because the deficiencies in reportage and interpretation in coverage of the 1968 Têt Offensive were representative of coverage of the war as a whole, and because coverage of the 1968 Têt offensive played a major role in turning public opinion against support of our military effort in Vietnam. The attack on the US Embassy by Viet Cong sappers was portrayed as representative of the success of the entire offensive while the rapid reassertion of government control throughout South Vietnam was essentially ignored.[23] The battle for Hue—the only significant communist success in the first wave attacks, though in the end a communist defeat—was hardly typical of the fighting in general, but received extensive coverage... and here I would dispel another myth: that “television brought the war into our living rooms.”

There is an element of truth in this myth in that discussion of the war was ubiquitous in television news coverage. That having been said, coverage of the war on the ground was minimal. The period of my survey saw considerable footage of stretchers being loaded on to and off of helicopters, typically with an audio gunfire background (in my judgment mostly dubbed in), and early morning interviews of dazed survivors of nearly-overrun fire bases by freshly helicoptered-in reporters, but little to no actual combat footage. Tellingly, the US media all but ignored the ARVN.

In fact, Têt 1968 was a massive defeat for the communist forces, whose few and ephemeral successes in the first phase (January through early March) were overshadowed in operational reality by staggering losses, particularly in the second and third phases (May and August), and particularly among the Viet Cong, who were effectively eliminated as a military factor in the war. That was not the impression conveyed by mainstream media coverage.

The turning point came on 27 February when CBS television anchor man Walter Cronkite, just having returned from a whirlwind tour of South Vietnam, during which he witnessed evidence of the Hue massacres, pronounced on the evening news that

It now seems more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate. This summer’s almost certain standoff will either end in real give-and-take negotiations or terrible escalation: and for every means we have to escalate the enemy can match us.[24]
He went on to add that “the only rational way out will be to negotiate, not as victors but as an honorable people.” President Lyndon Johnson, watching the broadcast, famously commented to Press Secretary George Christian, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost middle America.”[25] Whatever the verdict on Johnson as a war leader, his political instincts with regard to voter sentiment were keen, amounting in this case to an accurate prophecy… albeit a self-fulfilling one that Johnson made good by announcing on 31 March a bombing halt against targets in northern North Vietnam, his decision to enter into negotiations with the North Vietnamese and his decision not to run for reelection. By that time, our political leadership had overwhelmingly endorsed the media interpretation and the rest is history.

I will conclude with a final myth, one derived from those discussed above and revealing in its content: that the outcome of the war was not so horrible for the peoples of Indochina. Though rarely stated so baldly, this myth was embraced in the bulk of the immediate post-war media coverage. Eventually, promulgation of this myth was suppressed by overwhelming evidence to the contrary, but only after extended delay.

The mainstream media covered the exodus of the Vietnamese boat people (though not the reasons for it), but they had little to say about Vietnam’s “reeducation camps” and for four years turned a blind eye to the horrors of Khymer Rouge rule in Cambodia. This despite the fact that the realities of the Killing Fields and The Year Zero were amply reported in Thailand and thus known to the international community including media representatives. I was stationed in Thailand at the time, and my specific reference is to coverage in the Bangkok Post, a first-rate English language newspaper which I read on a daily basis from the spring of 1975 until late December.

To appreciate the extent of the American media’s blind eye to events in Cambodia some background is in order. The area of western Cambodia contiguous to Thailand, the Battembang Rice Triangle, had never been under communist guerrilla influence and there was considerable cross-border commerce. In addition, Buddhist shrines to the north of the triangle attracted a steady flow of Thai pilgrims. When Phnom Penh fell to the communists on 17 April, considerable numbers of Thais were caught inside Cambodia. Through the spring and into the fall, survivors worked their way out, bringing with them eyewitness accounts of the horrors of Khymer Rouge rule: forced relocation of urban dwellers to “new economic zones”, executions of the educated, of Buddhist monks, of eyeglass wearers and so on. Their accounts were credible and well-reported in the Thai-language press as well as the Post.[26] Beyond the ability to assign numerical estimates to the Khymer Rouge death toll, I have learned nothing about the Year Zero and Killing Fields since. Coverage by the mainstream media—perhaps I should say recognition—began only after the escape from Cambodia in October of 1979 of New York Times reporter Sydney Schamberg’s Khymer cameraman Dith Pran.

Might a reluctance to admit that they played a major role in prompting American withdrawal from the war leading to the terrible carnage that followed help to explain media silence on the issues in question? I leave it to you, the reader, to decide.

What are we to make of our catalogue of realities and myths?

Returning to my opening comments, if we are to learn from history, we must get it right. In conslusion, I ask you, the reader, to reflect on the number of major foreign policy decisions by our government in the post-Vietnam era—not all with happy consequences—that appear to have been driven by acceptance of the lessons of the orthodox interpretation of the Vietnam War.

 
John F. Guilmartin, Jr.

Columbus, Ohio

[1] An was not the only such agent, though far and away the most influential one. Members of the Saigon intelligentsia, who loathed Diem and assiduously courted American journalists, contributed as well. Another was ARVN officer Albert Pham Ngoc Thao who served in various senior positions including province chief and head of the Strategic Hamlet Program. As a province chief, he appears as a source in Malcolm Browne, The New Face of War (Indianapolis and New York, 1965), the first of the journalist-historians’ work published between hard covers.

[2] Pike, a Foreign Service Officer, first attracted public notice with his analysis of the massacre of civilians by communist forces in Hue during the 1968 Tet Offensive.

[3] A student in my summer 1998 graduate seminar on the history of the Vietnam War at Ohio State University did a literature search for reviews of Street Without Joy and Hell in a Very Small Place in the standard scholarly journals, e.g. American Historical Review and Journal of American History, and came up with remarkably few reviews—from memory no more than half a dozen—and those were tepid.

[4] Peter Dunn, First Vietnam War, 41-2. The officer was almost certainly Major Dan Phelan of the China-based 14th Air Force AGAS (Air Ground Aid Service) who worked with Charles Fenn, the OSS agent responsible for arranging OSS support for Ho and the Vietminh. See also Dixee Bartholomew-Feis, The OSS and Ho Chi Minh: Unexpected Allies in the War Against Japan, 220-221, photos from the National Archives, Green Belt, Maryland, of the arrival in August 1945 of the first armed Vietminh in Hanoi. Vietminh in the photos whose weapons can be identified are armed with French 7.5 mm rifles, specifically the Mousqueton d’Artillerie Modèle 1892 and the Fusil des Tirallieurs Indo-Chinois Modèle 1902. The one soldier with an automatic weapon is carrying a Chateralleault Fusil Mitrailleur; Ian Hogg and John Weeks, Military Small Arms of the Twentieth Century (Chicago, 1973), 3.05-3.06; Hogg and Weeks, The Encyclopedia of Infantry Weapons of World War II (New York, 1977), 101.

[5] Archimedes Patti, Why Viet Nam? 166-67, Dunn, First Vietnam War, 17.

[6] James Dunnigan and Albert Nofi, Dirty Little Secrets of the Vietnam War (New York, 1999), 38-39, cited in James S. Corum and Wray R. Johnson, Airpower In Small Wars: Fighting Insurgents and Terrorists (Lawrence, Kansas: 2003), 43.

[7] See Sophie Quinn-Judge, Ho Chi Minh: the Missing Years, 1919-1941 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002). Based on extensive research in Soviet and French Archives including files of the Comintern and Sûreté, Quinn-Judge thoroughly documents Ho’s ideological background and proclivities.

[8] Fall, Two Viet Nams, 155. A case can be made for class differences among the Vietnamese peasantry in the south, where a small class of relatively well-to-do landlords and a large body of landless peasants existed, but that was most assuredly not the case in the north where the vast majority of peasants—Fall says 98%—owned the land they worked.

[9] Le Duan’s role as a power behind the scenes and exponent of a hard line on the war in the South was long suspected, but not the extent to which he became effective dictator. Lien-Hang Nguyen, Hanoi’s War: An International History of the War for Peace in Vietnam (2012).

[10] These were a major failed offensive in the south in August 1950, the destruction of French forces along the Chinese border in October 1950; the failed attempt to break into the Red River Delta in January-June 1951; and the 1952-1953 Winter-Spring offensive into Laos. To this we can add the conventional response to the November 1951-February 1952 French Hoa Binh offensive in the north.

[11] The October-November 1965 Pleiku Campaign, chronicled in Hal Moore and Joe Galloway’s, We Were Soldiers Once and Young and in the Mel Gibson move We Were Soldiers Once culminated in American defensive victory at LZ X-Ray and defeat at LZ Albany (not addressed in the Gibson movie). The campaign’s outcome was equivocal in that both the US and North Vietnamese abandoned overtly aggressive orientations in its aftermath.

[12] We do not ordinarily think of American military commanders as prone to accept heavy casualties, but it is a matter of record. In World War II American commanders were routinely willing to accept casualties that their British colleagues considered unacceptable. The same contrast applied to American and Australian forces in Vietnam.

[13] John F. Guilmartin, “Casualties”, Stanley I. Kutler, ed., Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War (New York, 1996), 103-105.

[14] George J. Veith and Merle Pribbenow, “‘Fighting Is an Art”: The Army of the Republic of Vietnam’s Defense of Xuan Loc, 9-21 April 1975”, Journal of Military History, Vol. 68, No. 1 (January 2004), 163-213.

[15] Mark Clodfelter, The Limits of Air Power: The American Bombing of North Vietnam (New York, 1989), 134-35.

[16] (Merle L. Pribbenow, tr. (Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas), originally published in Vietnamese as History of the People’s Army of Vietnam (Hanoi, Vietnamese Ministry of Defense Military History Institute).

[17] Victory in Vietnam, 52-54, 168-69, 225-26, 242 and 261-68.

[18] New York Times, December 25 and 27, 1966, quoted in Wayne Thompson, To Hanoi and Back: The U.S. Air Force and North Vietnam, 1966-1973 (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2000), 45.

[19] Robert Manne, Agent of Influence: The Life and Times of Wilfred Burchett, Mackinzie Paper No. 13 (Toronto, 1989), 48-50. Burchett was involved in exploiting American POWs in communist hands in Korea and Vietnam and played a major role in actress Jane Fonda’s notorious 1972 visit to North Vietnam.

[20] Paraphrased in Wayne Thompson, To Hanoi and Back: The U.S. Air Force and North Vietnam, 1966-1973 (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2000), 123.

[21] Uwe Siemon-Netto, Duc: A Reporter's Love for the Wounded People of Vietnam (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (July 10, 2013), 211-13.

[22] The Big Story: How the American Press and Television Reported and Interpreted the Crisis of Tet 1968 in Vietnam and Washington, 2 vols. (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1977).

[23] See Donald M. Bishop’ review of The Big Story, “The Press and the TET Offensive: A Flawed Institution Under Stress”, Air University Review (November-December 1978).

[24] Quoted in Henry Kissinger, Ending the Vietnam War (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2003), 47.

[25] Quoted in Philip Davidson, Vietnam at War, The History, 1945-1975 (Novato, California: Presidio Press, 1988), 486.

[26] Speaking only minimal Thai and reading it not at all, I was kept informed by Captain Daniel Jacobowitz, USAF, and his wife Saifon, a native Thai speaker.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The Vietnam War: Realities, Myths and MisconceptionsThe General Andrew J. Goodpaster Lecture

Presented at the Meeting of the American Veterans’ Institute
Army-Navy Club

Washington, DC

3 June 2014

 
 
John F. Guilmartin, Jr.

 
 
 
 
Conventional wisdom holds the Vietnam War to be the most divisive and controversial war in our history, second only to the Civil War. That view enjoys support from all points of the political compass and all segments of the body politic, from the intelligentsia and media pundits to military veterans and everything between. For once conventional wisdom is right... except that there is no consensus on why conventional wisdom is right. Indeed, within the political and ideological spectrum just outlined there are starkly different interpretations of why the war was fought, how, and to what effect. That, I submit, is important, for if we are to draw meaningful lessons from the Vietnam War we must first understand it.

From whence comes understanding? The answer is history, and there we encounter immediate difficulty for the history of the Vietnam War is fraught with divisiveness, controversy and incoherence that rivals that of the war itself. The cause lies in the manner in which the history was written.

The first drafts of the histories of our previous wars were written by historians based on official records, supplemented by memoirs of senior leaders and intelligence on enemy capabilities and intentions that came to hand during and immediately after the war. The result—call it the orthodox interpretation—generally followed government policy. Then, as sources surfaced that were unavailable to the first wave of historians, new interpretations emerged. Call the resultant interpretations revisionist. Historians tested revisionist insights, and if they were valid incorporated them into their work and the quality of the history improved. That, at least, is how it worked in the past.

In contrast, the first draft of the history of the Vietnam War was written by journalists during the early stages of our military involvement. Moreover, the journalists in question were not detached observers, but were engaged in turning American public opinion against South Vietnam’s President Ngo Dinh Diem. Far from accepting the validity of our government’s policy, the authors of the first daft rejected it, beginning with support of the Diem regime, as they labeled it… and I should explain at this point the difference between a regime and a government: A government is a regime of which the writer approves. A regime is a government of which the writer does not approve.

Preeminent among the journalists in question were Malcolm Browne of The Associated Press; Neill Sheehan of United Press International; David Halberstam of The New York Times; Peter Arnett of Associated Press; and Stanley Karnow who reported for Time, Life, The Saturday Evening Post, The Washington Post and NBC News.

The journalists’ campaign against Diem bore fruit, turning the Kennedy administration against him, leading to his overthrow and murder in a November 1963 coup implicitly endorsed by President Kennedy. Contrary to the journalists’ expectations, Diem’s removal did not lead to an improvement in the political and military situation. Instead, political chaos and military incoherence ensued, leading to the near collapse of South Vietnam in 1964 and massive American military intervention from the spring of 1965.

By then, the journalists’ revisionist interpretation had become orthodoxy, turning the usual process on its head. The new orthodoxy was well entrenched by the time of Diem’s fall and had been embraced by the bulk of the intelligentsia and the nascent but growing anti-war movement. It has showed remarkable staying power, the more so as it informed two popular television histories: The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation series, Vietnam: The Ten Thousand Day War, for which Peter Arnett was Chief Correspondent; and the Public Broadcasting Service series, Vietnam: A Television History, for which Stanley Karnow was Chief Correspondent. Both debuted in 1983, as did Karnow’s book Vietnam: A History, based on research for the PBS series. To the best of my knowledge, that book remains the most published and widely-read work on the subject in English and, together with the two television series, effectively forms the basis of what most Americans know—or think they know—about the war.

The underlying narrative in all these works holds that America’s military engagement in Vietnam was unjust, unnecessary and unwinnable. I am painting in the broadest of strokes and some orthodox works are more nuanced, but I am confident that my generalization is accurately descriptive of main stream orthodoxy. Beyond rejecting the validity of American policy, the orthodox interpretation is America-centric, holding that everything of consequence that happened did so as a result of American initiative. By contrast, Vietnamese are portrayed as stereotypes: passive peasant-victims; doughty Viet Cong; well-motivated and disciplined North Vietnamese regulars; brutal and corrupt ARVN (soldiers of the Army of [South] Vietnam); and so on. As is usually the case, there are elements of truth in these stereotypes, but there is much more to it than that.

 
Let me begin with the circumstances in 1960-1963 during which the orthodox interpretation was forged. The journalists who gave it birth had little if any previous experience in Vietnam. Much of their information concerning South Vietnamese society and politics came from Vietnamese journalist Pham Xuan An, a Reuters stringer who later became chief of Time magazine’s Saigon bureau. As we now know, An was a communist agent of influence. We can be sure that he spoon-fed his interpretations of the Diem government’s crackdown on Theravada Buddhist demonstrations to his American colleagues: Karnow and Halberstam were particularly dependent on him.[1] It was, of course, reportage of the crackdown that led to the Kennedy administration’s decision to support Diem’s overthrow. American media coverage of the self-immolation of Buddhist monks as an act of protest—coverage that was orchestrated by the communists, Buddhists, or both—was the tipping point.

News of An’s role as an agent of influence did not emerge until after the fall of South Vietnam in 1975, by which time the orthodox interpretation had gained general acceptance within academia and the mainstream news media. In the meantime, the imbedded notion that our military policy—citing a more extreme anti-war characterization—was one of atrocity, had gained legitimacy if not universal acceptance. In a gentler interpretation, we were doing more harm to the people of Vietnam (Cambodia was seldom mentioned and Laos largely ignored) with unrestrained firepower than would result from communist victory.

But what if Diem had been unjustly pilloried? What if his policies had, on the whole, been well-suited for the circumstances? What if our military policies, from beginning to end, were more humane than those of the enemy? If that were the case, then our failure to prosecute the war more aggressively after Diem’s overthrow and our abandonment to communist rule of the peoples of formerly-French Indochina was itself a crime. That was—and is—a difficult pill for exponents of the orthodox interpretation to swallow, hence the historiographical impasse.

To be sure, there were revisionist rebuttals, notably Guenter Lewy’s America in Vietnam published in 1978. More recently, Mark Moyer’s Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965, a strong but not uncritical defense of Diem and his policies, appeared in 2006. Both works accuse the orthodox interpretation of being dead wrong on every matter of substance and have, predictably, been greeted more with derision than rebuttal.

In addition, a handful of authors writing in English approached the war from non-American perspectives. Douglas Pike, the only American scholar to write about the war during the war using Vietnamese sources, published extensively on the Vietnamese communist party and its military arm, producing Viet Cong (1969) and PAVN: People’s Army of Vietnam (1986) in addition to numerous journal articles.[2] He dismissed the orthodox interpretation as irrelevant and was ignored by its exponents. Peter Dunn, The First Vietnam War (1985) addressed the earliest stages of the conflict in southern Vietnam from the British perspective. Bernard Fall, Austrian by birth, French by upbringing and American by higher education wrote prolifically on Vietnam from a French perspective. His Street Without Joy and Hell in a Very Small Place, dealing respectively with the French phase of the war and the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, are classics. Both appeared during the American phase of the war and the second, 1964, edition of Street Without Joy covered the American experience to date. Though Fall had a great deal to say about the American conduct of the war prior to his death in 1967 he was thinly reviewed in American scholarly journals[3], no doubt because his interpretations didn’t fit the orthodox mold. A staunch anti-communist, he criticized American policy not on the basis of its supposed immorality, but its ineffectiveness. I would add as an afterthought that the French have done a better job of documenting and analyzing their phase of the war than we Americans have done for ours.

How do we sort this out?

Turning first to realities, the Vietnam War was a major episode in world history. French defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 marked the end of Western colonial empires. To be sure, we had agreed to give ours up, promising before World War II to grant the Philippines independence in 1946. The British gave up India in 1947 and Indonesia threw off Dutch rule to become an independent nation that same year. The Portuguese—remarkably—hung on until 1974, but Dien Bien Phu marked the beginning of the end.

American failure in Vietnam, marked by the fall of Saigon in 1975, saw the waning of the pax Americanus that had prevailed since the end of World War II. America would soldier on as the World’s policeman, but with diminished authority and credibility. Of arguably equal importance, our experience in Vietnam changed the way in which we Americans view our government, with trust giving way to eternal suspicion. Finally, the Vietnam War was a major campaign in the Cold War, though to what effect is a matter of debate. Did Soviet expenditures in support of North Vietnam—which were considerable—start the Soviet economy down the slope to collapse? This old soldier would like to think so, but the matter is up for grabs.

Now for myths and misconceptions. The orthodox interpretation holds that the underlying cause of the war was Vietnamese abhorrence of foreign domination, beginning with the thousand year struggle to throw off Chinese rule, followed by a renewed struggle for independence fueled by hatred of French colonialism, indeed, hatred of all foreign domination including American. After repeated failures to overthrow the French, this nationalist motivation found its opportunity in 1940 in the aftermath of France’s defeat by Germany and its direction in the leadership of Ho Chi Minh, portrayed as a nationalist first and a communist second. A pivotal factor in these developments, one glossed over in the orthodox interpretation, was Japanese intervention, beginning with military occupation of strategic points in French Indochina in September 1940, an occupation that first undermined the colonial regime’s credibility and then destroyed the regime itself.

Fueled by the peasantry’s acceptance of communist policy—land redistribution was the key issue—and given teeth by Vo Nguyen Giap’s training program and communist discipline, the anti-French resistance morphed into the militarily formidable Vietminh, a nationalist front organization with communist leadership at the top, and progressed from guerrilla resistance in 1941-45 to victory at Dien Bien Phu in 1954.

In fact, the thousand year struggle was real, but consisted almost entirely of Vietnamese civil wars with one side accepting Chinese rule and the other opposing it. Significantly, when the anti-Chinese faction won, the victorious leader invariably petitioned the Chinese emperor for recognition.

Resentment of French rule, though by no means universal, was deep and real. So, too, was communist skill at forging guerrilla resistance and—the critical point—at determining when to engage in open revolt. That point, however, was determined not by the Vietnamese communists but by the Japanese Army in a March 1945 coup de main that disarmed and incarcerated the French security forces and colonial army. That gave the Vietminh, hard pressed by the French up to that point, breathing room and released from prison a thousand or so trained and indoctrinated communist cadres who went quickly to work organizing—and intimidating—the rural masses. To their credit, the communists moved swiftly to exploit the opportunity presented them by the Japanese, but it was the Japanese who created the opportunity, a point on which the orthodox interpretation is silent.

During this interval Ho Chi Minh and his group moved their base of operations from China into Vietnam and from April 1945 obtained American backing in money, materiel, and, in mid-July, the OSS equivalent of a Special Forces A team parachuted into the wilds of northwestern Tonkin.

Ho portrayed his organization as anti-Japanese to secure American support, but Vietminh operations against the Japanese were minimal. In fact the Japanese Army, in anticipation of defeat, had thrown its support to the Vietminh, meaning—as the Japanese surely knew—the communists. An American officer who parachuted into Ho’s base in mid-June stated that the Vietminh were backed by the Japanese, who supplied them with arms and ammunition from captured French stocks.[4]
When World War II was brought to an abrupt and unexpected end by the atomic bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Communists were ready to act, pulling the Vietminh in their wake. With remarkable prescience, Ho had earlier called for a Communist Party Congress that convened at his headquarters on 13 August, only four days after the Nagasaki bomb. It was followed by a Vietminh Congress from the 16th through the 18th. At Ho’s bequest, the Congresses declared Vietnam independent and declared war on Japan… ironically in that the Japanese had already notified American authorities of their willingness to surrender.

Meanwhile, the Communist Party’s Committee for Hanoi, meeting in secret and acting independently of Ho and the Party leadership, had decided that the moment for insurrection was near at hand. The moment came on August 17th when an armed propaganda team hijacked a mass rally of the Civil Servants Commission called to support independence under the Japanese-installed government of Emperor Bao Dai. Taking over the podium, the communists called for total independence and led a mass march on the Governor General’s palace. In the wake of the hijacking, the Communist leadership called for a general uprising. It went down on the 19th with columns marching on the Governor General’s Palace and the barracks of the Garde Indochinoise, the Bao Dai government’s army, where they took control of stores of arms and ammunition. Precisely how that transpired is unclear—Peter Dunn's sources say it was by pre-arrangement with the Japanese—but it is apparent on the face of it that the Japanese backed the coup that gave the Vietminh control of Hanoi.[5] It was a major communist victory, the first of the war, and essential to all that followed.

Nor did Japanese support for the Vietminh end there. Japanese Army “deserters” joined the Vietminh in significant numbers, including a military advisory group of 4,000 to 1,500 men—the numbers are in dispute—under a Lieutenant Colonel Mukayama.[6]
Ho Chi Minh’s famous proclamation of Vietnamese independence on September 2nd, using words that drew liberally from the American Declaration of Independence, formalized what had already transpired. The presence on stage behind the podium of members of a newly-arrived OSS team under Major Archimedes Patti reinforced the impression of American support.

There is considerable irony in the fact that Ho and the communists—who were not yet in full control of the Vietminh—had gained their first, essential, victory with American aid, more apparent than real, and Japanese aid, more real than apparent.

A persistent myth holds that Ho Chi Minh was a nationalist who turned to the communists when the United States failed to recognize and support his government. In fact, it is clear from a cursory review of his résumé that Ho was a dedicated Marxist-Leninist revolutionary from the start.[7] Any doubts on this score can be seen in his March 1953 initiation of an “Identification of Class Enemies” campaign, a land redistribution program modeled after Stalin’s kulak (rich peasant) purges of the 1930s. Based on the dubious notion that there were significant class differences among the Vietnamese peasantry in the north, it empowered local tribunals that identified “rich peasants”, “reactionaries” and landowners, many of whom were summarily executed and their land seized [8] At its peak, the program took on the aspects of a witch hunt, sparking open rebellion in Nghe Anh Province in the autumn of 1956, over a year after French defeat and the separation of Vietnam into North and South. It is noteworthy that the uprising took place in that part of Vietnam that had been under communist control the longest. The uprising was put down by the People’s Army of Vietnam with considerable bloodshed.

The Identification of Class Enemies program was called off and Ho Chi Minh publicly apologized for its excesses on national radio. There followed a “Rectification of Errors” campaign accompanied by a wave of bitter recrimination as unjustly accused survivors were released from prison.

In the ensuing chaos, the Party recalled Le Duan from the south, where he was orchestrating resistance to the Diem government, and installed him as Party Secretary in which post he became North Vietnam’s leader, reducing Ho to a largely ceremonial role. This episode is significant for revealing the actual attitudes of Vietnamese peasants toward land redistribution and collectivation. It is also important for placing in power Le Duan, who used aggressive prosecution of the war in South Vietnam as a rallying point for political unity, a point for which we are indebted to recent work by historian Lien-Hang Nguyen.[9]
A byproduct of Le Duan’s consolidation of power was the elimination of any serious possibility of a negotiated settlement to the American phase of the war, for he was adamantly opposed to accepting anything less than a unified Vietnam under communist control. That is Hang Nguyen’s conclusion and I believe correct.

 
More myths and misconceptions with an emphasis on the American phase of the war:

Myth: It was a guerrilla war, a central tenant of the orthodox interpretation. Sometimes it was and sometimes it wasn’t. While it is true that guerrilla warfare—revolutionary war is a more accurate characterization, for propagandization and coercion were at least as important to communist theory and practice as small war tactics—went far to bleed French resources and exhaust American patience, the communists repeatedly turned to large-scale conventional operations as the key to victory as communist doctrine said they must. That was true of the French phase of the war where the Vietminh mounted four major conventional offensives, two of them abject failures, before victory in thoroughly conventional battle at Dien Bien Phu.[10] During the American phase, the communists mounted massive conventional offensives during the 1965 Pleiku Campaign, the 1968 Tet Offensive and the 1972 Easter Offensive, the first producing an equivocal outcome and the second two unequivocal communist defeats.[11]
Next in our list of myths, “The sorry little bastards won’t fight”—meaning the soldiers of the Army of the Republic of South Vietnam, or ARVN—is one of the most pernicious. It has its origins in the reaction of the first wave of American military advisors to what they perceived as a lack of aggressiveness among their Vietnamese charges. From their perspective, that was no doubt true. Heirs of a tradition of willingness to accept casualties in return for immediate tactical gain, they found themselves dealing with an army that was in it for the long haul in a war in which clear cut tactical victories were rare.[12] Their complaints were echoed by politicians of hawkish and dovish persuasion alike: “Why should American boys die for Vietnam when Vietnamese boys won’t die for Vietnam?” was the cry. In fact Vietnamese boys did die for their country, and in huge numbers.

The official ARVN casualty toll for the American phase of the war—not counting the final year for which records were not kept—was 1,394,000 including 224,000 killed in action.[13] Given South Vietnam’s population of about fourteen million, an equivalent share of America’s populace of some two-hundred million would have been 3,200,000 killed-in-action. Nor is the myth vitiated by mere numbers. The quality of leadership at corps and division level deteriorated in the chaos following the widespread purge of loyalist officers following Diem’s overthrow and the ARVN had its share of marginal units, but by and large elite units—Airborne, Marines, Ranger battalions and, later, the 1st Division—put in exemplary performances and ordinary units fought well more often than not. That includes elements of the oft-derided Regional Forces/Popular Forces (local militia, the so-called “Ruff-Puffs”), right up to the bitter end. To be sure, some units dissolved in the chaos of the final, overwhelming, 1975 invasion, undercut by drastic cutoffs in ammunition allowances and the reduction of South Vietnamese air power’s effectiveness by Soviet-provided surface-to-air missiles, but the ARVN put in some of the finest combat performances in the annals of warfare during the awful spring of 1975. A case in point is the 9-20 April Battle of Xuan Loc on the eastern approaches to Saigon, where the ARVN 18th Division reinforced by the remains of the Airborne Brigade fought a reinforced North Vietnamese corps with massive armor support to a bloody standstill despite artillery inferiority.[14] Another case in point is the last stand on Tan Son Nhut Airfield of the 81st Airborne Ranger Group, who fought on after the departure of the last Americans, taking out T-55 tanks with unguided, shoulder-fired anti-tank rockets until they ran out of ammunition.

Myth: Our bombing of North Vietnam and the Ho Chi Minh Trail was unnecessary at best and inhumane at worst. This myth is closely linked to the “It was a guerrilla war” myth. If it were, in fact, a guerilla war, then the logistical requirements of communist forces in the South would have been satisfied by locally-obtained food and captured arms and munitions and little external supply would have been needed. This belief at times bled over into American intelligence estimates. A May 1966 appraisal endorsed by Secretary of Defense McNamara held that the external re-supply requirements of communist forces in the south could be met by seven 21/2 ton trucks a day.[15] That, of course, was utterly untrue. In fact, the supposed insurgency in the south was dependent on arms, supplies and reinforcement from the North from the beginning, unequivocally from 1959 (the opening of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the overland route through Laos) and preemptively so from 1964.

The critical importance of the Ho Chi Minh Trail to the communist war effort is emphasized in Victory in Vietnam: The Official History of the People’s Army of Vietnam, 1954-1975, published in 1994 and released in English translation in 2002[16], a significant embarrassment to exponents of the orthodox interpretation. Selected passages underline the critical importance of maintaining the flow of men and materiel from China and the port of Haiphong through North Vietnam and down the Trail to the South. They also underline the impressive scale of resources devoted to maintaining the flow.[17] Nor were those resources limited to surface-to-air missile batteries, an air defense radar net, MiG jet fighters, anti-aircraft guns, road repair crews, earth-moving equipment and the maintenance of a large truck fleet. “Peace feelers”, advanced in exchange for bombing halts, were an integral and successful element of communist strategy. So were attempts to influence US media coverage of our bombing.

The latter focused on our bombing of targets in North Vietnam, and had the dual purpose of making our bombing appear inhumane on the one hand and ineffective on the other. Perhaps the most egregious example involves December 1966 reportage from Hanoi by New York Times assistant managing editor Harrison Salisbury in which he stated that we were "dropping an enormous weight of explosives on purely civilian targets." He further stated that "on-the-spot inspection indicates that American bombing has been inflicting considerable civilian casualties in Hanoi and its environs for some time."regious example involves December 1966 reportage from Hanoi by New York Times assistant managing editor Harrison Salisbury in which he stated that we were “dropping an enormous weight of explosives on purely civilian targets.” He further stated that “on-the-spot inspection indicates that American bombing has been inflicting considerable civilian casualties in Hanoi and its envions for some time past”,[18] In fact, contrary to his representations, Salisbury was not an eye-witness. Moreover, much of his copy was written by Australian communist Wilfred Burchett, Salisbury’s “facilitator” during his visit to North Vietnam, and copied from official North Vietnamese press releases.[19]
Another telling example can be found in the New York Times lead editorial for Sunday, February 4th 1968. Written four days after the start of the communist 1968 Tet Offensive, the editorial proclaimed that if the “spectacularly successful Tet offensive had proved anything it was that the bombing of North Vietnam had failed to reduce either the enemy’s will or capacity to fight.”[20] As we now know and as some journalists realized at the time, the offensive was a military disaster for the communists. The prominence given to discrediting the bombing as opposed, for example, to excoriating the misguided and politically-motivated optimism in LBJ’s, McNamara’s and Westmoreland’s public statements in the months before the Tet Offensive or extolling the fighting spirit of the Viet Cong and NVA suggests an eagerness to influence our policy in a way most likely to be helpful to the communist cause.

Next on our parade of myths: The news media did not lose the war. This myth reflects the belief that waning support for our war effort by the American public, and ultimately by our political leadership, was based on an accurate appraisal of military failure and the immorality of our policies rather than on biased and negative media coverage. Belief in this myth was and is a staple of the orthodox interpretation and an article of faith to the bulk of the intelligentsia, to mainstream media pundits and among the anti-war faithful. In a neat bit of intellectual ju-jitsu, exponents of the orthodox interpretation reverse the polarity, portraying as a myth revisionist arguments that the news media did play a central role in losing the war.

The data relevant to supporting or debunking this myth is enormous, and I turn to my own observations to condense the argument. I enrolled as a graduate student in history at Princeton University under Air Force sponsorship in the autumn of 1967. I had returned from my first Southeast Asia combat tour in the summer of 1966 and had spent the intervening year as a flight instructor at the Air Rescue Service Combat Crew Training School where I kept track of current intelligence. As soon as my fellow graduate students recovered from the shock of having a combat veteran in their midst, they asked me what I thought about the debate about the war, very much a hot topic on campus. I responded that I would be happy to tell them about the war on the ground in Southeast Asia, but that they would not learn about it from coverage in what we have come to call the mainstream media, meaning in context the New York Times, the AP and UPI wire services and ABC, CBS and NBC television news. “The debate,” I said, “is not about the war at all. It’s about who should run the country based on what foreign policy assumptions.” Today, over forty-five years later, I stand by that characterization.

To hold my own in the ensuing discussions, for the next two and a half years I tracked on a daily basis relevant coverage in the New York Times and watched the ABC, CBS and NBC evening news roundups (in those days, they were only thirty minutes long and aired in sequence). Coverage of the war on the ground in Southeast Asia was short on operational and strategic context and long on details that called into question the morality and effectiveness of our commitment. The adverse effects of American firepower on the civilian populace were highlighted. Communist atrocities were downplayed or ignored. The classic example of the latter, and a telling one, is the contrast between the extensive coverage given to the My Lai massacre and the sketchy coverage accorded the Hue massacres, where communist forces during the 1968 Têt Offensive rounded up and executed some six thousand civilians.

It seemed clear at the time, and is clearer in retrospect, that the mainstream media were unwilling to publicize unsavory aspects of communist policy. An example from February 1968 makes the point: Viewing the disinterment of a mass grave containing victims of the Hue massacre, West German journalist Uwe Siemon-Netto in company with American journalist Peter Braestrup encountered an American television crew standing idly by. It was clear from the condition of the corpses that many of the victims had been buried alive. “Why?” asked Braestrup, “don’t you film this?” “We are not here to film anti-Communist propaganda” said the camera man [21], a small, but telling detail.

I should add that Braestrup, Saigon Bureau Chief of the Washington Post at the time, broke ranks with his mainstream colleagues by publishing a thorough, critical account of media coverage of the 1968 Têt Offensive, The Big Story (1977).[22] It is worth noting that Braestrup, in contrast to his media colleagues, was a combat veteran, having served as a Marine infantry officer in Korea.

Braestrup’s critique applies to media coverage of the entire war, both because the deficiencies in reportage and interpretation in coverage of the 1968 Têt Offensive were representative of coverage of the war as a whole, and because coverage of the 1968 Têt offensive played a major role in turning public opinion against support of our military effort in Vietnam. The attack on the US Embassy by Viet Cong sappers was portrayed as representative of the success of the entire offensive while the rapid reassertion of government control throughout South Vietnam was essentially ignored.[23] The battle for Hue—the only significant communist success in the first wave attacks, though in the end a communist defeat—was hardly typical of the fighting in general, but received extensive coverage... and here I would dispel another myth: that “television brought the war into our living rooms.”

There is an element of truth in this myth in that discussion of the war was ubiquitous in television news coverage. That having been said, coverage of the war on the ground was minimal. The period of my survey saw considerable footage of stretchers being loaded on to and off of helicopters, typically with an audio gunfire background (in my judgment mostly dubbed in), and early morning interviews of dazed survivors of nearly-overrun fire bases by freshly helicoptered-in reporters, but little to no actual combat footage. Tellingly, the US media all but ignored the ARVN.

In fact, Têt 1968 was a massive defeat for the communist forces, whose few and ephemeral successes in the first phase (January through early March) were overshadowed in operational reality by staggering losses, particularly in the second and third phases (May and August), and particularly among the Viet Cong, who were effectively eliminated as a military factor in the war. That was not the impression conveyed by mainstream media coverage.

The turning point came on 27 February when CBS television anchor man Walter Cronkite, just having returned from a whirlwind tour of South Vietnam, during which he witnessed evidence of the Hue massacres, pronounced on the evening news that

It now seems more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate. This summer’s almost certain standoff will either end in real give-and-take negotiations or terrible escalation: and for every means we have to escalate the enemy can match us.[24]
He went on to add that “the only rational way out will be to negotiate, not as victors but as an honorable people.” President Lyndon Johnson, watching the broadcast, famously commented to Press Secretary George Christian, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost middle America.”[25] Whatever the verdict on Johnson as a war leader, his political instincts with regard to voter sentiment were keen, amounting in this case to an accurate prophecy… albeit a self-fulfilling one that Johnson made good by announcing on 31 March a bombing halt against targets in northern North Vietnam, his decision to enter into negotiations with the North Vietnamese and his decision not to run for reelection. By that time, our political leadership had overwhelmingly endorsed the media interpretation and the rest is history.

I will conclude with a final myth, one derived from those discussed above and revealing in its content: that the outcome of the war was not so horrible for the peoples of Indochina. Though rarely stated so baldly, this myth was embraced in the bulk of the immediate post-war media coverage. Eventually, promulgation of this myth was suppressed by overwhelming evidence to the contrary, but only after extended delay.

The mainstream media covered the exodus of the Vietnamese boat people (though not the reasons for it), but they had little to say about Vietnam’s “reeducation camps” and for four years turned a blind eye to the horrors of Khymer Rouge rule in Cambodia. This despite the fact that the realities of the Killing Fields and The Year Zero were amply reported in Thailand and thus known to the international community including media representatives. I was stationed in Thailand at the time, and my specific reference is to coverage in the Bangkok Post, a first-rate English language newspaper which I read on a daily basis from the spring of 1975 until late December.

To appreciate the extent of the American media’s blind eye to events in Cambodia some background is in order. The area of western Cambodia contiguous to Thailand, the Battembang Rice Triangle, had never been under communist guerrilla influence and there was considerable cross-border commerce. In addition, Buddhist shrines to the north of the triangle attracted a steady flow of Thai pilgrims. When Phnom Penh fell to the communists on 17 April, considerable numbers of Thais were caught inside Cambodia. Through the spring and into the fall, survivors worked their way out, bringing with them eyewitness accounts of the horrors of Khymer Rouge rule: forced relocation of urban dwellers to “new economic zones”, executions of the educated, of Buddhist monks, of eyeglass wearers and so on. Their accounts were credible and well-reported in the Thai-language press as well as the Post.[26] Beyond the ability to assign numerical estimates to the Khymer Rouge death toll, I have learned nothing about the Year Zero and Killing Fields since. Coverage by the mainstream media—perhaps I should say recognition—began only after the escape from Cambodia in October of 1979 of New York Times reporter Sydney Schamberg’s Khymer cameraman Dith Pran.

Might a reluctance to admit that they played a major role in prompting American withdrawal from the war leading to the terrible carnage that followed help to explain media silence on the issues in question? I leave it to you, the reader, to decide.

What are we to make of our catalogue of realities and myths?

Returning to my opening comments, if we are to learn from history, we must get it right. In conslusion, I ask you, the reader, to reflect on the number of major foreign policy decisions by our government in the post-Vietnam era—not all with happy consequences—that appear to have been driven by acceptance of the lessons of the orthodox interpretation of the Vietnam War.

 
John F. Guilmartin, Jr.

Columbus, Ohio

[1] An was not the only such agent, though far and away the most influential one. Members of the Saigon intelligentsia, who loathed Diem and assiduously courted American journalists, contributed as well. Another was ARVN officer Albert Pham Ngoc Thao who served in various senior positions including province chief and head of the Strategic Hamlet Program. As a province chief, he appears as a source in Malcolm Browne, The New Face of War (Indianapolis and New York, 1965), the first of the journalist-historians’ work published between hard covers.

[2] Pike, a Foreign Service Officer, first attracted public notice with his analysis of the massacre of civilians by communist forces in Hue during the 1968 Tet Offensive.

[3] A student in my summer 1998 graduate seminar on the history of the Vietnam War at Ohio State University did a literature search for reviews of Street Without Joy and Hell in a Very Small Place in the standard scholarly journals, e.g. American Historical Review and Journal of American History, and came up with remarkably few reviews—from memory no more than half a dozen—and those were tepid.

[4] Peter Dunn, First Vietnam War, 41-2. The officer was almost certainly Major Dan Phelan of the China-based 14th Air Force AGAS (Air Ground Aid Service) who worked with Charles Fenn, the OSS agent responsible for arranging OSS support for Ho and the Vietminh. See also Dixee Bartholomew-Feis, The OSS and Ho Chi Minh: Unexpected Allies in the War Against Japan, 220-221, photos from the National Archives, Green Belt, Maryland, of the arrival in August 1945 of the first armed Vietminh in Hanoi. Vietminh in the photos whose weapons can be identified are armed with French 7.5 mm rifles, specifically the Mousqueton d’Artillerie Modèle 1892 and the Fusil des Tirallieurs Indo-Chinois Modèle 1902. The one soldier with an automatic weapon is carrying a Chateralleault Fusil Mitrailleur; Ian Hogg and John Weeks, Military Small Arms of the Twentieth Century (Chicago, 1973), 3.05-3.06; Hogg and Weeks, The Encyclopedia of Infantry Weapons of World War II (New York, 1977), 101.

[5] Archimedes Patti, Why Viet Nam? 166-67, Dunn, First Vietnam War, 17.

[6] James Dunnigan and Albert Nofi, Dirty Little Secrets of the Vietnam War (New York, 1999), 38-39, cited in James S. Corum and Wray R. Johnson, Airpower In Small Wars: Fighting Insurgents and Terrorists (Lawrence, Kansas: 2003), 43.

[7] See Sophie Quinn-Judge, Ho Chi Minh: the Missing Years, 1919-1941 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002). Based on extensive research in Soviet and French Archives including files of the Comintern and Sûreté, Quinn-Judge thoroughly documents Ho’s ideological background and proclivities.

[8] Fall, Two Viet Nams, 155. A case can be made for class differences among the Vietnamese peasantry in the south, where a small class of relatively well-to-do landlords and a large body of landless peasants existed, but that was most assuredly not the case in the north where the vast majority of peasants—Fall says 98%—owned the land they worked.

[9] Le Duan’s role as a power behind the scenes and exponent of a hard line on the war in the South was long suspected, but not the extent to which he became effective dictator. Lien-Hang Nguyen, Hanoi’s War: An International History of the War for Peace in Vietnam (2012).

[10] These were a major failed offensive in the south in August 1950, the destruction of French forces along the Chinese border in October 1950; the failed attempt to break into the Red River Delta in January-June 1951; and the 1952-1953 Winter-Spring offensive into Laos. To this we can add the conventional response to the November 1951-February 1952 French Hoa Binh offensive in the north.

[11] The October-November 1965 Pleiku Campaign, chronicled in Hal Moore and Joe Galloway’s, We Were Soldiers Once and Young and in the Mel Gibson move We Were Soldiers Once culminated in American defensive victory at LZ X-Ray and defeat at LZ Albany (not addressed in the Gibson movie). The campaign’s outcome was equivocal in that both the US and North Vietnamese abandoned overtly aggressive orientations in its aftermath.

[12] We do not ordinarily think of American military commanders as prone to accept heavy casualties, but it is a matter of record. In World War II American commanders were routinely willing to accept casualties that their British colleagues considered unacceptable. The same contrast applied to American and Australian forces in Vietnam.

[13] John F. Guilmartin, “Casualties”, Stanley I. Kutler, ed., Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War (New York, 1996), 103-105.

[14] George J. Veith and Merle Pribbenow, “‘Fighting Is an Art”: The Army of the Republic of Vietnam’s Defense of Xuan Loc, 9-21 April 1975”, Journal of Military History, Vol. 68, No. 1 (January 2004), 163-213.

[15] Mark Clodfelter, The Limits of Air Power: The American Bombing of North Vietnam (New York, 1989), 134-35.

[16] (Merle L. Pribbenow, tr. (Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas), originally published in Vietnamese as History of the People’s Army of Vietnam (Hanoi, Vietnamese Ministry of Defense Military History Institute).

[17] Victory in Vietnam, 52-54, 168-69, 225-26, 242 and 261-68.

[18] New York Times, December 25 and 27, 1966, quoted in Wayne Thompson, To Hanoi and Back: The U.S. Air Force and North Vietnam, 1966-1973 (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2000), 45.

[19] Robert Manne, Agent of Influence: The Life and Times of Wilfred Burchett, Mackinzie Paper No. 13 (Toronto, 1989), 48-50. Burchett was involved in exploiting American POWs in communist hands in Korea and Vietnam and played a major role in actress Jane Fonda’s notorious 1972 visit to North Vietnam.

[20] Paraphrased in Wayne Thompson, To Hanoi and Back: The U.S. Air Force and North Vietnam, 1966-1973 (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2000), 123.

[21] Uwe Siemon-Netto, Duc: A Reporter's Love for the Wounded People of Vietnam (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (July 10, 2013), 211-13.

[22] The Big Story: How the American Press and Television Reported and Interpreted the Crisis of Tet 1968 in Vietnam and Washington, 2 vols. (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1977).

[23] See Donald M. Bishop’ review of The Big Story, “The Press and the TET Offensive: A Flawed Institution Under Stress”, Air University Review (November-December 1978).

[24] Quoted in Henry Kissinger, Ending the Vietnam War (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2003), 47.

[25] Quoted in Philip Davidson, Vietnam at War, The History, 1945-1975 (Novato, California: Presidio Press, 1988), 486.

[26] Speaking only minimal Thai and reading it not at all, I was kept informed by Captain Daniel Jacobowitz, USAF, and his wife Saifon, a native Thai speaker.

This Is What We Fight Against

Copied below is an excerpt from Power Systems: Conversations on Global Democratic Uprisings and the New Challenges to U.S. Empire by Noam Chomsky.  This brief excerpt is filled with falsehoods and false assertions as is typical of Chomsky, yet Chomsky is still praised http://www.michaelmoore.com/words/mike-friends-blog/noam-chomsky-continues-inspire in the media http://www.salon.com/2012/06/17/when_chomsky_wept/ for his supposedly astute observations on foreign policy, particularly with regard to the Vietnam War.  Chomsky’s list of interviews http://www.chomsky.info/interviews.htm would make any vainglorious egoist salivate.

The famous American intellectual, historian and Pulitzer Prize winner, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., once wrote of Chomsky, Chomsky, it soon becomes evident, does not understand the rudiments of political analysis.  Indeed, despite occasional pretenses of reasoned discussion, he is not much interested in the analytical process" Schlesinger Jr., Arthur M. “Three cheers for Professor Chomsky: But Not Just Now” Chicago Tribune 23 Mar. 1969:P4 Print cf. http://www.paulbogdanor.com/chomsky/schlesinger.pdf

The prominent linguist, Paul Postal, once wrote of Chomsky, “After many years, I came to the conclusion that everything he says is false. He will lie just for the fun of it. Every one of his arguments was tinged and coded with falseness and pretense. It was like playing chess with extra pieces. It was all fake.” Postal, Paul The New Yorker 31 March 2003 cf. http://www.paulbogdanor.com/chomsky/200chomskylies.pdf

The problem with dealing with the Chomskys of the world is that they can make false statement after false statement, but those who seek to correct their lies are forced to provide voluminous documentation to support their refutations.  Otherwise the argument becomes a rather childish "he said, she said” back and forth that resolves nothing.

Each endnote in this article explains the factual basis for refuting Chomsky’s claims and provides links to supporting documentation that the reader may access.  However, readers should not be misled.  Although Chomsky is clearly on the fringes of far left ideology, the basics of his arguments are echoed in the arguments of many on the left in what is called the “orthodox” view of the Vietnam War.

What happened in Vietnam in the early 1960s is gone from history. This is a rather curious assertion given that Vietnam was evoked repeatedly in reference to the recent war in Iraq.  The words “quagmire” and “Vietnam” were used frequently.  Furthermore, reporting of events at the Abu Ghraib prison and in the town of Haditha evoked references to “My Lai”, a well-known atrocity during the Vietnam War. cf. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A32165-2004Sep18.html, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/24/weekinreview/24word.html?_r=0, http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/20/arts/dogged-reporter-s-impact-from-my-lai-to-abu-ghraib.html, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/04/weekinreview/04burns.html?pagewanted=all It was barely discussed at the time Here Chomsky even disagrees with and contradicts himself.  In a review of Robert Buzzanco’s Vietnam and the Transformation of American Life Chomsky wrote, “The Indochina wars have cast a long shadow over world affairs. For the victims, they were a devastating catastrophe. Their legacy for the United States was substantial, interacting in complex ways with internal developments in American society.” cf. http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-1577180941.html, and it’s essentially disappeared This is another curious assertion.  The Vietnam War is often called “the first televised war”.  The war came, literally, in pictures and stories, into the living rooms of Americans on a daily basis. cf. http://reportingfromthebattlefield.wordpress.com/vietnam-the-television-war/, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/WPcap/2000-04/21/014r-042100-idx.html.

In 1954, there was a peace settlement between the United States and Vietnam This statement is demonstrably false.  The Geneva Accords signatories were France and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.  Neither the United States nor South Vietnam was signatories.  South Vietnam wasn’t even invited to attend, although they did. cf. https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/genevacc.htmhttp://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=AD0391846Furthermore, the United States released a statement that “it would view any renewal of the aggression in violation of the aforesaid agreements with grave concern and as seriously threatening international peace and security”, and Ngo Dinh Diem, Premier of the Government of Vietnam stated that since the Government of Viet Nam had not been a party to the agreement they were not obligated to honor it. cf. https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/genevacc.htm, http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/inch006.asp#4, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/diem-says-south-vietnam-not-bound-by-geneva-agreements. The United States regarded it as a disaster Contrary to Chomsky’s claim, the United States praised the agreement and stated, “In the case of nations now divided against their will, we shall continue to seek to achieve unity through free elections supervised by the United Nations to insure that they are conducted fairly.”It further stated, “With respect to the statement made by the representative of the State of Viet-Nam, the United States reiterates its traditional position that peoples are entitled to determine their own future and that it will not join in an arrangement which would hinder this. Nothing in its declaration just made is intended to or does indicate any departure from this traditional position.“Perhaps what Chomsky is referring to here is the 1956 elections that were supposed to take place according to the Final Declaration of the Geneva Conference, which no country signed.  Pham Van Dong, a high ranking communist at the conference admitted that the communists never expect there to be any elections.  Some scholars misquote Eisenhower to support the point that the US wouldn’t support elections because they knew that Ho would win, but Diem was very clear that elections “monitored” by communists were out of the question. cf. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/inch006.asp#4, http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/inch027.asp, https://www.vvfh.org/uploads/Turner-Myths.pdf, http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1954-geneva-indochina.html, https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/pentagon/pent11.htm, refused to permit it to go forward Since the United States was not a signatory to the Geneva Accords it had no power or authority to “refuse to permit it to go forward” as Chomsky falsely claims. cf. https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/genevacc.htm, and established a client state in the South, which was a typical client state, carrying out torture, brutality, murders Rather than creating a client state, as Chomsky asserts, the United States sought a treaty with the nations of Australia, France, New Zealand, Pakistan, Thailand, the Philippines, South Korea, Spain and the United Kingdom to agree to the mutual defense of Southeast Asia and the Asian signatory parties to the agreement against communist aggression. cf. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/usmu003.aspThe United States also signed agreements of support with the governments of South Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos and provided economic and military aid to all three governments long before the Geneva Accords as well as subsequent to them.  cf. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/inch008.asp http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/inch009.asp, http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/inch010.asp, http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/inch008.asp, http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/inch009.asphttp://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/inch031.asp, http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/inch032.asp, http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/inch034.asp.

By about 1960, the South Vietnamese government had probably killed seventy or eighty thousand people. R. J. Rummel is a recognized expert on democide, the killing by a government of its own citizens.  Rummel estimates between 361,000 and 720,000 civilian casualties of the South Vietnamese government for the period from 1960 to 1975.  Given an average of between 24,000 and 48,000 annual deaths, Chomsky’s “seventy or eighty thousand” dead in 1960 alone is wildly off the mark. Furthermore, the Chomsky’s of the world never mention the civilians killed by the communists; 50,000 alone in the land reforms in the North, another 500,000 in the North after the reforms, 216,000 in the South during the war and as much as 1.2 million after the war.  cf. http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/SOD.CHAP6.HTM, http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/SOD.TAB6.1A.GIF The repression was so harsh that it stimulated an internal rebellion, which was not what the North Vietnamese wanted. Ho Chi Minh established the communist Viet Minh in 1945, near the end of WWII.  By 1947 they were committing acts of terror in South Vietnam and establishing a political infrastructure in preparation for taking control of all of Vietnam.  The DRV has now admitted that they committed to an invasion of the South in 1959.  As Jeffrey Race wrote, the idea that the Viet Cong were an indigenous rebellion “is not supported by historical evidence”. cf. http://indochine54.free.fr/cefeo/auxilia.html, https://www.vvfh.org/uploads/Turner-Myths.pdf pp. 47,48, https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/pentagon/pent14.htm, https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/pentagon/pent11.htm They wanted some time to develop their own society. But they were sort of coerced by the southern resistance into at least giving it verbal support. The idea that North Vietnam was coerced into supporting supposedly independent South Vietnamese guerillas is bizarre.  It conflicts with all the known evidence.Ho Chi Minh established the Viet Minh in 1945.  Once he had consolidated power he immediately began purging his ranks of any nationalists and anti-communists to ensure that only communism would rule Vietnam.  Some were murdered.  Others were turned over to the French for bounties.  His organization completely subsumed the VNQDD (the true Vietnamese nationalist movement) within 24 months of him assuming power. The VNQDD then migrated to South Vietnam and took up arms against the communists.  cf. http://www.vietquoc.com/history.htm, https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/pentagon/pent14.htm, https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/pentagon/pent4.htm, http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/816037.pdf , https://www.vvfh.org/uploads/Turner-Myths.pdf, https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/pentagon/pent11.htm

 By the time John F. Kennedy became involved in 1961 This statement is curiously worded.  It sounds as if Chomsky thinks Kennedy decided to get involved in South Vietnamese affairs.  To the contrary, Kennedy took office in 1961 and, as President of the United States, was obligated to deal with problems that existed prior to his election., the situation was out of control The situation in Vietnam in 1961 was not nearly as bleak as Chomsky paints it.  To be sure, there were manifest problems, as there are when any new government is formed in a country embroiled in turmoil, but the Diem government had been firmly in control of South Vietnam since 1956 and its biggest problems were being caused by the communists from the North, not the various internal factions that constantly vied for political power and prominence. cf. https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/pentagon2/pent1.htm, http://www.foia.cia.gov/sites/default/files/document_conversions/89801/DOC_0001166374.pdf, http://www.foia.cia.gov/sites/default/files/document_conversions/89801/DOC_0001167501.pdf, http://www.foia.cia.gov/sites/default/files/document_conversions/89801/DOC_0001166436.pdf, http://www.foia.cia.gov/sites/default/files/document_conversions/89801/DOC_0001166419.pdf. So Kennedy simply invaded the country This is a blatant lie.  The US provided military advisors to South Vietnam beginning in 1950 and continuing through the years of French rule.  When South Vietnam became an independent nation, the US continued to advise and train the South Vietnamese Army.  The US did not send combat troops to Vietnam until February 1965.  The US sent both advisors and combat troops at the request of the South Vietnamese government. cf. http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/us-military-assistance-advisory-group-arrives-in-saigon, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/kennedy-agrees-to-send-instructors-to-train-troops, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/us-sends-first-combat-troops-to-south-vietnam, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/kennedy-announces-intent-to-increase-aid-to-south-vietnam, https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/pentagon2/pent1.htm. In 1962, he sent the U.S. Air Force to start bombing South Vietnam, using planes with South Vietnamese markings What Chomsky is referring to here is Operation Farmgate, a covert mission by the US Air Force to train the South Vietnamese Air Force and support the South Vietnamese Army operations against the Viet Cong with reconnaissance as well as offensive and defensive air support.  They did not indiscriminately bomb South Vietnam, as Chomsky implies but did provide air support for South Vietnamese Army combat operations against the Viet Cong.  cf. www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA391818, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/operation-farm-gate-combat-missions-authorized,http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/first-operation-farm-gate-missions-flown. Kennedy authorized the use of napalm, chemical warfare, to destroy the ground cover and crops The US used napalm in Vietnam both to reduce ground cover and to attack enemy forces.  The US also used chemical defoliants in Operation Ranch Hand to reduce ground cover that enemy forces used for concealment, particularly roadside cover that could be used to conceal ambushes.  Neither napalm nor chemical defoliants are prohibited weapons under international law when used against enemy troops or uninhabited areas or to reduce an enemy’s access to cover. The use of napalm was prohibited by the US after 1968 and herbicide use ceased in 1971. cf. http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/policy/int/convention_conventional-wpns_prot-iii.htm, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/operation-ranch-hand-initiated, http://www.airpower.maxwell.af.mil/airchronicles/aureview/1983/jul-aug/buckingham.html, http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/munitions/napalm-war.htm, http://www.policymic.com/articles/66101/what-exactly-are-chemical-weapons-a-military-insider-explains-what-these-killing-tools-actually-do, http://www.opcw.org/about-chemical-weapons/what-is-a-chemical-weapon/. He started the process of driving the rural population into what were called “strategic hamlets,” essentially concentration camps The Strategic Hamlet program was proposed “by R. G. K. Thompson, head of the newly arrived British Advisory Mission”, not by Kennedy or any of his advisors.  The US military was opposed to the program, because they felt it would divert ARVN resources from the task of driving the Viet Cong out of South Vietnam.  Diem adopted the program enthusiastically despite US reservations.  It involved the construction of fortified hamlets, villages entirely surrounded by ditches, earthworks, bamboo stakes, fences and sometimes barbed wire, to protect the citizens from attack.  It also involved training the villagers to fight the Viet Cong and keep them out of their hamlet. cf. http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/research_memoranda/2006/RM3208.pdf, https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/pentagon2/pent4.htm, http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a215569.pdf, where people were surrounded by barbed wire, supposedly to protect them from the guerillas who the U.S. government knew perfectly well they supported. The idea that every rural Vietnamese citizen supported the Viet Cong is laughable.  The Vietnam War was much like the American Civil War.  Brother fought against brother, family against family, neighbors against neighbors. Communist cadres infiltrated the entire of South Vietnam. One side fought for tyranny.  The other side fought for freedom. cf. https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/pentagon/pent11.htm, http://www.foia.cia.gov/sites/default/files/document_conversions/89801/DOC_0001166413.pdf, http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1755&dat=19630922&id=YrwqAAAAIBAJ&sjid=rWUEAAAAIBAJ&pg=7237,4538354, http://1997-2001.state.gov/www/about_state/history/vol_i_1961/m.html, http://1997-2001.state.gov/www/about_state/history/vol_i_1961/n.html, http://www.dod.mil/pubs/foi/International_security_affairs/vietnam_and_southeast_asiaDocuments/575.pdf

This “pacification” ultimately drove millions of people out of the countryside while destroying large parts of it. The Strategic Hamlet Program did not drive peasants out of the countryside.  Its purpose was to build secure hamlets in the area where the peasants lived and worked their farms.  It did relocate them in the general area where they had lived, but it created resentment among the populace.  Their homes were burned once they were moved, and they lost their ancestral lands where their forebears were buried.  There were later programs that did drive the peasants into the cities, but that was more a result of the war coming to their areas than any pacification efforts.  When war comes, peasants leave.  The Viet Cong stayed and fought – and died. cf. http://etd.lsu.edu/docs/available/etd-0419102-103048/unrestricted/Pinard_thesis.pdf, http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA324682‎, http://www.dod.mil/pubs/foi/International_security_affairs/vietnam_and_southeast_asiaDocuments/575.pdf Kennedy also began operations against North Vietnam on a small scale. Chomsky’s claim is ambiguous at best.  Does “operations against North Vietnam” mean combat operations inside North Vietnam?  Or does it mean operations in South Vietnam against North Vietnamese forces?  And who does Chomsky consider to be North Vietnam?  Does he refer to the conventional forces often called the NVA?  Or does he mean the Viet Cong?  (Likely not.)  Or is he referring to PAVN, the North Vietnamese name for all their forces, conventional and guerilla?  Without more specificity, it’s hard to know what Chomsky is referring to and therefore hard to rebut his claim.As 1962 began, there were 700 US advisors in Vietnam.  By the end of the year, that number had increased to 12,000.  The Navy SEALS were formed early in 1962 and came to Vietnam to train their South Vietnamese counterparts.  They did not engage in combat operations until after the Gulf of Tonkin incident.  Special Forces soldiers (now known as Green Berets) first arrived in Vietnam in 1957.  They worked as trainers and advisors to South Vietnamese counterinsurgency forces until 1965 when they assumed a combat role.  As discussed in endnote 17, the Air Force was involved in covert combat operations in 1962, but those were exclusively in South Vietnam. The US Navy served in a strictly advisory and intelligence gathering role until 1965. cf. http://navyseals.com/2482/trivia-tuesday-vietnam/, http://www.history.army.mil/books/Vietnam/90-23/90-231.HTM, http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/stream/faq45-25.htm That was 1962.

 In 1963, the Kennedy administration got wind of the fact that the government of Ngo Dinh Diem it had installed in South Vietnam Diem was not installed by the United States.  He was offered positions under Bao Dai in 1945, in Ho Chi Minh’s government in 1946 and in the French government in 1947.  He turned them all down.  The Emperor Bao Dai appointed him Premier of the Republic of South Vietnam in 1954 and he lost to Diem in a referendum in 1956. The US supported him, because he was the best person available. cf. https://www.vvfh.org/uploads/Turner-Myths.pdf, http://www.viettouch.com/philately/scst_baodai.html, https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/pentagon/pent13.htm was trying to arrange negotiations with the North. Diem and his brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu, were trying to negotiate a peace settlement. So the Kennedy liberals determined that they had to be thrown out. Diem staunchly resisted any attempts to negotiate with the communists.  In 1955 he announced that he would never negotiate with the communists.  He never did. Diem’s handling of the Buddhist crisis brought on his coup. The Kennedy administration did not stop the coup or alert Diem once they became aware of it, but it was not their initiative.In 1963 Diem’s brother, Nhu, reached out the North Vietnamese and proposed settlement negotiations, according to some South Vietnamese generals.  However, this is widely seen by scholars as an attempt to offset the growing news of efforts by the Kennedy Administration, principally Averill Harriman, to depose Diem.  Neither Diem nor his brother Nhu went through with the negotiations.   cf. http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/diem-refuses-to-negotiate-with-communistshttp://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB101/vn01.pdf, http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB101/vn02.pdf, http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB101/vn03.pdf, http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB444/, http://nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu/content/south-vietnamese-buddhists-initiate-fall-dictator-diem-1963, http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB284/2-CIA_AND_THE_HOUSE_OF_NGO.pdf The Kennedy administration organized a coup in which the two brothers were killed and they put in their own guy, meanwhile escalating the war Contrary to Chomsky’s assertion, the coup did not originate in Washington.  It was not even the first attempt by South Vietnamese to depose Diem.  To be sure, there was widespread dissatisfaction within the Kennedy administration with Diem’s performance and some members of the Administration actively encouraged dissent within the South Vietnamese military leadership.However, when the news of a coup first surfaced and up to mere days before it was accomplished, there was a great deal of ambiguity within the administration regarding the appropriate course of action (to support or not to support the coup).  After the coup had occurred, the South Vietnamese generals, not Kennedy, decided whom to put in charge.  They decided on a two tier government, with the former Vice President of Vietnam, Nguyễn Ngọc Thơ,  in charge of half of it. cf. http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB284/2-CIA_AND_THE_HOUSE_OF_NGO.pdf, http://hnn.us/article/1717, https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/pentagon2/pent7.htm, https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/pentagon2/pent6.htm, https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/pentagon2/pent6.htm.

Then came the assassination of President Kennedy. Contrary to a lot of mythology, Kennedy was one of the hawks in the administration to the very last minute. Kennedy was no hawk.  He sought for ways to extricate the US from Vietnam, grudgingly approved requested troop increases and was considering withdrawal shortly before his assassination. The greatest evidence that Kennedy was not a hawk is that despite being surrounded by hawks that constantly urged him to commit US troops to various conflicts, Kennedy seldom approved their plans.  In fact, it has been written that JFK “drove his hawkish advisers crazy” because he wouldn’t succumb to their arguments. cf. http://jfkfacts.org/assassination/experts/was-jfk-going-to-pull-out-of-vietnam/, http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/w6LJoSnW4UehkaH9Ip5IAA.aspx, http://www.newstatesman.com/2013/08/what-if-kennedy-had-lived, http://govt.eserver.org/gulf-war/jfk-lbj-and-vietnam.txt, https://www.bostonreview.net/us/galbraith-exit-strategy-vietnam He did agree to proposals for withdrawal from Vietnam, because he knew the war was very unpopular here This comment prompts this writer to ask what planet Chomsky is living on.  In 1963, polling on the Vietnam issue was uncommon.  In 1965, public support stood at 60.1%.  Public support for the war peaked in 1966 and then began a gradual decline.  It wasn’t until 1971 that opinions against the war exceeded those who supported the war. cf. http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/learning_history/vietnam/vietnam_pubopinion.cfm, http://www.virginia.edu/cnsl/pdf/Turner-how-political-warfare-caused-America.pdf, http://www.people-press.org/2013/10/18/trust-in-government-interactive/, http://www.ipr.northwestern.edu/publications/docs/workingpapers/2002/IPR-WP-02-42.pdf, but always with the condition of withdrawal after victory. Here Chomsky makes a counterfactual assertion.  Kennedy had, in fact, decided to withdraw from Vietnam even if it meant that the US commitment would be viewed as a failure. In a November 14, 1963 press conference he stated unequivocally “that is our object, to bring Americans home”.  In fact, the Pentagon Papers state that “A formal planning and budgetary process for the phased withdrawal of U.S.  forces from Vietnam was begun amid the euphoria and optimism of July 1962”.  That process didn’t end until five months after Kennedy’s assassination. cf. http://www.jfklancer.com/NSAM263.htmlhttps://www.bostonreview.net/us/galbraith-exit-strategy-vietnam, http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=9519, http://media.nara.gov/research/pentagon-papers/Pentagon-Papers-Part-IV-B-4.pdf, http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2005/06/06/papers_reveal_jfk_efforts_on_vietnam/?page=full Once we get victory, we can withdraw and let the client regime go. Chomsky’s last statement is blatant character assassination.  Nowhere in the record does Kennedy express such an attitude toward the Vietnamese people.  It is part and parcel of the long-claimed “racist” attitude of America toward “brown people” that pervades the communist apologia.

Footnotes

The Hue Massacre: A Study of Communist Policies and Tactics in Vietnam

By Paul Schmehl, Independent ResearcherJan 24, 2015

One of the most persistent myths about the Vietnam War is that PAVN (People’s Army of Viet Nam) and PLAF (People’s Liberation Armed Forces) troops were Vietnamese patriots fighting for their independence. While there is no doubt that some of those who fought on the North Vietnamese side believed that wholeheartedly, that was never the goal of their leadership. The goal of the North from the very beginning was a communist tyranny. Schmehl, Paul "Who Was Ho Chi Minh? A Deceitful Mass Murderer." VVFH 14 Apr 2014. Web 15 Apr 2014. They pursued that goal to the exclusion of all else.

PAVN troops were North Vietnamese regulars (known as NVA by American troops). Many were conscripts. Some were chained to their weapons Publication - Hue Massacre, 1968-1998, in English and Vietnamese - includes personal note and newspaper articles in Vietnamese, No Date, Folder 03, Box 01, Lu Lan Collection, The Vietnam Center and Archive, Texas Tech University. Accessed 17 Apr. 2014. . 11 Nha Ca Mourning Headband For Hue (Indianapolis:Indiana University Press 2014. 225, 262) Dead NVA soldiers chained to their machineguns are attested to in several passages, and Vennema, Alje The Viet Cong Massacre at Hue (New York:Vantage Press 1976) 203 to force them to fight. "3 Dead Enemy Soldiers Reported Chained to Gun." New York Times (1923-Current file): 3 Feb 17 1968. ProQuest. Web. 2 May 2014 . p. 3 Perhaps as many as 20% of them succumbed to disease on the Ho Chi Minh trail before they ever fired a shot.

PLAF troops were South Vietnamese “Viet Cong” regulars and National Liberation Front irregulars. Many were volunteers, but some were conscripted. Both forces were under the direct command and control of North Vietnam throughout the war. They followed the policies, strategies and tactics provided to them by the communist leadership.

A massacre occurred in Hue that never received the attention it should have in the US media or in academia. It involved both PAVN and PLAF troops. Unlike the My Lai massacre, which was front-page news for months and is still talked about today, A search for “Hue Massacre” in the Internet TV News Archive returns zero relevant hits. A search for “My Lai Massacre” returns 21 relevant hits. the massacre in Hue, which was ten times larger than My Lai, was covered briefly, inaccurately and then promptly ignored. There are around 20 published books on My Lai. There is one on the Hue Massacre. Among the 41 newspaper articles that I was able to locate, most were 1 or 2 column inch articles buried pages deep in the paper. Very few were front-page news. More to the point, the Hue massacre was symptomatic of a much larger problem that was ignored by the US media.

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The Domino Theory

Paul Schmehl, Independent ResearcherApr 19, 2015

The Domino Theory got its name from President Eisenhower, but he was not the inventor of the concept. When World War II ended, the Soviet Union began to extend its influence over Asia and Eastern Europe. This development prompted Winston Churchill to remark in 1946, in a speech at Westminster College in Fulton Missouri, that

“From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an ‘iron curtain’ has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Prague, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia; all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject, in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and in some cases increasing measure of control from Moscow.” Winston Churchill’s Iron Curtain Speech, http://history1900s.about.com/od/churchillwinston/a/Iron-Curtain.htm, accessed 4/16/15

The British Empire reached its zenith at the start of World War I. Subsequent to that war its influence began to wane. After World War II, Britain was devastated economically and on the verge of bankruptcy. Therefore, Britain granted many of its colonies independence and its influence as a world power subsided. The United States, which had become increasingly more important in world affairs due to its role in World War II, assumed the mantle of a world power.

Beginning in 1919, with the founding of the Soviet Comintern, first Lenin and then Stalin advocated for a worldwide revolution to promote communism. It was Stalin’s belief that the revolution would proceed through Asia and eventually become worldwide. By the end of World War II, there was great deal of instability worldwide, especially in third world countries. The Russians saw that instability as an opportunity to spread communism far and wide.

As the leader of a rising world power, the Truman administration felt the need to articulate a policy to address what Churchill called “the iron curtain”, the disturbing rise of Soviet communism and influence in the world. The Truman administration believed that the growth of communism was a threat to international peace as well as the security of the United States.

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Vietnam War Ended 40 Years Ago

Dr. William Lloyd Stearman, Founding VVFH Member

A poll taken on this 40th anniversary would no doubt reveal that most Americans believe we should not have fought in this small obscure country half a world away, and do believe that the war there was unwinnable and that our huge expenditure of blood and treasure there was totally in vain. Most people are nonplussed at hearing that we got into World War II because of what is now Vietnam. In the 1930s, we somewhat tolerated Japan’s rampaging all though China. However, when Japan invaded what is now Vietnam, we saw this as a threat to Southeast Asia and took the strong measure of promoting a boycott of critical oil, scrap iron and rubber deliveries to Japan. Japan, then realizing a now hostile US would try to prevent its planned invasion of Southeast Asia, sought to disable our fleet at Pearl Harbor as a preventative measure. Japan then proceeded to use its new-found base to invade and conquer most of Southeast Asia. President Eisenhower must have had this mind when he was asked, at April 7, 1954 press conference, about “the strategic importance of Indochina [Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia] for the free world.” He then described the “falling domino” principle whereby “the beginning of a disintegration [in Vietnam] would have the most profound influences” leading to “ the loss of Indochina, of Burma, of Thailand, of the [Malay] peninsula and Indonesia.” He added that Japan, Formosa [Taiwan], the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand “would also be threatened.” (He could also have added India.)

Eisenhower’s “domino theory” was pooh-poohed by a number of people in the U.S., but, given the parlous unstable conditions in Southeast Asia, it was taken seriously by leaders there as well as in Australia and India and by leaders in Hanoi and (then) Peking. For example, China’s famed Marshal Lin Piao stated in September 1965 that the defeat of “U.S. imperialism” in Vietnam would show the people of the world “that what the Vietnamese people can do, they can do too.” In the late 19­60s, Indonesian leaders Suharto and Malik (not great friends of the U.S.) told U.S. officials that our first introduction of U.S. combat troops (Marines) in Vietnam in March 1965 helped embolden them to resist the October 1, 1965 Communist coup supported by China, which came very close to succeeding. (The two later told columnist Robert Novak the same thing.) Had this coup succeeded, the Philippines would have soon been threatened which could well have triggered our intervention under a 1954 treaty. Then we would have been facing a far more threatening adversary than in Vietnam. The 1965 introduction of US Marines apparently had a generally bracing effect in Southeast Asia. For example it also encouraged the British defense of Malaysia against a Communist invasion from Indonesia. By the end of the Vietnam War, even the victorious Communist side that lost over two million dead was too weakened to pose a threat to any country save nearby Laos and Cambodia. The war also bought precious time to enable the countries of Southeast Asia to strengthen their positions. In essence, we basically got into the war to prevent the toppling of dominoes in Southeast Asia and we succeeded. One could say that this was a strategic victory while the loss in Vietnam was a tactical defeat.

Was the war in Vietnam truly unwinnable? After “Vietnamization” had removed all U.S. combat troops from Vietnam, Hanoi, on March 30, 1972, launched its “Easter Offensive” with largest conventional attack of the war consisting of the equivalent of 23 divisions equipped with hundreds of Soviet tanks, long-range artillery, rockets and surface to air missiles. The brunt of the fighting fell on the South Vietnamese ground forces with massive U.S. air support as well as naval and logistical support. The only American ground forces left were advisors and forward air controllers. South Vietnam forces eventually moved from the defensive to counter offensives and by mid-September 1972 were clearly winning. The Communist forces had lost about 100,000 killed in action, twice as many as the U.S. had lost in the entire war. Sometime after Hanoi’s final 1975 victory, a former top commander in the South, General Tran Van Tra stated in the Party organ Nhan Dan that his troops had eventually reached the verge of defeat. Had the war continued some months further, the South could have emerged victorious by evicting all enemy forces from Vietnam. Facing defeat, Hanoi saved the day by offering substantial concessions sought by Henry Kissinger in previous negotiations. With the best of intentions, Kissinger took this bait and the resulting negotiations process brought South Vietnamese military operations to a halt. The 1973 Peace Accords broke down. The U.S. drastically reduced aid, and then Congress banned all U.S. military operations in Indochina sealing Vietnam’s doom.

William Lloyd Stearman, PhD, Senior U.S. Foreign Service officer (Ret.)National Security Council staff under four presidents, director NSC Indochina staff, Jan. ’73 to Jan. ’76, Adjunct Professor of International Affairs Georgetown University (1977 to 1993), author of memoir An American Adventure, From Early Aviation Through Three Wars to the White House (Naval Institute Press, 2012

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Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers

Recently I've been studying the Pentagon Papers and the events surrounding their release. In that regard I read a New York Times op-ed written by Daniel Ellsberg that purports to tell the story of what compelled him to release national secrets to the media. More than any other single event in American history, Ellsberg's perfidy opened the floodgates of government distrust and the media's lack of respect for national secrets.  He is the progenitor of Wikileaks and especially of Edward Snowden.

Ellsberg's op-ed is an obvious example of self-serving justification for an act he knew was wrong. In point of fact, he himself decided he was willing to risk a life in prison to expose what he believed were lies being told to the American people. But were they? There were certainly things documented in the Pentagon Papers that could be viewed as lies by an unsophisticated or biased observer.  What Ellsberg characterizes as lies are decisions made by Presidents against the advice of some of their advisors.  Ellsberg agreed with the dissenting advisors and so believed they were right and the Presidents were wrong.

A generation of presidents, believing that the course they were following was in the best interests of the country, nevertheless chose to conceal from Congress and the public what the real policy was, what alternatives were being pressed on them from within the government, and the pessimistic predictions they were receiving about the prospects of their chosen course.
Here Ellsberg casts those who disagreed with the President in the role of being correct in their (and, of course, his own) opinions and naively suggests that open government means airing every disagreement inside an administration publicly.  Good leadership means considering advice from advisors who will often disagree among themselves over a particular course of action.  It also means making decisions based on that advice and your own best judgment.  It is inevitable that some of those advisors will be upset because their preferred course of action was not taken.  It's equally inevitable that, given the egos involved, some of them will look for opportunities to "prove" that they were right and that the President followed the wrong advice.

That is the reason we consistently see "tell-all" books after advisors whose advice was not taken leave office as well as hagiographies by those with whom a President agreed.

Although Ellsberg himself admits that "a generation of Presidents" believed that the course of action that they chose was "in the best interests of the country", he nevertheless characterizes them as lying simply because they chose a course with which he disagreed.  One can only surmise that if Ellsberg would have agreed with their decisions, he never would have characterized the process of decision-making as lying.  Yet despite the fact that five consecutive Presidents followed the same general policy, because Ellsberg disagreed with that policy he felt that it was necessary for him to commit a traitorous act to expose them.
Throughout the campaign of 1964, President Johnson indicated to the voters -- contrary to his opponent Barry Goldwater -- that no escalation was needed in South Vietnam. He sometimes added, almost inaudibly, ''at this time.''

As the Pentagon Papers later showed, that was contradicted as early as May 1964 by the estimates and recommendations of virtually all of Johnson's own civilian and military advisers. I believe he worried, not only in 1964 but over the next four years, that if he laid out candidly just how difficult, costly and unpromising the conflict was expected to be, the public would overwhelmingly want escalation on a scale that promised to win the war.

To this end, Congress and the voters might compel him to adopt the course secretly being pressed on him by his own Joint Chiefs of Staff. From 1964 through 1968, the Joint Chiefs continuously urged a litany of secret recommendations, including mining Haiphong; hitting the dikes; bombing near the Chinese border; closing all transportation routes from China; sending ground troops to Laos, Cambodia and the southern part of North Vietnam; possibly full-scale invasion of North Vietnam.

I think that this escalation would not have won the war.
While Ellsberg is certainly entitled to his opinion, his opinion did not justify revealing government secrets to the public.  As he points out and history confirms, had Johnson revealed to the public what his advisors were telling him, the public would have demanded escalation in Vietnam.  Since Ellsberg "thought" that escalation would not have won the war, one would assume that he would be happy that the President "lied" to the public.  The irony of this contradiction seems to escape him completely.

Setting aside Ellsberg's concerns for a moment, what kind of President would conceal his true desires because he believed they were out of sync with the desires of the American people?  We have previously discussed the incompetence of American leadership with regard to the war.  Certainly that would have been grounds for going public with what he knew but without revealing state secrets.

Both Kennedy and Johnson handled the war ineptly, not only ignoring the advice of the military experts but moving in a direction that they were repeatedly warned would not achieve the desired result.  But this is not lying.  It's incompetence.  Johnson in particular behaved despicably toward the Joint Chiefs of Staff, ignored their advice completely and placed his trust in McNamara, a man who had no military knowledge at all.  This too is not lying but incompetence.

Remarkably, Ellsberg himself recognized that the ongoing disagreements within administrations were debates, but because of his personal beliefs he characterized them as lies rather than normal disagreement within advisory groups.
I first learned of these debates in 1964 and 1965, when I was special assistant to John McNaughton, the assistant defense secretary. I read all the documents of that period that were later included in the Pentagon Papers, and I heard from McNaughton of his discussions with Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and President Johnson. I strongly regret that at that time, I did not see it as my duty to disclose that information to the Senate.

But then I was in Vietnam for two years from 1965 to 1967. I saw that our ground effort in South Vietnam was hopelessly stalemated, and I did not believe that increased bombing of the north would ever cause our adversaries to give up. Therefore I came to the belief in 1967 that we should negotiate our way out.
Because he spent time in Vietnam, Ellsberg apparently became convinced that his limited view of the conflict was an accurate one and decided that he knew better than five Presidents what the correct course of action was.  So, desperate to gain what he viewed as a fair hearing for his beliefs, which he believed were superior to those of five Presidents, he decided to violate his oath and reveal state secrets to the world.  For this traitorous act he is celebrated as a hero by many of the misguided fools that believe themselves to be wiser than the men chosen to lead the nation.
So my concern in releasing the Pentagon Papers was not simply, or even primarily, to get out the truth. I thought I would probably go to prison for the rest of my life. I wouldn't have done that just to set the record straight. I released the papers because I foresaw prolonged war and eventual escalation, including incursions into Laos and Cambodia, the mining of Haiphong and the bombing of Hanoi. I wanted to avert these events, but they all occurred.
Ellsberg's ego wouldn't allow him to accept the fact that he was not the President.  He felt he knew better than the men who had a much broader knowledge of Vietnam, of secret negotiations, of plans he knew nothing about, of issues with which he was completely unaware.  All that mattered was that his views be aired, even if he had to go to prison.  Even what he perceived as the truth didn't matter!  This is a man with a massive ego.  This is a man for whom no other view than his own is valid.  it's not surprising then that his oath meant nothing to him when weighed against his superior opinions.

The greatest irony of all is that the Pentagon Papers reveal that basic US policy toward Vietnam was consistent across five Presidencies and that all of the claims of the antiwar movement were false.

The North Vietnamese Army

By James D. McLeroy

At various times and places the Second Indochina War (1959 to 1975) displayed some of the characteristics of a South Vietnamese revolution, insurgency, guerrilla war, and civil war. Primarily, however, it was always an incremental invasion of South Vietnam by the North Vietnamese Army, at first indirect and covert, then direct and overt.

In 1945, Ho Chi Minh and his guerrilla forces quickly seized control of the North Vietnamese government in the power vacuum left by the surrender of the occupying Japanese army. Ho then proclaimed himself President of the new Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV). After the 1949 victory of Mao Tse-tung's army in the Chinese Civil War, Ho went to China to ask Mao for military aid. Ho’s irregular Viet Minh forces were then fighting the conventional French forces attempting to reclaim their former control of Indochina (Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia).

Mao gave the DRV not only weapons, but also military training, logistical support, technical troops, and secure bases in southern China. In 1951, General Vo Nguyen Giap, commander of the Viet Minh forces, went to China to arrange the assignment of a resident Chinese Military Assistance Group in the DRV. Without massive Chinese aid the Viet Minh forces could not have defeated the French forces and won the First Indochina War (1946-1954) at the decisive battle of Dien Bien Phu.

In the Second Indochina War (1959-1975) against the South Vietnamese and U.S. forces the initial North Vietnamese strategy was again an adaptation of Mao Tse-tung’s three-stage, rural-based, protracted attrition model. The first stage was squad and platoon-size terrorism and guerrilla tactics. The second stage was company and battalion-size semi-conventional, mobile tactics. The third stage was regimental and division-size conventional, positional tactics.

In the Second Indochina War the NVA fought a strategically offensive, total war to conquer South Vietnam and achieve military hegemony in Laos and Cambodia. President Johnson’s refusal to allow Westmoreland to fight a strategically offensive war in Laos, Cambodia, and North Vietnam, where the NVA were fighting it, forced him to fight a strategically defensive war limited to South Vietnam.

Johnson always feared the entrance of China into the war (as in Korea). For that reason, he refused to approve a large-scale U.S. invasion of eastern Laos and Cambodia to destroy the NVA's sanctuary bases and permanently block the Ho Chi Minh Trail network. For the same reason he also refused to approve a truly strategic, unrestricted, sustained air campaign to destroy the physical capability of North Vietnam to receive Soviet supplies.

Westmoreland knew that his defensive attrition "strategy" was only a grand tactic, but he had no alternative. He knew that pacification of South Vietnam would be impossible, as long as large VC and NVA troop units had protected sanctuaries in Laos and Cambodia and unlimited Chinese and Soviet war supplies delivered through the Ho Chi Minh Trail network in Laos.

He knew that the only way he could seize and hold the strategic initiative was by invading Laos and Cambodia to destroy the NVA's base areas and permanently block the Ho Chi Minh Trail network. Without unlimited logistic support from the USSR and a constant supply of troops from North Vietnam, the NVA would lack the physical capability to conquer South Vietnam, regardless of their indomitable will to do so.

In the long term it was politically futile to rely on an offensive operational strategy based on an attrition grand tactic limited to South Vietnam as a substitute for an offensive grand strategy to achieve a decisive victory in Indochina. The political futility of relying on an attrition grand tactic is irrelevant, however, to the factual question of the short-term effectiveness of the attrition tactic itself.

The fact that Westmoreland’s large-scale tactics were often operationally inefficient does not imply that they were also tactically ineffective. In all the large battles from 1965 to 1968 his use of combined-arms firepower to produce mass enemy attrition was, in fact, tactically effective, usually devastatingly so.

By the end of 1968, U.S. and ARVN conventional forces had effectively destroyed the VC main combat forces. In the first half of 1972, ARVN conventional forces, supported by U.S. airpower and augmented by regional and local civilian self-defense forces, decisively defeated the NVA's second conventional invasion of South Vietnam. By the end of 1972, South Vietnamese and U.S. counterinsurgency forces had also eviscerated the VC civilian infrastructure.

Both the internal and the external war for the survival of the Republic of Vietnam had been temporarily won. After the NVA’s crushing defeat in 1972, the decisive destruction of their bases in Laos and the permanent blockage of the Ho Chi Minh Trail network would have made it impossible for the NVA to recover. An offensive grand strategy would have enabled both of those tactics.

Instead, the hard-earned conventional and counterinsurgency victories of the ARVN and U.S. forces were deliberately forfeited by the anti-war Democrat majority in both U.S. Houses of Congress. The ARVN, militarily depleted by the NVA invasion in 1972, were critically weakened by the radical 1973 Congressional reductions in U.S. military aid, including basic ammunition. They were then fatally crippled by the 1974 Congressional prohibition of all U.S. military activity in Southeast Asia, including U.S. air support of ARVN forces from bases in other countries.

In 1975, the modern, Soviet-equipped NVA forces invaded South Vietnam again in a mass, armored Blitzkrieg, exactly as North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950. With no concern for U.S. air counterattacks, no need for any VC guerrilla fighters, and no attempt to win any "hearts and minds", they quickly defeated the demoralized, inadequately equipped ARVN forces.

Two years after all U.S. forces had been withdrawn from South Vietnam, the NVA, not the Viet Cong, conquered South Vietnam with modern, conventional forces using conventional tactics and weapons, not with guerrilla forces using unconventional tactics and weapons. They had been planning to do so since 1959 and had unsuccessfully attempted to do so three times before (in 1965, 1968, and 1972). They finally won their American War strategically in America, as they always believed they eventually would, by political default, not tactically in South Vietnam by combat victories over U.S. forces.

As Ho Chi Minh predicted, they won it by resolutely daring to continue losing battles like Khe Sanh tactically at an unsustainable military cost longer than the irresolute U.S. Congress dared to continue winning such battles tactically at an unsustainable political cost. The paradoxical battle of Khe Sanh – a tactical success for the U.S. military in the short term, yet a strategic failure for the U.S. government in the long term -- was the largest of many Pyrrhic victories in a tragic, seven-year failure of U.S. national leadership.

The DRV, neither democratic nor a republic, was a Stalinist police state controlled by Le Duan, First Secretary of the ruling Lao Dong Party and leader of its Political Bureau (Politburo). From 1960 until his death in 1986, he was the de facto commander and chief strategist of the DRV. By 1967, the DRV’s titular President, Ho Chi Minh, was merely an aged and ailing figurehead, whose only political power was the prestige of his name as the founding father of the DRV.

Le Duan was not a charismatic dictator. He was a Machiavellian manipulator, who ruled the DRV collectively through its multilayered committee system. The most important one was the five-man Subcommittee for Military Affairs (SMA) of the Central Military Party Commission. It was subordinate only to the Politburo led by Le Duan. The other members of the SMA were Le Duan’s long-time deputy, Le Duc Tho, and three North Vietnamese Army (NVA) generals with overlapping offices in the Ministry of Defense.

They were Vo Nguyen Giap, Minister of Defense and NVA Commander; Nguyen Chi Thanh, senior Political Commissar of the DRV’s Viet Cong (VC) forces in South Vietnam; and Van Tien Dung, Giap’s deputy and Le Duan’s protege. In 1967, Nguyen Chi Thanh died, and Le Duan replaced him with Le’s close friend, Pham Hung. Those six key men, dominated by the militant zeal of Le Duan, controlled the DRV’s grand strategy in its sixteen-year war to conquer the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) and achieve military hegemony in Laos and Cambodia.

WINNING THE BATTLES AND LOSING THE WAR

By James D. McLeroy

After the 1954 partition of Vietnam into a Communist north and an anti-Communist south, approximately 100,000 South Vietnamese Communists moved north to the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam (DRV). About 80,000 of them were Viet Minh veterans of the First Indochina War against the French, and an estimated 10,000 of those were Montagnards. Between 5,000 and 10,000 other Communist Viet Minh combat veterans were ordered to remain in remote areas of the Republic of Viet Nam (South Vietnam), carefully bury their weapons and radios, and wait quietly for future orders from the DRV.

Many of the South Vietnamese “regroupees” in the DRV became regular soldiers in the 338th NVA Division stationed at Xuan Mai near Hanoi. Some 4,500 other regroupees were trained to infiltrate South Vietnam as covert military and political cadre. Their mission was to organize Communist Viet Minh veterans in guerrilla platoons and companies. Other regroupees were trained as agitation-propaganda (agitprop) teams. Their mission was to recruit disaffected South Vietnamese civilians, indoctrinate them in Leninist ideology, and organize them in covert intelligence and logistical networks to support the guerrilla forces.

In 1957, the Communist Viet Minh veterans who remained in South Vietnam were ordered to initiate a terror campaign in rural areas to destabilize the local governments and organize shadow Communist governments. They did so by intimidating, kidnapping, torturing, and assassinating thousands of village leaders, influential individuals, and their families. The South Vietnamese government called the South Vietnamese Communists Viet Cong (VC).

When NVA Transportation Group 559 began work on the Ho Chi Minh Trail network in May, 1957, 12,000 NVA troops were already in Laos to shield and protect them. The first stage of the Trail was completed in October, 1959, and by the end of 1960, some 3,500 NVA regroupee troops had infiltrated South Vietnam. In May, 1961 500 senior and mid-level NVA regroupee officers left for South Vietnam on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The next month, 400 NVA regroupee officers and sergeants followed them.

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Why So Many Vets Are Angry At Jane Fonda

Jane Fonda's Broadcasts on Radio Hanoi

Co-authors: Dr. Roger Canfield, R.J. Del Vecchio

From July 8 - 22, 1972, the American actress Jane Fonda visited North Vietnam at the invitation of the "Vietnamese Committee of Solidarity with the American People." During this period, she recorded at least 19 propaganda interviews that were broadcast by Radio Hanoi. Twelve of the speeches focused on American servicemen as their primary target. Fonda's key themes included: demands to halt U.S. bombing of North Vietnam, allegations that the Nixon Administration was "lying" about the war, endorsements of the Viet Cong "7 Point Peace Plan," claims that the U.S. military was violating international law and committing "genocide" in Vietnam, and statements of confidence in North Vietnam's continued resistance and ultimate victory over America.

Listed below are all available transcripts of Jane Fonda's Hanoi broadcasts, as recorded by the CIA's Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS). Slightly redacted versions of several broadcasts also appear in the Congressional Record for Sept. 19-25, 1972, "Hearings Regarding H.R. 16742: Restraints on Travel to Hostile Areas." The transcripts are listed by the dates on which they were originally broadcast by Radio Hanoi.

"Brave heroes of the war would come back from Indochina and I was told that it is we who committed crimes, it is we who burned villages and massacred civilian people and raped the Vietnamese women. It is we who did it and we are sorry, and we want the American people to know what is being done in their names."

July 13, 1972: Jane Fonda condemns U.S. bombings

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Critique of the Ken Burns Vietnam Program

Panel Remarks
Critique of the Ken Burns Vietnam Program
Institute of World Politics
Washington, DC
22 January 2017

By Lewis Sorley

From my perspective the Burns production had one objective, to reinforce the standard anti-war narrative that the Vietnam war was unwinnable, illegal, immoral, and ineptly conducted by the allies from start to finish.

It went about making this case by—contrary to the claims of Burns and his associates that theirs was a historically respectable and unbiased account—skewed and unrepresentative content and commentators, lack of context, and crucial omissions.

Omissions

Crucial omissions are a damaging flaw in the Burns opus. The great heroes of the war, in the view of almost all who fought there (on our side), were the Dustoff pilots and the nurses. We don’t see much of them. Instead we see repeatedly poor Mogie Crocker, who we know right away is destined to get whacked. We see over and over again the clueless General Westmoreland, but learn nothing of his refusal to provide modern weaponry to the South Vietnamese or his disdain for pacification. We see precious little of his able successor, General Abrams. We see (and hear) almost nothing of William Colby and his brilliant work on pacification. And so on. These are serious failings in a film that bills itself as “a landmark documentary event.”

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Meetings of Antiwar Activists With Communists

Comrades—Meetings 1963-1975

Appendix IA--American “Peace Activist” Meetings[1] with Enemy During War, 1962-1975 by Roger Canfield in Comrades in Arms: How the Americong Won the War in Vietnam Against the Common Enemy-America available http://americong.com
1962
March, Hanoi, Ruth Gage-Colby, Women Strike for Peace, WSP

July, Moscow, Dagmar Wilson, Ruth Gage-Colby, WSP

July, Havana, Brad Lyttle, Fellowship for Reconciliation, FOR

July 29-August 6, Helsinki, Rabinowitz, Myer, Supriano, Frank, Coffin and 445 others, CPUSA etc.

1963
Prague, FOR

Havana, Brad Lyttle, FOR

September, Moscow, Brad Lyttle, FOR

Hanoi, trade unions.

Hanoi, Ralph Schoenman, Russell War Crimes Commission

1964
May, Havana, Dave Dellinger, FOR

June, Hanoi, Phillip Abbot Luce, PLP

June, Prague, Hassler, Jim Forest, Phil Berrigan

Sept, Moscow, Aptheker, Bloice, Goodlett, CPUSA

November, Hanoi, Robt Williams, Rittenberg, Coe, Worthy, Strong

1965
March, Hanoi, Robert Williams

July, Helsinki, Aptheker, John Lewis, Myerson, Koch, Supriano, Ward, CPUSA

May-July, Moscow, Hanoi, Jakarta, Clarke, Gordon, Frances Herring, , Margaret Russell, Phyllis Schmidt Shirley Lens, Bergman, Nanci Gitlin, Bev Axelrod, Mary Lou Packard (Randal), Ruth Gage-Colby WSP

August, Hanoi, Myerson, Koch, Supriano, Ward, CPUSA

October, Toronto, Cora Weiss, Duckles, Taylor, Ayers and 225 others

Prague, Lightfoot, CPUSA

December, Prague, Hanoi, Peking, Moscow, Aptheker, Hayden, Lynd.

1966
February 8, Cambodia,Robert Scheer.

April, Moscow, Morris Childs,

Spring, Hanoi, Ralph Schoenman,

Summer, Geneva Staughton Lynd,
June, July and August 1966, Japan, Howard Zinn, Cynthia Quenton Basset, Kay Boyle, David Dellinger, Donald Duncan, Israel Dresner, Russell Johnson, Donald Keyes, Murray Levin, Floyd McKissick, David Ernest McReynolds, Robert Morris Ockene.

July 27, Phnom Penh, Cambodia Dagmar Wilson, Donald Duncan, Floyd McKissick, Kay Boyle, Rabbi Israel Dresner and Russell Johnson.

October, Hanoi David Dellinger.

December and January, Hanoi, Harrison Salisbury.

December 22, Hanoi, Barbara Deming, Grace Mora Newman, Patricia Griffith and Diane Nash

Late December 1966, Hanoi, AJ Muste, Rabbi Abraham L. Feinberg, Ambrose Reeves, Pastor Friedrich Gustav Emil Martin Niemoller.

1967
April, Puerto Rico Tom Hayden.

May 2-10, Stockholm, Carl Oglesby, Courtland Cox.

Summer, Stockholm, Dave Dellinger, Oglesby, James Baldwin, Stokely Carmichael, Gabriel Kolko.

April 19, Hanoi, Nick Egelson.

July 6-9, Stockholm, Spock, Herbert Aptheker, James Bevel, Amy Swerdlow, Simon Casady, Arlene Eisen Bergman, Bernardine Dohrn, Jeff Shero and 442 other Americans.

Montreal, students.

July 28 - August 5, Havana, SDS, SNCC.

August 29, Hanoi, Stokely Carmichael.

August 1967, Hanoi, David Schoenbrun and wife.

September 2-18, Hanoi, Wilfred Burchett, Dagmar Wilson, Ruth Krause and Mary, WSP.

September 6-13, 1967, BRATISLAVA, CZECHOSLOVAKIA, Hayden and David Dellinger, Robert Allen, Malcolm Boyd, Carol Brightman, John "Jock" Pairman Brown, Bronson Clark, Robert “Stoney” Cooks, Rennie Davis, Dave and Betty Dellinger, Thorne Webb Dreyer, Nicholas Egleson, red diaper baby Richard Flacks, Ross Flanagan, Norman David Fruchter, Tom Gardner, Carol Glassman, Steve Halliwell, Christopher Jencks, Russell Johnson, Carole King, Andrew David Kopkind, Robert Kramer, Carol Cohen McEldowney, Leon Moore, Linda Moore, Raymond Mungo, Douglas Craig Norberg, Vivian Emma LeBurg Rothstein, Steve Schwarzchild, Sol Stern, Dennis Sweeney, John Tillman, Barbara Webster, Eric Weinberger, Hank Werner, John Wilson, Willie Wright, Ron Wright.

September 30- Oct.18, Hanoi, Hayden entourage.

OCTOBER 28, NOVEMBER 4, Hanoi, Tom HAYDEN ON RADIO HANOI.

(November 4-11) Phnom Penh, Hayden.

1968
January 23, Haiphong and Hanoi, Quaker Action Group, AQUAG.

February 28, Japan, deserters.

February 1968, Budapest, 67 Western Hemispheric Communist parties.

November, Stockholm, American Deserters Committee, ADC

February, Havana, Tom Hayden, Carl Davidson, Todd Gitlin, Gerry Long, Susan Sutheim, Ed Jennings, Joe Horton, Paul Hugh Shinoff, and Les Coleman and 40 other Americans.

Moscow, North Korea, two SNCC leaders.

February, Havana, Ted Gold, Mark Rudd and twenty other SDS.

February 9, Vientiane, Laos Daniel Berrigan, Professor Howard Zinn.

February 17, Hanoi,. Berrigan, Zinn.

March, Hanoi Mary McCarthy, Franz Schurmann, Harry Ashmore, William Baggs and Charles Collingwood.

March, Hanoi, Charles Collingwood, Harry Ashmore and William Baggs.

April, Hanoi, Steve Halliwell.

April, Sweden, Ken Cloke.

April 3-6, Paris WSP.

Paris, American contacts.

May 3-17, Hanoi, Robert Greenblatt, Susan Sontag and Andrew Kopkind.

May 15, Hanoi, Naomi Jaffe and three other SDS members.

June 16, July, Paris, Greenblatt and Dellinger.

July, Hanoi, Richard Barnet and Marcus Raskin of IPS.

Prague and to Budapest, Greenblatt.

July 3-6, Paris, Hayden, Stuart Meacham, Vernon Grizzard, and Anne Weills Scheer.

July 17-August 1, Hanoi Hayden, Stuart Meacham, Vernon Grizzard, and Anne Weills Scheer.

July 26, Havana, five SDS and 300 others.

June 16, Prague, Robert Greenblatt and Dellinger.

July, Grenoble William Standard, Carey McWilliams, Richard Falk, Hans Morganthal, and Quincy Wright.

July 28-August 6, Sofia, Bulgaria Howard Jeffrey Melish, Leslie Cagan and some fifty to seventy-one other Americans.

August 11-14, Kyoto, Japan, 23 Americans.

August 25-28, Ljubljana, Yugoslavia, Bernadine Dohrn, Judi Bernsten, Larry Bloom, Jeff Blum, Ruth Chamberlain, Bernardine Dohrn, Bryan Flack, Ruth Glick, Martin Kinner, Ellen and Fred Lessinger, Miles Mogulescu, Paul Schollmen, Mollje Struerer, and Daniel Swinney.

August 26-27, Mexico, Havana, Douglas Bernhardt, Michelle Clark, Ross Danielson, Pam Enriques, Larry Erander, Nancy Figeroa, Nick Freudenberg, Daniel Friedlander, Thomas Good, George Greunthal, Fred Halper, Louise Halper, Mark Hershel, (illegible) Iglesias, Hilda Ignatin, Jim Kulk, Jim Mitchell, Holly Moore, Steve Moore, Thomas Mosher, Mary Nalcoln, Morris Older, Sue Orrin, Mark Shapiro, Helen Shiller, Russell Smith, Jeffrey Swanson, Cliff Taylor, Joseph Webb, Marilyn Webb, and Bill Yates.

summer Cuba, Barbara Stone.

July–October, Cuba, Carol “Kali” Grosberg.

August and September, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Germany and Sweden, Bernadine Dohrn.

September 3, Budapest, Hungary, twenty-eight Americans

September 10- September 23, Paris, John Davis.

Prague Stockholm, John Davis.

September 12-16, Frankfurt, West Germany, Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers.

Late September, Paris Howard Zinn, Jonathan Mirsky, George Kahin of Cornell, Marilyn Young and Douglas Dowd.

October 24-30, Paris and Stockholm Rabbi Balfour Brickner.

November 8, Japan Ernest P. Young,

November 28-December 1, Montreal, Douglas Dowd, Howard Zinn and 500 other Americans.

1969
January 1-10 Havana, Carl Oglesby, Bruce Goldberg, Russ Neufeld and Dan Friedlander.

May 14-16, Stockholm World Peace Council’s Conference on Vietnam, 1969.

April Cuba, East Berlin, Hanoi, new left.

April Prague office of the SDS Bernardine Dohrn and Steve Halliwell.

May 16-18, Stockholm, George Carrano, Donald McDonough, Anatol Rapaport, Noam Chomsky and Gabriel Kolko, John Wilson, Sherman Adams, Amy Swerdlow, Serita Crown, Althea Alexander Noam Chomsky, Joseph Elder, Bob Eaton, Bronson Clark, Joseph Crown, Richard Falk, Stanley Swerdlow, Doris Roberson, Carlton Goodlett, John McAuliff.

June 10-17, Phnom Penh, Hanoi, Joseph Elder

June 5-17, Moscow, Irving Sarnoff, , Barbara Bick, Arnold Samuel Johnson, Charles Fitzpatrick, Barbara Ruth Bick, Rennie Davis, David Tyre Dellinger, William Douthard, Douglas Fitzgerald Dowd, Carlton Benjamin Goodlett, Terrence Tyrone Hallinan, Gersho Phineas Horowitz, Arnold Johnson, Sylvia Kushner, Stewart Meacham, Sidney Peck and Irving Sarnoff

June 21-23, East Berlin, Dick Gregory; Stanley Faulkner, , Valeri Mitchell, Sonia Karose, Estelle Cypher, Susan Borenstein, Karen B. Ackerman, Herbert Aptheker, Barbara Bick, Mary Clarke, Martin Hall, Jarvis Tyner, Irving Sarnoff; Mary Angie Dickerson, Eleanor Ohman, Pauline Rosen and Carlton Goodlett.

July, Stockholm Irving Sarnoff.

July 9-15, July, Havana, Carlos Antonio Aponte, Robert Jay Barano, Christopher Kit Bakke, Thomas Wilson Bell, Edward “Corky” Benedict, Kathie Boudin, Cristina Bristol, Aubrey Brown, Robert Burlingham, George Cavalletto, Peter Clapp, Luis John Cuza, Lucas Daumont, Carl Alfred Davidson, Dianne Donghi, Bernardine Dohrn, Diane Westbrook Faber, Richard Rees Fagen, Ted Gold, Kenneth Alan Hechter, Frank Petras James, Nino Jeronimo, Gregory, Nina, Saul Irwin and Valerie Landau, Sandra Hale Levinson, Gerald “Jerry” William Long, Robert Schenk Love, Beth Susan Lyons, John “Shorty” Marquez, Albert Martinez, Howard Jeff Melish, David Millstone, Robert Edward Norton, Orlando Ortiz, Diana Oughton, Rose Paul, Verna Elinor Richey Pedrin, Jesus Maria Ramirez, Jose Ramirez, Eleanor Raskin, Patricia Ellen Shea, Jane Spielman, Jeronomi Ulpiano, Joanne Washington, Robert Wetzler, Myra Ann Wood, and Mary Woznich

August 4, Hanoi , SDS group

October 10-17, Paris, Rennie Davis and David Dellinger.

October 11-12, Stockholm, Irving Sarnoff and Ron Young.

October 15, Havana, George Cavalletto.

Late November, Havana, Julie Nichamin, Diana Oughton, John Butney (phonetic), Bruce Goldberg, Brian Murphy, Bill Thomas, Bill Drew, Phoebe Hirsch, Jerry Long. Arlene Bergman, Allen Young, Jerry Long; John McAuliff, Al Martinent. Weathermen: : Nichamin, Pierre Joseph Barthel, Neal Birnbaum, Marianne Camp, Sonia Helen Dettman, Linda Sue Evans, Laura Ann Obert, Nicholas Britt Riddle, Sheila Marie Ryan, Jeffrey David Sokolow, Mallorie N. Tolles, Robert Greg Wilfong, and Donna Jean Willmott, Willie Brand and Wendy Yoshimira, Bert Garskof, Sandy Pollack, Leslie Cagan.

December 1969 Hanoi, Cora Weiss, Ethel Taylor and Madeleine Duckles.

1970
January 31, 1970 Quebec, Montreal, Sylvia Kushner Katherine Camp, Arnold Johnson, and Stewart Meacham Stanley Faulkner, Joseph Crown, Pauline Rosen, Rev. Richard Norford

February 7-8, Vancouver, British Columbia, Carlton Goodlett and Irving Sarnoff and 125 others.

March 24- June 10, Hanoi, Stockholm, Moscow, Nancy Kurshan Rubin, Anita Susan Kushner Hoffman, Judith Gumbo Genie Plamondon.

March 28-30, Stockholm Robert Greenblatt, Irving Sarnoff, William Davidon, Doug Dowd, Carlton Goodlett, Sylvia Kushner, Noam Chomsky, Richard Fernandez, Nancy Kurshan Rubin, Anita Hoffman Judith Clavir and 34 other Americans.

February 13-April 28, Havana, Venceremos: Second Contingent, Edith Crichton, David Ira Camp, John De Wind, Nancy Frappier, Vicki Gabriner, Joyce Greenways, Ann Hathaway, Robert Hackman, Marguarita Hope, Lenore Ruth Kalom, Jonathan Lerner, Jeffrey Melish, Jed Proujansky, Daniel Ross Slick, Marguerite “Mini” Smith, Carlie Tanner, “Daren” [Karen] B. Ackerman, David L. Berger, Carol Brightman, Angela Davis, Ellis Jay Goldberg, William Joseph Maher, Karen Beth Nussbaum, Stephen William Shriver, Shari Whitehead.

April 13, Hanoi Noam Chomsky, Douglas Dowd and Rev. Richard Fernandez

April 12-22, Hanoi 1970 Institute for Policy Studies—Charlotte Bunch-Weeks, Gerald Shin, Frank Joyce and Elisabeth Sutherland-Martinez.

late May, Paris, John Kerry and his new wife Julia Thorne.

May 22-24, Toronto, Joseph H. Crown, William Standard, Richard Falk and 97 other U.S. lawyers.

May, Prague, Czechoslovakia, Ann Hathaway, Eleanor Ruth Kalom, Jonathan David Lerner and Carlie Tanner

June 25-July 2, Paris, Adam Schesch and 31 Minnesotans.

July 27, Havana, third Venceremos Brigade, Jon Frederic Frappier, Eda Godell Hallinan, Richard Gutman and others.

August 27, Cuba Robert Greenblatt,, Nancy Kurshan (Rubin), and Judy Clavir, Judy Gumbo)

Continuous, Cuban intelligence, Bernardine Dohrn, Martin Kenner, Mark Rudd, Julie Nichamin, Karen Koonan, Kathy Boudin, Gerry Long, Karen Ashley, Jeff Jones and Jennifer Dohrn.

August 25-27, Helsinki, Dave Dellinger, Bernardine Dohrn and others.

August and early September 1970, USSR, North Korea, North Vietnam, Algeria, and China, Eldridge Cleaver, Robert Scheer, Regina Blumenfeld, Randy Rappaport, Alexander Hing, Janet Austin, Hideko Pat Sumi, Anne Froines Janet Kranzberg Elaine Brown, Judith Clavir Andrew Truskier.

September 18-23, Pyongyang, Eldridge Cleaver and Byron Booth.

Algeria Cleaver.

September 23, Canada, Jane Fonda, Tommy Douglas

October 22-25, New Delhi, India, Moscow, three Americans.

November 9-23, Hanoi, Peter Weiss, William Standard and Morton Stavis.

November 28-30, Stockholm, David Dellinger, Rep. Ron Dellums, William Douthard, Sidney Peck, Jerrie M. Meadows, Willie Jenkins, Janey Hayes, Pauline Rosen, Bruce Beyer, Gerry Condon, Mike Powers, John Woods, Estelle Cypher, Eleanor Fowler, Carlton Goodlett, Gil Green Rev. Thomas Hayes, Stan Faulkner Ron Young Silvia Kushner and 15 other Americans.

December Moscow, Saigon, Paris, Hanoi, Mark Rasenick, Doug Hostetter, Keith Parker, David Ifshin and eight other NSA members. People’s Peace Treaty, Robert Greenblatt, Douglas Hostetter.

December 18-26, Hanoi, Anne M. Bennett, Ron Young, Trudi Young, Mary Luke Tobin

1971
March 3-10, Paris, Gabriel Kolko Rev. William T. Gramley, Allan Brick, Mrs. Allides Christopher, Rev. Richard McCollum, Mrs. Jane Whitney, Elaine Schmitt Urbain, Bud Ogle, Rev. Bruce Pierce Harriet Price and 160 other Americans.

Paris. Jane Fonda, Mark Lane, and Michael Hunter.

April 1-6, Vancouver and Toronto, Canada, 600-1,000 American women.

May 10, Paris, Sidney and Louise Peck, Robert Greenblatt, Carol Kitchen and Jack Davis

May 12-16, Budapest, Hungary, Ruth Gage-Colby, John Rankin Davis, Pauline Rosen and 25 other Americans including VVAW.

June 5, 1971, Stockholm, Larry Levin, Tom Hayden and others

June 20-26, Moscow, Oslo and Paris. VVAW Larry Rottman, John Onda, John Randolph “Randy” Floyd or Ken Campbell

Late June, Paris Cora Weiss, Richard Falk, David Dellinger and Ethel Taylor.

September 11-12, Paris. George McGovern, Frank Mankiewicz, Pierre Salinger

On September 21, Stockholm American Deserters Committee, ADC.

Late October, Hanoi WSP’s Amy Swerdlow and two others.

December 21, Paris, Rev. Richard Fernandez, a COLIFAM courier.

August, Paris, John Kerry

Paris VVAW staff member Joe Urgo’s trip to along with a [redacted] member of the War Resisters League, WRL, and [redacted] of Women’s Strike for Peace, WSP.[2]
Hanoi, David McReynold.

Paris, Al Hubbard.

1972
February 5, Paris, Richard J. Barnet and Peter Weiss of IPS.

late February Hanoi, China, George Wald.

January-March, Paris, Budapest, Moscow, Hanoi, and Japan, Al Hubbard.

Mid-February-March, Hanoi, Al Hubbard, Seymour Hersh and Pete Seeger.

February 11-13, Versailles, France, John Gilman, Elizabeth Moos, Sidney Peck, Evelynne Perry, Pauline Rosen, Irving and Ruth Sarnoff, Abe Weisburd, Bernard Weller, Michael Zagarell, Deborah Bustin, Fred Halstead, Daniel Rosenshine, Rennie Davis, Jane Fonda; Al Hubbard, [Richard?] Joe Bangert, Edward Damato, Robert Greenblatt, Fred Branfman, Delia Alvarez, Ron Ridenour, Margery Tabankin, Howard Zinn.

End of March, Hanoi, David Livingston and other labor leaders.

April 6-8, Paris, Cora Weiss, Bob Levering Marcus Raskin, Sister Mary –Luc (sic, Luke) Tobin, Stoney Cookes and Maria Jolas. .

April 20 Paris, Rep. Bella Abzug, Rep. Patsy Takemoto Mink and Amy] Swerdlow.

May 19-21, Canada, a VVAW member.

Mid-May? Paris, Rennie Davis

On May 25, Hanoi, Robert Lecky, Rev. Paul Mayer; Marge Tabankin, William Zimmerman

Late June Paris, Peter Mahoney, Rich Bangert, John Bochum, Stanley Michelson, Joseph Hirsch, Gary Steger, Forest Lindley, David Baily, John Turner, “Jack” Bronaugh, Willie Sykes, Ronald Sable, Thomas Zangrilli, Sean Newton, Toby Hollander, Paul Richards, Donald Ullrich all sixteen VVAW members

July 5, Cuba, Jean-Pierre Wendell, Leland Lubinsky, Fred Werner, Alan Morris, and Albert Morgafive members of VVAW in Venceremos Brigade.

June 6-10, Paris, Tom Hayden, David Dellinger and Rennie Davis

Most of July 1972 Hanoi, Moscow Jane Fonda.

August 4, Hanoi ,Dr. George Perera and John A. Sullivan.

July 29 to August 12, Hanoi, General Ramsey Clark.

End of August, Paris, David Dellinger and Cora Weiss.

September 11, Hanoi, Mrs. Charles, Mrs. Gartley, Elias, Weiss, Dellinger, Coffin, Mrs. Mary Anne Hamilton and Rev. Harry Bury.

October 4-17, Hanoi, 1972, Drs. Gardner, Simon and Wolf and one other.

In October 1972, Copenhagen, Denmark, CALC, and VVAW member assisting ADC.

During October Hanoi, Jane Hart (nee Senator Philip Hart), Mrs. D. Goodwin, Muriel Rukeyser and Denise Levertov COLIFAM sponsored.

End of October 25, Hanoi, Joseph Crown, Malcolm Monroe, Lawrence Velvel and John Wells.

Late October Paris, Cora Weiss and Richard Barnet.

November 12, Hanoi, Hayden, Howard Zinn, Rev. David Hunter, Fred Branfman, Susan Miller, Carolyn Mugar, Jan Austin.

December 11, Hanoi, Joan Baez; the Episcopal Rev. Michael Allen of Yale Divinity; Barry Romo , Gen. Telford Taylor.

1973
Hayden and Fonda Paris. They marched off to the Vietnamese mission.

January 23-February 3, Hanoi Dorothy R. Steffens,[3] Judy Tzu-Chun Wu, and Marii Hasegawa all WILFP.

February 19-24, Rome, Sidney Peck, John David Musgrave

July 28-August 4, East Berlin, 1973, Robert Diaz, Maria Elena Gaitan, Tony Herman, Maggie Block, Tim Brick, Judy Simmons, Joe Rhodes, Mary Clemons, Jeanne Woods, Linda Weber, Beatrice Siskind Johnson, Karen Ackerman, and some 285 other Americans.

August 2-15, 1973, Tokyo, Gensuiko,

August 8-August 26, Moscow, Kiev, Leningrad, and Odessa, many Americans.

October 20-27, Paris, Hayden, Jane Fonda and others re: Germantown strategy meeting.

October 25-November 2, 1973, Moscow, Brian Adams, Joan Elberg, Andre Souquire, Ann Bailey, John Naveau, Tim Butz, Pete Zastrow, Paul Mayer, Grace Paley, Noam Chomsky, David Dellinger, David McReynolds, Sidney Peck, Noam Chomsky, Father Dan Berrigan and 1805 other Americans.

November 1973, “liberated” South Vietnam, Cora Weiss, Don Luce and professor Sam Noumoff.

Sometime, Hanoi, Karen Nussbaum and six other IPC.

December 8-9, Paris, Barry Romo and Peter Zastrow.

December 1973 Hanoi, professor Gabriel Kolko.

1974
March 29-31, Stockholm, Fred Branfman, Richard A. Falk, William Goodfellow, Gabriel Kolko.

April 1-24, North Vietnam "liberated South Vietnam, Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda.

1975
March, Moscow, Jane Fonda.

March 1975, Hanoi, Professor Gabriel Kolko.

March 13, Cuba, 125-135 Americans in Eighth Venceremos Brigade.

April, Cuba, 200 Americans travel in 9th Venceremos Brigade.

On April 7 Paris, Cora Weiss and Gareth Porter.

April 16-27, Hanoi, Larry Levin

April 29, Hanoi, John McAuliff.

May 17, Vancouver, Arlene Eisen Bergman and 250 other Americans.

Amsterdam, American “peace” organizations.

June 20-22, Stockholm, Cora Weiss, Fred Branfman and Ira Arlook.

1985
April and May, Hanoi, David Dellinger, George Wald, John McAuliff and two others celebrate the 10th anniversary of the conquest of South Vietnam. Invited ,Jane Fonda, Tom Hayden, do not go.

[1] Does not include Radio Hanoi, correspondence, telephone contacts in FBIS broadcasts and NSA intercepts.


Ho Chi Minh's Entreaties to Truman

By Paul Schmehl

Whenever discussing the Vietnam War, one of the topics that comes up is that the OSS worked with Ho during WWII, Ho requested help from the US by sending both letters and telegrams to President Truman and Ho quoted the American Declaration of Independence in his own declaration of independence.

While all these things are true, they often lead to a false conclusion.  It is argued that because the US ignored Ho, he turned to China and Russia for help with his nationalist movement.  Nothing could be further from the truth, but that doesn't stop people from arguing it.  Ho was a committed communist and skilled deceiver, as our lengthy treatise establishes thoroughly.  He had no intentions of turning Vietnam into an American-like republic.  His assignment, as a member of the Soviet Comintern, was to establish communism in Indochina. To that end, he established the Indochina Communist Party in 1930 and worked assiduously to strengthen it to seize power when the opportunity presented itself.

The vacuum created by the end of World War II provided his opportunity, and he seized it.

It is also claimed that Truman ignored Ho Chi Minh's entreaties because he wanted the French to re-establish their colony in Indochina.  However, the text of telegrams sent to the consulates in Saigon and Hanoi by the Secretary of State and Acting Secretary of State demonstrate that the Truman administration was not fooled by Ho's claims of nationalism.  Ho's entreaties were ignored because they were known to be deceitful.

In February 1946, the US Secretary of State of the Truman administration sent a telegram to the Ambassador to France asking to be kept up to date on whether "Leclerc the intransigeant and uncompromising colonial-minded and d’Argenlieu the conciliatory and moderate" had the support of the French government. [1. https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1946v08/d21]

In his response two days later, the US Ambassador indicated that it was his belief that the French government was inclined toward “a liberal and progressive colonial policy in Indo-China” [2. https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1946v08/d23]

Ten days later, the Assistant Chief of the Division of Southeast Asian Affairs cabled the US Secretary of State and stated, “It seems certain that Annamese plan desperate resistance to French.” [3. https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1946v08/d24]

Two weeks later, the Consul of Saigon cabled the Secretary of State that “there were additional incidents last night including the sacking of house of one of the signers of a “motion” calling for Vietnam independence and cessation of hostilities. He himself was severely beaten by the military.” [4. https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1946v08/d30]

On August 9th, the Chief of the Division of Southeast Asian Affairs cabled the Director of the Office of Far Eastern Affairs and informed him that “Recent developments indicate that the French are moving to regain a large measure of their control of Indochina in violation of the spirit of the March 6 convention. The evidence, as set forth below, suggests that the French are attempting to gain their objective by manoeuvres designed to confine and weaken Viet Nam. In the event that Viet Nam decides to resist these encroachments, which is by no means unlikely, widespread hostilities may result.” [5. https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1946v08/d65]

The March 6 agreement to which he refers is the modus vivendi signed between the French and the Viet Minh government (Ho Chi Minh), and the reason for the rising animus was that the Viet Minh felt that they should have the right to Cochinchina, including the Mekong Delta, Saigon, and Cholon, and the French disagreed. They were willing to recognize Ho’s government but did not what to give up the rich, fertile lands of the South.

He closed with this: “In conclusion, it is SEA’s view that the Annamese are faced with the choice of a costly submission to the French or of open resistance, and that the French may be preparing to resort to force in order to secure their position throughout Indochina. It may not be advisable for this Government to take official notice of this situation during the Peace Conference,56 but the Department should be prepared, SEA believes, to express to the French, in view of our interest in peace and orderly development of dependent peoples, our hope that they will abide by the spirit of the March 6 convention.”

So, in 1946, the US was opposed to the French reoccupation of Indochina (at that time Annam, Tonkin, Cochinchina, Cambodia, and Laos.

On September 11, the Ambassador in France cabled the Secretary of State and reported that he had met with Ho Chi Minh, who had requested assistance from the US in his failing negotiations with the French. He wrote, “The principal point on which they failed to reach agreement concerns Cochin China: the French representatives insist that Cochin China be an “independent” entity in an Indochinese federation, while the Viet-Nam representatives insist that one central government in Indochina must dominate the whole country. He said that he and his party aspired to Viet-Nam “independence” in an “Union Franchise”. He said that they would like to receive some “help” from us, but did not specify what he meant by that. He took occasion to say that he was not a communist.” [6. https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1946v08/d72] Ho was, of course, a paid Comintern agent at the time and lied to the US Ambassador.

On September 17, the Ambassador reported that Ho had signed a modus vivendi with the French. [7. https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1946v08/d75]

One of the elements of that agreement was that all fighting in Cochinchina would stop. It did not, of course, and this became the second diplomatic agreement that Ho violated. In point of fact, Ho violated every international agreement he signed. He refused to agree that the armed forces in Cochinchina would disarm.

In October, State cabled Saigon asking for an explanation of Ho’s flag, particularly the use of a gold star in the center of a red field since that clearly hinted at communism. [8. https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1946v08/d76]

In December, the Secretary of State cabled various missions abroad informing them that the nature of the government in Vietnam was communist. [9.  https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1946v08/d92]

So, before the end of 1946, the US was already aware that Ho and his government were communist, not nationalist, and US policy proceeded accordingly.

In January 1947, the Secretary of State cabled the Embassy in France asking them to convey US consternation with French attempts to “place US in partisan position” and asked that they contact the French Foreign Office and request a retraction. [10.  https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1947v06/d66]

So, even after becoming aware that Ho was a communist and his government was communist, the US still refused to take a partisan position regarding the unrest in Annam, Tonkin and Cochinchina.

On January 15, 1947, the Ambassador cabled the Secretary of State to update him on affairs in Indochina. He wrote regarding Ho’s government, “the small Communist group which now dominates, and which is composed, he says, of a coterie of Moscow-trained young men.” [11. https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1947v06/d72]

By January 15,1947, the US was well aware that Ho and his government were Soviet-trained communists.

FOREIGN RELATIONS OF THE UNITED STATES – TRUMAN - 1946 100
851G.00/7-746: Telegram
The Acting Secretary of State to the Consul at Saigon (Reed)
SECRET WASHINGTON, September 9, 1946— 2 p.m.
Intelligence reports of uncertain reliability state USSR (a) anxious to see Ho Chi Minh succeed unite three Kys under Viet Nam for possible eventual weapon against National Govt China and (b) has instructed French Communists manoeuvre reliable French Officers to Indochina, for training cadres future Viet Nam army. Keep Dept informed indications subservience to Party line by Ho and other leaders, relative strength Communist and non-Communist elements Viet Nam, and contacts with Communists other countries.
Inform O’Sullivan.Sent Saigon. Repeated
Paris59 for info.
CLAYTON
— — — — — — — — — —
59 As Telegram 4680

FOREIGN RELATIONS OF THE UNITED STATES – TRUMAN - 1946 108
851G.00B/10-946: Airgram
The Acting Secretary of State to the Consul at Saigon (Reed)
SECRET WASHINGTON, October 9, 1946.
A.29 Reference Department's telegram Number 241 of September 9 and Consulate General's telegram Number 374 of September 17.
Department would appreciate information on the origins and significance of the use of a gold star in the center of a red field as the Vietnam flag. The flag of the Malayan Peoples Anti-Japanese Union forces in Malaya (an organization undisguisedly controlled by Chinese Communists) was red with three gold stars in the upper right corner. Three stars were used to symbolize the three races in Malaya. Although the MPAJU has been disbanded, the Communist movement in Malaya is still known as the three-star movement. The official Vietnam explanation of the Vietnam flag would be especially interesting in view of Ho Chi Minh's denial of Communist orientation on the part of his government, since the Vietnam Government must, certainly realize that the use of a gold star on a red field will inevitably lead nationals of other countries to form conclusions which the Vietnam Government would apparently not wish them to form
ACHESON
— — — — — — — — — —

FOREIGN RELATIONS OF THE UNITED STATES – TRUMAN - 1949 54
851G.01/5-1149: Telegram
The Secretary of State to the Consulate at Hanoi1
SECRET WASHINGTON, May 20, 1949— 5 p.m.
Reur informative tel 36:2
In talks Xuan and reps his govt you may take fol line as representing consensus informed Americans: In light Ho's known background, no other assumption possible but that he outright Commie so long as (1) he fails unequivocally repudiate Moscow connections and Commie doctrine and (2) remains personally singled out for praise by internatl Commie press and receives its support. Moreover, US not impressed by nationalist character red flag with yellow stars. Question whether Ho as much nationalist as Commie is irrelevant. All Stalinists in colonial areas are nationalists. With achievement natl aims (i.e., independence) their objective necessarily becomes subordination state to Commie purposes and ruthless extermination not only opposition groups but all elements suspected even slightest deviation. On basis examples eastern Eur it must be assumed such wld be goal Ho and men his stamp if included Bao Dai Govt. To include them in order achieve reconciliation opposing polit elements and "national unity" wld merely postpone settlement issue whether Vietnam to be independent nation or Commie satellite until circumstances probably even less favorable nationalists than now. It must of course be conceded theoretical possibility exists estab National Communist state on pattern Yugoslavia in any area beyond reach Soviet army. However, US attitude cld take acct such possibility only if every other possible avenue closed to preservation area from Kremlin control. Moreover, while Vietnam out of reach Soviet army it will doubtless be by no means out of reach Chi Commie hatchet men and armed forces.
1 Repeated as 84 to Saigon and 1713 to Paris and in 379, May 24, 5 p.m., to New Delhi, 286 to Bangkok, and 636 to Manila.
2 May 11, p. 25. [0524]

The Rest of the Story

So often the story of Viet Nam is told from a singular point of view.  Only part of the story is told, and that part impacts people's lives in multiple negative ways because the truth is not known.  One of the most impactful photographs of the 2nd Indochina War is the famous Eddie Adams photograph of Brig. General Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing Bay Lop.


When this photograph hit the front page of the New York Times there was universal outrage.  The brutality of the act repelled people.  The New York Times continued to condemn Loan's actions after he became a US citizen.  Not once did they ever mention what Bay Lop had done to deserve execution.

However, what the media didn't report might have completely changed the reaction of people worldwide.  Had they published this picture, the execution of Bay Lop might have been put in a different context and changed the reaction to the photo of his execution.


The caption under the photo explains the scene.  Before Bay Lop was executed, he and his fellow Viet Cong executed an entire family because the father, Lt. Col. Nguyen Tuan, refused to give them the information they wanted. Lt. Col. Tuan was decapitated, and his wife and six children were murdered with machine guns.

Eddie Adams, who took the famous photograph and won a Pulitzer Prize for it said, years later, "I won a Pulitzer Prize in 1969 for a photograph of one man shooting another. Two people died in that photograph: the recipient of the bullet and GENERAL NGUYEN NGOC LOAN. The general killed the Viet Cong; I killed the general with my camera."
This next photo is an ARVN Major who came home to find his entire family slaughtered by the same group that slaughtered Col. Nguyen and his family.


The communists admitted to this atrocity in a document that was captured after Tet.[1. Department of Defense Intelligence Information Report re: VC Assessment of the Tet Offensive on Saigon - Support Document from Project CHECO Report #193, 21 May 1968, Folder 0132, Box 0006, Vietnam Archive Collection, The Vietnam Center and Archive, Texas Tech University. Accessed 16 Dec. 2017 <https://www.vietnam.ttu.edu/virtualarchive/items.php?item=F031100060132>.]

The units from the North could not arrive in time; therefore they attacked the Armor and Artillery [Camps] at Go Vap, killed the entire family of an Armor Colonel. Then coordination was effected among friendly troops in order to attack the Quang Trung [Training Center] and the [RVNAF] Joint General Staff.


This is a photo of the family's burial after Tet, including the small coffins of the children.

One of the children, Nguyễn Từ Huấn, survived and emigrated to the United States. He recently became the first Vietnamese-American Rear Admiral in the US Navy.

Bay Lop was the leader of that operation and was captured and executed shortly after for the murders.  Before his capture, he used civilians as a human shield, the second war crime he had committed that day. (The first was the murders of the Tuan family.)

Brig. General Nguyen Ngoc Loan's execution of Bay Lop, although brutal, was legal under international law.  Assassins in civilian clothes do not enjoy any of the protections of international law and are subject to immediate execution if captured.

This story is a microcosm of what went on in Vietnam.  The communists routinely committed war crimes yet the media seldom reported them.  The legal actions taken by the South Vietnamese and their allies, however, were often described as war crimes and routinely criticized as inhumane.  This perspective affected the way people worldwide thought about the war and the actions of the South Vietnamese and their allies.

A Book Excerpt From Mike Benge

Vietnam? Where and the hell is that?

I was just finishing my first year at Oregon State College and living as a fledgling pledge at Delta Chi Fraternity. Pledges such as myself had to follow strict dress code for different days of the week: suits - ties, slacks - sports coats - ties, slacks - dress shirts - ties, and casual, while serving dinner to the members four days a week (members had the same dress code rules). However, on Friday night (aka hell night), everyone (members and pledges) was allowed to dress super casual (some took it to the extreme such as jockstraps and “wife-beater” under-shirts; or not), and dinner was no holds barred. The presence of upperclassmen was usually low, for a great share of them were out and about doing their thing. It was an unusually hot that night for that time of the year, and the very informal dinner erupted into a water fight launched by four of us pledges; and after we had expended our supply of our water balloons, we took it outside to the lawn. There, we had set up an ambush for the few members that remained with some buckets of water, and I had commandeered a water hose to ward off an attack by the upperclassmen. By that time, both sides were soaked and covered with mud from what used to be a lawn which had turned into a swamp when someone shouted “Time out!” All at once, for some strange reason, everyone stopped in place, remaining stark-still, and there was a pause of deadly silence. Then we could hear a short-wave radio broadcast blaring from an open window on the second floor. Someone turned the radio up, and we could hear some kind of an on-site news report with a real-time battle in the background with the thunder of bombs, artillery explosions, and other dins of war.

Điện Biên Phủ

The broadcast highlighted the heroic actions of Geneviève de Galardc, a nurse and officer in the French medical service, one of 15 French female nurses who had been tending the wounded on the multiple med-evac flights out of Điện Biên Phủ but became stranded when her assigned plane was being repaired on the runway. The runway, the plane, and the airport had been all destroyed by intense anti-aircraft and artillery fire. Geneviève had been dubbed l'ange de ofĐiện Biên Phủ (the Angel of Dien Bien Phu)1 by the press and other media in Hanoi, although in the camp, she was known simply as Geneviève. At the time she was the sole “French” woman there2 and continued tending the wounded in the field hospital until the last. After a two-month siege, the garrison was overrun on May 7, 1954. The coup de grâce came when an all-out human-wave attack was launched against the remaining 3,000 French units by over 25,000 communist Việt Minh. The last words of the radio broadcaster were, "The enemy has overrun us. We are blowing up everything. Vive la France!" 3  “This is ‘…’ reporting from Điện Biên Phủ, in Northwestern Vietnam; it’s May 7, 1954!” It was a broadcast of the fall of Điện Biên Phủ -- the last bastion of the colonial French forces in Indochina, lost to the communist Vietminh and Chinese. 

The four of us who had been listening to the broadcast, almost in unison, cried out, Vietnam! Where in the hell is that? I then said I know whose radio we were listening to; it was my friend Serge’s. Let’s go, so we can find out from him where Vietnam is and took off for the second floor. Serge was sitting at his desk with a geography book in his hand when we showed up dripping wet with muddy shoes. Much to his chagrin, he invited us in, and after ensuring my hands were clean and dry, he handed it to me, already bookmarked to the section on Vietnam. Serge was a STRACK-brevet-captain in the army’s ROTC program.4 I thanked him, and we read the section on Vietnam and its location, and we got educated – it was the first time any of us had heard of it or that it was one of three countries of the French Colony of Indochina. The next day, I went to the school library to see if they had any books on Vietnam. They had none on hand; however, the librarian said if I came back in a couple of days, she might be able to find one or two that she could obtain on-loan from another library. Unfortunately, the one she had for me was written by a guy who had been on an official three-week whirl-wind tour of Indochina with five days with boots on the ground in each country in French Indochina – Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.5

Continue reading

Comrades In Arms - An Excerpt

One of our members, Dr. Roger Canfield, has published a massive book detailing all of the associations and actions of the anti-war activists involved in the Vietnam War, demonstrating their close cooperation with worldwide communism.  (The book is over 2,100 pages and more than 6,000 footnotes.)  When I suggested, on an academic discussion list, that Dr. Canfield's book had merit and should be studied, the response I got was that no reputable scholar would read a book with that title.

So much for the spirit of inquiry.

Father Daniel Joseph Berrigan was a Jesuit priest who became actively involved in the Vietnam War's anti-war movement.

Comrades—BerriganDanielExcerpts

What you will not see in obituaries for Daniel Berrigan
Excerpts from Roger Canfield’s Comrades in Arms: How the Americong Won the War in Vietnam Against the Common Enemy—America. An e-book at http://americong.com
Catholic Peace Fellowship at Christian Peace Conference in Prague
Fellowship of Reconciliation’s John Heidbrink invited Catholic Worker’s Jim Forest, Father Daniel Berrigan, Herman Evans and James Douglass to, very curiously, the Communist capitol of Prague to formalize the Catholic Peace Fellowship as an affiliate of FOR.[1] Happy coincidence?

Christian Peace Conference, June 1964, Prague
At the end of June 1964 in Prague, Czechoslovakia the Christian Peace Conference, CFC, met. A U.S. based committee recruited Americans to attend the CPC.[2] Alfred Hassler of Fellowship of Reconciliation, FOR, had tasked John Heidbrink to recruit American Catholics into FOR and the peace movement. Though formed in 1963 in the USA by Jim Forest, Marty Corbin and Philip Berrigan,[3] FOR’s John Heidbrink invited Catholic Worker’s Jim Forest, Father Daniel Berrigan, Herman Evans and James Douglass to, very curiously, the Communist capitol of Prague to formalize the Catholic Peace Fellowship as an affiliate of FOR.[4] Could members of the universal Catholic Church become recruits to international Communism? Unfortunately, yes.

Communist controlled East European leadership, (Joseph Hromadka, Alexander Karew, Archbishop Nikodim, Bishop Barta, and Prof. Schmauch) entirely dominated The Christian Peace conference, CPC.[5]

….As LBJ was signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, David Dellinger was leading a protest against the Vietnam War in Lafayette Park across from the White House. Joining Dellinger were A.J. Muste, Joan Baez, Rabbi and Democrat fundraiser[6] Abraham Feinberg, and Catholic priests Daniel and Phillip Berrigan. The protest was to draw attention to a “Declaration of Conscience” against the draft.[7] Meanwhile, Catholics faced the gentle touch of the Vietcong in South Vietnam. July 14, 1964, the Viet Cong executed Pham Thao, chairman of the Catholic Action Committee in Quang Ngai, …

…In 1967 Berrigan had had considerable conflict with superiors in his Jesuit order over his desire to go to Hanoi with the Fellowship of Reconciliation, FOR, to bring medical supplies. Thomas Merton, a Communist while at Columbia University and then a dupe of communist front groups,[8] advised Berrigan to follow his conscience.[9]

…Writers and Editors Tax Protest against “Immoral” Vietnam War
During late 1967 and early 1968 Gerald Walker of the New York Times Sunday Magazine organized a protest against an LBJ proposed 10% tax on telephones and “many of us” opposed “23% of current income to …finance the (‘morally wrong’) Vietnam War. The ad was printed in Ramparts, New York Review of Books, and the New York Post in January and February 1968.

Many had far left, including Communist, credentials and engaged in pro-Hanoi activities. Out of 528 signers the most noteworthy were. M. S. Arnoni[10], Robert B. Avakian, James Baldwin, Irving Beinin, Daniel Berrigan, S. J., Philip Berrigan, …

…Declaration of Conscience
For some it was their last pretense of neutrality before going over to the other side.

The Catholic Worker, the Committee for Nonviolent Action (CNVA), the Student Peace Union (SPU), and the War Resisters League (WRL) published the "Declaration of Conscience Against the War in Vietnam." Some 6,000 signed including Daniel and Phil Berrigan, ….The Declaration argued that opposing Communist would spread it further. “There is not one shred of credible evidence that the bulk of munitions used by the Vietcong originate in the north.”

… On February 16, 1968, Father Daniel Berrigan and Professor Howard Zinn traveled to Hanoi and met Pham Van Dong. According to Berrigan’s notes, Dong said, in part, “…We have a common front. We are in combat here and you there.”[11] As comrades in arms, they were surely on the same side….

In March 1968, Mary McCarthy, self-described utopian socialist and member of the international literati arrived in Hanoi in the midst of the Tet Offensive and on the heels of the release of three American POWs to Father Daniel Berrigan and Professor Howard Zinn. …

…On tour [in Hanoi] Dellinger saw bombed hospitals. Thereafter the now Hanoi-credentialed Dellinger, like Tom Hayden before him, helped arrange trips to North Vietnam for others such as Diane Nash Bevel, Patricia Griffith, Daniel Berrigan, Howard Zinn and various women and clergy groups.[12] Hayden and Dellinger, joined by Cora Weiss, the three became Hanoi’s major gatekeepers for fellow travelers to Hanoi and Paris.

…The most noteworthy and published American and western contributors to the Bulletin of Committee of Concerned Asian Scholars during the Vietnam War and its immediate aftermath, 1968-1977, were: Iqbal Ahmad, Doug Allen, Frank Baldwin, Dan Berrigan, Committee of Concerned Asian Scholars, CCAS, for the expressed purpose to oppose The “brutal aggression of the United States in Vietnam” and to encourage “anti-imperialist research.” …

It was socialism of the peculiar communist kind. As uncritically Marxist the CCAS promoted Mao’s cultural revolution.[13]

CCAS supported several generations of pro-Hanoi historians of the Vietnam War …

…Hanoi POW Releases—Berrigan and Zinn
After a telegrammed request from the Vietnamese Peace Committee citing “a repentant attitude” of several POWs on January 28, 1968 to David Dellinger, on February 17, 1968, Tom Hayden and David Dellinger coordinated[14] a second POW release to Father Daniel Berrigan and professor and secret Communist Howard Zinn. …

Upon arrival in “the destroyed city” of Hanoi, Catholic priest and poet, Daniel Berrigan thought, “the loveliest fact of all was the most elusive and insignificant, we had been received with flowers”[15] also sandals, and the poems of Ho Chi Minh.[16]

…“Feeling of victory in Hanoi during the Viet Cong Tet offensive.”
At the North Vietnamese Embassy in Vientiane, Laos during Tet on February 9 Berrigan says the Hanoi Vietnamese “are too humane to rake over our losses [in Tet]. …Time has gone over to their side, in the night.” They are so courteous and gentle “during a week of humiliation of the Allies.”[17] Zinn said, “there was a lot of feeling of victory in Hanoi during the Viet Cong Tet offensive. …the NLF is a force in its own right.”[18]
… “We wanted badly to wander by ourselves, but the danger was explained to us.”[19]
Instead of going to see what was going on, Zinn and Berrigan listened to a six-hour lecture from Col. Ha Van Lau[20] followed by days filled with an orchestrated tour of bomb debris, damaged hospital, war museums, commune, folk art and a film on the life of Ho.

They were shown the damaged body parts (e.g. “brain and skull and heart and viscera”) in jars of victims of bombings. It all proved America was waging “a monstrous and intentionally genocidal war.”[21] Berrigan believed black ghettos in the USA were also evidence of “genocidal intent.” Berrigan’s hate for America seemed to fuel his love for Hanoi.[22]
Premier Pham Van Dong: “great intelligence…great reserves of compassion.”
On February 16, 1968 Berrigan and Zinn met Premier Pham Van Dong at his French villa and garden behind armored doors.

Berrigan saw in the “face of this man…complexity dwells…life and death…great intelligence, and yet also great reserves of compassion.” (Seven years later in 1975 Dong’s mother saw no such compassion and fled her son’s invasion [of South Vietnam]. …

“We are in combat here, and you there.”
According to Berrigan’s notes, Dong said, in part, “Your visit is of some importance… We ask…that you clarify the meaning of war for your fellow Americans.” Dong said, “public opinion in your country is of the essence.” Further “we have a common front. We are in combat here, and you there.”[23] Comrades in arms, they were on the same side.

POWs: Correct Attitude
The Vietnamese explained to Berrigan and Zinn why they were releasing POW pilots. “We are trying to educate the pilots. …It is not easy to convince these men of a new way; long and patient explanation is requires. …. Is it possible, that (the pilots will)...do something for the antiwar movement in the United States?”[24]
Bratislava comrade Ray Mungo of Liberation News Service, received a Telex, “doubtless written by some of the Vietnamese I'd met in Bratislava, and this from Zinn and Berrigan”:

RELEASE OF THREE AIRMEN IMMINENT.

NORTH VIETNAMESE OUTRAGED AT CONTINUING BOMBARDMENT BUT RETAIN COMPASSION FOR AIRMEN WHO ARE TRAPPED BY WASHINGTON DECISIONS.

HOPE RELEASED AIRMEN NEVER AGAIN BOMB YET AWARE POSSIBILITY THREE RELEASED PILOTS RETURN TO BOMB VIETNAM.

WE ARE MOVED BY NORTH VIETNAMESE STATEMENT "EVEN IF THIS HAPPENS WE RETAIN FAITH IN ULTIMATE DECENCY OF AMERICAN PEOPLE.[25]
No Longer Hostages
There was one hitch in the propaganda driven release.

The prisoners were “escorted as far as Vientiane, where the [POW] officers elected to transfer to US military aircraft.”[26] Instead of Father Berrigan and Professor Zinn, the POWs soon had official U.S. government escorts.[27]

…Berrigan wrote to POW families that the mental and physical condition of the men was good and so was their weight. Berrigan had every reason to believe that the Vietnamese acted “humanely toward prisoners.”[28]
Berrigan believed the North Vietnamese. The POWs were reformed just like the French prisoners before them by “a process of inward change.” And so “without prompting,” the POWs readily told Berrigan how good their food and medical care was.[29]

…POW Escort Berrigan: Jesuit Napalms Draft Cards
Maj. Norris Overly’s escort Daniel Berrigan and eight others –Philip Berrigan, David Darst, John Hogan, Tom Lewis, Marjorie Melville, Thomas Melville, George Mische and Mary Moylan-- had earned considerable media notoriety as the Cantonsville Nine.

They staged the napalming of the draft files of 378 persons in wire trashcans before an assembled crowd of reporters at the Catonsville, Maryland draft board. FOR’s Allan Brick characterized it all as a nonviolent act of conscience.[30]
“Their major accomplishment was scaring the hell out of the little old ladies at the office of the Catonsville draft board,” remembers Pat Joyce, an editor at the Baltimore Evening Sun and of several Catholic newspapers.[31] Convicted and sentenced to three years in prison, Berrigan went underground, was captured and served 18 months before being paroled in 1972.  …

…Entertainment Industry for Peace and Justice
In planning for Hollywood celebrations of May Day 1971 and other causes, Jane Fonda, Shirley and Donald Sutherland formed the Entertainment Industry for Peace and Justice, EIPJ,[32] in March 1971. …

Donald Sutherland introduced film excerpts of “Winter Soldier,” which had premiered at Cannes and at the Whitney Museum in New York, focusing on VVAW that war crimes were American policy in Vietnam. Lancaster read a statement from Daniel Berrigan and introduced Fonda who described EIPJ as part of a broad coalition for peace and justice. Only later would Jon Voight describe how he “was surrounded by people were heavily programed Marxist…very, very deep.”[33] He concluded there was “Marxist propaganda underlying the so-called peace movement.” He told Glenn Beck, “I didn’t even realize it at the time…the communists were behind organizing all of these rallies and things.” [34]
CP World Assembly for Peace Versailles, France February 11-13, 1972

“A horde of Communist-controlled agitators”
Soviet controlled fronts, World Peace Council, WPC, and the Stockholm Conference on Vietnam joined by 48 French Communist Party and associated organizations sponsored a World Assembly for Peace in Versailles, France from February 11-13, 1972.

…The plenary session of the Assembly in Versailles then adopted a specific six week antiwar program, virtual instructions, for the U.S. antiwar movement for April and May: April 1 defense of Harrisburg defendants Berrigan et al, Angela Davis; April 15, Tax Resistance Day; and in early May, actions inside military bases.[35]
Protests were to encourage “draft evasions, desertions, resistance, demonstrations which now effect even soldiers.”[36]
…On March 20, 1972 New York Times man, Seymour Hersh, returned from Hanoi to hand off Hanoi’s POW mail to Daniel Berrigan who held a press conference at New York’s Main Post Office at 8th Avenue and 33rd Street announcing he was joining COLIFAM.[37] Berrigan, escort to three POWS, was surely on Hanoi’s approved list since it had selected all of COLIFAM’s members.

Americans Begging to Dissent, Nicely…Please
…In Moscow, a group of Americans—Paul Mayer, Grace Paley, Noam Chomsky, David Dellinger, David McReynolds and Sidney Peck-- chose to send a tepid message of support for political dissenters in the Soviet Union. A stronger message was not sent because of differences with “Russian friends.”[38] The American “friends” argued they had “earned a right” to a slight dissent because they were “outspoken critics” of the “monstrous …attacks on Indochina” and, like their friendly hosts, sought “social justice.”

They certainly were not seeking to make any invidious comparisons between the Soviet’s relatively bloodless Warsaw Pact intervention in Czechoslovakia with the truly “hideous loss of life” in Chile. Solidarity with Allende’s Chile was a major program of the CPUSA and its fronts.[39]
…Genuflections complete, the group simply announced, “We support the Soviet dissidents.” Grace Paley, Father Paul Mayer, Noam Chomsky, Dave Dellinger, David McReynolds, Sidney Peck, Father Dan Berrigan and unrecorded others signed the pathetic petition.[40] The whole body of the World Congress of Peace Forces, including over 150 of the 200 American delegates, “disassociated itself from [the] statement.”[41] The “dissent” message appears to have been meant for an American headline, perhaps in the New York Review of Books.
Vietnam: Fulfilling the Obligations of National Security With Restraint
…Acting with restraint unknown to government institutions elsewhere, the FBI, NSA, DIA, ONI, local police and CIA[42] did attempt to discover collaboration with the enemy.

…The FBI was wiretapping the telephones of 17-30 individuals in 1970 out of over 220 million Americans.

…Of 2,370 COINTELPRO operations over 15 years 58% were against the Communist Party.[43]
Again the list of alleged targets is long including Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., AIM leader Leonard Peltier, Black Liberation Army (BLA) Sundiata Acoli, Assata Shakur, Dhoruba Al-Mujahid Bin Wahad (formerly Richard Moore), and the New York 3 (Herman Bell, Anthony "Jalil" Bottom, and Albert "Nuh" Washington), Cesar Chavez, Fathers Daniel and Phillip Berrigan, Rev. Jesse Jackson, David Dellinger.

…As we have seen above many of these individuals and groups were worthy of FBI attention.

…COINTEL operations against the New Left were 8.3% of the total. 91.7% had little or nothing to do with the New Left opposition to the war.

Joan Baez …Open Letter to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
Co-Signers . Daniel Berrigan, serial supporter of Communist Party USA (CPUSA) fronts, the Socialist Workers party (SWP), traveled to Hanoi in 1968 with secret Communist Howard Zinn to take custody of American POWs, joined Hanoi front COLIFAM[44] exploiting POWs, member of Cantonsville Nine which napalmed local draft files, attended Citizens Conference on Ending the War in Indochina in Paris[45] meeting Vietnamese communists, in March 1971 joined Jane Fonda’s Entertainment Industry for Peace and Justice, EIPJ,[46] and later allied with the Workers World Party (WWP).

Baez remembered, "A campaign was launched to stop me.

…Previous Associates of Hayden-Fonda Left Joined Joan Baez
Despite such pressure, many friends of Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda did sign the Joan Baez ad: Ed Asner, Daniel Berrigan, Pat Brown (not Jerry Brown), David Carliner (ACLU), Caesar Chavez, Benjamin Dreyfus, Douglas Fraser, Allen Ginsberg, Lee Grant, Terence Hallinan, Nat Nentoff, Norman Lear, Staughton Lynd, Mike Nichols, I.F. Stone, William Styron, Lily Tomlin, Peter Yarrow….

[1] Thomas C. Cornell, “Catholic Peace Fellowship Ten years Old,” The National Catholic Reporter, April 25, 1975; Christian Peace Conference 1964-66, correspondence of Jim Forest and John Heidbrick, Catholic Peace Fellowship, CCPF 2/12 Folder, Notre Dame Archives, CPF 002.

[2] United States Committee for the Christian Peace Conference, 1966-1967, Box 11, Records of the Church Peace Mission, 1950-1967, Collection: DG 177, Swarthmore College Peace Collection, Swarthmore, PA.

[3] Relationship of FOR to CPF, Catholic Peace Fellowship Records, University of Notre Dame Archives, CCPF boxes 11-17.

[4] Thomas C. Cornell, “Catholic Peace Fellowship Ten years Old,” The National Catholic Reporter, April 25, 1975; Christian Peace Conference 1964-66, correspondence of Jim Forest and John Heidbrick, Catholic Peace Fellowship, CCPF 2/12 Folder, Notre Dame Archives, CPF 002.

[5] Radio Free Europe June 10, 1964, Open Society Archives, U.S.A.BOX-FOLDER-REPORT: 17-1-95. at http://files.osa.ceu.hu/holdings/300/8/3/text/17-1-95.shtml.
[6] 8/25/1972, FBI, Information Digest, Special Report on VVAW, http://www.wintersoldier.com/staticpages/index.php?page=InfoDigestGuide

[7] Andrew E. Hunt, David Dellinger: The Life and Times of a Nonviolent Revolutionary, New York: NY University Press, 2006, 135 cites James Tracy, Direct Action: Radical Pacifism from the Union Eight to the Chicago Seven, Chicago; Chicago University Press, 1996, 128 and New York Times July 4, 1964; Nancy Zaroulis and Gerald Sullivan, Who Spoke Up: American Protest Against the War in Vietnam 1963-1975, New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1984, 20.

[8] Paul Kengor, Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century, Wilmington: ISI Books, 2010, 86, n29 528.

[9] Berrigan, Daniel. Night Flight to Hanoi: War Diary with 11 Poems. New York: Macmillan, 1968.

[10] M.S. Arnoni was the publisher of Minority of One which printed many Soviet propaganda articles according to Oleg Kalugin, Arnoni’s control officer. Kalugin also had KGB-written and funded ads placed in the New York Times and the Nation.

[11] Daniel Berrigan, Night Flight to Hanoi, New York: Macmillan, 1968, 128.

[12] James W. Clinton interview of David Dellinger, January 23, 1991 and November 16, 1990 in James W. Clinton, The Loyal Opposition: Americans in North Vietnam, 1965-1972, Niwot: University Press of Colorado, 1995, 47-51.

[13] Richard Baum, China and The American Dream: a Moral Inquiry, Seattle: University of Washington, 2010, 236-9.

[14] FBI, FOIA, Howard Zinn.

[15] Daniel Berrigan, Night Flight to Hanoi, 38, 134 cited in Paul Hollander, Political Pilgrims, 356.
[16] Daniel Berrigan, Night Flight to Hanoi, XIV, cited in Paul Hollander, Political Pilgrims, 371.
[17] Daniel Berrigan, Night Flight to Hanoi, New York: Macmillan, 1968, 31.

[18] FBI, FOIA, Howard Zinn, BS 100-35505

[19] Daniel Berrigan, Night Flight to Hanoi, New York: Macmillan, 1968, 41.

[20] Daniel Berrigan, Night Flight to Hanoi, New York: Macmillan, 1968, 50-6.

[21] Daniel Berrigan, Night Flight to Hanoi, New York: Macmillan, 1968, 65.

[22] Daniel Berrigan, Night Flight to Hanoi, New York: Macmillan, 1968, 55; Daniel Berrigan, Night Flight to Hanoi, 78-9, 86, 111 cited in Paul Hollander, Political Pilgrims, 201.
[23] Daniel Berrigan, Night Flight to Hanoi, New York: Macmillan, 1968, 128.

[24] Daniel Berrigan, Night Flight to Hanoi, New York: Macmillan, 1968, 42-3.

[25] Ray Mungo, Famous Long Ago: My Life And Hard Times With Liberation News Service, Citadel Press, 1970, 28. http://www.sunrisedancer.com/radicalreader/library/famouslongago.pdf

[26] CIA, FOIA, case number EO11978-00207, “International Connections of US Peace Groups—III,” 2-3.

[27] Tom Hayden, "Impasse ..." Ramparts, Aug. 24, 1968, 18.

[28] (Rev)Daniel Berrigan to Dear Friends, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, March 3, 1968.

[29] Daniel Berrigan, Night Flight to Hanoi, 78-9, 86, 111 cited in Paul Hollander, Political Pilgrims,353.

[30] Allan Brick, Report on the Cantonsville Nine: What is Nonviolence Today? Pamphlet at Political Pamphlet Collection, University of Missouri Special Collection; Marion Mollin, Radical Pacifism in Modern America: Egalitarianism and Protest, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006.

[31] Joyce to author.

[32] Contemporary flyer announcing event in possession of author.

[33] Glenn Beck show, Fox News, June 11, 2009.

[34] Jon Voight, op ed. Washington Times, July 28, 2008, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/jul/28/voight/

[35] FBI, Denver, Memo, “VVAW National Steering Committee Meeting, Denver, Colo, February 18-21, 1972, Internal Security-new Left,” March 17, 1972, 31-33.
[36] [Unsigned, likely John Dougherty and or Bernard Wells], Intelligence Evaluation Group Committee and Staff, “Foreign Support for Activities Planned to Disrupt or Harass the Republican National Convention,” 21 March, 1972, CIA, FOIA, Family Jewels,553-4.

[37] Daily World, March 21, 1972; FBI, SAC New York to Director, COLIFAM IS-New Left AIRTEL, March 21, 1972;

[38] Ray Ellis, “The World Congress of Peace Forces,” Political Affairs, Journal of Marxist Thought and Analysis, January. 1974, 14.

[39] e.g. National Conference in Solidarity with Chile, February 8-9, 1975 at Concordian Teachers College in River Forest outside of Chicago. CPUSA fronts as Trade Unionists for Action and Democracy, TUAD; the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, NAARPR, National Lawyers Guild, NLG; Emma Lazarus Clubs; Venceremos Brigade; CPUSA-controlled or influenced International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union — ILWU; Local 1199 of the Drug and Hospital Workers; United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers; Amalgamated Meatcutters; Marxist organizations Puerto Rican Socialist Party, People's Party, New American Movement, and Socialist Party.

[40] “American Dissent in Moscow,” The New York Review of Books, Volume 20, Number 20, December 13, 1973. nybooks.com/articles/9657.

[41] Thulani Davis, “Remembering Grace Paley (1922-2007),” Alternet.org, August 25, 2007. http://www.alternet.org/story/60693/; also Grace Paley 1922-2007: Acclaimed Poet and Writer Dies at 84, Democracy Now, August 24th, 2007 http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=07/08/24/1322211
[42] Much is made of CIA involvement in domestic affairs.

The CIA did assist the Washington Metropolitan Police Department during the 1969-1971 anti-Vietnam War demonstrations. It provided a radio receiver and several automobiles equipped with radios and manned by two Field Office Agents. See: CIA, FOIA, “CIA support to Washington metropolitan police department during anti-Vietnam War demonstrations 1969-1971 described,” reference: 1983-000131, 1.

[43] Ray Wannall, The Real J. Edgar Hoover: For the Record, Paducah: Turner Publishing Company, 2000,77.

[44] Daily World, March 21, 1972; FBI, SAC New York to Director, COLIFAM IS-New Left AIRTEL, March 21, 1972;

[45] FBI, Memo, “Travel of U.S. Citizens to Paris, France, sponsored by Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam, American Friends Service Committee, and Fellowship of Reconciliation, March 3-10, 1971,” March 23, 1971 File No. 100-11392 at FBI, FOIA, A, AFSC.

[46] Contemporary flyer announcing event in possession of author.

The Vietnam War/Leftist Fly-Paper by Captain Phillip Jennings

A recent letter to Lt. General “Mick” Kicklighter, head of the government funded Vietnam War 50th Commemoration Program, demands recognition for the “peace-activists” who supported the North Vietnamese communist victory over South Vietnam. (One awaits a letter to the Holocaust Museum from the Nazis claiming there could be no Holocaust Museum if not for their efforts in slaughtering six million Jews). Given the popularity of America-bashing among leftists today, no doubt Kicklighter will attempt to appease and ask forgiveness for the oversight in recognizing the usual suspects—Tom Hayden, Bill Ayers, Marilyn Young, Rennie Davis et al as freedom loving patriots, ignoring the cruel irony of honoring people whose efforts assisted the loss of an American ally to a brutal communist tyrannical dictatorship—freedom not being among the largess it provides its servants. The leftist’s efforts are organized in the Vietnam Peace Commemoration Committee (VPCC--Why do communist/leftist organizations always call themselves committees? )

American leftists are drawn to the Vietnam War like silverfish to the bottom of the flower pot. The assumption, supported by the facts of the war, is that they are horribly afraid that those facts will be self-evident in any commemoration of the war and cause them to die in the shame they so richly deserve. The light of truth causes them to scurry around blindly. Some unassailable facts:

North Vietnam in 1959 was a communist nation (whose mentors and suppliers had murdered and caused the death of 75 to 100 million people around the world up to that date) which decreed in the 15th Plenary their intent to conquer the nation of South Vietnam.

South Vietnam existed as a struggling democracy with a central government about as popular as the Obama administration. (Take either side).

America chose to lend support (favored by Truman, Eisenhower, JFK, LBJ and Nixon) to the South Vietnamese battle against the North Vietnamese-supported Viet Cong guerillas. When the depth of support, including the building of a major road system to transport troops and ammunition from the communist north to the free south, revealed a greater threat, America jumped in with both feet. (It was SEATO, not the Gulf of Tonkin which authorized our involvement).

The Russians and Chinese, global leaders in exporting communism, poured tons of armament and billions of rubles/yuan into the bunkers and coffers of the communist north.

And the majority of the signers of the letter demanding recognition of their anti-war efforts chose the Communist Side in the conflict. Vocally supporting the enemy killing American and South Vietnamese soldiers and innocent civilians in South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. It bears repeating—Fonda, Hayden (Mr. Jane Fonda), Ayers, and the rest supported the defeat of America and her allies in South Vietnam.

A few of their ramblings on behalf of the murdering invasion forces of North Vietnam:

Fred Branfman (visiting Hanoi with Zinn and Hayden) “……..if the war continues we hope you will grow up and become valiant combatants and will be able to down U.S. planes.”

Rennie Davis met with the North Vietnamese in Paris where “The Vietnamese….stated they would be interested in having any information…concerning development of new weapons by the US…Such information would be especially helpful...before such weapons were used on the battlefield.”

Bernadine Dohrn (wife of Bill Ayers) bragged of talks with the NLF in Budapest (NLF were the Viet Cong).

Daniel Ellsberg said “We (the U.S.) weren’t on the wrong side. We are the wrong side.”

Jane Fonda once actually proffered that (In Hanoi) if you knew what communism was, you would get down on your knees and pray you were a communist.

Todd Gitlin wrote a “freedom song” which included “And before I’ll be fenced in, I’ll vote for Ho Chi Minh, or go back to the North and be free.”

Which brings up another fact about the American left—none of them went back to Vietnam to live, work or teach their drivel after their efforts “helped bring the war to an end” with the communist North invading and conquering South Vietnam. Maybe the fact that there was more killing after the ‘war was ended’ than during the ten years of American involvement deferred their travel plans. Or maybe their racist tendencies (Democracy is fine for Caucasians, but the people of Vietnam are not sophisticated sufficiently to know it and want it—many leftists of the era wrote this sentiment) kept them safely on American land enjoying the fruits of others labor.

And the hero of the Vietnam Peace Commemoration Committee—you guessed it, John Kerry. The man who spent about three hours in combat, collected three purple hearts for scratches one might get going over a barbed wire fence, and lit out for the U.S. to testify about his moral superiority to his former ship mates in front of Congress. If you follow Kerry’s “Vietnam War” history, you won’t need to know anything else about the VPCC platform and agenda.

The request to be honored in the program honoring the veterans of the Vietnam War indicates the paucity of honor (and common sense) among them. The American left did NOTHING to stop the war in Vietnam. They contributed only to the final slaughter and internment of countless Southeast Asians by supporting communism and the liberal U.S. congress decision to abandon our allies. They contributed directly to the horror of the hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese boat people fleeing the brutal communist invaders.

It is an obscenity only the liberal/left could conceive—a request to be honored and remembered alongside the Americans who fought and died with their Vietnamese brothers-in-arms to prevent the very thing the Haydens and Fondas, the Ayers and Dohrns demanded and supported with violence and hatred of the American way. The recognition they deserve is that of communist supporters and useful idiots. Let us hope they receive it.

 
[For a near complete list of the anti-war left’s more inane and insane comments and proclamations, see Roger Canfield’s “Comrades in Arms—How the Americong Won the War in Vietnam Against the Common Enemy—America.”]

Phillip Jennings is a Vietnam combat veteran and the author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Vietnam War.

This Is What Passes For Logic in the Antiwar Crowd

Counterpunch is a leftist, communist commentary site.  It's sometimes worthwhile to visit the site to see what the enemies of America are thinking.  This article is a perfect example of the muddled thinking that passes for "logic" among communists.  Of course their goal isn't truth, so anything can be made to seem logical if one doesn't think too hard.

Source: Vietnam, Fifty Years After Defeating the US
Begin with the title.  The US was not defeated in Vietnam.  South Vietnam was.  The US military left Vietnam in 1973.  South Vietnam fell in 1975, two years later.  When an article begins with a lie in its title, it's a good bet that the writer is pushing an agenda rather than exposing the truth.

The article closes with this

We could also learn the lesson of the war — and not treat it as a disease called “the Vietnam syndrome” — the lesson that war is immoral and even on its own terms counter-productive. Recognizing that would be the beginning of health..
One has to wonder what the writer thinks about WWII.  Was it immoral to defeat Germany, which was exterminating millions of people through starvation and murder and had invaded numerous countries?  If that's your standard of morality, one has to ask.  How many people would have to die before you would be willing to go to war?  Would you even fight for your own life?  Or would you simply lay down and die rather than fight evil?

One thing is certain.  A LOT of good Americans were willing to give their lives to put a stop to Hitler's rampage.  A LOT of others were as well, many of whose countries had not (yet!) been invaded.  When it comes to moral bearings, those people seem a great deal more honorable than those who argue that war is always immoral.

Of course the communists have never shied away from killing.  They've killed millions in  countries they've conquered, including Russia, China, Vietnam and Cambodia.  The killing doesn't stop when they take over, however.  That's just the beginning of the slaughter.  Doesn't it seem odd that they always accuse their enemies of committing the crimes that they themselves commit routinely as a matter of policy?

This is not to say that America or its leaders are perfect by any stretch of the imagination.  I recently pointed out some of the gross malfeasance of our leaders during the Vietnam War.  But the idea that America is evil and engages in wars to hurt other people is a recent claim that originated with the North Vietnamese propaganda machine and was repeated faithfully by their fellow travelers, the core of the antiwar movement in the US.

Now they're angry because (they claim) the history of the war is being somehow covered up or hidden by the Pentagon's 50th Anniversary Commemoration.
Remember, this was the bad war in contrast to which World War II acquired the ridiculous label “good war.” But the Pentagon is intent on undoing any accurate memory of Vietnam.
On the contrary, the antiwar crowd has held the stage almost exclusively for the past 50 years.  They have beaten the drums of "America is evil" and "communism is good" for so long that they actually believe the nonsense.  While we can't depend on the Pentagon to tell the truth about Vietnam, we certainly can't depend on proven liars to tell it.

Leaders of the US antiwar movement traveled to Vietnam, Cuba, Russia, Austria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany and numerous other places to get their marching orders and to assist the communists in fine tuning their propaganda.[1. https://www.vvfh.org/research/research-files.html - open the antiwar folder and download or view Peace Protest Leader Says He Met Vietcong - Activists.pdf]  Now it's all unraveling as archives all over the world get opened up and researched.  For example, the fiction that the Viet Cong was an indigenous revolutionary movement has been completely obliterated by the North Vietnamese records proving control of the southern forces from the beginning.

It's time for Americans to learn what really happened in Vietnam rather than the grossly distorted version promulgated by agenda-driven communists and their sympathizers.  That's why we exist, and that's what we intend to do.

The 1956 Vietnam Unification Elections

This past week the University of Texas at Austin held the Vietnam War Summit.  It was another disappointing attempt to analyze the war without the input of Vietnamese participants (other than the communist ambassador from Vietnam) and without views opposing the accepted wisdom of the anti-war scholars who dominate Vietnam War "scholarship".

Particularly irritating was a session that included the inputs of communist sympathizers Tom Hayden and Marilyn Young without so much as a single opposing view.  Our own Dr. Robert Turner could have added much to the discussion, since he was personally involved in debating anti-war activists during the conflict.

The conference was discussed on Twitter under the hashtag #VietnamWarSummit, and that resurfaced some of the enduring myths of the war.

https://twitter.com/RobMorroLiberty/status/723334372116426753

This is an old canard repeated by opponents of the Vietnam War to "prove" that Ngo Dinh Diem was never a popular leader.  Here's the quote:

I am convinced that the French could not win the war because the internal political situation in Vietnam, weak and confused, badly weakened their military position. I have never talked or corresponded with a person knowledgeable in Indochinese affairs who did not agree that had elections been held as of the time of the fighting, possibly 80 per cent of the population would have voted for the Communist Ho Chi Minh as their leader rather than Chief of State Bao Dai. Indeed, the lack of leadership and drive on the part of Bao Dai was a factor in the feeling prevalent among Vietnamese that they had nothing to fight for. As one Frenchman said to me, "What Vietnam needs is another Syngman Rhee, regardless of all the difficulties the presence of such a personality would entail."
Those who use the quote often elide the fact that Eisenhower referred to Vietnamese Emperor Bao Dai and not South Vietnamese Premier Ngo Dinh Diem.  They also ignore the fact that the quote dates to 1954 before the Geneva Accords were signed and referred to "the time of the fighting" rather than the brief peace that followed.

The claim is often tied to a related one.

https://twitter.com/RobMorroLiberty/status/723334417041625088

The elections referred to are the ones recorded in a supplement to the Geneva Accords that was not signed by any state and would have taken place in 1956.  Neither the US nor South Vietnam were signatories to the accords and therefore neither agreed nor disagreed regarding elections at that time (although South Vietnam protested the talks since they were excluded).

While it is true that the US opposed the 1956 elections (as did Diem), the reason for doing so had nothing to do with Ho winning an election.  The objection was due to the Russian refusal to allow elections monitored by the UN.  By 1956 Ho was struggling with the disastrous results of his land reform program that killed tens of thousands of North Vietnamese landowners for the "crime" of being landowners.  At the same time Diem was being hailed as a "miracle worker" by the New York Times.

Rather than oppose elections, the US supported them until they realized that Diem was adamantly opposed unless they could be made free.
The U.S. did not--as is often alleged--connive with Diem to ignore the elections. U.S. State Department records indicate that Diem's refusal to be bound by the Geneva Accords and his opposition to pre-election consultations were at his own initiative. However, the U.S., which had expected elections to be held, and up until May 1955 had fully supported them, shifted its position in the face of Diem's opposition, and of the evidence then accumulated about the oppressive nature of the regime in North Vietnam.
In the US Secretary Dulles explained the US position and indicated that there was no fear of a Ho election victory if free elections were held:
Neither the United States Government nor the Government of Viet-Nam is, of course, a party to the Geneva armistice agreements. We did not sign them, and the Government of Viet-Nam did not sign them and, indeed, protested against them. On the other hand, the United States believes, broadly speaking, in the unification of countries which have a historic unity, where the people are akin. We also believe that, if there are conditions of really free elections, there is no serious risk that the Communists would win.....
However, opponents of the war continue to insist that not only was Eisenhower admitting that Ho would have defeated Diem in an election but that the US actively worked to prevent the elections from occurring.  Neither claim is even remotely supportable by the evidence.

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