Category Archives: Commentary

Articles commenting on monographs, magazine articles and other published materials about the war

Roadmap to Betrayal

 

Former POW/MIA Affairs Chief Gave Congress Outline of U.S. Government’s Road Map To Betrayal Of America’s POW/MIA

The following article is taken from a statement by Bill Bell (pictured right) which he gave before the Vietnam Subcommittee on Trade of the Committee on Ways and Means in the U.S. House of Representatives on June 18, 1998.

Prior to 1989 our government’s most important issue concerning Vietnam was the achievement of a viable settlement in war torn Cambodia.

Subsequent to the withdrawal of a politically acceptable number of Vietnamese forces from that country our focus shifted to the accounting for our missing and dead from the Vietnam War.

At that time the policy of the Bush Administration dictated that the recovery of missing American servicemen was a matter of the “highest national priority.”

This high priority supported a strategy of strict reciprocity at the national level, and a high quality investigative effort on the ground in Vietnam. This proactive, yet cautious approach to addressing the important POW/MIA issue precipitated Vietnam’s realization that no matter how difficult the effort, our persistence and perseverance would not diminish and only genuine cooperation would be acceptable by our government.

These factors enabled our personnel on the ground in Vietnam to make considerable progress without large expenditures of government funds. Trade and commercial ties were never a matter of consideration, because we were determined not to fall in the same expensive and ultimately futile rut left by the French [Despite the substantial political and economic concessions the French have made to Hanoi since 1954, France has never received a full accounting for its missing and dead.].

This strategy meshed well with our long term goal of a full accounting for our servicemen because Vietnam did not have financial incentive to retard progress on this important national issue.

Moreover, due to the coincidental collapse of the Soviet Union, Vietnam also realized that significant economic assistance from its wartime allies would not be forthcoming. These conditions served to create a rare window of opportunity for our negotiators to elicit cooperation from Vietnam in not only accounting for our missing men, but the important human rights aspect as well.

But Vietnamese Communists are well known for several attributes, not the least of which are cunning, tenacity and a high threshold for pain.

During the war years although the Vietnam Communist Party (VCP) constantly spouted rhetoric concerning freedom and democracy, its primary goal was reunification of the country under totalitarian control by the Communist Party.

After accomplishing its initial objective Hanoi’s Politburo even changed the name of the country from a “democratic” to a “socialist” republic. The word for democracy “dan chu” quickly disappeared from letterheads of all official government and party correspondence. Dictionaries printed by the government did not even include the word “da dang” (multi-party).

After reunification Hanoi’s design changed to development of the economy under the continued totalitarian control of the VCP. In assessing the outlook for reconstruction and development Hanoi’s strategists came to the realization that although genuine cooperation on POW/MIA accounting would hasten the pace of relations and significant progress on human rights would bring economic benefits, such cooperation would inherently lead to a weakening of totalitarian control by (VCP).

Faced with this dilemma, Hanoi’s leadership turned to its highest-level decision-making body with responsibility for military affairs, intelligence, counterintelligence, foreign policy, economics, industry and strategic deception, the National Defense Council (NDC), for salvation.

The NDC of Vietnam is modeled on similar organizations of the People’s Republic of China and the former Soviet Union. I believe that those responsible for safeguarding missile and satellite technology will not find that thought comforting.

In planning and implementing strategic deception, the most important organ in the communist system is the Proselytizing Department, which operates under the authority of the NDC.

This department is a very secretive and subtle organization, and for the U.S. intelligence community, it is perhaps the least understood element of the Communist apparatus. The basic mission of the organization is penetration and subversion.

During the war years the Proselytizing Department enjoyed considerable success in exploiting the anti-war movement in the U.S. and other countries around the world. Wartime Communist leaders have since expressed the opinion that the proselytizing effort, both in America and on an international scale, made the most important contribution toward winning the war.

The concept by which the Proselytizing Department operates is quite simple: Obtain the active participation of a small segment of the population in order to gain the passive acceptance of the population as a whole. At the local level active participation can be obtained through intimidation.

For example, during wartime years when armed propaganda teams were employed, if a member of a village chief’s family were abducted, one of his ears would be sent to the family. Unless the village chief performed the deed requested of him by the communist forces, the head of the family member would soon follow.

In dealing with foreign populations, however, active participation is more often achieved by subtle means. This includes playing on the emotions of a family whose loved one is being held prisoner-of-war, or by exploiting character defects, especially monetary greed, or what in intelligence terms is called “a penchant for wealth.”

The Proselytizing Department is also responsible for both agitation-propaganda and the exploitation of U.S. POWs. This includes the remains and personal effects of American servicemen killed during the performance of their duties.

By the time of the 1986 Party Congress, Hanoi’s National Defense Council had outlined a plan for development of the economy while feigning cooperation on POW/MIA and human rights. This plan was veiled as “an opening to the West” and “renovation,” what the Vietnamese call “doi moi.”

In order to implement this plan, seasoned cadre from the Proselytizing Department were gradually transferred to positions dealing with individuals and organizations in the U.S. involved in commerce, human rights and veterans affairs.

For example, Senior Proselytizing cadre Nguyen Chinh was transferred from Region 5 in Central Vietnam to Hanoi where he was assigned as the Deputy Director of Religious Affairs dealing with U.S. officials concerned with human rights.

Cadre Nguyen Hung Tri, who had been one of numerous cadre responsible for the interrogation and exploitation of American prisoners in the South, was reassigned as Director of the Export Section of the National Petroleum Import-Export Department.

LTG Tran Van Quang, the former Chief of the Proselytizing Department, was reassigned as head of the National Veterans Organization dealing with so-called “Veterans Initiatives” of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA).

Cadre Dang Thuan Hoa, who was also responsible for the interrogation and exploitation of American prisoners in southern Vietnam during the war, was reassigned to the Commercial Affairs Office in Ho Chi Minh City dealing with American businessmen seeking to invest in projects there.

Members of the Proselytizing Department’s office in Central Vietnam were transferred to the State Petroleum Organization and shortly thereafter a plan to build an oil refinery in that area was announced.

Ultimately, hundreds of cadre from Vietnam’s Proselytizing Department were reassigned to positions placing them in direct contact with Americans in the targeted “influence groups.”

After sufficient proselytizing cadre were in place, Vietnam still faced one major obstacle, hard currency to finance the overall operation.

Hanoi’s strategists then devised a plan whereby large sums of hard currency could be collected. By forcing hundreds of thousands of its citizens to flee the country Hanoi was able to quickly establish a large community of overseas Vietnamese. Most of those departing under this program were required to transfer all personal and real property, as well as cash assets, to communist control.

To manage this potential source of future revenue, Hanoi reassigned its former UN Ambassador in New York and Vice Foreign Minister, Ho Liem (aka Hoang Bich Son) as Chairman of the Committee for Overseas Vietnamese.

Overseas Vietnamese then began to send money home to support relatives remaining in Vietnam. Hard currency mailed from the U.S., Canada, France, England, Australia and other countries back to Vietnam was intercepted by the Communist Party and converted into Vietnamese “dong” at a very unfavorable rate.

Overseas Vietnamese seeking to return home for visitation, including emergency situations, were required to pay exorbitant visa issuance fees in hard currency to the relevant Vietnamese Embassy prior to commencement of travel.

Unfortunately for the Vietnamese people at home, however, visa fees are not a problem because they cannot even acquire a passport to temporarily travel abroad. As a basis for comparison, in America and other democratic countries, it is far more simple to file for social security disability than for a Vietnamese citizen to obtain a passport.

In much the same manner as the French experience on POW/MIA accounting, to develop yet another source of revenue Hanoi used its Proselytizing Department to create an illusion of profitable business opportunities, a “last frontier” if you will, in Vietnam.

This skillful deception, which included what appeared to be very lucrative contracts to be implemented as soon as the Trade Embargo was lifted, resulted in increased pressure from the business community on U.S. politicians to rapidly remove the POW/MIA issue as an obstacle to the development of trade ties, regardless of the actual rate of progress in accounting for our men.

To accomplish this feat, the Proselytizing Department worked hand-in-hand with key members of the U.S. business community, some members of Congress and veterans organizations to convince our military leaders that the best way to resolve the issue was a rapid expansion of our POW/MIA accounting effort in the field.

This expansion consisted primarily of so-called “activities,” which included field cursory investigations and excavations of crash sites. These “activities” resulted in the rental of Russian supplied helicopters, real property rentals, the payment of salaries for cadre of the Proselytizing Department participating in the endeavor, drivers, laborers, organization fees, landing fees, damages caused by excavations and a host of other charges. I believe that by simultaneously exploiting emigration and the accounting for missing American servicemen Hanoi has managed to accumulate a considerable amount of hard currency.

Such revenue gathering practices continue today as these hearings are being held, and quite frankly I believe they generate far more funds than what Export-Import Bank financing could provide.

In 1991 the U.S. Senate established the Senate Select Committee for POW/MIA Affairs. The Chairman of this Committee, Senator John Kerry appointed his Legislative Assistant, Ms Francis Zwenig, as the Chief of Staff for the Committee.

During the life of the Committee Senator Kerry worked most closely with Representative Douglas “Pete” Peterson to authorize funding for the new, expanded effort to account for missing American servicemen in Vietnam.

As a result of these joint efforts, in January 1992 the Joint Task Force-Full Accounting was formed by the U.S. Pacific Command. In order to gain acceptance of the new plan in Vietnam Senator Kerry also coordinated his efforts with fellow committee member, Senator John McCain (R- AZ).

In implementing Senator Kerry and Representative Peterson’s plan, Ms Zwenig worked closely with Ms. Virginia Foote, the President of the U.S./Vietnam Trade Council, Allen “Gunner” Kent, former Commander-in-Chief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), and Mr Kenneth Steadman, at that time the Director of National Security of the VFW.

As the Committee moved toward adjournment it became increasingly obvious that rather than account for missing American servicemen, the primary goal of the Committee was to remove the POW/MIA issue from the path of U.S./Vietnam relations.

Members of the Committee pledged to continue to monitor the issue, but in reality only Senator Bob Smith[R-NH] kept his promise to the MIA family members and veterans here at home.

During the time that key members of the POW/MIA Select Committee maneuvered to remove the Trade Embargo, large scale investors in Asia, who would ultimately become large scale campaign contributors in America began to support the activities of members of the Committee designed to create investment opportunities in Vietnam.

In 1992, with a one-on-one limousine ride, Presidential candidate Bill Clinton began his relationship with Mr James Riady, a citizen of Indonesia and resident alien of the United States. Mr Riady is the son of Mochtar Riady who heads the multi-billion dollar Lippo Group.

Acting on behalf of the Lippo Group Mr Riady formed a partnership with Mr Jackson Stephens, Chairman of Stephens Investment Inc., in order to purchase the Worthen Bank in Little Rock, AR. Mr Riady was subsequently installed as the director of the bank. Mr Riady then used his position to contribute or loan some $700,000.00 to President Clinton’s campaign.

Family friends and business partners of the Riadys, Ariel and Soraya Wiriadinata, also contributed $425,000.00 to the Clinton campaign. Rather than explain the source of these monies by testifying in congressional hearings, the Wiriadinatas have since returned to Jakarta, Indonesia.

The Worthen Bank in Little Rock also owned the Hong Kong Chinese Bank where Mr John Huang was employed. Mr Huang was later transferred from Hong Kong to Los Angeles where he became head of Lippo’s affiliate there.

Records since made available to investigating committees of Congress indicate that in conjunction with his transfer to the U.S. Mr Huang was awarded a $700,000.00 bonus by the Lippo Group. Considering the position held by Mr Huang and the circumstances of his employment, the alleged bonus has raised questions regarding the intended purpose of the relatively large amount of cash, and whether or not it was properly declared for entry into the U.S.

Moreover, in November 1992, China Resources Holding Company, a front organization for the Intelligence and Security Services of the Communist Party of China, purchased a controlling interest in the Hong Kong Chinese Bank. This transaction made available an even larger amount of money to Mr Huang in the U.S.

During his election campaign President Clinton pledged to the American people that if elected he “would not normalize relations with any country that is at all suspected of withholding information” on missing Americans.

After the election of President Clinton Mr John Huang was appointed as a Deputy Assistant Secretary under Commerce Secretary Ron Brown in a “Top Secret” trade post. When Mr Huang assumed his new position at the Commerce Department the very first meeting he held in his new office was oriented toward developing increased commercial relations with the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

Hearings held by the Senate Committee investigating campaign financing revealed that during the time he worked in the Commerce Department under Ron Brown, John Huang maintained steady contact with Mr A. Vernon Weaver, the Vice-President of Stephens Investment in Washington, D.C.

In fact, Mr Huang was provided a cost-free office with telephone, facsimile and photocopy machine in the Stephens Building across the street from the Commerce Department. During the same time frame, Secretary Brown became the subject of a Justice Department investigation concerning allegations he accepted a $700,000.00 bribe for his assistance in lobbying President Clinton to lift the Trade Embargo against Vietnam.

The reports indicating that Mr Riady loaned the Clinton campaign $700,000.00, that John Huang received a $700,000.00 bonus from the Lippo Group, and that former Commerce Secretary Brown received a $700,000.00 bribe may be coincidental, but considering the positions of those involved and their relationship to each other, I seriously doubt that this is the case.

After repeated denials to the press, Secretary Brown did admit to having three meetings with Mr Nguyen Van Hao, a Vietnamese who was actively lobbying on behalf of Vietnam to have the Trade Embargo lifted. Mr A. Vernon Weaver was subsequently appointed as the U.S. Representative to the European Economic Union. The investigation of Mr Brown was terminated when he died on April 4, 1996 in an airplane crash while on an economic mission to Europe.

After expanded accounting efforts were initiated in Vietnam senior U.S. officials first began praising Vietnam for its cooperation in accounting for our missing men during January 1994 when Admiral Charles Larson, at that time the Commander-in-Chief of Pacific Forces, returned from an inspection trip to Vietnam.

It was Admiral Larson who first stated publicly that Vietnamese cooperation in accounting for missing Americans was “excellent across all fronts.” Admiral Larson was a four star Admiral at the time and pending retirement because there were no four star slots available in the U.S. Navy.

Based on Admiral Larson’s assessment, in February 1994 President Clinton lifted the trade embargo against Vietnam.

Amazingly, between the time that President Clinton made his pledge that he would not normalize relations with Vietnam until there was a full accounting and the time he lifted the Trade Embargo only two Americans had been accounted for in Vietnam.

Lifting the embargo opened the door for the multi-billion dollar corporation, Lippo Group with American business partners, such as Stephens Investment of Little Rock, AR to conduct business in Vietnam. Mr A. Vernon Weaver, at that time the Vice-President for Operations in the Pacific Rim of Stephens Investment and a member of the Board of Visitors at the U.S. Naval Academy was instrumental in arranging an upgrade of the position of Commandant of the U.S. Naval Academy from two stars to four stars.

Former U.S. Navy officers, Senators John Kerry and John McCain supported this reorganization. Rather than the planned retirement, Admiral Larson was quickly transferred to begin a four year tour at the Naval Academy.

President Clinton then appointed VFW Commander-in-Chief, Allen “Gunner” Kent of the VFW to a senior position in the Veterans Administration (VA).

After working on the transition team of former Secretary Ron Brown at the Commerce Department, Ms Francis Zwenig was appointed as Vice-President of the U.S. Vietnam Trade Council.

Shortly thereafter, the Council took control of the Mekong Digest, formerly the Vietnam Forum of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. A friend of both President Clinton and Senator John Kerry and fellow anti-war activist from Georgia, Mr Charles Searcy, was appointed as a humanitarian aid representative for Vietnam, on a project jointly funded by the U.S. Government and the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation headed by Mr Robert Muller, also a well-known anti-war activist. Vietnam then announced that it would issue its first real estate license to Senator John Kerry’s cousin, Mr Stuart Forbes, CEO of the Boston-based Colliers International.

Representative “Pete” Peterson was appointed by President Clinton as Ambassador to Vietnam.

Senator John McCain became Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee.

Mr John Huang, was ultimately appointed as Vice-Chairman of the national fund-raising committee of the Democratic Party. Mr Huang’s fund raising efforts included a visit by Vice President Gore to a Buddhist Temple in California headed by Vietnamese born Summa Ching Hai, a long time associate of both Huang and Little Rock, AR restaurant owner Charlie Trii.

Highly classified documents of the Vietnam Communist Party (VCP), recently declassified in the National Archives, indicate that the Religious Proselytizing Department of the VCP, code named V.417, successfully infiltrated cadre into the Buddhist Sect in the former Republic of Vietnam during the 1960’s.

According to the Chairman of the Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia Vietnamese Association, some of the cadre mentioned in the documents have since arrived in the U.S. as refugees. These same cadre, currently in leadership positions in the Buddhist Sect in California, now profess to be staunch anti-communists.

Testimony from members of the staff at the temple involved in the fund-raising, as well as numerous others involved, indicate that those participating in the scheme of Huang were well aware that the sole purpose of the visit by the Vice President was to raise money for the Clinton-Gore campaign.

In fact, the only person involved who has publicly claimed to be unaware that the event was a fund raiser is Vice President Gore himself.

Although considerable questions remain unanswered some of the key people involved, Mr John Huang, Admiral Larson, Ms Virginia Foote, Ms Francis Zwenig or Mr A. Vernon Weaver have never testified in Congress.

More recently the Justice Department has authorized the appointment of an additional Special Counsel to investigate allegations of illegal business transactions between Labor Secretary Alexis Herman and Vanessa Weaver.

Hopefully, this investigation will uncover additional leads for Congressional Committees to follow in the days ahead.

Contrary to the glowing assessments by the Clinton Administration, MIA family member organizations have maintained that Vietnam could rapidly account for many more missing servicemen if it made the political decision to do so.

I believe that there is ample evidence in U.S. files that Vietnam does possess this capability.

Against opposition by MIA family member organizations and major veterans organizations, including the American Legion, Vietnam Veterans of America, the National Vietnam Veterans Coalition, American Veterans, and the Disabled American Veterans, President Clinton recently waived the Jackson-Vanik Act in order to provide monetary benefits to Vietnam.

Such benefits include Export-Import Bank financing and Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) insurance.

Obviously, both important steps are directed at obtaining Most Favored Nation (MFN) trading status for Vietnam.

During my tour as Chief of the U.S. Office for POW/MIA Affairs in Hanoi I was constantly mindful of the French experience in Vietnam.

I was also painfully aware of the plight of some 70 million Vietnamese citizens regarding basic human rights. Relying on a wealth of information contained in U.S. Government files and based on my own experiences in dealing with Vietnam over many years I carefully evaluated the actual level of cooperation rendered by Vietnam on a routine basis.

I truthfully and accurately reported those assessments to my superiors. At times, my candidness during congressional hearings here in Washington, D.C. resulted in my being denied a re-entry visa to return Vietnam from those hearings, and it was only intervention by your prestigious body that enabled me to resume my duties in Hanoi.

Today I do not have to be concerned about how my remarks will be received by my superiors here in the U.S. Government, or by the Communist Party in Hanoi.

Hopefully, I have provided some insight concerning how our political process can be manipulated by foreign entities. I am optimistic that this information, as well as information to be provided by witnesses involved in other aspects of the U.S.-Vietnam relationship, will help your Committee convince our leadership that profit must not come before principle in the development of commercial ties with the Vietnam.

Organizations lobbying for increased financial benefits to Vietnam, especially Overseas Private Investment Corporation insurance are well aware that the Communist Party of Vietnam, not the government of Vietnam runs that country.

They are clamoring for your Committee to move ahead in U.S.-Vietnam relations.

They are telling the families of the missing men that they should trust the Communist Party to provide an honest accounting.

They are telling the Vietnamese people that they should trust the Communist Party in future progress for human rights.

Mr Chairman, if these lobbyists have so much trust in the Communist Party of Vietnam, then why do they need government sponsored insurance such as OPIC to protect their investments?

You may recall that during the Proselytizing Department’s campaign to rapidly normalize relations while feigning improvement on POW/MIA accounting and human rights glib statements such as “it’s the economy stupid,” and “Vietnam is not a war, it’s a country” were often attributed to a number of government officials and members of Congress returning from fact finding missions to Vietnam.

I hope your Committee will agree that statements such as “it’s the missing servicemen and human rights stupid,” and “Vietnam is not a war, it’s a socialist republic” are far more appropriate statements to make.

That concludes my testimony, I greatly appreciate the opportunity to testify before your distinguished Committee.

Garnett ‘Bill’ Bell is a native of Texas and a retired GM-14, DoD. In 1960 Bill entered military service on his 17th birthday. Bill was initially assigned to the 101st Airborne Division and after U.S. Air Force Captain Gary Powers was shot down in the famous U-2 incident Bill was deployed with the 327th Airborne Battle Group to Wheelus Field located in the desert near Tripoli, Libya. Bill participated in an airborne operation in which he and other members of the 101st Airborne were inserted by parachute on the border between Russia and Turkey. Although the Soviets had threatened to execute Captain Powers as a spy, due to the display of resolve by the 101st Airborne, Captain Powers was “swapped” for a Soviet KGB Colonel who had been arrested while on a spying mission to Washington, D.C.

During the so-called “Bay of Pigs” operation Bill was deployed to Hurlbert Field in Florida. This operation, planned for Cuba, was canceled at the very last instant. In 1962, Bill was deployed to the University of Mississippi at Oxford in order to relieve beleaguered federal and state law enforcement personnel during violent protests and rioting due to the enrollment of the Mr. James Meredith, the first black student to be enrolled at the university.

After three years of active duty, Bill was transferred to reserve status and employed as a Civil Aircraft Operations Agent with Southern Air Inc. Bill went to Vietnam as an infantryman in 1965 and served four tours there. Bill was awarded some 20 individual decorations and numerous unit awards. During the 1968 Tet Offensive Bill was stationed with the 101st Airborne at Bien Hoa, Vietnam. After two years with the 6th Special Forces Group Bill was assigned as an instructor in the Department of Exploitation and Counterintelligence, U.S. Army Intelligence Center and School.

During his career Bill served in the 327th Airborne Battle Group (Above the Rest) and the 2/506th Parachute Infantry Regiment (Currahee) of the 101st Airborne Division, the 1/35th Infantry Regiment (Cacti) of the 25th Infantry Division, the 101st MI Company, the 525th Military Intelligence Group, the Defense Language Institute, the 6th Special Forces Group, the Joint Casualty Resolution Center (JCRC), the Four Party Joint Military Team (FPJMT) and the Joint Task Force Full-Accounting (JTFFA).

Bill’s wife and son were killed and a daughter critically injured in April 1975, when the families of U.S. officials assigned to the American Embassy in Saigon, Vietnam were evacuated in conjunction with the ‘Operation Babylift’ program. After being evacuated by helicopter from the roof of the American Embassy on the final day of the Republic of Vietnam (RVN) (30 April 1975), Bill returned to postwar Vietnam as the first official U.S. representative after the war ended when he was assigned as the Chief of the U.S. Office for POW/MIA Affairs in Hanoi. He served more than 12 years on the POW/MIA Search and recovery efforts. During his assignments on POW/MIA some 359 Americans were recovered, identified and repatriated to their families. At the time of his retirement Bill was assigned as a Special Assistant in the American Embassy, Bangkok, Thailand.

An Airborne-Ranger, certified SCUBA diver and Jumpmaster, Bill eventually became a member of the Congressional Staff, U.S. House of Representatives. Fluent in Vietnamese, Thai and Laotian, Bill is a graduate of Chaminade University, Honolulu, HI, and the author of ‘Leave No Man Behind.’ Bill is a life member of the VVA, DAV, VFW, Combat Infantrymen’s Association (CIA) and the Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH). Bill is also a member of the 35th Infantry Regiment association (Cacti).

Bill, I received your book today, and, already, I can’t put it down. Of course, that could be considered as good news, in some ways. Thank you for writing it.
Dan
.

“There is much more to the POW/MIA issue than riding around on a bike, wearing black leather and shouting “Bring ‘em home”! Bill Bell’s book “Leave No Man Behind” is the “first step” any American should take in fully understanding the nuances, the heretofore hidden incidents and complex situations of the long American War in Vietnam, and the plight of thousands of America’s still-unreturned veterans. There are many books available but this is the first priority for vets. Read it and pass it on to as many other vets as possible in order to lay bare the facts and let the facts speak for themselves. How we got there in the first place, why we stayed so long and whether or not we vets were able to accomplish our mission. Do yourself a favor, order this great book. You will soon agree that having done so is one of the wisest moves you ever made. For researchers, this book should be considered “PTSD 101”. Concerning research in compiling this great book you will be amazed when you visit the Vietnam Center Archives, Texas Tech University, Bill Bell Collection. (www.vietnam.ttu.edu/virtualarchive). This is one of the nation’s premier collections on the American War in Vietnam and graciously donated by Bill”.Mike DePaulo, Vietnam vet, USMC, National Service Officer, Rolling Thunder Inc.

5.0 out of 5 stars Americans in Vietnam

This review is from: Leave No Man Behind: Bill Bell and the Search for American POW/MIAs from the Vietnam 5.0 out of 5 stars absolutely necessary.

By joefieldsalaska
This
review is from: Leave No Man Behind: Bill Bell and the Search for American POW/MIAs from the Vietnam War (Semihardback)

Very simply, if you have not read this book, even if you spent years in Vietnam as I did, you don’t know anything about the Vietnam War. Buy it, read it, give it to everyone you know who gives a damn about truth. Should be required reading for every college and university.
JNFIII

Bill,

Just took a week off to Thailand and finished your book on the beach. Sorry it took so long. Great read, amazing book, even more amazing story, truly one for the ages… Thanks so much for all you did and gave to the country and the missing. Your service is truly humbling… Just seeing all the work you guys were doing, your grasp of the situation on the ground, the games the communists were playing, how you were able to give it back to them and how they let it all unravel, the hash house harrier incident, the “fun” comment, the shredding of those files… I wanted to cry… I was on the flight back last night literally almost jumping out of me seat I was so hopping mad. It looks as though not much has changed unfortunately. I hear the same things about them when in Cambodia and elsewhere doing stories. I have more stuff in the works. I’d love to chat with you about it all sometime. Again, thanks so much for reaching out to me all those months ago and sending me your book. You filled in a lot of blanks for me and I feel like I “get it” now. I am going to Vietnam later this year. I feel a lot more prepared. Thanks so much Bill, for everything. Much respect.

Matt

Matthew M. Burke

Staff Writer

Stars and Stripes

Sasebo and Iwakuni (Japan) Bureau

Bill,

I have began reading your book. It is amazing. I thought I’d read enough to be kind of proficient in the POW/MIA issue, but in just reading the first couple of chapters I realize I don’t know jack. But I have talked to the parents of several of those still unaccounted, and looked into their eyes. And I do know one thing – I will do what I can to give them some type of closure, and let them know that they are not alone in missing their loved ones!

Your book is very educational, maybe a little to technical for the casual reader but should be required reading for anyone interested in this issue.

I thank you for the book, and I especially thank you for all you do and have done. You are a true American hero in my eyes! THANK YOU BILL!!!

In Brotherhood,

Greg Beck

President, VVA Texarkana, TX;

Bill:

It amazes me the attention to detail and the “recall” of names, incidents, etc that you have. This book is sure eye-opening for the lay person!

My hubby has mentioned several skirmishes from the war, but not in the detail you’ve outlined in your book! I hate putting it down!

S/F
Gypsy (Betsy)

On Monday, January 20, 2014 8:55 AM, zippo smith <majorzippo@yahoo.com> wrote:   There is no American on earth who knows the official side of the POW/MIA issue better than Bill Bell.

In the eyes of those who use the POW issue for political advantage and then cast it aside like some old campaign placard Bill committed an unforgivable bureaucratic sin much to their horror; HE TOLD THE TRUTH!!!!

Read Bill Bell’s book and heed his words on how  great nation can undermine it’s moral underpinnings by assigning the least of warriors to decide life and death and unobserved,the mental/physical state, of those suffering in enemy hands,from an air-conditioned office in the USA.

LEAVE THE FATE OF AMERICAN FIGHTING-MEN IN THE HANDS OF THE WARRIOR AND NOT THE SHOE-CLERK.

Major Mark A. Smith,USA,Retired RPW,Vietnam/Cambodia

Link to the Amazon sale page that is priced at $10: (Copy and paste in browser)

http://www.amazon.com/Leave-No-Man-Behind-American/dp/0964766345/ref=aag_m_pw_dp?ie=UTF8&m=A11WQVNRY0EIDW

 

 

 

HUE 1968: FIGHTING THE VIETNAM WAR YET AGAIN

A man sees in the world what he carries in his heart.” 

Goethe, “Faust

If there is truth in Goethe’s quote, author Mark Bowden believes in his heart that the American efforts in Vietnam were at best immoral and at worst verging on genocidal. In his new book Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam (Atlantic Monthly Press, 610 pp.), Bowden casts the U.S. Marine Corps as the moral mirror of the tens of thousands of communist troops sent by a tyrannical, oppressive cadre of thugs in Hanoi to perpetrate a bloody, maniacal attack on the peaceful citizens of Hue, South Vietnam.

Hue was the second largest city in South Vietnam, a picturesque town on the Perfume River in the northern part of the country. It was safe, peaceful, and prosperous prior to January 31, 1968, the beginning of the TET holiday, even in the midst of the war. Roughly thirty days later, the city lay in ruins, with as many as ten thousand citizens dead. Schools, churches, historical buildings and thousands of homes were rubble. This was the inarguable result of the invasion by the North Vietnamese Army, aided by the local Viet Cong.

The book begins with the inspiring and heart-warming story of a young girl in Hue as she becomes a tool of the communists, assisting them in smuggling arms into the city. As you read, keep in mind that she is living in a free land, attending good schools, and surrounded by a loving family and friends. She apparently set all this aside and chose to aid and abet an invading army who will destroy the city and slaughter its citizens.

Bowden’s factually challenged and sloppily edited (including paragraphs repeated verbatim in separate chapters) diatribe against the actions of the U.S. and South Vietnamese military during the battle is an almost laughable attempt to give the communists – a number of whom he interviewed — a chance to tell “their side of the story.”  Almost laughable because it is difficult if not impossible to find humor in the greatest atrocity in the Vietnam War, namely the communists’ systematic murder of thousands of noncombatants, buried alive in mass graves or executed with a shot to the back of the head. In the most staggering and shameful comparison in the book, Bowden speculates that twice as many citizens were probably killed by U.S. and ARVN artillery and bombing, with absolutely no factual basis for that statement.

Yes, and hunting accidents probably killed innocent people the same day the Manson family slaughtered Sharon Tate. Let’s let the Mason family tell their side of the story.

Apologists for the communists know no bounds when it comes to manufacturing moral equivalencies which condone atrocities. Make no mistake, people like John Kerry, Tom Hayden, Jane Fonda and now Mark Bowden forgive and explain away communist evil if it serves the cause of denigrating the American war effort. It is meaningless to condemn acts of North Vietnamese and Viet Cong brutality if in the next breath the exact condemnation is used to describe Americans.

In Hue, for example, U.S. forces fought under strict rules of engagement that limited destruction and unintended civilian casualties. The communists had rules of engagement too — to slaughter and intimidate with inhumane acts against the helpless civilians on the death lists they brought to Hue, as well as anyone who looked like they might give the revolution a hard time in the future. The “crimes” committed by the people of Hue included allegiance to the government in Saigon, teaching children, healing the sick, managing the city government, being Catholic, being a child or elderly, and other such capital offenses.

Bowden is clearly impressed with the enemy. He fawns over North Vietnamese discipline and prowess. He’s “impressed with the enemy’s skill and resolve.” The “marines”  (a term Bowden refuses to capitalize, an affront to me and every other Marine) on the other hand are described with terms like petrified, shaking with fear, crying, bawling like babies, bewildered, worn out, scared, mutinous, terrified, frightened, and unnerved. He presents vaguely substantiated accounts of random Marine cruelty toward civilians, such as an alleged instance of deliberately running over a woman with a tank, and an officer supposedly attempting to shoot an unarmed teen civilian until stopped by an enlisted troop. His descriptions are slanderous, libelous and cowardly given the Marines depicted are likely deceased by now.

Bowden also repeats the highly discredited idea that the communists weren’t really defeated because they were not actually trying to win. All North Vietnamese planning documents for TET, which Bowden somehow missed in his diligent research, assumed that once the communists showed up in South Vietnamese cities the populace would rally to their side, pick up arms and drive out the Americans and their running dogs. But in Bowden’s account all the attackers, from the NVA grunt to the highest Red official, repeat the losers’ propaganda mantra—we never meant to capture and hold Hue anyway. The implication is that the NVA could have whipped the Marines, if they wanted to. Tell me another one.

Bowden, best known as the author of Blackhawk Down, writes combat scenes as well as any writer of the day. He has an innate understanding, it seems, of tactics, combat mind-set, motivations and weaponry. However, he also promotes the relentless false left-wing Vietnam War history taught in so many U.S. universities, as well as in communist countries. He believes, for example, that the Vietnam War was a purely domestic civil war, a communist trope devised in Moscow to discredit western intervention. And he inadvertently slips up when he admiringly describes a North Vietnamese soldier as having acquitted his skills after spending six years fighting in Laos. The good people of Laos would be surprised to learn they were engaged in the civil war in Vietnam.

Finally, nothing is quite so distasteful as attributing vast strategic wisdom and patriotism to North Vietnamese soldiers, while belittling the U.S. troops for their supposed lack of understanding and indifference to the reasons for their deployment to the battlefields of Vietnam. First, the North Vietnamese peasantry had absolutely no choice whether or not to join the parade to the slaughterhouse of South Vietnam. They did what they were told or were executed.

However American troops by and large understood why we were in Vietnam, whether or not they agreed with Johnson administration policies. Histories such as Bowden’s downplay or ignore the basic humanity, Judeo-Christian ethics and fundamental morality of the American forces. From birth, these young men were told that America’s destiny and obligation as a great power was to help others to be free. They heard it in President John F. Kennedy’s call to arms in his 1961 inauguration speech, and they lived it in the streets of Hue.

Phillip Jennings is an investment banker and entrepreneur, former United States Marine Corps pilot in Vietnam, Air America pilot in Laos, and founding member of VVFH. He is the author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Vietnam War and other books.

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

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

Ten days later, the Assistant Chief of the Division of Southeast Asian Affairs cabled the US Secretary of State and stateed, “It seems certain that Annamese plan desperate resistance to French.” 3

Two weeks later, the Consul of Saigon cabled the Secretary of State that “there were additional incidents last night including sacking of house of one of signers of “motion” calling for Vietnam independence and cessation of hostilities. He himself was severely beaten by military.” 4

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

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 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 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

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

In December, the Secretary of State cabled various missions abroad informing them that the nature of the government in Vietnam was communist. 9

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 they contact the French Foreign Office and request a retraction. 10

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

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]

Here We Go Again

Paul Schmehl, Independent Researcher

Whenever Vietnam is mentioned in an opinion article, we always sit up and take notice. It is not at all uncommon for the history of Vietnam and the lessons of Vietnam to be invoked in reference to other conflicts. In fact Vietnam is the fulcrum from which all false arguments about war are launched. We are told we should not forget the lessons of Vietnam, but the lessons are often based upon falsehoods and misrepresentations that make the lesson unhelpful.

Such is the case with a recent article published by CNN.  Writing about the recent Paris attacks, the author invokes the specter of Vietnam to “prove” how badly America has handled foreign policy.

It helps to look at history — not to find equivalencies but understanding, taking the long view that recognizes appropriate contexts. We make bad decisions about foreign policy — and war — when we fail to take into account the historical setting, which is, well, almost everything.

For example, we lost 50,000 American soldiers in Vietnam because our policy-makers failed to look at the wider historical context, ignoring the traditional animosity between China and Vietnam — a conflict in which it was highly unlikely that the “domino effect” would ever be relevant. It wasn’t, and we created mayhem in the region.

Pushed to the limit, we simply withdrew in 1975, with our tail between our legs. And where is Vietnam today? The U.S. is currently the largest single importer of Vietnamese goods and Vietnamese are the eighth-largest student group studying in the States. Of course, it took almost four decades for that kind of healing to occur.

So much untruth packed into such a short space!

First, we certainly wouldn’t argue that it doesn’t help to look at history.  The problem is, it actually needs to be history to be helpful.  We lost more than 58,000 men and women in Vietnam because we faced a determined enemy who was willing to sacrifice over 1.4 million of its own citizens to conquer an independent nation.

Citing the animosity between China and Vietnam, which exists to this day, as proof that  US policy makers failed to understand history is so profoundly ignorant that it takes one’s breath away.  China provided billions of dollars in materiel and support to North Vietnam and tens of thousands of military advisors.  Whatever differences there were between China and Vietnam, they were set aside during the 2nd Indochina War to pursue a common goal – the defeat of South Vietnam and the spread of communism.

What US policy makers failed to understand was that their enemy was not a rational actor that would respond to stimuli the way Americans would respond.McNamara’s graduated escalation policy had little effect on the North Vietnamese and the bombing pauses were used by the North Vietnamese to regroup, resupply and reinforce their defenses. We are making the exact same mistake today in the war with ISIS.

The idea that the Domino Theory was fraudulent has been a central point of the communist propaganda campaign from the beginning.  Many Americans have fallen for it.  But we have addressed it in detail here and shown that not only was it legitimate but the dominos did not fall precisely because the US intervened in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

Furthermore, the claim that the US “created mayhem” in the region ignores several things.  First, the North Vietnamese began the first steps of their conquest of South Vietnam in 1945, left troops behind in 1954 in violation of the Geneva Accords and began escalating the war in 1959, long before the US inserted combat troops.  They had been creating mayhem for quite some time.

By the time the US got involved militarily, North Vietnam had been actively committing atrocities and terrorist activities in South Vietnam for almost 20 years.  By 1959 they had also invaded both Laos and Cambodia and began establishing bases in both countries.  After the US left, hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese, tens of thousands of Laotians and 1.7 million Cambodians were killed.  The mayhem created in Indochina was a direct result of North Vietnamese communist party policies, not US policy, and continued long after the US left Vietnam.

Finally, claiming that the US was “pushed to the limit” and “withdrew in 1975” again displays profound ignorance of the 2nd Indochina War.  The US began removing combat troops from Vietnam in 1969 and by the time the peace treaty was signed in 1973 we did not any combat troops in Vietnam.  North Vietnam, consistent with all their previous deceits, violated the treaty before the ink was signed, but they were so weakened by US and South Vietnamese forces that it took another two years before they could again invade in force.

There are certainly lessons that need to be learned from Vietnam, but we will never learn them until we finally acknowledge the truth about Vietnam.  That will not happen until communist propaganda is no longer used to justify arguments about Vietnam that have no relation to the history of the conflict.

Thoughts From A Vietnam Veteran

Recently I received the below email from Del. Del is R. J. DelVecchio. He was a Marine combat photographer and wandered all over I Corps photographing Marines in combat, resting, taking care of Vietnamese civilians in MedCap operations and grieving over the loss of their buddies. Some of his photographs are featured on our website. Del is one of the founding members of VVFH and the author of Whitelist, Blacklist: Myths of the Vietnam War. He administers a personal charity caring for crippled ARVN veterans living in Vietnam. He was on another of his self-financed trips to Vietnam when he wrote this.

On the way to Hong Kong I got to watch the movie about Chris Kyle, which I had heard many good things about. And they were all true, it’s an outstanding movie about war, what happens to people in it, the terrible costs of it. And it makes you immensely proud and thankful that we have men and women who will put on the uniform and go in harm’s way to defend us and our way of life.

But when I think of the thousands of wonderful Americans who died in Iraq, and the much larger number who came home with terrible wounds on their bodies and some in their minds, and what has happened since, mostly I am angry.

I am angry that our politicians still haven’t learned the simple lessons of Viet Nam, the simple lessons of war. 1- don’t send Americans to fight and die unless you have a clear goal in mind that you are fully committed to achieving 2- don’t send them unless you have a damn good understanding of what it will take to reach that goal 3- don’t send them if you aren’t going to give them 100% of what is needed to achieve the goal and maybe I should add 4- and don’t betray their sacrifice of blood and lives by backing away from doing whatever is required to keep whatever gains they bought with that blood.

What is Iraq today? A broken state, a nightmare of sectarian ferment, with large chunks being run by maniac fanatic murderers, including cities we paid for in swimming pools of blood, while minorities that have lived there literally for millennia have been subject to horrific oppression and even genocide.

Why did this happen? In part because we left a sectarian jerk in charge, but in large part because we yanked all our troops out of there and left the fragile state on its own, ripe for the ISIS conquest. And the “JV Team” turned out to be all too competent, all too ferocious, and we didn’t begin to do much about them for too long, and still haven’t done, aren’t doing, anything like what it will take to smash them as they need to be smashed.

So by lack of serious, thoughtful, looking ahead kind of leadership we have made a waste of all our blood and treasure there, and told the world we cannot be trusted to do anything right, and that it’s probably smarter to cozy up to Vladimir Putin than the USA. How utterly sickening.

And it looks like we’ll follow up by abandoning the Afghans to the Taliban, bringing on another waste of our blood and billions, and condemning a lot of people, women in particular, to a life of horror and misery. Great.

What will it take for this nation to regain any respect in the world, and be able to do any real good against such clear sources of evil? I just don’t know, but I am sure it’ll start with a change in the White House in 2017 if it can change at all.

Del

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.

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  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.

Why Was Vietnam Lost to Communism?

Paul Schmehl, Independent Researcher

Millions of words have been written about the Vietnam War, or as we prefer to call it, the 2nd Indochina War. Many thousands of those words have been about why the war was lost. There are as many opinions about why the 2nd Indochina War was lost as there are writers to express them. 1

Some say it’s because we never should have been there in the first place, or because it was a civil war. Others say it’s because a bunch of peasants in sandals beat the greatest military in the world with determination and grit. Still others say it’s because it was a war for independence and any outsider would have been thrown out just as the French were.

Many of them want to teach us the lessons they think we should learn from the war yet few of them recognize or accept the facts when they are presented to them. Or they want to ignore them or interpret them to fit their preconceived notions about the war.

Many brave men and women have served this country. More than a few have given their lives in those efforts. Most of them served with honor and courage. Too many of our politicians, on the other hand, have no principles and stand for nothing. At the first sign of trouble, rather than making their case for why we need to stand and fight, these cowards will turn and run and abandon the battlefield.

Enthusiasm ebbs and flows depending upon the Presidential or political will to win. After the initial enthusiasm for the war has faded and the shooting has started, some opportunistic politicians turn inward and begin to look for openings to score political points. If they can undermine another politician by undermining the war effort, they will. The cost to the nation is seldom even a secondary consideration for them.

Anyone’s opinion, no matter how outlandish or how unproven, is more easily accepted if it helps the political cause. For a communist with political propaganda to spread, it’s fertile ground.

The end result is that military men and women can go to war, supported by an enthusiastic public and a supportive government. Then, when the war isn’t resolved quickly, men die because of gradualist tactics and no winning strategy. The mood can turn, and then those same people can betray the military a few years later while men and women are still fighting and dying far from home.

There are many reasons for this. Not least is that a large segment of the media is hostile and reports every rumor, innuendo and lie that is repeated without determining its veracity. In the 2nd Indochina War many journalists sat at their favorite bars in Saigon, the Continental, the Rex and the Caravelle, and soaked in the stories of Pham Xuan An, a North Vietnamese spy as well as other English-speaking malcontents and coup plotters.  Then they repeated those stories to an unsuspecting public. They even hired An to report and to run their local bureaus. 2 3

Antiwar activists repeated what the journalists wrote. Many were naïve and idealistic. Some were communist agents or collaborators intent on seeing the United States defeated. Some even traveled to communist countries to be briefed and supplied materials to be used in communist propaganda. 4 Then they returned to the US and repeated the propaganda as instructed. They even advised the communists on how to improve their propaganda for American audiences. 5 The politicians were eventually swayed and became antiwar. 6

The one enduring lesson of the 2nd Indochina War is this: the US cannot be trusted as an ally in long wars because of our system of government. Our country can be fully committed to a war in one year and be completely opposed to that same war just a few years later, because the political winds have shifted.

Congress passed the Tonkin Gulf resolution with two dissenting votes in the Senate and none in the House. Just ten years later Congress abandoned Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, cutting their funding and guaranteeing communist victories in all three countries. The same Senators who voted for the Tonkin resolution now voted to abandon our allies, without the slightest remorse for the millions who would die. 7

In 2013 Major General Ira Hunt Jr. (Ret) published a book, Losing Vietnam: How America Abandoned Southeast Asia, that directly addresses some of the questions about why the war was lost. Some of the information in his book is eye-opening. Much of it is information that the academic left refuses to admit.

For example, Hunt proves statistically that the ARVN forces acquitted themselves quite well, right up to the final collapse.

“Exchange Ratio. This factor is a measure of friendly efficiency. On a countrywide basis, the ratio of enemy killed to friendly killed was a respectable 4.3 for 28 January 1973 to 31 March 1974. The exchange ratio for friendly-initiated attacks was 6.7, compared to 3.5 for enemy-initiated attacks, again indicating that aggressiveness paid off.”  8

There were exceptions, of course, but those exceptions were more due to very poor decision-making on the part of President Thieu and very poor leadership from some parts of the ARVN officer corps, especially Maj. Gen. Phu, Commander of II Corps and Lt. Gen. Truong, Commander of I Corps.

Even in early 1975, when the US had reduced aid to South Vietnam to the point that ammunition was being rationed to ridiculously low levels, the South Vietnamese military still performed well.

“Yet, for all of this, the South Vietnamese soldiers were still seriously attriting the enemy and still had a strong military capability. Man for man, they were probably superior to the enemy.”  9

His analysis of the US performance after leaving Vietnam is devastating.

“The United States reneged on almost all of the pre–peace treaty promises made to South Vietnam. It did not replace major combat system losses on a one-for-one basis; it did not maintain the pre-treaty level of the stocks of ammunition; it failed to intervene militarily when North Vietnam overwhelmingly renewed its aggression; and most importantly it did not continue to provide adequate financial support.”  10

Ask most academics and they will tell you that the ARVN were unreliable, ran from the fight and could never have beaten the NVA. 11 The facts say they lost because we abandoned them in their hour of need.

Having studied the war a great deal over the past few years, I can think of many reasons that the war was lost. First and foremost, the political leadership of our country failed us in spectacular and very troubling ways. Nixon had the will to aid South Vietnam, but the Watergate scandal stripped him of his power and drove him from office. The US Congress, emboldened by his downfall, defunded aid to all our Indochina allies, dooming them to communist reprisals and tyranny.

These are some of the things our politicians did that doomed the 2nd Indochina war to failure and the three states of South Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos to decades of darkness.

  1. They refused to face reality.
    1. The communists never bargained in good faith and never had any intention of obeying the terms of any agreement they signed. 12 Yet our leaders, time and time again, caved in to their demands. For example, when we finally signed a peace agreement with the communists, we granted them two things they never should have had.
      1. The NLF, a front organization for the North, was allowed to be a party to the negotiations, giving the communists two parties to the negotiations when everyone on the planet knew they were a front. 13
      2. The NVA was allowed to keep troops in the South, an insane concession that doomed South Vietnam to years and years of war, if not defeat. 14
    2. They insisted on the neutrality of Laos and Cambodia, despite the fact that the NVA invaded both countries, established bases there from which to launch attacks in the South and built a logistics system, the Ho Chi Minh trail, that allowed them to resupply, refit and rest their troops without worry of harassment. 15 The single greatest reason the allies never defeated the NVA is because they stubbornly refused to cut off the Ho Chi Minh trail. 16 17
  2. They didn’t respect the Vietnamese. No matter what we thought of them, the Vietnamese were fighting for their nation and their freedom. We were supposed to be supporting them. In far too many cases, our leaders tried to push their ideas down the Vietnamese leaders’ throats rather than working toward a common goal. We even encouraged the coup of their elected leader, Ngo Dinh Diem, who was then assassinated, a black stain our nation will never outlive. 18
  3. They let hubris and politics overcome reason and facts and made decisions based on foolhardy criteria that led to disastrous results. 19
  4. They made promises to the South Vietnamese and then reneged on them, dooming the South to failure despite their superior performanceagainsttheNVA.
    1. President Nixon promised President Thieu that the US would provide air support if the NVA invaded after the treaty was signed. (Of course they were already there because of the awful concessions we made in the treaty.) Congress passed a law preventing air support in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, dooming all three countries. 20
    2. The US signed a treaty that, among other things, promised to replace, item for item, any war materiel that the South used up. We never lived up to that promise.
  5. They micromanaged the war, even though they had no training in military tactics, strategy or logistics. That cost many American and Vietnamese lives for little gain in the war. 21
    1. They forbade the military to attack legitimate military targets inside North Vietnam. E.g. a pilot spotted barges filled with weapons and ammunition and asked for permission to engage. He was not allowed to engage. Another pilot spotted MIG-21s sitting on the ground but was not allowed to fire on them. 22 Even operational SAM sites were off-limits to our fliers. 23
    2. They actually tipped off the enemy in advance of the targets chosen for bombing raids. This is an act of treason in war and undoubtedly cost many American lives unnecessarily. The justification was dumbfounding. Dean Rusk stated, “We didn’t want to harm the North Vietnamese people, so we passed the targets to the Swiss embassy in Washington with instructions to pass them to the NVN government through their embassy in Hanoi.” 24 No thought was apparently given to how many American lives this decision would cost.  NOTE: Further research has confirmed that this claim is untrue.  Both Peter Arnett and Tom Johnson, a White House aide who participated in all White House meetings regarding Vietnam affirmed that the statement is untrue.
  6. They utterly failed to address the propaganda war, allowing the communists free hand to turn the American politicians falsely fearful of public opinion against the war. 25
  7. They articulated utterly unrealistic goals for the war.  E.g. General Maxwell Taylor, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified at a Senate hearing that the US was not trying to defeat North Viet Nam but only to “cause them to mend their ways”. 26

There were many reasons that the 2nd Indochina War was a failure. Chief among them was the political leadership of the United States. These same mistakes continue to be made, because we have learned nothing from the 2nd Indochina War.

We’ve learned nothing from the war because historians have failed utterly in their principal task, to analyze history and dispassionately reveal its intricacies and realities. Many of the academics who are so-called experts on Vietnam were antiwar activists in their youth. (Some were even affiliated with communists.) They carried that same mindset into their studies of the war and never managed to separate their personal beliefs from their study of its history.

The result is a history replete with falsehoods, misrepresentations, suppositions and myths that teach us nothing of value about the war and its lessons.

 

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)

40 Years After – How Did They Fare?

Col. Andrew Finlayson, VVFH Founding Member

In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, there were seven ongoing communist insurgencies in SE Asia – Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines all had active communist insurgencies. Three of those insurgencies were successful in 1975 (Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia). When one considers the question of whether or not the successful communist insurgencies lived up to the promises they made to their respective populations to provide peace, social justice and economic well-being, it is instructive to look at the records of those seven countries with communist insurgencies and see how they fared over the past 40 years.

Peace: Many in the West thought that once the communists came to power and all of the US and allied forces left Vietnam, a new era of peace and harmony would exist. At least that is what the communists promised. Unfortunately, it was not to be. The communist government of the united Vietnam fought two wars with their neighbors, China and Cambodia, and tensions still persist with China over the East China Sea. A little known fact that is often overlooked by some in the West is more SE Asians died in war and the results of war in the 14 years after the last American left Vietnam than during the years when US forces were in South Vietnam. Although exact figures for the number of SE Asians who died after the communist victories in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia vary, even the conservative estimates are mind-boggling. There were 65,000 executions in Vietnam between 1975 and 1982 (Desbarats and Jackson, “The Cruel Peace,” Washington Quarterly, Fall 1985: also US Dept. of State Bulletin, Sept. 1985). The UN High Commissioner on Refugees estimated that 250,000 people fleeing Vietnam by boat died at sea. Another 165,000 died in Vietnam’s infamous “re-education camps” (Desbarats, Jacqueline. “Repression in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam: Executions and Population Relocation,” The Vietnam Debate, 1990).

According to Lt. Gen. Le Kha Phieu, the commander of Vietnamese forces in Cambodia, the Vietnamese military suffered 55,000 deaths between 1978 and when the Vietnamese ended their occupation of Cambodia (Reaves, Joseph. “Vietnam Reveals Cambodian Death Toll,” Chicago Tribune, July 1, 1988). There are no accurate figures for the number of Cambodian deaths suffered in the war, but it is safe to assume they suffered heavier casualties than the Vietnamese.

Although the claims of the Vietnamese and Chinese differ widely on the casualties produced by their 1979 war, a conservative estimate provides a range of Chinese military deaths at 7,000 to 26,000 and approximately 30,000 Vietnamese military deaths, with an additional 100,000 Vietnamese civilian deaths (Zhang Xiaoming, “China’s 1979 War with Vietnam,” China Quarterly, No. 184, December 2005, pp. 851-874). The Communist Lao government continues to this day to inflict casualties on the Hmong minority in that country with the figure of 100,000 killed since 1975 (Rummel, Rudolph. Statistics of Democide, University of Hawaii; also, “Forced and Forgotten” Lawyers’ Committee on Human Rights, 1989, p. 8). And, according to the Yale Genocide Program, the communist party in Cambodia killed approximately 1.7 million of that country’s citizens when it came to power, one of the most horrific genocidal crimes ever committed.

Social Justice: By just about any objective standard, the communist governments that came to power after 1975 have had a truly dismal record on human rights. All three have been identified by numerous impartial human rights organizations as among the worst countries in the world for human rights abuses. Vietnam, in particular, has been singled out consistently for denying its citizens basic human rights. The Committee to Protect Journalists ranks Vietnam as “one of the worst countries in the world” for censoring the press, noting that during the Vietnam War over 100 newspapers were printed in South Vietnam but only a handful exist today and all of them are tightly under government control. Freedom House noted as recently as 2014 that Vietnam was, “among the countries with the worst scores for political rights and civil liberties,” and they have reported that “Vietnam is among the ten worst abusers of internet freedom” (“If a Tee Falls,” The Economist, April 18-24, 2015. p.34). The Worker Rights Consortium reported in 2013 that Vietnam had a dismal record on such things as “forced and child labor.” The Pew Research Center has consistently ranked Vietnam among the thirty worst countries in the world for religious oppression, noting that Vietnam had, “very high government restrictions on religion.” Human Rights Watch wrote a withering appraisal of the sorry state of human rights in current day Vietnam in their 2013 “World Report,” and John Sifton of that non-partisan human rights watchdog wrote, “Vietnam is a non-democratic, one-party state, with an abysmal human rights record.”

Economic Freedom: When the communists came to power in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, they all promised a new era of economic prosperity free from the shackles of capitalism. Let’s see how that turned out 40 years later and compare the economic performance of the communist and non-communist governments of SE Asia (Sources: Pocket World in Figures, 2015 Edition, The Economist: and The World Bank).

Country GDP per head Economic Freedom Index Avg. Annual Inflation
Vietnam $1,760 50.8 10%
Laos $751 51.4 21.31%
Cambodia $709 57.5 5.26%
Thailand $5,480 63.3 2.3%
Malaysia $10,430 69.6 1.8%
Indonesia $3,560 58.5 5.2%
Philippines $2,590 60.1 3.8%

As the economic statistics above show, the countries that had successful communist insurgencies lag behind their capitalist neighbors in GDP per person, economic freedom, and inflation rates. One would think that a communist government would have solved the problem of income inequality, but the facts prove otherwise. The GINI index which the UN and the World Bank assign to countries based upon their income distribution within households shows that Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia are ranked far below such capitalist countries as Germany, Denmark, Ireland, Canada, and Norway. When one considers the endemic corruption, one party rule, income inequality, political repression, and poor management of their economies, it is difficult to make a convincing argument that communism has benefitted the people of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.