Tag Archives: Vietnam

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

Antiwar Activists and Historians: Selected Quotes

Adopted from Roger Canfield’s Comrades in Arms: How the Americong Won the War in Vietnam Against the Common Enemy—America.

SAM ANSON

24-year-old Robert Sam Anson, a Time Magazine reporter who arrived in Vietnam in early 1970 was an experienced war protester who already believed the war was colonial, immoral, illegal and unwinnable.1

Upon release by North Vietnamese Anson said, “They weren’t…my enemy. I never considered the people of Vietnam or Cambodia or Laos to be my enemy. I believed in peace…and so they treated me like a friend. …We really got to be brothers.” Press conference after a recording over Radio Hanoi.2

FRED BRANFMAN

Fred Branfman head of Project Air War, along with Howard Zinn and Tom Hayden, visited Hanoi. On November 12, 1972 he “We hope the war will end soon…if the war continues we hope you will grow up and become valiant combatants and will be able to down U.S. planes.”3 He authored “Air War the New Totalitarians.”4

Branfman later said, “I was naïve and wrong in my belief that [the Communists] would usher in a better world. Communism is obviously no better than capitalism. But I certainly have no regrets that I tried to stop the bombing.”5

RENNIE DAVIS

Rennie Davis, planner of the disruption of democratic convention6, said, “Chicago was really conceived coming out of Vietnam.” The Davis and Tom Hayden plan of March 23, 1968 described, “imperialistic role of the United States in the world.” Anti-War Union, a Rennie Davis organization,7 met the North Vietnamese in Paris where “The Vietnamese…stated they would be interested in having any information…concerning development of new weapons by the US…. Such information would be especially helpful…before such weapons were used on the battlefield.”8

RON DELLUMS

Rep. Ron Dellums (D-Berkeley) authored a joint resolution on the “terrible realities of war atrocities as an integral component of our illegal, insane and immoral adventurism in Southeast Asia.”9 On October 18, 1971, Radio Hanoi lauded Dellums and others for protests “condemning the Vietnam war as immoral.”10

BERNARDINE DOHRN

“We understood the reason the Vietnamese called the meeting was to get us moving against the war again. The Viet Cong was giving us a kick in the ass….” Bernardine Dohrn appreciated Ba’s advice, “look for the one who fights hardest against the cops.” Now the “only way we’re going to build a fighting force is if we become one ourselves.”11 Havana 1969

At Kent State on April 28, 1969, Dohrn told Kent students to arm for revolution.12

The August 23, 1969 issue of New Left Notes, Dohrn, Ayers and others wrote, their National Action is “a movement that allies with and proposed material aid to the people of Vietnam. …Its primary task the establishment of another front in the international class war –not only to defeat the imperialists in Vietnam but to BRING THE WAR HOME! 13

Travels with Bernardine. In 1967 Bernardine Dohrn14 attended a celebration in Moscow of the fiftieth anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution.15 In August 1968 Bernardine Dohrn attended a conference on “Anti-Imperialists and Anti-Capitalist Struggle” in communist Ljubljana, Yugoslavia, well attended by proclaimed communist members of SDS including. In 1969 in Cuba Vietnamese given her a ring of comradeship made from the debris of an American aircraft. 16 In March 1969 in Austin, Texas Dohrn and Bergman “star-chambered” Carl Oglesby for rejecting Marxist-Leninism and cavorting with the neo-imperialist camp. 17 In Budapest she talks with five NLF members. Two NLF told her they worked with American GIs in Saigon—“attempting to obtain information.” Military intelligence. Vernon Grizzard said, “North Vietnamese give no directions… but were pleased and interested in ‘our’ plans.”18 A German SDS conference Dohrn and comrades were demonstrating international solidarity not only on Vietnam, but also anti-imperialism and anti-capitalism.19

Bernardine Dohrn Notes of July 13-15, 1969 outline Viet Cong concerns about GI’s, their motivation, morale and involvement in antiwar movement and the objective of “work w/GIs” to “weaken the enemy.” (U.S. forces).20 U.S. troops were not very good: they were “not trained for close-in fighting,” and “140,000 U.S. troops (were) wiped out.”

At a Flint Michigan “War Conference” about the Charles “Manson family” who butchered the pregnant actress Sharon Tate, her unborn child and her houseguests, Dohrn said, “Dig it. First they killed those pigs, then they ate dinner in the same room with them, then they even shoved a fork into a victim’s stomach. Wild.”21 Mark Rudd who was there says a four-finger fork salute became a Weather trademark.22 At a secret leadership meeting in Flint, “Part of armed struggle, as Dohrn and others laid it down, is terrorism. Political assassination… and… violence…were put forward as legitimate forms of armed struggle.”23

Larry Grathwohl testified before the Senate that Bill Ayers said Dohrn had to “plan, develop and carryout the bombing of the police station in San Francisco (all by herself) and he [Ayers] specifically named her as the person committing the act.” Matthew Landy Steen and Karen Latimer attended two meetings in which the bombing of the Park Station was planned. Dohrn was the ringleader. Howard Machtinger was the bomb builder. Latimer had herself cased the police station and handled the bomb,24

DANIEL ELLSBERG

“We weren’t on the wrong side. We are the wrong side.”25

RICHARD FALK
Adopting the Hanoi view Richard Falk said, “We urge…the end of combat operations by a date certain prior to June 1, 1972… [There is] no other way to secure prisoner release.”26 Ending US air and naval power and stopping all aid to Saigon.27 Later he would say the victims of 9 11 got what they deserved.

Falk defended Karleton Armstrong, who bombed the Army Mathematics Research Center, University of Wisconsin, killing a researcher and injuring four. The New York Times reported that Falk “appealed for full amnesty for all resistors, including those who use violent tactics to oppose the war in Vietnam.” Falk “cited the Nuremberg Trials as precedent …to actively oppose the war by any means.

Falk said “free fire” zones, authorized pilots and soldiers to kill whatever moved, even farm animals and most of the victims of illegal methods being on the Vietnamese side. “I remember listening in my living room… to tear-filled stories told by returning GIs about their role … involve[ing] the deliberate killing of Vietnamese peasant women and children. … [R]ecognition of the criminality of the war policies in Vietnam cannot bring the victims back to life.” Falk cited “journalistic accounts of crimes associated with US military…28

JANE FONDA—one quote out of hundreds.

We have a common enemy—U.S. imperialism. JANE FONDA, July 1972

TODD GITLEN

Todd Gitlin revised a “Freedom Song,” “And before I’ll be fenced in, I’ll vote for Ho Chi Minh, or go back to the North and be free.”29

Todd Gitlin, whose wife Nanci Gitlin was with the North Vietnamese and the WSP in Indonesia in July 1965, proposed an SDS sponsored trip to North Vietnam: “”The proposal is to send a mission … to North Vietnam to help rebuild a hospital or school destroyed by American bombing…and to serve as American hostages against further bombing in their vicinity.”30

TOM HARKIN

After a 30 minute visit Tom Harkin described S. Vietnam’s “tiger cages,”, “They were never let out, the food was minimal …little water. … forced to drink their own urine. Most…could not stand up, their legs having been paralyzed by beatings and by being shackled to a bar. …There were buckets of lime dust …above the cages… [to] throw down on the prisoners when they beg for food and water.”31

Tom Harkin, claiming falsely, to having been a combat fighter pilot in Vietnam, was elected to Congress (1974) and the US Senate (1984). 32 Senator Tom Harkin, visiting Vietnam in July 1995, claimed the communist regime was “not allowing freedoms it should, But it [is] better than the ousted South Vietnamese regime.”33

JEFF JONES

After the 1969 SDS convention Weathermen—Mark Rudd, Jeff Jones, and Bill Ayers—sent a letter to Mao’s sycophant Anna Louise Strong.34 “Our…convention… was highly honored to hear greetings from our best-loved revolutionary writer and champion of People’s China and the thought of Mao Tse Tung. …Long life to comrade Mao Tse Tung….”35

“In August 1969 (Cuban UN) mission intelligence personnel…counseled Mark Rudd and Jeff Jones of SDS concerning slogans to be used in demonstrations planned that fall.”36

Clark Kissinger

Clark Kissinger, SDS leader, now active in the Revolutionary Communist Party USA:

“I think that the largest single failing that we made during that whole period of time was not sending a contingent to North Vietnam to fight on the North Vietnamese side. For example, to man antiaircraft gun emplacements around Hanoi. …I felt it was significantly important for the movement to take on a more treasonous edge.37

Larry Levin

On June 5, 1971, Larry Levin, Tom Hayden and others attended the Soviet funded, CP-USSR and KGB, Stockholm Conference on Vietnam.38

In Washington, Larry Levin, was Hayden-Fonda’s Indochina Peace Campaign full time lobbyist, using an office of Rep. Ron Dellums (D-CA) where they lectured 60 House staff on “American Imperialism”

Visiting Hanoi Larry Levin, staff director of the U.S. Coalition to Stop Funding the War, interviewed Paris negotiator Xuan Thuy 14 days before the fall of Saigon, broadcast on April 16, 1975. Observing thousands of South Vietnamese choosing to flee their homeland, Thuy condemns “the forcible evacuation… (the U.S. Government) …refers to as rescue of ‘evacuees.’ This is a mere U.S. hoax aimed at upsetting world public opinion and providing itself with a pretext to intervene in Vietnam.”39

DON LUCE

The Viet Cong’s official South Vietnam in Struggle, published letters of Don Luce and women prisoners 40 claiming “The women were stripped naked, transported naked, and loaded on the planes naked.” It hadn’t happened, but Don Luce believed what the Viet Cong women told him and no one else.41

Led efforts to propagandize “torturous [and brutal] conditions in the Tiger cages” at Con Son, South Vietnam. He interviewed and translated the stories of Viet Cong prisoners making claims of being doused with lime and urine, beaten and shackled, denied food and water; fed rice with sand, live lizards and beetles, and suffered paralysis from cramped quarters.42 During 1972-4 Luce’s Mobile Education Project43 toured the U.S. with mock prisoners shackled in cramped mock, bamboo, tiger cages, which in fact only existed in Vietnam as VC cells for American POWs, not at Con Son.

Gareth Porter

Gareth Porter used word for word English translations44 of North Vietnamese propaganda tracts.45 He dismissed Hanoi’s slaughter of no less than 50,000 or more during their 1954 “land reforms” as a myth.46 The slaughter at Hue of perhaps 5,800 during Tet 1968 was a fabrication.47 Gareth Porter and Edward Herman wrote, “And there is no evidence in documents, graves, or from individual witnesses which suggests any large and indiscriminate slaughter of civilians by the NLF at Hue.”48 Also a myth was Pol Pot’s “killing fields” genocide in Cambodia.49 In several articles and his 1976 book Cambodia. Starvation and Revolution, Porter denied the Khmer Rouge holocaust.50

In 1975 Ambassador Dinh Ba Thi, Cora Weiss, Gareth Porter opposing the evacuation of people and evacuating orphans from South Vietnam.”51 in Vietnamese 1000 GMT 9 Apr 75, SG, IV. 10Apr 75 L 13, South Vietnam.]

Gareth Porter denounced peace activist Joan Baez’s Appeal to expose oppression after the fall. Baez aimed to “impugn the good faith” of the Vietnamese. Hard core Hanoi defenders signed a “A Time For Healing and Compassion,” in the New York Times praising “the present government of Vietnam…for its moderation and its extraordinary efforts to achieve reconciliation among its many signators were Richard A. Falk, Don Luce, Cora Weiss, Friendshipment.52 Porter “spent days campaigning against the [Baez] letter. He spent literally hours on the phone haranguing Daniel Ellsberg…” 53

Barry Romo

Barry Romo, long-time leader of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, VVAW said that in Vietnam prisoners were tossed out of helicopters, pregnant women kicked in the gut. “The military is constructed to…instruct individual soldiers to conduct…(abuse and torture of …prisoners).”54 Barry Romo, claimed at a “Winter Soldier” conference that the racist military dehumanized the enemy and made it easy and normal to kill civilians.55

While in Hanoi VVAW’s Barry Romo claimed the “Christmas” bombing in 1972 was never to destroy military targets, but to terrorize and demoralize the Vietnamese people. Bombs falling on nonmilitary targets were not errors. The same homes and shops were hit several times.56

Mark Rudd

Mark Rudd remembers a February 6, 1968, Cuba paid57 and Soviet KGB subsidized58 visit of some 22 SDS members to Havana, “to talk with …the National Liberation Front…” The group received “souvenir rings made of extremely lightweight titanium. The number 2017 was stamped inside to indicate that each ring had been made from debris from the 2017th American plane shot down in Vietnam. I wore mine proudly for years afterwards.”59 Rudd says, “I passionately wanted to be a revolutionary like Che, no matter what the costs. …Our goal was…ending the capitalist system that caused the war.” Mark Rudd bragged to his Havana comrade Huynh Van Ba that New Left Notes of August 29, 1969 declared “Vietnam has Won.”

During the Columbia University protest led by Mark Rudd, tThe Viet Cong flew over the Math building at Broadway and 117th Street from on April 23-30, 1968.60

In 1969 Weathermen—Mark Rudd, Jeff Jones, and Bill Ayers– sent a letter to Mao’s sycophant Anna Louise Strong.61 “Our…convention… was highly honored to hear greetings from our best-loved revolutionary writer and champion of People’s China and the thought of Mao Tse Tung. …Long life to comrade Mao Tse Tung….”62

MORLEY SAFER

About the burning of Cam Ne, a fortified and bunkered Vietcong63 village, Morley Safer wrote,

“conjured up not America, but some brutal power — Germany. …To see young G.I.s, big guys in flak jackets, lighting up thatched roofs, and women holding babies running away, wailing… . Soldiers aren’t innocent….It was so shocking…it’s not how we do things…seen to be doing it. …There was a realization…that the rules had changed,” Morley Safer.64

Robert Scheer

In 1965 Robert Scheer claimed the Viet Cong were patriotic nationalists free of Hanoi and that Catholics, spies and hawks had dragged the U.S. into a civil war65 and that Diem was a puppet of Americans rather than a genuine Vietnamese nationalist and patriot.

In a 1966 Radio Hanoi broadcast Robert Scheer said the Vietnam War was untenable, violates “all the norms and decent values of this society.”66 Duncan, [Robert] Scheer,” Hanoi in English to American Servicemen in South Vietnam 1300 GMT 26 February 1966—S.]

An August 8, 1970 article of The Black Panther has a Scheer statement,

Since the peoples of the world have a common enemy, we must begin to think of revolution as an international struggle against U.S. imperialism. …Understanding the [North] Korean people’s struggle and communicating this to the American movement is a crucial step in developing this internationalist perspective.”67

Robert Scheer made a broadcast on Radio Hanoi on September 5, 1970.68 Robert Scheer said, “The US government is a criminal government that got those pilots [to] perform the highest war crimes…”

Pham Van Dong, General Giap69 received Robert Scheer quite well: “Our delegation moved …met openly with the peoples governments and were received as comrades-in-arms. We are fellow combatant against US imperialism.”

September 16, 1970 FBI agents watched Customs inspect literature and films mostly from North Korea written by Kim IL Sung and V.I. Lenin. Robert Scheer later sang the praises of the thoughts of North Korea’s Kim IL Sung in Tom Hayden’s Red Family commune at Berkeley and at Ramparts magazine.70

NEIL SHEEHAN

Sheehan’s Bright Shining Lie accepted Ho Chi Minh’s murders of Vietnamese nationalists as a necessity, called Hanoi’s butchery of 50,000 in 1956 “an unfortunate mistake” performed by Ho’s renegade underlings, dismissed the communist massacre at as a “stupid mistake” and a public relations problem. As late as July 2002 Sheehan told CSPAN that Hanoi’s “reeducation camps” were not so bad (no less than 10% died there) and, falsely, that Hanoi “didn’t shoot anyone.”71

“In some countries a Communist government may be the best government. …“Anticommunism [is] as destructive as Stalinism.”72 March 1969, NEIL SHEEHAN at First National Convocation on the Challenge of Building Peace. Neil Sheehan said that North Vietnam was a “modern dynamic society” and South Vietnam was a “dying post-feudal order.”73

After the exposure of Pham Xuan An, Hanoi’s master spy, Neil Sheehan remained a gushing fan: “My friend, who served the cause of journalism and the cause of his country with honor and distinction—fondest regards.”74 In late 1974 Neil Sheehan would tell his audience at the Army War College “The idea of fairness and objectivity is specious.”75

Oliver Stone

Oliver Stone’s error laden film “Born on the 4th of July” in 1988 portrayed Ron Kovic attacked and thrown from his wheel chair by Republicans, which he was not. Films such as Oliver Stone’s Apocalypse Now or Platoon, showing barbarous soldiers largely formed early public opinion about the Vietnam War and all its participants.

I will come out with my interpretation. If I’m wrong, fine. It will become part of the debris of history, part of the give and take.76

Cathy Wilkerson

In Hanoi Cathy Wilkerson, SDS Weather, remembers,” I absorbed the optimistic Vietnamese belief that most people deep down did not want to live by aggression and manipulation… They could …reject leadership based on brutality.” She believed Ho Chi Minh taught his people to resist “the corrosive powers of hatred and revenge.”77

DAGMAR WILSON

Dagmar Wilson, on a tour of North Vietnam for Women’s Strike for Peace, said, “We knew the Vietnamese were going to win.”78

Dagmar Wilson, Women Strike for Peace, was a member of “The Wilfred Burchett 60th Birthday Committee,”79 Burchett was a Soviet agent. Dagmar Wilson, said, “the Russians want to disarm.… They won’t have… vested interests profiting from the arms race.” After a flyover, Wilson said, “Vietnamese presence in Cambodia left no military or political marks in Cambodia.”80

Wilson described antiwar activity in the U.S. as a ‘Second front’ in …Vietnam’s fight against ‘American aggression.’…’The Vietnamese are resisting violence on their side and we resist in our way here. …We are a second front in the same war. We need each other’s support. 81

JON VOIGHT

The communists were behind organizing all of these rallies and things. … We didn’t want to believe in evil so we just hid from it.82

MARILYN YOUNG

“[T]he Vietminh acted to alleviate the famine then raging in the North by opening local granaries and distributing rice.” Marilyn Young26

The Sixties…centrally about the recognition, on the part of an ever growing number of Americans, that the country in which they thought they lived – peaceful, generous, honourable, just – did not exist and never had. The emergence of a more nuanced history of the US as opposed to the patriotic meta-narrative taught in grade school…83

Marilyn B. Young, member of the Committee of Concerned Asian Scholars and a well-read orthodox historian of the war developed a more nuanced rationalization of the Hue massacre. “A]ll the accounts agree that NLF rather than North Vietnamese units were responsible for the executions (in Hue),” 84

The central mechanism of US policy in the 1940s, as today, the pivot around which all the rest rotates, is the conviction that the particular national interests of the United States are identical with the transcendent, universal interests of humanity. The increasingly evident falsehood of this claim produces what Che Guevara once hoped for, “two, three, many Vietnams.” Thank you. Marilyn Young.

“There was no conceivable justification for the horrors daily inflicted on and suffered in Vietnam.”85

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.

The SACEI Forum

If you’re interested in all things Vietnam, you may already be familiar with the Saigon Arts, Culture and Education Institute.  If you’re not, you may want to pay them a visit.  I’ll bet you end up bookmarking the site.  Filled with interesting articles about Vietnam, many of them concerning the view of the 2nd Indochina War and its aftermath from the perspective of the Vietnamese, the site provides a unique, South Vietnamese perspective of that fateful time in history.

The South Vietnamese, more than anyone else, are painfully aware of what being “liberated” by communists means.  They suffered the loss of many loved ones, the lengthy imprisonment of others and the tragic loss of their freedom under the iron hand of their rulers.  Many have died, and continue to die, in their struggle to free their country from the yoke of tyranny.

Their mission is “1. to collect songs, tapes, books, artworks and memorabilia related to the diasporic society, 2. to promote Vietnamese arts and culture through workshops, discussions, exhibitions and shows, 3. and to research, publish articles and books about the diaspora.”  They do it quite well.  There is a cornucopia of arts and culture at the site, and the interested visitor can spend days wandering through the site enjoying what it has to offer.

The site also offers newsletters, the most recent one being #81, and a forum which is their official journal, published quarterly.   Some of our members have been honored as Man of the Year.

Visiting the site will fill you with pride and a sense of melancholy for what was lost in Vietnam.

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.

The Domino Theory

Paul Schmehl, Independent Researcher
Apr 19, 2015

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

“From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an ‘iron curtain’ has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Prague, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia; all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject, in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and in some cases increasing measure of control from Moscow.”1

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

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

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

In order to resist the growth of communism, a policy of “containment” was devised. Rather than directly confront the Soviet Union (and perhaps provoke World War III), the United States would come to the aid of any country threatened by communist movements. This aid would often be monetary but potentially could involve US military assistance as well. The policy became known as the Truman doctrine.

In a speech before Congress in 1947, Truman articulated this new doctrine.

” I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.

I believe that we must assist free peoples to work out their own destinies in their own way.

I believe that our help should be primarily through economic and financial aid, which is essential to economic stability and orderly political processes.”2

This policy, though well intentioned, would lead America into some strange alliances, supporting dictators and totalitarian regimes in an effort to stem “the red tide”. It would also lead to the flawed effort often known as the Vietnam War, or, as we prefer to call it, the 2nd Indochina War, because it involved not only Vietnam but Cambodia and Laos as well.

The question for historians is, was Truman correct? If he was, then his policy would make sense. Unchecked, communism might have taken over much of the world, isolating the United States and perhaps eventually even defeating it. To determine whether there was any merit to the belief, one need only look at the words of the Marxists.

Karl Marx articulated the concept of world domination at the close of his Communist Manifesto, published in 1848.

“The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. WORKING MEN OF ALL COUNTRIES, UNITE! “3

One might ask, in a practical sense, what did Marx mean by this? Marx explained it clearly and concisely.

“You are horrified at our intending to do away with private property. But in your existing society private property is already done away with for nine-tenths of the population; its existence for the few is solely due to its non-existence in the hands of those nine-tenths. You reproach us, therefore, with intending to do away with a form of property, the necessary condition for whose existence is the non-existence of any property for the immense majority of society.

In one word, you reproach us with intending to do away with your property. Precisely so: that is just what we intend.” 4

How did Marx thing private property could be abolished? Through the only means thought possible to do so – armed revolution to overthrow the existing order.

“In depicting the most general phases of the development of the proletariat, we traced the more or less veiled civil war, raging within existing society, up to the point where that war breaks out into open revolution, and where the violent overthrow of the bourgeoisie lays the foundation for the sway of the proletariat.”5

It’s not difficult to see why an American might be troubled by these declarations. After all, the rights of private property have been held in very high esteem in America. In fact America was founded because its people did not take kindly to the government confiscating their property. Furthermore, the idea that the existing society would be overthrown through a violent civil war reminded Americans of their own painful experience in their Civil War.

As others sought to put Marx’s theory into practice, they actively sought the overthrow of weak regimes and worked to undermine the political nature of healthy regimes. In 1901, Vladimir Lenin expressed it thus:

“History has now confronted us with an immediate task which is the most revolutionary of all the immediate tasks confronting the proletariat of any country. The fulfilment of this task, the destruction of the most powerful bulwark, not only of European, but (it may now be said) of Asiatic reaction, would make the Russian proletariat the vanguard of the international revolutionary proletariat. And we have the right to count upon acquiring this honourable title, already earned by our predecessors, the revolutionaries of the seventies, if we succeed in inspiring our movement, which is a thousand times broader and deeper, with the same devoted determination and vigour.”6

In 1920 Russia annexed Armenia and Kazakhstan, and two years later eastern Belarus, Georgia and Azerbaijan. In 1924 Russia annexed Moldavia and Mongolia. Recovering from World War I, the world took little notice. In 1944, while World War II was ongoing, Albania became a communist state.7 The Soviet Union was on the march, expanding into more and more territories.

In 1946 Stalin stated that the primary purpose of his Five Year Plan was “to assure the increasing defensive capacity of the U.S.S.R., and to equip the armed forces of the Soviet Union with the most up-to-date military techniques.”8 Since World War II had recently ended world leaders wondered what the Soviet Union was preparing to defend itself against. Victor Kravchenko, a recent defector from Soviet communism, stated that Stalin was planning on conquering the world.

Another defector, former KGB agent Anatoly Golitsyn, said he defected to

“warn the American Government about the adoption of the current grand strategy for Communism and the political role of the KGB and the use of disinformation and controlled political opposition which the strategy entailed, and…help the West neutralise KGB penetration of their governments.”9

A few years later General Jan Sejna of Czechoslovakia defected. Before his death under suspicious circumstances he testified before a US House committee.

“To understand the events of interest today, it is essential to understand that back then the main mission of all organizations in the Soviet empire was to destroy democracy and bring people everywhere under the yoke of communism.

Two wars dominated our planning.

First, there was the General nuclear war, which was the responsibility of the military. Even civilian construction projects had to be approved by the Defense Council to make certain they all contributed to the war effort.

Second, there was the political and intelligence wars, the world revolutionary war, as it was originally called. This war was also waged according to a very detailed and complex strategic plan. This war involved infiltration of the government and press, sabotage, subversion, deception, narcotics trafficking, organized crime, terrorism, compromise of political and business leaders, and many other activities, all designed to destroy competing social systems. The primary targets were all industrialized countries and the most important enemy was the United States.

I want to point out that in these and other activities, the Soviets ruled their empire with an iron hand. All directions and controls came from Moscow. People undertook independent actions at their own risk, and the penalties were without any regard for human rights or dignity.

I know, because I was there.”10

Is it any wonder then that American political leaders might seek a policy to combat a political philosophy so counter to the one on which our nation was founded?

The seeds for rebellion and communism in Southeast Asia had been planted centuries before by European colonization of several Southeast Asian countries; the British in Malaysia, Burma and Hong Kong, the Dutch in Indonesia, the Spaniards (and later America) in the Philippines and the French in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. By the outbreak of World War II, the communists had already been organizing in Southeast Asia for more than a decade.

As the Japanese swept through the area, communist organizers took advantage of the Japanese occupation to organize armies of resistance, convincing the fighters that they were fighting for their own independence. Behind the scenes they worked assiduously to eliminate, by cooption, subterfuge and assassination, the true nationalist leaders in each country.

At the beginning of World War II Russia annexed, by agreement with Germany, several Eastern European countries, including eastern Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, part of Finland and part of Romania. Shortly after the war the rest of Poland, the rest of Romania, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Belarus and eastern Germany all fell to communism and became part of the U.S.S.R. Russia wasn’t done, however. She began fomenting revolutions in Africa, South America and Southeast Asia.

After World War II the new American policy of containment would be severely tested. In 1945 a communist rebellion in the Philippines was put down, only to flare up again in 1971. It is still ongoing today. Around the same time war between the French and the Vietnamese broke out, led by the communist Viet Minh. In 1948 the British faced a communist rebellion in Malaysia that wasn’t put down until 1960, and the US had to create the Berlin Airlift to keep Berlin free from takeover by the Soviet backed East Germans. In 1949 China fell to the communists.

Two of the world’s largest nations were now firmly in the grip of Marx’s utopia and the Soviet sphere of influence was expanding rapidly. A year later, with the full support of China and the Soviet Union, North Korea invaded South Korea. Meanwhile communist “revolutions” were popping up all over, including Southeast Asia.

In 1953 the Cuban revolution broke out. By 1959 Cuba, just 90 miles from the US, was a communist country. In Southeast Asia, communism was on the march in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand. The future of Southeast Asia hung in the balance.

Dwight Eisenhower, the victorious Supreme Allied Commander of World War II, was elected in 1953, as the Korean War was nearing its end. Trouble was brewing all over the world, but particularly in Southeast Asia. In a press conference in 1954, shortly before the fall of Dien Bien Phu, which marked the end of French rule in Cochinchina, Eisenhower spoke of his concerns regarding communism. He was asked, at a press conference, to comment on the strategic importance of Indochina to America.

“You have, of course, both the specific and the general when you talk about such things. First of all, you have the specific value of a locality in its production of materials that the world needs.

Then you have the possibility that many human beings pass under a dictatorship that is inimical to the free world.

Finally, you have broader considerations that might follow what you would call the “falling domino” principle. You have a row of dominoes set up, you knock over the first one, and what will happen to the last one is the certainty that it will go over very quickly. So you could have a beginning of a disintegration that would have the most profound influences.”11

What became known as the domino theory was nothing more than a strategic description of the consequences of not implementing the Truman Doctrine. In other words, if we don’t employ the policy of containment, communism will spread throughout Southeast Asia. This policy would later become the subject of intense ridicule by the antiwar movement, parroting the Marxist propaganda line that communism presented no threat whatsoever, and those who thought it did were delusional or paranoid.

This, of course, was what the communists wanted the world to believe about them. It was not, however, what they themselves believed. Che Quevara, writing at a conference in Havana in 1967, stated:

“Let us sum up our hopes for victory: total destruction of imperialism by eliminating its firmest bulwark: the oppression exercized by the United States of America. To carry out, as a tactical method, the peoples gradual liberation, one by one or in groups: driving the enemy into a difficult fight away from its own territory; dismantling all its sustenance bases, that is, its dependent territories.

This means a long war. And, once more we repeat it, a cruel war. Let no one fool himself at the outstart and let no one hesitate to start out for fear of the consequences it may bring to his people. It is almost our sole hope for victory. We cannot elude the call of this hour. Vietnam is pointing it out with its endless lesson of heroism, its tragic and everyday lesson of struggle and death for the attainment of final victory.

There, the imperialist soldiers endure the discomforts [sic] of those who, used to enjoying the U.S. standard of living, have to live in a hostile land with the insecurity of being unable to move without being aware of walking on enemy territory: death to those who dare take a step out of their fortified encampment. The permanent hostility of the entire population. All this has internal repercussion in the United States; propitiates the resurgence of an element which is being minimized in spite of its vigor by all imperialist forces: class struggle even within its own territory.”12

Referring specifically to Vietnam he wrote:

“How close and bright would the future appear if two, three, many Vietnams flowered on the face of the globe, with their quota of death and their immense tragedies, with their daily heroism, with their repeated blows against imperialism, forcing it to disperse its forces under the lash of the growing hatred of the peoples of the world!”

In 1962, while Vietnam was drawing more and more of the Kennedy Administration’s attention, the Cuban Missile Crisis occurred. School children all over America were being taught to duck under their desks to avoid a nuclear blast, and the world was breathless with anticipation of a nuclear confrontation between Russia and the US.

With all of these events taking place, and the communists talking of a worldwide revolution, it was hardly inconceivable that the next shoes to drop would be in Southeast Asia. Only a fool would have thought otherwise, and only a communist would argue that it was a ridiculous policy. All of Southeast Asia looked to the US to see how they would react to the threat. Yet just a few years later, the antiwar movement in America would claim that the domino theory was silly, just as the communists wanted them to.

The argument made today is that “the dominos didn’t fall, therefore the theory was wrong”. Very few ever seem to ask the question, why didn’t the dominos fall?

Had Ho succeeded, in 1954, in turning Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos into communist countries (as he did twenty years later), Thailand would have been surrounded by communist countries on its northern and eastern borders as well as part of its southern border. Had the British not succeeded in putting down the communist “revolution” in Malaysia, she would have been completely surrounded on her southern border as well. Had the Philippines fallen, ocean access to all of Southeast Asia would have been in the hands of the communists.

This reality was not lost on the Thais. They asked for, and received, US help. Military and CIA advisors were sent to Thailand to shore up the regime and train the Thai troops. In 1965 fighting broke out in Thailand between communists and the state. However, the communists couldn’t commit the necessary forces to defeat Thailand because they were still needed elsewhere – in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam – and they were defeated.

The Thai government formed two groups to combat the communists, the Communist Suppression Operation Command (CSOC) under command of Gen. Saiyud Kherdpol and the Police Aerial Reinforcement Units (PARUs). The CIA worked closely with both, providing training and support as they staved off an invasion of North Vietnamese troops supporting local “guerillas”.13

About the same time the communists in Indonesia attempted a coup. Their attempt was put down by the Indonesian military. An estimated 500,000 people were killed, and the Indonesian Communist Party was effectively destroyed. Had the US not entered Vietnam, these events might have turned out quite differently. In 1965, South Vietnam was on the verge of collapse, thanks in no small part to the foolhardy US support of the Diem coup.

Had Thailand fallen, there would have been nothing to stop the advance of communism throughout Southeast Asia. Had Indonesia also fallen, water access to the Straits of Malacca would have been unavailable to allied forces. However, rather than reinforce the fighting in Thailand or support the coup attempt in Indonesia, the bulk of communist forces were tied up in Vietnam. South Vietnam, with the assistance of her allies, successfully tied up the North Vietnamese sufficiently to buy time for the rest of Southeast Asia to establish stable non-communist governments. Americans, both military and CIA worked in all of these countries assisting to stave off the many communist invasions.

Indonesia’s longtime Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, wrote in his book, From Third World to First:

“Although American intervention failed in Vietnam, it bought time for the rest of Southeast Asia. In 1965, when the US military moved massively into South Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines faced internal threats from armed communist insurgents and the communist underground was still active in Singapore. Indonesia, in the throes of a failed communist coup, was waging konfrontasi, an undeclared war against Singapore. The Philippines was claiming Sabah in East Malaysia. Standards of living were low and economic growth slow.”14

“America’s action enabled non-communist Southeast Asia to put their own houses in order. By 1975 (when the Vietnam war ended) they were in better shape to stand up to the communists. Had there been no US intervention, the will of these countries to resist them would have melted and Southeast Asia would have most likely gone communist. The prosperous emerging market economies of Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) were nurtured during the Vietnam War years.”15

The evidence shows that not only was the domino theory valid, but that America’s intervention in Vietnam bought the time necessary for democracy to plant seeds in Southeast Asia, effectively stemming the tide of communism with the tragic loss of three countries and millions of lives. Many, many lives were saved due to the failure of communism to spread past Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

None of this excuses America’s shameful abandonment of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos to the communist butchers. Had America lived up to her promises, perhaps no dominos would have fallen. (In Cambodia alone, the communists murdered 1.7 million people.16 In Vietnam, an estimated 1 million died as a result of communist suppression after the war. In Russia and China, almost 100 million have died due to communism. Scholars will argue about the precise numbers, but there is no disputing the fact that communism has caused millions and millions of deaths.)17

D. Gareth Porter’s Deceptions on the Hue Massacre

Paul Schmehl, Independent Researcher

Feb 1, 2015

In academics it’s considered bad form to be directly critical of a fellow academe. Rather than criticize the scholar, criticism should be confined to his or her work. This convention works well when scholars have honest disagreements or differ over the meaning of the evidence.

However, when a scholar chooses deliberately to lie to further an agenda, the convention should no longer apply. Unless scholarship is based on evidence that is made freely available to other scholars, it’s impossible for an independent observer to know the truth. That’s why a scholar’s reputation for open and impartial handling of data is so crucial. The public depends upon it.

When a scholar is dishonest, the consequences can be far-reaching. In the case of the Hue Massacre, D. Gareth Porter successfully hid a major massacre from the American public and by doing so may have changed the course of the war. Had the news of the massacre, in its full depth, been made common public knowledge, the American people may have rallied behind the effort to maintain a free South Vietnam rather than becoming disheartened and willing to abandon our ally. (Had the media accurately reported the massacre with fervor akin to that with which they reported on My Lai – that occurred two months after the Hue massacre, the same might be true. Porter gave them the out they needed to ignore it.)

There are some hints that point to the reasons for Porter’s deceit. While attending college pursuing graduate work, Porter joined a group named The Committee of Concerned Asian Scholars. He eventually became its Chairman. The Committee of Concerned Asian Scholars was a communist front group that was formed for the express purpose of opposing the brutal aggression of the United States in Vietnam” and to encourage “anti-imperialist research.”1 It’s successor organization, Critical Asian Studies has made plain its admiration for socialism – “the historical tradition of socialist thought remains a source of inspiration for some of us…”2

By 1972 Porter was the Chairman of CCAS3 and had been actively involved in its anti-war activities for four years. His admiration and advocacy for communism would eventually lead to his embarrassment when he was forced to admit that he was wrong about the Cambodian holocaust.4 He still adamantly insists that he was right about Vietnam, however, despite manifest evidence that he was wrong.5 (This article will focus on his “errors” regarding the Hue Massacre. A future article will deal with his handling of the North Vietnam land reform.)

In 1972 a problem confronted the communists. American officials, in order to promote support for South Vietnam (after America began withdrawing its combat troops), began pointing out the disastrous consequences that would befall South Vietnam if the communists won. A bloodbath was predicted. It was said that millions of lives would be lost. The administration cited the North Vietnam land reform and the Hue massacre as evidence of an impending bloodbath if the communists won. (In the end, that’s exactly what happened, but that was irrelevant to the communists. They had to win the propaganda war in order to further weaken the already dissolving American support for South Vietnam.)

To combat the warnings of a bloodbath, the communists needed an American champion to grant them plausible deniability. D. Gareth Porter rose to the occasion, penning articles and letters to the editor and testifying before Congress. It wasn’t long before he was being widely quoted6 by the American media and some members of Congress. The fact that he was an anti-war activist and pro-communist was conveniently left out of his bio. (To be sure, Porter was not the only tool of the communists.7 Marilyn Young and Noam Chomsky were two of the more notable ones.)

Some of Porter’s writings dealt with the North Vietnamese land reform, a program that was hotly debated. Some claimed deaths in the millions. Others claimed as few as 5000. Porter stated that “800 to 2500 executions” would be a “reasonable estimate”.

To understand the depth of Porter’s deceptions, it is necessary to understand what happened in Hue during Tet in 1968. An in depth examination has already been done8, so a summary here should suffice.

The Tet offensive in Hue began January 30, 1968 and ended February 26, 1968. During the offensive the communists maintained complete control of some areas of Hue. Within hours of the attack’s beginning, communists began executing civilians. By the time they were driven out the death toll of executions surpassed 5000.

Porter first wrote (to my knowledge) about Hue in a Christian Century article co-authored with Len Ackland entitled “Vietnam: The Bloodbath Argument”.9 In the article, Porter relied on Ackland’s firsthand knowledge of the situation in Hue. Ackland traveled to Hue and interviewed Vietnamese there. However, his account departs dramatically from the known facts.

The story of Gia Hoi’s occupation reveals that the mass executions perpetrated there were not the result of a policy on the part of a victorious government but rather the revenge of an army in retreat.

Note how Porter admits here that there were mass executions, a claim he would later state was false. In fact, he later called the Hue massacre a “myth”. His lies about what happened in Hue developed over time as his arguments became more accepted by the media.

In contrast to this account, Buddhist priests who were in Gia Hoi during the siege reported hearing pistol and automatic weapon fire and the screams of victims every day and every night.10 The reporter’s account also includes details that refute Ackland’s claim.

Many of the victims whose bound and mutilated bodies this writer saw exhumed from the field and from the nearby school yard had been sentenced to death by communists people’s courts because they worked for the local government.

Others received the death penalty because the communists consider them “social negatives” – their influence and standing in the community regarded as a potential threat to communist domination.

Still others were picked at random and sentenced to death on flimsy charges. The Hue city files are filled with the names of people “convicted” of such crimes as having a brother or son in the South Vietnamese Army, refusing to surrender a radio, hiding away to avoid impressment into the liberation forces, failure to attend a political re-education meeting, protesting when a family member or friend was arrested or simply showing a bad attitude.

Extensive documentation of the deliberate nature of the communist executions is also provided in my previous article, The Hue Massacre: A Study of Communist Policy and Tactics. Suffice it to say that Len Ackland’s account and the evidence do not agree at all. Whether Porter was inclined to believe Ackland because of his bias or was well aware of Ackland’s inaccuracy but found it useful is an unanswered question.

Porter’s next article on Hue was a monograph entitled “The Administration’s Bloodbath Argument”. Co-authored with Porter’s academic advisor, George Kahin, the monograph was published in July, 1970.11 Here Porter began to attack Douglas Pike’s account of the massacre in Hue.12 He began as he often did, by insinuating that Pike’s account was biased because he was a US government employee. (Denigration of his opponents is a common theme in Porter’s work.)

He then referred to Ackland’s account to claim that nothing Pike had reported could possibly be true. Having recounted the basics of Ackland’s account, he went on the offensive against Pike.

The U.S.I.A. “hypothesis” betrays ignorance of the military and political situation which existed in Hue at that time.

Accusing the foremost scholar on Vietnam of ignorance reveals an aspect of Porter’s personality. As he himself later admitted, he suffers from, “intellectual arrogance”.13 Once Porter sinks his teeth into an opponent, he continues to savage them.

The assertion that the Front wished to “eliminate” religious and intellectual leaders in order to “reconstruct the social order” is absurd.

Never mind that Pike documented this absurdity in detail from captured communist documents. In Porter’s mind, it’s an absurdity. This is another aspect of Porter’s work – ridicule the opponent’s evidence as if it’s not even worthy to be addressed.

Porter summarized his argument with this.

United States officials have recently publicized a statement by Tran Van Dac, a former Colonel in the People’s Liberation Army, who defected to the Saigon Government in 1968, to the effect that there are “three million South vietnamese on the Communist blood debt list.” But while Dac made this vague and sweeping statement in a Saigon-sponsored press conference in 1969, in an earlier private interview with U.S. officials the previous year,
he had given a very different account of the Communist plan for dealing with former enemies. Asked what would happen to officials of the Saigon government if the Communists succeeded in South Vietnam, Dac’s answer in May 1968 was, “They would imprison them,
send them to concentration camps under this or that pretext …. to reeducate them…so that they can adapt themselves better to the new social order …. former high Officers, educated people, land- lords, or property owners … are carefully watched.” He made no suggestion that there would be a “bloodbath.”* If “reeducation” seems harsh as a postwar policy, it should be borne in mind that it represents an effort to consolidate power without a liquidation of former enemies.

No definitive study has ever been done regarding deaths of South Vietnamese after the communist takeover. Estimates have ranged from a few thousand to several hundred thousand. The words of Col Dac, however, came true; many were imprisoned or sent to re-education camps, some for twenty years or more and many are still “carefully watched” even now, forty years later. Porter’s minimizing of the impact on human lives from this sort of totalitarian treatment is disgusting.

It is also part and parcel of his articles. Those things he can’t wave away with the sweep of his hand he deals with by minimizing their impact and claiming inconsistencies that do not exist.

There is no conflict between Dac’s “blood debt list” and his earlier statements regarding the details of what would happen to those on the list. Porter seeks to imply a difference with his “very different account” statement, another of his favorite tactics. At this point, Porter was just getting warmed up.

His next article “The 1968 ‘Hue Massacre’” was published in the June 24, 1974 edition of the Indochina Chronicle. In this article Porter begins by calling the massacre a myth.

Six years after the stunning communist Tet Offensive of 1968, one of the enduring myths of the Second Indochina War remains essentially unchallenged: the communist “massacre” at Hue.

By this time Porter had assembled what appeared to be hard evidence of the “myth”.

“The elusiveness of Saigon’s figures is significant in the view of the testimony of Alje Vennema, a doctor working for a Canadian medical team at Quang Ngai hospital, who happened to be in the Hue province hospital during the Tet Offensive and who made his own investigation of the grave sites.12 (Note 12 reads Alje Vennema, “The Tragedy of Hue,” unpublished manuscript, 1968, pp. 19-23. )

Vennema agreed that there were 14 graves at Gia Hoi High School but said there was a total of only 20 bodies in those graves. Vennema also stated that the other two sites in Gia Hoi district of Hue held only 19 bodies rather than the 77 claimed by the government, and that those in the area of the imperial tombs southwest of Hue contained only 29 bodies rather than 201 as claimed in the official report.

According to Vennema, therefore, the total number of bodies at the four major sites discovered immediately after Tet was 68, instead of the officially claimed total of 477. Then, too, while he did not claim that none of these bodies was the victim of NLF execution, he said that the evidence indicated most of them were victims of fighting in the area, rather than of political killings. In the case of the sites in the imperial tombs area, he stated that most of the bodies were clothed in the threads of uniforms. He reported having talked with nearby villagers who said that from February 21 to 26 there had been heavy bombing, shelling and strafing in the immediate area. And, in contrast to the government claims that many victims had been buried alive there, Vennema said all the bodies showed wounds.

The circumstances of the official version — its political warfare origins, the refusal to allow confirmation by the press from first-hand observation, the questionable statistics — and the conflicting testimony of a medical doctor who was present at the time all point to misrepresentation of the truth by the Saigon government in its April 1968 report. In fact, the evidence suggests that the Political Warfare Battalion may have inflated the number of actual executions by the NLF by a factor of ten or more.”

The falsity of Porter’s statements is breathtaking. He departs completely from reality and makes up numbers and draws conclusions from those falsehoods that have no relation to what took place in Hue. (Since he is citing Vennema’s unpublished manuscript, perhaps he thought it would never be published and therefore his lies would never be uncovered.)

On page 129 of his book, The Vietcong Massacre at Hue,14 Vennema wrote, “At the front of the school there were fourteen trenches containing 101 bodies.” (Not 20!) However, Vennema also wrote of bodies in graves beside and behind the school. Although he does not state how many graves there were, he places the total bodies (front and back) at 203, more than ten times the number Porter claims he wrote! Apparently what Porter did was take Vennema’s numbers and divide them by ten.

The first site to be discovered was in the city district of Gia Hoi at the Gia Hoi Secondary School, located on the edge of the populous district. The people who lived near here were aware of its existence for they had heard shots, and had known of the existence of the tribunal’s holding court. Some had even managed to hide after their first appearance at the tribunal and subsequently survived. Others had escaped across the river. At the front of the school there were fourteen trenches containing 101 bodies. During the ensuing three days, however, other bodies were found in front, to the side, and behind the school. The whole school site eventually yielded 203 bodies of young men, older men, and women. Among the younger men were eighteen students, a number of whom had joined the Front after the anti-government struggle and had retreated to the mountains. This time they had returned and were joined by other students forced to participate by the Front. When the Front prepared to leave, the students were given the choice of returning with the Front to the mountains or staying behind. Those who chose to stay behind were shot and buried in the yard. Other students from Gia Hoi, not associated with the Front suffered a similar fate. Some graves were two, some three weeks old; others were fresh. It fell to South Vietnamese marines to uncover the first bodies on February 26, 1968.

In toto Vennema accounts for 2397 bodies, well over a number that would bespeak of a myth. In fact, Vennema’s account essentially agrees with Pike’s, a man Porter excoriates as “ignorant” and a “media manipulator par excellence”. In the first three of the four phases of discovery, Pike lists 2152 bodies, but he inexplicably “loses” 285 bodies in the first phase. If those were added to his 2152, his total would be 2437, just 40 more than Vennema’s.

Vennema left Vietnam before the fourth phase of discoveries, which took place in November of 1969. Porter, writing of these later finds (like Da Mai Creek), dismissed them as battle deaths.

An eyewitness told a different story.15

A repulsive odor in the sea breeze could be smelled miles away. The group walks towards the mass grave, at a distance of 500 meters, a horrific view appeared. It was visibly an evil painting found in fiction stories. Along the shore were the dead people. They were dead standing, where bamboo stick pierced from the butt through the throat. Around 40 groups, each group comprises 5 to 10 cadaves. Beneath them were other’s bodies. The head chopped off, their legs hacked, and their tummy slashed, ..

Underneath the sand dunes, sipping wet (it was raining for the whole month), were those buried alive. Both hands tied tightly at their back, their faces faced to each other just like they were chatting. Some still had their hat on. Another with a cigarette butt stuck to the cap. All bodies turned dark purple, dripping and oozing with yellowish, horrendously smelt. Lastly found shallow graves, all shallowly covered with sand. Legs and hands sticking out. There were 4 to 5 dead people in each grave. Their hands were pierced with barbed wire. Victims seemed being bludgeoned to death. The faces were smashed; all decomposing badly, it’s hard to identify.

These could hardly be described as battle deaths. Nor could the 500 who died at Dai Mai Creek. Eventually 428 were identified, yet Porter claims there were 250 and that they were killed by American bombs. The eyewitnesses who escaped disagree with him.16

They tied our hands at the back with telephone lines, one by one. Then 20 persons were chained up together to make a group. There were more than 25 groups, I counted. One local went around looking at each of us then said to them (VCs): “Can’t find Trong He and Phu Ro”. Trong, Mr. He’s son, and Phu were 2 young men at Phu Cam, well trained in martial art and being looked-up by the bad guys (trouble makers) around Hue. Trong and Phu followed the popular soldiers retreated when the cathedral was invaded by these VC forces.

All the detainees were innocent civilians.

They ordered us to go through the road, left of Dan Nam Giao, round Thien An monastery, to Khai Dinh’s tomb, around the back of Nam Hoa district office, out to the river Ta Trach, the up stream of Perfume river. When reaching the river bank, VC asked us to cut down the bamboos making rafts to cross the river, to gather again near by King Gia Long’s tomb, in the Dinh Mon and Kim Ngoc range. From there, we started to get deep into the jungle. Night falls. It’ s very cold, … climbing up, going down hill, wading across creeks, … Taking us were about 30 VC cadres, they used torches to lead the way, we walked through thick and dense jungle of bamboo and old trees.

By mid night, the communist soldiers made us stop, for a rest. Each of us was given a handful of rice. We guessed that we had traveled for over 10 kms. Coiled up, head down, under the rain, we tried to get some sleep to have energy to continue. Suddenly, I overheard two VC cadres talking to each other:
”In 15, 20 minutes, we’ll kill them all”

I was trembling. Reaching close to my friend sitting right in front of me:
”Try to get loose and escape! In 15 minutes we’ll all be shot dead!
It rains. The wire was slippery, after a while, we managed to free ourselves but stayed still, scared of being found out. I whispered:
”When I tap gently on your back, let’s run!”

The VC woke us up, in a loud voice to make all of us heard, one of them said: “We are arriving to the reform camp. Those who have jewellery, money, watches, cigarette lighters, … give them all to us, you are not allowed to keep them. You will have them back once you have been reformed and completed the learning.”

So they robbed us of everything and put all into the knapsacks. The one who stood close to me had on him a dozen of radios taken from those in the city (down town). The rifle on one hand, things taken on the other, he slowed down, walked behind the others by a distance. When we started going down hill, hearing the running water, I tapped gently on the shoulder of my friend. Both of us, pulled out our hands, threw ourselves out of the line. I gave the communist cadre (carrying the radios) a hell kick. He tumbled over! We hurled into the jungle …

It was dark, in the middle of the jungle; the VC did not chase us.

Once the group had gone away for a while, we crawled out, walked back to the other direction. In about 15 to 20 minutes, we heard from the creek down below the resounding of AK gun fire, explosions of grenades, which were thundering, flaring up a corner of the jungle. Crying, screaming and howling voice were heard from far away … horrible!

It was around midnight or half past 12, on the 8th day of Tet.

The eighth day of Tet would be February 6th. The communists fought in Hue for three more weeks after that. Claiming, as Ackland did, that these deaths occurred at the end by retreating Viet Cong exacting revenge defies logic.

One could quibble over the numbers. The extant records are imprecise and lacking in detail. But one cannot quibble that mass executions at the hands of the communists took place, that those executions were planned in advance or that they included many people whose only crime was being a southerner.

Porter did not quibble. He doubled down. He next wrote The Myth of the Hue Massacre.17 Porter began by calling the story of the Hue massacre the “triumph of propaganda over journalistic professionalism”. He had turned the story on its head. Truth was now propaganda and propaganda was now journalism.

Porter then attacks what he claims is the evidence.

The basic documentation supporting the myth consists of a report issued by the Saigon government in April 1968, a captured document made public by the U.S. Mission in November 1969, and a long analysis published in 1970 by USIS employee Douglas Pike.

Like Porter’s other claims, this one doesn’t withstand scrutiny either. In addition to the documents Porter cites, there are the following:

  1. A 3500-page document issued on Jan 26th, 1968 by the Tri-Thien-Hue Political Directorate (cited in Pike’s study).
  2. A directive issued by the provincial administration on 2/1/68 (cited by Vennema)
  3. A liberation radio announcement released the same day (cited by Vennema)
  4. A Radio Hanoi announcement released the same day (cited in Pike’s study)
  5. The testimony of a VC commander in June 1969 about the Da Mai Creek massacre (cited in Pike’s study)
  6. A statement by the Thua Thien-Hue People’s Revolutionary Committee issued on Feb 14th (cited by Vennema)
  7. A captured communist document dated Feb 22nd (cited by Pike)
  8. A captured communist document dated Feb 25th (cited by Pike)
  9. A report written by a political officer of the People’s Revolutionary Party immediately after the battle (cited by Pike)
  10. A document written by a senior political officer and marked “ABSOLUTE SECRET” (cited by Pike)
  11. A March 68 book released by the official Hanoi press (cited by Vennema)
  12. A captured communist document dated Mar 13th (cited by Pike)
  13. A report written by the commander of the 6th Regiment on March 30 (cited by Stephen Hosmer in a Rand report)
  14. An Apr 68 liberation radio broadcast (cited by Vennema)
  15. A Dec 68 report issued by the Hue City People’s Revolutionary Party Central Committee (cited by Pike)
  16. An April 69 Radio Hanoi broadcast (cited by Vennema)
  17. A communist diary captured by US Army troops (cited by Hosmer)

With this much evidence, it is necessary to employ sophism to hide the truth. Porter does it quite well, citing unnamed people who supposedly told some third party something that supports his claims and ridiculing everyone who disagrees with him.

Porter also cites Vennema again, making the following claim:

according to Vennema most of the bodies were clothed in military uniforms and had wounds suggesting that they were victims of the fighting.

Vennema says nothing of the kind.  For example:

Her body was found with legs and hands tied, a rag stuffed into her mouth; she had no obvious wounds. (p.129)

His body was found, arms tied, shot through the head, in a trench with seven others at the pagoda. (p. 131)

Some of the corpses had wounds, some had their arms tied behind their backs with barbed wire, and some had their mouths stuffed with rags. (p. 132)

All had their hands tied. (p. 133)

It contained 25 bodies; all had been shot in the head, hands tied behind the back, and were noted when a hand was sticking halfway out of the ground. (p. 133)

His hands were tied, as stated by South Vietnamese villagers who uncovered the corpse, there were no wounds to his body, hence it was supposed that he had been buried alive. (p. 134)

The fact that no graves of women and children were found in the area would substantiate the allegation that the victims were killed in cold blood and not during military activity. If they had been caught during a shelling, strafing, or bombing raid some would have been wounded and had survived; others would have been dismembered. (p. 135)

His body showed no sign of injury; his hands were tied behind his back. (p. 135)

Some of the bodies were of uniformed men, but four were definitely civilians, one of whom was a student. (p. 136)

His body was found on March 1st; his hands were tied, and he had a bullet wound through his neck which had come out through the mouth. Of the many others, most had been shot and tied; there were several women among them, but no children. (p. 136)

Here lay the bodies of their loved ones; their hands had been tied behind the back, and they had been shot through the head with the bullet having exited at the mouth. (p. 136)

At this site 110 bodies were uncovered; again most had their hands tied and rags stuffed into their mouths. All were men, among them fifteen students, several military men, and civil servants, young and old. (p. 137)

Among them were civil servants and uniformed personnel with bullet wounds of head and neck. Most bodies were of the male sex. There were a few women and children, and a few exhibited more than one type of wound. Others included were those of Vietnamese Catholic priests, brothers, and novices of the surrounding villages missing for over twenty months since the events of February, 1968. (p. 138)

Over seventy bodies were found, most of them beyond recognition, mostly males with some women and children. Identification showed that they came from the surrounding villages and that some had died presumably during warfare as they had various types of wounds and dismemberments; others exhibited a single wound to the head and neck, the victims of execution. (p. 139)

This brief exposition of the many vivid descriptions in Vennema’s book should prove conclusively that Porter lied about what Vennema wrote. A cynical person might ask Porter how a victim of warfare would end up with their hands and feet tied or with a rag stuffed in their mouth and no visible wounds. I’m certain Porter would explain it as an anomaly and ignore the fact that over 5000 people dead this way is no anomaly.

As Porter is closing his argument, he writes this:

Not only the warmakers, but many other leaders and intellectuals want the Communists to be nefarious,

This smacks of the childish complaints of a youngster who has been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. No one wants the communists to be nefarious. They just are. It’s incredible that a man as educated as Porter can dismiss, with a wave of his hand, the deaths of 1.7 million in Cambodia, 20 million in the Soviet Union and 40 million in China as if they were of little consequence. Is it any wonder he can dismiss a mere 5000 in Hue?

Download a Word 2011 copy of this article.