Category Archives: Commentary

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

The Wrong Side Won

By Uwe Siemon-Netto

At the height of the Vietnam War, Ralph White tried to join the U.S. Marine Corps but was turned down because of an eye injury he had sustained playing tennis. As the fighting drew to a tumultuous close in April 1975, however, 27-year-old White was in Saigon, acting true to the leatherneck motto “Semper fidelis” – only by civilian means.

By cajoling, twisting arms and cleverly bypassing red tape, White found an ingenious way to rescue 112 Vietnamese employees of Chase National Bank and their family members: he simply adopted all of them in the presence of U.S. justices of the peace on emergency duty at Saigon’s Tan Son Nhat Airport. In the face of an impending defeat of the United States’ South Vietnamese ally, this American civilian who had wanted to be a Marine achieved a small but remarkable victory.

Four days later, on April 30, Soviet-made T-54 tanks completed the communist conquest of South Vietnam by bursting through the gate of the presidential palace in Saigon. Inside, newly appointed South Vietnamese President Duong Van “Big” Minh offered to transfer power. North Vietnamese Col. Bui Tin replied, “There is no question of your transferring power … You cannot give up what you don’t have.”

To me, a German, these words sounded identical to the terms the Allies imposed on my country in 1945 when I was still a child: unconditional surrender. The irony was that while at the end of World War II a manifestly evil government was forced to surrender this way, the opposite was true 30 years later in Saigon: a totalitarian regime with deeply inhumane features bullied a much more humane – though faulty – opponent into capitulating unconditionally, and the world cheered.

Having covered Vietnam for West Germany’s largest publishing house over a period of five years, I concluded that the wrong side had won. There was no reason to rejoice. Yet when President Gerald Ford proclaimed at Tulane University in New Orleans that the Vietnam War “is finished as far as America is concerned,” one week before South Vietnam was finally crushed, he received a standing ovation.

The reaction should have been more muted given the grim fate to which vast numbers of South Vietnamese had been delivered. For them, the real Calvary only started with the communist victory. Between 200,000 and 400,000 drowned while fleeing their country on fishing boats and makeshift vessels, according to the U.N. High Commission for Refugees. Some 65,000 were executed. One million ended up in concentration camps, where 165,000 were tortured or starved to death. Among those killed were 30,000 whose names had been on lists of CIA informants left behind at the embassy, National Review reported.

Proportionately speaking, Ralph White outperformed the U.S. government: he got all his people out, just as he intended to when he volunteered to be sent from Bangkok to Saigon as acting general manager of Chase’s Vietnam branch two weeks before Saigon fell. In his report to his boss at Chase, he later wrote that “maintaining an American liaison between bank and embassy to ensure maximum coordination with evacuation planning” was the “sole purpose” of his assignment.

“Reading my report makes me pretty proud of that 27-year-old man,” says White, who is now a writer in Litchfield, Conn.

Almost four decades after the collapse of South Vietnam, I came across another moving story about an American civilian acting as bravely and faithfully to her values as any good soldier. Patricia Palermo was a blonde Pan Am stewardess from Nebraska who volunteered to serve as a purser on shuttle flights from Guam to Saigon, flying “fresh-faced, rosy-cheeked and high-spirited young men” to the war zone, as she recalled in a recent interview. “When I saw them again 12 months later, they looked like 50-year-old men. Many were wounded and crippled, some drugged out. They were not allowed to board until after the other ‘returnees’ had been loaded in the cargo bay – those in zinc coffins.”

Palermo, who now lives in New York, said in a telephone interview that she was so emotionally shaken by these flights that she blocked them out of her mind until 1980, when she watched on television a live report of the first parade honoring Vietnam veterans. “I immediately rushed out of my house and joined in,” she recalled.

The most dramatic part of her flying career came during the last days of the war, when Pan Am took at least 2,000 babies, mostly Asian-Americans due for adoption in the United States out of Saigon. “We weren’t allowed to leave the aircraft because of enemy fire, but we could see how some desperate mothers threw their children over the fence at Tan Son Nhat to be brought to safety by our crews. I remember someone handing me two babies hidden in a basket. Once I counted more than 400 babies on our Boeing 747. They were everywhere, even in the luggage racks above the seats, and they were so still, always so still ….”

I watched the fall of Saigon on television in my apartment in Paris with mounting grief and anger. I marveled at the beautiful execution of Operation Frequent Wind, which evacuated the last 1,373 Americans, plus 5,595 Vietnamese and other nationals, in helicopters primarily from a landing pad on top of the U.S. military attache’s office at the U.S. Embassy April 29-30. I had been there seven years earlier during the Tet Offensive and watched from across the street as the communists’ attack on the embassy was defeated. Now they were about to triumph; hence my grief.

My anger, though, was directed primarily at the students and intellectuals cheering the communist victory as an act of liberation. They were doing this everywhere: across the River Seine on the Left Bank; in my own country, West Germany; and in the United States. Watching a sea of red-and-blue Viet Cong flags on TV made me feel nauseated, because to me these colors stood for the heinous massacres I had witnessed in Vietnam.

One night in the Central Highlands, for example, I happened upon the mutilated corpses of a village chief, his wife and their 12 children, all tortured by communist henchmen. As the villagers told me, the family was killed because the chief had stayed loyal to the Saigon government. That was in 1965. In 1967, an election year, the Viet Cong committed at least 100,000 such acts of terror against civilians to prevent them from going to the polls.

When French newscasters announced the end of South Vietnam, I instinctively reached for a book that had lain on my bedside table in the Continental Palace hotel in Saigon and accompanied me to Paris: “The Two Vietnams.” I had met its author, French political scientist Bernard B. Fall, many times in Saigon and Washington before he was killed by a Viet Cong mine. He was, to me, one of the world’s most astute experts on Indochina. One passage in his book has haunted me ever since. Fall quotes North Vietnam’s chief strategist, Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, who died Oct. 4 at the age of 102, as telling the political commissars of one of his divisions: “The enemy (meaning the West) … does not possess … the psychological and political means to fight a long-drawn-out war.”

Giap never doubted America’s military capabilities but believed he had found democracy’s Achilles’ heel, as Fall explained: “In all likelihood, Giap concludes, public opinion in the democracy will demand an end to the ‘useless bloodshed,’ or its legislature will insist on knowing for how long it will have to vote astronomical credits without a clear-cut victory in sight. This is what eternally compels the military leaders of democratic armies to promise a quick end to the war – to ‘bring the boys home by Christmas’ – or forces the democratic politicians to agree to almost any kind of humiliating compromise rather than to accept the idea of a semi-permanent anti-guerrilla operation.”

Was this dire analysis borne out by Washington’s failure to respond, as promised, “with decisive military force” to any North Vietnamese violation of the 1973 Paris accords, I wondered? The accords had allowed Hanoi to keep 80,000 regular troops in the South, but nothing happened when that number increased to 200,000. As the Vietnam drama unfolded so calamitously, I also wondered how we in the media, including the overwhelming majority of us not overtly or tacitly siding with the Viet Cong, failed to make our readers recognize the most incontrovertible evidence that most South Vietnamese never favored the communists: from the start we correspondents had watched them flee the Viet Cong.

They fled neither across the Ben Hai River into North Vietnam nor into the so-called liberated zones – “liberated” by the communists. Until the very end, the refugees gravitated to the shrinking parts of the country controlled by Saigon; 2 million poured into Da Nang. The roads to Saigon were so clogged with fleeing families that they slowed down the North Vietnamese advance, and when it was over, “boat people” not only sailed away from the south in huge numbers but from northern ports as well. Never before in Vietnamese history has there been such a mass exodus from that country – not in Chinese, French or American days. And this was supposed to be liberation? Somehow, I suspected then, and am convinced now, that logic was one of the casualties of the Vietnam War. And so was intellectual honesty.

One image flashing across my TV screen in Paris stayed with me for decades because it punctuated these reflections. It showed South Vietnamese Vice President Nguyen Cao Ky at the controls of an UH-1A (Huey) helicopter landing on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Midway. I had known Ky well and liked him. True, he was a flashy Vietnam Air Force general, a peacock like many a military man throughout history. But he was not the crooked clown he was so often made out to be.

Six years earlier, in May 1969, Ky and I had traveled together to Saigon from Paris, where I had been covering the Vietnam peace talks and he headed Saigon’s delegation. Our conversation was unusually awkward, probably because both of us knew that things were not going well in Paris for his side; it was evident that a flawed perception in the United States and elsewhere of the 1968 Tet Offensive had broken America’s will to bring this conflict to a victorious conclusion.

“But we won Tet!” Ky fumed. “Why do Americans think otherwise?”

“I know, General, I was in Hue when you won,” I answered. “But the public in the United States and in Europe received a different message.”

In Hue I had stood at the rim of a mass grave containing the bodies of at least 1,000 men, women and children murdered by the communists. A U.S. television team wandered about the scene aimlessly. “Why don’t you film this?” my colleague Peter Braestrup of The Washington Post asked them. Their cameraman replied, “We are not here to spread anti-communist propaganda.”

I told Ky this, and he did not comment. He knew that I knew that the military victory of the Americans and South Vietnamese at Tet was turned into a political defeat when Walter Cronkite declared the war unwinnable on CBS in a statement after a brief post-Tet visit. This flew in the face of what many of us combat correspondents had witnessed and reported from Hue. “If I‘ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America,” President Lyndon B. Johnson is reported to have said. I shared his sense of loss and have never forgiven the iconic Cronkite for his act of journalistic malpractice.

Ky kept staring at the door leading to the cockpit of the Air France airliner.

“Why do you keep looking there?” I asked him.

“All I want is to be a pilot again,” he said quietly.

His escape to Midway at the controls of a Huey marked the end of his flying career.

A few years ago, I taught an advanced journalism class at Concordia University Irvine in California. We focused on the large and successful Vietnamese refugee community in Orange County. Student Kellie Kotraba, now a successful journalist in Missouri, came across a study by a group of eight renowned researchers headed by Harvard psychiatrist Richard F. Mollica, titled “Brain Structural Abnormalities and Mental Health Sequelae in South Vietnamese Ex-Political Detainees Who Survived Traumatic Head Injury and Torture.”

The study, published by the American Medical Association, showed that thousands of former political detainees now living in the United States still suffer severely from the aftereffects of torture inflicted on them during their captivity decades ago. “There must be over 100,000 of them,” Mollica told Kotraba, who then asked the Vietnamese Embassy in Washington for a comment. She received a denial in the form of an email from the embassy’s press attache, Tung Pham, which read, “Information saying that inmates of reeducation camp (sic) was (sic) tortured is totally untrue.”

This was to be expected. More surprising was the fact that the Mollica study received little attention in the U.S. media when it came out in 2009, and when I offered Kotraba’s fascinating stories to several publications their editors weren’t interested.

Why did U.S. editors ignore information about suffering at such a massive scale in their midst as a consequence of the Vietnam War, I wondered? There exists a strong analogy between what happened in some of the 300 communist gulags in Vietnam and the concentration camps in Nazi-occupied Europe. I just finished reading a French translation of the account by Father Andrew Nguyen Huu Le, a Catholic priest now living in New Zealand, of his 13 years in communist captivity, 2,020 days of which he spent in leg irons – causing festering wounds where maggots bred.

In “Je dois vivre” (“I must live”), Le describes in gruesome detail how his friend Dang Van Tiep, a former South Vietnamese Army major and member of Parliament, was killed to the merriment of a crowd of communist functionaries and their wives screaming with delight. He was made to drink large amounts of water. Then prison trusty Bui Thi Dinh, the most sadistic official in the Thanh Cam penal camp, jumped on Tiep’s abdomen until it burst and his intestines spilled out. Tiep died.
Dinh had been a captain in the South Vietnamese Army. The captives at Thanh Cam referred to him as “Kapo,” a term used for trusties in Nazi concentration camps. Like some former Nazi Kapos, he made it to the United States. He was discovered in Garden Grove, Calif., arrested and ordered deported. At last report, he lived in the Marshall Islands.

In his book, Le describes his frequent flashbacks, which include severe abdominal pains. Flashbacks are a condition many U.S. veterans know all too well. When I worked as a chaplain intern among these men at the VA medical center in St. Cloud, Minn., I met a baker from St. Paul who had a recurring nightmare. Every day he dreamed of an incident near Da Nang. He was riding shotgun at the back of a military truck and saw a little boy pull the pin of a hand grenade, ready to lob it onto the truck where it would probably have killed an entire platoon.

The soldier killed the child. But then, night after night, he saw the distorted face of the dying boy. “He was about 8 years old,” said the veteran, “and now I have twins and in my dreams his face takes on their features.” This was one of the saddest stories I heard during my internship that was part of the theological education I began mid-career, probably in response to my experiences as a reporter in Vietnam.

But there was something worse I found among those former Vietnam warriors: almost every member of the three pastoral care groups I led together with a psychologist had been called a baby killer within the first 24 hours of his return from the war. One was even asked not to return to his church until his hair had grown again, and would he please turn up in civilian clothes.

Most men in my groups believed in God but thought he had deserted them in Vietnam. So they had “flipped God off,” as they called it. I wrote a theology for Vietnam veterans titled “The Acquittal of God,” reminding them of the insight by the martyred German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who said that man is called to “suffer with God in a godless world,” which in their case implied that God is suffering with them and was always with them in their suffering – both in Vietnam and after their return. Therefore, God was not a deserter but their fellow sufferer. Many of the patients found this thought compelling.

To this day, I hear Vietnam veterans ask, “Was our sacrifice in vain?” As an old war correspondent, I am unable to respond to this question intelligently. But as a theologian I do have an answer. In his famous treatise “Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved,” Martin Luther compared the vocation of a warrior with that of a surgeon who might have to amputate a patient’s limb in order to save the rest of his body. Often patients die in the days or months after surgery. But does this mean that the operation was futile?

As a war correspondent, I saw the vast majority of GIs and South Vietnamese soldiers faithfully act out their vocation in the service of others. The wrong side won; this is true. As a theologian,

I must add: humans are not the lords of history, and history is always open to the future. It might take many more decades until we see the soldiers’ sacrifice in Vietnam bear fruit and the communist regime vanish, just as other tyrannies have disappeared in the past. Perhaps then the world will discover that the blood Americans and their allies shed in Vietnam has been the seed of a victory much more profound than the one they were denied April 30, 1975. 

Hue, 1968 by Mark Bowden – Military History or Leftist Propaganda?        

A Critical Review by Nicholas Warr 

Despite its recognition as a New York Times bestseller, the receipt of many awards, and the recognition and praise from the literary world Mark Bowden has received since the publication of Hue, 1968, this book is filled with way too many misconceptions, flaws, critical omissions and dozens of outright errors and falsehoods to be taken seriously. In my opinion, this book gets nowhere near the status of “factual history.” While it brings forth many valid events of the battle, it also pushes a regurgitation of anti-war, anti-American rhetoric.

At this point, you, the reader, may ask, “Who is this guy, and how can he possibly make these statements?” Let me illuminate you.

My callsign was “Charlie One Actual.” I was a Marine 2ndLieutenant assigned as the platoon commander for 1stPlatoon, Charlie Company, 1stBattalion, 5thMarines (C/1/5). I was there, in the middle of the battle from the initial assaults on 13 February 1968 to the bitter end in early March. I saw what happened, up close and ugly. I know there was plenty to criticize about our high-ranking leadership’s decision-making, but Bowden got most of the important points wrong. In fact, this book reads more like anti-war, anti-American leftist revisionism than factual history.

Although I counted nearly 80 significant errors, omissions or outright falsehoods in this book, I will focus on the three I feel are the most egregious.

  1. S. Marines of all ranks are force-fed USMC history during our training. We learned that every single combat campaign in France during World War I, the South Pacific during World War II, and during the Korean War could have easily become catastrophes if not for the gut-wrenching courage and determination of just one United States Marine. That was true during the second phase of Operation HUE CITY, the battle for the Citadel Fortress.Lance Corporal Paul Cheatwood was that one Marine, who, on the 16thof February 1968, after four terrible days of all-out urban warfare with not an inch of progress, risked everything to save his fellow Marines, and in the process secured a critical beachhead. A squad of Bravo Company Marines had finally crossed phase line green, occupying the first house across that bloody street, but were being systematically shredded by a horrendous enemy crossfire from two enemy machine gun nests. Although his job as a mortarman required him to stay behind to provide supporting fire, Paul took the initiative and crossed that street under heavy enemy gunfire; he then successfully destroyed both of those enemy positions, single-handedly, suffering many serious wounds in the process, saving that critical beachhead and all who were in that pivotal house. Yet, there is not one single word in Bowden’s book about Paul Cheatwood’s heroism.

Shortly after this book was published, I reached out to Mr. Bowden to ask about this disturbing omission and he responded by saying that there were 10,000 “voices” in that battle, and he couldn’t possibly relate the stories of all of them. That may be true, but what Bowden failed to understand is that there are only a small handful of stories about the true heroes in that battle, or any other battle in Marine Corps history. The true heroes are very rare. Paul Cheatwood is, in my mind, that one Marine who risked his life but made an amazing difference, and his courage and determination under fire will never be forgotten by those of us who were there. On the other hand, Bowden used up many pages in this book to describe, in detail, the acts of just one young woman, a Viet Cong operative who played a very minor role in the enemy’s Tet Offensive, yet he could not spare a single word about a true American hero. Cheatwood’s family and friends must have been extremely disappointed and discouraged to learn that Paul’s courage did not rate a single moment of Bowden’s time.

This exclusion is symptomatic of the entire book, in which the enemy are often described in glowing terms as brave soldiers fighting for their country against the invading Americans, in a rather blatant attempt to establish a moral equivalence between American and ARVN forces, in comparison with the VC and NVA. This is pure anti-war rhetoric, and Bowden has bought it all, hook, line and sinker. Using just one appalling example, he quotes (without any commentary) an NVA soldier, who claimed that the Marines were very difficult to fight because they advanced by using human shields of Hue civilians; this is not only utterly false, it is a turnaround of the actual history, since the NVA on several occasions did use human shields in their attacks on the Marines. Bowden’s book does a terrible disservice to Marine Corps history on many fronts, but this hateful smear of the courageous Americans who fought in Hue goes completely beyond the pale.

Bowden also either inadvertently or purposely besmirched the reputation of the U. S. Marines serving in Charlie Company, 1stBattalion, 5thMarines. His book claims that on the morning of 13 February, Charlie Company was “several blocks back” from Alpha Company’s position on point, when Alpha came under attack in fact, we were one block back from phase line green where the enemy awaited us in force, and less than a block west of Alpha’s position at that time. Bowden further states that it took us “several hours” to go on the attack, claiming that we started our attacks at around 4:00 pm, when, in fact, as soon as Alpha pulled back and they were replaced by a platoon from Bravo Company, we were ordered to move up and move out, on the attack; our first fight against the NVA waiting for us that morning on phase line green took place at around 1100 hours.

The official USMC Unit Diary records confirm Charlie One’s tragic losses during that single day. Five of my Marines were killed outright, and another twenty-two were badly wounded and medically evacuated on 13 February 1968.

Bowden claims that our battalion commander spent the remainder of February 13thtrying to get his men back to Mang Ca (adjacent to the 1stARVN Division Compound along the northern wall of the Citadel, which was nearly a mile behind the “front line”) in one piece. Although Alpha Company did pull back to Mang Ca after being devastated by the initial enemy rocket attack, the Marines of Charlie 1/5 and that Bravo platoon on our left flank pulled back just one block from phase line green and spent the night in houses on the north side of that street.

Bowden did not do his homework, let alone perform focused, effective research on this battle, which is considered by historians to be critically important in Marine Corps history. Yet, because of all the awards and recognition, it gives me great pain to know that this is the book that our children and grandchildren will refer to. This is the book that young Marines will read in training. This is the book that attempts to look at every angle – the enemy, the anti-war movement, the complicated beginnings and the inglorious end of the war – yet this is also the book that allows critical learning and many truths to be lost to history.

Mark Bowden should offer an apology to all of us who fought in this historic battle and especially to the Cheatwood family.

References:

Recently published, detailed reviews of Mark Bowden’s book, Hue, 1968, here:

http://nicholaswarr.com/critical-review-hue-1968-mark-bowden

PBS Responds

PBS has responded to VVFH’s demand that they correct the errors in the Burns/Novick documentary, The Vietnam War. Here is what they wrote.

November 28, 2017
R.J. DelVecchio
Executive Secretary
Vietnam Veterans for Factual History

Dear Mr; De! Vecchio;

Paula Kerger asked me to respond to your November 7, 2017 letter regarding the recent broadcast of Ken Bums and Lynn Novick’s film, THE VIETNAM WAR.

As you know, the film generated a tremendous amount of attention, from the public, members of the military community and veterans, nearly all of which praised the film’s respect for our soldiers and its balance. Maybe more poignantly, not a day goes by when I do not hear from veterans of the war about how thankful they are for the film, helping them speak about their experience with family and friends, something they had rarely done before.

Ken and Lynn went to great lengths to include diverse voices in the film. We did the same in our outreach across the country, meeting with veterans’ groups, Vietnamese-Americans and those who opposed the war, as well as with a wide-range of historians and military experts. The film was extremely well received at the Air Force and Naval Academies, the Army Command and General Staff College, as well as at the Pentagon.

Nearly 34 million people watched some portion of the film. And all ten episodes of the series have been streamed more than 8 million times (over 600,000 times in Vietnam), a record for streaming on PBS.

Much of what is covered in the film is of course unsettled history and I appreciate that there may be. areas: where you disagree with the filmmaker’s emphasis, and aspects of the narrative that you think deserved more attention. We appreciate your feedback and believe ‘The Vietnam War’ has provided a timely opportunity to continue the discussion around this important topic.

Sincerely,

Jennifer R. Byrne
Vice President, Corporate Communications’

Do you believe that “nearly all” of the veteran community “praised the film”? If not, why not consider joining us in our efforts to correct the record.

Nothing Provides More Clarity Than the Passing of Time

These are some selected quotes from intelligent people, leaders of our country.

On Cambodia:

Some will find the whole bloodbath debate unreal. What future possibility could be more terrible than the reality of what is happening to Cambodia now? Anthony Lewis “Avoiding A Bloodbath” New York Times March 17, 1975

If we really want to help the people of Cambodia and the people of South Vietnam, is it not wiser to end the killing? Since most credited analysts of foreign policy admit that the Lon Nol regime cannot survive, won’t the granting of further aid only prolong the fighting and, with it, the killing? Representative Bob Carr Congressional Record March 13, 1975

It is hard to predict in an exact sense what would happen if the United States reduced its commitment to Lon Nol. . . . There is a possibility that more moderate politicians would take over in Phnom Penh, and that the insurgents would be content to negotiate with these peo-ple. An actual insurgent attack and takeover of Phnom Penh is far from a certainty, as an assault on a city requires large expenditures of resources which the Khmer Rouge would not be likely to want to make. Michael Harrington “Limiting Aid to Cambodia” Congressional Record August 12, 1974

I say that calling the Lon Nol regime an ally is to debase the meaning of the word as it applies to our true allies. . . . The greatest gift our country can give to the Cambo-dian people is not guns but peace. And the best way to accomplish that goal is by ending military aid now. Representative Chris Dodd Congressional Record March 12, 1975

It is time that we allow the peaceful people of Cam-bodia to rebuild their nation . . . (T)he Administration has warned that if we leave there will be a “bloodbath.” But to warn of a new bloodbath is no justification for extending the current bloodbath. Representative Tom Downey Congressional Record March 13, 1975

When the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia, they slaughtered 21% of the entire population.1 To save bullets, they grabbed children by the legs and bashed them against trees. None of the perpetrators have ever been brought to justice.

On Vietnam:

The CBU-55 [cluster bomb] joins herbicides, defoliation, and napalm as part of the American Indochinese legacy. . . . Recognition of their massive deployment betrays the ugly hypocrisy behind the Kissinger-Ford pose of righteousness over real or fabricated reports of post-war Indochinese killings, so casually labeled “blood bath” and so directly a consequence of American policy and tactics. “Blood Bath from the Skies” The Nation, editorial May 24, 1975

. . . the evidence is that in Cambodia the much-heralded bloodbath that was supposed to follow the fall of Phnom Penh has not taken place. As for Vietnam, reports from Saigon indicate exemplary behavior, considering the situation. . . . The most authoritative information thus far received leads to the conclusion that the American people were propagandized about the menace of unrestrained slaughter in Indochina. . . . The revolutionaries in both countries seem to have acted responsibly, perhaps more so in Vietnam because their revolution is a mature one, its leaders seasoned by experience and historical perspective. “Blood-Bath Talk” The Nation, editorial June 14, 1975

In sum, all of the evidence indicates that the decision to disperse the population of Phnom Penh and other cities to the countryside was grounded in urgent and practical considerations—and more than anything it was a question of feeding the population. . . . For a study of the available evidence shows that the evacuation was ordered in response to certain urgent and fundamental needs of the Cambodian population, and that it was carried out only after careful planning for provision of food, water, rest, and medical care. . . . The evacuation of Phnom Penh, so condemned by the U.S. government and media, undoubtedly saved the lives of tens of thousands of people. . . . . . . the food problem in Cambodia has in fact been solved. . . . . . . Despite U.S. predictions, Cambodia has not suffered mass starvation during the summer of 1975 and will not do so in 1976 either. . . . Cambodia, then, has completed one of the most thor-oughgoing agrarian revolutions in history, rebuilt much of the basic infrastructure necessary to a developing economy, and rather quickly resumed industrial production in the short period since the war’s end. Gareth Porter and G.C. Hildebrand The Politics of Food: Starvation and Agricultural Revolution in Cambodia Indochina Resource Center, Washington, D.C. September 1975

. . . for 25 . . . years our might has been deployed to frustrate an indigenous political and social revolution in Vietnam. . . . But the excruciating agony suffered by Vietnam and Cambodia is largely of our making. “On the Disaster” The New Republic, editorial May 3, 1975

Now, in contrast, the Communists are focusing primarily on the restoration of law and order and on providing such essentials as food, water, lodgings, and electricity, and, both their own propaganda and refugee accounts agree, they are relying on persuasive rather than coercive methods to attract popular sympathies. . . . A few South Vietnamese police and army officers are said to have been publicly executed in Tuy Hoa, but the Communists generally appear at this stage to be working to win “hearts and minds.” . . . Although the Communists are closer to Saigon than they have ever been and can probably strangle the capital in the weeks ahead, my own guess is that they would opt for a negotiated end to the war if they could get it. . . . Even so my own view is that they may be less drastic than their rhetoric indicates . . . Moreover they cannot massacre every Vietnamese with past American or Saigon regime connections unless they are prepared to liquidate a million people . . . But the Vietnamese face extraordinarily hard times ahead, and their only consolation may be that the rigor of life under Communism is preferable to a war that has meant death and destruction for so many years. Stanley Karnow “Avoiding Bloodshed in Saigon—Hanoi’s Design” The New Republic April 26, 1975

We are the last who should speak of a bloodbath. Rarely has there been such an example of a moral disaster resulting from radically flawed political premises. . . . In this respect Vietnam should teach us an important lesson. On the one hand Hanoi is one of several among the poorest nations in the world that have tried or will try to create a collectivist society, based on principles that are repugnant to us, yet likely to produce greater welfare and security for its people than any local alternative ever offered, at a cost in freedom that affects a small elite. Stanley Hoffman “The Sulking Giant” The New Republic May 3, 1975

But if a South Vietnamese surrender seems shocking, particularly to those who cannot accept the notion of Communists taking over a country, the alternatives could even be worse. One can contemplate, in a struggle to the finish, the sacrifice of thousands of innocent Vietnamese in a bloodbath far more devastating than the systematic crackdown against alleged “enemies of the people” that the Communists can be expected to carry on after they seize power. . . . Perhaps one day in the future hawkish Republicans will return from visits to a Communist Vietnam to announce that, after all, the Vietnamese are better off than they were during the war that might have dragged on endlessly had the U.S. continued to assist the Saigon regime. “Without Thieu” The New Republic, editorial April 19, 1975

A few “bloodbaths” would help their [right-wing politicians] public relations efforts, and they need not wait for verifiable instances: Ambassador Martin’s comments and dispatches will suffice. A suggestion of what may be anticipated can be found in Ronald Reagan’s demagogic statements of recent weeks. “Vietnam in 1976” The Nation, editorial May 3, 1975

When the guns of the Vietnam War have at last fallen silent, the peace that follows will be a new and in many respects strange experience for a whole generation of Vietnamese. Gerald Hickey “Peace: A New Experience” The New Republic May 3, 1975

INDOCHINA WITHOUT AMERICANS FOR MOST, A BETTER LIFE New York Times headline April 13, 1975 Adam Wolfson Richard Fisher

After the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, more Vietnamese died than during the entire thirty years of war from 1945 to 1975. Perhaps as many as one million were sent to reeducation camps and at least 165,000 of those died. Two or three million tried to escape by sea, and as many as 500,000 of those died in the attempt. Today, Vietnam is listed as one of the worst nations in the world in terms of human rights abuses.

This is the legacy of fools who fancy themselves to be wise yet ignore the evidence that stares them in the face. Today, these same fools insist they were right, despite the proof that they were not. They cannot face the fact that they doomed so many people to poverty, slavery and death.

The Vietnam War Through Red Lenses

The Last Days in Vietnam is an Oscar-nominated documentary covering the very end of South Vietnam, in April, 1975. Rory Kennedy’s dramatically sad and horrific documentary is both difficult (for a Vietnam Veteran at least) to watch and a chronicle of American compassion and angst. The fall of a democratic society to Communist tyranny should be lamented by Americans, who sacrificed greatly in their defense. It is a film of pathos, frustrating and yet strongly uplifting at times as American soldiers, diplomats and newsmen risk their careers and their lives to save Vietnamese friends from the invading North Vietnamese Army.

Uplifting, unless you’re Associate Professor Christoph Giebel of the University of Washington, Seattle. In a review of the film posted to the website of Vietnam Scholars Group (sic) by Professor Giebel, the film is “dangerously simplistic,” and “much more of a commentary on current US culture—steeped in nationalistic discourses of exceptionalism, thoroughly militarized, and narcissistic—than a reflection of its actual quality.” In fact, the film “is the worst attempt at documenting the war (he) has seen in a long time.”

Aside from the obvious fact that the film is not attempting to document the war but the final American evacuation from the war, Professor Giebel’s statement that the first twenty five minutes of the documentary “quickly abandon all pretense of historical accuracy or balance” quite adequately describes his own (following) rant about the Vietnam War.

[Background: In the spring of 1975, two years after U.S. combat units had left Vietnam, twelve divisions of the North Vietnamese Army invaded South Vietnam. The U.S. Congress refused to re-enter the war, although it had pledged to do so in the event of massive violations of the Paris Peace Agreements. Although many South Vietnamese units fought valiantly and brilliantly, they were no match for the Russian-armed North Vietnamese troops and heavy weapons. In April, 1975, the North Vietnamese overran Saigon and took over the country. The Americans were slow to evacuate thousands of South Vietnamese who had worked with them and who were in mortal danger from the Communists. Panic and anger overtook the final days of the war.]

Giebel posts six “main issues” with the documentary:

1. “US centrism and exceptionalism”

Of course the “notion” of the U.S. aid cut is anything but debunked. The U.S. congressional records are replete with discussions, debates and resolutions concerning the aid cut. A history professor teaching anything contrary is irrefutably wrong. Giebel’s use of the term “trotted out” also indicates a disdain for historical documentation which, easily accessed, refutes his position.

2. “Complex US debates reduced to literal “abandonment” “

Giebel’s “issue” here is illusory but seems to be that America did not abandon the South Vietnamese —it was more complex than that and not just the result of anti-war protestors and a liberal/Democrat US Congress. Which, of course, was exactly what it was. His final statement is “Congressional sons- of-bitches and the anti-war protestors did not and (sic) cold-heartedly stabbed ‘South Viet Nam’ in the back.” Which, of course, they did.

Giebel goes on to muse, “I will not speak to the adventurous notion that Congressional appropriation (not assembling, shipping, delivering, distributing), on April 17, of emergency military aid, in violation of the Paris Agreement, would have made a lick of difference before April 30.” He would have been better off to stick with his gut feeling. By that comment he makes it known to all that he has scant knowledge of America’s military might or system (he thought we would get on the phone and order bullets? Rush delivery, I suppose) or the ability of an American air force to obliterate a Communist army strung along miles of South Vietnam highways, with no air cover and little mobile anti-aircraft weaponry. Every military pilot in the U.S. would have volunteered for those missions. Giebel is just childish in his belief that the North Vietnamese Army was somehow immune to this fate in the face of air and naval gunfire attacks. (Yet he was more than likely a voice of screaming rage when the Americans bombed Hanoi into submission and a peace treaty in December of 1973.) In every engagement in the course of the war when Hanoi gathered massive weaponry and soldiers, they were wiped off the map.

3. “False and manipulative framing along US propagandistic, Cold War rhetoric:”

And what is this manipulative US propaganda? Giebel says: There never was a South Vietnam and therefore there was never an invasion of South Vietnam by North Vietnam.

His statement, breathtaking in its ignorance, can only be viewed in light of the Communist (for which Giebel, at the very least, is a first class apologist) methodology of erasing history which does not support their actions and propaganda. Giebel goes far beyond the oft “trotted out” claim that the war was a Civil War, ignoring the Communist North Vietnam bloody and brutal conquest of vast areas of Laos and Cambodia (as if the Confederate Army had invaded Mexico and Canada during the US civil war).

Under Giebel’s view of the world, there was/is no South Korea. In reality, the only difference between South Vietnam and South Korea is that the U.N. forces did not abandon South Korea after stopping the Communist attempts to take over the southern half of the Korean peninsula. Existing as a struggling democratic country in 1973, with U.N. and Peace Treaty defined borders, South Vietnam had a democratically elected government, and the individual freedoms known only in Western societies, facts Giebel simply ignores.

4. “One-sided misrepresentation of the Paris Agreement (sic)”

Just when one would think Giebel could not posit a more blatant untruth about the war, he does. He cites the violations of the 1973 peace accord and the “much more aggressive violations of the ceasefire by the ARVN (South Vietnamese).” Of course, fairness being a Communist apologist’s prime concern, he allows that the “revolutionary (North Vietnamese) side violated the Peace Agreement as well, albeit initially in a reactive manner.” The statement is so stupid—there is no other word for it— that a rebuttal is superfluous. Suffice it to say that the ARVN never perpetrated an attack onto North Vietnamese soil. Period.

5. “One-sided representation of war-time violence.”

Is there a need to even respond? Communists slaughtered an estimated 50,000 of their own people within weeks of taking control of the country after defeating the French in 1954. Proportionately, their slaughter of village leaders in South Vietnam during the war would be the equivalent slaughter of 20,000 mayors and council members of U.S. towns. The disagreement about the Communists burying men, women children alive during their occupation of HUE after Tet ’68, is over the number, not the act. Most Western accounts put the number at 3,000 to 4,000. The Communists say they buried alive less than a thousand. Giebel’s statement in his review is that the West, primarily the U.S and their South Vietnamese ally, claim to “have perpetrated no violence, no one else suffered.” The statement is ridiculous and worthy of inclusion in no review above the sophomore year in high school level. Of course. there was never such a claim.

6. Finally, “Racist/orientalist reductionism of the Vietnamese actions, motivations, and feelings.”

Giebel believes that the West has “long-standing racist notions…that ‘the natives’ are easily swayed by, and can be kept under control through, fear, ‘shock and awe’ and the threat of violence.” That our view was one of “the superstitious, emotional, child-like Little Brown ‘commie.’

It is, in fact, a basic foundation of the apologists for the Communist takeover of South Vietnam that the people of South Vietnam were too uneducated, too unsophisticated, to understand the difference between a Communist regime and one based on democratic principles, that the one million South Vietnamese military casualties were the result of American propaganda and coercion. That given the open choice, the South Vietnamese would have chosen to live under the already exhibited brutal Communist government from the North. That they preferred thought police, restriction of movement and expression, labor camps, and the oppression of government bureaucracy to a chance for freedom and choice. But with the invasion North Vietnamese forces and the abandonment of our ally by the Democrat U.S. Congress, they got the Communists.

It is ludicrous to believe they freely chose their own enslavement.

Giebel has written at least one other “apology” for the Vietnamese communists. Entitled “Imagined Ancestries of Vietnamese Communism,” the first two chapters of the book are devoted to explaining and justifying the lies and misrepresentations Ton Duc Thang, North Vietnam’s second president, made in order to become a national hero and Communist leader. Communists and their apologists have no compunction to base power or truth, or history, on fact. It is a dubious, at best, requisite for a professor of history at an American University.

I once visited Professor Giebel’s class to freshman at the university. On the board was written—“The greatest danger to world peace is American hegemony.” It was no surprise, at a later date, to find he was a signed-up supporter of Bill Ayers—probably the most dangerous and traitorous of the anti- Vietnam War protestors.

Professor Giebel teaches history at a major American university. In my opinion, he shouldn’t. (On a campus which once refused to allow a memorial to Pappy Boyington, one of the greatest Marine Corps aces in World War II, perhaps there is no surprise.) Perhaps there is a place for teaching a European leftist (Giebel was born in Germany) view of American history. But it should be called what it is.

I invite Professor Giebel to debate a real Viet Nam War scholar and will gladly volunteer to arrange a public forum for that event. Taxpayers should be made aware of what their children are being taught.

Phillip Jennings is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran of the Viet Nam War and the author of two books on the war.

Roadmap to Betrayal

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senator John McCain became Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5.0 out of 5 stars Americans in Vietnam

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

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

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

Bill,

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

Matt

Matthew M. Burke

Staff Writer

Stars and Stripes

Sasebo and Iwakuni (Japan) Bureau

Bill,

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

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

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

In Brotherhood,

Greg Beck

President, VVA Texarkana, TX;

Bill:

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

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

S/F
Gypsy (Betsy)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

HUE 1968: FIGHTING THE VIETNAM WAR YET AGAIN

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

Goethe, “Faust

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ho Chi Minh’s Entreaties to Truman

By Paul Schmehl

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

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

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

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

In February, 1946, the US Secretary of State of the Truman administration sent a telegram to the Ambassador to France asking to be kept up to date on whether “Leclerc the intransigeant and uncompromising colonial-minded and d’Argenlieu the conciliatory and moderate” had the support of the French government. 1

In his response two days later, the US Ambassador indicated that it was his belief that the French government was inclined toward “a liberal and progressive colonial policy in Indo-China” 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On September 17, the Ambassador reported that Ho had signed a modus vivendi with the French. 7

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

In October, State cabled Saigon asking for an explanation of Ho’s flag, particularly the use of a gold star in the center of a red field, since that clearly hinted at communism. 8

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

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

In January 1947, the Secretary of State cabled the Embassy in France asking them to convey US consternation with French attempts to “place US in partisan position” and asked they contact the French Foreign Office and request a retraction. 10

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here We Go Again

Paul Schmehl, Independent Researcher

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

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

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

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

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

So much untruth packed into such a short space!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thoughts From A Vietnam Veteran

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Del