VIỆT NAM 1 cái tên rất gần gũi với tôi và ~ ngưo8`i đã tham chiến tại Nam Việt Namgreenspun.com : LUSENET : Vietnamese American Society : One Thread
Xin các bạn bấm vào để làm 1 tour của site này, James Webb làm phụ tạ quốc phòng dưới thời Ronald Reagan. Tốt nghiệp Nval Academy ơ Annapolis và đã nhận nhiệm sơ? tác chiến tại Nam Việt Nam QĐ I với 1 đơn vi TQLC HOa Kỳ. James là bạn cùng học ở trường HQ với ngưoì bạn thân tôi dã bay Gunship SeaWolf cho SEAL ở vùng đồng bằng cửu long.
-- (Cán_Ngố_Ăn-Dải-Dút@BBP.govt), November 17, 2004
Có lẽ Kerry va staff đã quên đi nhóm Scotts-Irish voters song trong thung lũng từ Virginia suống Tennesse. Dzân gốc Scotts-Irish rất yêu quê hương, trọng đạo đức, và có 1 niềm tin nơi Thiên chúa và rất cởi mở họ là xưƠng sống của sinh hoạt hàng ngày trên đất nước này, có lẽ liberal ( communists và bọn Chính trị xu thời Hollywood đã tính sai )
Wall Street Journal Articles:
Secret GOP Weapon: The Scots-Irish Vote October 19, 2004
To an outsider George W. Bush's political demeanor seems little more than stumbling tautology. He utters his campaign message in clipped phrases, filled with bravado and repeated references to God, and to resoluteness of purpose. But to a trained eye and ear these performances have the deliberate balance of a country singer at the Grand Ole Opry.
Speaking in a quasi-rural dialect that his critics dismiss as affected, W is telling his core voting groups that he is one of them. No matter that he is the product of many generations of wealth; that his grandfather was a New England senator; that his father moved the family's wealth south just like the hated Carpetbaggers after the Civil War; that he himself went North to Andover and Yale and Harvard when it came time for serious grooming. And as with the persona, so also with the key issues. The Bush campaign proceeds outward from a familiar mantra: strong leadership, success in war, neighbor helping neighbor, family values, and belief in God. Contrary to many analyses, these issues reach much farther than the oft-discussed Christian Right. The president will not win re-election without carrying the votes of the Scots-Irish, along with those others who make up the "Jacksonian" political culture that has migrated toward the values of this ethnic group.
At the same time, few key Democrats seem even to know that the Scots- Irish exist, as this culture is so adamantly individualistic that it will never overtly form into one of the many interest groups that dominate Democratic Party politics. Indeed, it can be fairly said that Al Gore lost in 2000 because the Democrats ignored this reality and the Scots-Irish enclaves of West Virginia and Tennessee turned against him.
Why are the 30 million Scots-Irish, who may well be America's strongest cultural force, so invisible to America's intellectual elites? It is commonplace for commentators to lump together those who are descended from British roots into the WASP culture typified by New England Brahmins, or the Irish, who are overwhelmingly Catholic. But it is political nonsense to consider the Scots-Irish as part of either.
The Scots-Irish are derived from a mass migration from Northern Ireland in the 1700s, when the Calvinist "Ulster Scots" decided they'd had enough of fighting Anglican England's battles against Irish Catholics. One group settled initially in New Hampshire, spilling over into modern-day Vermont and Maine. The overwhelming majority -- 95% -- migrated to the Appalachians in a series of frontier communities that stretched from Pennsylvania to northern Alabama and Georgia. They eventually became the dominant culture of the South and much of the Midwest.
True American-style democracy had its origins in this culture. Its values emanated from the Scottish Kirk, which had thrown out the top- down hierarchy of the Catholic Church and replaced it with governing councils made up of ordinary citizens. This mix of fundamentalist religion and social populism grew from a people who for 16 centuries had been tested through constant rebellions against centralized authority. The Scots who headed into the feuds of 17th-century Ulster, and then into the backlands of the American frontier, hardened further into a radicalism that proclaimed that no man had a duty to obey a government if its edicts violated his moral conscience.
Matched with this rebelliousness was a network of extended family "clans," still evident among the Scots-Irish, built on an egalitarianism that measured a person by their own code of honor, courage, loyalty and audacious leadership. Noted Scottish professor T.C. Smout said it best when he observed that these relationships were "compounded both of egalitarian and patriarchal features, full of respect for birth while being free from humility." They demanded strong leaders, but would never tolerate one who considered himself above his fellows. Andrew Jackson, the first president of Scots- Irish descent, forever changed the style of American politics, creating a movement that even today is characterized as Jacksonian democracy.
The Scots-Irish comprised a large percentage of Reagan Democrats, and contributed heavily to the "red state" votes that gave Mr. Bush the presidency in 2000. The areas with the highest Scots-Irish populations include New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, northern Florida, Mississippi, Arkansas, northern Louisiana, Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, southern Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, and parts of California, particularly Bakersfield. The "factory belt," especially around Detroit, also has a strong Scots-Irish mix.
The Scots-Irish political culture is populist and inclusive, which has caused other ethnic groups to gravitate toward it. Country music is its cultural emblem. It is family-oriented. Its members are values-based rather than economics-based: they often vote on emotional issues rather than their pocket books. Because of their heritage of "kinship," they're strangely unenvious of wealth, and measure leaders by their personal strength and values rather than economic position. They have a 2,000-year-old military tradition based on genealogy, are the dominant culture of the military and the Christian Right, and define the character of blue-collar America. They are deeply patriotic, having consistently supported every war America has fought, and intensely opposed to gun control -- an issue that probably cost Mr. Gore both his home state of Tennessee and traditionally Democratic West Virginia in 2000.
The GOP strategy is heavily directed toward keeping peace with this culture, which every four years is seduced by the siren song of guns, God, flag, opposition to abortion and success in war. By contrast, over the past generation the Democrats have consistently alienated this group, to their detriment.
The Democrats lost their affinity with the Scots-Irish during the Civil Rights era, when -- because it was the dominant culture in the South -- its "redneck" idiosyncrasies provided an easy target during their shift toward minorities as the foundation of their national electoral strategy. Their long-term problem in having done so is twofold. First, it hampers their efforts to carry almost any Southern state. And second, the Scots-Irish culture has strong impact outside the South. This is especially strong in many battleground states. It is no accident that many political observers call the central region in Pennsylvania "Northern Alabama." Scots- Irish traditions play heavily in New Hampshire -- the only New England state that Mr. Bush carried in 2000. Large numbers of Scots- Irish settled in the southern regions of Ohio (called "Northern Kentucky"), Indiana and Illinois. They were among the principal groups to settle Missouri and Colorado. They migrated heavily to the industrial areas in Michigan, which is one reason that George Wallace, ran so strongly in that state in 1968 and 1972.
But other than with those who identify with the Christian Right, it would be wrong to think that the Republicans have their firm loyalty. For every Lee Atwater or Karl Rove who understands the Scots-Irish, there are others who privately disdain them. And sometimes not so privately -- the most vicious ethnic slur of the presidential campaign came from Charles Krauthammer, after Howard Dean suggested that the Democrats needed to reach out to the "guys with the Confederate flags on their pickup trucks." Mr. Krauthammer, who has never complained about this ethnic group when it has marched off to fight the wars he wishes upon us, wrote that Mr. Dean "wants the white trash vote . . . that's clearly what he meant," and that he was pandering to "rebel-yelling racist rednecks."
As with other ethnic groups, those inside the culture know how to read such code words, and there may come a time when the right Democratic strategist knows how to counter them in the manner that Mr. Dean contemplated. John Edwards is at his visceral best when his campaign rhetoric seems directed at doing that.
The decline in public education and the outsourcing of jobs has hit this culture hard. Diversity programs designed to assist minorities have had an unequal impact on white ethnic groups and particularly this one, whose roots are in a poverty-stricken South. Their sons and daughters serve in large numbers in a war whose validity is increasingly coming into question. In fact, the greatest realignment in modern politics would take place rather quickly if the right national leader found a way to bring the Scots-Irish and African Americans to the same table, and so to redefine a formula that has consciously set them apart for the past two centuries.
Mr. Webb, a former secretary of the Navy, is the author of "Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America," just published by Broadway.
-- (Cán_Ngố_Ăn-Dải-Dút@BBP.govt), November 17, 2004.
Veterans Face Conundrum: Kerry or Bush?
February 19, 2004
Both Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and President Bush have had their attackers and defenders on the issue of Vietnam War service. But given Kerry's infamous anti-war activities, it is striking that many Vietnam veterans have chosen either to support him or maintain a skeptical distance from both camps. Indeed, Kerry's wins in Iowa and New Hampshire, which jump-started his campaign, often are attributed to his support among veterans.
Having been involved in veterans' issues since the 1970s, I know many veterans who in earlier days spoke of their disdain for Kerry but are now holding their fire. Kerry's negatives, however, do not automatically become Bush's positives, particularly when the focus of many now is on America's involvement in postwar Iraq. And in that context, the most important question is how - or whether - each candidate proposes to end the United States' military presence there.
To be sure, Kerry deserves condemnation for his activities as the leader of Vietnam Veterans Against the War (WAW). In the early 1970s,this small organization - never more than 7,000 veterans out of a potential pool of 9 million- became the darling of the anti-war movement and the liberal media. Its activities went far beyond simply criticizing the politics of the war to repeatedly and dishonestly misrepresenting the service of Vietnam veterans and the positive feelings most felt after serving.
Kerry and his WAW compatriots portrayed their fellow veterans as unwilling soldiers, morally debased and haunted by their service. While this might have fit a small minority, the most accurate survey, done by the Harris Poll in 1980, showed that 91% of those who went to Vietnam were "glad they served their country," 74%"enjoyed their time in the military" and 89% agreed with the statement that "our troops were asked to fight in a war which our political leaders in Washington would not let them win."
Kerry's own comments were filled with hyperbolic exaggerations that sought to make egregious acts seem commonplace. During a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in 1971, he testified that fellow veterans had routinely "raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan. "With those words, he defamed a generation of honorable men. No matter how he spins it today, at a minimum, he owes them a full and complete apology.
The view that Kerry remained on the "wrong side" of the war was compounded by his failure to consult with leaders of America's million-plus Vietnamese community while playing a dominant role in the normalization of relations with communist Vietnam during the early 1990s. Many Vietnamese-Americans believe Kerry has been an apologist for the Hanoi government on such key issues as human rights. Kerry personally has bottled up the Vietnamese Human Rights Act, which twice passed the House by wide majorities, so that it cannot even be debated on the Senate floor.
But in the zero-sum game of a presidential campaign, to go after Kerry is to give a free pass to Bush, whose actions then and now deserve no prizes. Recent statements defending Bush claim that the National Guard was not a haven for those who wished to avoid Vietnam; but it clearly was. According to the National Guard Association, only some 9,000 Army Guardsmen and 9,343 Air Guardsmen served in Vietnam. Considering that nearly 3 million from the active forces did so, one begins to understand why so many of America's elites headed for the Guard when their draft numbers were called.
Bush used his father's political influence to move past many on the Texas Guard's waiting list. He was not required to attend Officer Candidate School to earn his commission. He lost his flight status after failing to show up for a required annual physical. These facts alone raise the eyebrows of those who took a different path in a war that for the Marine Corps brought more casualties than even World War II.
The Bush campaign now claims that these issues are largely moot and that Bush has proved himself as a competent and daring "war president." And yet his actions in Iraq, and the vicious attacks against anyone who disagrees with his administration's logic, give many veterans serious pause.
Bush arguably has committed the greatest strategic blunder in modern memory. To put it bluntly, he attacked the wrong target. While he boasts of removing Saddam Hussein from power, he did far more than that. He decapitated the government of a country that was not directly threatening the United States and, in so doing, bogged down a huge percentage of our military in a region that never has known peace. Our military is being forced to trade away its maneuverability in the wider war against terrorism while being placed on the defensive in a single country that never will fully accept its presence.
There is no historical precedent for taking such action when our country was not being directly threatened. The reckless course that Bush and his advisers have set will affect the economic and military energy of our nation for decades. It is only the tactical competence of our military that, to this point, has protected him from the harsh judgment that he deserves.
At the same time, those around Bush, many of whom came of age during Vietnam and almost none of whom served, have attempted to assassinate the character and insult the patriotism of anyone who disagrees with them. Some have impugned the culture, history and integrity of entire nations, particularly in Europe, that have been our country's great friends for generations and, in some cases, for centuries.
Bush has yet to fire a single person responsible for this strategy. Nor has he reined in those who have made irresponsible comments while claiming to represent his administration. One only can conclude that he agrees with both their methods and their message.
Most seriously, Bush has yet to explain the exact circumstances under which American military forces will be withdrawn from Iraq.
Nor has Kerry given us a picture of how his strategy would differ from the course that has been set.
Once these answers are given, all of us will be able to understand more clearly the true legacy of the past.
James Webb was Secretary of the Navy during the Reagan administration, and a Marine platoon and company commander in Vietnam. He also is an author and filmmaker.
-- (Cán_Ngố_Ãn-Dải-Dút@BBP.govt), November 17, 2004.
Robert McNamara, the Anti-War Left, and
the Triumph of Intellectual Dishonesty
About a year ago I made a presentation to a group of high-powered account executives at one of the world's largest investment banks. My speech discussed Vietnam's current demographics, its economic future, and the desirability of doing business there. During the question-and-answer period I was challenged by a gentlemen of about my age who had never been to Vietnam and who in his youth had obviously been opposed to the war. Why, he asked rather snidely, would I want to do business with the communists when I had tried to kill them as a Marine? Where was my consistency of thought? And indeed why did we even fight a war if they were so keen to do business with us?
I answered by pointing out that I have always believed in the strength of the culture and people of Vietnam, that the conditions now emerging in that country are approaching, however slowly, what I and others wanted to see twenty-five years ago; and that it was the communist government's actions, not American intransigence, which had held back the country during the last two decades.
Before the next question was asked, I was interrupted by another million-dollar-a-year man, who it turned out was a Yale graduate and an Army veteran of the Vietnam War. He had become so angry from old memories that his face was on fire.
"You're being too nice to this guy," he said. "I'll tell you why I have no problem doing business in Vietnam. I spent eighteen months there, and I never hated my enemy as much as I did the people who ... on me when I came home."
The truth of this paradox is at the bottom of the intense anger most Vietnam veterans felt over the recent publication of Robert McNamara's memoir, and the tone in the media during the observance of the twentieth anniversary of the fall of South Vietnam. It is one thing to be comfortable with one's wartime service, and to be willing to move into the future by working with a government run by a former enemy. It is quite another to see the whole history of an era twisted and manipulated during one's entire lifetime in order to salve the consciences of a group of Americans whose conduct during the war was less than commendable.
Preempting Historical Reflection But that's the way it has been. And so with Robert McNamara, who slipped quietly into town, robbed the bank in broad daylight, shot the guards, and was gone before the reaction force had a chance even to assemble. The former Defense Secretary's terse, truncated memoir, coupled with a brief but intense publicity campaign, dramatically upended what might otherwise have been a key moment of historical reflection. And his quick disappearance thereafter had all the elements of a successful raid deep into enemy territory, of the sort he himself probably did not contemplate when he decided to write his book, and to this day very likely does not understand.
With a timing no doubt governed by those in publishing and media circles who wished to capitalize on his odd mea culpa in order to promote old and discredited views from the antiwar left, Mr. McNamara became the key figure during the observances marking the twentieth anniversary of the fall of Saigon. It had taken years following South Vietnam's 1975 demise before the cycle of war and its aftermath was complete and a full body of facts, particularly from the communist side, became available. The twentieth anniversary of that overthrow offered a moment ripe for a re-examination of American and South Vietnamese wartime successes in the face of continuing derision at home, and of the now-undeniably ruinous consequences to Vietnam of a communist victory. Instead, the world was treated to a deliberate side-show.
In the first fifteen years or so following Saigon's fall, there was nothing but bad news to report from Vietnam, and those who had made their political and journalistic careers on the wrongfulness of the war bear a culpability for persistently failing to report it. Similarly, during the twentieth anniversary observances these icons and their intellectual progeny persisted in focusing almost solely on the conduct of the war during Mr. McNamara's tenure as Secretary of Defense, which ended in disgrace in late 1967. It was as if the political, military and even moral issues had been decided in favor of the communists by that point, and the ensuing eight years of fighting and twenty years of suffering were merely an afterthought.
A Disservice to Understanding the War The end result was a startling disservice to a full understanding of the war. Media depictions of the fighting typically showed tired and frustrated American and South Vietnamese soldiers, while often using stock propaganda footage of communist troops marching cheerfully down the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The elders who made their names in younger days on such allegations as U.S. troops lying about their "body counts" gave almost no mention of the horrendous communist military casualties, despite the most newsworthy item of those few weeks: the Hanoi government officially admitting it lost 1. 1 million soldiers dead and another 300,000 still missing from the fighting, compared to American losses of 58,000 and South Vietnamese of 254,000. And few discussions recalled the Hanoi pledge in the 1973 Paris Peace Accords that Vietnam would be reunited only by peaceful means, with guarantees of individual freedoms in the South, as well as internationally supervised free elections.
To the contrary, on the heels of Mr. McNamara's comments regarding the "unwinnable" strategy he concocted and failed to adjust during the first four years of war, media air waves were filled with a litany of speeches proclaiming "vindication" by those who otherwise might have been forced to answer hard questions regarding their conduct and beliefs during the late 1960s and early 1970s. For some, such conduct was betrayal. For others, it was only a stupefying naiveté. But for most, there has been a persistent conspiracy of silence that has lasted for decades, accompanied of late by an attempt to leap over the carcasses and the devastation that followed the communist takeover, to simply pretend it did not happen.
When forced to comment, those who opposed our attempt to assist the building of a democracy in the South picked up the debate in its present makeup, pointing to the Hanoi government's efforts in the past few years to liberalize the economy and reach out to the Americans in the wake of the collapse of their Soviet ally and the continuing menacing growth of the Chinese.
As a consequence, the best opportunity of a lifetime was lost for the many who still wish to put a generation's most bitterly divisive period into proper historical perspective.
Few, if any, of the old anti-war luminaries, Stanley Karnow, Neil Sheehan, David Halberstam, George McGovern, Peter Arnett, 'Tom Harkin, Bill or Hillary Clinton-the list could fill the page-could find it in themselves to conjure up an apology, or admit they were wrong in judging a communist apparatus that brought Southeast Asia's strongest and most pro-Western culture back into the dark ages, only to haltingly emerge fifteen years later reeking of torture, prison camps, Stalinism and corruption.
The Anti-War Left: Hoping for a Communist Victory The reason, which remained either unspoken or unreported during the anniversary coverage, was stated most honestly and directly to me by George McGovern, who unfortunately was off-camera at the time. During a break while taping the CNN Crossfire show, after I had made a comment regarding the ability of the U.S. under the right leadership to have adjusted its strategy early on and prevailed in the war, the antiwar candidate who had once promised to go to Hanoi on his knees if he were elected President turned to me and announced in his emotionless monotone, "What you don't understand is that I didn't want us to win that war."
The people who directed the antiwar movement did not care whether McNamara had a workable strategy, or whether it could have been adapted to circumstances. They did not care whether Nixon's Vietnamization program might have worked. They did not care whether the South Vietnamese should have been given an adequate chance to adjust their strategy after the American withdrawal. And they did not care whether the communists signed a pledge guaranteeing free elections and a peaceful reunification of the country. Quite simply, they wanted the communists to win. Those who were adults during the Vietnam era know this truth full well. Others, however, particularly our children, have seen it glazed over and even denied as the reality of what happened after 1975 became ever more clear.
The failure of the media to show these old luminaries and their younger disciples in this true light is important for reasons beyond anger, finger-pointing and the assignment of blame. Only by understanding their deeper motivations can future generations comprehend the making and ultimate failure of American policy during that period, and the subsequent refusal of our media elites to speak and write honestly after South Vietnam's fall.
Only by comprehending that Vietnam was the first war where a generation's elite not only excused itself from fighting but often openly supported the side that was killing their own countrymen can we understand the persistent defamation of those who served. And only by comprehending that the antiwar movement's dilatory effect was Hanoi's greatest ace in the hole can we understand why the communists had few reasons ever to compromise at the negotiating table.
These are lessons whose omissions from the debate cannot help but affect one's view of the honesty of history as an academic discipline. They have vital implications for the study of policymaking. And they tell us of the divisions that still exist in our society, not only when it comes to discussing the national trauma of Vietnam but in the increasingly visible emergence of the United States as a country whose cultural institutions are dominated by a veneer of protected elites.
The Vietnamese Deserved Better And what of Vietnam-the country, not the war? Those who served there and grew to love not only the country but its people in large part share the view of David Halberstam, at least in the years before he became an intellectual leader of the antiwar left. Writing in 1964 in his book The Making of a Quagmire, Halberstam opined that "Vietnam is ... perhaps one of only five or six nations in the world that is truly vital to United States interests," and warned that a communist takeover would bring about 'a drab, lifeless and controlled society for a people who deserve better.'
The Vietnamese do deserve better, and it is a tribute to their amazing resilience that those who became exposed to Western ideals and practice before Saigon's fall were able to keep hope alive despite the conditions into which American naiveté and abandonment delivered them. One doubts whether Mr. McNamara, who understood only numbers, or the antiwar leaders, who found solace and even hope in the preaching of Hanoi's hard-line leaders, will ever understand the true Vietnamese character-or for that matter the nobility of the Americans who attempted to save it.
James Webb was an Assistant Secretary of Defense and Secretary of the Navy in the Reagan Administration.
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-- (Cán_Ngố_Ãn-Dải-Dút@BBP.govt), November 17, 2004.
AMERICAN LEGION MAGAZINE
Why We Fought & Why We Would Do it Again
Against a backdrop of political mismanagement and social angst, history has failed to respect those who gave their all to the war in Vietnam.
Forty years ago, Asia was at a vital crossroads, moving into an uncertain future dominated by three different historical trends. The first involved the aftermath of the carnage and destruction of World War II, which left scars on every country in the region and dramatically changed Japan’s role in East Asian affairs. The second was the sudden, regionwide end of European colonialism, which created governmental vacuums in every second-tier country except Thailand and, to a lesser extent, the Philippines. The third was the emergence of communism as a powerful tool of expansionism by military force, its doctrine and strategies emanating principally from the birthplace of the Communist International: the Soviet Union.
Europe’s withdrawal from the region dramatically played into the hands of communist revolutionary movements, especially in the wake of the communist takeover of China in 1949. Unlike in Europe, these countries had never known Western-style democracy. In 1950, the partitioned country of Korea exploded into war when the communist North invaded South Korea, with the Chinese Army joining the effort six months later. Communist insurgencies erupted throughout Indochina. In Malaysia, the British led a 10-year anti-guerrilla campaign against China-backed revolutionaries. A similar insurgency in Indonesia brought about a communist coup attempt, also sponsored by the Chinese, which was put down in 1965.
The situation inside Vietnam was the most complicated. First, for a variety of reasons the French had not withdrawn from their long-term colony after World War II, making it easy for insurgents to rally the nationalistic Vietnamese to their side. Second, the charismatic, Soviet-trained communist leader Ho Chi Minh had quickly consolidated his anti-French power base just after the war by assassinating the leadership of competing political groups that were both anti-French and anti-communist. Third, once the Korean War armistice was signed in 1953, the Chinese had shifted large amounts of sophisticated weaponry to Ho Chi Minh’s army. The Viet Minh’s sudden acquisition of larger-caliber weapons and field artillery such as the 105- millimeter Howitzer abruptly changed the nature of the war and contributed heavily to the French humiliation at Dien Bien Phu.
Fourth, further war became inevitable when U.S.-led backers of the incipient South Vietnamese democracy called off a 1956 election agreed upon after Vietnam was divided in 1954. In geopolitical terms, this failure to go forward with elections was prudent, since it was clear a totalitarian state had emerged in the north. President Eisenhower’s frequently quoted admonition that Ho Chi Minh would get 75 percent of the vote was not predicated on the communist leader’s popularity but on the impossibility of getting a fair vote in communist-controlled North Vietnam. But in propaganda terms, it solidified Ho Chi Minh’s standing and in many eyes justified the renewed warfare he would begin in the south two years later.
In 1958, the communists unleashed a terrorist campaign in the south. Within two years, their northern-trained squads were assassinating an average of 11 government officials a day. President Kennedy referred to this campaign in 1961 when he decided to increase the number of American soldiers operating inside South Vietnam. “We have talked about and read stories of 7,000 to 15,000 guerrillas operating in Vietnam, killing 2,000 civil officers a year and 2,000 police officers a year – 4,000 total,” Kennedy said. “How we fight that kind of problem, which is going to be with us all through this decade, seems to me to be one of the great problems now before the United States.”
Among the local populace, the communist assassination squads were the “stick,” threatening to kill anyone who officially affiliated with the South Vietnamese government. Along with the assassination squads came the “carrot,” a highly trained political cadre that also infiltrated South Vietnam from the north. The cadre helped the people prepare defenses in their villages, took rice from farmers as taxes and recruited Viet Cong soldiers from the local young population. Spreading out into key areas – such as those provinces just below the demilitarized zone, those bordering Laos and Cambodia, and those with future access routes to key cities – the communists gained strong footholds.
The communists began spreading out from their enclaves, fighting on three levels simultaneously. First, they continued their terror campaign, assassinating local leaders, police officers, teachers and others who declared support for the South Vietnamese government. Second, they waged an effective small-unit guerrilla war that was designed to disrupt commerce, destroy morale and clasp local communities to their cause. And finally, beginning in late 1964, they introduced conventional forces from the north, capable of facing, if not defeating, main force infantry units – including the Americans – on the battlefield. Their gamble was that once the United States began fighting on a larger scale – as it did in March 1965 – its people would not support a long war of attrition. As Ho Chi Minh famously put it, “For every one of yours we kill, you will kill 10 of ours. But in the end it is you who will grow tired.”
Ho Chi Minh was right. The infamous “body counts” were continuously disparaged by the media and the antiwar movement. Hanoi removed the doubt in 1995, when on the 20th anniversary of the fall of Saigon officials admitted having lost 1.1 million combat soldiers dead, with another 300,000 “still missing.”
Communist losses of 1.4 million dead compared to America’s losses of 58,000 and South Vietnam’s 245,000 stand as stark evidence that eliminates many myths about the war. The communists, and particularly the North Vietnamese, were excellent and determined soldiers. But the “wily, elusive guerrillas” that the media loved to portray were not exclusively wily, elusive or even guerrillas when one considers that their combat deaths were four times those of their enemies, combined. And an American military that located itself halfway around the world to take on a determined enemy on the terrain of the enemy’s choosing was hardly the incompetent, demoralized and confused force that so many antiwar professors, journalists and filmmakers love to portray.
Why Did We Fight? The United States recognized South Vietnam as a political entity separate from North Vietnam, just as it recognized West Germany as separate from communist-controlled East Germany and just as it continues to recognize South Korea from communist- controlled North Korea. As signatories of the Southeast Asian Treaty Organization, we pledged to defend South Vietnam from external aggression. South Vietnam was invaded by the north, just as certainly, although with more sophistication, as South Korea was invaded by North Korea. The extent to which the North Vietnamese, as well as antiwar Americans, went to deny this reality by pretending the war was fought only by Viet Cong soldiers from the south is, historically, one of the clearest examples of their disingenuous conduct. At one point during the war, 15 of North Vietnam’s 16 combat divisions were in the south.
How Did We Fight? The Vietnam War varied year by year and region by region, our military’s posture unavoidably mirroring political events in the United States. Too often in today’s America we are left with the images burned into a weary nation’s consciousness at the very end of the war, when massive social problems had been visited on an army that was demoralized, sitting in defensive cantonments and simply waiting to be withdrawn. While reflecting America’s final months in Vietnam, they hardly tell the story of the years of effort and battlefield success that preceded them.
Little recognition has been given in this country of how brutal the war was for those who fought it on the ground and how well our military performed. Dropped onto the enemy’s terrain 12,000 miles away from home, America’s citizen-soldiers performed with a tenacity and quality that may never be truly understood. Those who believe the war was fought incompetently on a tactical level should consider the enormous casualties to which the communists now admit. And those who believe that it was a “dirty little war” where the bombs did all the work might contemplate that it was the most costly war the U.S. Marine Corps has ever fought. Five times as many Marines died in Vietnam as in World War I, three times as many as in Korea. And the Marines suffered more total casualties, killed and wounded, in Vietnam than in all of World War II.
Another allegation was that our soldiers were over-decorated during the Vietnam War. James Fallows says in his book “National Defense” that by 1971, we had given out almost 1.3 million medals for bravery in Vietnam, as opposed to some 1.7 million for all of World War II. Others have repeated the figure, including the British historian Richard Holmes in his book “Acts of War.” This comparison is incorrect for a number of reasons. First, these totals included air medals, rarely awarded for bravery. We awarded more than 1 million air medals to Army soldiers during Vietnam. Air medals were almost always given on a points basis for missions flown, and it was not unusual to see a helicopter pilot with 40 air medals because of the nature of his job.
If we compare the top three actual gallantry awards, the Army awarded:
* 289 Medals of Honor in World War II and 155 in Vietnam.
* 4,434 Distinguished Service Crosses in World War II and 846 in Vietnam.
* 73,651 Silver Stars in World War II against 21,630 in Vietnam.
* The Marine Corps, which lost 103,000 killed or wounded out of some 400,000 sent to Vietnam, awarded 47 Medals of Honor (34 posthumously), 362 Navy Crosses (139 posthumously) and 2,592 Silver Stars.
Second, although the Army awarded another 1.3 million “meritorious” Bronze Stars and Army Commendation Medals in Vietnam, this was hardly unique. After World War II, Army Regulation 600-45 authorized every soldier who had received either a Combat Infantryman’s Badge or a Combat Medical Badge to also be awarded a meritorious Bronze Star. The Army has no data regarding how many soldiers received Bronze Stars through this blanket procedure.
Atrocities? We made errors, although nowhere on the scale alleged by those who have a stake in disparaging our effort. Fighting a well- trained enemy who seeks cover in highly contested populated areas where civilians often assist the other side is the most difficult form of warfare. The most important distinction is that the deliberate killing of innocent civilians was a crime in the U.S. military. We held ourselves accountable for My Lai. And yet we are still waiting for the communists to take responsibility for the thousands of civilians deliberately killed by their political cadre as a matter of policy. A good place for them to start holding their own forces accountable would be Hue, where during the 1968 Tet Offensive more than 2,000 locals were systematically executed during the brief communist takeover of the city.
What Went Wrong? Beyond the battlefield, just about everything one might imagine.
The war was begun, and fought, without clear political goals. Its battlefield complexities were never fully understood by those who were judging, and commenting upon, American performance. As a rifle platoon and company commander in the infamous An Hoa Basin west of Da Nang, on any given day my Marines could be fighting three different wars: one against terrorism, one against guerrillas and one against conventional forces. The implications of these challenges, as well as our successes in dealing with them, never seemed to penetrate an American populace inundated by negative press stories filed by reporters, particularly television journalists, who had no clue about the real tempo of the war. And one of the most under-reported revelations after the war ended was that several top reporters were compromised while in Vietnam, by communist agents who had managed to gain employment as their assistants, thus shaping in a large way their reporting.
Most importantly, Vietnam became an undeclared war fought against the background of a highly organized dissent movement at home. Few Americans who grew up after the war know that a large part of this dissent movement was already in place before the Vietnam War began. Many who wished for revolutionary changes in America had pushed for them through the vehicles of groups such as the ban-the-bomb movement in the 1950s and the civil-rights movement of the early and mid-1960s. In this regard, it is interesting to note that the infamous antiwar group Students for a Democratic Society was created at the University of Michigan through the Port Huron Statement in 1962 – three full years before American ground troops landed at Da Nang. The SDS hoped to bring revolution to America through the issue of race. They and other extremist groups soon found more fertile soil on the issue of the war.
Former communist colonel Bui Tin, a highly placed propaganda officer during the war, recently published a memoir in which he specifically admitted a truth that was assumed by American fighting men for years. The Hanoi government assumed from the beginning that the United States would never prevail in Vietnam so long as the dissent movement, which they called “the Rear Front,” was successful at home. Many top leaders of this movement coordinated efforts directly with Vietnamese communist officials in Hanoi. Such coordination often included visiting the North Vietnamese capital – for instance, during the planning stages for the October 1967 march on the Pentagon – a few weeks before the siege of Khe Sanh kicked into high gear and a few months before the Tet Offensive.
The majority of the American people never truly bought the antiwar movement’s logic. While it is correct to say many wearied of an ineffective national strategy as the war dragged on, they never stopped supporting the actual goals for which the United States and South Vietnam fought. As late as September 1972, a Harris survey indicated overwhelming support for continued bombing of North Vietnam – 55 percent to 32 percent – and for mining North Vietnamese harbors – 64 percent to 22 percent. By a margin of 74 percent to 11 percent, those polled also agreed that “it is important that South Vietnam not fall into the control of the communists.”
Was It Worth It? On a human level, the war brought tragedy to hundreds of thousands of American homes through death, disabling wounds and psychological scars. Many other Vietnam veterans were stigmatized by their own peers as a classic Greek tragedy played out before the nation’s eyes. Those who did not go, particularly among the nation’s elites, were often threatened by the acts of those who did and as a consequence inverted the usual syllogism of service. If I did not go to a war because I believed it was immoral, what does it say about someone who did? If someone who fought is perceived as having been honorable, what does that say about someone who was asked to and could have but did not?
Vietnam veterans, most of whom entered the military just after leaving high school, had their educational and professional lives interrupted during their most formative years. In many parts of the country and in many professional arenas, their having served their country was a negative when it came to admission into universities or being hired for jobs. The fact that the overwhelming majority of those who served were able to persist and make successful lives for themselves and their families is strong testament to the quality of Americans who actually did step forward and serve.
On a national level, and in the eyes of history, the answer is easier. One can gain an appreciation for what we attempted to achieve in Vietnam by examining the aftermath of the communist victory in 1975. A gruesome holocaust took place in Cambodia, the likes of which had not been seen since World War II. Two million Vietnamese fled their country – mostly by boat. Thousands lost their lives in the process. This was the first such diaspora in Vietnam’s long and frequently tragic history. Inside Vietnam, a million of the south’s best young leaders were sent to re-education camps; more than 50,000 perished while imprisoned, and others remained captives for as long as 18 years. An apartheid system was put into place that punished those who had been loyal to the United States, as well as their families, in matters of education, employment and housing. The Soviet Union made Vietnam a client state until its own demise, pumping billions of dollars into the country and keeping extensive naval and air bases at Cam Ranh Bay. In fact, communist Vietnam did not truly start opening up to the outside world until the Soviet Union ceased to exist.
Would I Do It Again? Others are welcome to disagree, but on this I have no doubt. Like almost every Marine I have ever met, my strongest regret is that perhaps I could have done more. But no other experience in my life has been more important than the challenge of leading Marines during those extraordinarily difficult times. Nor am I alone in this feeling. The most accurate poll of the attitudes of those who served in Vietnam – Harris, 1980 – showed that 91 percent were glad they’d served their country, and 74 percent enjoyed their time in the service. Additionally, 89 percent agreed that “our troops were asked to fight in a war which our political leaders in Washington would not let them win.”
On that final question, history will surely be kinder to those who fought than to those who directed – or opposed – the war.
James Webb served as a rifle platoon and company commander with the Fifth Marine Regiment in Vietnam. A former secretary of the Navy, he is the author of “Fields of Fire” and “Lost Soldiers.” He also was the creator and executive producer of the film “Rules of Engagement.” His website is at www.jameswebb.com.
-- (Cán_Ngố_Ãn-Dải-Dút@BBP.govt), November 17, 2004.
United States Naval Institute; Proceedings
We Must Go After Them and Eliminate Them
October 17, 2001
When Secretary Webb saw the Pentagon on fire, the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine base in Beirut—which killed 241 Americans—came to mind. The separate groups who perpetrated these acts, he says, understand only one thing: the use of force.
When the terrorist incident occurred at the Pentagon on 11 September, I had just finished breakfast with General James Jones, the Commandant of the Marine Corps. I had left the building about ten minutes before the airliner hit it. When I reached my office, which is relatively close by, I heard a loud noise and looked outside. The Pentagon was burning. As much as I’ve loved to throw darts at it from far away, I have a deep affection for the Pentagon. I spent five years of my life in that building. I have a tremendous admiration for the people, uniformed and civilian, who work there, and my heart sank. Beyond how it hit me as an American, that sight hit me personally.
Two things came to my mind in the days following the attack. I remembered when I returned from Beirut in 1983. I had been covering the Marines there for "The Mac Neil/Lehrer News Hour." I came back to the country just before suicide bombers attacked the base there. As I was riding from the airport to my house, I noticed how quiet everything was. And it occurred to me how blessed we were as a people; how few in this country ever had been under attack. That was 18 years ago. Now, we can no longer say that.
I remember I was speaking at a book author dinner in Houston soon after the attack at Beirut. I told the audience that we knew who these people were, we knew where they trained, and we knew that they understood only one thing: the use of force. And we needed to get them. Gloria Steinem, the famous feminist, followed me to the podium and looked at me like I was a lost child. She proceeded to explain to me that violence has never solved anything in the world.
That was 18 years ago, and the Muslim extremists have considered themselves to be at war with us ever since, whether we considered ourselves to be at war with them or not. If nothing else, I believe that distinction now has been clarified. At least I hope so.
The second thing that came to my mind was my resignation as Secretary of the Navy and the reason for it. One issue that had been brewing was whether we were going to cut back the force structure of the Navy. It’s always difficult to say where you’re going to draw a line. But I drew a line. I decided I was not going to walk the budget over, cutting the force structure of the Navy. I turned around to my undersecretary of the Navy that morning and said—half as a joke—"I do not wish to become the father of the 350-ship Navy." Well, guess what! The last time I checked, which was several months ago, we were at 272.
Now we are facing a situation that the sea services understand, I think, better than anyone in this country. When you must commit yourself to a war that is not a total war, you still have to do all your other jobs. And the logic behind a larger force structure for the Navy, in my mind, was always sustainability. How do you sustain yourself when you have to speed up your tempo for a long period of time? How do you do this and not wear out your equipment and your people?
We know that with the situation in Afghanistan, we have four carrier battle groups participating in current operations. The good news is, the arguments over the validity of the aircraft carrier seem to have passed away quickly. We could not do what we are doing in that part of the world without carrier battle groups.
The bad news, or the worrisome news, is if we must sustain ourselves for a long period of time, and meet other commitments around the world, we are going to be—as a nation and as a military—stretched very thin. Other future situations may require the same kind of attention.
What do we do? First, I have a great deal of respect and admiration for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and for the people that President George W. Bush has in his national security apparatus. I think the steps that have been taken have been smart ones. They’re looking long-term. I have no day-to-day connection with what’s going on, but from a distance I feel a great deal of confidence.
What we need is a clear articulation of the national strategy to the American people. When we commit to something like this, which involves many unknowns, people need to know what the endgame really is. In my view, there are two endgames.
The first is homeland defense. We must create an environment here in the United States in which our intelligence apparatus has been reinvigorated. So we can feel secure inside our borders, we must find terrorist cells, penetrate them, and eliminate them. And we must develop a capability to prevent similar groups from entering and operating in this country. It’s sort of like rule number one in any operational military environment: you cannot go on patrol if your perimeter isn’t secure. This is our highest priority, in my view.
Step number two is to convince every country in the world to accept responsibility for policing and eliminating terrorist training and other activities inside their own borders. In a way, this is my reading of what this administration began when it told several countries that have very bad records in this area, You have the chance to demonstrate to us that you will do this.
In those countries that do not agree with us, I think we need to do the policing for them for a while. And we need to start with a basic premise: if fundamentalist Muslim terrorists want to die for a cause, you are not going to stop them. The most important thing you can do, if you are their adversary, is to kill them on your terms, not on theirs. That makes some Americans—particularly American media— squeamish. But that is the reality of the situation we are in.
The Taliban is probably the most clear-cut example of what might be called a prototype for looking forward into how we should be addressing the situation. We have given those people clear signals. They obviously are not complying, for a number of reasons. As a result, we are taking necessary action to ensure elimination of this cancer that has grown inside their country. We have the right to do that, under the United Nations Charter. This is clearly self- defense. And if we establish the right kind of management prototype, so to speak, countries now sitting on the fence on the issue will be much more likely to take responsibility for activities inside their borders.
Who should we be going after? I’ve spent a lot of time studying and thinking about the Vietnam War and what measures taken by the Vietcong were successful against the Vietnamese people. We talked about winning the hearts and minds. The Vietcong had a very simple philosophy. Starting in 1958, they reintroduced assassination squads into South Vietnam. And by the early 1960s, people asked, Why did John Kennedy send in the first 15,000 advisors in late 1961, which started the ball rolling on the Vietnam War? By that point, the Vietnamese communists were killing, on the average, 11 government officials a day. Their message to the Vietnamese people was: If you affiliate with the government of South Vietnam, in contested areas, we will kill you. If you leave them alone, we will not bother you.
When the United States entered the war in earnest, we looked at the use of force in Vietnam principally as a military tool. Most of us were militarily trained, and we used force randomly. But we used too much supporting arms at different times. In some areas—such as in central Vietnam, where I was—I think we alienated a lot of the people and we killed a lot of people who didn’t need to die.
Looking at these examples, you come to a conclusion about the use of force in this situation. In my opinion, we need to articulate clearly that we do not have a quarrel with the Muslim world. But the part of the Muslim world that considers itself at war with us must be on notice. Who are these people? They are the ones conducting terrorist activities and those training and providing logistical support to them. All those people, in my opinion, should be fair game. Over time, we should see the people who are conducting this international campaign of terrorism being cut away from their support base. Many good people were cut away from the support base of the South Vietnamese government. I think there’s a direct parallel.
As we watch the diplomacy play out, we must keep our eye also on the activities of China. I’ve been pushing my view for more than 12 years that China has consciously pursued a strategic axis with the Muslim world. And even though it has some problems with activities on its western border, it gets a great deal of mileage out of the relationships it has developed with the Muslim world. China helped Libya. China has been trading or selling weapon systems and invigorating its trade with Iran ever since I was Secretary of the Navy. China enabled Pakistan to develop a nuclear capability.
Why this is so? Because China still has designs on Southeast Asia, and it always has been heavily Muslim. But recently, it has become more and more heavily fundamentalist Muslim. Look at Malaysia, Indonesia, and the southern part of the Philippines. A big training base for terrorist activity is on Mindanao, and it’s been there for years. China is also becoming a net oil importer as it modernizes its economy.
I spend a lot of time in Asia, and when I’m there I am very rarely with Americans. It has been fascinating over the past ten years to watch Asians in what we would call the second-tier countries— Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines—adjust to the United States receding from the region, as our military, and particularly our Navy, has grown smaller. And they’ve watched China expand and, in effect, fill the vacuum. Last summer I was in Vietnam, Thailand, and Myanmar, formerly called Burma. My experience in Burma in particular was an eye opener. Because the Chinese, just through an accretion process of moving people across the borders into Northern Burma, are affecting that country dramatically at a time when we have put up barriers and embargoes on the issue of human rights. What is on the southern end of Burma? The Indian Ocean. And many signs point to the Chinese looking to build a naval base there.
The other part of this formula, of course, is that as we have warmed our relationship with Pakistan, at least temporarily. In doing so, we risk our relationship with India. And over the past couple of years, India has started to become known as a natural counterbalance to the Chinese. We’ve seen a healthy movement over the past several years, as the Indians have started to position themselves a little bit away from Russia. They had a very close defense relationship with the Soviet Union when it existed. And as we have started to reposition ourselves from the closer relationship we had with China, we need to watch the situation very carefully.
My final admonition—and I got into some trouble with this during the Gulf War—is that we are not in a position as a nation, and particularly as a military, to occupy large pieces of territory. The Wall Street Journal editorialized repeatedly during the Gulf War that we should set up a MacArthurian regency in Baghdad. There has been a lot of discussion about why we did not take Baghdad during the Gulf War. I think as much as anyone in this country, I would like to see Saddam Hussein go. To my knowledge, I was the only guy in the Reagan administration who opposed the tilt toward Iraq, in writing, in 1987. I do not think we had nor have the resources to occupy Iraq.
If you think we have problems in Israel, try putting a Judeo- Christian military system in the cradle of Muslim culture. And when you think about a military of 1.4 million people, with other responsibilities around the world, that is not a winnable situation. I tried to say ten years ago, over and over again, that we must be involved only to the extent that it directly involves our national interests. These arguments have been going on for 3,000 years. And when they do relate to our national interests, as this international terrorist movement does, we must act with a great deal of specific lethality. We must go after the people who are doing this and eliminate them.
James Webb was an Assistant Secretary of Defense and Secretary of
the Navy in the Reagan Administration.
-- (Cán_Ngố_Ãn-Dải-Dút@BBP.govt), November 17, 2004.
This article illustrates that Chomsky was lying about when we knew what was happening in Vietnam, just as, far more seriously, he was lying about what we knew about Cambodia. He led the reader to believe that at the time no one even suggested a bloodbath was happening in Vietnam, when we all knew something terrible was happening in Vietnam, and some people most certainly did suggest a bloodbath was under way. In particular Le Thi Anh accused the North Vietnamese regime of committing a bloodbath in the course of their pacification of South Vietnam.
National Review, April 29, 1977, page 487
---------------------------------------------------------------------- ---------- SECOND ANNIVERSARY
The New Vietnam
LE THI ANH
It is two years ago this month since the communists overran South Vietnam. When Saigon first fell there was much speculation in the west about the likelihood of a bloodbath; as the months passed, however, and there was little news the speculation began to taper off Now two years later, Vietnam and its people have vanished almost completely from the American consciousness. Those once actively concerned about the war both doves and hawks, share a common interest in forgetting that faraway land of so many unpleasant memories.
U.S. antiwar groups don’t want to be reminded of Vietnam for fear of having to admit that their marches, demonstrations and successful cut- the-aid campaign resulted in death or detention for thousands of South Vietnamese, many of whom were their partners in non-Communist opposition to President Thieu
U.S. officials also are anxious to contain unhappy news from Vietnam, because it will reveal how inadequate the American evacuation program was, as well as how the U.S. failed its allies. According to Frank Snepp, a CIA analyst who served in Saigon, the American Embassy wasn’t able to destroy its top- secret files during the frantic evacuation, and among the: information that fell into Communist hands was a list of 30,000 Vietnamese who had worked in the Phoenix program, a U.S.-sponsored operation responsible for the elimination of thousands of Communist agents. A full report on the massacre of those 30,000 Phoenix cadres is said to have. reached the desk of the French ambassador to Saigon by late 1975; he communicated it to . Washington. where nothing was done with it.
The American media also seem to want forget Vietnam. Scores of former concentration camp inmates•Vietnamese who escaped not in April 1975 but after the Communists had been in power a while•have arrived in the United States. but they get very little attention from the press. (Although this was recently remedied somewhat when Jean Lacouture’s horror story of life in present-day Cambodia and Father Andre Gelinas’ account of life in South Vietnam after the takeover were reprinted in The New York Review of books
At the time Saigon fell, most people in the West assumed that if there were a bloodbath it would have to be motivated by anger, by the Communists’ desire for revenge and retaliation. Since none of those emotions was detected in the North Vietnamese rulers and their well disciplined troops as they marched into Saigon, onlookers concluded that there would be no bloodbath•QED, Senator McGovern scoffed’ at the Ford Administration for its predictions. “It’s. ridiculous” he said, “to believe that Mme Binh is going to murder her compatriots.” The Senator was right: Mme Binh was not going to murder anyone. The Communist system itself took on the job.
THE BLOODBATH is motivated not so much by hatred or revenge as by the necessity for the Communist system to purge itself of undesirable elements From a Marxist viewpoint political purge is a necessity in order to achieve political purity, a precondition to the building of socialism. Political purity ensures single mindedness, which in turn achieves high efficiency. The Vietnamese Communists, as they showed in their conduct of the war, are doctrinaire single minded, efficient. But not until all Vietnamese•men, women, and children think the Communist way will political purity be achieved for the new nation as a whole. This is why indoctrination ”re-education” as they call it• is of prime importance. For those who are too old or too stubborn to change elimination is the only alternative.
Seen in its proper context, the bloodbath is only one of the three columns holding up the structure known as One Red Vietnam. Those three columns are reunification, with Hanoi as the capital; full scale Marxist revolution in the South and political purge, i.e., bloodbath. This program was not ready to be put into effect immediately following the takeover. Hanoi was in a position to take the South militarily but not to turn it Communist overnight. A blood bath in the aftermath of the takeover would have served no purpose except to unleash emotions: but the Communist system as no place for real emotions it is machine which expertly creates synthetic emotions, such as; hatred of U S. imperialists, for its own ends No Vietnamese I know was surprised that a bloodbath did not occur immediately after the Communist victory. A bloodbath at that time would have been counterproductive, under the glare of international publicity and scrutiny thousands of foreigners, including scores of foreign correspondents, were still in Saigon all of them watching the behavior of the victorious troops. The press•and the world•wanted to see how this long bitter war would end. Hanoi wanted money for reconstruction and did not wish to jeopardize chances of getting aid by an early and spectacular massacre that would have awakened the conscience of the Free World.. 1f Hanoi is to get American aid, it must rely on those same elements in American society that fought against The Vietnam War so effectively; it must get them to work American public opinion and the U.S. Government around to such a course. And those elements do not like hearing about bloodbaths.
Hanoi has other reasons besides the obvious economic ones for wanting U.S. aid: It hopes to avoid total reliance on either the USSR or China; and it views U.S. reparations as the final; step in the humiliation of America. Thus, for all these reasons, the bloodbath had to be delayed: However, in March of 1976•a year ago•the bamboo curtain began to come down.
All foreign correspondents, news agency reporters, and UN and Red Cross representatives were ordered to leave Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City before May 8, 1976. On June 10 th , both Hanoi and Saigon announced that 12 categories of people would face trial by “people’s tribunals” Among those to be "severe1y punished”: the “lackeys. of U.S. imperialism" those veterans of Thieu’s ‘ "puppet regime” who failed repent their “crimes” and those who "owed blood debts" to the people; and the "past and present enemies of the government and revolution" (This is not the first appearance in Vietnam of peop1e’s tribunals. North Vietnamese refugees vividly remember that from 1956 to 1959, people’s tribunals using denunciation ion and torture, were responsible for 200,000 deaths in the North.)
Meanwhile, the regime had already started setting up its “re- education camps" and new economic areas,”
Thousands of urban Vietnamese families have been forced to sell their homes and start over again in new economic areas ere even the basic necessities are lacking. (Hence corruption, once thought of as a Thieu trademark, is flourishing: a new mandarin class has emerged ready to sell anything from a place in a fertile new economic area to a visa to France
-- (Tien_Phong@Hai_Au.com), November 17, 2004.
Ket Cuc :
In all, some 300,000 people are being detained in re-eucation camps which are in no way similar to the show camps set up for the benefit of visiting dignitaries an foreign reporters. (TheWashington Post story of February 15 was based on a visit to such a show camp.)
One out every three Saigon families has a member in one of the camps, according to French journalist Jean Lacouture, who made an automobile trip from Hanoi to Saigon in 1976. After a visit to a new economic area for former Saigon near Phan-Thiet, Lacouture wrote that it was “a prefabricated hell and a place one comes to only if the alternative to it would be death."
Camps for former officers and functionaries of the Saigon government are usually located in malaria infested jungle areas. Thousands of camp inmates have died from lack of food, medicine, or clothing. Thousands have committed suicide some have been secretly liquidated, others perish through staged “accidents”: For example, former officers are forced to de-activate minefields with their bare hands, so the regime will not have to waste valuable bullets on them.
After the officers had mostly “been taken care of, it was the turn of the intellectuals some 2,500 of whom were sent to re-education camps. Among them are journalists, authors, scholars, professors, Western- educated technicians, student leaders, “Third Force" leaders. The list of prominent Vietnamese now either in prison or in concentration camps includes Catholic Bishop Nguyen Van Thuan; a 72-year-old Hoa- Hao Buddhist leader, Luong Trong Tuong; and 17 members of his family Harvard-educated Tony Nguyen Xuan Oanh; lawyer Tran Van Tuyen. Meanwhile, a new means of breaking up armed resistance against the regime has been added to this already formidable arsenal: on December 16, Premier Pham Van Dong spoke to the Fourth Communist Party Congress in Hanoi announcing that one million South Vietnamese would be deported to the North, in a five year population shift.
A Vietnamese woman journalist who escaped afier 16 months under communist rule has had no news of her husband, a police officer who detained a re-education camp; she believes he either is dead or has been deported to a labor camp in the North. Her case is typical. There is no conciliation no forgiveness, no leniency only a carefully’ concealed massive political purge:
Father Andre Gelinas, a Vietnamese speaking Jesuit. priest who was recently expelled from Saigon, says that as many as 20,000 Vietnamese have committed suicide sicne the Communists took over. In the article that New York Review reprinted Gelinas writes that one former policeman killed his ten children his wife and his mother in law and then killed himself. One father, after explaining it was necessary to put an end to their torment, passed out poisoned soup to his family. Twelve monks and nuns immolated themselves by fire at their Duoc-Su pagoda, in PhungHiep, Can-Tho on November 2, 1975 to protest religious persecutions,
Scores of eyewitnesses flee SouthVietnam by boat every month. Huynh Tran Duc’s. account is worth special attention. Duc is a young Vietnamese graduate of the French Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales and Columbia University. When Saigon was “liberated,” he left his Pan Am job and his American sweetheart and went home to serve under the new regime. He finally bribed his way out and escaped to Australia deeply disillusioned with the liberation he had actively supported until he saw it with his own eyes. His day by day account, Diary of a Liberated Man, written in English, was translated into French by Brigitte Friang and published in her book Le Mousson de la Liberté (Plon). Here is an exerpt from his entry for July 7, 1975
A convoy of 150 former Saigon officers was massacred en route to a re- education camp, except one who feigned death. Four U.S. trucks driven by ARVN [North Vietnamese Army] drivers; all the officers were blindfolded with their hands tied behind their backs. The trucks were preceded by an armored car and a tank and followed by the same. Suddenly, in the ink dark of the of the countryside night, the leading tank and armored car sped up and the following tank and armored car opened fire on the convoy. The wounded were dispatched in place. All the prisoners were killed, except one who was saved by the local populace. And it was he who reported the massacre. This was a North Vietnamese version of the Katyn massacre of 1939 in which the Russians shot 4500 captured Polish officers. The official story was that the convoy was mined by rebels. Ten days before, another convoy of high-ranking officers left Cholon under the same conditions by night, hands tied, blind Wives don’t know what has become of them.
In its January 24, 1977 issue, the weekly Trang-Den , published in Glendale,, California, carried photographs and a handwritten letter from the widow of Lieutenant Pham Mai, who perished during an anti- Communist attack on the Long-Giao concentration camp in Long Khanh province on the night of April 24, 1976 the Phu-Quoc Quan (National Recovery) forces attacked the camp and liberated a number of inmates. The remaining were machine-gunned by camp authorities
In view of the above it seems incredible that the United States could be considering a program - of aid to Vietnan U.S. dollars most certainly will not help the Vietnamese people: all they can do is provide the government with more bullets. U.S. aid must be tied to respect for human rights: in this case, the prior release of 300,000 former military and political opponents of the Hanoi government. The people of South Vietnam too have their missing in action.
---------------------------------------------------------------------- ---------- Mrs. Anh left Vietnam when Saigon fell A member of President Ford’s A advisory Committee on Indochinese Refugees, her articles have appeared in Asian Survey, Harper’s Weekly, and the Washington Star.
-- (Tie_Phong@Hai_Au.com), November 17, 2004.
State Department Official Talks With Millbrook High Class About Vietnam
October 29, 2001 - A U.S. State Department official recently visited a Millbrook High class to talk about his connections to and views on Vietnam.
Robert Carlson Robert Carlson, who now works at the U.S. Embassy in Bogota, Colombia, worked the State Department's Vietnam desk when the U.S. established diplomatic ties with Vietnam in the 1990s. Carlson told Lindy Poling's Lessons of Vietnam class October 12 that his views on the southeast Asia country had changed over time. His earliest memories of the war were news reports.
"I was a child during the Vietnam War," Carlson said. "I grew up seeing it on TV. It was the first war that was in our living rooms. Frankly, for a child, it was scary to see people being machine gunned and hand grenades being thrown while you are having dinner."
When Carlson turned 18, he had to register with Selective Service, an issue made significant by Vietnam.
"My friends and I sat around and debated what we should do," Carlson said. "We didn't know if we wanted to sign up for the Selective Service because of the bad experience that our country had in Vietnam. Nobody wanted to go to war after that. During World War Two, the number of draft dodgers was a handful. In the Vietnam War, the number of draft dodgers was enormous. It was because a lot of people believed that the war was wrong. The United States had not been attacked. The United States was out meddling in another country, people said. Finally, I decided I would register for selective service, but that I would give very careful consideration to serving in the armed forces if I was drafted to fight in a war where my country was not attacked."
In college, Carlson took a course on the Vietnam War. The course required each student to interview a veteran or refugee of the war. That's when Carlson met Thanh.
"He was born in Saigon and grew up there," said Carlson. "He was about 10 or 12 in 1975 when Saigon fell."
Thanh told Carlson the day Saigon fell, the schools were closed.
"They were closed for a few weeks and then reopened. He returned to find that all his teachers were gone and they had been replaced by North Vietnamese teachers who changed the history," said Carlson. "Thanh said they told him how bad the south was, how inferior the south was, how the Americans had invaded Vietnam, and how the North Vietnamese had liberated the South Vietnamese from the Yankee Imperialists. Than didn't really swallow that. He knew he had a good life before the North Vietnamese arrived."
At school, Thanh focused his attention on math. But at home, life became more difficult. His uncles were sent to re-education camps and the new government had spies on every block. Thanh's family fled the country. They bought their way onto a fishing boat and made it to Malaysia. After months in a refugee camp, officials put them aboard another boat, took it out into international waters, and set it adrift. They were rescued by Indonesian fishermen who took them to a refugee camp in Indonesia. From there, his family was sponsored by a church group in Bloomington, Indiana and made their way to the U.S.
Teacher Lindy Poling introduces Robert Carlson to her Lessons of Vietnam class. "We used to think that maybe we were wrong to fight in a far-off country. It was the Cold War. It was like the people who were running this country were only fighting this war as a way to stick it to Russia and to keep the threat of community conspiracy from spreading throughout southeast Asia," said Carlson. "But Than made me think that maybe there really was a just cause here. I began to think differently. I realized what happened after the U.S. left Vietnam was really tragic. The communist regime executed a lot of people, tortured a lot of people, and enslaved almost the entire population. I don't think people in the U.S. really expected that."
In 1988, Carlson began working for the State Department and in 1996 went to Washington to work on the Vietnam desk. To acquaint desk officers with their countries, they take an orientation tour.
"I was excited because I was going to get to go to the country that everyone had always talked about, the country that I had been studying, the country where events had changed our nation's psyche," said Carlson. "Hanoi was a dreary place. It was overcast a lot. Saigon, now called Ho Chi Minh City, was a completely different city. It is a bustling, booming city with a lot of commerce. That's probably what struck me the most about the visit, the contrast between north and south."
Carlson found North Vietnam to have a very conservative culture, heavily influenced by China. He thought the south more liberal and open.
In Ho Chi Minh City, Carlson visited the former U.S. Embassy building shortly before it was demolished to make way for a new U.S. Consulate.
"I couldn't believe it. I had seen pictures of it," said Carlson. "I had seen pictures of this building during the Tet offensive in 1968 when the Viet Cong took over the embassy and killed a bunch of foreign service officers before they were finally routed out and killed themselves by U.S. forces. Going into the building was like visiting a haunted house. It was eerie with all the empty offices. I went up to the roof and saw where the helipad was. I saw the stairs and iron ladder that people used to escape when they evacuated people out of there in April 1975. It was an experience that left me speechless."
Pete Peterson on the Internet US DEPARTMENT OF STATE: Pete Peterson
PBS: Pete Peterson, Assignment Hanoi
Online News Hour: Pete Peterson, August 9, 1999
THE WHITE HOUSE - AMBASSADOR PETE PETERSON, November 18, 2000
Asia Society: Pete Peterson, March 9, 2001 While Carlson worked the Vietnam desk, President Clinton nominated Pete Peterson as the first ambassador to Vietnam.
"Peterson was a POW in the war. He spent five and half years in the Hanoi Hilton. He endured torture, but was one of the lucky survivors," Carlson said. "He came back to the United States, became a successful businessman, ran for Congress, defeated an incumbent, and served two terms in the U.S. House. He thought he could make a greater contribution as the nation's first ambassador to Vietnam, because if anybody could think about forgiveness and reconciliation, it was someone like Pete. Not long into my term as Vietnam desk officer, Pete Peterson was confirmed as our ambassador and he went to Vietnam and opened the embassy with the Secretary of State."
In 1979, Vietnam invaded Cambodia and the U.S. had established policy that there would be no relationship with Vietnam until it withdrew from Cambodia. Vietnam left Cambodia in 1989 and Peterson arrived in Hanoi as ambassador in May 1997.
"When you don't have diplomatic relations with a country and you don't have a dialogue with that country, you can't expect to influence that country in any way," Carlson said. "We were aware there were enormous human rights violations in Vietnam and we could do nothing to help the people. By re-establishing relations, we were able to create a dialogue with the Vietnamese government, of which I was part. Our human rights dialogue involved mid- and high-level officials who would meet every six months to go over a list of cases, and political prisoners, and try to get Vietnam to loosen the reigns a little bit. For example, we were able to persuade them to permit the Internet in Vietnam. We were able to win the release of several political prisoners. Our commercial relationship began to grow. That was what the Vietnamese really wanted. They couldn't get their economy off the ground and almost no country can get its economy off the ground without having trade relations with the United States. By using that as a carrot, we were able to produce changes in Vietnam and I think what we will see there is a change in generations."
Carlson said that way over 50 percent of Vietnam's population was born after the war and have no recollection of the war.
"Most don't care about it," said Carlson. "They want to live their lives, earn some money, and become prosperous. I think that's how things will eventually change in Vietnam."
Carlson visited Poling's class as part of her Community in the Classroom concept that involves students by hearing speakers who visit the classroom, corresponding by e-mail with a wide range of contacts Poling has developed as part of her course, and taking part in activities such as a dinner with veterans and a visit to the Vietnam War monument in Washington, DC.
Visiting speakers stimulate class discussions and Poling asked students to write letters responding to speakers like Carlson. For Poling a critical lesson for the students was Carlson's discussion about Thanh's life in Vietnam after the U.S. left.
"Its amazing the hardships people must go through just to have a glimpse of freedom, to escape the home and everything you have known for so long and leave it behind," wrote Michelle. "It must be difficult; I cannot even begin to imagine leaving America to live in another country, because freedom no longer exists. You have opened so many doors and questions for me to look forward to learning more about Vietnam and its lessons for us."
"I had never really paid much attention to a Vietnamese point of view until you told the story of your interview with Thanh," wrote Erika. "It really touched me because for the first time, I was hearing a totally different story. It has not just a war that had not purpose anymore, it was a war for ones own country. It became a war with a purpose, a huge purpose. This man's family depended on the outcome of this war. Thank you for giving me the turn around on the view."
"Introducing the lesson you learned from interviewing Thanh and hearing his side of Vietnam was important for us," wrote Riannon. "It is difficult to live in America and have adequate access to a Vietnamese perspective. I think we should have some understanding of what the South Vietnamese were going through because it is one of the major strong points for why the U.S. even became involved in the war."
Carlson told the class small decisions may have enormous unforeseen consequences on world events, "It's not just the world's leaders who drive history, its also average people like you and me." As an example he pointed to the attraction between two people and the impact it had years later on events in the U.S.
"A man and a woman in Austria at some point smiled at each other back in the 19th century and that completely changed the course of our world history," Carlson said. "They were the parents of Adolph Hitler. If they had never met, if they had missed each other by five minutes, the world would be completely different. If Hitler had never been born, its very likely there never would have been a Holocaust. If there had never been a Holocaust, then there wouldn't have been such an incredibly strong western sympathy for the creation of the state of Israel. And if the state of Israel had never been created, the Muslim radicals in the Middle East wouldn't hate the United States so much. And it would be very likely that Osama bin Laden would not have been converted into a radical and the events of September 11 never would have happened."
"Our class had a discussion about your comment on two people smiling at one another," wrote Erika. "To believe that our world can change so much much because of the simplest things is amazing. In one way, it is a scary thought with your example of Hitler. I also see it as something good because even 'The Lessons of Vietnam' class is small, we can make a difference, too."
"We have been taught to look at the big picture, but you broke it down all the way back to Hitler; it made me realize that if it was not for WW II and the Cold War, that September 11 might have never happened All our military technology and space advancement might have never occurred; how different life would be for us as Americans today," wrote Michelle.
"I was amazed when you talked about how if two people had not looked at each other then Hitler would not have been born," wrote Norma. "I never realized that everything 'common' people do could have unimaginable effects. Over the weekend, every person I talked to and things I did, I questioned the effect that I might be making on someone else."
-- (Cán_Ngố_Ãn-Dải-Dút@BBP.govt), November 18, 2004.
A Newsletter of FPRI’s Center for the Study of America and the West
Who Were We in Vietnam?
Volume 1, Number 7
by Walter A. McDougall
First published in The New York Times, April 26, 2000.
Walter A. McDougall, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, is director of FPRI’s History Academy, Editor of Orbis, and the Alloy-Ansin Professor of International Relations at the University of Pennsylvania. He served as an army artilleryman in Vietnam.
“Twas in another lifetime, full of toil and blood,” began Bob Dylan’s “Shelter from the Storm” in 1974, when “blackness was a virtue, and the road was full of mud.” The fall of South Vietnam 25 years ago seems to me a scene from another lifetime. I had returned from Vietnam in 1970, earned a Ph.D. in history at the University of Chicago, and just received a job offer from Berkeley (the letter was dated April Fool’s Day). I was as sick of the war as anyone and eager to “open up that Golden Gate.” But news that the North Vietnamese had launched an invasion more akin to the blitzkrieg of Poland than to a Maoist “people’s war,” and had overrun my old base camp 30 miles up Thunder Road from Saigon, turned my heart to lead.
I could not deal with it any more than I had the death of my mother a few years earlier, so I repressed it until, in 1994, a former student invited me to lecture on Vietnam to his prep school students. Thanks to him, I dredged up and purged all my anger, disillusionment, fear and pity— for myself and the Vietnamese — and promptly worked up a seminar on the war that I have taught ever since.
No one disputes Vietnam’s manifold effects on America. Richard Nixon presided over replacement of the draft with an all-volunteer (and increasingly mixed-gender) force and reduction of the voting age to 18. The Vietnam syndrome and the public’s aversion to casualties inspired the strict Weinberger-Powell guidelines for the commitment of forces abroad. Congress attacked the so-called imperial presidency through the War Powers Act, C.I.A. hearings and the movement to impeach Richard Nixon for abuses committed in the name of national security. A loss of trust in the presidency ensued, and the media became adversarial. Yet the turmoil at home also allowed Nixon to pursue the Silent Majority and Southern strategies that paved the way for Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich, and our policies are still perturbed by what candidates did, or did not do, back in the 60’s.
Vietnam also completed the integration of the armed forces and launched the careers of thousands of African-American officers and noncommissioned officers, as well as others who returned home to work in law enforcement, government and the professions. The Pentagon itself addressed racial tensions so well after 1975 that the military became a model for civilian institutions.
The war’s primary economic effect was “guns and butter” budgets that helped to spark the inflation of the 1970’s and hooked the federal government on deficit spending until the 1990’s.
But the deepest long-term effect on America may stem from the rich and undeserved contributions made to American life by the Vietnamese refugees who quietly went to work restoring blighted neighborhoods, building businesses and sending their children to college.
The lessons of the war, by contrast, are still up for grabs, as demonstrated by the flow of new books. Was the military derelict in its duty when it promised, then pretended, to win the war, or did arrogant civilians order the military into battle with one hand tied and no clear goals? Was the American effort in Vietnam a sin, a blunder or a “necessary war”? Should it stand as a warning against state-building projects in strange and violent settings, like the Balkans? Or did Vietnam’s school of hard knocks teach Americans to do peacemaking and state building right?
Drawing lessons from Vietnam remains a political enterprise. It is also a deeply psychological one for those who designed the war and for the baby boomers who were obliged to wage, resist or just run from it. No one wants to admit being wrong back then, and all want to believe that what happened back then proves they are right today.
Still, post-cold war historians have revealed certain facts that Americans need to digest. One is that there was nothing inevitable about Ho Chi Minh’s rise to the status of icon. He spent his mysterious years in Moscow and China doing virtually nothing useful, and was little regarded in the Indochinese Communist Party. What made possible his “triumphant return” in 1941 was Vietnam’s premature uprising against the French in 1940 and the decimation of its Communist leadership.
We know, too, that Ho promoted the broad-based Viet Minh movement not only to rally the masses against the Japanese and the French, but also to co-opt or eliminate rivals. To be sure, he was a puppet of no one, least of all Vietnam’s old nemesis, China. But when Hanoi decided in 1959 to approve armed struggle against Ngo Dinh Diem’s regime in Saigon, Ho personified the third world “national liberation movements” that Khrushchev and Mao vowed to support and Kennedy was determined to thwart.
It is easy to chastise Americans for backing the French and then replacing them as patrons of South Vietnam. But we did, and great nations are responsible for their acts. That is why the most shameful aspect of all is how the United States, having adopted the non-Communist Vietnamese, betrayed them repeatedly. The first time was in 1963 when President Kennedy’s men sanctioned the overthrow of Diem because he was an authoritarian patriot who refused to play puppet. If they were intent on judging the Saigon regime by different standards than they did South Korea and Taiwan, then they should have pulled out.
Instead, the Johnson administration not only took over the war, but chose means — search and destroy missions in the South and calibrated bombing in the North, without any effort to cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail — that were as ineffective as they were destructive. Then Lyndon Johnson just washed his hands of the mess after Tet 1968, when he halted the bombing, begged for peace talks, gave Hanoi time to recoup from the devastating losses suffered by Viet Cong cadres and bequeathed to his successor 540,000 demoralized American troops who knew we “weren’t in it to win.” That was America’s second betrayal of the South Vietnamese.
When Paul O’Dwyer, a New York Democratic Senate candidate, told the 1968 Democratic convention that Democratic voters had registered “an indictment” against the war, it was over so far as doves were concerned. But the people who voted for Nixon and George Wallace were not tired of fighting; they were tired of losing. What is more, Nixon and Henry Kissinger hoped to salvage America’s global posture through the China Opening, and soon suspected that the Chinese wanted Americans in Southeast Asia. Beset on their northern frontier by Soviet armies and rocket divisions, the Chinese were loath to see Vietnam unite under the tough pro-Soviet regime in Hanoi. So instead of blaming the Democrats and “bugging out” in his personal interest, Nixon determined to withdraw gradually. That did him in. He was a war president held to peacetime standards of governance, and when Congress cut off aid to Saigon after the 1973 Paris Accords, it was voting for defeat, not for peace. That was America’s third betrayal.
A bright student from New York taught me that. Throughout the semester he had criticized United States involvement in Vietnam until, in the penultimate class, he suddenly changed his mind. Later I asked him wryly, “Who are you?” He asked what I meant, and I referred to his flip-flop. He blushed, then said, “Nixon was right!” About geopolitics? No, he said, about honor: maybe we shouldn’t have been there, but having created South Vietnam, urged its people to fight for 10 years at the risk of exile, prison and death if they lost, and done so much damage to their country, how could Americans just desert them? He even likened it to turning our backs on the Holocaust. Who are you? It seems Americans will be answering that question for some time to come, with that other lifetime on their minds.
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-- (Cán_Ngố_Ãn-Dải-Dút@BBP.govt), November 18, 2004.