Unicorns and Dragons, Myopic Views of Viet Nam

by Bill Laurie

“One judgmental conclusion then is that America did not at the time and does not todayunderstand the essence of the Viet NamWar.In this ignorance lie both past tragedy and future danger.”

Unicorns and dragons are mythological creatures and can beassigned attributes to the liking of anyone choosing to discuss them.One could give a presentation on comparativeanatomy of either creature, invent attributes, and a mythical history.One might also throw in griffins and yetisor other mythical creature, providing exposition on comparative anatomicalcharacteristics of each, or which would emerge victorious in a fight.It may be an interesting topic were it notfor the fact that the entire discussion would have no practical applicationwhatsoever.None of these animals existexcept in the imagination of those discussing them.In some respects this applies to the currentstatus of“Viet Nam-ology” and the lateDouglas Pike’s prescient observation still holds true.

Overall, it can beargued that one dismal constant applies to American involvement in Viet Nam: utter failure of any major institutionto perform with any degree of intelligent elan.This in turn derives from a fundamentalinability and/or unwillingness to ascertain significant, relevant, factualmaterial and interpret it in a logical and intelligent manner, rationallyinterpreting history’s dynamic and clashing forces, thence proceeding to dowhatever to do whatever one intends to do, be it report the “news,” formulateand implement intelligent effective strategy, write “histories” on the topic,conduct high school or college courses, or fight a war.Today, as in 1960, the warning issuedcenturies ago by Chinese military geographer Ku Tsu-yu remains unheeded:

“Anyone who is to start military operations in one part ofthe country should know the condition of the country as a whole.To start such an operation without such aknowledge is to court defeat regardless of whether it is a defensive oroffensive operation.”

It is essential torecognize it was not simply “the Viet Nam War”’ but rather a regional theater“jihad” with Hanoi’s objective to establish an ideological communist“caliphate” over all of Indochina and beyond.The war –Hanoi‘s war- was nomore exclusively about “reunification” of the two Viet Namsthan WW II was about driving Nazis out of Franceonly.Ho Chi Minh’s communists,adhering to a Comintern 1930 edict,hadlong been involved with training Lao and Cambodian troops and cadre.In 1962 Hanoibegan training Thai insurgents at its Hoa Binh Training Camp and also trainedethnic Viet Namese living in NE Thailand.As a “condition of the region,” paraphrasingKu Tsu-yu, an appropriate strategy should have been accordingly designed andimplemented by a unified U.S.-led theater command.It never was, aside from a fatuous attemptto assure Laotian “neutrality” in 1962 via the Laotian Accords, signed by Hanoi,compelling foreign forces to leave Laos.Hanoisigned the Accords then ignored them.NVA troop strength in Laosremained intact and increased significantly from 1962 on.Hanoihad a coherent regional strategy.Noappropriate counter-strategy was either designed or permitted by Washington’sdruids and geo-political alchemists:

“The way Washingtonassigned combat responsibilities in the Southeast Asiatheater totally thwarted a unified approach.There was no strategy for fighting the Viet Nam War.If there had been it would have consisted ofseveral coordinated operational campaigns aimed at those parts of the theaterin which Hanoi carried out its ownwar efforts.…. The U.S. Strategy forfighting the Viet Namwar was bereft of any such approach.Instead, disharmony was at play, and coordination and integration neveroccurred.”

This borders on criminal negligence.Many other examples of Washington’sineptitude exist: retarding “Viet Namization” by failing to provide adequateweaponry to RVN armed forces (only 5% of RVNAF had M16 rifles in January,1968), failure to coordinate military and pacification operations (notinaugurated until May 1967 formation of CORDS), failure to attack the Viet CongInfrastructure (VCI) in coordinated fashion until CORDS, and other areas ofmalfeasance.

One of Washington‘smore inexcusable failures was inability and unwillingness to engage in thepropaganda/counter-propaganda/information/psy-pol war effort war, a vitalelement of Hanoi‘s overallstrategy.Roger Canfield has exposed theinvidious and effective operations of the “Americong,” yet their deluge ofhallucinatory and thoroughly deceitful propaganda would have had far lesstraction had Washington‘sbean-counters realized the critical importance of the war for publicopinion.Instead, they mumbled insipidplatitudes about “peace,” “not seeking wider war,” etc.This bland and ultimately boring performanceleft a Viet Namese, American, and world public audience stupefied with doubt,all the more convinced that Washington either didn’t know what it was doing-quite true- and/or it was indeed guilty of the heinous barbarity alleged byHanoi and its supporters in Viet Nam, America, and the world.Despite having truth on its side, Washingtonargued its case with all the soporific lassitude of a hog doped on opium.Phil Goulding, Assistant Secretary of Defensefor Public Affairs, elaborated on this:

“In my four-year tour (July 1965-January 1969) there was notonce a significant organized effort by the Executive Branch of the federalgovernment to put across its side of a major policy issue on a majorcontroversy to the American people.Notonce was there a public affairs program….worthy of the name.”

The bizarre ironyhere is that there were cubic miles of information the Viet Namese, Americanand world publics deserved to know and HAD to know if “the Viet Nam War” wereto be comprehended in all its complexity and, regretfully, barbarity:

-dailyinstances of barbaric VC assassinations (decapitations, disemboweling, etc.)

-testimonyfrom defectors and North Viet Namnatives who fled NVN in ’54, to include the

politicalofficer of the VC/NVA 9th division who defected after abortive Tet ’68 attacks,saying

he couldnot abide further carnage and slaughter of his troops

-elaboration on Hanoi‘sviolation of Laotian Accords, Geneva’54 Agreements, rules of land

warfareand any standards of civilized behavior

-testimonyfrom American advisors who had profound respect for the VN, Montagnard, Hmong,

Khmer Krompeople they worked with and fought alongside of, an example being: “Sgt. Giao,

Recon 71commander, bravest son of a bitch I have ever seen.He was hit in the neck in a night

assault in’68 and was paralyzed.”

-Units suchas the 37th Ranger Battalion which thoroughly decimated an NVA regimentthree

timestimes its size at Thach Tru1966.The37th was awarded a U.S. Presidential Citation for

its feat,so Washington presumably knewabout them.The 2nd VN MarineBattalion, or

“TrauDien”(enraged water buffalo)wassimilarly renowned for it battlefield elan.

-infusion ofNVA regulars, taking over because the “guerrillas” -the “VC”- were losing thewar.

NVAregulars constituted 25% of VC/NVA force structure by the end of 1965, risingto 70% in

June, 1968.

The pseudo-strategists in Washingtonwere oblivious, having no idea of the essential need to engage in thepropaganda/counter-propaganda/information/psy-pol war battle, a sophisticatedmultifacetedrelentless and emphaticparallel war to justify American involvement.They were, for reasons beyond rational inquiry, unable to comprehend tothis, as spelled out by one of McNamara’s colleagues:

“The war is difficult for him [McNamara].Viet Namis a combination of people and ideas and these are two areas in which he isweak.”

The ENTIRE war was about “people and ideas.”Failure to comprehend this places McNamara inthe company of 17th century physicians ignorant of bacteria, underscoringassertion he was completely unfit for the job.

The concept wasnot difficult to understand on the face of it, let alone after readinginsightful works and listening to people familiar with Viet Nam’s intricaciesand Hanoi’s three-phase warfare, moving up from guerillas through mobileregulars to decisive combat with overwhelming conventional firepower,complemented by a diabolically brilliant “dich van” campaign..Books by Hanoiideologue-strategists Truong Chinh and Vo Nguyen Giap, available to McNamaraand others and readable in a weekend, were on hand.Hoang Van Chi and P.J. Honey wrote insightfulbooks.Also available was experience andknowledge of Viet Namese themselves, non-Viet Namese such as Bernard Fall andJean Larteguy, both with ample SE Asia knowledge, both ignored by US Embassystaff they spoke with in 1964:

“We talked into a void, reduced to playing a role ofCassandra.We battered our heads againsta stone wall of certitude of the general staff and its experts, those naïveexperts who believed because they could handle figures, they could understandhuman beings.”

McNamarareportedly said Washington didn’tunderstand Indochina and there was no one who couldexplain matters, to provide insight and guidance.He was either ingenuous or dissembling.Beyond sources cited above, in 1959 severalscholars clearly delineated probable characteristics of Hanoi‘sgame plan, easily ascertained by examining Soviet communist behavior andtactics visible in preceding decades:

“They will attemptto paralyze the decision-makers of Western nations.To this purpose they will

increasinglyexploit a variety of communication channels to produce conditioned guiltresponses,

schizoid attitudestoward the Communist threat, an excessive defensive mentality, and diverse

social neurosesamong Western elites.”

That is exactly what occurred.U.S.government detached myopia, uninspired and often counter-productive ignorance,had many other manifestations, leading to conclusion that Washington‘spseudo-strategists were and remain guilty of geo-political-military malpracticeof the worst order.

NEWS MEDIA IGNORANCE/ARROGANCE

“People demand freedom of speech as a compensation forfreedom of thought, which they seldom use.”-Soren Kierkegaard

“The journalists of the United States are generally in a very humbleposition, with scanty education and a vulgar turn of mind.The characteristics of the Americanjournalist consists of an open and coarse appeal to the passions of thereader.”-Alexis de Tocqueville

News reportingwas squalid, superficial, explaining little.Rather than enlightening the American public it layered myth upon hallucinations,fabulist gossip upon infantile ignorance, providing impressions -as distinctfrom knowledge- that served only to induce public ignorance as opposed toin-depth comprehension.Books by WalterCronkite, Sam Ansom, James Willwerth, Jacques Leslie, Dan Rather, Ron Steinman,Morley Safer, Mike Wallace, Peter Arnett, and other media luminaries arereplete with abundant errors, gross over-generalizations and inexcusableomissions, leading one to conclude these authors have no idea just howill-educated they are as no one in his right mind would otherwise publiclyexpose the puerile ignorance if not outright bias in their views andreporting.Time magazine’s JamesWillwerth admitted to being influenced by “anti-war”(sic) demonstrations atBerkeley, went to Viet Nam as a reporter, found the marijuana and opium to hisliking, discovered that Viet Nam’s truths were “essentially hidden” from hismind, and after six months in country could not understand what “pacification”was.Consider his objectives in writinghis VN memoir, choosing

“…not to talk of the politics or meaning of Viet Nam.I prefer to tell a story which might interest readers unable to followthe intricacies of politics or diplomacy closely; how Southeast Asialooked to the mind’s eye.”

Hence we have someone who admits to his own ignoranceattempting to explain matters to people unable to “follow intricacies.”Hardly a recipe for intelligent informativecommentary.

Peter Arnettclaimed reporters had “..no opportunity to cover the secretive Viet Cong…”and that as late as 1972 Hanoiand its leaders were “…still a mystery,” thusindecipherable to reporters.Utternonsense.Books by P.J. Honey, HoangVan Chi, Bernard Fall, Truong Chinh, Gerard Tongas and other authors clearlyspelled out Hanoi’s modus operandi, while thousands of VC defectors, thousandsof North Viet Namese emigres, and many former Viet Minh from the North andSouth, were all around to be interviewed and learned from.That was Arnett’s job.He didn’t do it.He should have spent time reading intelligentbooks or speaking with very credible Viet Namese and U.S. Sources, rather thanwasting time in such infantile actions as using a slide projector to projectpictures of “…genitalia two stories tall…” on a nearby building, “…muchto the puzzlement of Saigon policemen pulling security duty.”

Time magazine’sSam Anson exhibited arrogant ignorance, admitting to having a “…head full

of ideas that had been formed by teach-ins anddemonstrations.”Discussing American troops Anson said

“For all I’d written about them, I’d never felt comfortablewith the privates, corporals, and Spec4s who were bearing the brunt of thewar.….The further truth was I didn’t like them very much.”

All was not lost however as Ansom found Cambodian opium densto his liking:

“…I went off with a couple of the wire service guys toMadame Chum’s, the most famous opium parlor in Southeast Asia….I had enough trouble handling opium whichmade me sick instead of high…It took a while to get used to opium …Lyingback on my pillow, watching the swaying breasts of the naked Annamite girlbefore me, I had the feeling this was going to be a lovely war.”

It was hardly a “lovely war” for those fighting and dying orthe innocents caught in the crossfire yetthis mattered little to Anson:

“Credit Viet Nam…whateverelse the war was it was sure great for a career.”

L.A. Timesreporter Jacques Leslie arrived in Sai-Gon well aware of his ignorance:

“I was 24, and I hadalmost no experience as a newspaper reporters.I didn’t know whether lieutenants or captains were higher ranked,whether battalions or companies were larger.….What were VNAF and the HES and CORDS and especially COMUSMACV?…Wherewas Go Cong….?.

Leslie took immediate steps to educate himself, correctinggross deficiencies in knowledge:

“…I sat in my villa trying to read a book until I noticedI’d turned several pages without absorbing a word.My shelves became filled with Viet Nam books I’d started and abandoned. …Whenreading was futile I took out my stash … lit a joint… I liked to think upstory ideas stoned and fall asleep before the grass wore off.The next morning I’d sift through the debrisof my ideas, occasionally finding something useful.”

This mutated formof “logic” led one female reporter to conclude

“…Viet Namwas like a poem because it could only be experienced emotionally and could notbe understood through logic or reason.”

Author of this supercilious tripe was as dense as McNamaraand other Defense Department klutzes.If these reporters -or “poets”???- had done their job the Americanpublic would have long known

-384 RVNAF werekilled in Hue‘s recapture, as were214 American troops.

-The GVN’s landreform program distributed 2,500,000 acres of land to 800,000 formerly

impoverishedtenant farmers (formerly prime VC recruitment candidates)

-from 1965through 1974, RVN’s tilled rice acreage increased by 10.5% and rice productionby

40.1%, due toland reform, greater security in rural areas, and IR-8 ‘miracle rice’

-over 200,000VC/NVA defected to the GVN, many ready and willing to bear arms against

communistforces (signing their death warrant)

-Sai-Gon had15-20 independent newspapers, a number of which were vociferously critical of

corruption andmalfeasance.No independent newspapersexisted in North Viet Nam.

-approximately66% of American combat fatalities occurred in the 12 border provinces extending

north from HauNghia to Quang Tri, most were victims of NVA regulars not indigenous VC.

These 12provinces, some of which were virtual wilderness with no large population,

constituted27% of RVN’s 44 province total.Thegeographic pattern clearly indicates it was NVA

regulars, notVC, driving the war.Indigenous VC didkill many, but not enough to win the war.

UScombat fatalities were 18% of total allied military deaths.RVN forces were bulk of remaining

82%.So. Koreans, Australians, Thais and NewZealanders also died.

-The 1970Cambodian incursion involved 29,000 RVNAF and 19,300 U.S. Troops, was very

successful.RVNAF displayed operational competence never before exhibited.

-RVNAF combatfatalities by April ’75 totaled approximately 275,000, from an populationaverage

of 17 millionbetween 1960 and 1975.Had the U.S.,with average population of 200.0 million,

sustainedproportional combat deaths the total would 3,235,000, more than America‘scombat

deaths in ALLits wars.RVNAF combat fatalitiesexceeded those of U.S.every month of the war.

None of these central facts, all contrary to conventionalwisdom and popular perceptions, were or are widely known or reported in ‘thenews’ ormentioned in college courses onViet Nam.

San Ansom, who never went on field operations with RegionalorPopular Forces (province and districtlight infantry, respectively), somehow determined “…no one would claim thatthe ‘Ruff-Puffs’ were a match for the VC.”Hardly true.The Hau Nghia RF, with no regular ARVN support, soundly defeated threeregular NVA Regiments during Hanoi‘s’72 offensive.RF/PF also performed admirably in Kien Hoa,Binh Dinh and a number of other areas.Ansom was completely wrong, as was John Kenneth Galbraithwho relied on a “…careful reading of newsaccounts of the war” concluding “…important GVN units will soon collapse orjoin the VC”following ’68 Tet battles.The oppositeoccurred.Over 64,000 VC/NVA defected inthe next two years and RVNAF grew from 643,000 to 897,000 in the same period.Abundant examples of petulant and profoundnews media ignorance exist.A seminarcould be given on the subject.Thisbrief snapshot concludes citing damning indictments from those in the newsindustry:

“The Viet Nam War threw up more imposters and charlatans inthe name of war correspondents than I can remember in all the other wars I havecovered together…There were some whoinvented, distorted and lied….”

“….many newsmen were ill-equipped to understand, let alonequestion, official or unofficial explanations of military deployments,problems, and progress.They had tolearn, in highly unsystematic, patchwork fashion, while on the job.And, as Tet 1968 was to show, this wasinsufficient.”

“For the first time in modern history, the outcome of a warwas determined not on the battlefield but on the printed page and, above all,on the television screen. … the war was finally lost … because the politicalpressures built up by the media had made it quite impossible or Washington tomaintain even the minimal material and moral support that would have enabledthe Saigon regime to continue effective resistance.”

ACADEMIA

“Ignorance isalways correctable.But what shall we doif we take ignorance as knowledge.”

-NeilPostman

Postman wasspeaking of the news media but statement applies to academia as well, anindictment applicable for the past 40 years and continuing today.Textbooks and curriculum packages currentlyused in American high schools and colleges are larded with invented ‘facts,’gross over-generalizations, inexcusable omissions and counterfeit logic which donot educate and inform but rather “take ignorance as knowledge.”A widely used high school text’s VN chapter,with equivalent of 13.25 full pages of text(once adjusting 26 pages for photos,maps, quiz boxes, etc.) contains over 220 completely false or grosslymisleading statements.Chapter is to historical precision as Enronfinancial statements were to financial accuracy.A study package prepared by the National Center for History in the Schoolsstates ’72 Hai Phong harbor mining was “followed by a North Viet Nameseassault…” completely inverting cause-and-effect relationship of both eventsand cause-effect relationships are primary objective in historicalinquiry.Three texts used in college VNcourses, Karnow’s VIET NAM – A HISTORY, Robert Schulzinger’s A TIME FOR WAR,and Randy Roberts/James Olsen’s WHERE THE DOMINO Fell are similarly engorgedwith non-facts, omitted truths, tortured logic and are little more than clichécompendiums rather than comprehensive ruthlessly honest history.A miniscule sample of flagrantly falsestatements:

-Karnow states the VC needed only 15 tons ofmunitions/supplies/day to wage their war.Hanoi‘s own

data shows that over8,900 tons/day were required over a 15 year period.

-Karnow cites two statements by American advisor Capt.Stuart Herrington supposedly reflecting on

the war’sfutility.One statement was not made byCapt. Herrington, while Karnow omits ten other

Herringtonstatements, all from same Herrington book, entirely contrary to Karnow’s message.

-Schulzinger accurately cites 58,420 VC hoi chanh defectorsfrom ’65-’67(19,473 annual average) but

then stops, omittingthe additional 117,395 (29,438 annual average) from ’68-’71. Why the omission?

-Schulzinger avows “Many NVA lived in underground tunnelsfor months or years at a time.” and

that “uniforms andsandals [of NVA infiltrators] were expected to last five years.”Utter inanity of

these assertions isembarrassingly evident.

-Olsen/Roberts state the Viet Minh were “still unarmed” in September’45, oblivious to long-known

fact that 35,000rifles, 1,350 automatic weapons, 200 mortars, 54 artillery pieces came intoViet Minh

hands fromsurrendering Japanese forces as well as those captured from the French.

-Olsen/Roberts state the “Cao Dai faith spread rapidly inthe Mekong Delta.”An imagined’fact.’Hoa

Hao Buddhism spreadin the Delta.Cao Dai were concentratedin and around Tay Ninh, north of

the Delta.

-Olsen/Roberts avow “most” weapons/equipment supplied toRVNAF “..ended up with the Viet Cong.”

This is unfoundedhallucinatory nonsense, unsupported by ANY source or data.In fact, VC reliance

on captured weaponswas neither desired nor practical nor widespread.

Aside fromproblems with determining and interpreting facts, authors of these and otherbooks display an almost infantile credulity in believing communistpropaganda.In their hagiographicviews Ho Chi Minh respected Montagnard autonomy, gave land to poor peasants,was a “nationalist”[note: as was Hitler], and was a benign Yoda-like figuredispensing beneficence and justice.None of this is supported and all is refuted by factual history.Virtually all booksexclude mention of GVN land reform, Hanoi’spogrom against non-communist VN nationalists in ’45-’46, pronounced improvementof RVNAF from ’67 on, or the vital importance of dich van, of which the authorsare victims.No reader or studentcould inferHanoi would not haveprevailed without massive communist bloc aid or hundreds of thousands NVAcoming down the Ho Chi Minh trail.Manyauthors indulge in this epistemological atrocity, sculpting a mythical historythat cannot withstand objective, rational, ruthlessly honest inquiry.The very educational institutions reliedupon to explain history have instead become primary purveyors of historicalgossip, rumor, and fantasy, resembling ‘Star Trek” acolytes at a “trekie”convention, pontificating on the imagined verities of unicorns, dragons,and yetis.

The American Military

Contrary to acceptedmyth, the U.S.military failed to a far lesser degree than any other major U.S.institution, but it can still be deemed to have failed to a degree, earning aC- or D+ overall, in good partstemmingfrom policy decisions made in Washington.One point must be made clear however:despite shortcomings listed below, elementsof theU.S.military performed in exemplary fashion overall, and most individual personnelconducted themselves very, very well.Heroes were a dime-a-dozen in Viet Nam(andLaos).

Military failingswere imposed by McNamara’s refusal to allow operations to cut, block and holdthe Ho Chi Minh Trail, combining this with propaganda campaign contrasting NVAPOWs captured on the trail with copy of Laotian ’62 agreements signed by Hanoi.This had been recommended by the JCS,MACTHAI, MACV, RVNAF’s JGS, and the Thai government, from 1961 on.Former communists have acknowledged thiswould have been disastrous for them.This failure led to perception of a never-ending “guerrilla” war, ultimatelyhaving detrimental effect on U.S.troop morale and performance as years went by.Next, the military was burdened by inductees accepted under McNamara’s“Project 100,000” program dictating acceptance of people otherwise unqualifiedfor military service due to educational and/or behavior deficiencies.Ultimately almost 300,000 were inducted underthis program, creating disproportionate problems in many units they servedin.Some were simply mentallyhandicapped.Others were sociopaths.

That said, therewere far too many instances of rude misconduct, hardly appropriate to winhearts and minds.Advisor David Donovanwitnessed a U.S.soldier push an old woman off her bicycle, stopped the proceedings immediatelythen reflected

“…I have never recovered from the appalling view I got ofthe conduct of many of my countrymen towards the Viet Namese people.… the observations were so consistent thatthe impression has stayed with me like an old sore….I saw incidents of Viet Namese civilians beingtreated with contempt and disrespect.Itwas as true in Da Nang and Saigon as it was in Dong Tam…most [U.S. troops]tried to do their difficultduty while preserving as much of the Viet Namese people’s dignity aspossible.Far too many however wereharsh with their judgments, obvious in their contempt …Their attitudes werecorrosive and terribly chilling to the ever-sputtering sense of cooperationbetween the natives and American soldiery….”

The military should have conducted intensive pre-VNdeployment classes educating all personnel of the conduct required from anddemanded of them.Viet Nam, its history, people and socio-culturalfactors should have been explained in adequate detail, and subsequentin-country follow-up with draconian command emphasis.More U.S.personnel should have received Viet Namese language training.As articulated by Larteguy and Fall in theirdiscussion with American officials in ’64:

“..you must see to it that your fighting man knows thereasons for your involvement here, reasons that touch him personally, in orderfor him to be able to accept sacrifices demanded of him.”

This was never done or conceived of, creating fertile soilfor dich van propaganda and infantile reporting(reporters were very often paragonsof ‘ugly American’ crass behavior).Inaddition, and growing like mold in the shadow of Washington’s strategic voidand flaccid pronouncements, careerism detracted from military professionalismand ultimately battlefield performance.Again, it is necessary to state that most officers and NCOs performedwith professional dignity and honor yet it takes only a craven minority topoison the well.Insidious effects ofcareerism and toxic by-product of duplicity are well described by authorsRichard Gabriel and Paul Savage,as well as the Army’s own STUDY ON MILITARY PROFESSIONALISM.(Self-serving careerism also infected U.S.civilian agencies in Viet Nam,among them the U.S. State Dept. and CIA.)It need still be recognized the U.S.military, despite inimical factors and forced acceptance of undesirablepersonnel, achieved near-miracles in SE Asia.It turned the course of history in 1965 bystopping Hanoi‘s incursion into theCentral Highlands.It stopped themomentum of one of the world’s most capable light infantries, it pioneeredinnovative tactics in airmobility,’artillery ambushes,’ and naval-infantry riverine operations.Individuals routinely performed heroically.Still, failures must be acknowledged, evenmore so for having miscreants and pseudo-strategists, in the full spectrum,having impugned honorable people and amplified insidious attributes of flawedstrategy.Finally, though assertions ofAmerican atrocities are inflated and not representative of U.S.military behavior, My Lai did occur, as did other crimesand atrocities.They cannot be ignoredor excused.

Phil Jenningscorrectly states the RVN emerged as a viable entity following defeat of Hanoi‘s’72 offensive, a development paid for in blood by U.S.AND allied troops.It was later doomedand strangled by aid cutbacks.Amplification is still needed, with no expectation of disagreement fromPhil.First, the reason forcongressional antipathy was the cumulative effect of past U.S.bumbling; the damage was probably irremediable by ’72 and thereafter.Second, RVN’s viability was predicated onsecure borders, all but impossible with NVA-occupied Cambodiaand Laos onRVN’s lengthy border, a toxic by-product of Washington‘sdisjointed pseudo-strategy.Next, mostAmericans have no idea of what it means to say “we could have won-or did-thewar.”Who is “we”?The pronoun is wrongly taken to meanAmericans only, to exclusion of those for whom the war was waged, 275,000 ofwhom were killed in action (excluding mention of Laotians and Cambodians).Few Americans know of Generals Nguyen Khoa Nam,Ngo Quang Truong, Nguyen Van Hieu and Nguyen Viet Thanh, widely revered fortheir impeccable integrity and military prowess.Few know of Dr. Phan Quang Dan or Tran VanTuyen, GVN figures also respected for their mental and moral virtues.Unless and until “we” is taken to meanAmericans AND the people and military of the Republic of Viet Nam, Laosand Cambodia,and contributions of So. Korean, Thai, Australian and New Zealand forces, the entire subject remainsobscured and comprehension impossible.

After The “War Ended”

“Peace is not an absence of war.It is a virtue, a state of mind, adisposition for benevolence, confidence, justice.”-Baruch Spinoza

American myopic perceptionsdid not end when Hanoi‘s warsupposedly ended in 1975.There was no“peace.”Death and misery continued onthe Indochinese peninsula and were arguably worse.Little was reported in “news,” much has beenignored by would-be “historians.”Datais scattered but order-of-magnitude estimates suggest annual average ofapproximately 180,000 deaths per year from mid-’54 through May 1975.FromMay ’75 through year-end 1990 the annual average death toll approaches225,000.Many more civilians died in thelatter period than during the anti-Hanoi war.This includes all fatalities on all sides in Viet Nam, Laos,Cambodia andthe Thai border war(which finally petered out in the late 1980s).Most of latter figure derives from Cambodiayet Hanoi set the Khmer Rouge up inbusiness, did heavy combat lifting in Cambodia,and therefore bears responsibility.Allhas not been and is not well in Indochina.By 1985 Viet Nam‘s infant mortality rate doubled frompre-’75 levels, primarily from malnutrition.1999-2002 data indicates non-weighted average infant and maternalmortality rates of VN, Laosand Cambodiaare twice that of Thailand,Philippines, Indonesiaand Malaysiaaverage.In 2010 Viet Nam and Laosranked 165th and 168th respectively, of 178 nations surveyed, in terms of pressfreedom.In 1999 Viet Nam‘s per capita income was 20% of Thailand‘shaving declined from 80.5% in 1950 when Viet Namwas torn by war.This from Hanoieconomist Le Dang Doanh, citing corruption and dictatorial one-party rule asprimary reasons for the malaise.Various sources rank VN and Laosin top 20 countries in oppressing religion.2011 ranking of economic freedom shows VN,Laos and Cambodia with rank average of 127 while Malaysia, Philippines,Indonesia and Thailand have average ranking of 86.Ethnic minorities are harassed and jailed.To escape impoverished hopelessness MekongDelta young women marry So. Korean or Taiwanhusbands.Hanoihas ‘exported’ over 400,000 workers overseas.Former communists, Party officials, NVA officers, PRG ministers andcovert agents, have renounced the Communist Party and its polices.A number escaped as ‘boat people,’ othershave been jailed.The deplorable situation is seldom examinedin news reports and is virtually ignored in classrooms, despite the ease withwhich this information can be found on the internet.

Thus, major U.S.institutions envisioned unicorns and dragons of various kinds, none of whichwereanything more than illusions,gossip, rumor.Little that could be’learned’ was applicable in SE Asia or explains what hastaken place since 1975.In the end, theAmerican dysfunction machine was ultimately a contributor to Hanoi‘sIndochina conquest, aiding and abetting throughcumulative effect of simple inability to ask how and why a Viet Namese (orLaotian or Cambodian) rice farmer thought and acted as he did.People and ideas.As Norman Podhoretz concluded

“In abandoning these people at the end, the United States demonstrated that saving South Viet Nam from Communism was not only beyondits reasonable military, political intellectual capabilities, but that it wasultimately beyond its moral capabilities as well.”

Whether or not Viet Nam holds any lessons to be applied in Afghanistanis one question, yet another is whether major U.S.institutions can function as a coherent whole.If, as is arguably the case, little has been learned from Indochina,what can be gained comparing an Indochina unicorn withan Afghan dragon?

This speech was delivered at the Seventh Triennial Viet Nam Symposium – TexasTechUniversity on March 12, 2011 byBill Laurie.


DouglasPike, P.A.V.N., (Novato, CA: Presidio Press, 1986), p. 53.

SamuelB. Griffith, translator, THE ART OF WAR BY SUN TZU (London/NY: OxfordUniversity Press, 1976), p. 44.

DonaldKirk, A WIDER WAR, pp. 155, 159.

RichardH. Shultz, Jr., THE SECRET WAR AGAINST HANOI(New York:Harper/Collins/Perennial, 2000), pp. 277-278.

PhilG. Goulding, CONFIRM OR DENY: INFORMING THE PEOPLE ON NATIONAL SECURITY (NY:Harper & Row, 1970) pp. 81-82 (also cited in Harry Summers, ON STRATEGY, p.12)

Http.a502.atspace.com/Bio/BiokeyJ.html

MichaelClodfelter, VIETNAMIN MILITARY STATISTICS, McFarland, p. 133.

ArthurHadley, THE STRAW GIANT (New York: Avon/Random House, 1987), p. 155.

JeanLarteguy, THE FACE OF WAR (New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1979), p. 259.

Strausz-Hupe,Kintner, Dougherty, Cottrell, PROTRACTED CONFLICT, p. 111.

JamesWillwerth, EYE IN THE LAST STORM (New York: Grossman Publishers, 1972), pp.174, 79, xii (in order of comments)

PeterArnett, LIVE FROM THE BATTLEFIELD (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995), p.134

Ibidp. 273.

Ibid,p 222.

RobertSam Anson, WAR NEWS (New York: Simon & Schuster/Touchstone, 1989), p. 34.

Ibid,p. 50.

Ibid,p. 96.

Ibid,p. 16.

JacqueLeslie, THE MARK (New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 1995), p.17.

Ibid,pp. 98-99..

Bartimus,et al, WAR TORN (New York: RandomHouse Trade Paperback, 2004 [hardbound, 2002], p. 50.

Clodfelter,p. 132

Thompsonand Frizzel, THE LESSONS OF VIET NAM,p. 238

NguyenAnh Tuan, VIET NAM-Trial and Experience (Athens, Ohio: Ohio UniversityInternational Studies Center, 1987), p. 399.

Compiledfrom Clodfelter data.

Compiledfrom Clodfelter data..

RobertSorley, A BETTER WAR, p. 204.

Ansom,WAR NEWS, p. ?

Describedin Stuart Herrington, SILENCE WAS A WEAPON (Novato, CA: (Presideio Press, 1981.

PeterBraestrup, BIG STORY (Garden City, NY: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1978),p. 335

DennisWarner, NOT WITH GUNS ALONE (Richmond, Australian: Hutchison Group, 1978), p.291.

Braestrup,p. 12.

RobertElegant, HOW TO LOSE A WAR, Encounter, August, 1981, reprinted April,1982, Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington, D.C., pp. 1-2.(Also available on internet).

NeilPostman, AMUSING OURSELVES TO DEATH (New York: Elizabeth-Sifton-Viking Books,1985), pp. 107-108.

Fulllist of fallacious statements with counter-evidence contained in GODZILLA ATKHE SANH.

D.Antonio Cantu and Sandy Canty, The Viet Nam War: A National Dilemma (Los Angeles: National Center for History in the Schools,2003), p. 8

NormanHannah, LAOS:THE KEY TO FAILURE, p. xiii.

Allfound in Herrington’s book, SILENCE WAS A WEAPON.

SeeCharles Parker IV, VIET NAM-STRATEGY FOR A STALEMATE, p. 16, for long overdueintelligent discussion on this subject..

DavidDonovan, ONCE A WARRIOT KING, pp. 26-29.

Larteguy,THE FACE OF WAR, p. 259.

Richard Gabriel, Paul Savage, CRISIS IN COMMAND (New York: Hill and Wang,1978).

Discussedin Kitfield, PRODIGAL SOLDIERS.

Tabulationstill underway and subject to revision.Dozens of sources have been researched.

Data from CIA Factbook, UN, World Bank.

Rsf.org/press-freedomindex-2010,1034.html

Fva.org/2005/03mar/story02.htm

USCIRF.GOV,opendoorsusa.org.See also queme.org.

Montagnard-foundation.org

List of disaffectedincludes Bui Tin, Nguyen Cong Hoan, Nguyen Tuong Lai, Dr. Duong Quynh Hoa,Duong Thu Huong, Tran Do, Doan Van Toai, Hoang Minh Chinh, Tran Anh Kim, PhamQue Huong, Le Thi Anh.

Toai’s ‘Lament for Viet Nam‘is recommended: phanchautrinhdanang.com/30thang4/A Lament for Vietnam.htm.

Norman Podhoretz,WHY WE WERE IN VIET NAM,p.173.

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