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  Revisiting Vietnam American RadioWorks
     
  Vietnam Scrapbook
     

Roger Benjamin
Reston, VA, USA

I hope you will post this, even though it's longer than 2000 words.

The following was written recently by an old Hanoian, one
of the few intellectuals remaining alive in Vietnam. Like
most Vietnamese, in 1954 he celebrated the victory over
the French and the "New Independence" of Vietnam.
And like most Vietnamese, he soon learned the true face
of Uncle Ho: a communist power hungry madman who
worshiped Stalin and Mao, and set up a police state in
the north straight out of George Orwell's "1984".
This man(and hundreds of thousands more) has spent over a
decade in one of Ho's Gulags, for no other reason than he
was not a vocal enough "booster" for the regime.
Because Vietnam is still a communist police state that
quickly jails dissidents, his identity must remain
concealed.
I however would be glad to hear from any Vets
(rogben89@hotmail.com), and I wish also to honor your
efforts and sacrifice. No words can do justice for the
way in which you helped change this world for the better,
in ways most people do not yet understand, but he
explains below. Please also know that today, a majority
of Vietnamese not only love America and anything
American, but they realize that you tried to save them
from the totalitarian hell they have been living under
for 46 years in the north and 25 years in the south.

An open letter to the American Veterans of the Vietnam War

The Vietnam War, over for 25 years, and yet it is still
there, over our two horizons, so far away from each
other. Despite the lip service that "it must be
forgotten for the sake of mutual understanding", that
war persists as a ghost, and that cannot be otherwise,
simply because a tragedy cannot be forgotten by those who
have lived it. As for those who did not experience or
witness it directly, the word, "forget" is
meaningless.
Forget we cannot, and forget we must not. It is the
purpose of this letter to you, to show you that the
suffering and sacrifices you endured have not been in
vain. Not at all. We cannot forget, but if we truly
understand just how miraculous the results of your
efforts have been, in the years since the war, then
there is no need to forget. I wish to put those painful
and misused memories into proper perspective; to put them
into the light of the truth.
As an elderly man from Hanoi who has lived through
French, Japanese and communist occupation of my country,
I have a perspective based on personal experience, the
life long study of my countrymen, and a deep knowledge of
my country’s history.
I reiterate here; American armed intervention in Vietnam
and the sacrifices you have endured, have not been in
vain. In the most direct way, you saved the lives of
millions of people by severely weakening the communist
steamroller. Without American intervention, they would
have swept through South Vietnam as early as 1964, and
had sufficient strength and momentum to overrun Thailand,
Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. This was their
intention from the very beginning, as they were motivated
only by communist ideology, and not by any nationalist
desire for an independent Vietnam.
Moreover, in an indirect way, the results of your efforts
have borne a fruit more miraculous that many Americans
can even conceive. By weakening and effectively stopping
the communist steamroller, (not only in Vietnam, but also
in Korea, Greece, etc), America forced the communist
world to begin to implode, to fall in upon itself. If
they were prevented from expanding, then they had to mind
their own business, take care of their own house, as it
were. Like the Mongol Empire, they only know how to do
one thing: wage war and conquer territory. They cannot
govern. By their very nature, the communists are
completely incapable of governing, and so it is only a
matter of time before their system rots from the inside
out. This is precisely what happened across the communist
world, and is slowly but surely happening now in Vietnam,
and it was your efforts that started the very process
that would culminate in the fall of the Berlin Wall, and
effectively put to rest the greatest tragedy of the 20th
century: international communism.
The consequences of these miraculous events reach even
farther, here in the 21st century. For the first time in
human history, the issue of human rights has become a
priority for millions of people across the world, who
before had been too oppressed to speak up. This is a
result of the downfall of communism, which in turn is the
result of (mostly) American efforts across the world, but
especially in Vietnam. Ultimately, the consequences are
spiritual, regardless of one’s religion. Because today,
more than ever before, the spiritual nature of mankind
has room to evolve, and to move all of humanity towards a
more just and peaceful civilization.



Today in Vietnam, a quarter century after the war, the
Hanoi government, by every means of media, every form of
literature and art of which they hold a total monopoly,
continues to shout on and on to every ear, recalling the
great victory, the heroic deeds, the miraculous
achievements, etc., done by the Vietnamese people under
the "glorious and talented" leadership of the
Party during the holy war against the "aggressive US
Imperialists and their henchmen" for "national
salvation and reunification".1 The conclusive
purpose of all this propoganda can be summed up in the
words of the late Secretary General Le Duan, "no
enemy whatsoever would dream of such a daring plan as to
invade Vietnam".
This overblown language is inherent to a political regime
whose sole reason for being is STILL the maintenance and
consolidation of its power; a power which the communist
rulers never share with the citizenry. Any citizen who
does anything other than wholeheartedly (or at least
tacitly) approve of any decisions taken by the Party,
will be equally and indifferently classified as a
"class enemy".2 The prestige of the Party is
taken care of at any price, by any means, so that the
people increasingly honor it, as a flock of sheep honor
their savior; the roots of which the Party spreads out
through every strata of social life.
Given this "human condition", the vast majority
of people are left to draw only one conclusion: that the
Regime is infinitely efficient, even omnipotent,
especially on the field of war.

This Vietnam War, when did it start for the Vietnamese
people? Formally, the construction of the Ho Chi Minh
trail can be taken as a landmark marking military
expansion towards the south. Its roots, however, can be
traced back to the years Ho embraced Lenin’s doctrine.
The communist party of Vietnam, like communist parties
anywhere else, was founded for one sole purpose: to seize
power and establish the proletarian dictatorship. This is
very clearly stated in Lenin’s definition: "a power
that the proletariat seizes by violence…this power is not
hindered in any way by any legal tie…to our enemy we
shall provide neither air nor water"
To the communist mind there is no difference whatsoever
between French colonialists, American imperialists, or
domestic Saigon feudal capitalists. All are equally the
"Class enemy and People’s enemy". Nor are there
(or were there) any judicial provisions to clearly
discern friends from foes throughout those struggles, one
upon the other like day upon night. The task of reforming
the civil society qualitatively to the point that it
would become homogeneous and "transparent as
crystal" was a task that was (and still is)
undertaken in an arbitrary manner, dictated by the whims
of certain Party officials, with no adherence to any rule
of law.3
As long as socialist society doesn’t finish off the
transition period towards a "utopian" communist
society, the struggle must go on. The struggle of
"who is the winner, socialist or capitalist" is a
matter of primary importance, in which there definitely
is no third way, in which there is conclusively no
compromise and no confusing friend from foe. Nobody is
neutral in such a struggle. By continuing to remind the
people that they are still in danger of foreign
oppressors, and that the struggle must continue, the
Party creates an environment of paranoia and xenophobia
in which it is easier to maintain both their power and
their prestige as "saviors of the people".
The above, as a catechism of "real" communism,
has been reiterated too many times in too many texts, yet
the point is too easily neglected or forgotten by too
many people, especially the western intellectuals and
democrats living outside of the "bamboo curtain".
If this is not the case, then why have those people
thought, written and said the very same things about the
Vietnam war that the Vietnamese communists have; that it
was a struggle for national liberation against foreign
invasion and imperialist domination.
What about Vietnam and its specific, national,
traditional features? In the course of our history, from
the late 19th century onwards, no matter who may happen
to come to our country, (French colonialist, Japanese
militarist, US imperialist) the Vietnamese communist
party will be founded upon, and will jump onto the
political scene with the same determination, the same
volition, the same creed as any other communist party in
any country throughout the world in the first half of the
20th century. And after their victory they will bring
forth a society based upon the same model as the Soviet
Union, or China, or North Korea, or Albania. A society,
to quote Lenin, "a million times more democratic than
any bourgeois republic". A society which is
permanently in a state of war: the war of the class
struggle within, and the anti-imperialist war out on the
territorial frontier.
For a people living under and brought up by such a
monopoly and totalitarian regime, the overwhelming
majority of them will, as victims primarily, turn into
co-authors of freedom’s oppression. They are inculcated
day in and day out by such "saintly truths" as
independence, reunification, liberation, and social
justice. These "Truths", ironically, have also
been miraculously digested by such intellectual summits
as Bertrand Russell, JP Sartre, and by such outstanding
statesmen as Olaf Palmer and Indira Ghandi, who (luckily
for them) live beyond the reach of the communist’s
monopoly of truth’s interpretation. In addition, the
people in such a system are existentially conditioned,
due to the fact that every biological and social need is
to be met only through channels strictly controlled by
the Party and "their" state.
Logical reasoning must conclude that this system of
control, imposed anywhere and anytime on human life (both
physical and spiritual) should create soldiers of
"selfless" tenacity, admired by so many people,
and surpassing in combat efficiency any other soldier
(whether of Chang Kai Shek’s, of Shiman Ree’s of Ngo Dinh
Diem, of Nguyen Van Theiu). 4 Within the ranks of the
NVA, even though there happens to be a miniscule group
who are aware of their role as mere cannon-fodder, they
all have no choice to make other than "the tomb or
the medal". 5
How many fighters is the Party willing to dispose of? A
question quite superficial, even naïve, when one deals
with a society that is founded upon such openly declared
formulae as: "each citizen is a policeman",
"each citizen is a soldier", "each house is a
fighting spot", "each village is a
stronghold", "each woman is a warrior when the
enemy comes", and so on. The Party will dispose of as
many as is necessary.
What about the Party’s war tactics and strategy? The
people MUST be conditioned to believe that this is
"The People’s War", from which no place, and no
building can be exempt. A pagoda? A temple? A church? A
school? A cemetery? A hospital ward for lepers? It
doesn’t matter, provided it is convenient for military
logistical purposes. In this way, every human being, male
or female, old or teen-aged is available because, to
quote General Nguyen Chi Thanh, "Each person is a
force". Furthermore, any means are suitable: whether
it is excecuting a naïve peasant "simply because you
are a guerrilla" (Thanh Hai’s verse), or "the
humanity of the booby trap" (Chi Lan Vien’s verse)
dug underground somewhere in the road. As long as such
means are liable to denigrate and demoralize the enemy,
whether he or she is "long-nosed or broad-nosed",
they will be employed. None are exempt from being dirtied
and ridiculed from head to toe, with all kinds of
slanderous garbage.
Of course, it is not only the "great patriotism of
the people" that is cited as the sole cause for their
"victory" over the "American imperialist
gorrillas", although such "selfless
devotion" is always touted as the main cause. The
North’s aggression was financed and supplied by their
communist allies with items of all kinds, ranging from
China’s To Chan (cloth shoes), N. Korea’s white rice, to
SAM rockets, Mig jets, and T-40 tanks from the USSR and
their East European comrades. Items which were given upon
the demands of, and conforming to, their spirit of
proletarian internationalism. In this way, the
communist’s aggression in Vietnam could be portrayed to
the whole world as having the support of hundreds of
millions of independence-loving people. It hardly needs
mentioning that the citizens of these helpful countries
had no say in the matter, nor was any debate or input
from them to their respective governments even allowed.

For the Americans, formally, the Tonkin Gulf Incident or
the debarkation of US Marines on Danang beach in 1965 can
be taken as the starting point of the war.
But, for the purpose of the historical context in the
second half of the 20th century, American involvement in
wars against communist aggression, whether hot or cold,
may be counted from 1945, or from Churchill’s famous
speech in 1948. This involvement has worked itself out
non-stop, all over the world, from economic measures like
the Marshall plan, the creation of NATO, or paramilitary
assistance to Greece in its war against communist
guerrilas, to bloody conflicts like the Korean and
Vietnam wars.
What are the causes of American involvement in world
affairs? The ideals of democracy and freedom?" To
contain the expansion of communist totalitarianism?
Competition with the Soviet Union for supremacy over the
world? The economic interests of giant industrial and
financial trusts? The true reasons for America’s efforts
to curtail communist expansion can (and have been)
debated ad nauseum, and I really find it unnecessary to
get into analyzing them again here.
It is the RESULTS of such involvement that are most
important. And I just stand firm on one fact: without
those efforts of the USA, the communist bloc would have
had sufficient strength to "liberate" Greece,
South Korea, even western Europe, etc., because it was
headed by the military might of the Soviets, in some
aspects even stronger than the USA. Let me remind you of
what Kruschev said, "We can fire rockets into every
window in the city of New York…or transform the 6th Fleet
furrowing the Mediterranean Sea into coffins of fused
iron." With such an impending threat, what place on
earth would be left for the "US imperialists to
recoil and live in full contentment in their reactionary
bourgeois republican institutions"?
In the Vietnam war, you were confronting an enemy
internally "united"(by propaganda and fear) and
externally linked to a wholly homogenous, monolithic
communist world. You and your democratic allies, faithful
to your democratic (often anarchic) way of life,
skeptical about the common cause and your government’s
motives, were always finding yourselves in incessant
controversial disputes over the purpose and issues of the
war. This is a good and healthy aspect of any democratic
society, but in such a situation as the Vietnam War, it
was exploited by the communists who told the people that
"the aggressive will of the US imperialists weakens
and at last collapses.", as a communist Vietnamese
slogan said.
Finally, those Jane Fondas, Susan Sontags, Linus
Paulings and the millions of youth of various
backgrounds, from hippie to Panther, succeeded to
"Vietnamize peace" by forsaking their miserable
Asian ally who, frankly speaking, rather well deserved
such universal contempt, due to its notorious corruption,
internal divisions and cowardly dependence.

Thus, in 1964, the Vietnamese communist party (called
the "little hegemony" by their Chinese brothers,
as compared to the Soviet great hegemony) had an open
door for their proletarian internationalism and world
revolution (ie; communist aggression) to enter Cambodia,
Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, etc. The "domino
theory" was very real. In 1975, after the fall of the
South, the tragic situation of the free world in Asia was
described by Singapore’s premier Quang Dieu as desperate,
and he stated to the world that he feared all free SE
Asia would soon collapse as well.
By 1975, the communists had pushed the door open, but
it was effectively too late to push much further. They
had been immeasurably weakened. And NOT because they had
been stopped by any firm resistance from the other SE
Asian "semi-colonies". (If that had been the
case, their resistance would’ve been no more heroic than
their South Vietnamese class-mates6 )
I emphatically reiterate here that without US armed
intervention in 1965, the Republic of VN, deathly
weakened by the coup d’etat overthrowing Diem’s nepotism,
would surely have collapsed even faster than it did in
the years 1973-75. It is just as sure that such an early
success would have strengthened the resolve and momentum
of the communists to push through ALL of SE Asia.
Because, at that time, the Vietnamese communists were
adopting a very hard line strategy as "faithful and
authentic revolutionaries", and they were openly
mocking and rejecting the more moderate
"revisionist" strategy that the Soviets had begun
to take. Indeed, in the 1960s Vietnamese communists had
little but contempt for their big benefactor’s new and
less warlike "peaceful coexistence" policies.
This 10 year delay prevented further communist military
expansion, not only in SE Asia, but around the world. It
forced the communist world to mind their own business.
And in so doing, it set the stage for the incompetence
and corruption of any communist system to ripen, to the
point that at last a new Soviet Union had to have been
born through Gorachev’s Perestroika and Glasnost
policies, leading to the series of "velvet
revolutions" that broke out successfully across the
communist world. In addition, this delay made the
conflict between Vietnam and their Chinese brothers
escalate into war, precluded by Deng Xiao Ping’s furious
outburst, when he pounded the table and declared, "We
will teach them a lesson".
Thus the armed US intervention in Vietnam, instead of
being treated as purely a loss or tragic mistake, has a
direct connection to that most spectacular event of the
20th century; the fall of international communism.7

Dear friends, you had come to VN in those far begone
years – over 59 thousand among you had been killed in
action, even more still bearing the misery of physical
and emotional handicaps, and MIAs still missing. All of
you have lost so much. And for what purpose?
At least, in my opinion, for what I’ve just listed. As
for its truth and validity, it is best that you be the
final judges.

Similarly, it is up to you and other US citizens to deal
with what I think still lingers in the very air you
breathe: what has come to be known as the
"persecution complex."
On behalf of no one else, yet from the bottom of my
heart, I sincerely believe many of my country fellows
share my thinking. If I may say - I am quite surprised by
this "persecution complex"; the tears shed for,
and the guilt many of you may still carry over incidents
such as My Lai. Incidents which you have denounced with
truly humane and civilized feelings. At the same time
allow me to frank: with gullibility and a noble
simple-mindedness you had fought a war against what kind
of enemy? One who never hesitates to resort to any ruse,
any trick, maneuver or camouflage, and is interested only
in efficiency. How bitter it is when not a fraction of
the tears which the world shed over atrocities like My
Lai, are also shed for the fate of hundreds of thousands
of Vietnamese civilians imprisoned without charge or
trial, and left to die in obscurity in the hundreds of
Gulags scattered north of the 17th parallel. Such mass
incarcerations were common long before 1975, a year that
many naïve peoples of the free world greeted as the
"victory for Vietnamese patriotism".
Today in Hanoi, that former enemy, ten years after the
collapse of the Berlin Wall, ten years after uncountable
revelations from archives in ex-communist countries
detailing the inhumane policies and malevolent
personalities of their leaders, STILL keeps on as ever
trumpeting the virtues of "invincible Marxism and
Leninism". They continue to publicly pursue and
proclaim the late Soviet camp’s "diplomacy of
peace", illustrated by openly singing the praises of
Saddam Hussien, supporting in a roundabout way the
Russian aggression in Chechnya, maliciously criticizing
NATO’s air attack against Milosevic, making not a peep of
protest against the oppression and massacres in East
Timor, Tibet or Burma.
"For the sake of political stability" or as
"the choice our people have made", the regime in
Hanoi keeps on refusing to construct anything even
remotely resembling democracy, or to give up the main
causes of its corruption and incompetence, which are
widely known to be the colossal "apparachik"of
the Party, the presence of which weighs heavily on every
aspect of social and political life.
This situation exists despite the fact that the war is
long over, and there is no need to worry about American
or colonial invasion any more. But the Party still
immerses itself in its stupidity, manifest in its wooden
language (up to now the only language they know),
although no hatred from either side is "needed"
anymore. My only interest now is how to remedy the tragic
errors committed by all sides. Perhaps the first step is
to learn the lessons of the Vietnam war; lessons, I
think, that are very rich in insights into our respective
human natures. Such self-understanding is, as a first and
interim step, of primary importance in order to reach
eventual mutual understanding of each other.

Once again I’d like to reiterate: I won’t delve deeply
into the motives of US involvement in world affairs that
have made the 20th century the "American
Century". These may be traced to Woodrow Wilson’s
idealist motive to root out all germs of dissonance
between European peoples by the end of WWI, or to US
diplomacy in the early 20th century to lend a hand to the
birth of a powerful and democratic China, as a
counterpoint to rising military ambitions of Japan. The
purpose here has not been to debate motives, but to show
you that the results of your sacrifices have not only NOT
BEEN IN VAIN, they have been miraculous by causing the
demise of the greatest tragedy of the 20th century: that
tragedy being International Socialism and Communism.

Although I am not 100% certain that the USA, the
world’s sole superpower, will be immune to the seduction
of a megalomaniac of some kind, I always believe that
your moral idealism, (the very thing which prompted
American citizens to protest the Vietnam War and today is
still torturing some in their persecution complex) will
encourage your prosperous nation to fulfill its spiritual
mission towards the starving and oppressed part of the
human race in this 21st century. This spiritual mission
can be summarized by the words, "Human Rights".
I hope that you US veterans, who have lived through the
scourges of war and are fully aware of the costly duty to
defend freedom and democracy, will be dynamic agents for
this new involvement. And that it may be the last great
effort needed by the USA in leading this still chaotic
world to a just and peaceful civilization.

Signed,
The Nameless

Footnotes
1. Visitors to Vietnam today will no doubt notice the loudspeakers located every several hundred meters in both the cities and smaller towns. Starting as early as 6:30 AM, they blare such messages to the people, in addition to more benign public service messages as, "Vaccinate your children, use condoms", etc.
Many times I have asked my Vietnamese friends what they think about the loudspeakers.
"We hate it!", they say.
"Then why doesn’t somebody climb the pole and cut the wire?", I inquire.
"Nobody dares do that! It could mean years in jail and great problems for their family".
Such vestiges of the Police State are still common in Vietnam, though not easily detected by the tourist,
businessman or casual visitor.
2. One need only spend a few minutes of research to find that thousands of Vietnamese dissidents are currently in jail or under house arrest, for their political and religious outspokenness. Mere speech is enough to incur such treatment; any action or attempts to organize dissent are treated even more harshly.
Among those receiving such treatment are former war heroes of the Party (even high ranking Generals), who have called for more political liberties and social justice, and also Buddhist and Catholic clergy who have provided assistance to the poor, namely in flood relief.
3. Freedom of speech, press and religion are written into the constitution of Vietnam, but there’s not a judge or high official in the land willing to enforce it, for fear of reprisals from other Party members.
4. I could not help but notice that the author does NOT include American soldiers in this assessment, which can only mean that he considers American soldiers to be superior even to the fanatically brainwashed NVA.
5. According to the author, ALL NVA soldiers were
conscripted. Those who "volunteered" pre-emptively did so in the hopes of winning a better assignment. They knew that since they’d be forced to go;
it would simply be wiser to sign up first.
6. By this, the author is saying that Thailand, Malaysia, etc, were similar in political character to South Vietnam: corrupt, incompetent feudal-gangster regimes, incapable of resisting the well organized communist aggression.

7. To clarify the author’s main point and line of
reasoning: The communists can do only one thing well, and that is wage war. When they are prevented from doing this, they must tend to their own broken house; they must mind their own business. They are by nature completely incapable of doing this, because the philosophical, political and economic foundations of the communist system do not allow prosperity, liberty or any other noble human aspiration to flourish. They can wage war, but they cannot govern in peace. So, it is only a matter of time before their system collapses from the inside out, like a house infested with termites or dry rot.

   

 

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