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.
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
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 since 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.