Thursday, May 27, 2010

A "Remarkably Free South Vietnam" Wiped Out


This spring, the Vietnamese commemorate the 35th Anniversary of their country’s reunification. In October, the Germans will celebrate 20 years of national unity. These two events are not comparable beyond the fact that arbitrary divisions ended. Indeed, their difference is colossal.

● In Vietnam, unity came after a brutal war launched by the Communist North in 1960 against the pro-western South. “Hanoi’s victory resulted in the imposition of Communism on what had been a remarkably free South Vietnam,” wrote William Lloyd Stearman, the former head of the National Security Council’s Indochina Staff from 1973-1976, in a recent article in The Military Review. Between 2 and 3 million people died. Many Americans believe the Communist claim that this was a “War of National Liberation.” In truth, it was the apex of a 50-year scheme by the Communist International to gain a major foothold in Southeast Asia.

● Germany had a reverse outcome. There, a peaceful revolution in the Communist-ruled East led to the bloodless reunification with the democratic West. All of Germany, not just the West, was now a free, prosperous and very decent society after a 40-year cold war conducted by the very same world power that had sent their Vietnamese proxies out to kill and get killed for is ideological causes. In Vietnam, Moscow’s proxies succeeded in 1975; but in Germany the Soviet surrogates were defeated 15 years later.

● In Vietnam, the Communists proved to be vengeful victors. They hauled hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese officers and civil servants off to reeducation camps, starving and in many cases torturing them, never mind the absurd denial of this fact by a Hanoi government spokesman in an email to the Beat (see our lead story); there exists overwhelming evidence that these brutalities have happened. A significant scientific study led by a Harvard scientist testifies to the veracity of this claim.

● In Germany, the East’s National People’s Army, the second most powerful military force in the Warzaw Pact, was bloodlessly dissolved overnight. The united Germany did not persecute East German officers who had been fully prepared to invade the West whenever the order came from Moscow. Their colonels and generals, all high-ranking Communist cadre, were retired and sent home. That was the only “hardship” inflicted upon them.

● South Vietnamese fled their defeated homeland under great risk to their lives; hundreds of thousands drowned when their rickety ships capsized and sank. Vietnamese refugees were dispersed over more than 60 countries, including Germany, where a 37-year-old native of South Vietnam just attained a top cabinet position -- minister of health.

● True, East Germans also left home by the hundreds of thousands, but without having to risk their lives, and without even going abroad. They did what they had always wanted to do – travel freely within their own land and settle where they could find a good job. In other words, they were just exercising their constitutional right, which Communism had prevented them from doing for 40 years.

East German freedom lovers benefited from their own courage, from the iron support of world leaders, especially Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and from churches that provided a roof for their movement. The churches also gave them sound counsel: no violence! The sermon text on which pastors preached on 9 October 1989 before sending nearly 100,000 demonstrators out for their most significant “Monday Peace March” was seminal. The text was taken from the Book of Proverbs 25:15 and read, “With patience a ruler will be persuaded, and a soft tongue will break a bone.”

By contrast, the North Vietnamese Communists profited from a weak American home front, which doubtless included well-meaning pacifist, but to this observer seemed largely hysterical, misinformed, drug-crazed and self-serving. “Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh,” their numbers chanted waving the enemy’s flag – the banner of the Vietcong. “Make love, not war!” was the slogan of the 1960s peace movement. The heartless and cruel reception of returning Vietnam Veterans by so many of their countrymen was one of my most unattractive impressions of the United States, a nation that I otherwise love and admire but that sometimes seems woefully wrongheaded.

It is futile to repeat at this place what I have written many times before, and what William Lloyd Stearman is in effect saying in his Military Review article: Major media malpractice has helped create a public mindset that turned its own nation’s military victory into a resounding defeat. I have seen the thousands of murdered civilians in mass graves and in the streets of Hue, victims of Communist butchery. I have seen the mutilated corpses of South Vietnamese village leaders and their families hanging from trees after Vietcong terrorist attacks that in the daily press briefings in Saigon featured only as statistics. These carnages were not mere “accidents of armed conflict” but constituted an integral part of Phase II of stated guerilla warfare strategies; that part is called terror.

Stearman is right. The betrayed and obliterated Republic of (South) Vietnam was a remarkably free country. It was so free that it allowed itself to be badmouthed to death. It was so democratic that in 1967, at the height of its war for survival, it held free elections; other, more established democracies, might well have suspended the ballot under those circumstances. The New York Times noted an astounding voter turnout of 83 percent, even as the Vietcong threatened to kill people going to polling stations. Eighty-three percent! That puts America to shame.

This “remarkably free state” was replaced a by regime that Human Rights Watch ranks as one of the world’s worst offenders ( And this regime’s press attaché in Washington has the cheek to tell The Beat in an email: “After the reunification in 1975, the state of Vietnam’s consistent policy is to achieve national harmony and reconciliation so as to build a unified and strong country. The remarkable domestic and international achievements Vietnam has recorded so far vividly demonstrate the success of that policy.”

There are ways and ways to build “a unified and strong country,” as Germans found out to their own and the world’s cost. That even under tyranny the ingenuity and industry of the Vietnamese people should produce astonishing results is surely not to the Communists’ credit. Westminster and Garden Grove, California, are filled with elderly people still suffering from the aftereffects of the torment they were put through after the Communist victory in 1975. Peace and harmony have reached them not.

They deserve the compassion, gratitude and admiration of their American-born neighbors – admiration for their refusal to whine and gratitude for what they had accomplished in the last 35 years on U.S. soil.

Which leaves us with one final thought: As people with a pronounced sense of history, the Vietnamese surely know one unshakable verity about history: It does not end with the present but always remains open to the future.

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