Russell's introduction is only about 6,500 words. I've chosen it because it's the best short overview known to me, using easily-available information. (Christopher Farley, Ralph Shoenman and Russell Stetler Jr. are credited with book and newspaper research). His introduction deals with French colonies, Japan, the First and Second World Wars, US politics and ambitions, and ends at the point the US began to invade. I've added 34 headings OF MY OWN in blue to make it easier to refer to this essay later. This was on a website on mine - copyright permission having been obtained.
In a sense this piece is itself revisionist, but this forum will I hope develop a fuller set of revisionisms.
Note that Russell's War Crimes Tribunal published quite a lot of material a few years later. Their 1971 book Against the Crime of Silence was uploaded by me in 1998 and now appears (without acknowledgement) in several places on Internet, for example http://www.vietnamese-american.org/contents.html
1 Attitude of the media to Vietnam
The racism of the West, especially that of the United States, has created an atmosphere in which it is extremely difficult to make clear the responsibility of America for problems which are held to be ‘internal’ to the underdeveloped countries. The war in Vietnam is looked upon as the inevitable and tragic product of backwardness, poverty and savagery – supposedly indigenous to South East Asia. The roots of the current conflict are sought in the dark past: ancient conflicts between north and south are dredged up. The American intervention is, on this view, fortuitous. The Vietnamese people are thought to be pitiable creatures, into whose affairs the Americans have reluctantly and unfortunately been invited.
2 Racism in attitudes to Vietnamese and flouting Geneva Convention
Racism not only confuses the historical origins of the Vietnam war; it also provokes a barbarous, chauvinist outcry when American pilots who have bombed hospitals, schools, dykes and civilian centres are accused of committing war crimes. It is only the racist underpinning of the American world-view which allows the U.S. press, the Senate and many public figures to remain absolutely silent when ‘Vietcong’ prisoners are summarily shot; yet at the same time these bodies demand the levelling of North Vietnamese cities if the pilots are brought to trial for their crimes. American violations of the 1949 Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners of war have long been a matter of public record. It was reported, for example, in the New York Times of December 1, 1965, that ‘the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva… complained again that the United States was violating an international accord on the treatment of prisoners…’ The indifference shown to this clear indictment – not to mention the indifference to daily bombardments of civilian populations with napalm and white phosphorus – is appalling.
3 Vietnam War responsibility of the USA, as Russell says he will show
The fundamental fact which I wish to establish here is that the Vietnam war is the responsibility of the United States. This elementary truth is central to any understanding of this cruel war. To understand the war, we must understand America, though this is not to ignore the history of the Vietnamese people. Vietnamese culture is rich and dates from antiquity. Oral legends continue heroic traditions, particularly those which tell of the ancient repulsion of feudal China. But history’s movement, ever faster, is such that the Vietnam of today is less connected to her ancient heritage than to her present world. The past hundred years of Vietnam’s national life have brought her on to the world stage. To understand Vietnam and the agony of her struggle, we must see Vietnam amidst the constellation of anticolonial forces which are transforming the Third World and, less dramatically, the West itself. Vietnam will not be understood, no matter how deeply we probe her past, unless we cease to isolate her meaning. It is America that has given Vietnam an international significance.
4 19th century French empire in south-east Asia
While the beginnings of the American role in Vietnam precede the notorious involvement with Ngo Dinh Diem, it must be noted that France deserves the credit for nearly obliterating the Vietnamese cultural heritage. Before the Second World War, France managed her own colonial affairs with arrogant self-reliance. A rival to Britain, she probed Vietnam in the nineteenth century while seeking new access to China. On the pretext of protecting French missionaries from the reprisals of the savages they sought to Christianize, French naval vessels sailed into South Vietnam in the 1840s. The colonial conquest was begun in earnest. Within a matter of decades, not only the whole of Vietnam but also Laos and Cambodia had been brought under French colonial rule. Although each region of the vast amalgam, ‘Indo-China,’ had a different de jure status and governmental structure, everywhere the French were ruthless in securing the submission of the native population. Their rule was not to be disputed, and it was their arbitrary right to determine the laws and regulations of every part of the colony. Sporadic, disorganized guerrilla resistance opposed the French and continued into the twentieth century.
5 What the French did in Vietnam
It is the totalitarian process of colonization which destroyed Vietnamese society and severed the ties between a people and its past. The skills, habits and beliefs of the colonized people come to be judged by a kind of warped utilitarianism: that is useful and good which benefits the colonizer. Under the Mandarin system which remained in Vietnam long after the expulsion of the Chinese in 937 A D., there were roughly 20,000 private schools, each with a single teacher, at the village level, in addition to state-supported provincial and district-level classes. In an effort to produce a ‘cultural carbon copy’ of France, the colonizers utterly abolished these schools, romanized the Vietnamese language to produce a new ‘official’ language (the ‘quoc ngu’), and established only 14 secondary schools and one university in all of Vietnam. With such an inadequate number of institutions, few could pass the new ‘literacy’ test. Economic changes produced by the requirements of the colonizers were equally profound. Industrial raw materials, not consumption crops, were the prize most coveted. The advent of the motor car created a demand for rubber which turned thousands of Vietnamese peasants into plantation coolies. The establishment of a money economy was swiftly accomplished. As peasants increasingly needed money for buying goods and paying taxes, they were forced to mortgage and to sell their land. No aspect of Vietnamese life was untouched in this process.
6 Reactions by Vietnamese including Christianity, pro-Japan feeling, a few students in France
White, European supremacy was invariably associated with the unchallengeable rule of the colonizing power. Traditional nobility and Mandarins lost all prestige and respect as French fonctionnaires occupied every post of authority throughout the countryside. In the atmosphere of suspicion and distrust which prevailed, the colonizer looked for emblems of subservience. The converted Christian, consciously bowing to the authority of the white man’s faith, was feared least and, therefore, rewarded. These conditioned feelings of inferiority were widely established. In such a situation, Japan’s victory over Czarist Russia in 1905 was given symbolic importance by many Vietnamese. This was surely proof that an Asian power was capable of inflicting defeat and humiliation upon the West. Knowledge of this event was possible, ironically, because of the settlers’ insistence that the educated Vietnamese learn French. The new language allowed a small number of Vietnamese intellectuals to study events outside their own borders. Around this same time there were strong efforts made by Vietnamese nationalists to obtain reforms within the colonial systems. They campaigned, for example, for free schools, through which their culture could be restored. It was in these schools that the most ardent nationalists were later to be trained.
7 First World War: Vietnamese labour in France introduced to French ideas
Another factor which influenced the development of nationalist aspirations was the first world war. Knowledge of this war was by no means limited to those who had studied in the French-administered schools. Heavy casualties at the front seriously affected the amount of manpower available to do the factory work which was equally vital to the French war effort. To meet this labour shortage, the French imported large numbers of coolies from mainland China and southern Asia. The Vietnamese who came to France entered a strange and new world. They came into direct conduct with the ideology of home France – with its professions of liberty, equality and fraternity – which was unknown, even proscribed, in the colonies. The tradition of the French Revolution was one aspect of French culture which was not exported and imposed on the Vietnamese by the settlers. The Vietnamese in Paris were intoxicated with the ideas and ideals of the liberal and socialist traditions of Western political thought.
8 A group of Vietnamese nationalists at Versailles
It was also claimed that the great war was being fought to ‘make the world safe for democracy’. The war brought forth the most impassioned and idealistic rhetoric to inspire those least anxious to end their lives in futile slaughter. A group of Vietnamese nationalists in Paris conceived the idea of taking the allies at their word. They appeared at Versailles in hired formal dress to request that the allies affirm the principle of self-determination for Indo-China. Among these nationalists was Ho Chi Minh; this tragi-comic meeting was his first attempt to negotiate his country’s independence. Needless to say, the pleas of the would-be diplomats fell upon deaf ears. Decolonization was not to come so easily.
9 US power after WW1 - nascent conflicts with old empires and with Japan
By that time the United States had emerged as a world power. Throughout the world the U.S. sought to break up the absolute control of trade and commercial rights by the old empires, most notably in the Open Door policy in the East. There were vast riches to exploit, and the United States wanted a share. At this stage, there was no need to disturb many of the existing power relationships and to destroy competing powers. There was enough for all. In 1923, for example, ex-Naval Secretary Franklin D. Roosevelt expressed the following view in a speech entitled ‘Shall We Trust Japan?’:
‘It is true that we shall continue to overlap and perhaps to clash in the development of the commerce of the Pacific, but when we consider the potential trade of the vast territories and huge populations bordering the North Pacific and South Pacific oceans, there would seem to be enough commercial room and to spare for both Japan and us well into the indefinite future….’ (Published in Far Eastern Review, XIX, August 1923, pp. 505-8).
10 Attitudes in Vietnam (cp. India)
In any case, it is clear that something other than principle guided the formulation of American policy in the East.
During the decades between the two world wars, discontent and alienation were reflected in a variety of developments in Vietnam. Nationalist thought was germinating. In the ranks of the educated middle classes there was mixed reaction to the results of the First World War. Some accepted the hypocrisy of the ‘democracies’ which professed self-determination and practised the most brutal colonialism. These more contented Vietnamese sought token reforms within the colonial system. Reforms were not forthcoming, but many of these advocates of mild improvements found rewards for themselves within the French apparatus, as civil servants and lesser functionaries. Those who were not so easily satisfied began the long task of adapting Western political concepts to the social problems of colonized Asia. It was some years before genuinely original political doctrine was formulated. In the meantime, imitation and crude adaptation of alien political practice were commonplace. Most of the earliest political parties were models of foreign parties, included one styled after the Kuomintang of Chiang Kai Shek.
11 Influence of the 'Russian Revolution'
France was in full command of the situation throughout this period. On February 9, 1930, the Viet Nam Quoc Dan Dang (VNQDD) led an abortive revolt. The French garrisons were so efficient in dealing with this uprising that this nationalist party was thoroughly crushed, not to appear again for 15 years. The Russian Revolution impressed many Vietnamese intellectuals. Three small groupings joined forces in 1930 to form the Indo-Chinese Communist Party, which increased its numbers steadily, though slowly, in the face of great hardships. In these difficult years the Communists organized some strikes and, for a time, established Soviets at Ha Tinh and Nghe An, but there was no organized national movement. Occasional strikes in the Mekong delta region and in the cities could not threaten seriously the French administrative apparatus. All attempts to build a nationwide movement were dealt with swiftly and ruthlessly by French mercenaries. Scores of French prisons and labour camps housed more than 10,000 political prisoners by 1932. The Vietnamese have many martyrs from these years; more numerous are the unknown dead, whose graves are marked only ‘coolie’. Many others were driven into exile, which was not without certain advantages. Exile made of Ho Chi Minh and others true internationalists, fully conscious of the dimensions of their struggle.
12 Aside on invention of new religions
The hardships of long-term political struggle convinced certain of the discontented elements of Vietnamese society that salvation was rather to be found spiritually. Religious revival took strange new forms, and spread throughout the countryside. Foremost among the new sects were the Hoa Hao and the Cao Dai, the latter being the more bizarre of the two. (Cao Daiism combined elements of Buddhism, Christianity and Hinduism, and included Victor Hugo among its saints). These sects developed wide followings, and were consequently feared and distrusted by the French. Persecution of the sects caused them to build their own armed communities; there was no avoiding the worldly struggle. As the wheel has come full circle, they have played increasingly important political roles, being integrated into the main organizations of political conflict.
13 Japanese power in 'Asia' slowly seen as a threat by the USA
In these same decades, Japan moved steadily towards absolute hegemony in Asia. She had occupied Korea in 1910, and in the early 1930s she moved to assert her sovereignty in Manchuria. In 1937 she invaded north China. For reasons mentioned earlier, these actions did not at first alarm the United States. Trade and co-operation with Japan were of great interest to American businessmen, for Japan provided indirect access to the rest of Asia. The largest portion of American investment in the East was directly or indirectly tied to Japan. It took, therefore, many years for the United States to come to regard Japan as an enemy. Before America finally endorsed Chiang Kai Shek, Japanese domination of China seemed preferable to an independent republic in the eyes of many American policy-makers.
14 Vichy regime in France accepts Japanese demands re south-east Asia
When France fell to the Nazis, Japan saw her opportunity in Indo-China. America felt the increasing threat of Japanese competition, and made clear her determination to allow Japan no more than secondary status in Asia. Roosevelt did not hesitate to warn the Vichy Government that France would lose Indo-China after the war if she yielded it to Japan. The French then callously appealed to Hitler to maintain white (Franco-German) supremacy over the colony; this explicitly racist proposal was rejected by the Axis. The Vichy Government soon capitulated to the demands of the Japanese. The occupation of Indo-China, together with Thailand’s decision to join the Axis, gave Japan strong positions for her invasions of the rest of Southern Asia. In Indo-China the French colonial apparatus was left intact; it merely served new masters. Elsewhere, such as in Burma and Java, the Japanese found Asian collaborators by skilfully exploiting the nationalist and anti-Western sentiments with their slogan ‘Asia for the Asians’. Both the use of French collaborators in Indo-China and the promotion of ‘nationalist’ collaborators in other parts of Asia reflected a pragmatic attempt on the part of the Japanese to use the resources of the regions without disturbing the existing social structures.
15 Japan and US 'irreconcilable' - events up to Pearl Harbor
The interests of Japan and the US were irreconcilable. Over many years, US leaders had proposed to the Japanese an unequal partnership. The Washington Naval Conference had explicitly prescribed a militarily inferior position for the Japanese. Japan decided that co-operation with the United States was a difficult matter, and the course on which she finally embarked was an open challenge to Washington. It always carried with it the risk of war. Provocative acts did not begin with Pearl Harbour [spelling sic]. The attack on the US gunboat Panay was symbolic both of Japan’s determination and of America’s ever-present naval threat. Protection of American interests in China had long dictated the presence of American warships in the Orient. The final rupture between the United States and Japan was no accident. The bombing of Pearl Harbour on December 6, 1941, was only the coup de grâce.
16 Roosevelt on American business interests, even before entering the war
American war aims in the Pacific were somewhat complicated. Most obviously, the United States sought to defeat Japan militarily. Towards this end, America recruited an eclectic combination of allies, including communist-led nationalist movements. But the political objectives of the war were not so simple. Even before entering the war, President Roosevelt contemplated the prospective post-war gains. The breaking-up of the British Empire would be of singular importance to American business interests. On January 12, 1940, the President addressed a group of publishers and editors of business magazines as follows:
‘As you know, the British need money in this war. They own lots of things all over the world … such as tramways and electric light companies. Well, in carrying on this war, the British may have to part with that control and we, perhaps, can step in or arrange – make the financial arrangements for eventual local ownership. It is a terribly interesting thing and one of the most important things for our future trade is to study it in that light.’ (Press Conference 614-A.)
Thus, throughout the war, Roosevelt was not particularly interested in upholding Churchill’s plans for the restoration of the Empire. He specifically endorsed independence for British India.
17 US policy was to pay lip service to anticolonialism, while supporting traditional elites
At an early point in the war, it was vaguely decided that a ‘strong’ China, under Chiang Kai Shek, would be the basis of the post-war Asia policy. That is to say, co-operation with a China which would be ‘strong’ in comparison with the rest of Asia and weak by comparison with the United States was the American plan for stabilizing the East. The Americans correctly noted two features of traditional Western imperialism which were inimical to the interests of American capitalism. First, American access to the colonies of the British Empire was strictly limited by the policies of the rival power. There was no equality, no ‘open door’, so far as trade with imperial colonies was concerned. This was an important ingredient in the spirit of anticolonialism which was nurtured in the U.S.A. even in the period of industrial expansion. Secondly, brutal rule was seen to be self-defeating, by causing unrest and social revolution. The Americans had seen in the case of Mexico that even non-communist national revolutions could result in the expropriation of American property. Prudent decision-makers, therefore, favoured a policy of staunch lip-service to anti-colonialism and national independence, combined with aid to traditional native ruling elites which would not be likely to implement programmes of far-reaching social change. A partnership with local ruling groups and business interests seemed preferable to the risk of complete colonization. China provided one model for this policy. In the Philippines, fear of communist-led nationalist guerrillas prompted immediate plans for post-war independence along the same lines.
18 Vietnamese oppose French-Japanese collaboration, mostly under Ho Chi Minh, with allied support
The Vietnam problem was more difficult. Unlike China and the Philippines, Indo-China was a region which had not been penetrated by American capital and in which there was almost no American influence. The French had taken no steps to cultivate local rulers. No understanding had been reached with corrupt ‘nationalists’ to provide nominal independence. A critical situation had developed quite rapidly. The French were collaborating with the Japanese. Taking advantage of the confusion, which was inevitable, given the mutual distrust of the Japanese and the French, many exiled Vietnamese nationalists began to slip across the border from Southern China and set about organizing a resistance movement. The chief initiative in this enterprise was taken by the communists. A coalition known as the Viet Nam Doc Lap Dong Minh (or simply Viet Minh) was formed, under the leadership of Ho Chi Minh. The breadth of participation in this coalition was most impressive. The Viet Minh built its resistance movement throughout the countryside, waging a campaign of guerrilla warfare against the Japanese and their collaborators. The US and its allies accepted the support of the Viet Minh and dropped some supplies to the guerrillas from the air. The communist leadership of the Viet Minh was, of course, no secret. As the war drew to a close, the United States was faced with the problem of how best to ‘stabilize’ Vietnam and how best to make it accessible to ‘American interests’.
19 WW2 discussions on the future of Asia - vague on independence
As I have already mentioned, the United States threatened the Vichy Government with the loss of Indo-China following the war. In the course of the war the Free French were likewise excluded from big-power conferences at which the fate of Indo-China was discussed. The United States preferred Chiang Kai Shek’s China as the fourth power to consider such questions. As late as 1944 President Roosevelt spoke vaguely of a trusteeship system as the best solution to the Indo-China question. Such proposals were discussed in the light of the United Nations organization, which was soon to be established. But trusteeships involved gradual steps towards independence and local self-government. The Viet Minh was ahead of schedule.
20 Japanese coup against the French in 1945 instals 'Emperor' Bao Dai and in effect trains Vietnamese
On March 9, 1945 the Japanese staged a coup, thereby taking full and direct control of Indo-China. They feared that the French collaborators would be unreliable elements as the Allied forces moved nearer to total victory. Might they not opportunistically switch sides? The Japanese immediately incarcerated large numbers of Frenchmen. Many of these were also forced to suffer public humiliation. The Japanese had a sufficient garrison to handle the French, but their forces were wholly inadequate to deal with the Viet Minh. They attempted to woo some of the nationalists, and managed to coax a certain Bao Dai to accept the position of ‘Emperor’ under their tutelage. Their attempts to form youth corps and Vietnamese military units to fight on their side failed for the most part: they merely provided the opportunity for many Vietnamese to learn military skills and to acquire weapons for the Viet Minh forces. In the spring of 1945 the gains of the Viet Minh were enormous: large areas, especially in the north, were consolidated. By the summer, they were in a position to claim de facto state power.
21 1945: Roosevelt's replaced on death by 'conservative' vice-President Truman.
These various events created an atmosphere of crisis for American decision-makers in 1945. The power of communist forces emerging in liberated Europe had caused many policy planners to re-evaluate wartime strategy. Moreover, at the 1944 convention of the Democratic Party in the USA, conservative elements asserted themselves forcefully. Vice-President Henry Wallace was replaced by Harry S. Truman. Subsequently, important changes took place in the State Department: Secretary Edward R. Stettinius appointed men like Dean Rusk and Nelson Rockefeller as his assistants in charting a somewhat different foreign policy. Roosevelt’s death and the consequent further reorganization of personnel made the shift decisive. Secretary of State Byrnes was unequivocal in his anti-communism. The main concern of this new team was not the military defeat of Japan. In effect, that was already assured: in every important respect the Japanese Navy and Air Force had been rendered inoperative by the spring of 1945. Early in the spring, the Japanese communicated with Soviet leaders about possible surrender terms, and the Russians in turn passed this information on to the United States. But by this time, the Americans were preoccupied with more subtle political matters.
22 USA wanted complete post-WW2 hegemony - but faced enormous anti-colonial movements
The United States wanted undisputed hegemony in the postwar world. The Russians were no real threat. Devastated by war, they could not match the military and industrial might of the USA. Moreover, Stalin’s ideological influence was hardly a direct threat to America. Indeed, Stalin had already shown his willingness to counsel against revolutionary seizures of power in order to keep alive the ‘united front’. In the case of France, for example, the communist-led underground movement (FFI) was on the verge of taking power when Maurice Thorez returned from his prolonged stay in Moscow. Thorez convinced his party that the overall interests of the international communist movement dictated that all power be yielded to the Paris government of de Gaulle. In Asia, however, there was a somewhat different situation. Enormous anti-colonial movements had grown up during the war. Hundreds of millions of Asians – Chinese, Indonesian, Vietnamese, Filipino – were part of a struggle which was transforming their lives irrevocably. Here was a profound social force with which the United States would have to deal.
23 Atom bombs 'could only have been used to terrorize Asian nationalists'
The Americans sought first to minimize Soviet influence in Asia. They wanted to avert any activity by the Russians in Asia, fearing anything which would encourage the emergence of socialist nations in the regions fighting for independence. The terms of the Yalta Agreements had provided for Russia’s entrance into the Asian theatre in the summer of 1945. This factor, plus the power of the nationalist movements, was held firmly in mind when the decision was made to incinerate Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The full reasons for this decision are, of course, complicated. The use of two different kinds of atomic bombs on the two cities, however, suggests a calculated experimentation, at the cost of thousands of lives. Throughout the development of the atomic bomb, leading policy-makers doubtless contemplated its usefulness for intimidating the Soviet leadership. But the awesome power of the nuclear devices could have been as easily demonstrated by using them on uninhabited areas. The decision to use them on Asian cities can be seen, therefore, to have had two motives. First, there was the psychological motive. Using the A-bombs on the Japanese established a myth, namely, that the bombing of the cities was decisively effective in obtaining the surrender of the Japanese. For reasons which are obvious, the Soviet leaders could not have been expected to believe this myth. But for ordinary people in the West – as well as Asian nationalist leaders who were not privy to the information that the Japanese had sued for peace six months earlier – the myth was readily accepted. Westerners wanted to believe that there was some technological alternative to ground warfare. Secondly, the bombs were dropped in order to make clear that American power could – and would – be used to annihilate masses of Asians in a single stroke. The incineration of the two Japanese cities could hardly have been expected to gain popularity for America in Asia (particularly in view of the often ambiguous attitude of Asian nationalists towards the Japanese). This horrific act could only have been contemplated to terrorize Asian nationalists.
24 1945 Declaration of Independence by Ho Chi Minh. But the British in the south responded by supporting the French...
The Viet Minh were not to be intimidated. Throughout August 1945 they moved to consolidate their power. On August 19 a government was set up in Hanoi, and Bao Dai, the former puppet Emperor under the French and Japanese, was persuaded to abdicate. On August 25 a large demonstration was called in Saigon to declare support for the new government. On September 2, 1945 Ho Chi Minh issued a declaration of independence, based, ironically enough, on the American declaration of July 4, 1776. The bold action of the Viet Minh forced the United States to come to a decision on the question of Indo-China. Turning their backs on Ho Chi Minh, the Allies chose to have the Japanese surrender taken by more ‘reliable’ elements. Rather than allow the Viet Minh to disarm the Japanese and thus to equip themselves for the defence of their independence, the Allies designated to the Kuomintang and to the British responsibility for accepting the Japanese surrender in Indo-China. British colonial troops from Burma and India were to move into the south of Vietnam, and Chiang Kai Shek’s troops were to act in the North. In fact, neither set of forces carried out the stated mission properly. In the south, the British-administered troops, under Major-General Douglas Gracey, were more concerned with restoring French control than with disarming and repatriating the Japanese. They immediately secured the release of those Frenchmen who had been belatedly interned by the Japanese, and they rearmed nearly five thousand French troops. The British acted openly to depose the Viet Minh, and on September 23 the French staged a coup which was fully supported by the British. The French were anxious to avenge the humiliation they had suffered at the hands of Asians. They correctly sensed that their hegemony was threatened by the Viet Minh, which was in the process of setting up a full governmental apparatus. With the aid of the British, the French undertook mopping-up operations against the Viet Minh. On more than one occasion, the French and British employed Japanese troops to assist in these. It is worth recalling that the British originally attacked the Viet Minh on the pretence that they were agents of the Japanese.
25 ... and Chinese Kuomintang forces in the north essentially allied with Vietminh
Meanwhile, in the north, the Kuomintang displayed its characteristic avoidance of danger and fighting. As usual, these corrupt forces were willing to serve the highest or nearest bidder. As a result, they intervened very little, while the Viet Minh effectively took the surrender of the Japanese. Additionally, many of the Kuomintang regulars sold their valuable American weaponry to the Viet Minh. Despite the difficulties in the south, therefore, the Viet Minh was able to take great steps towards consolidating its position in the north during the first months of peace.
26 1946ish - Vietnamese has some faith in US and French democracies
The early post-war period appears to have been most confusing to the Viet Minh. They failed to see the United States as an enemy. Of course, the attitude of the United States towards them was ambiguous. The New York Times, for example, stated in its editorial of September 21, 1946:
‘Ho Chi Minh … is Viet Nam. That strange little figure, meek in appearance yet so determined in purpose, emboldened the spirit, the aspirations and probably the future of the new state. He moulded it, he put it through the fire, and he will guide it.’
Likewise, the Viet Minh placed a certain trust in the socialist Communist coalition government in France. Between 1945 and 1947 the Viet Minh attempted to negotiate independence from France, in the most moderate of terms. Viet Minh literature of this period reflects the confident view that the preservation of French colonialism in Indo-China would be supported only by a small clique of French capitalists – and not by the French people, or the American people, or even the American capitalists. But before the end of 1945 the French had moved some fifty thousand troops into southern Vietnam.
27 Agreement with France was broken by the French supported by US money
Negotiations continued; general elections in January of 1946 confirmed the legitimacy of the Viet Minh government. President Ho Chi Minh signed an agreement with the French in March 1946 which explicitly declared: ‘The Government of France recognizes the Republic of Vietnam as a free state having its own government and its parliament, its army and its finances, forming part of the Indo-Chinese federation of the French Union.’ The French ignored every promise made to the Viet Minh, and instead rapidly restored their power, moving in tens of thousands of troops. The presence of Foreign Legion troops provoked immediate hostilities in the cities. Massacres were commonplace. French respect for the modus vivendi was a farce; as a final show of power, they bombed Haiphong on November 23, 1946. Thousands of innocent civilians were killed. No peaceful settlement was possible.
Had it not been for the Marshall Plan, France would have been in no position to finance the costly, protracted war which ensued. American aid not only made possible the war, but it had a considerable influence on the manner in which the war was conducted. Without commenting on the effect of American aid on the character of the coalition governments in France, we can see that the United States attempted to create a new ‘image’ for the Indo-Chinese war, increasingly bore the brunt of financing it and soon contemplated direct intervention as it became clear that the French could not win. Initially the United States favoured the restoration of French colonial hegemony in Indo-China, not out of great sympathy for French colonial interests but because France seemed more likely to be co-operative with American investors and more receptive to American aid than a socialist Vietnam. Given France’s client relationship to the United States, one would hardly have expected any difficulties for the Americans from the superficially dominant position of France in Indo-China. But the French had to put down an indigenous insurrection, and the United States had to find the least embarrassing means of supporting someone else’s brutal colonial war.
28 Secret and absurd US scheme
The United States made clear to the French that American aid would cease if the war were portrayed blatantly as a colonial conquest. Instead, the Americans argued, it should have the appearance of an anti-communist crusade, a war against subversives, bandits, and rebels, a war to stop the aggressive designs of ‘Soviet imperialism’. On the positive side, the war should be fought by a ‘more genuine’ nationalist force in Vietnam, generously aided by France and her Free World Allies – not by a colonial power. One obvious difficulty, of course, was that the war was already going on, with no pretence of French support of a nationalist government. Indeed, France had acknowledged the legitimacy of the duly elected Ho Chi Minh government in 1946. In the midst of the fighting, the United States proposed to conceal the identity of the side it supported. The policy was difficult enough, but the actual task of finding a ‘nationalist’ who would subscribe to this absurd scheme was nearly impossible.
29 About three years later: Bao Dai installed as a puppet
This was an American scheme from the very start, largely inspired by the American plans for Chinese and Philippine ‘independence’. It was the Americans who eventually selected the appropriate ‘nationalist’. President Harry Truman instructed his emissary, William C Bullitt, to conduct the search. The man Bullitt found was hardly an imaginative choice; it was none other than Bao Dai, earlier distinguished for his collaboration with the Japanese. Bao Dai, moreover, had formally abdicated in favour of the Viet Minh and had received an honorary post as Political Counsellor to Ho Chi Minh. His interest in the Viet Minh government had proved short-lived, and he quickly disappeared into the anonymity of Hong Kong night life. From Hong Kong he moved to the French Riviera, where Bullitt finally encountered him. It took a good deal of convincing to persuade Bao Dai to return to ‘politics’, but after nearly two years of discussions he agreed to disavow his former abdication and accept the restored title of Emperor. It was not until the summer of 1949 that the French colonial war was officially transformed into a defence of the ‘legitimate’ government of Bao Dai.
30 Naive CIA operatives try to avoid Chiang Kai Shek style stigma of corruption
The awkwardness and tardiness of the metamorphosis of the Indo-Chinese War were a source of great irritation to American policy-makers. The notoriety of Bao Dai, moreover, was reminiscent of the stigma attached to the corrupt clique around Chiang Kai Shek; the failure in China was a dangerous omen. All these factors, along with the military failings of the French, soon convinced American intelligence agents that some other alternative was required. (The clandestine activity of US personnel in this period is the subject of Graham Greene’s novel The Quiet American.) As the battered French forces continued to wage their futile war, energetic and often naive CIA operatives, sometimes posing as university personnel, began quietly searching out and screening potential replacements for Bao Dai. Their ultimate choice is well known: Ngo Dinh Diem, discovered by Professor Wesley Fishel in Tokyo in 1950.
31 International effects of France using colonial African troops
The war went badly for the French. Since it was conducted by the Ministry of Colonies, rather than by the Ministry of Defence, it was impossible under the regulations of the French Constitution to send conscripts to fight in Indo-China. Thus, French officers directed a motley crew of foreign legionnaires, mercenaries, and the colonial armies against the Viet Minh resistance. Black troops from Africa and the West Indies drew powerful lessons from the experience. They quickly grasped the elementary fact that they were being used as cannon fodder in a racist war of conquest. Moreover, the withdrawal of large numbers of colonial troops from the African garrisons weakened French defences in the northern African colonies. The combination of weakened garrisons, military experience for Africans, and the direct inspiration of the Viet Minh’s struggle accounted for the growth of militant resistance movements in Tunisia (1952), Morocco (1953), and Algeria (1954). Such was the international importance of the Vietnamese revolution.
32 After about ten years of war, and Dien Bien Phu, the French decide to leave
By 1954, France had poured more than 400,000 men into Indo-China. According to Jules Moch, French delegate to the United Nations (quoted in the New York Times, July 22, 1954), there were 92,000 fatalities and 114,000 wounded on the French side. The cost of the war was some seven billion dollars. French officers were annihilated in Vietnam as quickly as they could graduate from the French military academy at Saint Cyr. The French became less and less willing to conduct the war. The stage was set for direct American intervention. The New York Times of July 4, 1954 reported: ‘In the current year the United States is paying 78 per cent of the French Union costs in the Indo-Chinese war.’ As the siege of Dien Bien Phu began early in 1954 the question of American intervention was only one of means.
33 US debates and secret manoeuvres against and for intervention
There are indications that John Foster Dulles offered Bidault the use of nuclear weapons at Dien Bien Phu. Vice-President Nixon released ‘trial balloons’ in April 1954 attempting to discover public reaction to the possible employment of American ground forces in Vietnam. At the time, a number of factors stood in the way of such immediate military commitments.
In the course of the Senate debate during the battle of Dien Bien Phu such influential politicians as John F. Kennedy opposed US intervention on the side of the French. The memory of Korea remained; the American people were not anxious to send their sons to die in another Asian war. Powerful elements in the US Government had already begun to view this as an opportunity to make a fresh start in Vietnam. The CIA had long desired to get rid of Bao Dai and to discard fully the unattractive image of a colonial war. All parties turned their attention to Geneva.
The negotiations lasted many months. Dien Bien Phu fell on May 8, and the French made clear their intention to leave Vietnam. The British and the Americans utilized a simple strategy: promise them anything. The letter of the Geneva agreements could hardly be construed as contrary to the interests of the Viet Minh. The agreements provided for withdrawal of all foreign military personnel, national unity under a freely elected government, and prohibitions on the introduction of new foreign troops. Behind the scenes, however, the Americans were working hard. On July 7 Bao Dai was persuaded to appoint as premier the American placeman, Ngo Dinh Diem. In addition, the Americans had already begun to introduce their ‘advisers’ and other civilian personnel secretly into South Vietnam.
34 The story since 1954 is 'well known'
The story since 1954 is well known. The responsibility of the Americans is clear. The need now is cogently expressed by the playwright Peter Weiss:
‘The tenancy of the rich nations is infected with the stench of carrion. The progress that politicians in these countries speak about with voices drowned in tears looks more and more like progress in the elimination of human life. America, that country that shelters many true democrats, appears to the people that strive for freedom and independence as the inheritor of Guernica, Lidice and Maidenek. The neutrals look on, give expression time after time to their protests, but still look for conciliatory aspects and do not want to become at cross purposes with the big commercial partner. The workers in countries in the West with their gigantic union organizations are silent. While they are occupied with taking over middle class values, they shut their eyes to the fact that the proletariat of Africa and Latin America still lives in the most shameful conditions and that they are being massacred by the hundred thousands in South-east Asia. They remain silent, although they are the only ones that could, through a common proclamation, prevent the blood bath. Appeals by students, scientists, artists, and writers have until now been of limited effect. But if millions of workers at last rose to speak and emphatically with all the means at their command demanded that the American acts of war immediately be discontinued, it would be difficult for Johnson and his government to continue the murdering.’
.... Revisionist material to follow.
Some is based on mooninquirer of 28th July 2011 Vanuna as a fraud. ALSO scroll down to Mooninquirer's LBJ comments - Freemasons and Jews, immigration into USA, Egypt, Israel, Liberty, Martin Luther King's removal, Johnson's hatred for blacks