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NY Times: The Feud That Sank Saigon

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The comments posted on this article are even better than the article itself.  Here are two:

All this seems plausible but where does it get one? Thieu ended on top of a hopelessly corrupt unsustainable puppet regime whose sole selling point was that it was anti-communist. Nixon undermined the Paris Peace Talks in 1968 by offering Thieu a better deal than Johnson was going to give. The level of violence increased and Nixon with Watergate hanging over his head cut the same deal that Johnson offered the North. Of course with hidden strings attached that the US would lend air support the South if North violated the treaty. By 1975 the North crushed the South and the US Congress washed its hands of Thieu's regime.


Two thirds of the South Vietnamese could not have cared less about either one of these guys. They were focuses on preparing and transporting the rice crop to market each year without getting caught in the crossfire between the Viet Cong/NVA and the Saigon government. 

I'll give you an example: In the second half of my tour, in 1969, Thieu paid a visit to Cao Lanh, which was (and remains, albeit under a different name) the provincial capital. We were at first puzzled by the number deuce-and-a-half army trucks thundering into the countryside and into the hamlets. Then we realized they were loading the villagers onto the trucks (not voluntarily) and transporting them into town. They were handed national flags, and then martialed into lines along the city streets by officers in shades screaming into bullhorns. Thieu arrived by chopper and they waved their flags as he proceeded to the province chief's palace. They disbursed after he left a couple,of hours later.

We watched this entire charade from our jeep, shaking our heads. Later on I asked a young woman who worked in our compound what she thought of President Thieu. I don't know who that is, she said. Your president? You don't know your president? I then asked, what about Nguyen Cao Ky? Oh yes, she said, and she produced a comic book from her satchel. It was a story about the dashing Ky and his glamorous wife, fighting the Commies and making Vietnam safe for democracy.

So much for the Saigon government.

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Typical NY TImes diversionary article.  The idea that the Thieu/Ky feud sank Saigon is simply ridiculous.

The problem was that there was simply no leader in the south who came close to rallying the populace the way Ho Chi Minh did throughout the entire country.  And the guys the USA chose, Diem and Thieu, were not even close to fulfilling that task.  Consequently there really was way to make South Vietnam into an independent country that could fight off Hanoi and/or the Viet Cong.  It was going to take a huge American investment of money, material and blood.  And even then, that was actually counter to the purpose since that would build a dependency on the USA. To my knowledge, neither Thieu nor Ky ever spoke out against that policy.  They leaned on it.

And this was no secret of course in Washington.  As Ken Hughes reveals in his book, Fatal Politics, Nixon knew that the war was lost in 1969 when he entered the White House. He got that from the new commanding general Creighton Abrams who had replaced Westmoreland. When he took office, in late 1963, Johnson knew that there were two sets of intel estimates:  a true one and a false one. The former understood how bad the war was going for the south as revealed with the battle of Ap Bac in January of 1963.  This is where two Viet Cong companies defeated three ARVN  battalions along with a company task force.  (John Newman, JFK and Vietnam, pgs. 302-304)  That battle should have convinced anyone that the rosy scenario intel estimates were wrong.  And its one reason why Kennedy decided to hoist the military on its own petard by sending McNamara to Honolulu in May to hasten the withdrawal plan. Based on those false scenarios.

But through his military advisor, Howard Burris, LBJ knew about the so called second set of books the military had.  (ibid, pgs. 225-27)  So when he took office, LBJ made it clear to McNamara that he was to go to Saigon and get the genuine intel estimates and come back and revise Kennedy's withdrawal policy, which Johnson had never agreed with.  This resulted in NSAM 288, which prepared a whole new order of battle involving direct American Involvement in the war for the first time.  (Reclaiming Parkland, revised edition, pgs. 188-89)  Once he was elected, Johnson's plan began to be implemented. Which eventually led to 540,000 American combat troops in Vietnam in the fall of 1967.  There were none there when Kennedy was killed.

That is the real story of the Vietnam War.  Nixon and Kissinger, knowing they could not win, prolonged Johnson's debacle for purely political reasons.  And they actually compounded it by extending the war into Cambodia and Laos, in a way that not even Johnson had contemplated.  And Kennedy's withdrawal plan was shunted aside and forgotten. By both the MSM and the historians.

In reality, Thieu and Ky were simply different manner of errand boys to what was happening in Washington.  While the bombs, over 7 millions tons of them, went off all over Indochina.  For almost nine full years.

It will be interesting to see how Ken Burns treats this subject.  The last time  PBS did this kind of thing, with the Stanley Karnow Vietnam version, they ignored this story.  Let us see if they do it again, with help from some hack like Dallek.


Edited by James DiEugenio
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  • 2 years later...
13 hours ago, James DiEugenio said:

BTW, has anyone read the 2017 version of John Newman's JFK and Vietnam?

I have not read it completely yet.

Yes, and, neither have I.  I've got several pages earmarked up to a post it note on pg. 293.  Guess I got distracted.  Like Oswald and the CIA it is deep and detailed.  I should review and finish it.  Both are historically important.

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Here's Haldeman's Oct 22 1968 notes that prove Nixon directed his campaign's efforts to scuttle the peace talks.    

They clearly show Nixon was using Anna Chennault to reach out to South Vietnam.. Chennault's contact was South Vietnamese Ambassador Bui Diem.  Haldeman's notes also show Nixon directing Rose Mary Woods (his personal secretary) to contact Chinese nationalist Louis Kung and have him press Thieu as well.  "..Tell him hold firm..."

These notes also directed vice presidential candidate Spiro Agnew to .."Go See Helms.."    

Of course we also know that Johnson had the FBI wiretapping certain individuals and discovered Nixon's treachery.   Johnson's quandary was that he could not expose how he knew Nixon was lying to him when he told him “My God. I would never do anything to encourage” South Vietnam  “not to come to the table.” 

Very interesting as I had never seen these before. 




Edited by Greg Kooyman
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