[News] Vietnam Will Win: Epilogue

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https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/03/30/vietnam-will-win-epilogue/


  Vietnam Will Win: Epilogue

by Wilfred Burchett 
<https://www.counterpunch.org/author/wilfred-burchett/> - March 30, 2018
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In the previous chapters I have dealt with what could be considered the 
long and infinitely difficult road to Paris. At the time of writing, the 
delegates to the four-party Paris Conference have been meeting for 
nearly four months, ostensibly to negotiate an end to the war and to 
seek a political solution to the problem of South Vietnam. Henry Cabot 
Lodge, who had served twice as U.S. ambassador to South Vietnam and was 
deeply committed to the military-fascist-type dictatorship which the 
United States installed there, replaced Harriman as head of the U.S. 
delegation.

During the first five and a half months before Johnson finally ordered 
the bombing halt that cleared the way for full-scale negotiations, it 
was possible to argue that the Paris discussions were useless. Almost 
six months after Johnson’s fable of March 31, 1968, the bombings of the 
North were continued more intensively than ever. There was a steady 
month-by-month increase in missions flown, in tons of bombs dropped and 
number of shells fired from 7th Fleet units prowling up and down the 
coast. The difference between generalized and “limited” bombing is that 
in the latter the bombings and naval bombardments are concentrated in a 
much smaller area, which is militarily more effective, as Defense 
Secretary Clifford has pointed out the target area is the narrow 
200-mile corridor or “panhandle” leading north from the 17th parallel, 
through which all North-South communications pass. It is an area where 
more than a quarter of North Vietnam’s 17 million people live, one of 
the country’s most densely populated areas.

During the month of August alone, the town of Vinh, provincial capital 
of Nghe An – the province where Ho Chi Minh was born – was attacked 139 
times within seven days. Of the province’s 426 villages, 211 were bombed 
during the month. In the neighboring province of Ha Tinh, 217 out of 250 
villages were attacked and 83 shelled by the big guns of the 7th fleet. 
Many of the bombs dropped are the murderous pellet bombs designed 
exclusively for the human body. In Quang Binh Province, 124 out of 131 
villages were attacked. The little coastal town of Dong Hoi – a major 
target of the first systematic raids in February 1965 – was shelled for 
24 hours on end. The town and surrounding villages received 2,500 shells 
during the 24 hour period.

On nine occasions between August 10 and 27, there were 21 B-52 raids, 
totaling 140 sorties, dropping 4,000 tons of bombs on 17 villages of the 
Vinh Linh region, which is the northern part of Quang Tri Province, 
truncated by the 17th parallel. In the same period all 23 villages of 
Vinh Linh were heavily attacked during 670 raids, apart from those made 
by the B-52s with another 4,000 tons of bombs supplemented by 300 naval 
shellings. There has been nothing comparable to this tonnage of bombs 
and shells in the history of warfare. It gives the lie to Johnson’s 
August 19 speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in which he claimed he 
had “halted 90 percent of the bombings…” The actual statistics of 
“limited bombings” are as follows:

    *U.S. Bombing of North Vietnam: 1968
    **Average Number of Daily Bombing Raids*

    First 3 months of 1968  before Johnson’s  March 31 “limited bombing”
    speech.   70 (over all North Vietnam)

    April “limited bombing”  160 (over the “panhandle”)

    May “limited bombing”  152 (over the “panhandle”)

    June “limited bombing” 170 (over the “panhandle”)

    July “limited bombing”  206 (over the “panhandle”)

    August “limited bombing” 209 (over the “panhandle”)

The tonnage of bombs dropped rose in the same proportion. If the 
“escalation” rate slowed down somewhat in August, this was because 
typhoon conditions kept the carrier borne planes below hatches for 
almost a week. The duplicity of Johnson and total lack of sincerity 
which dominates his conduct of the Paris talks is illustrated by the 
fact that the sharpest increase in the bombings was precisely during the 
period that the Vietnamese had given the sign of “restraint” the 
American negotiators had been harping on for weeks as the signal to halt 
the bombings altogether and move the talks on to full-scale negotiations 
to end the war. Between June 21 and August 19, there was an end to 
rocket attacks on Saigon and a marked lull in ground activity, reflected 
by a falling off in U.S. casualties. Harriman had been saying publicly – 
and even more so privately – that Johnson needed only a “sign,” no need 
for anything to be said publicly or even privately, a “sign of 
restraint,” and bombings would be halted altogether so that full talks 
could start. And he said that such a lull would be taken as the “sign.”

It is common knowledge in Paris that the Harriman delegation did clearly 
recognize the “sign” and the less “hawkish” among them flattered 
themselves that they had steered the “official conversations,” as the 
talks are known, over the first great hurdle. They recommended a bombing 
halt. The word came strong and clear from diplomatic and press circles 
that Johnson was to announce a total bombing halt in mid-August Instead 
there was the August 19, “no-bombing halt” speech. The final pretext 
given for the start of the systematic bombing attacks in February 1965 – 
as noted in an earlier chapter – was that this was necessary to inject 
some morale into the shaky regime of Nguyen Cao Ky at the time. It was 
obvious that the refusal to halt the bombings, as rather brutally 
announced by Johnson on August 19, was for precisely the same reason. 
The Thieu-Ky regime would not survive the end of bombings and start of 
political talks, Thieu having made this clear to Johnson just a month 
earlier at Honolulu.

The August 19 speech came as no surprise to the Vietnamese because it 
was consistent with every move Johnson has made in relation to talks. 
When the first moves for secret Washington-Hanoi contacts were made in 
December 1966, Johnson’s reaction was immediately to order the first 
bombing raids on Hanoi. When he offered in December 1966 and January 
1967 to halt all bombings if there were “any sort of a sign, public or 
private, official or unofficial” that Hanoi would be prepared to sit 
down and talk, and he got that sign on January 28, 1967, in Foreign 
Minister Nguyen Duy Trinh’s statement that if the bombings were halted 
talks could start, Johnson’s reaction was to double the bombing. When 
his “any time, any place” offer was taken up it turned out that “any 
place” did not include Phnom Penh or Warsaw.

All the various moves that have led to getting talks started and the 
start of the talks themselves, have been accompanied by bad faith on the 
part of the United States, which seems always traceable back directly to 
President Johnson himself. Numerous diplomatic and non diplomatic 
initiatives during the 18 months that preceded the start of talks in 
Paris were reported to the Vietnamese as coming directly from the White 
House itself. Hanoi’s positive response to a certain number of these 
initiatives has been invariably followed by violent repudiations on 
Johnson’s part of the assumptions on which such initiatives would be 
based. In Paris, Harriman’s entourage has also conducted quiet 
soundings, legitimate in the conduct of such delicate negotiations, that 
have resulted in the Vietnamese taking certain measures to facilitate 
the atmosphere of the talks themselves and to try to move them ahead. 
The invariable response by President Johnson has been the opposite to 
that aimed at. In refusing to halt the bombings, which he well knows is 
the indispensable step that must be taken to move the talks on to 
discussion of a political solution, President Johnson is personally 
responsible for the deaths and mutilation of tens of thousands of 
Vietnamese and Americans. At least in this affair of getting the war in 
Vietnam ended, he has revealed himself as a man whose words cannot be 
trusted on matters of the most critical international importance.

That he refused to halt the bombings and thus shorten the war, on the 
pretext that halting the bombings would “jeopardize” American lives, is 
merely to add cynicism to bad faith.

The NLF riposte to the August 19 speech was swift and shattering. They 
launched a series of attacks in key areas, gradually concentrating on 
the elite units whose job was to protect the main cities and bases. On 
the southern front, the U.S. 25th division based in Gia Dinh and Tay 
Ninh Provinces with the main task of defending Saigon was very severely 
mauled in a series of actions still continuing at the time of writing. 
The astronomic “body count” figures of “Vietcong” dead cannot hide the 
fact that about a quarter of the 25th Division, the equivalent of a full 
brigade, was put out of action – including a battalion wiped out as a 
unit – and a huge quantity of the division’s armor was destroyed in 
attacks starting August 22 against the division’s bases and outposts, 
and ambushes against supply convoys and armored units sent to relieve 
besieged positions. In the northern area, it was the American division, 
earmarked for the defense of Da Nang, which took heavy losses.

To understand the evolution in South Vietnam and at Paris during the 
first year of the Conference, one must bear in mind that by the time the 
Paris talks started the third stage of classical people’s war – the 
encirclement of the cities – had already been reached. As explained 
earlier,[1] <#_edn1> the abandonment of Khe Sanh marked the withdrawal 
by U.S. forces into the cities and bases, protected by heavily fortified 
triple defense perimeters considered “impenetrable.” To get at the 
adversary’s combat units, the NLF now had to go after them in the cities 
and bases. This is the meaning of the sort of actions in and around 
Saigon and Da Nang in late August and September 1968 while the Paris 
talks were bogged down by Johnson’s demand for “reciprocity” for halting 
all bombings of the North.

This “reciprocity” was nothing less than a pledge from the DRV that all 
attacks would be halted against South Vietnam’s cities which the 
U.S.-Saigon Command were using as sanctuaries, just as the U.S. 
Strategic Air Command was using Thailand, Okinawa, Guam and other bases 
as attack-free sanctuaries from which to launch their B-52 raids against 
the South.

Naturally the DRV delegation refused to give any such pledges. An 
analysis of the Paris talks is beyond the scope of this book. Suffice to 
say that American tactics from the start were first to see if any 
decisive military advantage could be extracted from them. Thus 
Harriman’s first move – under the innocent guise of seeking a start of 
the implementation of the Geneva and 1962 Laos Agreements – was to 
demand the reconstitution of the demilitarized zone and what would 
amount to sealing off South Vietnam’s borders with North Vietnam and 
Laos. As Westmoreland had exerted considerable military effort to occupy 
the DMZ and failed, and as the U.S.-Saigon command from the time it was 
set up under General Paul Harkins in February 1962 had a major strategic 
aim to occupy the border areas with Laos and had failed, it was hardly 
likely that the DRV was going to hand these over as prizes at the 
conference table. Of course, there was also the offer of considerable 
dollar bait if the DRV delegation would renounce aid to and interest in 
the South. In essence the U.S. position has been to try to get the DRV 
to agree that the DRV can do what it likes in the North so long as the 
United States has a free hand to do what it likes in the South. Any 
perceptive analysis of the various Harriman statements can only result 
in this sort of conclusion.

There is a fantastic lack of reality about the tough U.S. stance at the 
Paris talks and the sharply deteriorating situation on the military and 
political front in South Vietnam. Developments in the military situation 
since the talks have been going on in Paris, have been analyzed in an 
earlier chapter. The trend of withdrawal for the defense of the cities 
which started with the abandonment of Khe Sanh has continued. The 
abandonment of the McNamara Line which I first reported in the August 24 
issue of the /Guardian/ was confirmed by a marine spokesman to a UPI 
correspondent on September 11. “Plans for the McNamara Line… have all 
but been abandoned, U.S. Marine sources said today….”[2] <#_edn2> As 
with the abandonment of Khe Sanh, the story was tucked away in the 
inside pages of most papers. Major U.S. bases are now under very serious 
threat of being overrun and further “deactivations” will be inevitable 
in the months to come.

As the NLF encircling grip on the cities daily becomes tighter and the 
shock troops allotted to the defense of the cities are being seriously 
whittled away by unrelenting NLF attacks and harassment, the role of the 
newly formed Alliance of National Democratic and Peace Forces becomes 
more evident. The Alliance is independent of the NLF but is closely 
supported by the latter and the two are pledged to undertake “JOWL 
activities” aimed at overthrowing the Saigon puppet regime and securing 
the withdrawal of U.S. and other foreign troops. The Alliance draws its 
support essentially from the urban middle class and intellectuals. It 
reaches into sections of the population which the NLF only marginally 
reached. The NLF also has its clandestine organizations in the cities, 
mainly among the workers and students. The Alliance fulfills an 
important role of liaison with patriotic elements within the Saigon 
administration and armed forces. Only ten members of the Alliance’s 
40-member Central Committee have been named. The others, for security 
reasons, remain clandestine, but it is widely known that they include 
high ranking members of the Saigon army and administration. And this 
holds out rich prospects for the future, as the army sees that prospects 
for a U.S. military defeat are very real and the very fact of the Paris 
talks has provoked an exceedingly strong smell of an American “sellout” 
No one wants to stay with the losing side beyond the point of no return.

Thieu and Ky are increasingly isolated even in their own milieu and this 
is the reason why in mid September they sent an emissary to Bangkok to 
request “Big Minh” (General Duong Van Minh) to return from exile. “Big 
Minh” had organized the overthrow of Ngo Dinh Diem and headed the short 
lived triumvirate that replaced the Ngo Dinh brothers. But he was 
suspected by the U.S. command of having “neutralist” leanings, so he was 
deposed by the leading U.S. favorite at the time, “strong man” Nguyen 
Khanh, and exiled to Thailand. Nguyen Khanh lumped “neutralism” together 
with “communism” as one of the two deadliest sins punishable by death if 
culprits were found espousing its cause. A limited amount of prestige 
stuck to “Big Minh” because of his role in deposing and killing the 
hated Ngo Dinh brothers and because of his suspected “neutralist” 
leanings. Thieu and Ky – previously his bitterest enemies – would now 
like to have “Big Minh” at their sides for respectability’s sake, one 
more indication of the political degeneration in Saigon. Another 
indication is the flight of the “elite”. First the dollars go, then the 
wives and children, then the heads of families – all those who can pay a 
few thousand dollars for passports and exit visas. For a son of military 
age the price is usually doubled, with part of it all ending up in the 
pockets of Thieu and Ky, that is, in their bank accounts abroad. France 
and Australia are the favorite holes for well-heeled Saigon rats. The 
Paris talks have been an important yeast-like element in the Saigon 
ferment and if they really move on to the next phase aimed at a 
political settlement in South Vietnam based on the Geneva Agreements, 
then the ferment could predictably erupt into a volcano.

The Paris talks proved to be an important yeast-like element in the 
Saigon ferment, especially after the bombing halt, when the NLF 
delegation arrived to take its place in the quadripartite talks and was 
accorded full diplomatic honors by the French government. As explained 
earlier, the talks that were due to begin November 6, 1968 only got 
underway on January 25, 1969, because of the stalling tactics of the 
Saigon regime backed by Pentagon “hawks” and Ambassador Bunker in Saigon.

The U.S. delegation tried hard to pretend that there had been some 
“understandings,” some “tacit agreements” in exchange for the bombing 
halt. But the DRV delegation strenuously denied this.

Shortly after the NLF launched its “spring offensive” on the night of 
22-23 February, Cabot lodge started to claim these were violations of 
“understandings which had been made clear to the other side.” 
Correspondents at the Conference press briefings tried to discover what 
kind of an “understanding” it was that had to be made “clear to the 
other side.” However this was something which U.S. press officer Harold 
Kaplan (who had replaced William Jorden in the Cabot Lodge delegation) 
found it impossible to explain.

In the four-party talks, the DRV and NLF delegations have made it 
abundantly clear that a final settlement can only be brought about by 
the United States sitting down to “direct and serious negotiations” with 
the NLF, for a settlement based on the complete withdrawal of U.S. and 
satellite troops from South Vietnam. Many of Vietnam’s well-wishers 
marvel at the patience of the DRV and NLF delegates in Paris, faced with 
the lack of sincerity and plain deceit and treachery which has been the 
U.S.-Saigon response to their various efforts to show goodwill.

It will suffice to give a few examples of this treachery. B-52 bombing 
raids were vastly stepped up over the whole of Vietnam after Johnson’s 
“limited bombing” order of March 31, 1968. During 1967, there were 1,164 
B-52 raids by flights of 3 to 12 planes over Vietnam. In 1968 there were 
3,172, with the monthly total jumping up after the March 31 speech and 
escalating still more after the October 31 decision to halt all bombings 
in the North and start the 4-party talks. While Harriman was demanding 
that the NLF halt its attacks against the cities, the number of B-52 
raids in the immediate vicinity of Saigon increased from 928 in 1967, to 
3,022 in 1968 and the monthly average continued to grow steadily during 
the first three months of 1969. (It may be noted that a single flight of 
three B-52’s drops 100 tons of bombs and that there are densely 
populated villages on the outskirts of Saigon that are being bombed.)

 From a period some weeks before the October 31 bombing halt, at a time 
when Harriman was demanding a “lowering of hostilities,” a “reduction of 
combat contacts,” etc., until February 22, 1969, the NLF virtually 
halted all combat initiatives, quite clearly to provide a favorable 
atmosphere for the Paris Conference.

What was the U.S. response to this “restraint” for which Harriman had 
pleaded so eloquently?

This question is answered in an extract from an article by the Saigon 
correspondent of the N.Y. Times, Terence Smith, who wrote in the March 
24, 1969 /Times/:

“As a result of a shift in ground tactics… the rate of contacts – that 
is the number of times an American unit lured an enemy force into battle 
– jumped dramatically. By February, the rate of contacts had increased 
100 percent from the days before the bombing halt…” And as to how this 
was made possible, Smith continues:

“The pullback of enemy troops from the cities and towns, particularly in 
the northern and central parts of South Vietnam, in the late summer and 
fall of last year permitted the allied troops to spread out and assume a 
more vigorous role…”

In other words the United States exploited militarily the “restraint” by 
the NLF which Harriman had argued would be most conducive to progress at 
the peace talks. Incidentally, in the same article, Smith quotes an 
embarrassed Harriman as stating that “the enemy offensive was preceded 
by a sharp increase in American-initiated ground activity… essentially a 
response to U.S. actions, rather than a deliberate move to affect the 
peace talks…”

The “spring offensive” would not have been necessary had the U.S. 
delegation in Paris shown any signs of wanting serious negotiations, or 
had U.S. policy-makers in Washington shown any signs of understanding 
the real situation in South Vietnam. The “spring offensive” was 
necessary to emphasize and bring home the reality of the defeat of the 
US.-Saigon forces. Even Henry Kissinger, now President Nixon’s chief 
foreign policy adviser, writing in the January 1969 /Foreign Affairs/, 
has noted that for the United States not to win a war of this type was 
to lose it, whereas for the NLF, not to lose was to win. But the 
Pentagon’s hawks and its “spokesmen” like Joseph Alsop had the NLF 
defeated once again, until the beginning of the “spring offensive,” and 
similar attitudes comprised the negotiating position of Cabot Lodge in 
Paris. The “spring offensive” knocked all this fantasy on the head and 
was probably directly responsible for Nixon’s eight-point peace plan, 
announced on May 14.

Although the same degree of surprise as in the 1968 Têt offensive was 
not possible, the U.S. did not know in advance either the day or hour of 
the simultaneous NLF attacks against 140 bases in February 1969. They 
were also taken by surprise at the targets hit. The most heavily 
defended headquarters and bases were hit during the first minutes and 
hours. General Abrams had concentrated 400,000 troops for the defense of 
the Saigon area, but some of the heaviest blows fell well within its 
defense perimeter – in the biggest logistics division. The famous Air 
Cavalry division, withdrawn from the northern front for the defense of 
Saigon and stationed in the Tay Ninh area, was forced to “shorten its 
defense perimeter” – a classic formula for disguising retreat. These 
elite divisions, together with the U.S. 1st Infantry division suffered 
very heavy casualties. Heavy losses were also inflicted on specialized 
units, helicopters and armored vehicles.

Abrams was further caught off guard by NLF tactics. This time the NLF 
attacked with smaller but infinitely better equipped units. The 
“spoiling operations” and massive use of B-52’s against supposed 
“Vietcong staging areas” and “concentrations” proved to have been 
useless. The NLF could strike when and where it liked, making the 
enclave theory of U.S. troops holding out indefinitely in selected bases 
hopelessly outmoded.

If the Têt offensive dealt a death blow to Westmoreland’s “search and 
destroy” strategy, the “spring offensive” dealt a deathblow to Abram’s 
“clear and hold” strategy. And if the massive use of helicopters added a 
new factor – high mobility – to counter-guerrilla warfare , the NLF’s 
big rockets introduced a new factor also. Defense perimeters, 
minefields, electronic detectors made little sense when the rockets 
could fly overhead straight to their targets.

The “spring offensive” showed that the relation of forces had continued 
to change dramatically in favor of the NLF and it had gone far enough to 
be an irreversible process, notwithstanding “Alsop’s Fables” and 
“captured enemy documents.” However, I still believe that had it not 
been for U.S. double-dealing in response to NLF restraint the “spring 
offensive” would never have been launched.

Another example of U.S. double-dealing is on the question of 
“self-determination” for the South Vietnamese people, a term used over 
and over again by Harriman and repeated by Lodge. The CIA inaugurated 
its “Phoenix Plan,” aiming to liquidate 85,000 “VCI’s” – Vietcong 
infrastructure – in CIA jargon, after the Paris talks started. According 
to lists drawn up by the CIA and its Saigon counterpart there are 85,000 
NLF cadres from members of the Central Committee down to humble 
villagers who look after matters like public health and education at a 
hamlet level. They are all marked down for summary execution, usually by 
specially trained commando groups. “Phoenix Plan” organs have been 
established at the central, zonal, provincial and district levels, each 
with U.S. advisers attached. The 1969 plan calls for physical 
liquidation of 33,000 “VCI’s” and the present rate of assassination is 
said by high U.S. officials in Saigon to be running at 500 per month.

In case any agreement emerges from the Paris talks, the U.S.-Saigon 
command fondly hopes it will have no NLF problem to worry about. The 
murder gangs will have solved the political future of South Vietnam. 
What they have overlooked is that for every NLF cadre killed there are 
ten ready to take his or her place.

For the DRV and NLF negotiators, the Paris talks represent another 
dimension of the greatest struggle waged by the Vietnamese people in 
their long history. The struggle in the arena of diplomacy and public 
opinion in Paris, the military struggle to defend the North against U.S. 
air and naval forces and the military-political struggle led by the NLF 
in the South, are all part of an integral whole. Xuan Thuy who heads the 
DRV delegation and Tran Buu Kiem, who then headed that of the NLF in 
Paris, have repeatedly stated that if the United States wants a peaceful 
solution, the Vietnamese are ready to negotiate in good faith. But if 
the United States wants to continue the war, the Vietnamese – north and 
south of the l7th parallel – are prepared for that, for as long as 
necessary.

I believe the Vietnamese leaders see that the Paris talks, backed up by 
their strong position in the field, could bring them to the end of that 
long and difficult road to complete national independence and the final 
end of a century of foreign aggression and occupation by western powers. 
At home the Vietnamese people are fighting a titanic, unequal battle for 
the life of their nation, their suffering and heroism largely unknown to 
the outside world. In Paris, the Vietnamese delegations fight on another 
level, but in full view of the eyes and ears of the whole world. The 
fact that the United States had to come to Paris to do diplomatic battle 
on more or less equal terms with the victim of their aggression, is a 
matter of historic significance. It is unprecedented. This, and the 
valiant fight of the Vietnamese people that made the Paris talks 
possible, is a source of inspiration for the oppressed throughout the 
world. Whether the Paris talks will eventually mark the end of this long 
struggle remains to be seen, but the DRV and NLF negotiators are far too 
responsible towards their people and world public opinion to leave any 
stone unturned to bring this about. And it is in this context that one 
must view the 10-point peace plan, submitted by Tran Buu Kiem at the 
16th plenary session of the Paris Conference, on May 8, 1969.[3] <#_edn3>

The 10-point plan represented a maximum effort by the NLF to bring about 
the degree of unity and national reconciliation essential to bring the 
war to an end and “escort” the United States out of South Vietnam with 
whatever “honor” could be salvaged from such a disastrous and inglorious 
enterprise. The plan also provides for the maximum guarantees of true 
self determination, not the spurious variety being peddled by Cabot 
Lodge in Paris. The main stress was put on the need to settle the 
problems of South Vietnam by the South Vietnamese themselves, as a 
“family matter” as one NLF delegate expressed it to me.

The NLF was ready to sit down with those representing the most diverse 
political and social tendencies, as long as they subscribed to peace 
with independence and neutrality for South Vietnam, to obtain agreement 
on the composition of a provisional, coalition government. A responsible 
member of the NLF delegation told me that the NLF would take part in 
such discussions without any fixed formula and would not force its views 
on the participants nor demand any set proportion of seats in the future 
government.

In my first meeting with President Nguyen Huu Tho, he stressed that the 
NLF did not demand any exclusive position for itself and did not demand 
a monopoly in settling the problems of South Vietnam. The NLF was 
pioneering, coordinating, organizing a resistance struggle to acquire 
true independence for Vietnam, without which real peace was 
inconceivable. This is the position today, in the moment of victory. 
National interests sometimes take precedence over class interests. The 
10-point plan is also in full agreement with deposition of the Peoples’ 
Revolutionary Party as described in Chapter 13.

In my discussions with NLF delegation members after the 10-point plan 
was put forward, the importance of neutrality was emphasized by them. 
“Neutrality is an objective need of our situation,” one member stated. 
“It gives us the best conditions for consolidating our independence and 
reconstructing the country. Maybe some will say it is a propaganda 
trick, that once the United States withdraws the floodgates will be 
opened to communism, they think. But if one is a realist and reflects 
for a moment, he can see that neutrality is an objective need for a 
people that wants to consolidate its independence, to reconstruct a 
war-torn country and live on the best possible terms with its neighbors. 
We want real neutrality in the most practical sense of the term. Not 
just in a formal sense but in a very real sense. There will be no a 
adherence to any blocs. We will not accept the protection of any country…”

All this reflects the fact that the NLF leaders are highly conscious of 
their historic role, their responsibilities towards future generations 
of Vietnamese who will live in a country genuinely free and independent, 
not only because of the exceptional heroism of those that fought to make 
this possible, but because of the exceptional wisdom and realism of 
those that directed this struggle.

This was more evident than ever with the formation on June 8, 1969 of 
the Provisional Revolutionary Government (PRG), an event of great 
historic importance. Organized from elements of the NLF and the Alliance 
of National, Democratic and Peace Forces, the PRG now takes over the NLF 
administration within South Vietnam and diplomatic representation 
abroad. Elements of the PRG will later be joined with representatives of 
other patriotic forces to form a Provisional Coalition Government which 
will hold genuinely democratic elections for a new National Assembly.

The PRG’s twelve-point program (see Appendix) reflects a blend of 
moderation and realism that has marked every step of the development of 
NLF strategy and tactics. The NLF will continue to bear the brunt of the 
struggle by retaining its role of organizer and leader of the resistance 
struggle. But it also shows its willingness to share power with all who 
accept the minimum requirements of peace with independence and 
neutrality. Heading the new government, which was promptly recognized by 
all socialist states and many “Third World” countries, is Huynh Tan 
Phat, the Saigon architect who is secretary general of the NLF Central 
Committee and chairman of the NLF Saigon Gia Dinh Organization. Madame 
Nguyen Thi Binh, former deputy head of the NLFs delegation to the Paris 
talks, who made a deep impression on the entire press corps because of 
her intelligence, capability and dignified charm, was named foreign 
minister and head of the NLF delegation in Paris. Tran Bun Kiem returned 
to the PRG’s jungle headquarters as minister without portfolio and is 
certain to have an important post in any future coalition government.

The PRG has taken over the NLF flag and the slogans of a South Vietnam 
independent, democratic, peaceful, neutral and prosperous. The PRG was 
founded at a three-day Congress of People’s Representatives between June 
6 and 8, in which 88 delegates from the NLF and the Alliance took part, 
and with 72 guests from other organizations also present.

During their long history, the Vietnamese have, in defense of their 
homeland, defeated the greatest invading armies of the past. They 
defeated the armies of the great Mongolian empire. They defeated armies 
led by some of the most skillful Chinese feudal generals. In modern 
times they carried out a successful nationwide revolution while under 
Japanese occupation at the end of World War II. They defeated the French 
and they dealt a death blow to French colonialism from which France 
never recovered. (Inspired by the successful Vietminh resistance, the 
Algerian people rose up in their turn and gave French colonialism the 
coup de grâce.) It might appear that in standing up singlehandedly 
against the United States, the mightiest of all the imperialisms, 
history has imposed too great a task upon the Vietnamese people. But 
here again they are acquitting themselves in a way that has aroused the 
admiration of mankind.

The Vietnamese people have the blood of victory in their veins, but as 
victors in struggles to defend their own patrimony, their own homes and 
villages, their own temples and ancestors’ tombs. They could perhaps be 
annihilated if the ultimate madness comes over Nixon and he orders the 
use of nuclear weapons, but they will never be defeated. They like to 
compare themselves to bamboo, which is very tough, but very flexible. 
These are the qualities they display in the highest degree on the 
battlefields of Vietnam and at the Paris conference table.

*Notes.*

[1] <#_ednref1> Chapter 7.

[2] <#_ednref2> /International Herald Tribune/ (Paris), September 12, 1968.

[3] <#_ednref3> The full text of the 10-point plan is published as an 
Appendix.

-- 
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