34/ Colby is alive and kicking
The publication of McNamara's book on the Vietnam War triggered Colby, a former head of the CIA and a prominent US author of War Crimes in Vietnam, to intervene in The Washington Post (27 April 1995, posted on SEASIA by Kim Nguyen). Extracts:
$None can contest that the war ended in a Communist victory in 1975. But its progress prior to that collapse had many of the elements McNamara complains were missing in the earlier years, and deserves equal treatment in serious historical accounts of the whole experience. They demonstrated that the Americans and their South Vietnamese ally did indeed learn how to fight the North Vietnamese, and might have prevented the agony and shame that followed the 1975 victory.$
Well, we almost won the war. I suppose all vanquished generals produce the same pitiful complains.
$The pacification program freed the rural countryside of Communist guerrillas, primarily by recruiting them and arming local self-defense forces in the villages, resettling the refugees in their original communities and offering a better life of land reform and local development than communism could provide. $
Not a word on the tens of thousands of assassinations of civilian Vietcong cadres (or simple supporters) which are hidden behind the word "pacification". Colby has lived in a dream world at the time, or he is lying now.
By 1972, Hanoi recognized that it had lost the "people's war" and turned to the "soldiers' war" the Americans had wrongly pursued under McNamara's direction. It launched conventional military offensives at three points on South Vietnam's frontiers. The South Vietnamese Army met those attacks, stood them and pushed them back across the frontier. No U.S. ground forces were involved. The United States did provide massive logistic support and punishing air power, which played a major role in the success. $
Of course, Hanoi did not "recognize" what Colby imagines. He does seem to have acquired a real understanding of what the tactics and srategies of Hanoi have been, although a lot has been published since then on these subjects. In fact, he writes as if he were again in 1968 struggling for more troops and more credits. And then comes the big discovery: it was possible to wage the Vietnam war from the air only. That would have meant almost no US casualty. A clean war. The dream that came true with Irak 16 years later (with the same old B-52s and the same old ordnance. Discard the electronic gadgets, they did not achieve anything). Is it necessary to remind Colby that on the ground the political situation of Irak has not much changed?)
$But how can this assertion be reconciled with the collapse in 1975 ? Simple. In the interim, despite open evidence of the North Vietnamese violations of the 1973 "Peace Agreement", Congress drastically cut back on appropriations for U.S, logistic support, and President Gerald Ford had no possibility whatever of ordering U.S. air power into action in the face of the War Powers Resolution and the congressional mood. President Nixon's written pledge to South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu that the United States would react "with full force" to a North Vietnamese violation of the peace agreement was to no avail, even if it was the condition that led to Mr Thieu's acceptance of the agreement. $
The culprit then is not the antiwar movement, or the press, as usual, but Congress. Mr Colby does not even raise to Mr Nixon's or Mr Kissinger's more complete explanations. (Not to mention some "details" like the violations by the South Vietnamese of the Agreements they had signed.) He cannot see that what happened after 1975 in Vietnam is directly linked to the way the war has been waged and lost by the US. The Cold warrior is still there, unadulterated. Untried. Unpunished. Ready to start the whole Vietnam war again and, God and Congress willing, to win it.
[Colby disappeared on 27 May 1996, apparently drowned while canoeing near Washington. (Note 1999)]