In the weeks leading up to Memorial Day and President Barack Obama’s scheduled trip to Vietnam, a prominent Vietcong communist leader privately thanked American anti-war activists for helping defeat the U.S.-allied government in Vietnam in the 1970s, saying protest demonstrations throughout the United States were “extremely important in contributing to Vietnam’s victory.”
For Vietnamese guerrilla leader Madam Nguyen Thi Binh, who sent the private letter from Hanoi dated April 20, “victory” meant the communist takeover of South Vietnam. The letter addressed veteran American anti-war activists who gathered in Washington, D.C., at a May 3 reunion of radical “May Day” anti-war leaders.
The Daily Caller News Foundation obtained a copy of the letter at the meeting.
Binh, now age 90, originally served as the highest ranking Vietnamese delegate to the Paris Peace Talks that imposed a ceasefire in the country in 1973.
The “Vietcong” was a ragtag group of communist guerrillas who were allied with the official communist government in North Vietnam. The country was cut in two in 1954, with the south seeking to build a democratic state allied to the West.
Binh’s frank admission highlights a secret side of the communist’s effective lobbying influence in the United States. Rather than live in the southern part of the country, which for decades she represented as a diplomat, it appears after the war Binh was living in Hanoi, the original capital of North Vietnam.
In her letter, she extolled the American anti-war movement, saying it was “a key component” that advanced the communist takeover of South Vietnam.
“The Vietnamese people have great appreciation for the peace and antiwar movements in the United States and view those movements’ contribution as important in shortening the war,” she wrote and which was read to an assembled group of “May Day” anti-war activists in Washington, D.C.
The “May Day tribe” consisted of thousands of radical anti-war protesters bent on shutting down Washington, D.C., in May 1971 through three days of massive civil disobedience. More than 12,000 protesters were arrested, for filling the streets to block feds from getting to work.
The Nixon administration was so fearful of violence against federal employees, it deployed 5,000 paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division and thousands more from the Marine Corps barracks to protect the 14th Street Bridge, a major thoroughfare into the nation’s capital from Virginia.
The protesters rallying cry was “If the government won’t stop the war, we’ll stop the government.”
The war temporarily ended in 1973 when the Paris Peace Treaty was signed that imposed a ceasefire on all parties.
That ceasefire was abruptly broken in 1975, however, when the North Vietnamese forces launched a surprise “Spring Offensive.”
Leading the offensive were hundreds of T-54 and T-55 heavy Russian tanks that left secret sanctuaries in neighboring Cambodia and flooded into South Vietnam. Regular North Vietnamese troops spearheaded the offensive, along with guerrillas tied to the Vietcong, which also called themselves the National Liberation Front of Vietnam.
By the time the Russian tanks were about to drive into Saigon, a liberal Congress filled with anti-war lawmakers already had hamstrung their South Vietnamese allies. Congress cut military aid to Saigon by 50 percent and handcuffed the South Vietnamese military facing the communist onslaught by barring any U.S. air support or other meaningful military assistance to the government.
The offensive was relatively quick, trapping hundreds of thousands of pro-American Vietnamese troops and millions of civilians who had trusted Washington and openly supported the United States.
The lasting images of those dark, chaotic days were captured by American news networks, which showed the panic in the capital city.
Harrowing pictures depicted U.S. helicopters frantically trying to ferry thousands of panic-stricken Vietnamese citizens and U.S. officials off the roof of the American Embassy. The videos depicted Vietnamese clinging from helicopters in a desperate effort to escape the onrushing communist army.
The defeat ultimately triggered an international humanitarian crisis where at least 800,000 Vietnamese “boat people” fled their communist conquerors. Many bravely undertook perilous journeys in small boats across the Gulf of Thailand to escape the new communist warlords. An unknown number of refugees drowned in the exodus.
After the communists defeated the South Vietnamese army, more than 1 million South Vietnamese citizens who had supported the United States were left behind and imprisoned in “re-education camps.” About 100,000 faced summary execution by the communist victors.
Bill Cowan, who was a Purple Heart Marine platoon leader in Vietnam, told TheDCNF that U.S. troops were demoralized when the U.S. media only highlighted anti-war protesters and not the heroism of many of the Vietnamese who were trying to keep their country free.
“The media fueled the anti-war movement, empowering the protestors, the North Vietnamese, and the Vietcong,” he told TheDCNF.
“It was rare to have a ‘good news’ story about what was happening there,” Cowan said.
“I recall a reporter coming to interview me at the village I was living at and apologizing after she was done by saying, ‘You know, this story will probably never see the light of day. My editors will quash it because it has too many good things in here about what you guys are doing.’” Cowan told TheDCNF.
Fred Rustmann, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer who was deployed in Vietnam for two years and later assigned to cover the Paris Peace Talks where Binh was the chief Vietcong delegate, called her “a great propagandist.”
“She was really the propaganda arm of the Vietcong. And she was very effective. She was living in a villa in Paris in the southern suburbs, which was a very communist, socialist neighborhood,” Rustmann told TheDCNF in an interview. He said ironically Binh spent more time in Paris than in Vietnam.
In Paris, “she was regularly interviewing with leftist news organization. She had these leftist kids and try to influence them. I believe she met several times with Jane Fonda.”
Binh actually recalled in her latest letter many meetings she had with American anti-war activists. She wrote, “The first time I met representatives of the American anti-war movement was at a week-long conference held in Bratislava in 1967, with the attendees of about forty Americans.”
“Before parting, we were shaking hands, holding hands,” she recalled in her letter, adding, “During the war years, I also met many other Americans in different places organized by U.S. citizen groups opposed to the war.”
Obama visited Vietnam last week for a three-day trip, and hailed its communist leadership and downplayed the human rights problems that persist.
Hours before Air Force One touched down, Vietnam had scheduled national “elections” for its one-party National Assembly. Reminiscent of previous old communist regimes from the Soviet Union days, the state-run press reported that 98.77 percent of the public “voted” in the election.
Only one sentence in Obama’s main speech to the Vietnamese public made any reference to human rights problems in the country.
Vietnamese government officials also blocked dissidents from meeting with Obama or his advisers when the American delegation arrived in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon. White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said it shows the meeting was “the source of significant discomfort” for Vietnam’s rulers.
The White House never rescheduled the meeting, however, and Rhodes claimed the U.S. government was going to follow up to ensure the activists are not being punished.
During the president’s visit, he lifted an arms embargo on Vietnam to allow the sale of modern weapons to the country. He did not tie the arms sales to any improvement in human rights.
This report, by Richard Pollock, was cross-posted by arrangement with the Daily Caller News Foundation.