The View from Vietnam

SOE in France

by M.R.D. Foot
Her Majesty’s Stationery Office (London), 550 pp., $9.00

Vietnam! Vietnam!

by Felix Greene
Fulton (Palo Alto), 175 pp., $2.95

Vietnam in the Mud

by James Pickerell
Bobbs-Merrill, 129 pp., $2.25

Vietcong: The Organization and Techniques of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam

by Douglas Pike
M.I.T., 490 pp., $8.95

Vietnam Seen from East and West

edited by Sibnarayan Ray
Praeger, 192 pp., $5.95

The Politics of Escalation in Vietnam

by Franz Schurmann
Fawcett, 160 pp., $.60 (paper)

Danang, South Vietnam

One of the added pleasures of covering the Vietnam war from inside Vietnam is that it is possible to lose track completely of what is going on elsewhere in the world—not only in the world, in fact, but in Vietnam as well. When with the Marines in the northern part of South Vietnam, it is perfectly easy to learn that Private Smith—whose first and middle names, home town and state, age, high school, are supplied on the spot by the ever-helpful PIO’s—wiped out a Viet Cong position with a burst of his trusty M-14; but it is almost impossible to find out whether the landing in the Mekong Delta was really the hopeless botch it seemed to be from eyewitness reports. The reader of a good newspaper at home is likely to find out about this before I do.

Furthermore, very few books on Vietnam are available here, because, until a few weeks ago, it was nearly impossible to find one in any Western language that was not heavily critical of either the United States or South Vietnam. As was recently reported, this is also true of the United States Information Agency’s USIS Library, where almost all books dealing with Vietnam (including my Street Without Joy, which does not even deal with post-1954 Vietnam) are locked up on closed shelves. Indeed, the US military forces have a far more liberal policy than the USIS: while uncritical books are more widely displayed, some critical books can be bought without difficulty at the military newsstands. (Whether this means that the US military have an inherently stronger belief in American principles than the USIS is not clear.) As for the Vietnamese themselves, book censorship seems to depend on the caprice and spotty reading of the censors. For instance, there is for open sale at this moment in Saigon a book on the Tri-Continental Conference against Colonialism and Imperialism, held in Havana a year ago. It was issued by an extremely left-wing Paris publisher, and is a running indictment against the United States and its policy here. Apparently the author’s name didn’t appear on somebody’s blacklist, so the book slipped by.

HENCE, TO RECEIVE BOOKS about Vietnam here is suddenly to be confronted with enlarged and different perspectives on a war which, in spite of the best electronic communications in the world, has been distorted by a foxhole view if one is in the field (there are foxholes, by the way, in this jet-propelled war), or into an equally narrow view based on rumor (did Marshal Ky really say he admired Hitler?) if one is in Saigon. Yet Michael Foot’s SOE in France, published by Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, not only fails even to mention Vietnam, but deals with a war that took place a quarter-century ago and ten thousand miles away. It has been virtually ignored by the American press, but in Western Europe it became a best seller much …

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