Among the anonymous hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese boat people are some whose stories are becoming known. And among these, there are a few special witnesses. One is Truong Nhu Tang, a founder of the NLF, minister of justice for the Viet Cong Provisional Revolutionary Government, one of the most determined adversaries of the US during the war.
There is no one whose revolutionary credentials are more secure, no one who worked harder to expel the US from Vietnam and to establish a revolutionary government. In recognition of his service, in 1976 Truong Nhu Tang was offered a cabinet position, vice-minister of nutrition, in the government of unified Vietnam, a unique honor for former NLF leaders. He is a man beyond the charge of CIA complicity. His story is a simple human tragedy, but beyond that, it provides unique historical insight into a tormenting war.
Truong Nhu Tang is fifty-seven years old and is now living in Paris, where he has recently founded the National Salvation Council (Uy Ban Cuu Nuoc) to rally his compatriots and gain support for the struggle against communist Vietnam.
—Doan Van Toai and David Chanoff
On May 15, 1975, I was standing on the official dais reviewing the first Victory Day parade in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon until several months earlier). The crowd marching by waved the flags of both the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (Hanoi) and the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam (Viet Cong). The troops, though, bore only the North’s colors. I asked the four-star general standing next to me where were the famous Viet Cong Divisions 1, 5, 7, and 9. The general, Van Tien Dung, commander-in-chief of the North Vietnamese army, answered coldly that the armed forces were now “unified.” At that moment I began to understand my fate and that of the NLF. In Vietnam we often said: “Take the juice of the lemon and throw away the peel.” On that dais the years of communist promises and assurances revealed themselves for the propaganda they were. Victory Day celebrated no victory for the NLF, or for the South.
When I was a student in Paris in the late 1940s, I was tremendously attracted to Western liberal ideas. I studied the theory of democracy and saw at first hand something about how it worked. My own country had gone through such a different historical development: a thousand years of autocratic Chinese domination followed by an equally unenlightened French colonial regime. Ironically perhaps, I found I loved French culture and especially French political traditions. I wanted desperately for my own country nothing less than what France and other Western nations enjoyed: independence and a democratic political life. I felt elated and proud when Ho Chi Minh came to Paris to negotiate with the French, even more when the press hailed him as a hero of the Vietnamese people. I felt that I was touched by the glory reflected from this man. When I was invited to meet him I was overwhelmed by happiness. An idealistic and innocent Vietnamese youth, I became at that meeting a devoted follower of Ho.
During the late 1950s, there were not many Vietnamese intellectuals who had studied at Western schools, and I was among the few who had graduated from a French university. When I returned to Saigon in 1958, I was the controller-general of a bank and then was appointed by the South Vietnamese government director of the national sugar refinery in 1964. With this appointment I began following the path of those fortunate intellectuals who had been educated in the West and moved automatically into high government positions with secure futures. Often they were promoted to the position of minister, which they enjoyed fully. They paid great attention to their own luxuries and careers and no attention at all to what I saw as the needs of the people.
In time I came to feel that scarcely any of the top South Vietnamese leaders was a patriot and that I could not serve the country together with such corrupt generals and officials. In particular, there was no political freedom as I had seen it in the West. I became preoccupied with thoughts of my countrymen who were suffering in prisons and in the jungles for independence and for the political ideals I shared. Secretly I made contacts with these revolutionaries. Together we decided that my contribution would be most effective if I kept my position in the sugar refinery and maintained clandestine contacts with my new associates. Thereafter I began secret biweekly meetings with an agent of Huynh Tan Phat, the future prime minister of the Provisional Revolutionary Government, and I kept up these meetings for the next two years. During this entire period President Ngo Dinh Diem’s police never suspected my involvement with the Viet Cong.
In December 1960, at a memorable jungle meeting, my friends suggested that we form the Provisional Committee of the NLF. Subsequently a larger meeting was set up on a rubber plantation in Bien Hoa, twenty miles northeast of Saigon. Present were about twenty people, all of them Southerners and educated in France. Our first thought was to choose a president and Tran Kim Quan, a Saigon pharmacist, was proposed. Quan had been a leader of the 1954 peace movement and seemed the ideal candidate, but he refused. The second choice was a lawyer, Nguyen Huu Tho, who at that time was under house arrest in Qui Nhon. My comrades formed a commando unit to kidnap Tho, but on their first attempt they somehow managed to make off with the wrong man. Another raid was promptly organized and this time we succeeded. Shortly afterward, in February 1962, a second organizational meeting was held near Tay Ninh in the “Green Triangle” area near the Vietnam-Cambodia border. At this meeting we decided to form a Permanent Committee of the NLF and we officially elected the newly liberated Tho as president.
Throughout this period we had close support from the North Vietnamese communists. We were in fact dependent on them for weapons, communications, and especially for our propaganda network. But almost all of us were Southerners (along with a few Northerners who had moved south years earlier)—and many of us were not communists. Ours was not a communist movement and we believed that the North Vietnamese leaders, who had been fighting so resolutely against the French, would place the interests of the people and the nation above the interest of ideology.
The North Vietnamese on their part never indicated that they wanted to impose communism on the South. On the contrary, they knew, they said, that the South must have a different program altogether, one that embodied our aspirations not just for independence but also for internal political freedom. I believed, in addition, that the Northern leadership would have the wisdom to draw from the experiences—both good and bad—of other communist countries, and especially of North Vietnam, and that they could avoid the errors made elsewhere. North Vietnam was, as Ho Chi Minh often declared, a special situation in which nationalists and communists had combined their efforts. Clearly South Vietnam was no less special, and the newly constituted NLF Permanent Committee felt a certain amount of confidence in working with our Northern compatriots.
In 1964, I was arrested for the first time. I had been helping other Saigon intellectuals form the Self-Determination Movement of South Vietnam, an organization opposed to the South Vietnamese regime. For this offense, I was imprisoned for two years. In a sense, though, it was only a warning because there was no evidence at that time of my Viet Cong contacts. Unfortunately, in 1967 a Viet Cong agent, who had been arrested and tortured, disclosed my NLF identity to the Thieu-Ky police. I was arrested again and this time my imprisonment was harsher. The police used many of their favorite techniques to torture me. They forced me to drink soapy water and ran 220-volt electric shocks through my body. For a month I was held in a tiny cell less than two meters square. They forced me to confess that I was a communist (although I was not), and to describe my underground activities.
I was still in prison when the 1968 Tet offensive swept the country. At one point the police told us that if the Viet Cong got into Saigon we would all be killed. Shortly afterward the jailer ordered me to “take everything with you and follow me.” The expression was ominous; I was sure I would be shot, along with other Viet Cong prisoners who I knew were being executed in the streets. Two other NLF members and I were thrown into a security truck and then transferred to an American Red Cross van. To my surprise and relief there were two Americans in the van as well, and they brought us to a CIA safe house. Later I discovered that secret negotiations had been going on between the Americans and the NLF for a prisoner exchange and that I was to be traded for two American colonels.
Before I left the CIA safe house I was given a letter for the NLF authorities and pressed to accept a radio as well, which I refused, believing it to contain an electronic bug. A helicopter flew me and two other exchanged prisoners to Trang Bang, a small district about fifty miles northwest of Saigon. We were released at a soccer field where the Viet Cong security chief for Loc Ninh province (a Viet Cong-controlled area) was waiting for us. From this rendezvous we were taken by motorized tricycle deep into the jungle toward the NLF’s Central Office of South Vietnam, the famous COSVN headquarters from which the entire Viet Cong war effort was directed.
Traveling by night and sleeping by day to avoid ARVN hunters and American bombardments, we took almost two weeks to get there, even though COSVN was located on the Mimot plantation near the Cambodian border, only about one hundred miles from Saigon. COSVN’s nerve center was a simple enclosure built ten meters underground to shield it from B-52 attacks, although any hit within 500 meters would have been devastating. The headquarters was guarded by a single regiment, and well armed though they were, I could not help wondering at the vulnerability of the place.
The war that COSVN directed was by that time being fought by large numbers of Northern troops along with the Viet Cong guerrillas. In the early Sixties, before I was jailed, there had been quite a few North Vietnamese military cadres assisting us but not many soldiers. The great majority of our troops then were Southern resistance fighters many of whom were veterans of the French colonial wars. Others were peasants who joined us when the NLF was formed. Almost all of this latter group still lived at home. During the day they were loyal citizens of South Vietnam; at night they became Viet Cong.
For the most part these guerrillas cared nothing about Marxist-Leninism or any other ideology. But they despised the local officials who had been appointed over them by the Saigon dictatorship. Beyond this, joining the Viet Cong allowed them to stay clear of the ARVN draft and to remain near their families. They were treated as brothers by the NLF, and although Viet Cong pay was almost nonexistent, these peasant soldiers were loyal and determined fighters. Moreover, they had the support of much of the population: people in the countryside and even in the cities provided food and intelligence information and protected our cadres. Although South Vietnamese propaganda attacked us as communists and murderers, the peasants believed otherwise. To them we were not Marxist-Leninists but simply revolutionaries fighting against a hated dictatorship and foreign intervention.
Because it was a people’s war, the Viet Cong cadres were trained carefully to exploit the peasants’ sympathies. But our goals were in fact generally shared by the people. We were working for Southern self-determination and independence—from Hanoi as well as from Washington. While we in the Viet Cong were beholden to Hanoi for military supplies and diplomatic contacts, many of us still believed that the North Vietnamese leadership would respect and support the NLF political program, that it would be in their interest to do so.
As early as the 1968 Tet offensive, after I was released from Thieu’s prisons, I protested to the communist leaders about the atrocities committed by North Vietnamese troops in Hue, where many innocent people were murdered and about a dozen American prisoners were shot. It was explained to me that these were political executions and also that a number of “errors” had been made. I managed to persuade myself then that no such “errors” would be necessary once the war was over.
Unfortunately the Tet offensive also proved catastrophic to our plans. It is a major irony of the Vietnamese war that our propaganda transformed this military debacle into a brilliant victory, giving us new leverage in our diplomatic efforts, inciting the American antiwar movement to even stronger and more optimistic resistance, and disheartening the Washington planners.
The truth was that Tet cost us half of our forces. Our losses were so immense that we were simply unable to replace them with new recruits. One consequence was that the Hanoi leadership began to move unprecedented numbers of troops into the South, giving them a new and much more dominant position in NLF deliberations. The Tet failure also retarded the organization of the Alliance of National, Democratic, and Peace Forces, an opposition coalition that had formed around thirty prominent South Vietnamese intellectuals and opinion makers. It wasn’t until 1969 that we finally succeeded in bringing these disparate groups together under the leadership of Trinh Dinh Thao, a lawyer who had studied in France and had served as minister of justice for the French-backed government in the 1950s, and myself. Belatedly we began working on a broad political program and even on such details as choosing an anthem and designing a national flag.
In June 1969, in response to a request by the Communist Party, which was preparing to participate in the Paris peace conference, we formed the Provisional Revolutionary Government. At first I was proposed for the interior ministry, but because of my law degree we finally concluded that I could function most effectively as minister of justice. I had about fifty officials at the Ministry of Justice in the jungle. Only a few of the PRG cabinet members were communists: Nguyen Huu Tho, president of the NLF; Huynh Tan Phat, prime minister of the PRG; General Tran Nam Trung, minister of defense; and Nguyen Thi Binh, minister of foreign affairs; and even these people were Southerners committed to the idea of a separate policy for South Vietnam. Almost all of the NLF leadership were of the same mind, as were most of our supporters from around the world.
The Hanoi leadership knew all this and orchestrated their position toward us accordingly. They accepted and supported the NLF platform at every point, and gave the firmest assurances of respect for the principle of South Vietnamese self-determination. Later, of course, we discovered that the North Vietnamese communists had engaged in a deliberate deception to achieve what had been their true goal from the start, the destruction of South Vietnam as a political or social entity in any way separate from the North. They succeeded in their deception by portraying themselves as brothers who had fought the same battles we were fighting and by exploiting our patriotism in the most cynical fashion. Nevertheless, the eventual denouement would not have taken place except for several wholly unpredictable developments.
After the Paris peace agreement was signed in 1973, most of us were preparing to create a neutralist government, balanced between Northern leftists and Southern rightists. We hoped that America and the other signers would play an active role in protecting the agreement. Certainly no one expected Watergate and Nixon’s resignation. No one expected America’s easy and startlingly rapid abandonment of the country. I myself, the soon-to-be minister of justice, was preparing a reconciliation policy that specifically excluded reprisals. But the sudden collapse of the South vietnamese regime (caused partly by the hasty departure of many top Saigon leaders) together with abandonment by the Americans left me and other “independent socialists” with no counterweight to the huge influx of Northern communists.
It is important to note that our views were not based solely on naïveté. During the Sixties neither the NLF leaders nor the Politburo ever hoped for total military victory against the Americans and their clients. Our entire strategy was formulated with the expectation that eventually we would be involved in some kind of coalition government. Such a government would have been immune to outright North Vietnamese domination and could have expected substantial international support.
The political climate was at that time a complex mix of three distinct factions: communist, noncommunist, and anticommunist. The silent majority, if I can use that expression, were the noncommunists. Le Duc Tho, who negotiated the Paris peace agreement with Dr. Kissinger, in his news conference in Paris in 1972, said:
For our part we have said many times, since I returned to Paris, this is the fifth time we have declared clearly that the DRV government [Hanoi] and the PRG [Viet Cong] have never wished to force a Communist government on South Vietnam. We only want there to be in South Vietnam a National Reconciliation government having three segments, supporting peace, independence, neutrality and democracy. I can clarify for you what the three segments are: one segment belonging to patriots…people who don’t like the US, but who also may not support the PRG and DRV; one segment belonging to the PRG; one belonging to the Saigon government. A government like this would reflect the real political situation in South Vietnam and would be a resolution in accord with the situation and with logic.
Until March 1975, no one among us, including the Politburo members, imagined the Saigon regime’s collapse and the abandonment by the Americans. We were preparing for a coalition government.
Under these circumstances, a coalition government dedicated to concord and reconciliation was (and still is) the most pragmatic as well as the most humane means toward national unity. Such a government would also be in accord with the strong Vietnamese moral tradition of showing grace to the defeated and forgetting past hatred, a tradition that historically marked Vietnamese conduct even toward the Mongol and Chinese aggressors. The solemn communist promises of reconciliation without reprisals and with respect for Southern independence that were so attractive to the West and to the South Vietnamese people thus appeared to be built on a realistic assessment of the military situation, the internal political climate, and the Vietnamese character. It was our assessment as well, and it shaped our strategy for the postwar period.
Almost every Vietnamese family had ties with both communists and anticommunists. A million North Vietnamese escaped to the South in 1954, leaving millions of their relatives behind living under and working for the communist regime. Many Viet Cong guerrillas had relatives in the South Vietnamese army and throughout the war there were innumerable defections, both overt and hidden, from one side to the other. Family attachments, avarice, patriotism, and self-interest caused sympathies to shift and evolve so that the line between loyalties was rarely clear. (The three-star general Tran Van Trung, head of the psychological warfare of the Thieu regime, hid in his house his sister-in-law Mme. Duong Thi Chi, a Viet Cong cadre, who was head of the people’s uprising committee in Hue. She is now a member of the National Assembly. A four-star general, Cao Van Vien, commander-in-chief of the ARVN, hid in his villa one of his wife’s nephews who was the son of a communist army general. A three-star general, Hoang Xuan Lam, hid in his house a communist commando colonel who was his relative. General Lam was once commander of the first military corps of South Vietnam.)
Unfortunately when the war did end, North Vietnamese vindictiveness and fanaticism blossomed into a ferocious exercise of power. Hundreds of thousands of former officials and army officers of the Saigon regime were imprisoned in “re-education camps.” Literally millions of ordinary citizens were forced to leave their homes and settle in the so-called New Economic Zones. One month after the “re-education” program was imposed, few of those arrested were released. I asked the communist leaders why they didn’t free the people in the camps as promised. I was told that the authorities had said only that the former officials and army officers of the Saigon regime should bring with them food enough for a month. The government had never promised that the term of “re-education” would last for a month!
A rigid authoritarianism settled down over the entire country, an authoritarianism supported by the third largest army in the world, although Vietnam is among the twenty poorest nations in the world. And where in all this are the feelings of the common people? Members of the former resistance, their sympathizers, and those who supported the Viet Cong are now filled with bitterness. These innocent people swear openly that had they another chance their choice would be very different. One often hears sentiments such as this one: “I wouldn’t give them even a grain of rice now. I would pull them out of their hiding places and denounce them to the authorities.” At the same time, the myth of Ho Chi Minh, the great patriot, has dissolved to nothingness.
The radical and hidden nature of the Northern takeover resulted in the displacement of virtually every moderate and neutralist element. There was simply nothing to stop the most rapacious and destructive communist plans from being carried out. Carpetbagging Northern officials fought each other, sometimes at gunpoint, for the best offices, the most comfortable houses, the most lucrative positions.
Despite their misfortune, the people still kept their sense of humor: they frequently ridiculed the Party’s slogans. Formerly Ho Chi Minh called on the population in the North to double and triple their efforts to liberate their brothers and sisters of the South. Nowadays one hears the same slogans lightly changed as follows: “Everybody should double his efforts to buy a radio and bike for the Party officials, and triple his production so that the officials can have a new house and a pretty girl friend.”
Throughout the country, the people have passively resisted forced collectivization. The Party for its part tries to ascribe economic failure to natural calamities and the destruction of war, but in fact the underlying causes are social and psychological. On the one hand there is widespread popular discontent and on the other hand the failures of a totalitarian regime. Behind the façade of unanimity, the silence and resignation of the population, there is the threatening reality that the Party’s daily Nhan Dan (Pravda of Vietnam) can no longer dissimulate: “Our plant and other equipment run at only 50 percent of their capacity.” Theft of public goods and property is common. There is no close cooperation between the different bureaucracies and sometimes these clash. We know what will become of the regime if this situation persists. The cadres work less because they no longer believe in their communist leaders. In June 1981, Hoang Tung, Party theoretician and editor of Nhan Dan, in a desperate effort to save the situation asked Moscow to grant a billion rubles to Vietnam to save the country from collapse, an indication of Hanoi’s deep dependence on the Soviet Union. Moreover, Hanoi allowed the Soviets to build piers and other facilities to service nuclear submarines at the former US supply base at Cam Ranh Bay.
Vietnam is now practically an instrument of Soviet expansionism in South-east Asia. There are at least 10,000 Soviet advisers in Vietnam today. Since joining Comecon in June 1978, Vietnam has steadily become an integral part of the Soviet system, especially so because the leaders of Hanoi have transposed to Indochina the Soviet model of Eastern Europe. Le Duan, the secretary general of the Vietnamese Communist Party, told the Fourth Party Congress on December 26, 1976 that “the Vietnamese revolution is an integral part of the world revolution,” and he firmly insisted that “the Vietnamese revolution is to fulfill the internationalist duty and the international obligation” it owes to the Soviet Union. In my talks with Party leaders, I told them: “You can make a revolution without clothes but you cannot make a revolution by hunger, repression, and building gulags.” I protested that they had cheaply sold Vietnam’s independence to the USSR. The Vietnamese people hated the Soviets intensely, calling them “Americans without dollars”; many Western visitors have been attacked by the children and the people because they were mistaken for Russians.
Certainly the occupation of Cambodia does not mean the end of the regime’s international ambitions. Because of its consistent military and ideological involvement in the revolutionary movements in the region, and the support and military power of the Soviet Union, Hanoi has the will and also the means of exporting the revolution beyond the borders of Indochina when conditions permit. Moreover, the Soviet Union’s Communist Party has assigned its Vietnamese brothers the job of training not only Laotian and Cambodian communists but also other communists in the region, particularly those of Thailand and Malaysia. This takes place in the Central School of Nationalities of Hoa Binh in North Vietnam and at the Nguyen Ai Quoc Institute (a familiar name of Ho Chi Minh), the training school of the Party leaders.
Not many people can believe these things, just as they could not believe in the past that the North would take over the South and set up a communist regime. But the truth is that for the first time in our history people have risked their lives to leave Vietnam; large numbers of Vietnamese never tried to flee their country to escape French domination or the American intervention. The refugee exodus began in earnest as the active population was systematically drafted into the protracted war against Cambodia and occupied Laos. For the first time since 1945, when famine killed two million people, Vietnam has been facing grave and widespread food shortages because fanatical leaders have sacrificed their people in order to fulfill the obligations of “internationalism.”
The developing catastrophe brought back to me the memory of my father visiting me in prison in 1967 and saying: “I can’t understand why you abandoned everything—a good job, a bright future, a happy family—to join the communists. In return for your sacrifice they will never give you the smallest part of what you have now. Worse, they will betray you and persecute you all your life.”
I answered that he would simply have to accept the fact that he was giving one of his six children to struggle for a free and independent Vietnam. In that jail cell I felt I was fulfilling my obligation to fight against the military dictatorship that was oppressing my country. And to me it was not just an obligation, it was an honor. In my fervor I believed Ho Chi Minh’s protestations that nationalists and communists could coexist in a “special” Vietnamese form of socialism.
I was tragically wrong. Like many Western intellectuals I believed that the Northern communists, who had made heroic sacrifices in their own struggle for independence, would never by choice become dependent on any superpower. With other liberals I shared the romantic notion that those who had fought so persistently against oppression would not themselves become oppressors. The truth, however, has nothing romantic about it. The North Vietnamese communists, survivors of protracted, blood-drenched campaigns against colonialism, interventionism, and human oppression, became in their turn colonialists, interventionists, and architects of one of the world’s most rigid regimes, becoming at the same time dependent clients of the Soviets.
The golden opportunity to harness the energy of 55 million people to rebuild their shattered country came in April 1975 when foreign involvement ended. That was the moment to initiate a policy of national reconciliation without reprisals, to establish a representative government that would include a spectrum of political parties and pursue a foreign policy of nonalignment. That was the moment to foster a spirit of brotherhood and focus the country’s attention on the task of national reconstruction.
The communists, however, chose aggrandizement rather than reconciliation. The moment of military victory was the moment they began to eliminate the NLF. Many of my friends lamented, “They buried the NLF without even a ceremony.” At the simple farewell dinner we held to formally disband the NLF in 1976 neither the Party nor the government sent a representative. It was a gesture of scorn toward the nationalistic and democratic principles for which the Viet Cong had bled so copiously and which the international liberal community had sustained so faithfully.
In their incessant and predatory pursuit of concentrated power the communists have divided Vietnam instead of healing it. Their strategy has been to dislocate as much of the social fabric as possible in order to preclude the formation of a coherent opposition. Even the Party itself has been kept off balance. One third of the Central Committee was purged during the Fourth Congress in 1976. Soon after, the 1.5 million Party members of 1976 were reduced to 700,000. By 1980 new members were recruited to bring the membership to about 1.7 million. Under the pretext of eliminating pro-Chinese and corrupt elements, some 300,000 members were purged during the Fifth Party Congress of 1982. Also purged were thirty-three members of the Central Committee and six members of the Politburo, including General Vo Nguyen Giap, who defeated the French at Dien Bien Phu.
Political power is now being concentrated in the families of Le Duan, Ho Chi Minh’s successor, and of Le Duc Tho, Kissinger’s Paris adversary. Le Hong, Le Duan’s son, is chief of security for the Politburo. Le Anh, another son, commands the missile defenses for the entire country. Le Duan’s son-in-law is head of the air force and his brother-in-law has charge of the Party propaganda apparatus. Le Due Tho’s brother, Nguyen Due Thuan, has become secretary general of the trade unions while another brother, Mai Chi Tho, is mayor of Ho Chi Minh City and chief of security in the South. His cousin, Nguyen Due Tam, has been promoted to the powerful position of chief of Party organization.
I was given the opportunity to work for this government. After the communists had eliminated the NLF and imprisoned most of those they considered potential enemies, they offered me the position of vice-minister of nutrition. I refused. I could not ally myself with a regime that had proved itself inhuman and that the people hated so passionately. During the 1960s, I gave up a good job to fight for certain ideals—which are still the ideals of the Vietnamese people: independence, democracy, and social welfare. I have now to acknowledge my responsibility for the disastrous state of my country.
After refusing the government’s offer, I lived on a small farm outside Saigon to escape continual surveillance. But I still had two escorts, a car, a high salary. Finally, though, in November 1979 I managed to deceive my escorts and flee the country on a boat loaded with forty refugees.
If anything, my obligation to my countrymen is greater now because the oppression they are suffering is unparalleled in Vietnam’s history. The wars against the French and Americans, grim though they were, still had a dimension of humanity to them. Today the Vietnamese in particular and the Indochinese in general are fighting against the most obdurate and persistent imperialists of the century, the Soviets. And there are no antiwar movements in Moscow.
What is worse, public opinion in the free world is not yet ready to support resistance to the Vietnamese communists or their Russian patrons. There is still a confused feeling that those who are against communism must be reactionary while those who are progressive will necessarily support the socialist regimes of this world.
But the stark lesson of Vietnamese concentration camps and Vietnamese boat people should affect even this ingrained attitude. No previous regime in my country brought such numbers of people to such desperation. Not the military dictators, not the colonialists, not even the ancient Chinese overlords. It is a lesson that my compatriots and I learned through witnessing and through suffering in our own lives the fate of our countrymen. It is a lesson that must eventually move the conscience of the world.
October 21, 1982