Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Why do the good guys always get it?

Yeah, I have lots of questions today. Over the weekend I was reading (in Christian Appy’s Patriots: The Vietnam War Remembered from All Sides) an account of post-1975 Vietnam and was struck by this account of who the Communists most feared and targeted. It was not the former regime elements, who didn’t have a leg ...

Wikimedia Commons*
Wikimedia Commons*
Wikimedia Commons*

Yeah, I have lots of questions today.

Over the weekend I was reading (in Christian Appy's Patriots: The Vietnam War Remembered from All Sides) an account of post-1975 Vietnam and was struck by this account of who the Communists most feared and targeted. It was not the former regime elements, who didn't have a leg to stand on. Rather it was the people who had not been Communists but had opposed the Thieu government. Here is how Tran Ngoc Chau, a former South Vietnamese military officer and provincial chief who managed to be imprisoned by both Thieu and the Communists, explains the problem:

…the anti-Communists who opposed Thieu represented a greater potential threat to the Communists. They believed such people would mask their anti-revolutionary efforts under the labels of nationalism and religious traditionalism. The Communists therefore began to target the Buddhist leaders and other nationalists whose anti-Communism was rooted in ideology and philosophy.

Yeah, I have lots of questions today.

Over the weekend I was reading (in Christian Appy’s Patriots: The Vietnam War Remembered from All Sides) an account of post-1975 Vietnam and was struck by this account of who the Communists most feared and targeted. It was not the former regime elements, who didn’t have a leg to stand on. Rather it was the people who had not been Communists but had opposed the Thieu government. Here is how Tran Ngoc Chau, a former South Vietnamese military officer and provincial chief who managed to be imprisoned by both Thieu and the Communists, explains the problem:

…the anti-Communists who opposed Thieu represented a greater potential threat to the Communists. They believed such people would mask their anti-revolutionary efforts under the labels of nationalism and religious traditionalism. The Communists therefore began to target the Buddhist leaders and other nationalists whose anti-Communism was rooted in ideology and philosophy.

Most of the Buddhist leaders whom Thieu and the Americans had once suspected and condemned as Communist agents were put in jail, isolated, or killed after the Communists came to power. Venerable Thich Thien Minh, the powerful deputy chairman of the Vietnamese Buddhist Unified Church, who had been jailed by Thieu in 1967 for pro-Communist activities, was beaten to death in a Communist prison in 1979. (p. 479)

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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