The Long Charade: Political Subversion in the Vietnam War [1968]

[ndlr] Dans cet ouvrage paru en 1968 après l’assassinat de Tran Van Van (07/12/1966), le journaliste américain exposait sa théorie du complot pour expliquer l’échec d’une véritable solution politique au Sud Viêt-Nam. Il accusait la « faction nordiste » du parti Dai Viet (dit « Dai Viêt mandarinal ») d’être à l’origine, selon son opinion, d’une dégradation de la situation politique au Sud Viêt-Nam faisant ainsi le jeu de Hanoi. Nous rappelons ci-après le texte de la jaquette de couverture suivi d’un rare CR de lecture disponible en ligne. Nous ajoutons à cette fiche la note qu’établit l’agence UPI à la sortie de l’ouvrage et un article intéressant de Peter Dale Scott paru dans The Nation en janvier 1967.

Nous reviendrons plus longuement dans un prochain billet sur les arguments développés par Richard Critchfield et le rôle des partis Dai Viet sur la scène politique sudiste entre 1955 et 1975.

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The story of American failure to understand the political nature of the war, a failure that allowed a small group of Northern-trained generals to deny democracy to the people of South Vietnam and to foster – by chance or design – policies that benefit Hanoi.

Richard Critfiled believes that true power has been effectively denied the people of South Vietnam through a series of political subversions that placed administrative control of the country in the hands of a ruthless, self-serving inner group of generals and politicians whose actions – by chance or design – often serve the interests of Hanoi.

In this provocative and challenging book, Critchfield, seasoned Asian correspondent for The Washington Star, who lived in South Vietnam for more than three years, has had the courage and the stamina to sort out appearances and realities in Saigon and Hanoi. Beginning with the hitherto unpublished accusation of an aristocratic and terrified millionaire just before he is murdered by unknown gunmen, Critchfield takes the reader on a fascinating personal and political odyssey through the hidden corridors of Asian political intrigue, pathways which are always deep and devious and often bloody.

We learn the identities of members of the secret Mandarin Dai Viet society, many of them high officials in the Thieu-Ky government, who have obstructed the war effort and subverted the democratic process. Critchfield shows how a small group of northern refugee generals seized power in South Vietnam in 1965, and how their policies acted against the best interests of the people. The involvement of the State Department, the CIA, various troubleshooters and ambassadors is discussed here in stunning detail.

Critchfield’s revelations are essentials to an adequate understanding of this frustrating and tragic conflict, no matter what the reader’s attitude is to the war. This book may well play a significant part in its resolution.

Review by Kirkus Review:

The dope; since 1965, with the aid of southerners [Nguyen] Khanh, [Nguyen Van] Thieu, et al., South Vietnam has been run by the Dai Viet, a « secret fascist brotherhood » of rich northerners including [Nguyen Cao] Ky, police chief Loan, and the sinister Dr. [Dang Van] Sung, sent south in 1954 by Le Duan, Hanoi’s political warfare strategist, and finally ousted this summer by middle-class southerners (and the U.S.?). This is the claim of Critchfield, who was Washington Star correspondent for over three years. His interview with Tran Van Van (later murdered) turned him on to the hypothesis that South Vietnam’s rulers have deliberately exacerbated its « internal contradictions » by sabotaging land reform, economic rationality, military prudence, while the police state destroyed any potential political base, and the NLF turned U.S. military power against itself like a judo throw. Critchfield justifies persecution of the Buddhists and ignores [Ngo Dinh] Diem’s terror, as well as eradication of local control in the villages, although he discusses counter-insurgency on the administrative level at length. (Also fascinating comments on regional differences and Saigon dirt.) In sum, there is a blatant equivocation between « manipulated by » and « collaborating with » Hanoi. Critchfield allows himself a further out by conceding that the Dai Viet may simply be « opportunistic power-seekers. » But one cannot dismiss the book as sheet fifth-column, stab-in-the-back, fantasy. Unlike Marguerite Higgins’ Our Vietnam Nightmare (1965) which prefigured a conspiracy theory, it will receive serious attention, though many critics will find it monumentally beside the point; as Douglas Pike told the author. « They don’t win by your hanky-panky plots in Saigon. »

More information on The Virtual Vietnam Archive (Vietnam Center and Archive):

On Tran Va Ba website: