Official Optimism and Vietnam (3)

A footnote to my discussion of misguided U.S. optimism about the war in Vietnam: a reader asks why in my posts I never use the terms “Viet Cong” or “VC.”

“Viet Cong” is an abbreviation of “Viet Nam Cong San,” that is, Vietnamese Communist. The North Vietnamese never used the term. We Americans used it to refer to southern Vietnamese who were communists and supposedly independent of North Vietnam. And the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam was allegedly a coalition of patriotic southerners opposed to the U.S. and allied to the Viet Cong.

Neither group was real. Both were extensions of North Vietnam. Some members of the North Vietnamese forces were southerners, but they were under the firm control and command of Hanoi. And the National Front was a fiction. Indeed, the declaration of the National Front’s formation was drafted by the Lao Dong (Workers) Party—that is, the Communist Party—in Hanoi in 1960 and then promulgated in South Vietnam in an attempt to disguise North Vietnam’s control of southern communists.

Despite all my efforts to point out to the U.S. military the chicanery of the North Vietnamese, my counterparts in uniform went on believing in the independence of the VC and the National Front. We Americans were not equipped by our background and experience to understand an enemy so different from us.

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