For years the warmongers in the Pentagon advanced the myth of a “Communist bloodbath” that would follow the liberation of Vietnam. The aim was to justify their own bloody aggression. Now, with that myth exposed as just one more of the many lies spun by imperialism, they have dummied up.
Not so the Western correspondents in Saigon, however. Many of them have filed glowing reports of the new regime and the liberation forces.
Not only was there no bloodbath, reported Manchester Guardian correspondent Martin Woollacott, but no one in Saigon “has ever seen such a well behaved group of soldiers.”
“There are thousands of soldiers in the city,” he said, “... yet no rape, theft, drunkenness, or accidental shootings have been reported....”
“They smile and wave, although those who have been here for some time are getting a little tired of this routine since the population of Saigon and the entire communist army walked around for two days with permanent grins and right arms working like pump handles.”
The courage and exemplary conduct of the liberation army have turned the soldiers into “instant heroes,” reported Nayan Chanda in the May 23 Far Eastern Economic Review. Chanda said that since the troops of the National Liberation Front entered Saigon on April 30, “an almost unreal carefree and effervescent mood has set in.”
“As one Vietnamese noted, the ‘stupid anti-communist propaganda of the Saigon regime’ that presented the communists as bloodthirsty monsters is now proving of immense help to the NLF. Having expected the worst, the average Vietnamese is now doubly impressed by the extremely well-behaved and disciplined soldiers.”
Foreign correspondents in Saigon have been unable to report a single instance of retaliation. Soldiers and government employees were told to register with the new authorities and submit a report on their past activities. It appeared that senior officers and officials might be in for three-month periods of “reeducation.”
The spontaneous demonstrations of welcome in the first week of liberation soon gave way to more planned victory celebrations. On May 7, the twenty-first anniversary of the capture of Dien Bien Phu, 100,000 persons crowded into the compound of the Presidential Palace and the avenue and park in front for a victory rally. A three-day holiday victory celebration May 15-17, which also marked the birthday of Ho Chi Minh, included rallies, fireworks displays, an air show featuring North Vietnamese jets, and a reception at the Presidential Palace attended by leaders of North Vietnam, the Provisional Revolutionary Government, and the National Liberation Front. The An Quang Buddhist church formally welcomed the victory May 20 with a mass rally of more than 20,000 persons.
“Everybody supposes that the honeymoon here will soon be over,” said James Fenton in a dispatch to the May 21 Washington Post. “They have been saying that since the beginning of the month, and yet it goes on.”
Nevertheless, the revolutionary government still faces many difficulties.
Crime is a continuing problem. Saigon’s street cowboys – hoodlums on motorcycles who specialize in bag snatching – are reportedly as brazen as ever. Adding to the problem are the thousands of former Saigon soldiers now wandering the streets, as well as the ordinary prisoners who were released along with all the political prisoners. A curfew has been reimposed in Saigon, and student militias have been organized to help keep order in the city. After a few weeks a Liberation Military Police was formed.
According to a Saigon radio broadcast, the new authorities feel that the most difficult task they face is finding work for the more than one million unemployed, the three million “parasite” civil servants, and 100,000 prostitutes and street urchins.
The expected food and gasoline shortages in the wake of liberation have been reported, but supply ships from Hanoi and the Soviet Union have begun to arrive. The government has started to distribute free rice to the needy, with each person entitled to two kilograms a week.
Thousands of refugees who fled to Saigon or other cities in the closing months of the war are now returning home. The PRG announced it had begun a program to provide transportation, land, and farming tools to those returning to their villages. It also said it was “encouraging small capitalists having some light industries producing the things that serve the life of the population to resume activities so as to afford work to workers.”
Many of the refugees who fled the country in the panic of the final days, and some who were simply kidnapped, have expressed their desire to go home. A State Department spokesman admitted May 19 that about 150 refugees under U.S. control had asked to be sent back to Vietnam. Three days later, Dean Brown, the director of Ford’s “task force” on refugees, said there were 1,000 Vietnamese who wanted to return.
Once they get a taste of what life is really like in the refugee camps and the United States, and once they realize that Washington’s stories about a “bloodbath” were a total fraud, even more of the refugees are expected to want to go back.
The processing of refugees in the United States has practically come to a stop now that the easy-to-handle ones with gold hoards or good connections have been dealt with. Officials responsible for the resettlement of refugees acknowledge that most job offers seemed to be from people looking for live-in maids or chauffeurs at little if any salary. “They want cheap labor,” said one official. “When you start pressing them, they say, ‘Pocket money,’ what I would call slave wages.”
The director of another agency said that of the 300 offers of sponsorship his organization had received, “a lot of them are from nuts or perverts or people who want cheap labor.”
Washington’s security checks are also holding up the processing. The files of the FBI, the CIA, the Pentagon, the State Department, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and the Drug Enforcement Administration must each be searched for what one official called “derogatory information” about every refugee seeking asylum.
John Eisenhower, the chairman of Ford’s advisory committee on refugees, said May 23 that many of the refugees in the United States may have to spend the rest of their lives in the camps because of security and literacy problems.
So far Washington has stalled on the requests by refugees who want to be repatriated. Returning them to Vietnam is “difficult,” said the director of Ford’s task force May 22, because of the “obstreperous attitude” of the PRG. But the revolutionary government announced May 11 that it would even provide the transportation for those who wished to return.
At Fort Chaffee in Arkansas, 107 refugees said they would hold a protest demonstration unless Washington arranged for their return to Vietnam by May 29.
“If the U.S. government does not do us the favor of taking us back, we will have a small demonstration,” said a spokesman for the group May 23. “We will go on the streets and ask that we be taken back.”