This article originally appeared in the January 23, 1973 issue of the Boston Phoenix.
The American press is again full of optimistic speculations about the prospect of a peace settlement. But its speculations are precariously founded. Both Nixon and Thieu know that their “enemy” (always in the singular) in Vietnam is not just the guerrillas in the jungles, nor the “North Vietnamese troops,” but the entire Vietnamese people. Most of all, Thieu’s real enemies are the so-called “South Vietnamese.” For this reason, the United States intentionally has destroyed the countryside through wanton air and artillery strikes, “mop-up” operations and the anti-crop defoliation program, and has aided Thieu in a most barbaric repression of the people in the urban areas of South Vietnam.
According to the U.S. AID report to Congress for the fiscal year 1973, by the end of the year 65.5 million of American taxpayers’ money will have been spent solely to support Thieu’s police force. Almost 16 million is proposed for that purpose for the next few years. Close to a thousand jails and detention camps and thousands of “tiger cages” have been built by the United States. According to the series of articles which appeared in Tin Sang, a Catholic daily in Saigon (April and May 1970) on the prison system in Vietnam, American advisers participated directly in the torturing of political prisoners. This situation has remained unchanged. What has changed is the number of political prisoners jailed, especially since the announcement of the nine-point agreement. On November 10, 1972 the Washington Post reported that 40,000 political prisoners were picked up in the first two weeks after the agreement was announced. On November 11, CBS Evening News reported that Thieu’s press secretary and nephew, Hoang Duc Nha, boasted that the Thieu regime had arrested 55,000 and had killed 5,000 others since the agreement was first made public.
The San Francisco Chronicle on November 4, 1972 reported Thieu’s statement that persons who supported a coalition government were “Pro-communist neutralists” and would not be allowed to live five minutes. According to one of Thieu’s recent decrees, any individual without a Saigon flag (the old French colonial flag for Vietnam) in his or her possession at all times is subjected to five years imprisonment. Newsweek in its November 13 issue reported that hundreds of South Vietnamese had been arrested “for failure to produce on demand a South Vietnamese flag.”
According to the Committee for the Reform of the Prison System in South Vietnam, an organization headed by South Vietnamese Catholic priests and intellectuals (some 350,000 persons, or nearly 2 per cent of the entire population of South Vietnam) are political prisoners. The situation facing these political prisoners has never been more desperate. Documents smuggled out of South Vietnam’s jails in the last days of 1972 to the Committee (which are now available in English at the Vietnam Resource Center in Cambridge) describe in some detail the many means the Thieu regime uses for the wholesale liquidation of political prisoners.
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