Ho Chi Minth by Richard Sale



My third day at LIFE Magazine, in January, 1968, I was being introduced to various staff, and was taken to the Text Department as part of my orientation. The Text Department did long analytical articles on subjects of importance –Vietnam, the Cold War, the Mafia and organized crime. There I met a man with a game leg named Gene Farmer, and he was grumbling resentfully to me about having to take a train to New Haven to interview some `goddamn Frenchman.’”

I was curious. I asked him who the goddama Frenchman was, and Gene replied it was Paul Mus. I was blank. Who the hell was Mus? Farmer gave me a pitying look, and explained that  Mus had signed three peace treaties with Ho Chi Minh on behalf of French government. He was teaching up at Yale because he’d had a falling out with de Gaulle. He was an Oriental Scholar.

So I said I’d go, and I did.  It was an extremely cold, rainy night with gusty winds.  I made my way to Mus’s office and entered. No one was there, but then he came striding in. Mus was the first man of genius I had ever met. Mus was a short, dark haired man; he wasn’t handsome, but he was all personal force and he was extraordinarily intelligent. But he had a giant ego too, and he began right away to brag about how, in Paris during the Nazi occupation, and how, at the age of twelve, he had razored off gold buttons from the Nazi uniforms while riding the subway in Paris. It was crime punishable by death, but he hadn’t cared. In fact, he ended up having more gold buttons than the other boys.

You might comment that he wasn’t a modest man, but no great man was ever modest. He told me that he didn’t like LIFE Magazine, and said he despised its founder, Henry Luce, and said he wouldn’t cooperate with him in any way. I was watching him very carefully. I was very, very shy at that time. I was puzzled as to why he would agree to an interview with a publication he despised.

I was pathologically shy, but I liked to take risks. I saw this man, I knew he taught diplomacy in Southeast Asia, and I knew that with his personality, he completely dominated his students. You could tell that right away. So I thought, if I am to succeed here, I must be rude, to subvert the usual.

I told him, that, with all due respect, I found his remark about Mr. Luce to be “obtuse” because Luce had been dead for 18 months, and I was merely representing his organization.  I remember the careful, measuring, challenging look he gave me. I went cold for a moment, but then, all of a sudden, his whole manner changed.  I guess he had seen that I wasn’t the usual submissive toad-eater, and therefore I had become an object of interest to him. He suddenly, very abruptly, asked me if I knew French literature.  I told him I did.

By luck, the  previous year I had read through the French novel, doing it chronologically, beginning with the Princess of Cleves, Manon Lescot, Benjamin Constant, Stendhal, lots of Stendhal,  and Flaubert, lots of Flaubert, three volumes of Proust and ending up with the novels of Mauriac. Mus looked at me as if I had two heads, but he still had his high school principal manner, and considered me for a bit, and then asked me, ‘Out of all that reading, what book did I like best?’ My mind went blank, but finally, I said Baudelaire’s notebooks, especially the part where he wrote about the Belgians. You see, Baudelaire said that the Belgians were a people “born to think in unison,” and I told Mus that I feared that this pitiable conformity was likely to be America’s fate.

It was like a hole being broken in a jar – all kinds of history came gushing out. Details of Ho, how Ho Chi Minh had visited President Wilson, his love of the Declaration of Independence, how the French had tried to assassinate him, how France had betrayed him by bad faith and by breaking treaties with him. It was remarkable. Mus talked about Ho’s cooperation with the OSS which was trying to extricate American flyers downed by the Japanese.  Mus had handled France’s negotiations with him from 1945-47. He talked for three hours non-stop. I was scribbling notes as if I was deranged. I remember one of Mus’s observations. I asked if Ho was a genius, and Mus replied, "Ho is above genius…the greatest man I ever met. Ho had the manner of Gandhi and a mind of steel. Ho was utterly intractable. He had a thin voice that almost suggested a lisp."

Mus made clear that Ho had never fully committed himself to Moscow or Peking. He was more of a Vietnamese nationalist.

I cannot remember all the details.  But I remember one peace conference with the French where the Vietminh were not invited. On Sept. 14, when ho signed this basically hollow document, he was heard to murmur, “I am signing my own death warrant.” But to a colleague he concluded, "there is noting else to do but fight.” Ho returned to Vietnam, but then fighting broke out in Haiphong, Mus said, that Ho had been betrayed, adding, “I use the word betrayed with full knowledge of what it means.”  After that, Ho never placed faith in negotiations.

At one point, Ho went to Paris for talks again, but the French put him aboard a very slow ship while behind He’s back, they tried to install a French puppet government in his absence.

In another attempt to negotiate, Mus met Ho 1 April 1947 in an attempt to avoid war. They met in a hide out. But Paris has limited Mus’s negotiating power, and he was ordered to give Ho an order to surrender. Ho replied, "There is no place in the French Union for cowards,” and rebuffed the ultimatum. Seven years of war followed.

I went back on Monday and typed my notes, but I got in trouble. I had applied to LIFE for a position of war correspondent or reporting on riots. Instead, my job was covering movies and plays. I was told that war correspondents could come and go but they needed to have people who had read a lot of books and could write well.

By going up to see Mus, I had exceeded my authority. I got bawled out.

But without my knowing, I had scored an exclusive.  I was never praised, of course, but my interview notes were copied and sent to the magazine’s correspondn3t in Saigon, a tough ex-Marine, Frank McCullough.

In early March, LIFE did a cover story on Ho based on McCullough and my notes. The cover story appeared on March 22, 1968: A Study in Intransigence.”

 I knew a French photographer, Charles Bonnet, who took the cover photograph.  One day he appeared in my office. Ho liked it so much, he was passing it out to his friends and he agreed to talk to me. Ho said I could go and see him, which of course, everyone was trying to do.

My son’s godfather, Mike Huberman, lived in Paris on the Rue to Clichy in the 9th quarter, and he hung out with a lot of leftist ad communists in the city.  We came out with a plan. I was to fly to the Philippines where I would meet a guide who would take to me Hanoi. It meant that the two of us to parachute into Laos and make our way on foot to Hanoi. I was convinced the plan would work.

It was in August of 1968, when my doctors in New York told me I had to be hospitalized for nervous exhaustion.  I had been living with a 4500-member black gang, dealing with a lot of death threats, plus my tonsils were so infected they were pearly white with pus.

But then a telegram came in ordering me to Chicago to cover the 1968 Democratic covention, and assigned to the street violence. I developed asthma from being tear gassed, my tonsils had to be taken out, and I was sick for three months.  Early the next year, Ho died.  I kept thinking of that line from Lord Jim, “What a chance missed. What a chance missed.”

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78 Responses to Ho Chi Minth by Richard Sale

  1. Down_in_Front says:

    Such an interesting & fascinating biographical/historical account! Thank you. Thank you very much! From Baudelaire to Ho to tonsils and a planned parachute drop. I am sending this to my 91 year old friend (& former professor of French Literature) who studied in Paris.
    On a side note it seems Ho Chi Minh was galaxies beyond any type of leader we’ve experienced, anyplace, within the U.S. sphere of influence.

  2. LeaNder says:

    Fascinating Richard.

  3. Sam Peralta says:

    Thank you Richard. Fascinating.
    My interest in Vietnam has been rekindled since watching the Ken Burns documentary.
    It is my belief that Ho Chi Minh was more a nationalist than a communist. He had an affinity for the communists primarily because they supported the anti-colonial liberation movements. I doubt he really cared for the Marxist-Lenninst-Maoist worldview and economic ideology. I would believe that if the US had engaged with Ho Chi Minh, he may have shed his communist leanings as he related well to the American experience of self-determination. After all he began his speech declaring Vietnamese independence quoting Thomas Jefferson.
    I would be very interested to learn more about the personal dynamics and the political intrigue in Hanoi when Ho Chi Minh lost power to Le Duan. Uncle Ho it seems became more a symbol of Vietnamese independence than the head of state after the French left Vietnam.

  4. raven says:

    He died the day I rotated back to the world.

  5. turcopolier says:

    IMO the idea that HCM was not as much a communist as a nationalist dishonors his memory. His boys thought he was a communist. pl

  6. MRW says:

    Riveting account. Loved the Baudelaire notebooks note.

  7. Laura says:

    turcopolier — I had always viewed him as a nationalist and not a Communist. Guess I should learn more and read more widely.

  8. turcopolier says:

    Ah, that is why you thought we were such bastards. It would not have mattered to me. I would have been glad to fight the British if sent to do so. pl

  9. Walrus says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this Mr. Sale. Your portrait of Ho resonates with me.
    I visited Vietnam on holiday for the first time earlier this year. SWMBO booked it without telling me or we would not have gone. I considered writing something about it for SST but gave up after considering my own inadequacies compared to the experiences of Col. Lang and other members of SST.
    Sufficient to say Neitzche was right – what didn’t kill them made them stronger, the Vietnamese, for all their problems, are an independent sovereign nation with a sense of their own identity. Col. Lang may disagree as to the cause, but I was struck by strength of their national character. They are not a servile, lilly livered lot. They are proud of beating the USA but not in a chest beating way. There is iron and backbone in them unlike some other countries I could name and we put it there. I plan to go back.
    Like Vietnam, I suspect that our “nation building” efforts against Syria, Iraq and Iran are going to make them stronger and more resilient despite our ministrations

  10. A.I.Schmelzer says:

    In my view, one could be both a nationalist and a communist as a Vietnamese.
    Being a communist meant friendship and goodies from the Soviet Union, better known as that big powerful country which borders the traditional Chinese threat.
    Bonus points for lacking the power projection and the interest to actually intervene in internal North Vietnamese affairs.
    That they gave him an opportunity to get the equivalent of a PhD in revolutionary warfare heped as well.
    Communist was at that time also quite appealing in terms of rapidly jumpstarting industrialization.

  11. turcopolier says:

    AI Schmelzer
    How boringly pro-communist, Ho Chi Minh and his people murdered thousands of anti-communist Vietnamese for the purpose of destroying Vietnamese society and staring over on a Marxist-Leninist basis. Did you march with a VC flag? pl

  12. Green Zone Café says:

    As always from Mr. Sale, a recounting of raw truth.
    I was just too young for the war- I turned 18 in 1974 and enlisted the end of that year.
    I just went to Vietnam last July. The online visa is easy. I flew into Hanoi, spent a week there. It is now fully calibrated for “travelers,” backpackers, artisanal sightseers. A very pleasant city, and the best value for money I have experienced in a long time. Some good restaurants for short money. I took the tour, we went to Ho’s tomb, but it was closed that day. We did see his offices and apartments nearby.
    KFC, McDonalds, Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks, etc., are all in Hanoi now.
    The exhibits at the “Hanoi Hilton” are more oriented to vilifying the French. I also did the war museums, saw a lot of B-52 wreckage.
    Took a flight on Vietnam Airways to Dong Hai. A tranquil market town.
    From there on the train to Hue. The Citadel and more war museums. The DMZ bar with cute war decor. Mr. Bean’s Bar. Baskin Robbins.
    Da Nang, I wish I spent more time there. A $25 hotel that would be 4-star in the USA.
    Saigon, did the war museum, the Heart of Darkness Brewery with Kurtz’s extreme IPA.
    While the museums convinced me that Ho did indeed present his government as a Stalinist regime, overall the trip convinced me that the war was a horrible mistake.

  13. raven says:

    YOUR boy said it, not me.

  14. Mikee says:

    I don’t see where the two are mutually exclusive. I see no reason that HCM could not have been both a communist and a nationalist.

  15. optimax says:

    Ho murdered the pro-nationalists who were anti-communist. Communist countries were always authoritarian; democratic socialists, on the other hand, were voted in by the people wherever they were the dominant party. The communist party never became the dominant party in a democratic country that I know of. I could be wrong.

  16. kao_hsien_chih says:

    I think the idea that X is more nationalist than communist, or variations on such themes, assumes that the two, at least in their minds, are distinct things that don’t mix. Last century in Asia had “nationalists” who destroyed traditions and cultural building blocks of their countries for “nationalistic” reasons that they apparently honestly believed, “anti-communist” leaders who were fairly avowed believers in communist approach to organizing their society and economy, sincerely nationalist collaborators of a colonialist regime, and many other contradictions, and many of these contradictions aren’t even limited to Asia or the 20th century–successful politicians and demagogues (same things?) exploit these things and honestly believe that they are doing the “right thing.” Ho was a good demagogue–and I don’t mean that in the usual derogatory sense, but in the sense that he successfully sold many people, in Vietnam and elsewhere on a bill of goods and he sincerely believed, as far as one can tell, that everything he sold was good stuff.

  17. sixpacksongs says:

    Great reminiscence, Mr. Sale! Thank you.
    There were some people, and I guess I’m one though not on the basis of any deep research, who thought Ho Chi Minh could have been the Asian Tito. Of course, any action based on that view would have had to come before the abandonment of the Geneva Accords.
    Very long webpage, which is skeptical but not dismissive of the analogy: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/United_States_%E2%80%93_Vietnam_Relations,_1945%E2%80%931967:_A_Study_Prepared_by_the_Department_of_Defense/I._C._Ho_Chi_Minh:_Asian_Tito%3F
    — sixpacksongs

  18. Philippe T. says:

    There is no contradiction being a communist and a nationalist. In the marxist ideology, “internationalism” has nothing to do with the “mondialism” of the liberals.

  19. Cameron Ramey says:

    Wouldn’t Paul Mus have been close to forty at the start of the Nazi occupation of France? Did I miss the point of the button story?

  20. PeterAU says:

    Vietnam, after working with the US to kick out the Japanese, then kicking out the French, then kicking out the americans after US occupation seems no better nor worse than any other sovereign country.
    Two books I read mid 90’s, written by two Australian serviceman, some time apart, who had served in Vietnam. They went into the history, and then went and met with Vietnamese who had been in units that they had actually fought against.
    Their history of Vietnam was very similar to R.S’s history of Vietnam.

  21. Dr.Puck says:

    Thanks Richard. “Shy but a risk taker.” This seemed to be a formative experience.

  22. turcopolier says:

    I agree that the US war in Indochina was a horrible mistake. that does not change the nature of the government there. they have moved to economic liberalism? So have the Chinese. That does not make them any less a totalitarian government. pl

  23. mike says:

    Cameron –
    Yes I caught that too. Wasn’t he born in 02? And as a boy he was raised in Hanoi. Or are there two named Paul Mus?

  24. turcopolier says:

    someone here said something about Giaps guerrillas who fought the French at DBP. that is completely wrong. The Vietminh division who fought at DBP were not IN any WAY “guerrillas.” pl

  25. Philippe T. says:

    Is the love for democracy/the aversion for totalitarism a universal pattern of human communities, or a specific singularity linked to a specific culture, at a certain time ? After all, not so long time ago, Voltaire and most of the Enlightenment was promoting the “despotes éclairés” (enlightened despots) like Frederic II of Prussia or Catherine II of Russia… IMO, NATO and USA made a terrible mistake (besides a huge mission creep) by willing to spread “wester-type democracy” in Afghanistan, where the search for consensus is the name of the game, rather than the majority/minority games. “Uncle Ho” had a strong knowledge of the french cultural history and maybe (maybe) he made a choice adapted to what he knew on the vietnamese sociopolitical patterns. I do not make this comment for the sole pleasure of intellectual exchanges, or to defend the vietnamese régime, but because the “defense/spreading of democracy is the main public argument (pretext) for western interventions in ME and elsewhere in the world.
    Philippe Tr.

  26. turcopolier says:

    Phillippe T
    i am not a democracy monger. US attempts to spread Western notions ans systems od democracy have bee futile and destructive. What I object to in the present Vietnamse government is that it is a tyranny just as is the Chinese government. pl

  27. Harry says:

    Great piece!

  28. hemeantwell says:

    A story about Mus is that he wrote a long doctoral dissertation that, despite its quality, he was sure his dissertation committee would not read. As a test, he inserted a couple of pages of profanity in the middle. No one noticed.

  29. mike says:

    Giap at DBP had four regular infantry divisions, an artillery division, plus AAA and Engineer regiments. That was not guerrilla warfare in any sense of the word.

  30. steve g says:

    Mr Sale
    Thanks as always for another informative article.
    One slight correction. Uncle Ho passed September
    2. Vividly remember as we were hit by many mortar
    and rockets that night one landing about 50 feet from
    our old French barracks at 1st MAW compound
    Da Nang. Killed about 10 civilians across the road,
    highway 1”Dog Patch”. One never forgets the
    sound of the 122 coming in.

  31. turcopolier says:

    I had access to the National Interrogation Center outside Saigon my second tour. I would go out there from time to time looking for significant NVA who might want to change sides. Quite a few did. I remember talking to captured people who had served at DBP in the same divisions in which they had been captured in SVN. I spoke French. A lot of them did and I wold take with me someone who spoke Vietnamese. French cigarettes, a few shots of brandy shared around a table usually made them want to talk and maybe get out of jail. pl

  32. fanto says:

    at Cameron Ramey,
    I also was wondering how was it possible that Mus was talking about his pranks as youngster, about cutting off buttons of German officers uniforms, and immediately after the war be a negotiator for France; the doubt about the tale of buttons just does not jibe with his bio which “outthere” provides a few entries above. Mus was born 1902.
    Another issue is also not clear to me – how is it possible that an exquisite “Kenner” (person with knowledge) of Vietnam – Peter Scholl-Latour never mentions Paul Mus in any of his books, foremost in his bestseller “Der Tod im Reisfeld”(1979). Scholl-Latour participated as combatant on the French side in 1946, and as German journalist during the US war there. Scholl Latour´s book is very objective IMHO, he describes the atrocities of the rebels, nationalists.
    The issue whether there was communist or nationalist fighting against Westerners is moot in my opinion, the same goes for China and for the whole Far East. If it was not Ho or Mao, some other leader under this or that label would have come up on the top to chase the hated White Man. The generation of young Chinese and other Easterners in the 1920´and 1930´s has seen that Japan has ´europeinized´, adopted the technology and was able to maintain independence. This view was clearly described already in 1929 by Colin Ross in his “Die Welt auf der Waage”.

  33. turcopolier says:

    “they seemed like two different countries.” Yes – Tonkin and Cochin China. the dialects are quite different. pl

  34. turcopolier says:

    “Once the people knew the truth, the war was over.” that sounds like self serving BS. How old were you in 1968? pl

  35. mike says:

    Colonel –
    Up in I Corps we had the Kit Carson Scouts. I used to work with one who was a former Viet Minh. I swear he could smell a VC or NVA unit from a mile away.
    After the war with the French he had changed sides preferring to stay with the south instead of going north to Ho’s paradise. In the early 60s he had been force conscripted by the VC into a local militia. But then took the first opportunity to become a Hoi Chanh under the Open Arms program, that was inspired by Sir Robert Thompson.

  36. mike says:

    fanto (& Cameron) –
    I wonder if Mus was talking about his son who would have been the right age. It must have been lost in translation, or in faded memory.
    I have not read Scholl-Latour. But Bernard Fall writes of Paul Mus, and praises Mus’s book Viet-Nam – Sociologie d’une guerre. That book was later republished in English under a different title. He says Mus carried out extensive negotiations with Ho in 1946 and 47. Quotes Mus as saying that Ho was an “intransigent and incorruptible revolutionary, a la Saint Just”.
    BTW Saint Just was one of the leading characters in the Reign of Terror in France in the 1790s. He and Robespierre sent thousands of fellow revolutionaries to the guillotine. Just as Ho purged thousands of nationalists from the Viet Minh. That despite Ho’s calculated ‘kindly uncle’ image.

  37. turcopolier says:

    Kit Carson Scouts were good people but I was recruiting for a black SOG project. Cross border recon. pl

  38. Jack says:

    The North Vietnamese were no angels. They were rather brutal and made significant strategic errors during the war that caused a lot of loss of lives of their own people. Le Duan kept at large assaults that lost many of their soldiers with no military benefit. Having said that it seems we did not have a coherent political and military strategy either, other than to fight a war of attrition.
    The question is how long China and Vietnam can continue to remain a one party state while liberalizing economically?
    It seems the natural order of governments is to become bigger and more intrusive and oppressive. The only force that can prevent that inexorable trend are the vigilance and pushback of the people. We see with our own government how the trend is to get bigger both in scale and scope as well as oppressive. The Patriot Act, mass warrantless surveillance, civil forfeiture, the political duopoly all demonstrate that unless the people limit the powers of government it will grow.

  39. turcopolier says:

    As you must know by now I am not a friend of communism or the communist government of Vietnam. I saw communist agiptrop cadres murder many to maintain control in villages they ran but the soldiers on the other side were formidable adversaries that one could only respect. pl

  40. Babak Makkinejad says:

    And Singapore epitomizes the mechanical application of the democratic principles of Western civilization without any of its spiritual or cultural content. To wit, the end state will remain the same 3000-year long tyranny.

  41. raven says:

    From Catch-22:
    Capt. Nately: Don’t you have any principles?
    Old man in whorehouse: Of course not!
    Capt. Nately: No morality?
    Old man in whorehouse: I’m a very moral man, and Italy is a very moral country. That’s why we will certainly come out on top again if we succeed in being defeated.
    Capt. Nately: You talk like a madman.
    Old man in whorehouse: But I live like a sane one. I was a fascist when Mussolini was on top. Now that he has been deposed, I am anti-fascist. When the Germans were here, I was fanatically pro-German. Now I’m fanatically pro-American. You’ll find no more loyal partisan in all of Italy than myself.
    Capt. Nately: You’re a shameful opportunist! What you don’t understand is that it’s better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.
    Old man in whorehouse: You have it backwards. It’s better to live on your feet than to die on your knees. I know.
    Capt. Nately: How do you know?
    Old man in whorehouse: Because I am 107-years-old. How old are you?
    Capt. Nately: I’ll be 20 in January.
    Old man in whorehouse: If you live.

  42. turcopolier says:

    Why were you doing that? pl

  43. turcopolier says:

    you and Walrus are yachtsmen. Where does De Lattre fit in you narrative? pl

  44. turcopolier says:

    Ah! you dug up this opinion piece by someone else and posted it without quotation marks. How sad. I thought you might actually know something about VN. pl

  45. mike says:

    Colonel –
    How did that work out?

  46. Jack says:

    Your antipathy towards the communists is completely understandable. The brutality of communist regimes is unmatched. Even the much maligned Saddam does not hold a candle to Mao and Stalin in the sheer extent of murder of their own people. I know it is fashionable in some circles to laud the proletarian revolution and apologize for the dark, totalitarian character of communist regimes. I have known people who managed to flee the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia. The daily terror they lived in, amid the fear of a midnight knock. They told me about people they knew who were framed as dissidents and then disappeared. I recall visiting Beijing in 1988 on business. I met a number of young people who approached me on the streets to practice their English and when they knew I was American wanted to learn about life in America and how they could immigrate. They had no choice. One had to get a permit to travel from Beijing to Shanghai. They were assigned their school, field of study and where they would work. We saw how brutally they crushed the Tiananmen demonstration.
    Personally, I have no time at all for the apologists of the communists who lecture us about the failings of American policy. It is amazing how they condone the brutal murder of millions of people by their own government.

  47. turcopolier says:

    It worked very well. They were heavily vetted, polygraphs, etc. They lived in a camp within the SF camp at Xuan Loc, These men had all fought for a very long time and had had a belly full. they wanted to survive the war and emigrate to the US. We never had an instance of them wanting to re-defect. they went into the North in NVA uniform and could talk t opeople as the US soggies could not. We spent a lot of time updating their documentation, etc., from newly captured people. There were about two dozen of them. the senior guy was a full colonel of infantry. The base pay for them was like an ARVN colonel. There were six or seven left by the time our withdrawal ended. I got them all special visas and paroles and sent them out on an airlift charter to Hawaii. pl

  48. fanto says:

    I know from personal experience the terror of communist regime in Eastern Europe, the knock at the door, the men in long dark coats at the door that you mention; However – my recollection of the atrocities in European communism do not match the atrocities I read about in the books – I mentioned Scholl Latour earlier in this thread, but also in the “Chinese Lessons” by John Pomfret. The novels by Shusaku Endo about Japan in 16 or 17th century (“Silence” – recently made into a movie) also are describing the unimaginable cruelty of people in Asia. So – I am a little “stuck” and feel that I may be a “closet racist”, and the cruelty is not a communist feature alone?

  49. Jack says:

    …cruelty is not a communist feature alone?
    I agree. Rwanda is exhibit A. The systematic murder of people by their own government for the crime that the government perceives these people as a threat to their existence is in my opinion unmatched by communists. I would agree the eastern European communist governments were much more benign and not as systematic in their extermination of their own people compared to the Soviets, the Chinese communists and the Khmer Rouge.
    Many decades ago, our neighbor was a young couple from Czechoslovakia. Both highly educated scientists. They gave up everything to flee to the US. She worked as a cleaning lady and he worked in construction for years before they could finally get a job commensurate with their training. They said the hardship was worth it to live life without daily fear. When I worked at a money center bank I worked closely with a Russian IT specialist who fled the Soviet Union. We got know each other rather well socially and SWMBO became close friends with his wife. The stories she told my wife were chilling. I am on the board of a fintech start-up. The lead technical person is recent Chinese immigrant. This summer I had the whole team bring their families over fir a barbecue. I met this Chinese engineer’s father who lived through Mao’s cultural revolution. The reason these people are immigrating is because it is still a capricious government with no rule of law.
    I find it galling the Jane Fonda types celebrating the communists and condoning their brutality. I’m the first to oppose the increasing lawlessness of our government and the increasing militarization of our police but there’s no comparison to the rule of the Chinese Communist Party.

  50. TonyL says:

    Fascinating! thank you Richard. I would say this is the most accurate statement about Ho Chi Minh:
    “Ho had never fully committed himself to Moscow or Peking. He was more of a Vietnamese nationalist.”
    Communism was only a means for him to build the resistance, and later to have Soviet Union and China supports. And he can play one agaisnt another.
    Communism and Vietnamese culture are the opposites of each other. We’ve already seen this ideology being ignored in Vietnam society to the point that the youths don’t even know what it means, and they really don’t care. Practicing double speak is quite easy, especially when it is required for survival.

  51. Green Zone Café says:

    The Vietnamese government is surely repressive by U.S. First Amendment standards. A blogger who was critical of the government was given a 10 year sentence when I was there. Yes, China does the same thing.
    From the art museums I went to, there is a space for indirect or allegorical criticism in modernist ways. There is also a high degree of personal, non-political freedom. I did not feel that police were out to hassle you, as in some African countries and American towns. I did not see many police on the streets and in neither Vietnam nor China do things seem totalitarian.

  52. Walrus says:

    I have considerable trouble with the American automatic connection between the political theory called Communism and the implementation of the same by various countries. There is no logical connection between repression and communist theory.
    Stanley Milgrams experiments and the lessons of Nazi Germany demonstrate conclusively that the devil lurks in all of us. It is a dangerous conceit to say repression cannot happen here because we are not communists.

  53. turcopolier says:

    As a typical American I can only say that I have seen no difference among communist regimes in countries in which they have achieved power. The precious notion that there are significant differences among communist governments is IMO as false as the notion that there are good Islamists and bad Islamists. pl

  54. turcopolier says:

    I have been in many countries in which the tyranny was invisible to tourists. but, I was not there to visit. pl

  55. mike says:

    Fanto –
    I just recently finished Endo’s book ‘Silence’ that you mentioned. A powerful story. Makes one wonder how those “hidden Catholics” survived in Japan for hundreds of years while under threat of torture and crucifixion.
    They must have had some type of absolution for denying their faith while still maintaining it in secret. Much like what many communities probably probably still do that are under the control of the al-Baghdadi Daesh caliphate.

  56. Jack says:

    I don’t believe anyone is arguing that “repression cannot happen here because we are not communists.” In fact many are saying that we are getting more repressive under the guise of keeping citizens safe. Warrantless surveillance, secret courts, civil forfeiture with no due process are all examples of increasing repression.
    While it may be true that “There is no logical connection between repression and communist theory”, empirical evidence shows that communist regimes are brutal and tyrannical. And they don’t tolerate political dissent.

  57. richard sale says:

    Thank you.

  58. richard sale says:

    I agree.

  59. richard sale says:

    Remember, I was in my twenties at the time of the interview. I no deep knowledge of the war. I would study it deeply later on.
    I in no way intended to did honor HCM’s memory.

  60. richard sale says:

    Our nation-building efforts are designed to spread U.S. commercial interests all over the world protected by the U.S. security umbrella. They ignore the unique the cultures they are meant to dominate.

  61. Wunduk says:

    Walrus, Colonel Lang,
    respectfully, as a typical German I would point out that Communist regimes were unable to implement their ideas with equal efficiency in all societies where they managed to capture power, so I saw a substantial difference between the GDR on one side, and Yugoslavia or Bulgaria on the other side, or (an extreme case), Afghanistan’s two-party Communism in the 1980s. The differences were due to uneven implementation capacity rooted in social structure, not intent. The ‘Communism with a human face’ was only possible in places where strong mitigating measures prevented implementation. A lot of people deduced therefore that this would point out also a different intent.
    But the intent is out in the open since Marx and Engels explained the a dictatorship of the proletariat was required to perennalise the revolution and abolish all economic and social systems which enabled capitalism (= expropriation & destruction of family life). Communist theory required repression right from the drawing board as the only tool by which it could be implemented.
    But you are of course right that this is not a monopoly on repression.

  62. Wunduk says:

    Dear Mr. Sale,
    I think that you could have a look at the options promoted by of Otto Bauer on nationalism as a mobilizing source for the implementation of Communism. His “Social Democracy and the Nationalities Question” was read (before WW1) by Lenin as well as Stalin, and influenced the implementation of Communism through the 20th century. By the time Ho Chi Minh studied in Moscow, it was very well established that far from having a tension between the two, there was a need to be a nationalist in order to implement Communism. Only appeals to nationalism would provide the manpower required to staff the dictatorship of the proletariat. In some cases, Communists even ‘invented’ nations in order to get started.

  63. turcopolier says:

    Richard Sale
    How was our ten year intervention in VN designed to project and expand our commercial interests? pl

  64. mike says:

    Ho was never a nationalist. He tried to appear as one. But in actuality he used the nationalists and then early on gave them up to the Sûreté when they did not toe the line. Later he imprisoned and killed them or had them driven into exile.
    Ho was a communist not a nationalist. He founded the Vietnamese communist party. Before that he worked for the Comintern. He both studied and taught at the Communist International university in Moscow. In China he worked with and for a short time lived with Soviet agent Mikhail Borodin. While in China he was married to a Chinese Communist girl. Needed a long-haired dictionary and language teacher he said to his countrymen that objected to him having a Chinese wife.

  65. mike says:

    outthere –
    Yes, Mus did know Ho well. Mus compared Ho to a Robespierrist revolutionary and principal figure of the Reign of Terror – Louis Antoine de Saint-Just.
    A damning comparison.
    Saint-Just was known as the Angel of Death. According to wiki he supervised “a ruthless and bloody program of intimidation” and “organized the arrests and prosecutions of many of the most famous figures of the Revolution.” This was not just the King and the aristos, but also fellow revolutionaries who were not deemed politically pure enough, or too moderate.

  66. mike says:

    outthere –
    Some recommended reading for you.
    “Viet-Nam: Sociologie de une guerre” Author: Paul Mus
    “The Two Viet-Nams: A Political and Military Analysis” Author Bernard Fall
    Fall also interviewed Ho and many of his associates. In the book I cited above he has one of the few good biographies of Ho. Fall was more neutral and quite a bit softer on Ho than Mus was. He still sensed that there was a deliberate PR effort by Ho and his propagandists to appear as a man-of-the-people, and a kindly “Uncle” figure, a pose. And cultivating an air of mystery about himself, apparently trying to hide his past. Ho had at least ten different birth names and six or seven birth dates. Always photographed in peasant “pyjamas” and rubber sandals, not the suits and ties he had worn in Paris and Moscow. Fall believes that Ho was a nationalist as a boy and as a young man, but became a communist in France in the 1920s.

  67. turcopolier says:

    At first the Japanese allowed the French to continue to administer Indochina even thought the IJA was present in large numbers. I will buy the argument that the motive for the Japanese occupation was economic but I defy you to show what the economic motivation of the US was for intervening in VN. pl

  68. turcopolier says:

    So, you were a rich guy older than 28 (my age)in 1968 who sailed his “old wooden schooner” to French Polynesia for some unknown purpose with a couple of French nuclear guys and a motorcycle bum for deck apes. Were you captaining this two master, three master or whatever or was there a professional sailing master + nubile wahines aboard for comfort items? Sounds marvelous. I wasn’t having that good a time just then. I have owned two sailboats; a backyard class sloop of 32′ that I sailed in Panama and a Cape Dory Yachts ten foot sailing dingy (catboat rigged). pl

  69. turcopolier says:

    I have never been a “gun enthusiast” whatever that is. I said yesterday what the common ground might be. Owning guns does not mean that one is a “gun enthusiast.” I told you that 5 years ago when you were using a different name. pl

  70. turcopolier says:

    A fantasy constructed in a library. pl

  71. richard sale says:

    Thank you.

  72. richard sale says:

    Thank you for such a thoughtful reply.

  73. richard sale says:

    Thank you.

  74. richard sale says:

    Thank you, Bill.

  75. richard sale says:

    You are right. I misread my old notes.

  76. raven says:

    My point was that I was asking a question and I did not realize that the term would elicit such a strong reaction. I meant no harm and only thought of it because you had some very interesting posts about weapons. As far as posting by another name, I don’t think so but I guess it could be.

  77. turcopolier says:

    or “markann” whichever you prefer, “gun enthusiast” implies a cult like obsession with firearms. pl

  78. turcopolier says:

    My question with regard to legality of purchase and possession has to do with the efficacy of gun control. I.e. If he bought them illegally, no amount of gun control law would have prevented him from having the weapons. pl

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