40-year period gives us ample time to reconsider and re-evaluate what
Communist North Vietnam called the “general offensive and general uprising” (tổng
tiến công và nổi dậy.)
Declassified documents and recollections of witnesses-participants have shed light on the real military loss and the pitiful failure of the call for uprising among the people that ran away when communist forces reached their city or neighborhood.
Communist North Vietnam boasted of having defeated US spirit, paying little attention to the sacrifices of their men and women wasted by military miscalculations. It could not justify the general massacre of Hue population during its short occupation of the city.
The National Liberation Front (NLF) which provided the vanguard forces for the offensive sustained massive loss during the battle of Mậu-Thân. It remained paralyzed during the following years and was simply erased by North Vietnam on the political map in 1976.
On the American side, the psychological syndrome was still lingering; subsequently, certain groups considered the Mỹ-Lai incident more significant than the Hue massacre. What is called the “turning point” of the Việt-Nam war applied to only US political viewpoint as the war did not end until seven years after the Têt offensive. Lies of the media produced by reporters about the Têt offensive aggravated the psychological syndrome (re: “The lies of Têt” by Arthur Herman, Wall Street Journal, Feb 6 2008.)
Under surprise attack, South Vietnamese forces fought successively, pushing back communist soldiers from the 36 cities back to the jungle. No unit ever put down its weapon to join the enemy.
The most significant Communist failure during the Têt offensive was the attitude of the people. Communist insurgents had called for a general uprising; however, people ran away and did not cooperate, except for the few who had previous ties with them. On their retreat, Communist forces buried thousands of civilians whose bodies were found tied and and showing marks of torture. There has never been such atrocity in our collective memory throughout the nation history.
Thousands of bodies in mass graves indicate a crime, not only against the
victims and their families but also against nation and humanity.
Let review how the civilized world treat those kind of crimes.
The Nuremberg tribunal opened in October 1945 prosecuted crimes of violence and of killing civilians, hostages and prisoners in occupied areas. More than 20 criminals paid for their criminal acts.
The Hague tribunal has prosecuted crimes committed during wartime: killing, assassination, enslavement, violence against civilians.
The massacre of hundreds of Vietnamese at Mỹ-Lai occurred 2 months after the Têt massacre; it was uncovered six months later, and immediately investigated. Two years later, Calley was tried at a military tribunal.
More recently, criminals of mass graves in Kosovo, Rwanda were asked to answer for their acts before the The Hague tribunal.
Charles Taylor was also tried at a special tribunal in Sierra Leone.
In Congo, after Thomas Lubanga, German Katanga, came the time for Mathieu Ngudjolo to be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court on Feb 2nd, 2008 for killing a couple of hundred civilians.
On Feb 5th, 2008, the same International Criminal Court announced the opening of the investigation of crimes currently occuring in Kenya.
Most recently, on Feb 16th, 2008, Micheal (Misha) Seifert was extradited from Canada back to Italia to answer for crimes he had committed during the period 1944-45 in the concentration camp at Balzano. This low-rank officer who resided in Canada since 1951, had made usual rounds in the concentration camp of which he was one of the main guards; he used to beat up and maltreat camp prisoners. He must also answer the killing of eleven prisoners.
Back to the problem of general massacre of Mậu-Thân, mass graves attested to the cruel treatment of Vietnamese civilians and foreigners in various sites (at least 22 sites were uncovered) around Huế, from the beginning to the end of Communist control of the city.
Excuses have been offered; some explained as security measures during retreat; others blamed on low rank initiatives (not condoned by upper authority). Worst of all, early this year, while prayers were offered and memories recollected of the victims, Vietnamese authorities organized celebrations of their “victory”. Was it an act to cover their crime? Or was it to mask the infamous loss of the Paracel Islands which still provokes the anger of patriotic youth?
40 years earlier, Communist general offensive failed, call for general uprising was not answered. 40 years later, Communist Vietnam is on the defensive, covering up their crime with lies, celebrating their victory over the mourning and grief they had caused to the people.
Presenting various viewpoints of several Vietnamese on the Mậu-Thân offensive,
Truyền-Thông (Communicatons) raises the dual problem of Responsibility and
Justice: war crimes were in fact committed, documents and witness still existed.
Lets work to bring to justice all the criminals, groups and individuals, higher
and lower rankings, in order to:
- appease the victims’ soul
- show to the civilized world that in Vietnam, we do respect and cherish the sens of truth and rightfullness.
- so that we can erase the ugliest sin never seen before in the history since the birth of our nation.