Control and Polarization of the Populace
Courtesy:Le, Thanh Nam
Repression also serves as a means of establishing control in areas which the Viet Cong seek to "pacify," and as a major instrument in the consolidation of Communist control over already "liberated" areas. Captured documents often refer to this process as the "purifying" or "cleaning up" of an area (removing all "spies," "tyrants," and other GVN remnants), and "purging" the local hostile to the Revolution or whose loyalties are suspect). Consider, for example, the following captured plans and directives, all issued in 1968:
"Active plan prepared by the Dai Loc District Party Committee of Quang Da Province on May 25, 1968, directed subordinate units to "liberate all hamlets and villages in the vicinity of the District seat, seize political power, establish a revolutionary government, overthrow the enemy's village or hamlet administrations, eliminate hamlet spies and local administrative personnel, weed out undesirable elements among the people, and continuously pursue village and district local administrative personnel to liberate the masses from their grip and pressure." (14)
Another activity plan, dated December 22, 1968, and attributed to the Binh Dinh Province Party Committee, described the Communist mission in newly "liberated" areas in these terms: "We should immediately get down to consolidating and maintaining the areas just brought under our control as part of our expansion program. Reorganize the people, wipe out the last spies, and purge the people's ranks of elements held to be undesirable. . . (15)
A third activity plan, issued by an unidentified village security section in the spring of 1968, directed armed security elements to annihilate local government personnel and to clear the village of all suspects and reactionaries so as to make it safe for troops from higher headquarters. (16)
A directive dated October 5, 1968, and attributed to the Political Section of Gia Lai Province stated that "it is necessary to weed out undesirable elements in areas where the troops will stop . . . and in areas which are prepared as stepping stones and troop-advance corridors of the army." (17)
Once the Viet Cong establish a strong presence in an area, they try to seal off the local population both physically and psychologically from any further contact with the GVN. They are particularly intent on denying the government all intelligence on Communist troop movements, bivouac sites, supply caches, and information relating to those who serve in their local military and political infrastructures. To inhibit intelligence penetration and collection in Communist-controlled or contested areas, the Viet Cong not only systematically identify and neutralize anyone suspected of being a GVN spy or informant, but they also impose and enforce very stringent regulations governing travel within the villages and hamlets and proscribing all unauthorized contact with GVN persons, including immediate relatives. Any villager found violating these local regulations is subject to disciplinary action and runs the risk of being thought a GVN spy, a most serious charge, as even faintly "suspected agents often are incarcerated in thought-reform camps. Proven spies are harshly dealt with, and most are executed. Captured documents suggest that, in at least some localities, Communist security cadres have standing orders to "kill without mercy" any GVN intelligence or reconnaissance agents attempting to penetrate the area. (18) From time to time, captured "spies" are given public trials before "People's Courts" as a way of impressing the local population with the Revolution's firm attitude in the face of such activity. (19)
The local people also are subjected to constant and intensive indoctrination by security cares regarding the importance of the "security maintenance mission," and are instructed to keep watch over the activities and contacts of their fellow villagers and to report immediately the presence of any strangers in their areas. (20) Part of this indoctrination is an attempt to imbue villagers with deep hatred of all GVN intelligence personnel. One plan urged local cadres to "motivate the people to engage in security maintenance activities arouse their hatred of enemy spies and intelligence personnel, and make them uncover the latter. (21) And a letter to local Security Section in the Saigon area said that the main purpose of this mission was "to unmask the enemy's cunning schemes to the people in order to increase their deep hatred towards the enemy, especially the security agents, policemen, intelligence agents, spies and informants." (22)
The fomenting of hatred and vindictiveness is by no means limited to GVN intelligence personnel; indeed, all repressive activity is cloaked in a highly emotional propaganda designed to arouse the people to a deep hatred of, and a desire for revenge against, the military and civilian officials serving the government. According to captured documents, Communist cadres are called on to "deepen the people's hatred" toward the GVN, the "incite" their "wrath," to "arouse" their "hate against Thieu-Ky puppet government," and to "heighten their concept of revenge." (23) For example, in guidelines for a propaganda campaign in Ben Tre Province for the period October 1968 to March 1969, the Viet Cong directed cadres to "make the people feel a profound hatred of [the] enemy's savage crimes and incite them to avenge their compatriots and kinfolk by enthusiastically and actively taking part in combat activities to heroically annihilate the enemy and achieve great merits." (24) Another propaganda directive, covering the same period but issued by a Region headquarters, urged them to "intensify [the people's] deep hatred for the enemy, [and] strongly and continuously denounce the savage and brutal crimes committed by the Americans and their lackeys towards our people." (25)
Frequently, these hate campaigns focus on specific targets of repression, as evident from a security directive, captured in Mart 1968, which outlined the types of propaganda that should accompany the repression of "counterrevolutionary elements":
"While motivating the people to deepen their resentment of the enemy, we must so propagandize them that they can see the enemy's deceitful, demagogic, pacification schemes, and that the hamlet and village [RVN] administrative personnel, pacification cadre and "people's aspiration" cadre, etc. . . . . are but traitors, henchmen of the US Imperialists. They entice the people with mellow words while trying to deceive and exploit them. The theme our daily propaganda must be based on is concrete on-the-spot examples of enemy crimes." (26)
In expounding the various crimes of government personnel, Viet Cong propagandists dwell on the many "inhuman" and barbaric atrocities" allegedly committed by the Americans and their "GVN henchmen," the wanton destruction of homes and property, and the "rape," "murder," and "torture" of innocent men and women. Government officials are characterized as "Vietnamese traitors" who fatten their lives on our blood." (27)
That the Communists have continued to give high priority to their "deep hatred for the enemy" movement is illustrated by this passage in a Secret directive concerning security activities issued by an agency of the Can Duoc District Unit, Subregion 3, on May 18, 1969:
"We must motivate the entire army and people to join the "deep hatred for the enemy" movement waged by us and be determined to sweep the enemy. We must seek all means to destroy people who surrender, traitors and pacification personnel." (28)
Such hate campaigns apparently have several objectives. One is to justify the most severe measures (assassinations and executions) taken against some government servants: indeed, the killings of "tyrants" is made to appears as a heroic act deserving special recognition and award. (29) The other is to warn any member of the general populace who might be tempted to treat with or join the GVN.
The central purpose of this hate propaganda is to polarize the population, to divide it irrevocably from the GVN, and to mobilize it for service and sacrifice in support of the Revolution. The people are to learn to view the war in black and white terms, to accept no coexistence with the GVN, and to fight the enemy without compromise. They must acquire "a clear-cut antagonistic attitude" toward the government, such as that described as follows in a report of the Military Affairs Party Committee of Area 3:
"Attitude of the population: The people did have a clear-cut antagonistic attitude toward the enemy. They only wished the Revolution could emerge victorious as quickly as possible. This attitude reflected itself in the fact that they gave us information about the enemy police and spies, guided us to destroy cruel elements, sheltered us in their houses or showed us good positions in which to station our troops, provided us with material supplies and fed us." (31)
The ultimate aim of hate campaigns is to raise popular animus to such a pitch that the people will themselves participate in the liquidation of "spies," "tyrants," and "reactionaries." This objective was pressed hard during the General Uprising and General Offensive phase, which began during Tet of 1968, when Viet Cong propagandists and other political cadres were repeatedly urged to "promote the people's determination and enthusiasm in killing and capturing the tyrants." (32) More will be said of this later.
(14) Doc. Log No. 10-1004-68 (Confidential), dated November 10, 1968 (emphasis added). Translation of a "Resolution" (activity plan) prepared at the Dai Loc District Party Committee Conference, Quang Da Province, which was held from May 24 to May 28, 1968. The Resolution was dated May 25, 1968, and was classified Secret. Captured by the 1st USMC Division on September 14, 1968.
(15) Doc. Log No. 01-2311-69 (Confidential), dated January 31, 1969 (emphasis added). Translation of a "Plan for Political Struggle and Armed Uprising. . .," dated December 22, 1968, and attributed to the Political Struggle by the Capital ROK Infantry Division on January 4, 1969.
(16) Doc Log No. 05-1385-68 (Confidential), summarized in MAJ2 Bulletin No. 12,150, dated May 7, 1968 (emphasis added). Summary of an activity plan of an unidentified Village Security Section for the period of April 15 to June 30, 1968. Captured by the 7/1 Cavalry Squadron, II FFV, on April 24, 1968.
(17) Doc. Log No. 10-2095-68 (Confidential), dated October 31, 1968 (emphasis added). Translation of a "Directive on Political Tasks for Winter 1968," dated October 5, 1968, and attributed to the Political Section, Gia Lai Province Unit, B-3 Front. Captured by RF, 24th STZ, RVNAF II CTZ, between October 18 and 20, 1968. Similar statements may be found in numerous other captured documents, such as Doc. Log No. 01-1999-68 (Confidential), and Doc. Log No. 05-1947-68 (Confidential), summarized in MACJ2 Bulletin No. 12,415, dated May 15, 1968.
(18) Example appears in Doc. Log No. 02-2050-68 (Confidential), summarized in MACJ2 Bulletin No. 9769, dated February 25, 1968, and Doc. Log No. 04-3157-68 (Confidential), summarized in MACJ2 Bulletin No. 11,901, dated April 30, 1968.
(19) Doc. Log No. 11-1520-68 (Confidential), dated December 26, 1968. Translation of a plan prepared by an unidentified enemy unit concerning military and political operations against Allied targets in Ben Tre Province in 1968. Captured by 5th U.S. SFGA on November 6, 1968.
(20) Doc. Log No. 01-2268-69 (Confidential), dated February 17, 1968. Translation of a "Directive" dated October 4, 1968, believed to have been issued by the Current Affairs Committee, COSVN, concerning the intelligence activities of the GVN's "Phuong Hoang" (Phoenix) program and the measures necessary to counter that organization. Captured by the C/K/RAR, 1st ATF, on January 19, 1969.
(21) Doc. Log No. 11-1520-68.
(22) Doc. Log No. 02-1076-69 (Confidential), dated February 20, 1069. Translation of a Secret letter, dated October 24, 1968, believed to have been prepared by an agency of Subregion 2 and addressed to the Security Section of Precinct 6 (Saigon) and five other districts in surrounding areas of Subregion 2. Captured by the 25th U.S. Infantry Division on January 26, 1969.
(23) Examples were found in the following: Doc. Log No. 01-3001-67 (Confidential), dated December 12, 1967; Doc. Log No. 05-2047-67 (Confidential), dated February 12, 1968; Doc. Log No. 12-1739-67 (Confidential), dated December 29, 1967; Doc. Log No. 03-1120-68 (Confidential), summarized in MACJ2 Bulletin No. 9986, dated March 2, 1968; Doc. Log No. 04-1228-68 (Confidential), dated May 16, 1968; and Doc. Log No. 10-1399-68 (Confidential), dated October 27, 1968.
(24) Doc. Log No. 11-1020-68 (Confidential), dated January 15, 1969. Translation of a directive pertaining to a six-month propaganda campaign (from October 1968 to March 1069), believed to have been issued by an agency of Ben Tre Province on October 17, 1968. Captured by the 9th U.S. Infantry Division on October 29, 1968.
(25) Doc. Log No. 10-2137-68 (Confidential), dated November 17, 1968. Translation of a directive dated September 23, 1968, entitled "Policies, Subjects and Requirements of Propaganda Mission (from October 1968 to March 1069)" and attributed to the Political Staff of Military Region VII. Captured by the 1st RAR Battalion, 1st ATF, on October 8, 1968.
(26) Doc. Log No. 04-2435-68 (Confidential), dated May 31, 1968. Translation of a letter which sets forth security procedures for the Security Section of an unidentified province in line with COSVN and Military Region resolutions. Captured by the C/3/RAR, 1st ATF, on March 30, 1068.
(27) Doc. Log No. 12-0503-67 (Confidential), dated January 23, 1968. Translation of a propaganda leaflet addressed to "all people of province," issued by the Saigon-Gia Dinh Region National Front for Liberation Committee in late 1967. Captured by the 5th ARVN Ranger Group, Gia Dinh Sector, on December 8 and 9, 1967.
(28) Doc. Log No. 06-1939-69.
(29) "Liberation Medals" are awarded to units or individuals who show outstanding courage in liquidating "tyrants." The Special Action element of the Quang Da City Unit, for example, was awarded a Third Class Liberation Medal for the high fighting spirit and courage displayed in killing three "tyrants" in Nhan Bien hamlet on August 3, 1967. Doc. Log No. 10-1915-68 (Confidential), summarized in MACJ2 Bulletin No. 17,356, dated October 19, 1968. Captured by the 1st U.S. Air Cavalry Division.
(30) An example is Doc. Log No. 01-1142-69 (Confidential) summarized in MACJ2 Bulletin No. 19,243, dated January 3, 1969, which summarizes notes taken at a political reorientation training course held in Military Region V during December 1968. Captured by the Americal Division on December 18, 1968.
(31) Doc. Log No. 02-1922-68 (Confidential), dated February 29, 1968. Translation of minutes concerning a meeting of the Military Affairs Party Committee, Area 2, which reviewed the combat achievements of Area 3 during the Tet Offensive. Captured by CMD, RVNAF III CTZ, on February 12, 1968.
(32) Doc. Log No. 09-2102-68 (Confidential), dated October 15, 1968. Translations of a directive dated August 5, 1968, concerning "Political Struggle and Armed Uprising," believed to have been issued by the Current Affairs Committee of a district in Binh Dinh Province. Captured by the 5th U.S. SFGA on September 11, 1968.
ARVN:Army Republic of Vietnam
CDEC: Combined Document Exploitation Center
CIO: Central Intelligence Organization
COSVN: Central Office of South Vietnam
GVN: Government of South Vietnam
MP: Military Police
MPS: Ministry of Public Security
MR: Military Region
MSS: Military Security Service
RVN: Republic of Vietnam
RVNAF: Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces
SVN: South Vietnam
USMC: United States Marines Corp.
VNQDD: Vietnam Quoc Dan Dang