(EDITORíS NOTE: Charles Black, Enquirer military writer, has been recuperating from a pongee stick wound in Saigon, but reported that he has now joined the
By CHARLES BLACK
Enquirer Military Writer
SAIGON, South Viet Nam - It is hard to find a correspondent interested in the military side of the Vietnamese conflict these days. They are all hurrying off to Hue or Da Nang to watch political demonstrations or covering Buddhist and student meetings in Saigon.
There is always much more avid interest among the correspondents in things of this nature in Viet Nam, although by this time the journalists should have been sated with coups, counter-coups and threatened coups.
Each time an era of political unrest sweeps the strangely un-war-torn city areas of Viet Nam, there are the usual predictions of doom for the U.S. hopes of peace without Viet Cong in this country.
There are many political crises ahead for this country because of its religious factions - Buddhist, Catholic and other sects - and the venal attitude of a segment of the Vietnamese urban population. There are many frustrations still waiting for Americans attempting to aid this country by fighting or other means. There is an undercurrent of resentment among Americans here, for example, because of an attitude on the part of some demonstrating minorities which decries the inconvenience of having Americans in great numbers in Saigon.
ďSome of these people, the young student demonstrators and the intellectuals here in Saigon, for example, seem to want us to fight their war, keep the aid and money coming, but to stay out of town and not inconvenience them. Out in the villages where I work, people seem to have quite a different attitude. It is just the kind of thing that would do the Viet Cong the most good, now, for the kooks you can find in any city to wave enough placards to give people in the U.S. the idea that the population is against us. It isnít so, but it can be made to look like it is with a few hundred demonstrators and a lot of publicity,Ē one officer told me.
The demonstrators here in Saigon never seem to be for anything, just against things. The demonstrators in the north lost a popular figure in a recent political tiff between their corps commander and Premier Ky, and they introduced anti-American themes into their outbursts because it is an effective way of getting at the man in Saigon. Vietnamese are nationalists and they are supersensitive to the idea of any outside country controlling their government. They have the resentment any group has which is forced to rely on a helping hand for existence. That is a trait of human orneriness which has never been fully thought through but which is a fact, and they can always hurt a politician by making him sound as if he is ďcontrolledĒ by American influence.
It is the peculiar mark of the vicious minorityís philosophy behind this facet of the current demonstrations, of course, which makes use of such a theme. It coincides exactly with one of the avowed strategies of the Communists, to split the Americans from the Vietnamese people and to cause resentment and hostilities between them.
There well may be a new head man in government here. There may be even more dramatic political developments, but I havenít met anybody qualified to make any predictions at the time I am writing this, March 25, despite almost any television or new correspondentís willingness to claim the title of oracle.
If Ky stays on top, it would seem to be fairly temporary, and it would seem to be only if some kind of elections are held and a representative form of government hacked out. Rather, these things would have to be attempted. In the welter of selfishness, veniality, corruption and short-sighted idiocy which seems to taint a part of the power system in Viet Nam, it isnít likely that an election could produce any kind of logical sense.
The only organized political party in the country is the National Liberation Front. The Buddhists, despite the fact that they can turn out crowds on critical street intersections, have never advocated anything constructive in the way of political development and the leaders of that religion, in fact, deny that they are even interested in politics.
While they advocate elections, the demonstrators donít even seem to have come up with any real suggestions on how to give representation to the people caught up in the war out in the terror-ridden provinces. The Montagnard tribes up in the mountains just arenít ever mentioned as a problem in conversations among the urbanites.
Ky might be able to keep on running things during the confusion attending organization of an elected government of civilians or he might not last that long, but I personally donít believe it will be the end of the fight against the Viet Cong here if Saigon has a new name on top. Few of the soldiers in Viet Nam think so, either. They just regard the entire situation as a gloomy and frustrating affair, like other gloomy and frustrating affairs which have attended this war for so long, and get on with their jobs.
The Viet Cong will benefit from any such political unrest, of course. In the past, such times meant that government operations practically ceased while the warlords involved played out their politics. Now the American end of the fight continues to be pushed and there has been continued government action in the Mekong Delta area where American units arenít yet operating, so the Viet Cong havenít had the usual respite given by times of domestic discontent.
One thing is very obvious, however, and that is a major drive on by Buddhist groups and political figures in the north part of the country, backed by dissidents always available in Saigon, to bring the downfall of the present government.
The old Vietnamese game of power politics is being played out again and the military effort to quell the war so that pacification plans can be put into action is suffering. It is not suffering as much now as it did in the past because of the American strength in the country, but six months of patience on the part of the ones pushing the present discontent would have meant much to the final welfare of their country.
It might be well be remember that 70 per cent of the people in Viet Nam live outside of the cities and are farmers and fishermen. Many of this majority of the population donít even enter into the thinking of the ones out demonstrating in Da Nang or Hue or Saigon when they call for representative government. This 70 per cent of the population is the real population of Viet Nam and it is this 70 per cent which is in the midst of the war, not the city crowds or the organized little cliques.
The people in the villages must be freed from Communist terror, brought back from the no-manís land in which they exist, and enabled to take part in national politics before Viet Nam governments will ever be stable, no matter what happens in the present commotion.
© Columbus Ledger-Enquirer
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