Conversations with Rural Vietnamese

by C. Benoit

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A tough, often critical assessment of pacification based on the author's observations and conversations with rural farmers, villagers, Popular Force troops, and others in four provinces of South Vietnam. While there are understandable reasons for U.S. failings — an unfamiliar war prosecuted by inexperienced troops with only one major advantage, firepower — they don't change the fact that pacification is largely a failure. As usual, the poor and the innocent suffer: indifference, bribery, and corruption are widespread among GVN officials; crops and homes are bombed and shelled indiscriminately; families are broken up, shot up, or blown up frequently, repeatedly, and seemingly at random. In sum, rural Vietnamese face greater dangers from the way we fight the war than from the VC themselves, despite sacrifice and dedication by individual U.S. advisors, ARVN, PFs, and local officials. The irony: since the Tet offensive, most rural Vietnamese have lost faith in the VC, but U.S. efforts can't seem to capitalize on enemy blunders or weaknesses.

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