The last days and weeks have seen not just the 75th anniversary of the great Allied victory over Germany in World War II, but the 45th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War. Sadly it wasn’t a victory for the Good Guys, but neither was it a defeat for America. To say that America lost the Vietnam War is silly. She failed to win it, but failing to win a war is not the same thing as losing it. North Vietnamese tanks never made it down Pennsylvania Avenue.
Of course I’m covering Coronavirus in this column as well, but there are other things going on in the world and other topics to cover. The intelligence lessons of the Vietnam War have not been fully absorbed and have relevance in the present day.
Growing up as a boy in Queensland in the 1960s I always assumed that one day I would probably go to Vietnam to fight. Australia honorably supported South Vietnam and the United States throughout, indeed her charismatic Liberal Prime Minister, Harold Holt, was assassinated by Chinese intelligence in 1967 precisely because of his support for the war.
I hasten to add that I have never been one for hacking through jungles and I didn’t particularly fancy being blown up by a Bouncing Betty, which would have been rather irritating. Flying an air-conditioned Canberra bomber would have been more to my liking. In the events which happened National Service in Australia ended when I was 15.
In the run-up to the anniversary of the Republic of Vietnam’s sad surrender on April 30th 1975 I read Geoffrey Ward’s and Ken Burn’s magisterial history of the war, The Vietnam War (Alfred Knopf, New York, 2017). It’s an impressive narrative, but proceeds on the flawed liberal assumption that the war was wrong. It was fought in the wrong way, in the wrong country, but that’s a different thing from saying that the war itself was wrong.
The Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) could have respected the Geneva Accords and stayed north of the 17th parallel, but didn’t. In fairness the South Vietnamese dictator Diem didn’t exactly observe the accords either, but that was hardly justification for invading his country.
The cause of the Vietnam War was North Vietnamese aggression against South Vietnam, period. It’s difficult to see how the US could have ignored this aggression, not least in the middle of the Cold War.
When I say that the war was fought in the wrong country I mean of course that it should have been fought in North Vietnam, not South Vietnam! Popular support for the war was eroded not because the war was seen as immoral, although as in most wars immoral things were done, but because of strategic drift. Nobody, including myself as a teenager, could understand what American strategy was.
The elegant reason for that was that America didn’t actually have a strategy. Since she possessed competent military commanders throughout, who sensibly recommended invading North Vietnam, this was not the fault of the military, let alone that of the courageous men and women who served in the frontline.
The problem went all the way back to the disastrous settlement at the end of World War II. The failure to shut down German intelligence guaranteed that our young people would have to continue to fight in wars, indeed the world has scarcely seen a year of peace since 1945. In America’s case the failure was compounded with the staggering incompetence, and worse, of the FBI, who allowed a German agent, Roscoe Hillenkoetter, who should have been fried after Pearl Harbor, to be placed in charge of the CIA when it was set up, and another, Dwight Eisenhower, to enter the White House in 1953.
Both the FBI and LBJ himself were complicit in the disgraceful assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. This meant having a compromised president in charge during the critical years of the war. Johnson in turn appointed the German agent Robert McNamara as Secretary of Defense, presumably on German orders.
This led to the absurdity of the US training Luftwaffe pilots on the principal American fighter, the excellent McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II, who in turn shot down F-4s whilst flying for the North Vietnamese Air Force. I still remember the look of shock on the face of a Luftwaffe general when I congratulated him upon the two B-52s he’d shot down over Hanoi as a young pilot – I’d much rather one of the B-52 tail gunners had got him of course, but I was being polite!
Ward and Burns’s book suffers from the failing of all histories of the Vietnam War published to date – it’s intelligence illiterate. North Vietnamese propaganda is reported as fact, however absurd. The authors, no doubt in good faith (they’re liberals after all and can’t be very bright), even recycle Nguyen Van Bay’s preposterous claim to have been a jet fighter ace. Nguyen Van Bay couldn’t ride a bike.
I’m the proud son of an RAF jet fighter pilot. I was trained to fly by former fighter pilots (and a lovely ex Hercules pilot as well!) and I’ve known many fighter pilots in my time, including those with distinguished combat records in ‘Nam. All of them could ride a bike. Flying high-performance jet aircraft in combat requires a high degree of skill. If there is one characteristic all jet fighter jocks share it’s basic competence.
There was a very good reason why the NVAF never mounted a single bombing raid on South Vietnam and why all NVAF Migs in contact with US aircraft broke off before crossing the 17th parallel. The pilots were mostly German and dared not risk being shot down. Had they ventured over South Vietnam, where the US enjoyed air supremacy, been shot down and ejected, the right words to use when capturing them would have been Hände hoch. They were community partners alright.
By the way I was first put onto this years ago by a B-52 squadron commander, who as a young lieutenant had been the co-pilot of a B-17 on raids over Berlin. He told me that he thought the air defenses of Berlin and Hanoi had been planned by the same people. He was right. He was very reluctant to discuss it because he thought people might think he was crazy. He could sense however that I was going to give him a fair hearing, which I did.
Years later Hanoi eventually opened up to Donald Rumsfeld, who hurtled off to Hanoi about a week after I briefed in his senior military adviser, then that nice man Admiral Stavridis, and his deputy in the Pentagon. (I of course had already slipped someone into Hanoi to verify!) Please don’t ask me how I managed to ‘slip someone into Hanoi’. It took some doing, I may tell you, and that person is still alive.
There were two funny postscripts to that particular briefing in the Pentagon. As Jim Stavridis knew, I was due to fly out to Enterprise from NAS Norfolk the following Sunday and he gave me a personal message for the carrier battle group commander. Suffice to say that the said admiral, who was not used to seeing British barristers walk down the ramp of a COD aircraft onto the deck of his carrier and was probably already intrigued, was even more intrigued after I passed on Admiral Stavridis’ greetings!
When the idiot rozzers, no offense intended, illegally raided my apartment and barrister’s chambers in Wendover without a warrant, they seized a whole bunch of stuff, including photos of my visit to Enterprise. Completely baffled, they did what mean intellects often do when confronted by something which they don’t understand – they retreated from reality. Even though the photos showed a smiling Michael having a ball, in flight gear, and on a carrier steaming into wind at about 30 knots, they actually suggested that I gone aboard her whilst tied up alongside in Norfolk! Why would you need flight gear to board a ship tied up dockside?
A number of myths still endure about the Vietnam War, not least in Britain. There are still liberals who believe that Nick Ut’s heart-rending photo, taken on June 8th 1972, of poor Kim Phuc shows her fleeing an American air strike. Actually the little girl was fleeing a South Vietnamese air strike. Nick Ut by the way had the decency to drive the terrified girl to hospital before he went to the AP office on Saigon to get his photos developed. All y’all know the photo I mean, so I’m not going to reproduce it, as poor little Kim’s clothes had been burnt off by the napalm.
Even more unbelievably, some people still think that Ho Chi Minh was actually a communist. In fact, as I reveal in Spyhunter, he was gay and a long-time German agent, who had been compromised in Paris as a young man. He was no more a communist than my Aunt Agnes. He was also no more in charge of North Vietnam’s strategy than LBJ was in charge of America’s. As Ward and Burns make clear that honor, if honor it was, belonged to the Chinese stooge Le Duan.
Ward and Burns also unwittingly explain why American casualties were so high. Time and again American ground forces were ambushed, in other words the Bad Guys were waiting for them. How did they know you guys were coming? Because the CIA had its own secret radio network, the ‘diamond’ network, and was headed for much of the war by a German agent (Richard Helms), that’s why. Hanoi had the frequencies.
As I argue in Spyhunter, and in an article buried somewhere in the US Naval Institute’s article bank (at least they paid me for it!), Great Britain should have declared war on North Vietnam following the unprovoked attack by North Vietnamese torpedo boats on the USS Maddox in international waters on August 2nd 1964. (I agree by the way with Ward and Burns that there was no attack on the 4th.) Royal Navy fleet carriers such as HMS Ark Royal and HMS Eagle should have rotated on Charlie Station and major British surface combatants such as the cruiser HMS Tiger should have pounded North Vietnamese littoral targets with their main armament.
The RAF’s mighty V-Force should also have been committed, bombing strategic targets in North Vietnam from RAAF Butterworth in Malaysia. In the events which happened British ground forces were committed, but disguised as Australians, which was ridiculous. Royal Navy SSKs were also deployed inside North Vietnamese territorial waters on intelligence-gathering tasks and rightly so. (US nuclear boats drew too much water to get in close.)
The Allies should have taken the war to the aggressor from the beginning. It was a major war and should have been declared as such. West Germany should have been expelled from NATO and bombed into submission as soon as her belligerent status was confirmed.
List of Belligerents
So far as I know this is the first time that a complete list of belligerents in the Vietnam War has ever been published. The Bad Guys were:
Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
People’s Republic of China.
Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
Federal Republic of West Germany.
Pathet Lao (strictly an insurgency movement, not a sovereign state).
Kingdom of Cambodia.
The Good Guys were:
Republic of Vietnam.
United States of America.
Republic of Korea.
Commonwealth of Australia.
Dominion of New Zealand.
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Kingdom of Laos.
Kingdom of Thailand.
Republic of the Philippines.
No American, least of all a veteran, should feel ashamed of America’s role in the Vietnam War. The mistakes, such as the failures to impeach President Johnson over his role in the Kennedy Assassination and execute Robert McNamara, were essentially counter-intelligence snafus. History will judge America’s fine theater commanders Generals William Westmoreland and Creighton Abrams far more kindly than the New York Times.
VE Day 75
Last week’s VE Day celebrations in the UK were curiously muted. For the 50th anniversary I organised an RAF flypast over my village and entertained veterans of RAF Bomber Command – wonderful men and women, who had killed lots of Germans. However the celebration was moving nonetheless.
What moved me more than anything was the footage of the thousands joyously celebrating peace in 1945 not knowing what was to come. Within weeks the DVD, who already controlled the Cabinet Office, were able to get their man Attlee into Downing St. Barely two months after her total military defeat German intelligence controlled the levers of power in Britain, or at least they thought they did.
As with all intelligence analysis I am keeping my opinions on Covid-19 under review. There is no reason to change much of what I have written however. The virus has clearly mutated into several forms, of varying severity. Given the paucity of testing my suggested fatality rate of 1-2.5% is probably still about right. In other words not too much credence should be placed on official infection rates.
Two effective treatments, in the form of Hydroxychloriquine and Remdesivir, have been available from the beginning. Only a fool would buy into the Chinese rubbishing of Hydroxychloriquine based on ‘trials’ of patients who were probably given placebos and allowed to die. These treatments have been withheld in Britain and some US states for political, not medical, reasons.
The virus is clearly airborne and the failure to turn off air conditioning systems in passenger ships, hospitals and nursing homes a tragic mistake. In the UK this has been compounded by NHS hospitals discharging patients with Covid-19 to nursing homes without testing them first.
The death rate has been hugely exaggerated. Only a few hundred patients under 60 without underlying medical conditions have died in Britain. Whilst there is a grey area, where Covid-19 has materially contributed to deaths without being the major cause, official death rates should probably be increased by about a quarter, to allow for deaths not yet recorded, mostly in nursing homes, and then reduced by two-thirds, to get a sensible total.
The first deaths in Britain and France were as early as December, but were put down to pneumonia, not Covid-19. I suspect there were deaths in America due to the virus in December as well. The latest intelligence suggests that the date of the accidental release of the bio-weapon from the Wuhan Institute of Virology should be brought forward to the first half of October, when there was a major incident at the WIV.
The role of Dr Death, sorry Fauci, has also come under greater scrutiny following the revelation that he made at least two visits to the WIV whilst Covid-19 was under development with CIA and CDC assistance. He needs to be required to explain with care and particularity exactly what he was doing in Wuhan.
Given his age it shouldn’t be necessary to use enhanced interrogation techniques, although it might be helpful for the interrogating officers to have a pair of pliers and some electrodes on the table just in case. He’s a bright chap and should soon get the message. If the lights in Maclean, VA, suddenly start dimming you’ll know that he didn’t, no offense intended. (I’m not suggesting that he be tortured by the way – we only call it torture if the French do it.)
I was sorry to learn that Congresswoman Waters’ sister died. I did my best to get the message through about Remdesivir.
The good news is that the Kabinettratsführer, Ritter Mark ‘von’ Sedwill, did come down with a touch of Coronavirus. The bad news, no offense intended, is that unlike NHS patients, at least those that aren’t Prime Minister, he was treated, I presume with Hydroxychloriquine, and recovered. He’ll probably go in the fall, along with the PM, for ‘health’ reasons.
As predicted, China is coming under increasing pressure, although not from Boris Johnson. Confronted with a naked act of aggression (the original release may have been accidental, but Peking’s decisions to send infected citizens abroad and suppress news of the containment failure until they could be sure the virus had taken hold in the West amounted to Acts of War) Boris is behaving more like Neville Chamberlain than Winston Churchill.
Peking will need to be hammered, either through economic sanctions, the payment of reparations or the cancellation of US debt. The techniques we use to punish China could then be used again against Germany, as we seek just reparations for German acts of aggression such as the sabotage of the Piper Alpha oil and natural gas facility in the North Sea in 1988.
This is brewing up into a major political storm and rightly so. Mike Flynn should never have been prosecuted. The DoJ were right with respect to drop all charges. I entirely and respectfully agree with noted constitutional lawyer Alan Dershowitz’s argument that Judge Emmett Sullivan is acting unconstitutionally by refusing to permit Mike Flynn to withdraw his plea of guilty.
Prosecutions are a matter for the executive branch, not the judicial branch. This was an abusive prosecution, as the Attorney-General has rightly recognised. There’s no more lis inter partes and nothing for the learned judge to adjudicate upon.
Justifiably, the federal judiciary have earned a reputation for arrogance and high-handedness. The outrageous disrespect shown by Judge Amy St Eve towards Lord Black of Crossharbour, a Lord of Parliament, in his kangaroo court trial in 2007 on bogus fraud charges has not been forgotten in England. The learned judge repeatedly and with deliberate discourtesy failed to address Lord Black as ‘Your Lordship’.
At no stage did the idiot woman, no offense intended, demonstrate even the slightest understanding that the musical comedy proceedings in her courtroom were interfering with the processes of the Imperial Parliament at Westminster. She seemed to be on a one-woman crusade to get US forces kicked out of Britain, break up NATO, undermine the Special Relationship and restart the War of 1812. With every respect she needs a lesson in manners, preferably a lengthy spell in a British prison for contempt of the High Court of Parliament. The federal judiciary as a whole need a good smack.
It always happens. As soon as you opine that a dictator has probably snuffed it up he pops and opens a cement factory. It’s always a mistake in intelligence work to try and defend an opinion which is no longer valid.
Yes the North Koreans use body doubles for Kim and yes there are differences between the man at the cement factory and known likenesses of Kim, especially with the ear lobes, the nose and the teeth. Each of these differences however can be accounted for with either the natural process of ageing, plastic surgery or dental work.
Body doubles are almost useless for close-up work, not least in an age of facial recognition software. I agree that there is room for some doubt, but on balance I conclude that the chap at the cement factory was indeed Kim.
I was right about three things however – the heart surgery, a power struggle in Pyongyang and the hairdo. Three out of four ain’t bad, especially for government work.
Michael Shrimpton was a barrister from his call to the Bar in London in 1983 until being disbarred in 2019 over a fraudulently obtained conviction. He is a specialist in National Security and Constitutional Law, Strategic Intelligence and Counter-terrorism. He is a former Adjunct Professor of Intelligence Studies at the American Military University.