Nguyen Van Thieu: “Elected” President of Vietnam in 1967, south of parallel 17, by part of the population under the U.S. occupation

Any propaganda operation, mainly under war conditions, should be focused from different angles, according to the recipient of the message. The green light is generally on for those making the decisions when they consider that the proposed operation has a sufficiently positive effect on the different sides.

When it comes to organizing “elections” in a militarily occupied country, the effect searched for inside the country is generally appeasing the fervor of the resistance, probably because of the fear of the people’s self-determination, which is controlled through terror or because the controller hopes to come strengthened out of it and consequently wants to avoid any useless sacrifice of soldiers before the time has come. But it is also an opportunity to persuade the opinion, out of the country, into the good intentions of the occupant and thus justify a later invasion.

Once drawn the curtains of the U.S. propaganda that controls the West mass media, we can clearly see that the Iraqi opinion, basically in the Shiite population media south and the Kurd media north, has been handled, to a certain extent, by the elections game, in the hope of taking advantage of it.

The U.S. government disconcert in front of the demands of victory of the Shiite leaders also stressed the complete ambiguity of the operation: a brilliant communication maneuver in the face of the West opinion that might very well become the seal stamping the second great U.S. military defeat in history, when these very same “average Iraqis” who had so far given the U.S. “democracy” project an opportunity and had voted for what they believed to be the retreat of the occupation troops, lost their hopes and joined the “army of the shadows”.

In fact, the recent statements of “the U.S. ambassador” John Negroponte, who really governs Iraq militarily, skillfully dodged the troop withdrawal issue. A leader the size of Ho Chi Minh is needed to face Negroponte, to accurately state the strategic objectives of the occupying power from a different angle (permanent strategic bases and oil), thus awakening the consciousness of the Iraqi people. All of this makes us understand up to what extent the propaganda and division techniques have improved ever since, and also up to what extent the Iraqi resistance lacks the support of a big foreign power.

When the U.S.-organized Iraqi elections were held on January 30, 2005, a number of blogs as well as alternative information websites had the good idea of comparing them to other elections under military occupation conditions, this time in Southern Vietnam in 1967. Whether both situations have indeed many similarities, a more thorough analysis dating back to the Geneva Agreement in 1954 should be done so that this comparison proves all of its relevance.

“Terrorists kill 26 people during the ballot”

On the one hand, the Geneva Agreements signed in 1954, after the humiliating defeat inflicted on France in Dien Bien Phu, did not concern Paris as much as they did Washington, which was the only true negotiating force before the Vietminh. By allowing France to safeguard its prestige, Washington was, at the same time, really dragging it to its policy of “containment” of the USSR, even though since 1950, with the Korean war, the conflict had turned into a Franco-American anticommunist crusade.

The major guidelines of the Geneva Agreement were an unconditional ceasefire, a division of the country into two parts on parallel 17 and the organization of free election all throughout the country.

Ho Chi Minh gave proof of an exemplary goodwill until the end of the negotiations and he even showed certain optimism about the holding of the elections because he trusted the independence wish of the South, where, except for Saigon, he was incidentally very popular.

It is, in fact, considered that Ho Chi Minh would have won a great electoral victory, probably with more than 70% of the votes. He would later confess his doubts gradually from 1954 to 1956, the date where Vietnam general elections were annulled by Washington’s decision. In the meantime, the police of the Diem’s puppet regime had taken to plundering and setting fire to the locations of the International Control Commission in charge of supervising the correct application of the Geneva Agreements [1].

And we should not forget the mysterious circumstances of the assassination in 2003 of the UN representative in Iraq Sergio Vieira de Mello, before the U.S. impeded the political process and subsequently turned to the UN so that it played a secondary role, without any supervision responsibility, in the organization of the “elections”.
At this point, it should also be noted that as from January 30 in Iraq, there were no more international observers (or at least independent from Washington), than there were on September 3, 1967 in Vietnam. There were elections, yes, but no democracy: contrary to the ones that were to be held in 1954, the 1967 elections only concerned Southern Vietnam, and the candidates to be elected were among those authorized by the occupation forces.

Since every representative of the Resistance is regarded as a “terrorist” and, therefore, as a criminal, he cannot, of course, participate in the electoral process. It is also important to repeat that those elections held in an occupied territory, which do not include the Resistance political forces, cannot, under any circumstances, have any signs of “democracy”.

UN Resolution No 1546 (2004), adopted on June 8, 2004 by the Security Council, envisaged “the end of the occupation” and that «a provisional government, completely sovereign and independent (...) takes on its full functions and authority (...) by June 30, 2004”. The occupation was likely to be extended only, and according to this same Resolution, if a sovereign government asked for it.

We were, then, in front of a legal sorcery model: the transference of sovereignty to the government designated by the occupant, who, in turn, asked for an extension of the occupation. The very same Resolution (Article 4 c) demanded “The holding of direct democratic elections, if possible by December 31, 2004 or January 31, 2005 at the latest”. This is how the Iraqis had to suffer that democratic trick or manipulation under full foreign occupation, regrettably with the UN assistance.

"Iraqis confront the threats while millions of people go to the polls"
"Vietnamese elections acclaimed in the U.S. as a "decisive step""

It is not surprise then that by those days, a military puppet regime (that of Nguyen Van Thieu), had come out the winner in Vietnam. As regards the authenticity of the count, the few investigators who analyzed this event practically forgotten to history, observe [2]:

«Many Vietnamese had doubts about the integrity of the electoral process. A Vietnamese businessman said: "99% of the people think that these elections are fraudulent but they vote because that is what they are expected to do." There were signs leading to think that mass participation was basically due to the pressures and threats of repression to be suffered by those who did not go to the polls. As the electoral responsible staff had marked the ID documents, it was generally suspected that the absence of this "loyalty symbol" towards the government would bring further problems, even a suspicion of belonging to the Viet Cong ».

“Enthusiast Iraqis rush to the polls”
"Vietnamese elections acclaimed in the U.S. as a "decisive step""

The method chosen this time in Iraq was a body mark: blue ink on the finger, as a token of loyalty that for Iraqis means submission to the occupant and, for the more naïve abroad, the integration of the voters to the great “democratic” community. It hardly matters that those not voting be publicly lashed for their choice, which, however, is also completely democratic: the fact of voting would represent an act of democratic faith in itself.

“The participation index in Iraq challenges violence”
“The United States encouraged by the Vietnamese vote”

In August 1967, the popularity of the war waged by President Johnson reached its lowest level in the U.S. (33% supported that policy against 53% rejecting it. Source: D.M. Barret, Uncertain Warriors: Johnson and his Vietnam advisers). The Congress and the public opinion supported the policy advocating a “free” Southern Vietnam but not the means used for it; namely, the mass bombings in the North and the growing number of soldiers in that territory (500, 000 during the largest deployment in 1968) with all the losses it implied. Johnson tried then to justify his military interference as a sacrifice aimed at supporting a “chosen and legitimate” government, which represented the will of the South Vietnamese. As to the participation indexes, the investigators’ conclusions were entirely eloquent [3]:

«According to the U.S. official estimates, nearly a third of the 17 million inhabitants of Southern Vietnam was living in Viet Cong controlled territory, and this is the reason why they could not vote. The government itself disqualified dozens of thousands of electors. And many Buddhists, victims of mistreatment on the part of the South Vietnamese military junta, boycotted the elections. Furthermore, far from being popular, the Thieu and Ky military ballot only had 35% of the votes. The electoral regulations imposed by the junta stipulated that no matter how low the vote average obtained by a winning candidate was, there would be no second rounds as this would allow the civilian candidates to unify their forces in a second count».

On September 1, 1966, more than 12 years after the Geneva Agreements and almost one year before the tragicomic “elections” of Saigon, General de Gaulle reasserted, at the times of his “notorious action” of Phnom Penh, his adhesion to respect such agreements, which must put an end to any kind of foreign occupation before the holding of free elections all throughout Vietnam.

De Gaulle also expressed his concern about the U.S. military escalade, which in his view, was turning into an “growing threat to the world peace”. The logic of this parallelism could be taken even further ahead so that we can judge the attitude of our current government, which has traditionally evoked its Gaullist legacy, and compare it to that of its spiritual father, inflexible in a similar situation in the framework of the international laws and conventions. But this is not the whole reality. The reality also comprises the fact that there was not oil in Vietnam.

[1“Ho Chi Minh”, by Jean Lacouture, Seuil publications, 1969

[2In “The Vietnam experience: America takes over, 1965-67”., by a group of investigators, The Boston Publishing Company (sold out), quoted by Bill Christison in Counterpunch on February 14, 2005

[3“ The Vietnam experience : America takes over, 1965-67.”, Op. Cit