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International Socialism, Spring 1966


John Ashdown



From International Socialism, No.24, Spring 1966, p.36.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The Battle of Dien-bienphu
Jules Roy
Faber, 42s

The New Face of War
M.W. Browne
Cassell, 25s

The Making of a Quagmire
David Halberstam
Bodley Head

Vietnam: the truth
William Warbey
Merlin, 10s 6d

Mr Roy’s book is a vivid and dramatic account of the events leading up to the battle of Dien-bienphu, a sort of meditation on the madness of it all, with his reflections on visiting the area long after the event. Mr Browne, AP correspondent in Vietnam since 1961, is an example of the madness. His Vietnam is full of colour and dramatic episode, backed by an ignorance of the issues involved, a political and moral irresponsibility, an adherence to some of the silliest myths about his enemy, that robs his account of much of its significance. He likes shocking people, but he has nothing to shock them for – his back-handed callousness is representative of the US forces involved. Mr Halberstam by contrast has written an interesting and informative account from his experience as New York Times correspondent in Saigon in the last year of Diem’s rule. He is sharply perceptive of the gathering lies shrouding Vietnam in Washington; his detail is authentic and relevant.

Mr Warbey’s book is the most useful for its information (Appendices cover the Geneva Conference and Agreements, extracts from ICC Reports, from US, NLF and North Vietnam statements). One need not agree with Mr Warbey’s political viewpoint to feel sympathy for his sense of shocked astonishment that neither the British Government, Labour or Conservative, nor the American is in the least concerned with the ‘facts,’ or even with justice. His account of his efforts to mediate between Hanoi and Washington through London, his efforts to show how false it is to say Hanoi has not wanted peace talks (the US story on ‘unconditional negotiations’ must be one of the greatest frauds of public opinion in a century noted for its propagandist frauds), the details of his clashes with Wilson and the sense of hopelessness which is the sole result within Mr Warbey’s political viewpoint, are valuable additions to a picture of this affair which is rapidly growing more and more detailed.

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