Recently, on February 2, 2018, Hữu Nguyên of the Saigon Times in an article entitled “Interview on the Bank of the Perfume River” recounted his interview with Hoàng Phủ Ngọc Tường about the events during the Tết Offensive of 1968.
In that interview, Hoàng Phủ Ngọc Tường admitted that he:
(1) had lied about not being present in Huế during the Tết Offensive of 1968
(2) had personally involved himself in the killing of many people during the
Mậu Thân [Year of the Monkey] Massacre of 1968 in Huế,
(3) had untruthfully written articles about the Mậu ThânMassacre of 1968
because he had to write under the orders of the Vietnamese Communist
(4) had been transformed – due to the deceiving nature of the VNP – from a
truthful and loving person to a cruel monster, who brought about death
to “7 to 8 thousand innocent Huế people” [his own words],
(5) had affirmed that the VNP was an evil, repulsive organization abounding
in crimes and deceptions,
(6) had pleaded “whoever still has conscience and intelligence to perennially
continue to indict me, Hoàng Phủ Ngọc Tường, a Việt cộng follower,
whose animal instincts had been awakened by the Việt cộng, which
resulted in my committing thousands of crimes against my country, my
people, my relatives, my friends…and myself…Please take the drama of
the life of an undercover Việt cộng like myself as an example in order for
you to not ever follow the Việt cộng.”
Hoàng Phủ Ngọc Tường’s journey from the day of a sadistic murderer to the day he confessed his hideous crimes has been a long, rugged one spanning a stretch of time of more than 50 years, replete with pathological anguish and torment.
During the time from the Tết Offensive of 1968 to 1982 – a period of time during which the passion of victory was still warming the hearts of such self-proclaimed revolutionaries like Hoàng Phủ Ngọc Tường – he was interviewed on February 29, 1982 by Wilfred Burchett for the Stanley Karnov American documentary, Vietnam: A Television History, a part of the Vietnam collection, created by Richard Ellison. In this interview concerning the Huế Massacre of 1968, Hoàng Phủ Ngọc Tường asserted that he was present in Huế during this period of time and claimed that Americans had dropped bombs on a hospital near Đông Ba Market, killing 200 innocent people; that a number of soldiers and civil servants were killed by the uprising populace, who sought revenge for the atrocious acts committed by those “guilty” traitors; and that only a small number of people were mistakenly killed by the revolutionaries, which, he said, would be bound to happen in any kind of war. The fact is there was not any bomb dropped near Đông Ba Market and there was no popular uprising. Yet, in his article “The Stars over the Văn Lâu Pinnacle”, he described he was walking on a dark alley in the City of Huế, his steps flopping on the blood of those killed by Americans, thinking he was treading mud. This segment of the story was intended to indicate that (1) he was in fact present in Huế during the Massacre of 1968 and (2) Americans were the ones who killed innocent people.
There does exist more than adequate amount of materials cited at the end of this essay to prove that point number (2) is simply malicious slandering. Concerning point number (1), it is Hoàng Phủ Ngọc Tường who contradicted himself during an interview by Thuỵ Khê (RFI: Radio France Internationale) in Paris on July 12, 1997. In this interview, Hoàng Phủ Ngọc Tường asserted he had joined the resistance and left for the jungles in 1966 only to return to Huế in 1975. Therefore, he couldn’t have been present in Huế during the Tết Offensive and involved in the killing of Huế people as some people with malevolent intent had maliciously carried out a smear campaign about him and falsely accused him of chairing a committee ordering the burying alive of 204 innocent people, among whom some were his former students when he was teaching at Quốc Học High School; and of — together with Nguyễn thị Đoan Trang – shooting dead Nguyễn Đình Thương, Mayor of Huế (Actually, Nguyễn Đình Thương was Deputy Mayor). However, Hoàng Phủ Ngọc Tường forgot that 15 years earlier, before that interview by Thuỵ Khê, he had stated to Mr. Burchett that he was present in Huế during the Tết Offensive of 1968. Also, in “The Stars over the Văn Lâu Pinnacle”, he described he was walking in a dark alley, his steps treading the blood of innocent people killed by American bombing.
With the intent to negotiate this undeniable contradiction, Hoàng Phủ Ngọc Tường, via a letter entitled “An Incomplete Apology”, stated he “was only an outsider but had arrogated to himself the claim of a witness when answering Mr. Burchett.” He also reiterated his scheme of thoughts in another article, “Last Word for So Sad a Story”, posted by his friend Nguyễn Quang Lập on Facebook on Friday, February 9, 2018. In this narrative, Hoàng Phủ Ngọc Tường re-affirmed he was not present in Huế during the Mậu Thân Massacre of 1968. He confirmed, however, that everything he had recounted before with regard to the events concerning the Huế Massacre was true. The only “alternative” fact, he insisted, was his claim to be a witness of those events when as a matter of fact, he only heard his comrades retell the stories. This apologia was intended to allow people to think he was innocent while the crimes committed by Americans and their “lackeys” were real and deserved indictment and retribution.
When asked — during the “Interview on the Bank of the Perfume River” by Hữu Nguyên on February 22, 2018 — for which reason he had made that false claim, Hoàng Phủ Ngọc Tường’s response was, “In my situation, between the two choices: making a false claim and admitting murdering innocent people, I have to choose one. The sin of making a false claim only evokes contempt, which is not as damnable and anathematic as admission of crimes of murder.” This obviously entails he had in fact committed crimes of murder as he ended up confessing.
In sum, all indictments of crimes committed by Hoàng Phủ Ngọc Tường as well as all excuses of his revolve around whether or not he was present in Huế during the Mậu Thân Massacre of 1968. However, this no longer is a key issue once he himself already confessed all his crimes and suggested that “whoever still has conscience and intelligence” condemn him, “Hoàng Phủ Ngọc Tường, a Việt cộng follower, whose animal instincts had been awakened by the Việt cộng”, resulting in him “committing thousands of crimes against [his] country, [his] people, [his] relatives, [his] friends…and [himself]”…He also pleaded with all people to, “Please take the drama of the life of an undercover Việt cộng like myself as an example in order for you to not ever follow the Việt cộng.”
All facts have been brought to light. The question remains as to whether Hoàng Phủ Ngọc Tường deserves to be cursed and should be brought to justice as the Jews have been doing to the Nazis.
In the final analysis, Hoàng Phủ Ngọc Tường is but a representational phenomenon, not his essence. Essence through self-alienation could be transformed into various phenomena. And self-alienation may be represented in the form of freedom bifurcated into two types: “freedom to” and “freedom from” (Erich Fromm, Escape from Freedom), with “freedom from” as the preferable choice. “Freedom to” is the type of freedom to explore and search for the true, the good, and the beautiful in philosophy applied to life and art. “Freedom from” is the type of freedom to escape from perceived constraints, oppressions, subjugations, and dominations. And with that perception, one must feel the urgent need to liberate oneself from those limitations. According to Erich Fromm, once that type of freedom has been achieved, people would not necessarily feel liberated. On the contrary, they may feel more alienated, lonely, and lost, which ultimately and historically results in – on the individual as well as the national level – an effort to try to find other victims to inflict upon them with whatever they themseles had previously been inflicted.
As an idealistic intellectual, Hoàng Phủ Ngọc Tường attested to the spectacle of a government fraught with corruption, decadence, abuse of power, and complete dependence on a foreign power, the US, and the absence of national sovereignty when the first battalion of American Marines disembarked in Đà Nẳng in 1965 without any consultation with the Southern Vietnamese government. He also bore witness to the fact that the Vietnamese national budget totally depended on American aid. Liberating the country from this dependence would be perceived as an essential need. Furthermore, from a rather lopsided point of view, the VNP was perceived as owning the credit for having liberated the country from the French domination, with a theoretical foundation undergirded by the Marxist-Leninist ideology, of which the analysis of the exploitation of workers by savage capitalists – based on the historicity of the industrial revolution in England at the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century, and in the United States at the end of the 19th century – has some basis for veracity and humanistic values. It is thus understandable that Hoàng Phủ Ngọc Tường joined the communists in search for the type of freedom from perceived subjugation and slavery.
However, the essential point that Hoàng Phủ Ngọc Tường missed recognizing in his criticism of the government of South Vietnam was there does not exist in this world any government that is free of corruption, bribery, and abuse of power. It is only a matter of degree. Let’s take a quick look at the degree of corruption, bribery, and abuse of power of the First and Second Republics of South Vietnam in contrast with that of the current Vietnamese government under the guardianship of the VNP. The picture has become very clear.
As far as the issue of lack of respect for national sovereignty and dependence on a foreign power is concerned, it was true that the United States exerted uncalled-for pressures and demands on the government of South Vietnam. However, the Americans did not come to Vietnam for domination or for the seizure of land and natural resources. They came to harness territorial, political, and economic hegemony by the Chinese and the Russians over South-East Asia. This coincided with the objectives of the government of South Vietnam as well. The fine point in politics, however, resides in the masterly skills of leadership to negotiate national interests with those of the allies. On the other hand, Hoàng Phủ Ngọc Tường’s belief in the independence of the government of North Vietnam was simply misconstrued and illusionary. He probably was unaware of the fact that during the war against the French and the Americans, China had transferred over 300,000 Chinese troops and advisors to Vietnam while Russia provided tons of modern up-to-date weaponry and ammunition. The debts Vietnam is demanded to payback now probably are worth the entire land and maritime territories of the country.
With regard to Marxism-Leninism, on the level of practice – let alone the fallacies in the application of Hegel’s spiritual dialectic to the materialistic dialectic by Marx and Engel – the dictatorship of the proletariat simply cannot be implemented because (1) the proletarian masses are incapable of governance, (2) there needs to be an intellectual elite and professionals to be in charge of governing the country as Lenin advocated, and (3) once the elite and professionals acquire power, they won’t ever let go of it.
Consequently, the interests of the proletariat ultimately turn into those of the elite in power. The proletarian revolution subsequently becomes a fortress protecting the special interests and privileges of greedy and cruel despots like Lenin, Stalin, and Mao Tse Tung, who irrevocably put to death over 100 million innocent human beings.
Hoàng Phủ Ngọc Tường is actually a pseudointellectual, whose knowledge of the Marxist-Leninist theories is only “half-knowledge”, without any perspective for the creative type of “freedom to” discover the good, the true, and the beautiful. Instead, it leads him into the labyrinth of self-alienation and assimilation with the immoral, inhuman force of communism, which cloaks itself with the deceptive appearance of humanism and patriotism. From the 60’s until now, Hoàng Phủ Ngọc Tường has been spiritually limping, semi-conscious, along his rugged journey of deception and self-alienation to finally wake up to reality on the occasion of the “Interview on the Bank of the Perfume River.”
However, one cannot help but wonder how in the world a pacific, well-spoken and well-loved teacher like Hoàng Phủ Ngọc Tường had turned into a cruel, savage murderer, who ordered 204 innocent people to be buried alive at Gia Hội School and participated in the massacre of 5,327 and the disappearance of 1,200 other citizens of Huế. The explanation must lie in the fact that once he had assimilated himself with the immoral, inhuman force of communism cloaked in a deceptively ethical and patriotic appearance, which he glorified as “the conscience of the people”, “the viewpoint of the revolutionary war”, he completely lost his self, his true identity and essence, in the process of self-alienation and became just a reflection of the multiple meaningless minutiae that deck the VNP. He no longer had freedom of choice and acted like a robot under the orders of the VNP. If the Party plundered and killed, Hoàng Phủ Ngọc Tường would do the same, without any sense of responsibility because responsibility belonged to the Party. Hoàng Phủ Ngọc Tường had so confessed.
In order to explicate this absurdity, Stanley Milgram, a social psychologist and professor at Harvard and Yale Universities, conducted an experiment on obedience, resulting in the publication of his book entitled Obedience to Authority in 1974. This experiment included a number of Dr. Milgram’s stooges sitting on one side of a glass partition, expected to learn a list of randomly chosen words and one experimental subject sitting on the other side of the partition with a machine designed to punish the learners. The machine had a knob with graded levels electrocution from very mild to stronger and stronger, up to lethal. The experimental subject was instructed by a designated scientist in a white coat standing next to him, to simply continue applying punishment if the learners didn’t master the list. The Stooges had been trained to act in pain in accordance with the levels of punishment reflected from the lights in front of them and the wiring was of course fake. The experimental subjects were randomly selected from all walks of life: doctors, business people, professionals, workers, etc…The result was over 60% of the experimental subjects turned the knob up to the lethal level with the scientist instructing them to continue because he said it would not damage the tissues. In a further experiment. Dr. Milgram had the stooges sitting next to the experimental subjects, a number of whom went as far as pushing the stooges down to their chairs when the latter recoiled in pain.
This experiment helped Dr. Milgram to understand why the Nazis were able to kill millions of Jews in gas chambers, shot them dead, or buried them alive without any feeling of empathy or responsibility. They could perform those atrocious murdering acts because they believed in their superiors, their idols as the experimental subjects in the Milgram experiment believed in their scientist, who was supposed to know better and to take responsibility for all the consequences. Hoàng Phủ Ngọc Tường’s idol was what he called “the conscience of the people”, “the viewpoint of the revolutionary war”, and ultimately “the Vietnamese Communist Party”.
But why was he able to wake up?
The answer could possibly lie in the fact that (1) the many Vietnamese nationals that Hoàng Phủ Ngọc Tường labeled “those still with conscience and intelligence” keep — during the last 43 years (1975 to 2018) – trying to wake him up from his state of dull-wittedness of self-alienation by revealing authentic and accurate evidence about his criminal acts of cruelty, (2) old age, on top of a severe stroke forcing him to permanently sit in a wheelchair , with the final realization that he could depart any time – doesn’t appear to secure him a safe place anywhere in the netherworld, (3) his legacy for his children looks so darned pitiable, and (4) lastly, all the things that he spent most of his adult life fighting against such as corruption, bribery, abuse of power, lack of respect for national sovereignty, dependence on a foreign power, inequality and lack of individual freedom in the government of South Vietnam are actually many-fold better than what he has been witnessing in the current government under the guardianship of his revered Vietnamese Communist Party.
Hoàng Phủ Ngọc Tường has lost his self. He had immersed himself in the labyrinth of self-alienation, his cries of despair and hopelessness unable to save his soul, his essence, from disappearing into nothingness. Nonetheless, their echoes are reverberating warnings to those who are currently losing their ways in this same labyrinth, acting like robots without a soul, without the ability to be free and to be creative because the illusory halo of the Vietnamese Communist Party’s falsehood had focused its spotlight on its everlasting deceptiveness that keeps deluding generations after generations of idealistic, but gullible youngsters into romancing a socialist utopia as it had beguiled Hoàng Phủ Ngọc Tường, by robbing via a process of metamorphosis their authentic, true selves. The only hope, to which those people “with conscience and intelligence” are persistently hanging on, is for those youngsters who worship the VNP as their idol to recover from this lethargic infatuation early enough, before they evidently recognize they are too old — facing unavoidable death that is very soon coming straight at them — with the tragic realization that their legacy for posterity is so lamentable and repulsive. The Hoàng Phủ Ngọc Tường case represents a miserable error of the past. We must needs look towards a future that is illuminated with the hope that those self-alienated people could find their ways back to their genuine identity of freedom and creativity.
Philadelphia, October 25, 2018
Fromm, Erich, Escape From Freedom. New York, New York: Farrar &
Milgram, Stanley. Obedience to Authority. New York, New York: Harper
& Row, Publishers, 1974.
Bảo, Trung. “Thà Ông Im Lặng Còn Hơn.” Ngày 10 tháng 2, 2018
Bezmenov, Yuri Alexandrovich. “Tình Báo KGB Tiết Lộ Việt Cộng Tiến
Hành Thảm Sát Huế 1968 Như Thế Nào.” 1970.
Chu, Mỹ Dung. “Huế Mậu Thân”.
Hoàng, Phủ Ngọc Tường. “Lời Cuối cho Câu Chuyện Quá Buồn”. Ngày 9
tháng 2, 2018.
Khuê, Thuỵ. “Nói Chuyện với Hoàng Phủ Ngọc Tường về Biến Cố Mậu
Thân.” RFI, 12 Tháng 7, 1997.
Nguyễn, Liên Thành. “Bác Sĩ Định”
”Trích Huế Thảm Sát Mậu Thân 1968.”
“Thư Gởi Hoàng Vũ Ngọc Tường.” Tháng 2, 2018.
Nguyễn, Thái Hoà. “Nhân Chứng Nguyễn Thị Thái Hoà.”
Nguyên, Hữu. “Phỏng Vấn Bên Bờ sông Hương”, Saigon Times, 22
tháng 2, 2018.
13.Sang, Tôn Thất. “Đi Nhận Xác Thầy.”
FOOTNOTE: The reference list in Vietnamese cited above is authentic evidence for all the incidents and facts described in this essay by author Nguyễn Văn Thái and can be accessed in:
http://vietamericanvets.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/logo.png00veteranshttp://vietamericanvets.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/logo.pngveterans2019-01-25 16:59:132019-01-25 17:45:16Truth about the Tet Offensive 1968 in Hue