Episode 8. The still open questions – A Country Created by Salvador Dali.

Chapter 2. Ẩn gave the untruthful stories

                Episode 8.  The still open questions – A Country Created by Salvador Dali.

I. A Country Created by Salvador Dali

                – Really?

                “An’s uncle also directed an elementary school. Another uncle became a civil servant working for the post office, while his aunt married an agent technique,  who, like An’s father, had graduated from the University of Hanoi. An’s successful, up-wardly mobile family might have been expected to feel beholden to the powers that had trained and employed them, but instead of supporting the French, they resisted them. They ran the schools, built the roads, and delivered the mail, but at the same time they were patriots who opposed French colonial rule in Vietnam. They were quiet revolutionaries, not the ones who went to prison or fought in the Viet Minh resistance, but their fervor was deep and unwavering, and it would come to fruition—with devastating effect—in the revolutionary career of Pham Xuan An.” (The Spy Who Loved Us, page 18)

Reviews: “They were quiet revolutionaries, not the ones who went to prison or fought in the Viet Minh resistance, but their fervor was deep and unwavering, and it would come to fruition—with devastating effect—in the revolutionary career of Pham Xuan An.”

  1. A clause to complete:an army del-egate ” – “An was put in the political deep freeze for a decade.”

                “The first official announcement of An’s wartime allegiance came in December 1976, when he flew to Hanoi as an army del-egate at the Fourth Party Congress. Friends who saw him walking around Hanoi in a dark green military uniform, which he was wearing for the first time in his life, were astounded by An’s transformation from journalist into beribboned hero. “So many VC from the south were surprised when they saw me,” An says. “They thought the CIA had left me behind.”

An was put in the political deep freeze for a decade. He was forbidden to meet with former American colleagues visiting Vietnam, and speculation abounds about why he was shuffled into seclusion. He was too close to the Americans, too fluent, and too well versed in Western politics. He had allowed spymaster Tuyen to escape. He refused to finger Vietnamese colleagues who had worked for the CIA. Perhaps, as An himself was heard to complain, the Communists considered him a rentier who had collected money from the peasants living on his land.

” (The Spy Who Loved Us, page 223)

                Reviews:an army del-egate ” – “An was put in the political deep freeze for a decade.”

                Jokes!

  1. Hero – be forbidden!

“An was named a Hero of the People’s Armed Forces, awarded more than a dozen military medals, and elevated to the rank of brigadier general. He was also sent to what he called a “reeducation” camp and forbidden to meet Western visitors. His wife and children were brought back to Vietnam a year after they left. The problem with Pham Xuan An, from the perspective of the Vietnamese Communist Party, was that he loved America and Americans, democratic values, and objectivity in journalism. He considered America an accidental enemy who would return to being a friend once his people had gained their independence. ” (The Spy Who Loved Us, page 3)

Reviews: An was named a Hero of the People’s Armed Forces – forbidden to meet Western visitors.

  1. 3. Hero -sit idle.

                “As An wrote to his old college girlfriend Lee Meyer, after she got in touch with him and they began corresponding in 2000, “I have not written anything worthwhile for the last twenty five years but [have spent my time] yakking and yakking with former foreign colleagues who have happened to come here to visit with me.” ” (The Spy Who Loved Us, page 230)

                Reviews: Heartbreaking.

  1. can not!

                “I had long wondered why An was called to the countryside. Why make him cross enemy lines and report to Cu Chi, a hotly contested war zone northwest of Saigon? He was sometimes caught in crossfire, and once he had to spend the night hiding in a ditch. “An was summoned to Cu Chi in the same way we summoned our own assets to Saigon,” says former CIA analyst and interrogator Frank Snepp, who now works as a TV producer in Los Angeles. “This is what you do in the business.

You call people in for debriefing. It was a way to keep tabs on him. You want to make sure he hasn’t been turned. You eye him. You see if he’s still with you. It’s very dangerous, but that’s what you do.”

An says he last went to the Cu Chi tunnels in 1966. After that, with the 25th Infantry Division stationed there, it was too dangerous. They had defoliated the jungle with herbicides and flattened the trees with Rome plows. “Before 1966, I went there all the time,” he says. “After that, we relied on couriers.”

I ask him why he needed to see his commanding officers in the jungle. “I believed I knew better than they did what was going on,” he tells me. “They knew how to fight, but that was all. So their orders didn’t mean that much to me. Sometimes they needed me to analyze with them. So I would help them.”

“(The Spy Who Loved Us, page 141)

  1. Blind CIA:

                “An had another source of information that was even more reliable than captured Communist documents. Every day, he saw the raw intelligence data on military interrogations, including interrogations of Communist defectors. These may not have been useful for his daily journalism, but they were invaluable for his spying. An kept North Vietnamese intelligence apprised of every breach in their operations. He was the bell on the American cat who, time and again, leaped into a Communist nest only to find it empty. Soon after the Têt Offensive in January 1968, a North Vietnamese agent named Tran Van Dac, also known as Tam Ha, defected to the south. It was a serious blow to the Communists. He was a high-ranking officer and political commissar who knew a great deal about their strategy, particularly their plans for the second stage of the Têt Offensive in May 1968, which would be a military failure if stripped of the element of surprise.

Tu Cang, who was then head of Communist intelligence in the south, rushed to Saigon to assess the damage. On his way into the city, he stopped to buy a newspaper. Splashed across the front page was a headline about Colonel Tam Ha’s defection and a big photo showing him standing between a Vietnamese general and William Westmoreland, the commander of American forces in Vietnam. As soon as Tu Cang reached the city, An loaded him into his car. They drove to a military base on the outskirts of Saigon in neighboring Gia Dinh province. Within fifteen minutes, while Tu Cang waited in the car, An had walked into headquarters, borrowed the files, and walked out holding photocopies of Tam Ha’s interrogation.

“Reading Tam Ha’s testimony, I felt extremely angry with this traitor,” Tu Cang is quoted as saying in Pham Xuan An: A General of the Secret Service (2003), one of An’s three Vietnamese biographies. “He revealed everything: our campaign plan, tactics, weapons, the concealment of our troops, artillery, bullets, and even the location of the regional command headquarters. Faced with this situation, our senior leaders changed the whole campaign plan for launching the second stage of the offensive, losing minimum casualties. The outcome of this offensive eventually forced the enemy to deescalate the war and go to the negotiating table.” This story is remarkable for a number of reasons, including the fact that Pham Xuan An is driving onto a military base with the head of Communist intelligence in the front seat of his car. “We were in a hurry,” An explains.

” (The Spy Who Loved Us, page 148)

                Reviews: This story is remarkable for a number of reasons, including the fact that Pham Xuan An is driving onto a military base with the head of Communist intelligence in the front seat of his car. “We were in a hurry,” An explains.

  1. Blind CIA 2:

                “I ask him if it was a good idea, when they were planning the Têt Offensive, for Tu Cang and An to drive around Saigon together. He laughs heartily. “This seemed to be a weak point in our plan, but I thought we could pull it off. I believed in my cover. I thought it was solid. I even went to the office of Time magazine with An.”

Tu Cang pretended to be an old schoolmate of An’s who shared his interest in birds and dogs. “We spoke French to each other because An’s dog was trained in French. He was a German shepherd who once belonged to Nguyen Cao Ky. Nobody thought Communist spies would walk around the city with such a high-class dog. I wore what An wore, casual shirts and slacks. When I first arrived in the city in 1966, he looked at me and said, ‘This guy has just come from the forest. Your sandals make you look like a pickpocket. I have to take you to a shoe store and get you some shoes.’ He also bought me new clothes that he rumpled up so they wouldn’t look too new.”

Following his makeover, Tu Cang and An “looked like friends in the city,” he says. “We held Party meetings and discussed work in luxurious restaurants where the tables were placed far from each other, and no one could overhear what we were saying. An always brought his dog with him. It was a very intelligent dog that understood foreign languages, and people were afraid of it.”

Tu Cang pretended to be the owner of a rubber plantation in Dau Tieng, next to the famous Michelin holdings. He knew the area well because the drivers of the rubber trucks were part of his network, and he used to ride with them in and out of the city. In Saigon, Tu Cang played the role of a bon vivant who had all the time in the world to spend chatting with his friend An when they met on the Continental terrace or strolled next door for a cup of coffee at café Givral.

(The Spy Who Loved Us, page 202)

  1. Jokes.

                “Besides sharing some of his sources with her, An accompanied Beverly Deepe into the field. One day they drove out to visit John Paul Vann, who had resigned from the army but returned to Vietnam to run the United States Agency for International Development pacification program in Hau Nghia province, near the Cambodian border. Vann was a colorful figure who gave journalists good copy. A critic of America’s strategy in Vietnam, he wanted a better, smarter war with closer engagement on the ground and less reliance on high-altitude bombing and long-range artillery. Vann was considered a world authority on counterterrorism until Neil Sheehan gave him a darker cast. As Sheehan revealed in A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam,  while Vann allowed people to assume that he was forced out of the army because of his outspoken criticism of U.S. policy, he was actually cashiered for statutory rape.

An and Deepe set off one morning in his little green Renault 4CV to drive fifty kilometers northwest of Saigon to Vann’s Hau Nghia office. “I hadn’t notified anyone first,” An says about this trip in January 1966. “If they had known we were coming, they probably would have denied us permission. We drove to Tay Ninh and then turned left into Hau Nghia province. When we pulled into town, the Vietnamese general guarding Vann’s headquarters was surprised to see us. ‘Goddam it,’ he yelled. ‘I don’t want you journalists coming here.’ He gave me a real tongue-lashing. ‘You’re Vietnamese. If you die, I don’t care. But you have an American lady with you, and if she’s killed, I’ll have lots of problems. The road you arrived on is attacked every day by the Communists. We have to sweep it for mines whenever we send out a convoy. People are ambushed and killed all the time.’”

Because Vann was away, An and Deepe met with Doug Ramsey, his second in command. They ate an early lunch in order to get back to Saigon before nightfall. The province chief sent a platoon to clear the road of mines and escort them back to Route 1. The next week, Ramsey was seized by the Communists, who would hold him captive for seven years.

“When they captured someone, they let me know about it,” An says. “I told them, ‘He’s a nice man. You should release him.’ ‘But he speaks Vietnamese,’ they said. ‘We are suspicious of people who speak Vietnamese.’” It was not until the signing of the Paris Accords, after he survived B-52 strikes, starvation, scurvy, beriberi, and one hundred and thirty-six attacks of fal-ciparum malaria, that Ramsey was released in 1973.

In the fall of 2007, I learned the rest of Ramsey’s story from a former State Department official who wishes to remain anonymous. Not only did An save Ramsey’s life, he also got the Communists to agree to exchange Ramsey for a Communist officer in Western hands. Unfortunately for Ramsey, the exchange was blocked by the CIA, which was busily interrogating its captive. A high-level confession could advance CIA careers.

Ramsey could wait.

” (The Spy Who Loved Us, page 149)

  1. An doing during the war?

                “Something odd happens when I phone An’s journalist colleagues to talk about him. They remember him fondly and count him among their best Vietnamese friends, but they disagree on what he looked like. One person recalls that he was a bit shabby and down at the heels, with a hacking cough and lack of social graces. Others remember him as an elegant bon vivant who easily fooled them with his story about being the son of a rich landowner in the Mekong delta. He was tall. He was short.

He was a sturdy, athletic man or a tubercular wraith. Like Woody Allen’s Zelig,  An slips into the picture at every key moment in Vietnamese history over the past fifty years. He is there at the battle of Ap Bac, the Buddhist crisis, the assassination of Diem, the fall of Saigon. He witnesses these historic events at a distance, displaced from the center. He lurks at the edge of the frame, commenting on the scene, with an ironic smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. But what exactly was An doing during the war?

” (The Spy Who Loved Us, page 195)

  1. It’s a country that could have been created by Salvador Dali.

                “A great storyteller, Franchini can settle into a banquette  and nurse a glass of wine through an afternoon of conversation.

Pham Xuan An had the same talent and so too, apparently, did Ho Chi Minh. Truong Nhu Tang, a founder of the National Liberation Front, describes an afternoon he spent with Ho when he was a student in Paris. “That afternoon was a short course in the history of Vietnam, taught to us over tea by Uncle Ho. He had done it all in the traditional Vietnamese manner with which we felt so comfortable, with touches of light humor, legends, anecdotes, and moral tales to amuse and instruct at the same time.”

…Today Franchini works as one of France’s busiest nègres,  a ghostwriter who pens the books of politicians and TV personalities. When Franchini launches into a story, it is so richly embroidered that I imagine him working it up later that evening into a book chapter or screenplay. “I would never dare to write about Pham Xuan An,” he tells me. “He lived in a world where nothing was the way it appeared. You can’t just write the facts of his life. The interest is psychological, and with the Vietnamese there is always something ambiguous, something mysterious. It’s a country that could have been created by Salvador Dali. You know his surreal painting of les montres molles,  the soft watches? Everything in this painting, called La persisten-cia de la memoria,  is twisted, deformed, pliable. Time and space melt into each other, and everything is surrounded with an air of mystery. This is Vietnam. It is an ambiguous world, just like the one imagined by Salvador Dali.”

” (The Spy Who Loved Us, page 233)

                Reviews: It’s a country that could have been created by Salvador Dali“!

III. The still open questions . (Larry Becman)

  1. Had he really been a communist all along, or had he decided to become one only after April 30, 1975, for one reason or another?

“…Interestingly, both Bob Shaplen and Hanoi’s security had the same questions: “I wondered, for example, why he had bothered having his family moved back and forth in the first place, with the help of the American publication he had worked for. Had he really been a communist all along, or had he decided to become one only after April 30, 1975, for one reason or another…” (Perfect Spy, Chapter 7, Page 6/23)

Nhận xét: Điều nghi ngờ này là đúng!

Tuy nhiên việc nói: “Bob Shaplen and Hanoi’s security had the same questions” là sai!

Hanoi’s security” chẳng có lý do gì để “same questions” đó với Bob Shaplen!

  1. Ironically, …General Pham Xuan An, Hero of the Revolution, had never been permitted to leave Vietnam.

“Ironically, it was Khanh who was free to travel regularly between his home in Lubbock, Texas, and Ho Chi Minh City for extended visits with his family. General Pham Xuan An, Hero of the Revolution, had never been permitted to leave Vietnam to visit his many friends or family members in America.” (Perfect Spy, Prologue, Page 2/12)                                                                         

  1. When I asked An what would happen if he was spotted in Cu Chi by a CIO agent, he answered, “Then I would be dead.” …

“Prior to the large American buildup in the area surrounding Cu Chi, An would often go to the VC base to discuss his reports and receive new assignments… When I asked An what would happen if he was spotted in Cu Chi by a CIO agent, he answered, “Then I would be dead.” …” (Perfect Spy, Chapter 4, Page 9/27)

“When I later read William Prochnau’s description of An, I realized just how effective this cover must have been. “An could cut red tape, roust out information, and talk poetry and philosophy as well as run a story to ground on deadline. Having a good Vietnamese aide was crucial, and An was the best, even when he disappeared for a few days, obvious to all that he had a secret love stashed somewhere.”18 What remains a mystery to me is how so many people seemed to have noticed An’s periodic disappearances, yet he was never caught by any of the police or security forces that were constantly looking for people like An. Perhaps he was just extremely lucky, or maybe An’s cover story as a dog trainer, rare bird collector, or even as a lover was enough to keep people off his trail. Or maybe he had friends protecting him, perhaps other agents who had infiltrated the police or perhaps friends on the other side who valued him as well. We’ll never know, and the more questions asked, the deeper the mystery.” (Perfect Spy, Chapter 4, Page 9/27)

Nhận xét: Ông có mấy cái đầu để vẫn còn đó?

Và lại “cực kỳ may mắn ”!

  1. When I asked An about how he and Tu Cang were able to traverse the river without drawing suspicion”?

“Most of the work in planning the attacks on the palace and the navy installation was the work of the C.10 Battalion.56 When I asked An about how he and Tu Cang were able to traverse the river without drawing suspicion, he said, “Everyone knew me, and it was daylight, and if anyone thought about it they would think I was writing a story. But many agents were making reports at this time, not just me. This was very dangerous for us at the time.”…” (Perfect Spy, Chapter 5, Page 12/25)

Nhận xét: Bạn thử hình dung xem, ít nhất là sau vụ đó thì việc: “Everyone knew me, and it was daylight, and if anyone thought about it …” Ẩn có bị nghi ngờ không? Khi Siêu đi cùng một người lạ? Mà nghi nghờ lại đúng người phạm tội thì sao nhỉ?

Ồ lộ mất!

  1. Just too many boxes within boxes in An’s life.

“…It was Thao, the respected ARVN colonel, who used his influence to get Tuyen released. “Dr. Tuyen was my friend,” says An. “He was Thao’s friend too, and we saved his life because he helped our people in prison. This should tell you something about our friendship.” At the time I recalled thinking that there were just too many boxes within boxes in An’s life.” (Perfect Spy, Chapter 4, Page 21/27)

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