In this shocking exposé on the betrayal of South Vietnam, premier historian Larry Berman uses never-before-seen North Vietnamese documents to create a sweeping indictment against President Nixon and Henry Kissinger.
On April 30, 1975, when U.S. helicopters pulled the last soldiers out of Saigon, the question lingered: Had American and Vietnamese lives been lost in vain? When the city fell shortly thereafter, the answer was clearly yes. The Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam—signed by Henry Kissinger in 1973, and hailed as "peace with honor" by President Nixon—was a travesty.
In No Peace, No Honor, Larry Berman reveals the long-hidden truth in secret documents concerning U.S. negotiations that Kissinger had sealed—negotiations that led to his sharing the Nobel Peace Prize. Based on newly declassified information and a complete North Vietnamese transcription of the talks, Berman offers the real story for the first time, proving that there is only one word for Nixon and Kissinger's actions toward the United States' former ally, and the tens of thousands of soldiers who fought and died: betrayal.
Henry Kissinger shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973 with North Vietnam's Le Duc Tho for brokering the peace treaty that ended American participation in the Vietnam War in January of that year. Le Duc Tho declined the prize. Berman's eye-opening book makes a strong case although he does not say so that Kissinger should have turned down the prize as well. Making perceptive use of a large cache of recently declassified American and Vietnamese documents, Berman (of the University of California's Washington, D.C., Center) paints a decidedly negative picture of Kissinger's motives and machinations during the four years he negotiated with the North Vietnamese. Kissinger, Berman writes, "was willing to tell one side one thing and the other the opposite, leaving them to sort things out later." Berman's pioneering research indicates also that President Richard Nixon claimed he achieved "peace with honor" while knowing full well that the terms he agreed to would lead eventually to a North Vietnamese military victory following America's withdrawal. Berman also shows that the North Vietnamese were far from blameless during the negotiating. Their leaders regularly deceived the American negotiators and never planned to live up to the peace terms they signed. Surprisingly, the one group of leaders that comes out relatively unscathed is the notoriously corrupt South Vietnamese regime headed by Nguyen Van Thieu, which wound up agreeing to peace terms dictated by North Vietnam and the United States terms that all but ordained South Vietnam's eventual fall to the Communists in April 1975.
A compelling update based on the most recent declassifieds
Near the end of the book, there is a section called Notes. Start there to get a quick and impressive overview of the breadth of research ( and the wealth of resources out there ) that went into this work. The Notes section also provides insight into the labyrinthine network of government records one must navigate if one is to have even a glimmer of hope for getting at something like the truth. Even then, there remain areas of this maze that are still denied to us. These dead-ends are also indicated in the Notes section.
Having done that, you can appreciate and enjoy even more this incredible redaction of the events leading up to The U.S.'s claim to have brought peace to Indochina, and in doing so, brought honor home to the U.S.
There are so many aspects -- national and international -- to the Vietnam war, that it would be a monumental challenge I think for any author to maintain her or his focus. Berman does this quite brilliantly, even as he takes the reader through a jungle of nuanced and subtley interconnected material. What impressed me, by way of example, was how Watergate is kept at an appropriate distance even as its significance in this history is explored. What was a kind of distraction (from the processes and promises in the peace treaty and subsequent withdrawal from Vietnam) for America at this time, does not distract the author or his readers now. Consequently, we see the more clearly now what was so easily missed at the time: that America had made promises it could not keep ( to South Vietnam, North Vietnam, and to itself ), and abandoned an ally to a peace that, shamefully, never happened.
A great read, with some provocative and compelling indictments of many of the key figures in this history.