This page discusses the U.S. Phoenix Program (also called Phung Hoang) of death squads and torture during the Vietnam War. This page also covers similar programs in Southeast Asia before or during the same time period as the Phoenix Program (1967-1975).
Phoenix was created by the CIA in 1967 to "neutralize" those insurgent communist and nationalist civilians who formed South Vietnam's "shadow government." U.S. Phoenix advisors had monthly "neutralization" quotas and by 1970 at least 20,000 persons had been killed. Based on the word of anonymous informers, many more were tortured and falsely imprisoned. In 1971, three U.S. congressmen concluded that Phoenix was an instrument of terror, and violated that part of the Geneva Conventions guaranteeing protection to civilians during time of war. But instead of being abolished, Phoenix became a "counter-terror" program, and was used as the model for CIA-sponsored death squads in El Salvador, Guatemala, and elsewhere.
In Vietnam Democrat and Republican U.S. Presidents Johnson and Nixon tried to convince and/or coerce southern Vietnamese to fight for the US-supported pseudo-democracy. The USA ignored the 1954 Geneva Accords between the French and the Vietnamese calling for a free election for President in 1956, because Ho Chi Minh would have won by a landslide in an honest free election. Instead, the USA propped up a brutal dictatorial rigged-election death-squad police-state regime in the South that via the CIA's Phoenix Program (1967-75) rounded up, imprisoned, and brutally tortured hundreds of thousands. It executed tens of thousands summarily without trial, or by death squads and assassination. Search more
"Phung Hoang [a mythical Vietnamese omnipresent bird of prey] was the first comprehensive system of rump legality, kidnapping, torture, and assassination ever designed and run by the United States. ... Commenced in late 1967 [ironically after the 1967 'Summer of Love' in the USA!], the [CIA] Agency's Phung Hoang lasted in one form or another until the very end of the war [April 1975]."
-- From the book "Our War," by David Harris, 1996, p.100 [Emphasis added]. Quote describes Phoenix Program.
"The problem was, how do you find the people on the blacklist? It's not like you had their address and telephone number. The normal procedure would be to go into a village and just grab someone and say, 'Where's Nguyen so-and-so?' Half the time the people were so afraid they would say anything. Then a Phoenix team would take the informant, put a sandbag over his head, poke out two holes so he could see, put commo wire around his neck like a long leash, and walk him through the village and say, 'When we go by Nguyen's house scratch your head.' Then that night Phoenix would come back, knock on the door, and say, 'April Fool, motherfucker.' Whoever answered the door would get wasted. As far as they were concerned whoever answered was a Communist, including family members. Sometimes they'd come back to camp with ears to prove that they killed people."
-- Vincent Okamoto, combat officer (Lieutenant) in Vietnam in 1968, and recipient of Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest award conferred by the U.S. Army. Wounded 3 times. He was also an intelligence liaison officer for the Phoenix Program for 2 months in 1968. Quote is from page 361 of the hardback 2003 first edition of the book "Patriots: the Vietnam War remembered from all sides."
"These things" included: rape, gang rape, rape using eels, snakes, or hard objects, and rape followed by murder; electrical shock ("the Bell Telephone Hour") rendered by attaching wires to the genitals or other sensitive parts of the body, like the tongue; "the water treatment"; "the airplane," in which a prisoner's arms were tied behind the back and the rope looped over a hook on the ceiling, suspending the prisoner in midair, after which he or she was beaten; beatings with rubber hoses and whips; and the use of police dogs to maul prisoners. All this and more occurred in PICs [Province Intelligence Coordinating Committees], one of which was run by Congressman Rob Simmons (R-CT) while he was the CIA officer running the PIC in Phu Yen Province in 1972.
-- May 15, 2004. Douglas Valentine article: ABCs of CIA Interrogation Methods. The Phoenix Program, Revisited. [Emphasis added] http://www.counterpunch.org/valentine05152004.html
"Phoenix was a totally illegal program that violated the rules of war. It cost millions of dollars. According to the CIA, 25,000 people were assassinated. The Vietnamese say 40,000 were killed. My sources say the death toll was close to 250,000."
-- November, 2002 article. Return of the Phoenix. Interview of Douglas Valentine. http://www.cannabisculture.com/articles/2602.html
Links to more research
Many more Phoenix Program links, web pages, websites, excerpts, testimonies, books, etc.:
Dates below are sometimes indicated only by the month and year numbers. For example, 8-2002 stands for August 2002.
*Phoenix Program - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
*5-2004. Douglas Valentine: ABCs of CIA Interrogation Methods. The Phoenix Program, Revisited.
*The Memory Hole > Documents from the Phoenix Program.
*1-1971. Winter Soldier Investigation: Table of Contents. Testimony given in Detroit, Michigan, on January 31, 1971, February 1 and 2, 1971.
*8-2002. CounterPunch. August 25, 2002. Flight of the Phoenix: From Vietnam to Homeland Security. An Open Letter to Maj. Gen. Bruce Lawlor. By Douglas Valentine.
*5-2001. Bob Kerrey, The CIA and War Crimes. May 17 2001. Article by Douglas Valentine. This is also a history of US terrorism, death squads, and torture in Vietnam.
*Amazon.com: buying info: The Phoenix Program. Publishers Weekly: "No book to date conveys the hideousness of the Vietnam War as thoroughly as this one." Names names, shows photos, and thoroughly documents the summary Phoenix executions of tens of thousands, and brutal torture of hundreds of thousands. Many reviews. 23 sample pages online in jpg image format. Turn on ActiveX temporarily to view the pages, or turn your browser security to medium. Book covers not only the Phoenix period from 1967-75. For example; sample page 8 has history of joint French and CIA terrorism restarting right after the French retook Vietnam in 1945 back from the Japanese occupation.
*Douglas Valentine - Books. Including "The Phoenix Program."
*The following text excerpt (can copy and paste into email, etc.) from The Phoenix Program, by Douglas Valentine, is from Chapter 24: "Transgressions." That chapter deals with the My Lai massacre and the infamous "Tiger Cages."
A related page to check out is this huge death squads and drug war page. Many links:
There is a great 2003 book on Vietnam called "Patriots" that is filled with 135 accounts from men and women on all sides of the Southeast Asia wars. Recalling their experiences from the 1940s to the 1970s. The book has gotten rave reviews. "Patriots: the Vietnam War remembered from all sides."
"The [U.S.] congressmen entered and saw stone compartments five feet wide, nine feet long, and six feet high. Access to the tiger cages was gained by climbing steps to a catwalk, then looking down between iron grates. From three to five men were shackled to the floor in each cage. All were beaten, some mutilated. Their legs were withered, and they scuttled like crabs across the floor, begging for food, water, and mercy. Some cried. Others told of having lime buckets, which sat ready above each cage, emptied upon them."
*McGehee, ["CIA and Operation Phoenix in Vietnam"], from Newsgroup soc.history.war.vietnam; title supplied by G. Furr
*Ralph McGehee: Vietnam's Phoenix Program.
*Last Phoenix A Novel about the CIA's Phoenix Program against the civilians of South Viet Nam.
More Vietnam quotes
Emphasis has been added to these quotes.
"At some point my friends and I began to ask, how can a country that produced hippies and such cool people also fight a war and kill people and act cruelly? You would see American GMC trucks go by and soldiers reaching down to whack a girl riding a bicycle. They would yank at her hat and she would get thrown and she would die. You would see Americans do this and feel like they can do anything in our country. But then you'd take an English class with an American soldier from Ohio who seemed just as nice as anyone, yet he was a soldier too."
-- Nguyen Qui Duc, South Vietnamese now living in the USA. From page 297 of the 2003 book, "Patriots: the Vietnam War remembered from all sides."
"I remember a helicopter pilot in the Delta who said, "I must've shot up fifteen, twenty sampans and you shoulda seen those little mothers jump in the water. I got most of them." I said, "Were they VC [Viet Cong]?" He said, "Who the fuck cares?"
-- Frank Maguire, officer in Vietnam, 1965-71. From page 444 of the 2003 book, "Patriots: the Vietnam War remembered from all sides."
"The Diem government had many public executions. A lot of people in the West denied that it happened but Diem made no bones about it. They advertised the executions and there were pictures in the paper of people getting their heads chopped off by a guillotine. ... In 1959, when I went around with the map teams there were many military outposts where they summarily chopped off the heads of people they thought were Communists. They put the heads on stakes right in front of their outposts, sometimes with two cigarettes up the nostrils. They even invited people to take pictures of it. They were very proud of themselves."
-- Ngo Vinh Long, South Vietnamese living in the USA. From page 58 of the 2003 book, "Patriots: the Vietnam War remembered from all sides."
"We pulverized villages from the air if we merely imagined that we received hostile fire. I witnessed it with my own eyes and I saw the leaflets we dropped which said, "If you fire on us, we will destroy your village," and then a follow-up leaflet that said, "You did fire on us, and we did destroy your village." And U.S. planes were actually bombing churches. They would see the church, target it, and blow it up. I saw that happen.
-- Jonathan Schell, author of many books. Reporter in Vietnam 1966-67. From page 206 of the 2003 book, "Patriots: the Vietnam War remembered from all sides."
"Then we saw a young girl about twenty years old lying in the grass. We could see that she was unarmed and wounded in the chest. We marked her with smoke because we saw a squad not too far away. The smoke was green meaning it's safe to approach. Red would have meant the opposite We were hovering six feet off the ground not more than twenty feet away when Captain Medina came over, kicked her, stepped back, and finished her off. He did it right in front of us. When we saw Medina do that, it all clicked. It was our guys doing the killing"
-- Larry Colburn, helicopter door-gunner, describing one killing March 16, 1968 during the hours-long massacre of over 500 civilians at My Lai, Vietnam. Account is from page 347 of the great 2003 book, "Patriots: the Vietnam War remembered from all sides." Page 343: "They never received a single round of hostile fire."
"In 1940, when he was eight, many of his neighbors joined the resistance against the French. One day, some of them were arrested. "They were tied together with a steel wire pierced through their palms and led away."
-- Nguyen Quang Sang. A Vietnamese. From page 215 of the 2003 book, "Patriots: the Vietnam War remembered from all sides."
"This was especially true in the South, the site of almost all ground combat, where every province endured firefights, bombing, and military occupation, where at least half of all the hamlets were destroyed by war's end."
-- Christian G. Appy, author of the 2003 book, "Patriots: the Vietnam War remembered from all sides." From page 102.
"Starting in 1959 the Diem government began creating "agrovilles." ... In 1961, the agrovilles were renamed "strategic hamlets," but it was basically the same program. ... One day I entered a village by the name of Ka Rom where highlanders had been regrouped into a strategic hamlet. They said two hundred people had starved to death in the past month. I knew they were telling the truth just by looking at them."
-- Ngo Vinh Long, South Vietnamese living in the USA. From page 57 of the 2003 book, "Patriots: the Vietnam War remembered from all sides."
This next quote is eerie, karmic, and prophetic:
"Until we go through it ourselves, until our people cower in the shelters of New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles and elsewhere while the buildings collapse overhead and burst into flames, and dead bodies hurtle about and, when it is over for the day or the night, emerge in the rubble to find some of their dear ones mangled, their homes gone, their hospitals, churches, schools demolished -- only after that gruesome experience will we realize what we are inflicting on the people of Indochina..."
-- William Shirer, author, 1973. http://www.whale.to/b/ph2.html
"I would like to talk, representing all those veterans, and say that several months ago in Detroit, we had an investigation at which over 150 honorably discharged and many very highly decorated veterans testified to war crimes committed in Southeast Asia, not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command. ... They told the stories at times they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, tape wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the country side of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war, and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country."
-- John Kerry [later became a U.S. Senator]. Navy lieutenant, leader of Vietnam Veterans Against the War. April 22, 1971. United States Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations, Washington, D.C..
Google search shortcut.
Oct 26, 2003. Guardian, UK. Vietnam killing spree revelations shock US. [Emphasis added to quotes below].
"This bloody massacre has only come to light in the past week"
"The Blade is rare in modern America in being owned by a wealthy local family, the Robinson Blocks, who have a strong commitment to investigative journalism. That means money and time is available for The Blade's reporters to bring in a major scoop. 'We have the resources to do this. There are no shareholders to worry about,' said Royhab."
U.S. Soldiers Needlessly Died
Excerpt about Nixon and Kissinger
It is now known that Nixon delayed the withdrawal from Vietnam for political reasons, causing the needless deaths of thousands of American troops. In a speech in the U.S. House of Representatives on May 26, 1994, Congressman Pete Stark observed [emphasis added, quote begins],
Mr. Speaker, I speak today about the murderous actions of the late former President Richard Nixon and his national security advisor Henry Kissinger in the early 1970's.
The Nixon administration, elected with a pledge of having a secret plan to end the Vietnam war, took credit in the 1972 elections for the withdrawal from Vietnam and the wind down of the war. The just-published HALDEMAN DIARIES, however, reveal that the withdrawal was delayed for raw, gross political reasons--to look better in the 1972 elections. . . .
Each day that we delayed our withdrawal, American servicemen died needlessly. Kissinger advised against early withdrawal for election reasons in December of 1970. According to Department of Defense statistics, 2,412 men died in 1971, another 767 in 1972, and 65 more in 1973. In total, 3,244 men died while the withdrawal was delayed for the purposes of ensuring the re-election of Richard Nixon and the sinecure of Henry Kissinger.
One hundred and forty slabs of stone carry the names of 58,191 dead servicemen at the Vietnam Memorial. If Nixon and Kissinger had considered the lives of their fellow Americans instead of their own political victories, 7 stones would not have been needed. The next time you visit the Wall, think about it--1 out of every 20 names would not be there if we had pulled out quickly and decisively when
Kissinger first discussed it. One out of every 20 names is there to help win an election for CREEP. The blood of 3,244 servicemen is an enormous burden on the soul to take to your grave. [quote ends] (24:E1116-1117)