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The Special Branch of South Vietnam’s National Police force functioned like the FBI, conducting counter-intelligence and criminal investigations. Its primary function, however, was infiltrating and suppressing the Communist Party, as well as the nationalist political parties and factions that opposed the US-backed governments and military juntas that existed from 1955 until 1975.
In these endeavors, the Special Branch was entirely funded and advised by the CIA. And for that reason, the voices of Special Police officers have been censored from American history books about the Vietnam War.
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Not only does the CIA (and its proponents in academia) suppress their story, Special Branch officers have engaged in self-censorship for personal reasons.
Special Branch officers were among a select group of “high-risk” Vietnamese officials admitted to the US as political refugees when the Vietnam War ended in 1975. At the time, the anti-war movement vilified them as murderers, drug traffickers, and extortionists who had engaged in massive political repression. In 1975, Representative Elizabeth Holtzman (D-CA) introduced legislation that would have prevented any such “undesirables” from coming into the US.
Centered in Orange County in California, these former businessmen, politicians, and high-ranking military and Special Police officers have maintained their privileged status, as well as the exile community’s cohesion, by enforcing the same unforgiving brand of anti-communism that made “neutralism” a crime in South Vietnam. Their position only hardened as comrades who had been captured by the Revolutionary Government were released and filtered into the community with tales of abuse by their hated foes.
Forty years later, the intimate knowledge these Special Police officers possess about the CIA’s secret operations in South Vietnam is on the verge of extinction. Consequently, author Doug Valentine considered himself very fortunate when he was introduced to Lê Xuân Nhuận last year.
Nhuận’s Wikipedia bio provides a comprehensive account of his life and accomplishments, which, as summarized in this feature story, included a pivotal role in the presidential election of 1967, and the recruitment of a Hungarian official in a CIA intelligence operation that impacted the Communist Bloc in Eastern Europe.
Lê Xuân Nhuận is the first Vietnamese official to write about the Vietnam War from the perspective of a Special Branch officer in the National Police. It is an aspect of the war that needs to be told if English speaking audiences are ever to understand the true nature of the counter-insurgency.
We are proud to introduce that history here.