BUDDHA'S CHILD: My Fight to Save Vietnam

Nguyen Cao Ky, Author, Cao KY Nguyyen, Author, Nguyen Cao Ky, Author with Marvin J. Wolf. St. Martin's $24.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-312-28115-1

The one man who knew how to defeat the communists in Vietnam in the 1960s and '70s and had the wherewithal to do so was Nguyen Cao Ky, the South Vietnamese Air Force general who was the unelected prime minister of that nation from 1965 to 1967 and vice president from 1967 to 1971. But Ky was thwarted by venal, incompetent and corrupt South Vietnamese politicians—especially his successor, Nguyen Van Thieu, by the evil, double-dealing Vietnamese communists, and by wishy-washy, ignorant American political and military leaders. That's the version Ky presents in this self-serving, self-aggrandizing memoir. Ky says his plan to lead an invasion of North Vietnam in 1966, which "would have ended the war," was squelched by timid Johnson administration officials. His plans to introduce democracy were continually beaten back by his political enemies, including Buddhist leaders who Ky says acted as little more than communist dupes. Ky whitewashes his government's excesses, which included a violent crackdown on the protesting Buddhists, heavy-handed intimidation of the press and of his political enemies. Ky (with the aid of veteran author Wolf) provides an insider's look at the political machinations within South Vietnam during the American war. But that view is shown through his vehemently anticommunist and egocentric lens. In addition, his explanation of the most portentous event in his political life—allowing his political archenemy Thieu to be nominated as the military directorate's candidate for president in 1967—is stupefyingly unbelievable. Ky claims that the reason he gave his blessing to Thieu to become president "remains a great mystery, even to me." That mystery led to Ky's political downfall and to eight years of a corrupt, ineffectual Thieu-led South Vietnamese regime. (May 8)

Reviewed on: 03/25/2002
Release date: 05/01/2002
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