Perfect Spy: The Incredible Double Life of Pham Xuan An... - Larry Berman

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    [TD="class: alt1, bgcolor: #F8F7F4"][​IMG] Perfect Spy: The Incredible Double Life of Pham Xuan An...
    [HR][/HR]Perfect Spy: The Incredible Double Life of Pham Xuan An Time Magazine Reporter and Vietnamese Communist Agent
    by Larry Berman

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    Comment:
    From Publishers Weekly
    Historian Berman (Lyndon Johnson's War) draws on several years of interviews with Pham Xuan An before his death in 2006 for this engaging biography of the Time reporter who spied for North Vietnam throughout the Vietnam War. Pham Xuan An's deep cover began in 1957, when the Vietnamese Communist Party sent him to study journalism in California. After an internship at the Sacramento Bee and traveling around the U.S., he returned to South Vietnam in 1959. As a reporter for Reuters and Time, he was privy to classified information that made him a hero in Hanoi after the war. Amiable, fluent in English and adept at explaining Vietnam to Americans and vice versa, he was popular with reporters and officials of both nations. Readers may suspect some of An's recollections are self-serving, but the evidence in his favor is that almost everyone he befriended continued to admire him after learning his role. It's also clear An liked Americans, so much so that superiors suspected his loyalty and confined him to Vietnam after relations thawed. Without glossing over An's responsibility for American deaths, Berman portrays an attractive, sometimes tragic character. (May)
    Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

    From The Washington Post
    Reviewed by Robert G. Kaiser

    All the American journalists in Saigon knew Pham Xuan An, a ubiquitous

    presence in our midst, a fixture at Givral's -- the café on Tu Do Street in the center of town where the gossip was thick enough to pick up with chopsticks -- and one of the best Vietnamese explainers of Vietnam to Americans. Soon after I arrived in Saigon in March 1969, Robert Shaplen, the New Yorker's Asian correspondent, advised me to get to know An because he knew everybody. I followed Shaplen's advice. Every American news organization with a Saigon bureau had one or more Vietnamese journalists on retainer to help us hapless correspondents, almost none of whom spoke any Vietnamese or knew the country's history and politics. Most of these people labored anonymously, but because he was so good and so useful, An's employer, Time magazine, put his name on its masthead and treated him as a full-fledged correspondent. But An, a garrulous charmer, was eager to help everyone, not just Time correspondents. He always seemed available for a conversation. One of his biggest assets was his excellent English. In the 1950s An had studied journalism and politics at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, Calif. Today Orange County is a center of Vietnamese-American life, with hundreds of thousands of residents who came from Vietnam or were born to those who did, but An used to joke that he had been the first Vietnamese to live in the county. There he mastered the English language and learned a lot about Americans, too.

    An's many successes in life grew from his ability to please people who could help him, including the South Vietnamese government officials who decided to send him to California. When I first knew him, he seemed like a classic example of a Vietnamese type: a resourceful entrepreneur who could make his way by making the right friends. But all of us who worked with him had to radically revise our impressions in the late 1970s, when it became obvious that the An we knew had been an invention. An, it turned out, had been working throughout the war, and back to the 1940s, for the communists. He was a spy -- the perfect spy, as Prof. Larry Berman of the University of California at Davis argues. After reading this book, it is difficult to dispute that characterization. An had many American friends who were or became famous writers, from Shaplen and David Halberstam to Neil Sheehan and Stanley Karnow, but for reasons he has taken to his grave, it was Berman in whom he confided the aspects of his secret life that none of us previously knew. The two met in Saigon -- now technically Ho Chi Minh City, though still Saigon to the natives -- in 2001. They became friends and then collaborators on this book.

    Berman is no literary stylist. John le Carré could have turned this story into something Smiley would have envied; Berman tells it in Joe Friday fashion. Nor did An ever relinquish control, and Berman readily acknowledges that An held back some of his secrets. An also put events in the best possible light. That said, this is an extraordinary story, one that offers new explanations of several key events of the war. In each case, we learn of a critical role played by Pham Xuan An. Because everyone believed that An was an anti-communist Time magazine correspondent, he had extraordinary access to information from both Americans and South Vietnamese. He used this access ingeniously. Three examples:

    Early in the war, before the arrival of U.S. combat forces, American advisers to the South Vietnamese helped the army of President Ngo Dinh Diem devise new tactics for fighting Vietcong guerrillas with the assistance of American helicopters, potentially a powerful weapon in a guerrilla war. An learned all about the new tactics from South Vietnamese and American sources and conveyed details to his masters in the North. The generals in Hanoi helped Vietcong commanders develop countertactics that were tested in one of the most important battles of the early war, at the village of Ap Bac just 30 miles south of Saigon. In January 1963, Vietcong forces clobbered the South Vietnamese in that engagement, shot down five U.S. helicopters, killed three American advisers and wounded five more. An's information had been critical.

    In late 1967, An's masters told him their secret plans to launch the Tet Offensive early in 1968. He thought this was a bad idea -- he doubted the South Vietnamese people would join the "general uprising" the communists hoped the Tet attacks would provoke. But his job was to help prepare for the attacks, so for days he scouted out potential targets in Saigon, looking for soft spots in the city's defenses. He boldly brought his commander into the city and showed him around, introducing him as a bird collector and dealer (An collected birds himself) from out of town. The intelligence they gathered helped the communists infiltrate forces into Saigon for the offensive.

    A third key moment came in 1975, when the North Vietnamese doubted they could march to Saigon uncontested. They thought it would take several years longer to lay the groundwork. An helped persuade them that the situation was ripe to take the initiative; of course, he was proved right.

    The conquering North Vietnamese marched into Saigon and won a hard-fought victory, but they never really trusted Pham Xuan An. He was "re-educated," used as a consultant to explain American actions, but never entrusted with a serious job. The North Vietnamese must have suspected his revolutionary credentials. They were right to do so. An liked Americans and American ways too much to ever be a loyal Marxist-Leninist. I returned to Vietnam in 1994 and had two long conversations with An, then frail but still alive to the world around him. He said he was happy to talk but asked me not to quote him by name. I wanted him to discuss the American war and its consequences for Vietnam and for us, but An was bored by those topics. "You won World War III," he said a little impatiently, obviously referring to the Cold War. "So you lost a skirmish here -- so what?" Was he sad about that outcome? I thought not. An's cause was the unification and independence of Vietnam, not Marxism-Leninism. He had been frustrated by his own fate in the unified Vietnam, but the outcome of "World War III" seemed to suit him fine. An died in September 2006, of emphysema. Nearly 80, he'd been a chain smoker for half a century.

    Berman's book appears 32 years after the war, yet, amazingly, adds significantly to our understanding of what happened. Students of American failures -- who have had so much new material to ponder -- will be richly rewarded by reading this book. So will le Carré fans -- not for its style but for its remarkable substance.

    Copyright 2007, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved.

    Product Details

    * Hardcover: 336 pages
    * Publisher: Smithsonian; 1st Smithsonian Books Ed edition (April 24, 2007)
    * Language: English
    * ISBN-10: 0060888385
    * ISBN-13: 978-0060888381
    * Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 1.3 inches
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  2. sun1911

    sun1911 Moderator Thành viên BQT

    The_Spy_Who_Loved_Us

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    [/TD]
    [TD="class: alt1, bgcolor: #F8F7F4"][​IMG] The Spy Who Loved Us: The Vietnam War and Pham Xuan An's Dangerous Game
    [HR][/HR]The Spy Who Loved Us: The Vietnam War and Pham Xuan An's Dangerous Game
    by Thomas A. Bass

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    Editorial Reviews
    From Publishers Weekly
    Bass (The Eudaemonic Pie) expands his New Yorker profile of Vietnamese journalist-spy Pham Xuan An into this atmospheric study of tangled war-time loyalties. Working from 1965 to 1976 in Time magazine's Saigon bureau, An became known as a well-informed and connected reporter. Meanwhile, he passed clandestine reports and top-secret South Vietnamese and American military documents to the Communists; his intelligence purportedly helped decide several important battles. The ironies of An's character—the Communist agent who admired Americans while working to defeat them, the honest reporter (American colleagues insist he never slanted his coverage of the war) who was a little too honest with the wrong people—aren't as profound as Bass wants them to be. Nor do An's loquacious but cagey reminiscences yield much insight into the war's dynamics. (The author seems a bit credulous: [W]ith 21 bullets remaining, he killed 21 enemy soldiers, he writes of another Vietcong agent allegedly surrounded by 700 attackers.) Bass's account succeeds mainly as an evocation of a murky Saigon during war, where truth was a rare commodity and virtually everyone had an ulterior motive. Photos, maps. (Feb.)
    Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

    Review
    John Le Carré
    “I was deeply impressed by this book. It is relevant, instructive, funny. The shock of the double never goes away. Neither does the gullibility of the arrogant intruder.”

    Morley Safer, Correspondent, CBS 60 Minutes and author of Flashbacks: On Returning to Vietnam
    “The story of Pham Xuan An is the revelation of a remarkable life and a remarkable man. Fictional accounts of practitioners of the Great Game—the craft of spying—come nowhere near the real thing that was practiced by An. In The Spy Who Loved Us, An is revealed as a man of split loyalties, who managed to maintain his humanity. Cast prejudices aside and you will discover a true hero, scholar, patriot, humanist and masterful spy.”

    Daniel Ellsberg, author of Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers
    "This is a brilliant book about a man and his times. It strengthens the feeling I got from meeting him late in his life that Pham Xuan An was one of the most impressive people I have ever encountered. He was a man of wisdom, courage, and clear-headed patriotism. He was also—even if it seems ironic to say this under the circumstances—a man of extraordinary integrity. He loved us at our best even while confronting us at our worst."

    H.D.S. Greenway, Editor, The Boston Globe and Vietnam war reporter for Time and the Washington Post
    “Thomas Bass tells a fantastic tale of intrigue, espionage, and friendship. His book reads as if it came from the farthest shores of fiction, and I wouldn't believe a word of it if I hadn’t met so many of its characters and didn't know the story to be true.”

    John Laurence, Vietnam war reporter for CBS News and author of The Cat from Hue: a Vietnam War Story
    “Every veteran, every scholar, every student, everyone who survived the Vietnam War is advised to read this book and reflect on its wisdom. In his thoughtful, provocative biography of one of the most successful espionage agents in history, Thomas Bass challenges some of our most fundamental assumptions about what really happened in Vietnam and what it means to us today.”

    Seymour Hersh, author of Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib
    "This is a chilling account of betrayal of an American army -- and an American press corps -- involved in a guerrilla war in a society about which little was known or understood. The spy here was in South Vietnam, and his ultimate motives, as Thomas Bass makes clear, were far more complex than those of traditional espionage. This book, coming now, has another message, too, for me -- have we put ourselves in the same position, once again, in Iraq?"

    Seymour Topping, former Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Managing Editor of The New York Times
    “Thomas Bass has rendered a sensitive, revealing portrait of the strangely ambivalent personality I knew during the Vietnam War. In doing so he provided us with unique insights into the nature, conflicting sentiments and heartbreak of many Vietnamese who worked with Americans, made friends with them, but in the end loved their land more and sought, as their ancestors had a for a thousand years, to free it from all trespassers.”

    The Foreword, January/February issue
    “Intriguing … masterful ….This first-rate account, which will appeal to general readers as well as historians, portrays An as a man caught between two cultures who never lost sight of his ultimate goal, peace and prosperity for Vietnam.”

    Product Details

    * Hardcover: 320 pages
    * Publisher: PublicAffairs; 1 edition (February 9, 2009)
    * Language: English
    * ISBN-10: 1586484095
    * ASIN: B002GJU2LA
    * Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 5.8 x 1.2 inches.
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