In the Chaos of Tet

January 30, 1968 I was in Vietnam working out of the Embassy and with Military Intelligence. With the impact of the Tet attack and until MACV could get reports in from all their deployed units, the military grounded all aircraft. No helicopters were flying for two days. Apparently, there were some military-CIA outposts running out of supplies by the second day and needed to be resupplied before the air cover would resume.

Two Air America helicopters were going to fly the second night of Tet after dark to deliver supplies to several of the outposts. The Air America craft had no guns or armor plate. They were loaded with 15 cases of ammunition and two drums of gasoline and medical supplies.

Two flight crews volunteered to fly the very risky flights but needed someone to push the cargo out on delivery. Since everything was closed down they had few choices, so I went with one of the crews for two flights. I knew the Air America crews were the best and I also knew what would happen to the outposts if not resupplied.

I was into my second day without sleep and don’t remember much about the airtime except it was uncomfortable on the long ride trying to sleep on top of two drums of gasoline. We were flying with no lights and on a compass heading; the crew was in contact with the outpost, and it had been attacked repeatedly and was out of supplies.

The flight crew said they were to approach the outpost above 10,000 feet; the outpost would blink their lights once, and we would align to a touch down position. He said he would drop straight and stop two feet off the ground.  I had 15 seconds to unload and on departure prepare for serious evasive maneuvers. I understood, unloaded out of both sides and just as I felt lift-up a man appeared, and I handed him the medical supplies, which included whole blood.

The second flight was about the same, how the aircrew could stop the downward descent I do not know. It felt like we were at terminal velocity, free falling. I checked the next day, and military relief got to those outposts. The two flights, it seems, violated a general order restricting all flights, but the CIA and Special Forces weren’t about to lose four outposts.

What a night, the second night of Tet. We got back to Saigon at 4:30 AM, and I was called back to the Embassy. They sent me out to report on the progress of the Vietnamese police who were in a house-to- house fight with a large VC-NVA force in Saigon, less than a mile from the Embassy. I had Vietnamese Special Police Branch ID and could get through their perimeter checkpoints.

I reported back that the Vietnamese police were pushing the fight and the VC were getting hit hard. The bombing by the Vietnamese Air Force was generating thousands of refugees leaving the combat area and they were creating a lot of confusion. I was then assigned to expedite the deluge of Vietnamese refugees trying to escape the bombing by the Vietnamese Air Force. Thousands of people were fleeing by means of one road and it was getting bogged down. These people, who were day laborers, unloaded cargo from the ships docked in the harbor. They had been living in temporary shelters, some as little as a cardboard box. The Tet attack forced them to leave even these improvised shelters.

As I approached the area I could see that the flow of people was being hindered by a truck parked on the bridge. There was no other way to escape but to cross that bridge, so I went to investigate. The truck was parked across, so there was little room to get around it. An American missionary was there; he was handing out religious literature and pamphlets. I politely told him he had to move; he was blocking the way and the refugees were not able to get out quickly enough. He refused to leave his post until all the literature had been passed out. I then told him that people were getting killed because of this delay. At his second refusal, I had to direct him at gunpoint to move his truck; he complied.

On my way back out, I saw that the bridge was blocked once again by the same truck. This time I did not ask politely or ask at gunpoint. I went to the truck, put it in gear and pushed it into the harbor. The literature that he was so determined to distribute to the Vietnamese, who only spoke and read their native language, which was causing people to not escape bombing and gunfire, was all written in English.

Harry Wagner (center) with office staff in Saigon 1968.


From Vietnam to Afghanistan, Collateral Damage Courtesy of US Military

Anyone can determine from collective news sites that the “counter” insurgency Afghanistan war is not going well. It is a complex problem that many think is unsolvable. I offer my experience and knowledge purely as a humanitarian gesture to avoid future casualties from insurgency wars.

I was in Vietnam at the beginning of the peak period and through the ’68 Tet offensive. Circumstances fell my way; I actually had the entire country to maneuver through. My motivation was to contribute to stopping the killing and let people live their lives. I was convinced that the Viet Cong were tyrants but I observed that only a few of the total insurgency were responsible for most of the atrocities. There was always an effort to force support from the civilian population to support the VC operations in the south; some of the methods showed total lack of any sense of human compassion in order to establish their concept of government and at times the US was not much better. From my work in the field I have seen barbaric acts of unbelievable cruelty, just to exploit villagers for support of the insurgency. When my team came across these we deployed some of my security to find the perpetrators; my security solely consisted of former VC. In each case the offenders were part of a VC organized unit, usually of 20 to 30 members; the atrocities were not sanctioned by the unit and was done without the knowledge of the unit commander. Not always, but this was most often the case. It was considered essential intelligence to determine the state or condition of the insurgency. Wars are dangerous things and when the final battle is fought the reality of it is no one won much of anything but all lost a lot.

The new concept of war evolved in modern times from the VC insurgency and those methods have emerged to what we have today with IEDs and car bombs along with small unit attacks of vulnerable targets. How do you defeat the enemy? Deny his access to as much of his support resources as possible. You deplete his manpower via defection programs (Chieu Hoi) and his free use of the villages via pacification. Pacification is a term often used improperly by the military. You keep pressure on insurgency with psy-ops and these should not threaten the enemy but glorify our side. I learned all the tricks of psy-ops and how to enter a village to bring them over to our side. I had total control of psychological warfare for one-third of South Vietnam for military and civilian efforts.

I developed Persuasion with Relevance. It is comprised of the Sheath, Spear and Shield. The insurgency is like a sheath; don’t crush it but steal its motivation and cause. All psy-ops is positive and non-threatening. Deployment is the Spear and Shield. The Spear personnel are carefully selected and completely trained to take up to a two-year tour. Then we integrate with the indigenous forces. To start a campaign against the insurgency by designating their biggest base camps as a prime initial target is the wrong approach; it can strengthen their cause, kills civilians, disperses them, etc. It emphasizes the image of invader and dominance, counter to the objective image of friend, not foe.

All members of the Shield and Spear deployment will be instructed how to set up a suspect or prisoner  the correct way to interrogate them for intelligence. This is accomplished without abuse or torture. Interpreters will be instructed on proper decorum and recorded frequently to make sure of their translations and their ability to phrase translations correctly.

With the insurgency and pacification (return to normal) programs you need to keep the enemy busy, tire him out as you deploy the Shield and Spear Teams; you are threatening to take population away from him faster than he can react. To attack his concentrated areas always results in high casualties and excessive collateral damage which enforces his will to continue.

The Vietnam War had 500,000 American troops plus Korean, Philcag, Thai and the South Vietnamese military. I was able to work with all these plus elements of the CIA covering the entire country. I don’t know all the answers but I know where to start to find them and I know psychological warfare. Yes, the Afghans are not Vietnamese but if they are successful in reproducing then they have family; that is a start.

Same Strategy, Different War, Same Failed Results

In brief you will find that the illogical direction the Pentagon and Department of State have directed this nation’s foreign affairs and military has its roots in the defeat of the United States Military in Vietnam. With a military organized as to fight a WWII main force enemy the Vietnamese used terrain and gorilla (insurgency) strategy to oppose the US tactical deployment.

The US fielded a military force of draftees and inexperienced officers to fight a war they did not understand or desire to participate. As the war lingered on, much of it on TV, the American wins were insufficient to continue the support for the war back home. General Westmoreland’s light at the end of the tunnel was fading. President Johnson sent the “A” team into the war to reorganize it under one director, combining all military and civilian personnel into the organization CORDS. This did not help; the tactics only got worse.

A lesson that never seems to be learned by Americans is that our culture, style of living, and our constant hammering of our doctrine of government into the lives of Third World populations is just not appreciated and violently opposed on occasion. Most of the world does not have or need much of an army or navy; many do not have any government as corruptible as the USA. I would say most wish the USA would just butt out and treat them as equal as to their right to exist.

With the new organization came new tactics, the strategy was the same, that of full military dominance of the population of South Vietnam and total destruction of the North Vietnamese communist government. (As an embarrassment for Russia, I assume.) There were two misguided tactics promoted; the first was the “Oil Slick” theory which believed if the military continued to cover more area the security and pacification would spread like oil on water. The trouble with it was the lack of enough military to secure the ever enlarging perimeter; it often created a safe haven for the enemy.

The second tactic, if I heard once in briefings I heard it 40 times, “Cut the head off the snake and the snake dies.” It is unbelievable the military has continued to this day to deploy resources following this tactic. This is one of the three primary reasons the American military was thrown out of Vietnam in defeat and cannot claim a military victory in any war or deployment since.

The book, The Headless Snake, reveals a strategy in psychological warfare developed in Vietnam I called Persuasion with Relevance. It was formed in response to the failure of counterinsurgency and irregular warfare as developed by the American military that was counter-productive to the military’s objectives. To make an honest assessment of the failed deployments I must be critical as to why they failed. This does not indicate a failure of the individual American fighting personnel but of tactics and lack of strategy properly deployed and manned which is the third reason why we lost in Vietnam and why we are still losing “wars” if one can call these adventurisms war.

Psychological warfare is a misnomer that defies definition but does distinguish it as an approach different from main-force deployment. The preferred nomenclature is Persuasion with Relevance which is a strategy versus a tactic utilizing military resources in different missions and deployments. With the goal of reducing life and property losses and not to win their hearts and minds but to an overall interface with the insurgent, enemy or militant to obtain a sustainable resolution to the cause of the conflict. I am aware of the violence of this world, different philosophies and religions, different cultures, different levels of poverty and lifestyles. However, there are indisputable social connections within each of the many differences. It is impossible to obtain dominance by an outside force, however powerful, without totally destroying the society. This is counter-productive as the world media exploits the results.

Nothing in this world is static; there are no two living things alike and the world’s resources are being depleted very rapidly. There is little effort to sustain them as long as wars over possession of them continue. The repercussions of the US military’s failed yet aggressive deployments will bring more violence and even more militarization into the lives of Americans.



Change Through Tea

I have been researching what I can do to improve American/Chinese relationships based on my experience with the Chinese. I believe my counterinsurgency experience that promotes a peaceable approach versus a purely aggressive military approach would be a starting place.

This world is in the grasp of a serious economic depression and it is hard to forecast how it will turn out; it will take 5 to 10 years to take a direction. I am an avid reader with wide interests; I read a lot about China. First a little background about my military experiences in Psychological Operations and what they now call “counterinsurgency”. From a friend I have learned there are two retired PLA Generals who had both been in Vietnam the years I was there. In my very unusual work there I had made passing acquaintances with several officers from the North Vietnam Army (at that time our enemy) and some I suspected were Chinese Army advisors to the North Vietnamese. I was very successful in my work the Central Intelligence Agency assigned me (I was not an employee of the CIA). I was to write a manual on counterinsurgency psychological warfare operations for the Phoenix Program but at that time Phoenix had become out of control; some called it “murder incorporated” (after a former NYC criminal gang). I spent six months writing the manual and running additional field operations but I refused to turn it over for fear at that time it would be misused to obtain high enemy body counts of civilians for the military.

I had offered to train American advisors but they are still doing it wrong as evidenced by news stories. I am not now any way connected to the US government in any capacity. I have no classified information other than being one American of 340 million other Americans.

I had conversed with several retired American Generals and military officers about our association with the Chinese and especially with the command of the PLA. They said it was always too formal for some reason by both sides, too political.

In times of stress between countries a friendship based on trust between friends unrestricted by strict political protocol could be a means to promote cooperation. I have the unique ability to make friends because I do not have to be something I am not; what you see is what you get. It takes an amazing stretch of the imagination to think this possible but I understand American politics and we are too fast to blame China for all of our problems with imports. America now owes China billions and more that we can never pay, so we blame China. If we could establish a friendship between honest people, however small, but if and when needed a visible one it just might make people take a less antagonistic approach and be beneficial to both as an agreement to prevent conflict. I am not seeking government policy but an exchange of viewpoints and ideas that never seem to get through the big government channels, an exchange of ideas, solutions, conversation over a drink; perhaps tea?

Will The Desire For Money and Power Be Our Downfall?

Let me focus on why I am concerned about how the conduct of our military and CIA. They have become a law unto themselves with no regard for the Constitutional restrictions that have been placed upon them.

I am not a crusader; I work at my responsibilities to solve problems based on a true analysis of the situation and not with any preconceived notions or results. I work to improve the situation at hand and properly recognize those who participated in the successful conclusion of the job. I’ve seen from experience government bureaucrats who often outnumber the workers and too often distort the problems and take edited credit for the results. As the American government has rapidly increased in size as to employment and operational costs, the distortions have increased and they have become unjustifiable and shielded by lies.

Our political system of government of a nation “of, for, and by the people” has become so corrupted as to be criminally responsible for supporting a failing society with dishonest government.

My personal belief is that we are all here, no two alike, but we all survive by living a productive life, at least a life that is sustainable by honest work, at whatever is necessary to coexist with others. There is a code of behavior between us all; it may not be written or codified but it does exist and we all know it, but some, for one reason or other, care to disregard it. Experience has taught us that once this indifference is allowed to expand there can be serious troubles from it.

That brings us to where we are today with the pending financial and economic collapse of our system that has actively supported a shift toward a military martial law government contrary to our Constitutional form of government. The executive branch of government from the office of President down to the lowest civil servant is more dedicated to self-interests than to the survival of the nation’s citizens. The excuse by the CIA and Military of the “War on Terrorism” as cause to continue the attack and murder of civilians worldwide by their own admission without Congressional approval or debate and with retention and torture without due process, these are criminal acts that warrant the highest and severest punishment.

Reading the reports from the field of Desert Shield and Desert Storm War, followed by the invasion of Iraq, then Afghanistan, then Libya, and the tactics of “counterinsurgency”  I felt competent to voice an opinion since I had worked out a strategy with a new Field Manual for such warfare with 30 different missions in unsecured territory in Vietnam. I began my research and recovered the material that was shipped from Saigon that had been in storage 40 years and searched the internet for comments and opinions. As COIN began to fail it became obvious that it was not managed or deployed properly. Lessons learned in Vietnam ignored and still being ignored.

The early tour of the country gave me a broad view of the whole Vietnam landscape and the opportunity to observe the extent of our military deployment and the general condition of the country. When I was assigned as Regional Chieu Hoi Advisor I got an up-close experience with thousands of Vietnamese. Not only did they teach me their cultural values but they showed me that their values were similar to mine, built around family.
The first thing you are aware of is working closely with them is the only way to go; avoid all signs of dominance or superiority.

The population was mostly rural and labor intensive just to survive and built around family associations. They naturally resisted a government bureaucracy as an outgrowth of the French occupation and then the invading foreign military of the Americans. They saw that they had a limited choice and the North Vietnamese communism was preferred over any other foreign system. Especially one that killed them without thought of the consequences.

Because you can kill, bomb, and destroy their country is common knowledge. The rationale is basic and the American involvement never understood this fundamental fact. I believe with the creation of the Chieu Hoi Program the Vietnamese realized that there must be an opening that allowed the population to freely choose which side of the future they desired; a free South Vietnam or a unified communist nation.

Simply stated, the war in Vietnam placed the American military’s mighty and powerful war machinery up against the determined indigenous population that wanted no part of the western nation’s controls over them. The Americans underestimated the will of the people. To the South Vietnamese the war brought promises of freedom and modern prosperity to their country, an idealistic dream the Americans could never accomplish. The population had survived the Japanese and the French only to end up with a corrupt home style government while the North purged the population to install a strong communist government.

There are several theories as to why the US got involved in Vietnam, none of which actually put forth a realistic supportable reason, but obviously it was a political one. Well, Vietnam is long past having had our mighty superpower military run out of their country in a desperate retreat.

Now we are about to run out of Iraq and Afghanistan again failing to understand limited or irregular warfare. The Pentagon management just can’t understand why we fail when we do the war-like things, destroying property and killing people where and when we desire. This brings us to a warning of pending failure again as the military is searching for an opponent they again think they can defeat. The win-loss ratio in war is evidence that some things are not performing as promised at the Pentagon. AMEN.

With the withdrawals in defeat from Iraq and Afghanistan, the current military-CIA policy is an introverted special operation, small incident tactics to intimidate or kill/capture suspects. This currently suits their criminal minds, because of secrecy we know not their success or failures.

Where is the magic button that will open up the minds of those that value war as the way of life? In coffeehouse discussions, the two dominant words are money and power, the human desire to obtain both. This may be over simplistic but a reasonable starting point to determine how we have become a militaristic society with a government originally created to prevent this specific condition.


Survivors Given A Chance, Then And Now

I was in Vietnam 1966-1968. I was contracted through USAID, but while there I worked with the military, CIA, and Phoenix. I met many interesting and respectable people during my time there and stayed in touch with some of them. In 1975 I received a call from one of the CIA agents I worked with (I am unable to remember his name now) but his cover was at Voice of America radio station. He knew I had really connected with the Vietnamese civilians and had tried to improve their situations any way I could.

He said that the CIA was getting their Vietnamese agents out of the country and sending them to Guam. Would I be willing to help these former agents in some capacity? “Sure, what do you need me to do?” I ended up meeting them at the Atlanta airport and arranging housing and food until they could get settled. There were about 16 of these agents who came into the country. After learning of the agents’ circumstances, I decided to investigate the status of civilians who were trying to leave. I found a refugee organization affiliated with the Catholic Church and began working with them. The need was great.

These people who were fleeing their country to start new lives arrived with all of their belongings in paper bags. They did not speak English. Some of them were sick and needed immediate medical attention. There were several organizations in Atlanta, so I took it upon myself to open a central office that the various charities could coordinate their Vietnamese refugee resources. I became active in fundraising and speaking to groups to encourage volunteers. Through donated efforts, I found housing for families. However, some of the refugees could not find housing because of their medical conditions. These were the people I took to my own home. Their illnesses ranged from tuberculosis to leprosy. With proper medical care, everyone recovered and was able to live independently.

I look back on that time of my life with fondness. I have stayed in touch with many of the former refugees, and they have thrived here. The refugee crisis that we are experiencing around the world today is ten times greater than the one I worked with 43 years ago. It is frustrating to know that man-made problems- war, government corruption, and greed is still forcing people who are trying to live their lives in normalcy to flee into unknown territory.

Peace Team Forward can make a difference. The question is if there is anyone who is willing to admit mistakes and attempt something new. I am only slightly optimistic but have not given up yet.


The Insanity of the Future

We have passed the tipping point; we are on the downslope toward a financial collapse and there is nothing the United States of America can do to stop our economic demise. Our government has become a “country club” of career politicians; all self-indulgent, self-centered, impotent legislators and criminals seeking privilege. I think this is a fitting description of our Congress and our President, a puppet of unknown origin. Or, in other words, they got us into this financial mess by constantly seeking to line their own pockets and seeking favors to promote their careers [careerism].

If any worthwhile government acts happened it would be only by a coincidence to some other purely personal act.  To those in Congress who think I have unfairly degraded you; my response is simply: I can’t remember hearing your voice to correct the problems that have brought us to this point. Would you show some self-respect and speak up and loud enough for us to hear you back here in your District? Mine happens to be Georgia. Prove that you are in Congress for the good of the nation and to enforce the Constitution.

So, I anticipate no help or rescue from the politically corrupt career politicians (Have you watched TV?) to solve our collapsing economy and energy shortages to come or restoring our manufacturing jobs now mostly located in foreign countries. It is unfortunate but my analysis of the situation, the players, and the coming worldwide tragedy foretells there is but one solution, only one if the United States is to survive as a nation.

The solution centers around two factors, oil [energy] and gold [money]. Who controls the available oil for the next 50 years and with what currency will the world commerce trade?

Remember, this is a total world (all nations) involvement, not just super powers but all nations.  Advancing technology requires natural resources, not just oil, but many minerals and metals which are dispersed at random around the world.  These elements are the foundations of our future and must be part of our recovery from the coming collapse if we are to have a future outside of the Israeli-New World Order scam.

Also, the Third World is cheap labor, and in our emergence, the early reconstruction will require massive amounts of human labor; guess who and where that might come from.

As we approach a possible total economic collapse of the “Big Banks”, the energy resources become ever more critical because the world moves on oil and will for the foreseeable future. It is one of the two all-important factors; who has it and /or who controls it. We are viewing the oil on the market today, not some future alternate unproven substitute. The oil I can get now and process now, to supply all the energy needed to turn the world around from collapse; this should be obvious.

How will oil be supplied universally or equitably is the basis for the solution that is required to turn the collapse around and start a recovery; certainly not by military dominance or perpetual war.

It won’t on a voluntary basis; the human race is just not that intelligent.  The solution will require a multi-nation cartel aligned to an overall cooperation to use the oil available to stabilize all the world economies as far as possible.  Do I believe this will be worked out by a mutual cooperative administrative group of oil-rich nations and military super powers? NO.   But oil must be controlled as the primary energy source for the USA and the world to have a future. That is if we don’t blow the world up fighting with nuclear bombs.

I am sorry but the scenario for control of oil will get ugly. We have a total failure of our Department of State and our foreign policy.  We rely on a military solution which is not much if any better.  I am condemning the leadership; not the troops, who I hold in the highest esteem.  The whole of the military suffers from the lack of intelligent leaders and their failed strategies as approved by the White House.

Why do I say it will get ugly?  Several reasons: oil location, governments in control, and the “Manifest Destiny” psychology of world leaders and especially Israel.

Now the Zionists Israeli government is maneuvering the US to attack Iran and destroy their one serious opposition to control of the Middle East.  This will happen when our military strategist can be assured of a one-front war.  However, with the recent financial collapse of the dollar as a world currency and the developing reemergence of Russia as a world power with substantial oil reserves, our military must be contemplating to use their “one strike does it all” (my name for it) attack for our total dominance of the Middle East.

It is not too late to develop a cooperative solution among nations, but time is short, and the politicians must become leaders bent on a peaceful solution which doesn’t appear to be a Trump acceptable solution.  God help all those native to the mid-east if a solution is not found.  I am afraid the price for oil will be counted in human lives as well as money.

And because paper monies, credits, funds, etc. have been managed but not controlled and audited; all of these financial instruments are now suspect.  A new “world currency” must be developed, of course, it will be paper, it and other instruments of credit and transactions will be standardized and centrally controlled, maybe a better term is recorded.

There will be a local need for countries for script money issued by local banks, and this should be limited as to amount by the performance and display of a country’s responsibility to comply with the articles of cooperation to be developed by a World Bank organization. (Not with the current World Bank or International Monetary Fund of dubious integrity.) Amounts of currency in circulation will be dependent on a ratio to the value of gold and oil, which will be set in cooperation with central governmental banks.

I know it is not all this simple, but it is a necessity if we are to survive.

I know that oil and gold are not evenly distributed in the world; I know each and every nation has particular problems (an impossible list of problems) from lack of unity, over-population, food, water, disease, etc.

I am not a “one world” activist, not a socialist; I am a human being, educated and experienced. I know we inhabit this earth and this is a temporary proposition and by failure to act could be very painful and very short.  I have observed the worst of life, ravishes of war and poverty and the best of life; and I am a rich man with life experiences and family, not excessive material wealth but great personal health.

I think we should note that it is not the families of the oil moguls or of this administration who will die, but it is the young Americans who fight our wars because there are no jobs resulting from the gross mismanagement of this nation.

The physical features of the earth are just that, some are kind to the inhabitants and others not, but it is the people who make our existence what it is and what it can be.  It is unfortunate we are what we are as to our perception of inferior and superior to each other, which causes most of our aggressions. This nation, as many before it, will historically be just another page of history, as thousands of years and many nations succeed only to fail, usually with the loss of many, many lives; this drama has repeated itself over and over again.  But just this once, never before or since duplicated, a collective effort to govern of the people, by the people, and for the people.

However, we blew it; we have allowed a “government” to replace us, we, the common man God made so many of. Of course, it is our government but not of, by, or for us anymore. The common ones have become self-indulgent, uninspired, and dependent followers of poor education, a corrupt, expanding and expensive government, a subverted election process, mass media, etc. It can be said we allowed the elite to organize society and government for their benefit, while we, the common man frittered away our command and responsibility of our government.

As we approach that time when possibly this nation enters the history books as a failure, we can’t help but think just how good it could have been if we, the common man, the work-a-day man for a wage, the nurse, school teacher, truck driver, waitress; all of us had made the decision to take command of our government.   There is so little time left!  We are in the midst of a Presidential term with someone who is not qualified to be our leader.

The Congress is no better, a more corrupt group of self-centered, career ignominious characters, a collection of such do-nothings than can’t be found anywhere else in the world.  But it is ok; send them all back to Washington. Their work of destroying this nation is not complete. Do term limits and balanced budgets begin to sound better?

You have allowed others to do your thinking for you, many believe that we will pay a terrible price for this.  I was once routinely interviewed by a team from the Counter Terror Secret Service because I objected to an action of the IRS. I was asked the first question: “Do you consider yourself to be a threat to this government?” My answer was a firm “Yes”; the agents looked surprised and took a step back. I explained, “Yes, I vote”.  You could see the agents take a deep breath to relax. The rest of the interview was about my military and CIA experiences.  They thanked me with further explanation that the interview was routine and they understood my IRS problem from their own experience.

The latest news is of more wars, more civilian deaths (collateral damage), oil supplies uncertain, food shortages, and the US dollar ably described by Clark Howard as “not worth a squat” thanks to our government mismanagement.

I have not lost sight of the threat of a terrorist attack, from my experience with insurgency warfare years ago, this nation is wide open and the only thing protecting you is that they have not decided where, when and how to attack.  They, the terrorist, are your only protection, their indecision; don’t you forget it.

If we fail to change the direction this nation is headed, we stand to lose and your inactivity at this time will assure the collapse of this nation; no one can be excused from participation.

Memo I Sent in 1968 (An Example of the Battles I Faced with Bureaucrats)

8 February 1968

Memorandum for:  Director, ICEX

From:  ICEX/Psyops/Wagner

The past week of activity (January 30-February 6) in Vietnam leads me to draw the following conclusions:

Due to the target areas of the VC/NVA attacks during Tet, apparently the VC/NVA planned for a psychological gain and not a military victory. In my opinion, they (VC) did gain considerable advances in their propaganda war against the GVN/US.

It is impossible for me to believe that the VC/NVA planners actually thought that the Vietnamese would support their attacks by a general uprising. Past performance of the VC propaganda teams, their person-to-person contacts with the population, I just do not believe they (VC) could error in judgement of their own people’s motivations. What ruse was used to spark their own troops into such actions and sacrifices can only be explained if the results have justified the means used by the VC/NVA.

If there was a Phase I and II which General Westmoreland has referred to and the date and intelligence was in MACV hands, I would believe it essential that the counter-propaganda plans to Phase I and II be released so we (all polwar/psyops agencies) can implement the required post-offensive psyops programs.

The VC/NVA were successful in their infiltration of the populated areas because of the traditional Tet holidays and the general apathy of the Vietnamese people. The VC/NVA picked the ideal time for attack, knowing the people were not going to oppose the VC/NVA activity during Tet. Many people (GVN/US) thought that the VC/NVA would need the truce period to resupply and could not go on the offensive until after Tet. However, I know that it has been possible for the VC/NVA to infiltrate the population anytime in the last ninety days. The Tet season just made it a guaranteed success. The Vietnamese people are apathetic to the war and until now have been content, like all people, to go along with the winner. And definitely there has been more prosperity to be made with GVN/US efforts than with the VC/NVA.

Everyone should realize it is a new game now, the long duration of this war, and now, to the Vietnamese, with the apparent lack of security that the GVN/US can provide, these two major factors will create a new frame of mind with the Vietnamese population. The successes in the psychological war of the VC/NVA attacks will create an immediate reaction of public opinion against the VC/NVA. However, it is my opinion that the long-range public opinion of the Vietnamese population will be one of objective neutrality. This will be a result primarily of their final analysis of how effectively the VC/NVA penetrated GVN/US security. The people are concerned with survival and the GVN reaction to the crisis, but will soon ponder the cause of this crisis.

This position of neutrality will be very difficult to overcome because it will take several months to develop and show itself within the population. And gauged from past performances of GVN officials, there now will be considerable effort to motivate the US to continue maximum support for the GVN. Their general theme will be similar to our stateside reporting, that victory is possibly just around the corner. And the successful reaction to the crisis will hopefully continue to generate support for and prosperity of the GVN.

It is unfortunate that we have been unable to motivate the Vietnamese by our massive psyops. If the truth is even known about the recent VC/NVA offensive, I am sure it will indicate a general failure of our understanding of the VC/NVA and how to reach them with propaganda.

I realize that my opinions and suggestions sometimes go against the tide of authority here in the US mission. But for some reason or other, my influence with the Vietnamese and foresight to their reactions have been more accurate than some of the general US policies and practices. I wonder at this point, after eighteen months in country, if anyone really knows what is going on. I have observed several program failures dismissed, alibied, or whitewashed without a true effort being made to correct basic problems.

To implement a massive psyops program by the US (JUSPAO/MACPD) at this time would only provide material for the VC/NVA to counter and exploit. It is my opinion that all US mass media psyops be held at a low-key for 30 to 45 days. Even the exploitation of massive relief programs by GVN/US would distort the successes of the VC/NVA. The Vietnamese are very resilient and emotionally will absorb the Tet offensive very quickly. Inept US psyops can very easily advertise the VC/NVA propaganda advantages.

I have tried for four days to find out what GVN/US psyops were being produced, and as of this writing, I still have not received any information. This might be a good indication; maybe we are not producing anything. If this is true, that we are not duplicating past mistakes, we are making progress in the psyops field.

I would suggest the following psyops support for the next 45 days:

As much person-to-person contact as possible; organize propaganda teams to be trained for one week by the GVN and sent to the field. They should be supplied with printed handouts covering (a) the GVN relief plans, (b) what reparations the people are eligible to collect, (c) food resupply information, and (d) a status of what roads are open and transportation conditions throughout the country.

The MACPD assets should be charged with the responsibility of promoting the national image of ARVN and National Police.

In summary, to me it appears to be a miracle of human behavior on the part of the Americans in Vietnam to have become so self-oriented with our progress indicators that the VC/NVA outdid us.

Repeating Mistakes

To start working with the CIA in Vietnam at their invitation was very interesting. I was just another asset for them to use but it gave me access to their operations and many of their field operational personnel.

The senior CIA career people I worked with were good people but as the mix of personnel added due to expansion of operations, quality became a problem in the field; I learned not to trust them. It is a fact the CIA did withhold information from General Westmoreland as to enemy strength. They did not share some information with MACV. I was a part of that problem.

What this proves is the necessity to determine an area, drawn on a map of the theater of operations and resolve who is the Commander of all activity in that area; this means Military, CIA, UN, NATO, Department of State, USAID, Congress, and the White House.

The conflict of interests between bureaucrats is some of the primary causes of the loss of the Vietnam War.

Does this government have to keep repeating its mistakes?

There is the United States Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, and Air Force all recognized military; then why does the CIA have drones and mercenaries? Whose orders do they follow? Who are they killing?

In Vietnam 1968 the briefings started spouting the theory, “cut the head off of the snake and the snake dies”, true but in insurgencies there were many who supported and followed “the head” that would do anything to avenge his death. So, to make the theory work we started killing everybody and in many cases entire families.

Better to correct the killing and torture, most created by the corrupt government, with your efforts than making enemies; results are fewer deaths of future leadership potential and a lot less expensive. Targeting individuals while a corrupt government still thrives, you have got to be crazy. Or you never correctly understood the problem.

I was a Mayor and Judge of Friendswood, Texas

I am not a politician; I am a problem solver in that I strive to analyze and approach problems with common sense and logic with an open mind.

I was 34 years of age in 1964, one of the youngest elected and only the second Republican elected to public office in years in Texas. I was the first to be elected on a program of land use (zoning) in the state where zoning was a fighting word never used in elections.

I was an outsider and stranger in the community of Quakers who made their own rules for the community. I got elected. My battles with the city council, all five constantly against me made the Houston newspapers. This fame brought me help from the biggest municipal engineering firms pro bono who educated me on problems. Houston’s mayor Louie Welch and his staff were always helpful. They trained our firemen; the Houston courts helped set our courts up; I was also the judge as well as mayor. Success came from the decisions I made that needed to be made and working to get them passed into law.

Because of my development and building experience I was able to take the little city into the space age as NASA moved in next door and most of NASA management and Apollo teams were my neighbors.

From the basic unknown out-of-the-way foundation, I was able to establish a working municipal government; Friendswood, Texas is now one of the best addresses in Texas.

I had a lot of help. There is the potential for a book of that adventure; it was just a little turbulent.

My wife and I established the first public library for the city and I worked with the Rosenberg Library Board in Galveston, Texas.

I was offered an unopposed seat in Congress by the Galveston County Democratic party; I went instead as a volunteer to Vietnam. As a newspaper reporter said, “From Cotton Mather (1690) to John Glenn (1964) Wagner is the transitional Mayor for the city.”

From Vietnam came my desire for military reform and the basis for the book, The Headless Snake.

Harry D. Wagner