81. Memorandum From the Secretary of Defense’s Assistant for Special Operations (Lansdale) to the Director for Intelligence, Joint Staff (Collins)0
Noting that the rather scholarly report (DAIN 176482) on Cambodia from Chief, MAAG, Phnom Penh, to CINCPAC,1 had JCS as an info addressee, and knowing JCS’s concern over problems in Southeast Asia, I thought some informal comment might be helpful.
The MAAG message states that MAAG and other U.S. organizations in Cambodia have investigated reports of Viet Cong bases and training areas in Cambodia. It concludes: “We have found none. We believe there are none.” In this, MAAG apparently has come to the same conclusion as did Trumbull of the New York Times, who wrote on this point recently.
What is disturbing is that we used to get similar reports from Laos. There was a time, not long ago, when nobody could find a Pathet Lao in the country and it became rather popular around town to poo-poo the idea that there were any Communist guerrillas in Laos. Now we get a similar poo-pooing from Cambodia.[Page 179]
I wonder if these folks who go looking really know what a Communist guerrilla looks like? In Cambodia, I feel certain that he looks, talks, and claims to be just like the other folks on rubber plantations, in villages, and in the rice paddies. In Cambodia, the provincial governors have received “economic aid” in the form of gold payments from Chinese Communists and it is doubtful that such “neutralists” could find a single Communist in their provinces if asked by well-meaning Americans. Most of the French, including the Deuxieme Bureau types, probably think it a good joke on us and keep the joke going.
Wouldn’t it be a good thing for the Chief of MAAG–Vietnam, who has access to Viet Cong prisoners, to provide some clues to Chief of MAAG–Cambodia? It might be okay for American civilians to be lulled into a real lotus-land picture, but our military need to look at the scene with hard realism.