Ngo Vinh Long, lightning rod for opposing the Vietnam War, dies at 78

At Harvard, he had one-on-one tutorials with two professors, Samuel Huntington and Henry Kissinger, who played prominent roles in shaping American policy in Vietnam, challenging their pro-war views.

“I tried to prove to them that the United States could only win the war by destroying the country, and that they shouldn’t,” he told Mr Appy. “Both Huntington and Kissinger said, ‘Long, you’re really naive. Every country, like every human being, has a breaking point, including Vietnam.

After the war ended in 1975, as hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese refugees poured into the country, he became the target of threats and abuse from fellow Vietnamese, some of whom accused him of being an apologist for the communist government of Vietnam.

In 1981, at a Harvard conference on post-war Vietnam, several hundred Vietnamese Americans gathered to denounce him and throw gasoline bombs, which failed to explode. Threats to his life continued, and the following year he changed residence several times.

Mr. Long’s words seemed almost calculated to inflame.

“It is this government that has become one of the most repressive in the world because of the crimes it is committing in Vietnam,” he said at a rally at Southern Illinois University on April 28, 1972. where he was greeted with chants of “A bas Ngo Vinh Long!

“I became the center of all the hatred and attacks,” he said in an interview for Writing Vietnam, a 1999 lecture at Brown University. “So for the next 20 years, from 1975 to 1995, my life was hell.”

Criticism has damaged his career, he says, but “it’s the price to pay when you want to be useful”.