So, in 1994 the Agence France Press (IIRC) had an article in which they reported that the Vietnamese government's new (as of then) estimate for civilian deaths in Vietnam, during the war with America, was 2,000,000, the majority in the southern part of the country (i.e. in South Vietnam). Now the figure for North Vietnam I usually see (everywhere from R. J. Rummel to Nick Turse) is 65,000, but this goes off Guenter Lewy's insufficiently motivated analysis of the subject.

Rummel includes a lower figure of 50,000 in his range, and guesstimates a maximum of 70,000. I read one part of a book by an ex-military writer that said 100,000, but without apparent independent basis. The PBS website at least used to say 182,000 for Rolling Thunder, which I later was able to determine was probably a mistaken quote of the total for civilians wounded and killed therein, since 52,000 was the death subset of that, and 52,000 is the Pentagon Papers (IIRC) figure that Lewy uses to get 65,000 (+13,000 for post-RT bombing in NV).

Now on the other end of the spectrum, though, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (postwar unified government) released a document entitled Vietnam: Destruction and War-Damage (I think it's called; I think it's on the Texas Tech site for these kinds of documents), in 1979 I believe, which vaguely says that the US bombing killed "hundreds of thousands" of North Vietnamese civilians. This means anything from 200,000 onward, probably less than 1,000,000 ultimately, but I think surely so. I mean, I've never discovered substantial evidence that the USAF was particularly destructive of civilian life in North Vietnam,*** compared to other cases anyway (at that point in time), which I'll get to in a moment.

So, the Pentagon Papers/Lewy estimate is dubious because, well, it comes from the most biased party to the equation, after all. But the other estimates appear to come from nowhere in particular or to be too vague: the SRV estimate is not only just given as an order of magnitude, but is adverted to IIRC the Committee on Refugees and Civilian Casualties (or whatever that thing was that Ted Kennedy(?) spearheaded in Congress around then). However, I've never managed to locate a figure of 200,000+, for NV civilian deaths, in the sections of that committee's reports, that I've managed to look at over the years.

Strictly, given the above numbers, I'd say we'd just say that there's a range of about 50,000 to 200,000, here, and maybe we'd just add-and-split to get a decent middle figure, if we even needed or wanted one (for some reason of political comparison, maybe). OTOH I feel like the Vietnamese government's actual research, that led to the 1994 declaration, probably includes a more advanced account of the subject, seeing as the SRV document dates over a decade earlier. But I have never found any more specified analysis from the actual Vietnamese side of the equation, that would answer my question at all, here.

I'm not saying I'd just flat-out go with even a modern number, from Vietnam's analysts. They can have their bias, too. Now in their defense, going back to the 1979 SRV tract, despite being obviously written in a propagandistic tone, actually doesn't clearly contain any false statements. For example, the section that goes something like, "Vietnam was the most physically devastated nation in history," is technically true, I mean, 5,000,000 tons of bombs, 7,000,000 of artillery, etc. is all equivalent to dozens or hundreds of nuclear weapons (depending on the TNT-equivalences used in the analogy), so in sheer physical terms, it's really true that no country has ever been subject to such devastation.

What I also have had to keep in mind, then, is that in three of the four countries the US bombed, the tonnage of bombing was roughly equal to, if not significantly (or in South Vietnam's case, unimaginably) greater than the amount of bombing everyone in World War II used together. AFAIK, I've seen 1,000,000 tons for North Vietnam, by contrast.

I can't just assume an easy ratio like: take the tonnage-death ratio from Japan (say), and carry over: that would imply, I believe, that the US would have eradicated all life in Indochina, something that plainly did not happen in this universe. I've done a calculation where I used a dual ratio, of tonnage and population size, which gave a more realistic number, and I've thought of trying to factor in the lengths of time of different campaigns and so on, to get more precise ideas.

One thing that has appeared in the details of the analysis re: South Vietnam is that official US estimates of civilian deaths from their actions are anywhere from about 1.5 to as many as 10 times lower than higher (possible) estimates. My Lai, for example, varies from 347 (official US) to 504 (Vietnamese---although I'll admit that the latter might be higher due to applying to either more or less than the structure known as "Song My", or to more or less hamlets or... basically, I still have a hard time visualizing the difference between hamlets and villages). Nick Turse reports the internal analysis of Speedy Express as including a civilian death toll of 5,000 to 7,000. For a close post-Tet, Saigon-located episode, I've seen Turse give the official figure of 100, but another source cites 500. Then, in the most surprising discrepancy I've seen, the official Tet-Offensive civilian death tolls are 12,500/14,000+ (the US/RVN numbers); but Francis Fitzgerald refers to an unnamed "Allied commander" (this is in Fire in the Lake I believe) who claimed 165,000, which I have no doubt was entirely possible. Saigon's population density was the greatest on Earth at the time, twice that of Tokyo (Turse notes). I don't know how much of an undercount the US number (~6000 I believe) for that case is, but if John Paul Vann (I think the one Turse cites for the 100 deaths in the mini-Tet episode) could offer an undercount by a factor of 5, for an incident that took place during a less volatile situation, then it's possible that well over 10,000 civilians were killed by US forces, in Saigon, during the Tet Offensive.

Other cases I could triangulate would include Laos, Cambodia, North Korea, and South Korea (for direct examples, of US bombing). Actually, there's a lot of random details that can be added up to get different numbers in all these cases, numbers that aren't really exactly justified, but they are justified as indicators of orders of magnitude. No one believes that exactly 6,000,000 Jews died in the Holocaust. In fact, it's possible that over a million more died in the Holocaust, than is commonly supposed. We don't have eternally satisfactory numbers for the USSR, for example, and smaller adjustments upward in the other cases add up to a sizable increase on the far end of the spectrum in total. Now with Vietnam, we get a lot less convergence, but there's still some convergence.

I mean this mainly regarding South Vietnam, however, so my question is: does the modern Vietnamese government have an official estimate of the number of civilians who were killed by US bombing in the northern part of the country?

***The highest-level official policy does seem to have been to avoid civilian casualties in North Vietnam, if only for reasons of publicity. On the other hand, Anthony D'Amato's legal analysis of the issue makes note that we don't infer that a policy exists just because a government says it does, even in internal documents. A pervasive enough pattern of action on the part of known government agents, is tantamount to an accepted policy (for the involved government). But moreover (as D'Amato notes), a lot of the bombing of North Vietnam was apparently decided locally, contrary to the usual claim that Rolling Thunder (for example) was centrally planned, with pilots arbitrarily unleashing huge amounts of ordnance in southern North Vietnam, hitting anything moving or standing (so to say), erasing at least one entire city (the city of Vinh; this is referenced in Chomsky's work, I'll try to remember the exact book but it was probably (I think it's called) Year 500: The Conquest Continues; Christian Appy(?) also quotes a pilot who was surprised to find that the US had destroyed an entire city, although I don't know if he was referring to Vinh), and supposedly being videotaped attacking a world-famous leper colony over and over again, killing a lot of patients, nurses, and doctors.


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