Review of James Cameron’s ‘Here is Your Enemy’
Here is Your Enemy is the American publication of Witness by the journalist James Cameron. Published in 1966 it tells the remarkable account of Cameron’s visit to North Vietnam during the early stages of the Vietnam War. Cameron had gained unrivalled access to the North and its soldiers and was the first journalist to report on life from the side of the NVA.
The British copy, published by Victor Gollancz in the same year is bound in yellow with simple, stark lettering. There no photographs in the UK edition and so if you are searching for either copy this makes for the more interesting option. The images are memorable in their starkness and pull the reader into the book, a lesson in suffering and the decades of suffering to follow. That we as a collective ignore the devastation of the American bombing campaign in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia which still impacts on its people is a black mark against us all. They deserve better.
I truly believe this book to be of great importance in the documenting of the Vietnam War, when American journalists saw their work being ‘edited’ to placate the readership as the war progressed and worsened, Cameron was able to deliver a true, independent view of the situation in the knowledge his book would be published without editorial tampering. That parts of it were published in The New York Times as well as in full by the American publisher Holt Reinhart Winston shows the state of the war at that time.
“I have the impression that we have met somewhere” said Mr Pham Van Dong “Which is clearly impossible” But that was nothing of the kind; it was nevertheless hard to believe that the Prime Minister of North Vietnam could have recalled the briefest of encounters eleven years before in the Hôtel Beau Rivage, in the curiously improbable company of Chou En-Lai and what was then Mr Anthony Eden.
Cameron had been at the Indo-Chinese conference at a time when the revolutionary Viet Minh had the better of the French forces and Van Dong was seen as an emerging star of the Vietnamese organisation. Getting interviews with both Van Dong and the legendary President, Ho Chi Minh wasn’t easy but Cameron’s persistence prevailed and the eighth chapter Rendevous at the Palace is a fascinating piece of reportage writing documenting how he did it and the resulting interview.
What is clear throughout the book and indeed of the author is a refusal to play to the mainstream. Despite many countries disagreeing with American involvement in Vietnam the popular view was the American-backed South Vietnamese army could do no wrong, there was little thought for those in the north of the country and especially those soldiers forced to leave their homes and fight. War is never straightforward and Cameron was keen to expose this, and he did. He lost his job exposing atrocities by the UN backed South Koreans during the Korean War and this fierce determination to write the truth regardless of popular opinion drove him to make the journey and write the book.
“I must acknowledge for the last time that these are the gratuitous notes of someone who feels only that the Vietnam story has been one-sided too long; I am one against a great many. I was not asked to write this; I was not even asked to go. But I did, and I hope there will be many more, with more to say, and longer time in which to say it”
Here is Your Enemy was published in the United States by Holt, Reinhart and Winston in 1966
Categories: James Cameron