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Cold War Files: All Units: Events: Phoenix Program Established Despite Controversy

July 1, 1968
Phoenix Program Established Despite Controversy

The Phoenix program is established to crush the secret Viet Cong infrastructure (VCI) in South Vietnam. The VCI, estimated at up to 70,000 Communist guerrillas, has been responsible for a long-standing campaign of terror against Americans, South Vietnamese government officials, village leaders and innocent civilians.
However, the Phoenix program, which is controlled through CORDS under the direction of Robert Komer, generates huge controversy in America concerning numerous alleged assassinations of suspected Viet Cong operatives by South Vietnamese trained by the U.S. The controversy, generated in part through North Vietnamese propaganda, eventually results in Congressional hearings. Testifying in 1971 before Congress, Komer's successor William E. Colby states, "The Phoenix program was not a program of assassination. The Phoenix program was a part of the overall pacification program." Colby admits that 20,587 Viet Cong had been killed "mostly in combat situations...by regular or paramilitary forces."

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