Local Commentary

Our Man in Arlington

Arlingtonian Rufus Phillips has written a great book on Vietnam that should be on your must read list.

Phillips got an early start in Vietnam. As an Airborne Infantry Officer detailed to the CIA, he joined the Saigon Military Mission in 1954, where he served as advisor to two Vietnamese Army pacification operations and received the CIA Intelligence Medal of Merit. He returned to Vietnam in 1956 as a CIA civilian case officer.

At the request of President Kennedy in 1962, he organized a counterinsurgency effort in the Agency for International Development’s Saigon Mission, working with major Vietnamese officials up to and including President Diem. From 1964-1968 was a consultant to AID, the State Department, the Johnson Administration, and V.P. Hubert Humphrey, making five trips to Vietnam.

Ambassador Richard Holbrooke calls him “the most knowledgeable civilian official then in Vietnam…”

Phillips went on to a distinguished career as president of a consulting engineering firm, involved in planning and designing airport projects in over forty countries in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Though Rufus and Barbara lived in or around McLean for forty years, they have been well known to Arlingtonians through both politics and business, and they moved into Arlington two years ago. Barbara was a prominent realtor in the region, and Rufus was active in Democratic politics, and served as a member of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors for four years.

Many will remember he ran against Joe Fisher in the 1974 Democratic primary. Joe won the primary and went on to defeat long-time incumbent Joel Broyhill. Rufus, however, remained close to many Arlington Democrats, and has become even more active in Arlington politics since he and Barbara moved here

His new book is “Why Vietnam Matters” published by The Naval Institute Press. Holbrooke says the book “..is a major contribution to the history of Vietnam. It contains important lessons for the wars America is currently fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The reviews so far have been stellar. Joseph Galloway, co-author of the superb We Were Soldiers Once … and Young, says, “Read Rufus Phillips’ brilliant memoir and find out why those who refuse to learn the lessons of history are doomed to make the same mistakes, with much the same results, endlessly.”

Phillips is giving a lecture on the book at the Arlington Central Library at 3:00 p.m., Sunday, November 16. I strongly urge you to attend the lecture!


You probably don’t need a reminder, but you are going to get one anyway. You must vote next Tuesday, if you have not already done so. The Presidential election will be one of the most important of our lifetime. You need to be a part of it all.