At Harvard he had individual tutorials with two professors, Samuel Huntington and Henry Kissinger, who played prominent roles in formulating 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 they shouldn’t do it,” he told Mr. Appy. “Both Huntington and Kissinger said, ‘Long, you are really naïve. Every country, like every human, has a breaking point, Vietnam included.’”
After the war ended in 1975, when hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese refugees were streaming into the country, he became a 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, during a talk at Harvard on postwar Vietnam, several hundred Vietnamese Americans gathered to denounce him and hurl gasoline bombs, which failed to explode. Threats against his life continued, and in the following year he repeatedly changed his residence.
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 “Down with Ngo Vinh Long!”
“I became the focus of all the hatred and attacks,” he said in an interview for Writing Vietnam, a 1999 conference at Brown University. “So for the next 20 years, from 1975 to 1995, my life was hell.”
The criticism harmed his career, he said, but “that’s the price you have to pay when you want to be useful.”