[Marxism] Bush: Vietnam is a model for Iraq

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Nov 17 09:12:48 MST 2006


November 17, 2006
Bush Draws Iraq Lesson From Vietnam
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Filed at 9:01 a.m. ET

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) -- President Bush, on his first visit to a country 
where America lost a two-decade-long fight against communism, said Friday 
the Vietnam War's lesson for today's confounding Iraq conflict is that 
freedom takes time to trump hatred.

Embracing a former enemy that remains communist but is allowing capitalism 
to surge, Bush opened a four-day stay here that was fueling an already 
raging debate over his war policy. Democrats who won control of Congress 
say last week's elections validate their call for U.S. troops to start 
coming home soon, while Bush argues -- as he did again Friday -- for 
patience with a mission he says can't be ended until Iraq can remain stable 
on its own.

A baby boomer who came of age during the turbulent Vietnam era and spent 
the war stateside as a member of the Texas Air National Guard, the 
president called himself amazed by the sights of the onetime war capital. 
He pronounced it hopeful that the United States and Vietnam have reconciled 
differences after a war that ended 31 years ago when the Washington-backed 
regime in Saigon fell.

''My first reaction is history has a long march to it, and societies change 
and relationships can constantly be altered to the good,'' Bush said after 
speeding past signs of both poverty and the commerce produced by Asia's 
fastest-growing economy.

The president said there was much to be learned from the divisive Vietnam 
War -- the longest conflict in U.S. history -- as his administration 
contemplates new strategies for the increasingly difficult war in Iraq, now 
in its fourth year. But his critics see parallels with Vietnam -- a 
determined insurgency and a death toll that has drained public support -- 
that spell danger for dragging out U.S. involvement in Iraq.

''It's just going to take a long period of time for the ideology that is 
hopeful -- and that is an ideology of freedom -- to overcome an ideology of 
hate,'' Bush said after having lunch at his lakeside hotel with Australian 
Prime Minister John Howard, whose country has been one of America's 
strongest allies in Iraq, Vietnam and other conflicts.

''We'll succeed,'' Bush added, ''unless we quit.''

In a day of meetings with Vietnamese leaders, the Vietnam-Iraq comparisons 
gave way to a focus on areas of cooperation. Those include continuing 
military-to-military links, work on AIDS and bird flu, trade, and 
cooperation on information about more than 1,300 U.S. military personnel 
still unaccounted for from the Vietnam War.

Bush was visiting the U.S. military's Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command here 
on Saturday.

He met in succession with Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet at the 
bright orange presidential palace, with Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung next 
door, and with the country's most powerful leader, Communist Party chief 
Nong Duc Manh, at the ruling party headquarters across the street. Each 
time, he and his hosts sat under a large bronze bust of Ho Chi Minh, the 
victorious North's revolutionary communist leader.

Nong said the president had ''opened a new page in the relationship.''

In the evening, Bush was feted at a state banquet.

''For decades, you have been torn apart by war,'' Bush said, toasting his 
hosts. ''And today the Vietnamese people are at peace and seeing the 
benefits of reform.''

The president's welcome by the public was much less enthusiastic than the 
rock-star treatment afforded President Clinton when he came in 2000. Happy 
crowds thronged Clinton, who normalized relations with Vietnam.

But Bush encountered a country where many with long memories deeply 
disapprove of the U.S. invasion of Iraq -- even as they yearn for continued 
economic progress to stamp out still-rampant poverty.

With all traffic halted, many Hanoi residents gaped at his long motorcade 
from their motorbikes. Other clusters of onlookers gathered before 
storefronts, a few waving but most merely looking on impassively.

Huynh Tuyet, 71, a North Vietnamese veteran who had his hand blown off 
fighting the Americans, recalled his own lesson.

''Even though the Americans were more powerful with all their massive 
weapons, the main factor in war is the people,'' he said. ''The Vietnamese 
people were very determined. We would not give up. That's why we won.''

Vietnamese officials eager for their country to take its turn in the global 
spotlight expressed disappointment that the president arrived without his 
expected gift -- congressional approval of a new pact normalizing trade 
relations with Vietnam.

Surprising the White House, Congress failed to pass the bill this week as 
expected, leaving U.S. officials trying to explain to the Vietnamese that 
it would be sure to go through next month.

The visit was a delicate balancing act for Bush. He was trying to improve 
relations with a crucial Asian economic force and to urge Vietnam to make 
further steps toward political, economic and social reforms -- even as his 
mere presence conferred special status on a communist government.

Inside the sprawling Communist Party headquarters, the president gently 
pressed his hosts on the need for greater political and religious freedoms. 
He was reinforcing this point Sunday with a visit to a Hanoi church, 
similar to a stop he made last year on a trip to communist China.

After remaining in Hanoi for a massive summit of 21 Pacific Rim leaders, 
Bush was traveling on Monday to Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon and the 
country's economic heart, where he was showcasing Vietnam's booming economy 
with a visit to its stock exchange and discussions with business leaders. 
He was also going to a medical institute there that focuses on bird flu and 
AIDS research and taking in a cultural performance at a local museum.

On the sidelines of the summit, Bush was drawing on his powers of personal 
diplomacy in one-on-one meeting with Russia's Vladimir Putin, China's Hu 
Jintao, Japan's Shinzo Abe and South Korea's Roh Moo-hyun.

------

Associated Press writer Margie Mason contributed to this report.

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