Tag Archives: vietnam

Bush v. Paleocons on Vietnam

Good: Bush’s State Department (hat-tip to the Democratic Underground) wisely removes a hurdle from even closer Viet-American ties. Washington and Hanoir are natural allies that should speed their inter-governmental, inter-military, and inter-market cooperation.

Bad: However, the Congress (hat-tip to The Corner) foolishly prevented Normal Trade Relations with Vietnam. To some Congressmen, know-knothing anti-foreignerism is more important that free trade, free markets, and free minds.

Tom has his own thoughts on Viet Nam Sai Gon.

Quackers quaketh "Quack," quackly.

I just finished The Fog of War, which had been recommended to my by Curzon of Coming Anarchy. A brilliant documentary of Robert Strange McNamara which puts Vietnam in the context of his early career. Highly recommended. The parallels in mannerism to Donald Rumsfeld are striking.

Meanwhile, at The Duck of Minerva, Dr. Dan Nexon and I have entered a discussion following his post, “States of exception (part vi)“.

Dr. Nexon argued that

no detainee – even if suspected of war crimes such as the murder of civilians – may be subjected to torture, corporal punishment, or humiliating or degrading treatment

The basis for this appears to be the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which reads (Article II, Section 2):

No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.

However, UNCAT appears to be overridden by the Charter of the United Nations, specifically articles 51 and 103

Article LI, which guarantees the right of self defense

Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.

And Article CIII, which asserts the primacy of the Charter over all other treaties:

In the event of a conflict between the obligations of the Members of the United Nations under the present Charter and their obligations under any other international agreement, their obligations under the present Charter shall prevail.

The UN Charter Against Terrorism absolutely forbids torture.
The UN Charter absolutely affirms the right of self defense.
Absolutely forbidding torture is an abandonment of self-defense


The UN Charter absolutely trumps the UN Charter Against Terrorism.

(Long-time tdaxp readers will not I asked Big Cheese a similar question).

The God of Viet Nam

The Chaplain’s Last Sermon,” by Dean Barrett, Memoirs of a Bangkok Warrior, 1983, ppg 57-60

Unclear theology. Notable poetry:


“Men, I want to talk to you today about prayer. I know many of you — as professional soldiers — may feel ill at ease when humbling yourself before God. But I have a pleasant surprise for you. Because praying to God is not unlike stepping on a land mine. Yeah, that’s right: there is nothing more explosive than faith in God. Now, I know you cannot always tell a good gook from a bad book. But God can. God knows which gook plants rice and which gook plants mines. I do not have to remind you that planting rice is Good and planting mines is Evil. And God wants you to recognize Evil when you see it; that is why He created land mines in such a way that when you step on them they blow you away.

Of course, I do not mean to imply that land mines planted in His name are Evil. (But, don’t forget, those too can blow you away.) But, remember, all personnel blown away in His Name have Life Everlasting.

You cannot see God — and you cannot see a land mine; but both are there and both are capable of responding. This is because both have power. Enormous power. But God has far more power than ordinary land mines. Land mines can blow you away when you step on them. But the power of God is unlimited. He can blow you away anytime, anyplace, under any conditions, war or peace, out on patrol or while cleaning your rifle, standing in the chow line or marching in a parade, engaged in a firefight or walking to the latrine, combatants or non-combatants, officer or enlisted, man, mama-san or bab-san, soldier or queer. Even, somewhat unfairly, perhaps, in a demilitarized zone.

Now, men, I want you to think of God as a powerful weapon. Because God is smarter than the smartest bomb, more powerful than the most destructive artillery, and don’t forget, He can see in the dark.

Think of God as a Great Being looking at us all through an infra-red starlight sniperscope. Wherever we are, the eyes of God follow. We are forever lined up in His sights. And one day this Supreme Being will peer through those sighs, squint through that scope, slowly squeeze the trigger and neutralize each and every one of us — regardless of race, color, creed, sex, age, I.Q., name, rank, and serial number.

God needs no illumination rounds or saturation bombing to rubbish His chosen targets. His rifle never jams; His ammunition is Everlasting. The day will come when each and ever one of us will be trapped in one of God’s multi-divisional search-and-destroy sweeps, or by angels deployed by God to mop up. And let me assure you that God’s angels are perfectly able to bomb and strage any pockets of resistance that hold you, however briefly, against them.

Let there be no doubt about it, the day will come when God will frag all of us. And when that day comes, when God in His wisdom springs His ambush, when God booby-traps your trail, when God chooses to evacuate you from the battle zone forever, when He discharges you from our army to reinforce His own celestial combatants, be absolutely certain that you have been adequately briefed on your new mission.

Because on that final Day of Judgement, when what we call our universe is finally and utterly defoliated for all time, God will gather thee elite troops of his most crack divisions around him, while those soldiers who surrendered to temptation, or who performed unnatural acts, will be condemned to a free-fire zone forever.

And those who feel they might escape God’s Incoming Rounds, remember, even Jesus was not issued a flak-jacket. Quite the contrary. Out of His Great love for the world, God fragged His own son. And that is something to think about.

Now, men, even after the war is over, people will still have faith in God — and they will still have children, some of whom will become soldiers themselves, and some of whom will be blown away by stepping on leftover land mines — regardless of race, color or creed, boy or girl, tall or short, military dependents or draft resisters, students participating in R.O.T.C. or deserters, applications of O.C.S. or queers. God calls everyone. But how many who have ever stepped on a land mine have actually paused to consider… consider how one path can lead back to base, and how one path can lead to Life Everlasting.

As I’ve said, men, land mines cannot be seen, neither can God; but both exist, and both are waiting — Out There. Now, you may never step on a land mine, but that does not mean God does not love you. Let us pray.

‘O Lord our God, Thou who art greater than any weapon yet conceived by man, Thou who exist in greater depth than any land mine yet planted by man, Thou who has blown away more soldiers on more battlefields, than even we are able to do, give us this day the power to tell good gooks from bad gooks, and to know which gooks serve in Your Name and which gooks should be neutralized… in Your Name. Give us the firepower to destroy Thine enemies. Give us the strength to understand Your Wisdom, to glory in Your Plan, and — when that time comes — to readily and gratefully allow our bodies to be rubbished in Your Name.

When you call us back to base, oh Lord, when we stand before you in Divine Interrogation, lead us not to report that our mission was aborted or that our air-strike against Thine enemies was canceled because of unfavorable weather conditions. Let us salute proudly and smartly and with confidence our Supreme Commander-in-Chief; and let us never stoop to inflating a body count in order to make favorable impression.

And give us this day the ability to recognize that beseeching Thy aid is — if we sincerely and humbly request it — as simple and as uncomplicated as stepping on a land mine. We ask this in Your Name and in the Name of Your Only Begotten Son. Whom You saw fit to rubbish on our behalf. Amen.'”

America’s Buddy Vietnam

Vietnam leader announces plan for visit to U.S.,” Associated Press, 5 May 2005, http://www.columbiatribune.com/2005/May/20050505News016.asp.

Give and take: Vietnam urges sweet deal on summit and trade,” by Craig Skehan, Sydney Morning Herald, 6 May 2005, http://www.smh.com.au/news/National/Give-and-take-Vietnam-urges-sweet-deal-on-summit-and-trade/2005/05/05/1115092629184.html?oneclick=true (from Dawn’s Early Light).

Vietnam helps Australia into ASEAN (the Association of South East Asian Nations)

A former enemy, the communist government of Vietnam, has pledged to press for Australia to be admitted to the East Asia summit.

Vietnam’s Prime Minister, Phan Van Khai, gave the undertaking yesterday after meeting the Prime Minister, John Howard, at Parliament House in Canberra.

But it gets better. Vietnam wants Australia to be in without Australia agreeing to not interfer with its neighbors. In other words, Hanoi wants Canberra in ASEAN to open the door to Australian peacekeepers in ASEAN states. Vietnam encouraging Australia to shrink the Gap!

Mr Khai said Australia should not be forced to sign the regional non-intervention treaty in order to be invited. The summit is intended to link the Association of South-East Asian Nations with other countries – including China, Korea, Japan and India. Mr Howard has criticised the treaty and has said Australia will not sign it.

American Allies, and Mutual Friends, Australia and Vietnam

… while Vietnam and the United States exchange VIPs

Vietnam’s prime minister announced today that he plans to become the country’s highest-ranking leader to visit the United States since the Vietnam War ended 30 years ago.

Khai’s comments came a day before U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick was expected to visit Vietnam to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between the former foes.

Just another day of news about our friend, ally, and buddy Vietnam

Our Ally Vietnam

US eyes Indonesia, Vietnam as potential strategic allies in Southeast Asia,” AFP, 1 May 2005, http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20050501/pl_afp/usaseanally_050501224348;_ylt=A9FJqYYNYXVClgMB_QCs0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTA2bW85OXIzBHNlYwNwbA– (from Praktike Liberals Against Terrorism).

Hmmm… If only some blogger gave us early notice that America’s friend Vietnam was becoming a Thailand-class ally

The United States is eyeing Muslim giant Indonesia and erstwhile enemy Vietnam as potential strategic allies in Southeast Asia as it moves to expand a counter-terrorism drive and contain China’s growing influence in the region.

At present, the United States has three close allies in the region — treaty allies the Philippines and Thailand as well as key security partner Singapore.

Strong US-Vietnam relations will be an effective bulwark against any Chinese regional military expansion while Indonesia is crucial in the US “war on terror,” of which predominantly-Muslim Southeast Asia is seen as a key front, analysts say.

If only someone would have predicted this…

[Deputy Secretary of State Robert] Zoellick is expected to discuss prospective security partnerships with the Indonesian and Vietnamese leaders on top of identifying areas for economic cooperation.

The Vietnamese “have been very, very interested in strengthening the overall relationship,” he told reporters in Washington ahead of the visit. “Economics is one of the drivers but there is very strong security interest. This is obviously true for a country like Indonesia too.”

Our Friend Vietnam

Vietnam’s end of war celebrations to be muted,” Reuters, 28 April 2005, http://www.swissinfo.org/sen/swissinfo.html?siteSect=143&sid=5729787&cKey=1114674631000 (from DU).

America Lost, Capitalism Won,” The Economist, 28 April 2005, http://www.economist.com/printedition/displayStory.cfm?story_id=3914886.

Vietnamese tourguards don’t care much about the “American War”

On the steps of the Reunification Palace in Ho Chi Minh City, a guide recounts the final, dramatic moments of the Vietnam war. On the morning of April 30th 1975, two tanks of the “liberation forces” crashed through the gates of what was then the presidential palace of South Vietnam, in what was then Saigon. One of the tank commanders raced to the roof to tear down the flag of the American-backed regime and raise a communist banner in its stead, symbolically reuniting the two halves of the country and putting an end to 30 years of conflict.

The guide himself, however, does not seem very stirred by this story. He tells it only halfway through his tour, as one of a number of historical anecdotes. Like most Vietnamese, he was born after the war, so feels little personal connection to the events he recounts. He is from the north, he says, but has come to the south to improve his English and find a good job. From the rooftop, he gazes not at the famous tanks enshrined in the grounds below, but at the high-rises sprouting from the city’s skyline, emblazoned with American brand names such as Citibank and Sheraton.

Communist Architecture

Hanoi agrees

Vietnam commemorates 30 years since “The American War” ended on Saturday, no longer simply exulting in the victory but instead urging people to look to the future.

Concerned that too visible a show of triumph could harm ties with the United States, the celebrations have been toned down compared with previous years.

The government’s talking of more market-based reforms

“The way we have been commemorating these historical dates is getting repetitive and overdosing on them may have a counter-effect,” he wrote.

We have to push ahead with reforms and stay away from self-satisfaction and the disease of talking too much about our achievements,” said Kiet, prime minister in the mid-1990’s.

Skyline of Capitalist Saigon, see also the Samsung Billboard

While the people just make money

Little trace remains of any hostility towards America—just one, after all, of the many countries Vietnam fought during the past century. It went to war more recently (in 1979) with China, a perennial enemy over the last millennium, and the authorities still seem more suspicious of their northern neighbours and fellow communists than of anyone else. America and Vietnam restored diplomatic ties in 1995, and signed a trade pact in 2000. America is now Vietnam’s largest export market. Disputes between the two countries hinge more on tariffs and market access than on war crimes or missing soldiers.

Last year, United Airlines resumed flights to Ho Chi Minh City—which still bears the code SGN. A pilot who was lionised during the war for bombing the presidential palace in Saigon is now looking forward to captaining Vietnam Airlines’ first commercial flight to America—on one of the firm’s ten Boeing jets. Last month, Ho Chi Minh City received an American naval vessel for the second time in as many years. Locals scarcely batted an eyelid at the sight of uniformed American sailors wandering the streets.

The South is benefiting most from Hanoi’s liberalization, because of its connections with the United States and its history of free-market economics

The war exacerbated these differences. For one thing, the south suffered less from American bombing, leaving it with better infrastructure. What is more, northerners have lived under a communist regime since 1954, whereas southerners have much more recent experience of capitalism. The flight of well-to-do southerners in the face of the communist advance in 1975, and the subsequent exodus of boat people, has left the south with a bigger diaspora. These links to viet kieu, or overseas Vietnamese, give the south a more cosmopolitan outlook, and provide southern businessmen with capital and ideas.

Stylish Vietnamese Capitalists

Saigon is a huge part of the boom

Ho Chi Minh City alone accounts for 17% of national output, 30% of foreign investment and 40% of exports—far in excess of its 9% share of the population. Local income per head is roughly four times the national average. Throw in the four adjacent provinces, and the share of output rises to 40%, and of exports to 70%.

Ho Chi Minh City, for example, has refurbished a beautiful colonial building as an investment-promotion office. English-speaking officials enumerate the city’s many advantages with the help of PowerPoint displays and glossy brochures. The city government, explains one, can process applications for various business permits online. It is also starting up an “e-discussion” scheme to answer investors’ queries, in both English and Vietnamese.

America’s post-1972 betrayal of South Vietnam is shameful. Suspending military aid to the Republic of Vietnam was the worst action of the U.S. Congress in history, and the moment of Democrat Party bankruptcy. But this tragedy of the past does not change the present.

Vietnam is rapidly becoming a Thailand-class ally of the United States. Like America, Vietnam has strong interests in containing China and growing the world econony. That is why our ships are visiting her ports, and that is why Hanoi is the capital of America’s friend, Vietnam.

Calling Jackie Chan

Singapore fair puts brides on display,” by Tran Dinh Thanh Lam, Inter Press Service, 2 April 2005, http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Southeast_Asia/GD02Ae01.html (from A Singapore Angle, and others).

I saw this movie. It ends with Jackie Chan saving everyone with light-hearted kung-fu stuntery. It was pretty awesome.

News of the public exhibition of Vietnamese brides for “instant marriage” at a recent fair in Singapore along with the sale of young Vietnamese girls to single men in neighboring China seeking wives has shocked the public here.

On March 17, police in Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, arrested four young Vietnamese men ranging from the ages of 19 to 23 for selling their girlfriends to a Chinese syndicate. These men first made friends with the eight girls by chatting to them over the Internet. They were then enticed to travel with the men to Lang Son province in the north. Once there, they were sold to the syndicate for 5,000 yuan (US$600) each.

These guys all are very young, but have wicked hearts. The ringleader, Dao Ngoc Dung, is evil enough to sell his two lovers,” read a statement on VietnamNet, an online news portal.

I think that was dialog, too. If only Jackie would stop making terrible American movies and realize his Korean heritage.

American Warship Enters Vietnamese Waters

U.S. Navy Warship Visits Vietnam,” by Margie Mason, Associated Press, http://www.fortwayne.com/mld/newssentinel/11257373.htm (from Free Republic).

Docks at Saigon. Greeted warmly. Home movies and photographs taken. Fun had by all.

An American warship made a rare visit to Vietnam on Tuesday, a sign the two countries are looking to improve military ties 30 years after the Vietnam War.

Sailors dressed in white lined the decks of the USS Gary as the frigate docked in Saigon Port, where it is to remain for five days. The warship was just the third Navy vessel to make a port call in the communist country since the war ended on April 30, 1975.

The Stars and Stripes flew alongside the Vietnamese flag as the ship eased up the muddy Saigon River. Many of the more than 200 sailors aboard snapped pictures or videotaped its arrival.

The two sides signed a landmark bilateral trade agreement in 2001, and business has exploded in recent years. But work in the sensitive area of military cooperation has only just begun.

As the United States and Vietnam find common ground on issues of counterterrorism and regional stability, future military ties will likely include more ship visits and high-level exchanges such as Vietnamese Defense Minister Pham Van Tra’s historic trip to Washington in 2003.

“The most important thing for both of our nations and peoples to do is to continue to look forward, not backward,” U.S. Ambassador Michael Marine said.

Some in Vietnam believe the U.S. military may be looking to their country as a future strategic area to establish a base to counter growing Chinese influence in Southeast Asia. But Marine said that was not the case.

This is very good news. Normalization with Vietnam was pushed by Senators McCain and Kerry, and this happy news is a result of their work.

There is little need to contain China, but that does not mean we can be wreckless. We should hedge against future disasters and quietly remind China that peace is in its interests. Through demonstrating our security intention in lands surrounding China — from Mongolia to Korea to Taiwan to India to Kyrgyzstan, and maybe soon to Vietnam, we discourage Chinese military ambitions. This funnels Chinese ambitions into peaceful economics, increases security, and builds a future worth creating.

The World in Summary

India and Israel strengthen military ties.

Red China allows citizen to use and read TypePad blogs.

Vietnam applauds U.S. trade relations, but complains about rules regarding catfish-dumping.

Dozens die in another Salafist-Baathist terror bombing.

There is a growing, interconnected world that peacefully pursues trade, freedom, and democracy. Not everyone is at the same place, but everyone is on the right track.

While the tribal neo-Klansmen of Iraq kill people to drive out the world. To [re]impose a hateful tyranny on the masses who despire them.

We are fighting for the free world — for the globalized world. Our enemies fight against it.