From the NYTimes on Friday:
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.
I guess that’s true, but probably not in the way he intended.
''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.
Also true. It only took Vietnam 30 years to get past being bombed back into the Stone Age.
No mention was made of the 2 million (or more) people killed and the suffering that continues to this day. No mention was made of the genocide next door in Cambodia we triggered then ignored.
"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.''
This man has the mind of a child. It reminds me of when my first grade teacher proudly told the class that the U.S. had never lost a war. I guess no one ever told her about Vietnam (or Korea, for that matter). Or sufficiently explained to her the concept of “losing.” Whatever lessons Bush is drawing from Vietnam, I am not very confident that they will help us resolve the problems we now face in Iraq.
Vietnam became successful only after the invading powers, the U.S. and France, were expelled. I wonder if anyone has bothered explaining to Bush the concept of nationalism (it’s like patriotism, but for people in other countries) and how people don’t usually like having their homeland invaded by foreigners.
''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.''