Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Apologise to Vietnam

Both Idiot Savant at No Right Turn, and Catherine Delahunty, a Green candidate believes the NZ government should apologise to Vietnam for the Vietnam War.

Such a suggestion is morally bankrupt.

The Vietnam War came about after the decolonisation of the country by the French. The Geneva conference was meant to see elections held throughout both north and south Vietnam, but as the north set up a communist one-party state and started purging political opponents. "Land reform" saw peasant revolts put down in the north. Meanwhile, the south also refused to hold elections. From this Vietnam became a frontline for the Cold War, with the communist north backed by the USSR and China (despite long standing ethnic rivalries and mistrust), and the non-communist south backed by the USA. They started fighting.

Both sides were corrupt, and abused human rights. By no means was the Republic of Vietnam (RoV) regime in the south a great example of freedom and democracy. It imprisoned political opponents and executed some, whilst of course the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) in the north did the same. However, for the US and its allies, including Australia and NZ, there was a fear of what was underneath the "Domino theory" that if Vietnam was communist, then it would spread to Cambodia (correct), Thailand and the rest. So backing was given to the RoV government against the communists. The DRV spread insurgency in the south flagrantly, and found supporters amongst those hurt and affected by the incompetence and repression of the RoV.

The war ensued and the US slowly escalated its support for the RoV. Americans saw the first war televised, saw body bags come home, saw its young men getting conscripted for a war to defend a corrupt autocracy. Life in the communist north was not televised, nobody ever saw the brutality of the DRV insurgency, its oppression of political opponents.

New Zealand became involved because of the belief in the domino theory, genuine fear that communism needed to be fought in our backyard and a belief that it was better to defend the bad but anti-communist RoV regime than let all of Vietnam become Marxist-Leninist. That is not something to apologise for.

The Paris Peace Accords which were meant to end the war, and allow free elections in South Vietnam were breached wholeheartedly by the DRV. The US withdrew and the DRV forces ignored what had been negotiated, and with the backing of the USSR and China (Western opponents of the war claim it was a US imperialist war ignoring the massive Soviet and Chinese support given to the DRV side) Vietnam was taken over by the DRV and it declared the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
2 million people fled communist Vietnam, hundreds of thousands dying in boats as they did. 200,000 officials from the RoV government were sent to "re-education camps", a brutal experience for some and many died. That was the legacy of letting Vietnam go.
Today Vietnam has no freedom of speech, it imprisons those who criticise government policy, there is no room for human rights organisations to operate or prisons to be inspected.

So what of that which Idiot Savant says? "Vietnam was an unjust war, fought for America's imperial aggrandisement. It caused the deaths of over a million North Vietnamese soldiers and two million civilians - over 10% of the North Vietnamese population. We should not have participated, and that fact needs to be formally acknowledged."

No, Vietnam was a just war fought to prevent the spread of Marxism-Leninism, an evil, murderous and debilitating political philosophy. The North Vietnamese soldiers were no angels, and many civilians died due to the DRV side, as well as the RoV side. Yes the war was fought badly, yes the support for the RoV regime was grossly mishandled, and in retrospect it was a disaster. However it was moral to try to stop Vietnam being communist. How this was done was a mistake, and so many actions by both sides were appalling.

Yet nobody on the left ever criticises the communist forces, never mentions the brutality and cruelty inflicted by the communists on civilians. It is always a US imperialist war, yet the heavy involvement of the USSR and China in funding and arming the communists, and sending small numbers of troops (and air cover) is ignored. Russia always has a "well that was the Soviet Union, it's different now" card that excuses all of its past atrocities.
We owe the Vietnamese communist government nothing. It is morally bankrupt to apologise to a authoritarian government. We should be encouraging the promising reforms of opening up the economy to go further, and for political pluralism and free speech.
What is particularly morally bankrupt are those who purport to be concerned about human rights and freedoms who say nothing about the Vietnamese communist regime. The Greens would rather apologise to it, but (rightfully) criticise Burma and China. Presumably the Greens think Vietnam becoming communist was a good thing. Idiot Savant has fallen into the same trap.
The Vietnam War was a mistake in strategy and tactics, it had half a goal - to stop communism, but its other half - what to have in its place, was absent and what was in its place was nothing to be proud of. However, there is no reason to celebrate communist run Vietnam, and no reason to apologise for trying to stop it.


Anonymous said...

Very well put Scott. Bravo! Not just Idiot Savant and other leftist bloggers but most of the Labour cabinet, including leader-in-waiting Phil Goff were openly anti-US during the Vietnam war, if I recall correctly. I hope they get to read what you have written.

Anonymous said...

You're failing to distinguish between an apology to the people of Vietnam who deserve one as they suffer much, because of the US intervention as opposed to its government.

Like in Iraq and Palestine, the conflict was a legacy of Western colonialsim and post-colonial intervention by Western (and Soviet) in the domestic affairs of other countries.

It can be argued that if Truman had of recognised Vietnams soverignty after World War II rather than conspiring to return all of France's former colonial possessions then the War wouldn't have happened and possibly it wouldn't even be communist to this day. After all Vietminh quoted from the U.S. Declaration of Independance when he proclaimed its independance from both Japan and France.

"On this same day, Ho Chi Minh proclaims the independence of Vietnam by quoting from the text of the American Declaration of Independence which had been supplied to him by the OSS -- "We hold the truth that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This immortal statement is extracted from the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America in 1776. These are undeniable truths."

Sure he was a socialist who wanted a fair distribution of land for everyone, but I'm sure he would have adapted his ideology if the U.S. had of recognised and supported him.

Don't right-libertarians support the rights of EVERYONE to private property, as per John Locke, David Ricardo, Adam Smith, and John Stuart Mill? Or is it just the wealthy that are so deserving and the state is merely a tool to legitamise their rights to exclude everyone else?

Its quite obvious who the sympathies of U.S. power elite lie considering they are the product of the social conditions that they seek to protect in the Third World, the Latin American Latifundistas, French colonialist landowners, Russian obligarchs, etc