Monday, February 04, 2008

Eternal Vietnam

The Communist Party maintains strict one-party rule in Vietnam. It prohibits political opposition, owns and operates the domestic media, and tightly controls most aspects of the country's civic life. It deals swiftly and harshly with its critics, who have been rare since the North forcibly reunited the country in 1975. Those who have dissented tended to be lone intellectuals who published secret newsletters for tiny audiences, or artists who cloaked their critiques in layers of symbolism. To criticize the government openly was to sign up for a life of isolation and prison, a path few chose.

It is perhaps surprising to meet such a passage in "The Nation", the "Reader's Digest" of the American left. What's even more surprising is to see the article call for a more active official American opposition to the communist rule in Vietnam.

Or not. "Vietnam" has been many things over the years to "The Nation." Always those things seem to have more to do with the attitude of "The Nation's" writers toward some contemporary American problem than with a country in Southeast Asia.

For instance, peaceful, happy, prosperous, modern Vietnam was an argument against the Iraq War. And dastardly American policies during the Vietnam War were an argument against intervention in Kosovo. But wait! Opposition to the Vietnam War (and to the communist party that now rules there) was a proud high water mark of "that great antiwar movement by tens of millions of Americans."

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