From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: Fri Aug 11 2000 - 22:49:01 CUT

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    By Andrew Wells-Dang, Asia-Pacific Center for Justice and Peace

    (Editor's Note: A few weeks ago a bilateral trade accord was signed by
    the U.S. and Vietnam, opening the way for Congress to grant normal
    trading status (NTR) to Vietnam. The absence of normal trading relations
    between the two countries is largely attributable to lingering U.S.
    resentment at Vietnam for having chased U.S. forces out of Indochina. In
    this new FPIF policy brief, Andrew Wells-Dang looks at the legacy of the
    U.S. war and recommends a package of new policies, including
    unconditional congressional authorization of NTR status for Vietnam. The
    entire text is posted at:

    Twenty-five years ago, on April 30, 1975, North Vietnamese troops
    marched into Saigon, ending what Vietnamese call the "American War" and
    leading to the reunification of the country. The war cost the lives of
    three million Vietnamese on both sides, and at least a million Laotians
    and Cambodians. Although most Vietnamese have put the bitter memories of
    the war years behind them, U.S. policy has still not fully accepted the
    loss of the war--as if the U.S. had grievances against Vietnam rather
    than the other way around. Any mention of Vietnam in the United States
    still evokes the war, first and foremost. Despite five years of
    diplomatic ties between the former enemies, the legacy of war remains
    hidden below the surface--sometimes quite literally, in the form of land
    mines, unexploded ordnance (UXO), and Agent Orange (dioxin). Over
    100,000 Vietnamese have been killed or maimed by mines and UXO since
    1975, and an estimated one million people suffer from toxic
    contamination. Additional consequences of unresolved conflicts include
    the economic and political isolation that still plagues the Vietnamese
    government, which won the war but has arguably lost the peace.

    Early postwar hopes for normalization of relations between the former
    enemies were dashed when Washington refused to provide the
    reconstruction aid originally promised to Hanoi. When open conflict
    arose between Vietnam and Pol Pot's Cambodia in 1978-79, the U.S.
    tacitly supported the Khmer Rouge and their Chinese patrons,
    establishing full diplomatic ties with China and agreeing to look the
    other way from Deng Xiaoping's punitive invasion of northern Vietnam. In
    the geopolitical mindset of the Carter, Reagan, and Bush
    administrations, China formed a counterweight to the Soviet Union, while
    Vietnam was dismissed as a Soviet satellite. China received temporary
    normal trade relations (NTR) status, full diplomatic recognition, and,
    until 1989, military assistance. Vietnam got a twenty-year trade and aid
    embargo, which compounded the effects of a vast refugee exodus and other
    postwar difficulties.

    The U.S. political establishment reacted to its defeat in Vietnam by
    adjusting its military strategy to minimize casualties to Americans. But
    the basic foreign policy errors that led to the Vietnam debacle lie
    embedded in persistent cold war thinking and in the assumption that the
    American way is always best. Instead of admitting that it might have
    supported the wrong side in the Vietnamese revolution, the U.S. has
    continued to fight the war by other means.

    The U.S. isolation of Vietnam continued until well after the end of the
    cold war. President Clinton finally lifted the unilateral trade embargo
    in 1994 and reestablished diplomatic relations the following year. U.S.
    investors currently constitute 3.5% of Vietnam's total foreign
    investment, ranking ninth among Vietnam's trading partners. A bilateral
    trade agreement, considered by Washington to be the stepping stone to
    NTR, was negotiated in 1999 and signed in July 2000. But the accord will
    not enter into force until ratified by the U.S. Congress. With a few
    exceptions, U.S. assistance to Vietnam's development has been shamefully
    inadequate. On the most overt war-related issues, landmines/UXO and
    Agent Orange, it has taken the U.S. a generation to accept the scope of
    the problems and to consider addressing them in a comprehensive way. In
    at least one aspect, normalization has had a negative impact on Vietnam:
    as a condition of new relations, Hanoi has been forced to begin
    repayment of $146 million in former South Vietnamese bilateral debt.

    The widespread coverage of the April 30 anniversary in mainstream
    publications such as Time and People has shown Americans the new face of
    Vietnam. More than half of all Vietnamese were born after the war. Both
    they and the older generation desire peace, continued reform, and
    economic opportunity, ending their isolation while maintaining a
    distinct national identity. It behooves Washington--considering both
    economic interest and moral responsibility--to support the Vietnamese in
    these developments. Doing so, however, requires dismantling the barriers
    to good relations that remain as legacies of the war.

    (Andrew Wells-Dang <andrew@apcjp.org> is the program director at the
    Asia Pacific Center for Justice and Peace.)

    Sources for More Information:

    Asia Pacific Center for Justice and Peace
    Email: apcjp@igc.org
    Website: http://www.apcjp.org/

    Fund for Reconciliation & Development
    (formerly U.S.-Indochina Reconciliation Project)
    Email: usindo@igc.org
    Website: http://www.usirp.org/

    Human Rights Watch/Asia
    Email: jendrzm@hrw.org
    Website: http://www.hrw.org/

    PeaceTrees Vietnam
    Email: jerilynbru@aol.com
    Website: http://www.peacetreesvietnam.org/

    Quaker Service Vietnam
    Email: afscvn@netnam.org.vn

    U.S.-Vietnam Trade Council
    Email: vbfoote@aol.com
    Website: http://www.viam.com/ads/usvn.html

    Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation
    Email: chuck@netnam.org.vn
    Website: http://www.vvaf.org/

    Congressional Hearing on U.S.-Vietnam Trade

    Hatfield Consultants
    (Agent Orange study material)

    International Campaign to Ban Landmines

    U.S. Trade Representative

    U.S.-Vietnam Agreement


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