In the lands of enemies
: Just as war beings, Kurt Andersen of public radio’s Studio 360 finds himself on vacation in the lands of our former enemies — Japan, Vietnam, China — and he finds that they don’t hate us. On the way over, he shifted off the 50/50 fence to slightly in favor of the war. The trip did not change that.
The next day, our tour guide, a university graduate called Liep, who made clear his enthusiasm for Vietnam’s new free-market economy, also brought up the war — the war in Iraq. ”I hate Saddam Hussein,” he volunteered, ”but I worry about Iraqi people being bombed.” He paused. ”Like here, during the American war.” I took a breath. I told him that I shared his concern about civilian death and injury and that I was hopeful that precisely targeted bombs would make for less of it. I said that in Vietnam in the 60’s and 70’s, American policy wasn’t driven by self-defense or, in the end, by a concern for the welfare of the Vietnamese and that our policy in Iraq really is. Even as I made the argument, though, my distinction between then and now struck me as slightly lame. Unlike Saddam, I ventured, Ho Chi Minh was authentically devoted to his people, and that devotion was obviously reciprocated. We were passing near the long, long line outside Ho’s mausoleum, where the great man’s mummified corpse is on display. ”I’ll bet if Saddam Hussein’s body were put on display in Baghdad, Iraqis wouldn’t line up for an hour to pay their respects.” Liep said nothing, so I ended my ad hoc ”Wars of National Liberation: Vietnam Versus Iraq” symposium.