March 9, 2005
TO DO--KOREA, CUBA, IRAN...
Saigon's Sharansky: Will Vietnam be the next Iraq? (CLAUDIA ROSETT, March 9, 2005, Opinion Journal)
There's been a lot of talk since Sept. 11 about how President Bush's war-lovin' ways have galvanized terrorists, recruiting jihadis to the ranks. What's increasingly evident, however, is that the character suffering the real blowback is Osama bin Laden, who, as it turns out, jolted the U.S. into a global recruiting drive for democrats. Faced with an unprecedented attack on American shores, Mr. Bush smashed the mold for Middle-East policy, and with the invasion of Iraq lit a beacon for freedom-lovers in a part of the world that until quite recently was widely seen as having none.
As it turns out, there are many. Already, Mr. Bush has been answered by the breathtaking election turnout in Iraq, the uprising in Lebanon, the tremors in Syria and Iran, the stirrings in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. But the effects hardly stop with the Middle East. In many places, people trapped under tyrannies are now watching. Ballots cast in Baghdad echo way east of Suez.
So it happens that a message reached me last weekend from within one of the world's most repressive states: Vietnam. Word came that the Sharansky of Saigon, democratic dissident Nguyen Dan Que, had been released from his latest stretch in Vietnam's prisons. Though Dr. Que, as he prefers to be called, is now dogged by state security agents around the clock and allowed no phone or computer of his own, he could arrange to be on the receiving end of a phone call.
So at an appointed hour, I picked up the phone in New York and spoke with Dr. Que, a 63-year-old doctor who has by now spent almost half his life fighting for liberty in Vietnam. Given that Vietnam's secret police almost certainly eavesdrop on any contact he has with the wider world, I was prepared for a discreet and carefully phrased conversation, meant to minimize his risk. Dr. Que was not. He got straight to the point: "What I want is liberty for my people." The question now, he said, "is how to make regime change in Vietnam." For democratization of his country, he added, "support from the rest of the world is important." Specifically, he wants Hanoi's decaying communist party to "put forward a timetable for free and fair elections."
It is important for the world to understand that in saying such things, Dr., Que knows all too well the risk he is taking.
Having redeemed his father's failure in the First Iraq War and reformed the Middle East in the way Woodrow Wilson failed to after WWI, it seems only fitting for the President to add Vietnam to the list of past president's messes he's fixing. Posted by Orrin Judd at March 9, 2005 8:46 AM