March 9, 2005


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

It drives me nuts that my local NPR station is sponsoring a trip to Vietnam and Cambodia. Two years ago their fundraising trip was to Cuba.

I checked the itinerary - no plans to meet with Dr. Que.

Posted by: Jason Johnson at March 9, 2005 9:34 AM

The thought of putting this coonskin on the wall fills us with emotion. The feeling is that of the speaker in Nach Frankreich Zogen Zwei Grenediere.

Posted by: Lou Gots at March 9, 2005 10:30 AM

Given the maelstrom around it and the continued hostility of the PRC, one cannot imagine the 'Communist' dictatorship of Vietnam remaining in place for much longer. They are going to need friends, friends with the ability to sell it arms and upgrade its infrastructure. And the only place it can really go is the US and its allies. That will have a price.

Posted by: Bart at March 9, 2005 12:06 PM

He's finishing our unfinished business.

But I'm still pissed over CFR and our judges.

Posted by: Sandy P at March 9, 2005 12:07 PM

I agree Sandy, on both points, but I do relish the cries of liberals everywhere at the prospect of turning Viet Nam into another Iraq, which as we all know is actually another Viet Nam. Kind of like Victor/Victoria, a woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman...

Posted by: Robert Modean at March 9, 2005 12:48 PM

Just trying to picture the shreiking and wailing there would be within the left if Vietnam -- Ground Zero for all the liberal boomer generation's validation of their own self-worth and moral superiority -- were to suddenly have to confront the same sort of reforms being demanded by citizens in Lebanon while George W. Bush is in the White House. I doubt most of them would be able to contain their hostility towards the masses in Saigon or Hanoi for trying to bring down the "great achievement" of the boomer generation's youth.

Posted by: John at March 9, 2005 1:16 PM

An invasion of Vietnam! Horrors, that would be just like the Vietnam war:-)

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at March 9, 2005 3:27 PM


Posted by: sh at March 9, 2005 7:51 PM

...Luna, under U.N. Tyranny   since 1968.

Posted by: Ripper at March 9, 2005 8:28 PM