© The Japan Times
Tokyo, Japan
May 10, 1998

Ho Chi Minh was a nationalist

          I feel obliged to comment on John T. Blackmore's letter "Pfaff wrong on Cambodia," which was run with my letter "Pride in the name of truth," on May 3.
          Blackmore writes "…even the most inefficient, corrupt government is better than communists who, while pretending to be nationalists, actually believe in class warfare against their opponents."
          In the case of Pol Pot, Blackmore's assertion is probably true, but I believe it's debatable as concerns the communist Ho Chi Minh, and in my letter I refer to Ho Chi Minh as the leader of a nationalist movement. I would like to point out the following:
          • Ho Chi Minh had sought support for Vietnamese independence from the international community, but only found that support from communists.
          • In 1954, an agreement was drawn up for U.N.-sponsored, democratic elections to be held in Vietnam. When it became clear Ho Chi Minh would prevail, Ngo Dinh Diemh, the leader of the South, refused to participate. France and the U.S. backed Diemh and elections were called off.
          • Many former U.S. policymakers have concluded it was a mistake to assume Ho Chi Minh was a threat. Robert McNamara writes in his book "In Retrospect" that "We…totally underestimated the nationalist aspect of Ho Chi Minh's movement."
          • Over 3 million Vietnamese and 58,000 Americans died in Vietnam between 1954 and 1975 as a result of U.S. policy in Indochina.
          Blackmore suggests U.S. troops should have been sent to Cambodia to help stabilize the country in the 1970s. It is clear that someone had to do something to stop Pol Pot, and in December 1978, Vietnam invaded Cambodia. I was a 19 year old in the U.S. Navy at that time and there were rumors we might intervene against Vietnam. However, I believe we would have aggravated the situation at that point – only to find ourselves trapped in another Indochinese quagmire.

Don MacLaren

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