January 16, 2008

Religious devotion

For some time, I've had the feeling I need to know more about the Vietnam war. While The Tragedy of Vietnam by Patrick J. Hearden provides a reasonably good chronology of the developments leading up to the war (I like it because it begins with the emergence of the Vietnamese people as a distinct ethnic group more than 2000 years ago--talk about context), the war itself and the aftermath, it suffers from a rather lopsided perspective at times:

Ho Chi Minh and his comrades in the Democratic Republic of Vietnam did not act at all like Bao Dai and his dishonest cohorts. Vietminh agents collected a rice tax to promote their cause rather than to enrich themselves. The top Vietminh leaders led spartan lives, and not even their worst enemies accused them of corruption. At the same time, the high officials of the Bao Dai regime lived in luxury at the expense of the Vietnamese people.

I am certainly willing to believe that Ho Chi Minh and his comrades were less venal than officials in the puppet regime of Bao Dai, but the claim that their rectitude was such that not even their worst enemies would accuse them of corruption belongs in the lives of the saints rather than a work of history. Oddly, while French and American commanders are condemned for their bad strategy leading to the slaughter of their own troops in senseless battles, Ho Chi Minh's comrades are never faulted for their own strategic blunders, or tactics that resulted in slaughters of the their fellow countrymen. There's an asymmetry of language that perhaps says more about the author than about the Vietnam war...

Posted by Ideofact at January 16, 2008 11:50 PM