Saturday, April 30, 2005

Unseemly Triumphalism

In events marking the 30th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, the government of Vietnam made a few changes to the celebration in order to not remind the US of its defeat:
Concerned that too visible a show of "triumphalism" could harm crudcial economic ties with the United States, now Vietnam's biggest tradeing partner, Hanoi made sure this year's celebrations were as much about the future as the past.

Too bad CNN and the AP didn't get the memo. From the opening grafs of the non-bylined article:
The American exit three decades ago -- when U.S. troops scrambled aboard helicopters from the roof of the Saigon embassy -- became one of the most dramatic images of the 20th century.

"Scrambled"? Couldn't say "Evacuated" or some other less loaded word? Other angles include "Hundreds of aging veterans, their chests decked with medals..." and "General Vo Nguyen Giap, the 94-year-old military chief whose tactics subdued first the French and then the Americans..."

Finally, we get a quote that at least carries an attribution that invites scepticism:
"I was listening to the radio with my family and heard that Saidon had been liberated. I was very happy because for many years we weren't free. After 30 years we have rebuily our country. Our land is safe and secure and I think the future will be better for my children," To Thanh Nghia, a 51-year-old government worker told AP.

I don't doubt that she said that, or that the AP reporter couldn't find anyone to say the opposite. It just seems like dog-bites-man to find a government worker who sings the praises of the government. I can't recall the last time I saw a quote like that from an American government worker, and that would be in a country where there is a legal right for a government worker to say what they think. Somehow, I don't think that type of freedom yet exists in Vietnam.

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