This morning I read an article regarding U.S.-Vietnamese trade relations. At a glance the article seems positive, but having worked on Abandoned Allies for two years now I better understand how this news article should be much different.
Read this article first, so you can follow along with the rest of this blog post. When you return, we will continue...
First, let me preface this by saying that the matter is not really about politics, Republicans or Democrats, racial differences, or even differences of opinion about energy (especially nuclear energy, which is the basis of the AP article). If you distill it down and look at the bigger picture you might see what I see: a big contradiction. Try to stick with me on this for a while, I'll walk you through it.
The article states that the U.S. and Vietnamese governments signed an agreement that "may pave the way for U.S. firms to help build nuclear plants in the Southeastern Asian country." Sure, that seems agreeable so far, right? It could lead to prosperity for both countries, no matter how you feel about the use of nuclear energy. Vietnam needs more energy, American businessed wouldn't mind building plants there, so the deal seems agreeable on the surface.
"This is an important moment in our bilateral relations," U.S. Ambassador Michael Michalak said during a signing ceremony with Le Dinh Tien, Vietnam's vice minister of science and technology.The problem, though, is that Vietnam is a communist government that has major human rights problems. People are not permitted to speak out against the government. Political refugees fleeing to other countries are being turned back, facing certain abuse or even death in some circumstances. And yet our government is signing an agreement that is a "'key step' in advancing nonproliferation goals and developing the peaceful use of nuclear energy in Vietnam," Michalak said.
You see, here is a key fact. Just last month, on March 11, 2010, the U.S. Department of State released a report on human rights in the world, stating that in Vietnam, the "governtment's human rights record remained a problem." Our government officials are signing an agrement with Vietnam, knowing that the human rights record in that country remains a problem. Here's the bottom line: our country is willing to trade with Vietnam, but not willing to require that human rights improve?
"Michalak said it was 'only fitting' for the former foes to deepen their cooperation this year, 35 years after the end of the Vietnam War and 15 years after they re-established diplomatic ties."Yes, the U.S. and Vietnamese governments can work together. Yes, our country can build connections with Vietnam. Yes, this type of trade may lead to prosperity. Yes, this can be a way to deepen our connections and re-establish diplomatic ties. Yes, this seems like it's relatively positive.
Citizens could not change their government, and political opposition movements were prohibited. During the year, the government increased its suppression of dissent, arresting several political activists and convicting others arrested in 2008. Several editors and reporters from prominent newspapers were fired for reporting on official corruption and outside blogging on political topics, and bloggers were detained and arrested for criticizing the government.
In the grand scheme of your daily life, I know this is not likely a priority. I'm an optimist, but also a realist. Most of you are thinking about what's for lunch or dinner, the relationships in your life, your promotion at work, or one of the other more pressing matters in your life.
I ask only that you open your mind to the possibility that we can make change happen. We can help make improvements for the lives of the allies we abandoned so long ago. They're still waiting for us to keep our promise. I'm so grateful to the cast of Abandoned Allies for taking the time to show me these things. It's undoubtedly changed my life forever.
"Don't fail to do something just because you can't do everything."
- Bob Pierce