President Obama hailed hard-core communist revolutionary Ho Chi Minh today as a pretty open guy who was actually inspired by the Founders.
Obama took a break from his jobs-pivot speeches to meet Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang at the White House. The pair held joint remarks in the Oval Office afterward.
Obama said their first bilateral meeting “represents the steady progression and strengthening of the relationship between our two countries.”
“Obviously, we all recognize the extraordinarily complex history between the United States and Vietnam. Step by step, what we have been able to establish is a degree of mutual respect and trust that has allowed us now to announce a comprehensive partnership between our two countries that will allow even greater cooperation on a whole range of issues from trade and commerce to military-to-military cooperation, to multilateral work on issues like disaster relief, to scientific and educational exchanges,” he added.
After meeting with the leader of a country that persecutes and imprisons bloggers and priests, suppresses media and any form of political dissent and uses forced labor, Obama said they “discussed the challenges that all of us face when it comes to issues of human rights.”
“We emphasized how the United States continues to believe that all of us have to respect issues like freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly,” the president continued. “And we had a very candid conversation about both the progress that Vietnam is making and the challenges that remain.”
The visit by Sang, he said, “signifies the maturing and the next stage of the development between the United States and Vietnam.”
Obama said Sang concluded the meeting by sharing “a copy of a letter sent by Ho Chi Minh to Harry Truman.”
“And we discussed the fact that Ho Chi Minh was actually inspired by the U.S. Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and the words of Thomas Jefferson. Ho Chi Minh talks about his interest in cooperation with the United States. And President Sang indicated that even if it’s 67 years later, it’s good that we’re still making progress.”
Sang said the pair “had a very candid, open, useful and constructive discussion.”
“In a candid, open and constructive spirit, we have come to agree on many issues. We will strengthen high-level exchanges between the two countries. We will consider in order to continue our — to upgrade the mechanism of cooperation at the high level, as well as take the best use of the existing mechanism of cooperation. Particularly, we will continue regular dialogue at the highest level as possible,” the Vietnamese leader continued. “I believe that this is the way in order to build a political trust for further development of our cooperation in all areas.”
Sang invited Obama to come pay a visit. “And President Obama has accepted our invitation and will try his best to pay a visit to Vietnam during his term,” he said.
From a 1968 Reader’s Digest piece on the rule of Ho Chi Minh:
The terror had its real beginning when Red dictator Ho Chi Minh consolidated his power in the North. More than a year before his 1954 victory over the French, he launched a savage campaign against his own people. In virtually every North Vietnamese village, strong-arm squads assembled the populace to witness the “confessions” of landowners. As time went on, businessmen, intellectuals, school teachers, civic leaders — all who represented a potential source of future opposition — were also rounded up and forced to “confess” to “errors of thought.” There followed public “trials,” conviction and, in many cases, execution. People were shot, beheaded, beaten to death; some were tied up, thrown into open graves and covered with stones until they were crushed to death, Ho has renewed his terror in North Vietnam periodically. Between 50,000 and 100,000 are believed to have died in these blood-baths — in a coldly calculated effort to discipline the party and the masses. To be sure, few who escape Ho’s terror now seem likely to tempt his wrath. During the 1950s, however, he had to quell some sizeable uprisings in North Vietnam — most notably one that occurred in early November 1956, in the An province, which included Ho’s birthplace village of Nam Dan. So heavily had he taxed the region that the inhabitants finally banded together and refused to meet his price. Ho sent troops to collect, and then sent in an army division, shooting. About 6,000 unarmed villagers were killed. The survivors scattered, some escaping to the South. The slaughter went largely unnoticed by a world then preoccupied with the Soviet Union’s rape of Hungary.