CBS started a controversy last weekend when it sent Amazing Race contestants to the B-52 wreckage in Hanoi that celebrates Vietnam’s triumph over US imperialism 40 years ago. The American Legion said the episode promoted communist propaganda and disrespected Vietnam veterans, especially the men who were shot down in the aircraft decades ago.
But there’s an irony here. Even as the wreckage memorializes the defeat of the USA, history shows the Americans achieved their central goal there: economic freedom.
Vietnam is governed by a Communist Party that doesn’t tolerate much criticism, but free enterprise, more than communism, rules the economy. And the cold-warriors that aimed to stop the spread of communism at the China border prevailed in the end.
Today, Western tourists who visit Vietnam’s many war memorials and museums subject themselves to intense propaganda. These sites and the high school history books demonize Americans and glorify the Communist victors. But the message is as obsolete as the wrecked aircraft that serves as its emblem.
In fact, Vietnamese people for the most part worship American culture and technology. As a whole, they crave the fruits of free enterprize. Diplomatic, and even military, relations between Vietnam and the US are warm and getting warmer.
I hope Vietnam’s leaders consider getting rid of — or at least toning down — the tired, hostile propaganda the permeates their otherwise spectacularly promising country. What purpose does it serve to provide CBS with war wreckage as a backdrop when the network should be showcasing world-class art, wildlife, cuisine, temples, commerce, and beaches?
As for CBS, here are places the network could visit to showcase the Vietnam of today — Vietnam slide show — and if the network insists on the war theme, the site pictured below would be more appropriate. It’s one of scores of cemeteries for Vietnamese war veterans, this one in the central highlands city of Buon Me Thuot.