History's Long March: Bush visits Hanoi

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Judging by the comments of White House aides, Vietnam is just another stop on President Bush’s Asian tour. Except that it isn’t just another country hosting an international summit. It’s the war that Bush avoided by serving in the Texas Air National Guard. And it’s the analogy he wants to avoid when it comes to his own war in Iraq.

As Air Force One flew over the country where 58,000 American troops lost their lives, his press secretary insisted that there was no historical prism for the trip. “What’s interesting is that the Vietnamese are not particularly interested in that,” Tony Snow told reporters on board. “You’ve got a young population and a dynamic economy. This is not going to be a look back at Vietnam; it really is going to be a looking forward to areas of cooperation and shared concern, in terms of working with the Vietnamese.”

Maybe so. But the past is unavoidable in Vietnam. The country’s economy may be growing rapidly thanks to capitalism—which the billboards outside Hanoi’s airport attest to. Yet Bush’s motorcade also passed Ho Chi Minh’s austere mausoleum as the president traveled to his hotel. And it passed by the lake where Sen. John McCain was recovered when he ditched his plane during the war.

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