Published Aug 1, 2010 11:00 PM
The crude arrogance of the Bush years has yet to be replaced with a kinder, gentler form of imperialist diplomacy. Making a tour of sites of past and present U.S. wars, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently put in appearances in Afghanistan, south Korea and Vietnam. Spinning the visit to two countries where the U.S. military was defeated and one that seems to be right on track to repeat this outcome, she put south Korea and Vietnam forward as models for the world. She gushed that they were shining examples of countries that have successfully overcome the legacy of war and conflict.
Overcome the legacy of war and conflict? How about the legacy of Agent Orange? Over two million Vietnamese still carry evidence of the terrible and painful legacy of this unprosecuted U.S. war crime. Dioxin continues to cause horrific birth defects in new generations while those who were alive during the war and those who live on poisoned land suffer from a cluster of dioxin exposure-related cancers and other severe and chronic health problems. Agent Orange inflicts cruel personal economic and emotional burdens on individuals and families, and remains a severe drain on the country’s meager public health resources.
What will the U.S. do to help “overcome” this particular legacy of the war? Clinton had a chance to answer this question. What specific plan, a Vietnamese journalist asked her at a press conference, did the U.S. have for cooperating with Vietnam to deal with the consequences of the war there? “We’ve been working with Vietnam for about nine years to try to remedy the effects of Agent Orange,” Clinton responded vaguely, promising to “work to increase our cooperation and make even greater progress together.” (AFP, July 22)
Would an example of these efforts be when U.S. courts refused even to accept a suit for damages brought by Vietnamese Agent Orange survivors against the U.S. companies that got rich from producing the dioxin the U.S. military sprayed over huge areas of Vietnam?
As if failure to make good on reparations for Vietnam wasn’t enough, Clinton’s trip included plenty of examples of U.S. bullying and threatening Asian nations. In case China had forgotten, Clinton warned that the policy of keeping the world safe for U.S. oil companies remains in force, thus ratcheting up tensions around the oil-rich East Sea/South China Sea. In this case defending oil companies is called, in opaque State Department jargon, support for “national interest in freedom of navigation.” The Korean tinderbox was also the subject of much politicking by the Secretary of State, who continually tried to rally support for increased international pressure on north Korea.
You have to wonder just what kind of aid Clinton had in mind when she emphasized the U.S. commitment to work with nations everywhere to help them strengthen civil society. Would that be replicating the exemplary U.S. imperialist policies of rendition and torture? Or perhaps the brutal roundups of immigrants and Arizona’s SB 1070? Or perhaps it would be building institutions of “control” similar to the ones that do not control the racist police forces in the U.S. Or would it be duplicating the outrageous hijacking of relief efforts for the Haitian earthquake tragedy? The U.S. has so many “lessons” it could teach other governments.
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