“…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.”
— President Obama talking to reporters alongside Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang.
It may come as some unwelcome news to the families of the nearly 60,000 Americans who died in the Vietnam War that the whole thing was just a misunderstanding.
That was the impression President Obama gave on Thursday when he spoke to the press after his meeting with Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang. Sang brought Obama a copy of a letter sent to President Harry Truman from Ho Chi Minh in which the communist dictator spoke hopefully of cooperation with the United States.
Obama, striking a wistful tone, observed that it may have taken 67 years, but the United States and Vietnam were finally enjoying the relationship that Ho once wrote of. After all, Obama said, Ho had been “inspired by the words of Thomas Jefferson.”
The message here was that if only we might have bridged our differences then – if only Ho and Truman could have done what Obama and Sang did this week, so much unpleasantness might have been avoided.
While Jefferson did get pretty fired up about “the blood of tyrants,” it’s hard to see how the Sage of Monticello inspired the murderous career of the Vietnamese dictator. Ho famously slaughtered his opponents, including the infamous butchery of peasant farmers who resisted his brutal taxation in the early days of Ho’s regime. Not particularly Jeffersonian.
Estimates run as high as half-a-million killed in Ho’s effort to consolidate power after his communist forces drove the French out of Indochina. The killing of landlords and bourgeois-class merchants was famous even in its day and since then has been documented in even more horrifying detail.