John Kerry wants to talk about his self-styled war hero status during the Vietnam war but the Democratic National Committee has tried to prevent other Vietnam vets from getting their ads on the air setting the record straight. Some in the media find it unseemly that we’re talking about things that happened 30 years ago. But as Jeff Jacoby says in a Boston Herald column, one way that you can bring the issue up to date is by looking at political persecution under the communist dictatorship there.
Jacoby notes that Congressman Chris Smith has a bill, the Vietnam Human Rights Act, which passed the House of Representatives by an overwhelming 410-1 vote. Jacoby says, however, that, “?it never got a hearing or a vote in Senate, where it was blocked by the then-chairman of the East Asian and Pacific Affairs subcommittee?John Kerry.”
History is important. President Clinton lifted the U.S. trade embargo on Vietnam in 1995, which was followed by a bilateral trade agreement. Kerry voted for both. The U.S. trade deficit with Vietnam was $1.8 billion in 2002 and rose to $3.2 billion in 2003. It has not helped the human rights situation there and has been devastating to U.S. jobs, which Kerry says he wants to create. The Bush Administration has been forced to propose tariffs on shrimp imports from Vietnam, saying the communist regime has been dumping shrimp products into the United States at artificially low prices. Eddie Gordon, president of the Southern Shrimp Alliance, was quoted by AP as saying that the value of the U.S. harvest dropped by more than half between 2000 and 2002, from $1.25 billion to $560 million, because of dumping from Vietnam, China and other countries.
In a related matter, Kerry ran a Senate investigation that brought the search for live American POWs from the war to a close. At about the same time, a Boston Herald article by Michael E. Knell reported on a deal by a firm called Colliers International to develop a deep sea port in Vietnam at a cost of $900 million. The article stated that, in order to skirt the trade embargo still in effect against Vietnam, Colliers International acted through its partner firm Colliers Jardine based in Singapore. At the time the deal was brokered, C. Stewart Forbes was the Chief Executive Officer of Colliers International. C. Stewart Forbes and John Forbes Kerry are cousins.
Francis Zwenig was the staff director of Kerry’s Senate Committee on POW/MIA Affairs. She shaped the committee’s work and its final report, which set the stage for normalization of diplomatic and trade relations with Vietnam. She went on to become Vice President of the U.S.-Vietnam Trade Council and is now senior director for the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council, with responsibility for Vietnam.
The policy begun by Clinton with Kerry’s support has now resulted in a decision by the U.S. Trade and Development Agency to provide $591,000 to a Vietnam government gas company to study how to build a natural gas pipeline for a power complex in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta. U.S. taxpayers are now paying for the economic development of communism in Vietnam. Will the media ask John Kerry what he thinks about that?