Nevertheless, a great majority of the Americans are so preoccupied by their personal interests that they pay very little attention to world affairs. Their main windows to world events are the giant media corporations with talented reporters and experienced editors. Very few people, however, realize that journalistic information is not necessarily accurate, and foreign correspondents, however professional-oriented they stride for, are often imprisoned by their lack of linguistic skills and their subjective viewpoints in a foreign land.
Let's talk about two historical actors that I have had opportunities to do my research, namely Ho Chi Minh and Saddam Hussein, as typical examples. Prior to 1983, we knew almost nothing about Ho save for semi-legends produced by the Communist psy-wars and/or French journalists like Devillers or Lacouture. The Pentagon Papers published in 1971 revealed some secret relations between Ho and the OSS agents in 1944-1945, but his pre-1945 life was still wrapped in various layers of misinformation, the products of psy-wars of various colors. Regarding Ho's childhood, for instance, he was reportedly expelled from the French-created National School in Hue about four months before his official admission to this institute on August 7, 1908, and then left Vietnam in 1912, about a year later than the date he wrote the two famous letters applying for admission to the Paris-based Colonial School in September 1911 from Marseille (uncovered by a Vietnamese-American historian in 1983). We were also vaguely told that Ho went to Moscow in the 1920's and then became a die-hard Comintern agent, while he was in fact officially purged by the Comintern in the summer of 1932, and not until the Fall of 1938 was he sent back to China amidst Stalin's waves of political and military liquidation. Moreover, in November 1945, Ho officially dissolved the Indochinese Communist Party [ICP] in order to form a coalition government with non-Communist parties, and then accepted membership within the French Union in March 1946, as a price to regain independence and territorial reunification for Vietnam (through elections)--but the French Catholic Reverend/Admiral d'Argenlieu employed the pretext of his Communist background to transform Ho into a rebel in fugitive. When President Johnson wanted to contact Ho for a political solution of the US Vietnam war in the 1960’s, Ho had lost his power to Le Duan, the First Secretary of the ICP, who was the true conqueror of the US-backed South Vietnam. Duan was the man who created the People's Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam--often known as the authentically southern "National Liberation Front" in our classic literature--when the failed coup d'Etat by the South Vietnamese Airborne and Marine units broke out on November 11, 1960 in Saigon. According to Hoang Van Hoan, a high-ranking cadre who defected to China in 1979, Duan even prevented the ICP Politburo members to visit Ho on the morning of Sept 2, 1969, letting the now revered revolutionary icon pass away in loneness, if not neglecting. Worse, Duan altered Ho's last will and testament (e.g., to be cremated), and exhibited Ho's corpse in the Ba Dinh mausoleum for his own political goals. That is not to mention the anecdotes regarding his “revolutionary” wives and sexual assistants, or abandoned children.
As for Saddam Hussein, the so-called "Knight on a Wooden Horse" in the "Middle East," he was essentially a murderer-turned-revolutionary-leader. Evidence of his war crimes and crimes against human rights are abundant in the court documents of his recent trial. The invasion of Kuwait was just one of these kinds. Those who have argued that Hussein helped to check the Islamic fundamentalism from Iran apparently knew or intentionally told a half-truth only.
As for anti-Americanism, it has been developed in Europe and the Middle East since the late 1940's. The Cold War and the birth of Israel were just two of various reasons. Then came the evacuation of the French from Indochina in 1955-1956 and the second phase of the Vietnam's Thirty-Years War (1945-1975). In 1982, a "garcon" in a Paris coffee house, for instance, ignored me and several friends for a half hour because we were chatting in American English instead of French. Situation in Jordan was even worse. Meanwhile, Hussein maintained close relationships with Le Duan’s Vietnam, challenging the US economic embargo. Although Hussein couldn't seemingly pose any direct and concrete threat to us (i.e., those who were living in the United States), but the "Knight on a Wooden Horse" and other "revolutionary leaders" in the Middle East nurtured and propagandized deep anti-Americanism among the Arab youths. The seizure of our embassy in Tehran was just the beginning of the so-called jihad [holy war]. Then came the attacks on our Marines in Lebanon, the attacks on our warships, the extortions of our friends like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, etc. Back here, in the United States, one might not feel or realize the threat. But please ask our diplomats and Foreign Service people; they knew the reality better than any of us.
In short, President Bush has simply shouldered the burden of the American legacies around the world. In the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks, he showed his determination and leadership. The longer the war on terrorism, however, the more impatient the Americans have become. The Patriot Act has also been a concern outside the legal scholar community. Those who criticize Bush now, however, should never forget that Mao Zedong more than once referred to our nation as "paper tiger." Khomeini and his revolutionary imams called us the Great Satan. Hussein often described our troops as "soldiers of comfort," whose fighting spirit will be shattered in proportion to the number of body bags.
It's too simplistic to think that the Democrats' forcing a change in Iraq is just an election weapon. By setting up September 2007 as the deadline, the Democrat leaders certainly have their own reasons, based on well-informed observations. The hearings of General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker on September 10-11 apparently failed to convince the Democrat leaders. They vowed to reject President George Bush’s new plan of September 13, 2007 even before Bush’s official address to the nation. On the other side, however, one may wonder whether the Democrats and a few “rebellious” Republicans realize that the impacts of such a change will be felt and haunted us for decades to come. Our enemies, again, will echo Mao Zedong's "Paper Tiger" terminology and/or similar jihad rhetoric (e.g., Big Satan). Our friends, again, will be engulfed by fears of being used and abandoned.
It surprises no one when the Republican leading candidates, especially Sen. John McCain of Arizona, confirmed their strong support to the Iraq war. Besides the party line, they know that this is not the question of face, and there will be no "peace with honor." This is also a question of our conscience and national credibility.
War is always ugly and any enlightened leader would like to avoid war at all costs. That's the eternal wisdom of mankind. Unfortunately we are living in an unenlightened world, with great diversity in almost every aspect of life. Therefore, war sometimes becomes a necessity, despite its horrible destruction and collateral damages and enormous expenditures. The US war on international terrorism, as I see it, is genuinely a war of necessity. This was the first time the enemies attacked us right on our soil, together with such chilling threats as “From now on, you [the Americans] will never live in peace.” In international law, we were entitled to respond in kind, under the section of “self-defense.” A vast majority of the Americans also wanted to be free from fears, and never expect the recurrence of the 9/11 tragedy. The same may be said about the British, French, Italian, German, Spanish, etc. regarding the occasional terrorist attacks in London, Paris, Rome, Berlin, Madrid, etc.
The vital question is how to continue the war against international terrorism, while safeguarding our national unity and retaining good working relationships with the other nations. The sooner we can localize the war, the better. But it doesn't mean we shall tie up our hands while looking for a solution via different channels. Henry Kissinger already had second thought about his hard-earned, but bloody half of the Nobel Peace Prize. It's my sincere hope that all candidates, including Sen. Hillary Clinton, will support in principle the war against international terrorism, and President Bush's new plan for Iraq, until the end of his tenure. This war is serving our true national interests and security.
It is not my intent to defend President Bush and he may not need it. I'm writing from the bottom of my heart, to call for fairness, reasonable behavior and proper language in dealing with the most sensitive issue of our nation at the beginning of a new century.