Thursday, May 28, 2015

July Trip to Vietnam

Why go to Vietnam for the 20th anniversary of normal relations?

The end the American war in 1975 did not really mean peace for Indochina. Washington imposed a unilateral embargo and tried to diplomatically isolate Hanoi.  The costly war between Vietnam and the Khmer Rouge (aided by China, the US and ASEAN), lasted a decade.  China also invaded Vietnam  to punish it for expelling Pol Pot from Phnom Penh, with high casualties to both countries and great destruction of Vietnamese infrastructure.  

Normalization of US-Vietnam relations in July 1995 by President Clinton was a great step forward for both nations, but also the fruition of post-war efforts by the peace movement and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). 

Today, almost everything is different.  The US is Vietnam's largest export market, second largest source of tourists, a major investor and hosts about 17,000 Vietnamese students, our eighth largest country of origin.  The US and Vietnam are also pulled together by the growing conflict in the South China Sea, a new/old challenge to Vietnam's sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.  

Ironically while many of us struggled for years to achieve US withdrawal from Indochina, the current challenge is how to encourage positive and strong American engagement, incorporating deeper economic ties, a strategic partnership and expanded humanitarian assistance to victims of Agent Orange, land mines and unexploded ordnance. (See statement here by a delegation of 16 anti-war activists who visited Vietnam in April for the fortieth anniversary of the end of the war.)

If you are potentially interested in going with us and wish to see a detailed itinerary,  please return the form below in the next couple of days to indicate which dates work for you, July 6 to 17 or 12 to 23.  We especially encourage you to bring family members and friends to share personally and directly across generations why Vietnam was so important decades ago and why it still matters in even more complex ways.

The basic cost will be about $1950 double occupancy or $2350 with a single room, plus international air fare.  That includes hotel, breakfast and some group meals. We can assist optional pre-visits or extensions to Cambodia, Laos or Ha Long Bay. 

Goals for the July Trip

I was involved with Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia intensively between the end of the war in 1975 and normalization of relations twenty years later.  During that time I visited frequently, bringing groups and working on NGO and academic conferences for the purpose of ending the US embargo, establishing full diplomatic, economic, educational and cultural relations, and addressing the legacies of war.

After President Clinton opened official doors, I refocused on an analogous agenda on Cuba.

Significant progress with Havana, the Pentagon's multi million dollar pro-war Vietnam commemoration project, important anniversaries and new threats to peace in South East Asia have prompted me to find ways to share the Indochina experience.  Visits to Vietnam are as meaningful for veterans of the peace movement as of the military -- and for their children,.

The trip in July will offer moving experiences, diverse conversations, sight-seeing, delicious meals and meetings with Vietnamese government and US embassy officials, business people and staff of NGOs.  Themes to be pursued in Hanoi, Danang and Ho Chi Minh City include:

 a)  Vietnam's history and culture long preceding and separate from the American experience (although some aspects like the 4th to 14th century Champa archeological site we will see in My Son fell victim to US bombing) 

b)  Legacies of the war (Agent Orange, land mines, UXO, destruction of rural communities and traditional life) that are a painful reality for millions of Vietnamese more than forty years later.  (This will include a visit to My Lai, so eloquently recalled by Seymour Hersh in a recent New Yorker magazine article.)  

c)  Vietnam today, its dynamic economic self-transformation and its strong positive relationship with the US on trade, investment, technical cooperation and educational exchange

d)  The link between Vietnam's right to independence and freedom during the American war and the threat posed by China now  (We hope to hold a conference in Danang about the maritime conflict and to visit Ly Son, the part of the contested Paracel Island chain closest to Vietnam.) 
John McAuliff
Fund for Reconciliation and Development


Truly unsolicited comments from participants in the April trip:

     Thanks for a truly extraordinary trip.  I knew it was going to be a once-in-a-lifetime trip for me, but it well exceeded my expectations.  We had a good group to travel with and the itinerary was exceptional.  
  I'm sending money to both Project Renew and the children's school we visited in Danang.  Both were such high quality, I'll be proud to support them.
   Thanks again for the trip and for all of your work on Vietnam.


    I'm so incredibly grateful to you for putting our trip together, for your time, your patience and for your generous spirit.  It was truly a transformative experience -- thank you for including me. 


Expression of Interest in the July Trip

Please copy and paste into your e-mail software, and send to by Wednesday, June 3d.  Use the same address for questions.

Name ____________________________ City/State _________________________

e-mail address ________________________ phone number __________________

___  I am seriously thinking of joining the July trip and would like a copy of the itinerary and a registration form.

My preferred dates are ___ July 6-17   ___ July 12-23    ____ both are OK

I am also interested in visiting   ___ Cambodia   ___ Laos   ___ Ha Long Bay

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