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December 07, 1979 - Image 4

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1979-12-07

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Page 4-Friday, December 7, 1979-The Michigan Daily
- -

Vietnam still stands divided
after the many years of war

scalled deer hunting.Its
Ninety Years of E
Vol. LXXXX, No. 76
I Edited and managed by stude
F Let's kee
HE STATE of the union has rarely
appeared so uneasy. People are
worried, upset, angry, and shocked.
They ask themselves how a nation so
oud and so strong could fall victim to
e aggression of a small country in
nother part of the globe. They are so
gry that many think it's time to step
pressure on that country's students
,.,,ing in the United States. Some want
hem imprisoned, others prefer to see
,hem deported back to their homeland.
St's time to rally around the flag and
lir president, they say. He faces a
ge international crisis, and is trying
do everything possible to save the
try from furtherthreats. It's a
for unity. Andprayer.
picture g riom and doom
racterizes our troubled nation in
these tense days of the Iranian crisis.
-But they remind us of another embit-
tered period of our American heritage.
That, of course, happened not too
many years ago in a small harbor off
the Pacific Ocean. Thirty-eight years,
to be exact, is when the nation was
shocked by the Japanese invasion of
Pearl Harbor. It touched off a war. A
war that introduced to us a modern
kind of devastation - the atomic
Of course, the current threat does
not approach the magnitude of the
Japanese invasion of our territory in
which, many American soldiers and
civilians were killed. At that time, the
decision to enter the war was certainly
' justifiable. We had no choice. We were
But it is that bitter memory of World
War II, and its numerous atrocities
which militant and aggressive
ericans must recall in these dif-
ult days. As the days pass by - now
since the students took over the U.S.
bassy in Tehran - many of us
w increasingly impatient. We want
# tsee action, forceful action to get our
4ople safely out of the hands of the
world lunatic. But we're not sure
t that action may be. Some suggest
air strike, or a naval blockade, or a
-sale attack. In effect, some want
' s I I IIV I

ap4 t
4 -

man 's way of thinning his herd!'
ditorial Freedom
News Phone: 764-0552
ents at the University of Michigan ,
pour cool
Yet, infuriating as the situation may
be, we must not fall prey to the seduc-
tively easy comparison to the Alamo,
the Lusitania, Pearl Harbor and other
such literal, unavoidable invitations to
all-out war.
Our nation has not been bombed,
sabotaged or compromised in similar
The Iranians holding of American
hostages is both a legal and moral.
outrage to every accepted notion of in-
ternational diplomacy and decency,
yet the very gravity of the situation
dictates a paramount devotion to
whatever remnants of rational
diplomacy still remain to us. We must
not fall prey to a concentrated aping of
the Ayatollah's excesses.
To propagate a comparable ex.
tremism would not only cast the same
perverse shadow of fanaticism over
our own national soul, it would in prac-
tical terms surely doom the lives of fif-
ty countrymen currently surviving
strictly at the whim of a dictator whose
eyes may be opened only by the
strident evidence that firmness and
flexibility can exist side by side in this
world, that one's arcane notion of
revenge needn't smother man's year-
ning for love in an uncertain world.
So far, the Carter administration has
demonstrated an admirable level of
restraint in the face of mounting inter-
nal pressure. With stern words and a
stiff posture, the president has issued
almost daily warnings that the
Khomeini regime would suffer "grave
consequences" if one of the 50
American hostages was killed. Mean-
while, though, the administration has
pursued a steady diplomatic course
with the United Nations and the Inter-
national Court of Justice. Both efforts
have so far failed to release the
But the negotiations must keep
going; the diplomatic method is still
the best channel available. It's the only
way to get the hostages home free.
And the American people have to
continue their support and confidence
in the president. The feelings of calm
and restraint must triumph over

EDITOR'S NOTE: Sophie Quinn-
Judge, a Quaker International represn-
tative who is fluent in Vietnamese and
French, visited Vietnam in September to
inspect projects funded by the American
Friends Service Committee. She brought
back this account of Vietnam's family
tensions, as a nation divided for 20 years
works to re-establish unity.
HO CHI MINH CITY - "When I came back
to Saigon after Liberation in 1975, I
discovered that my sister had had my name
engraved on our family grave, below my
parents'. She thought I was dead all those
years-she never got any of the letters I
wrote, even though I sent at least one a year."
The speaker is a typical member of the new
power structure in southern Vietnam. As a
young man he regrouped with the Viet Minh
to the North, following the signing of the
Geneva Accords in 1954. Now he serves in the
Department of Foreign Affairs in Ho Chi
Minh City, his home town. His history points
to one of the major challenges facing the
communist government in Vietnam: how to
form a unified country out of two disparate
areas, which experienced diametrically op-
posed patterns of development during their
long years of separation.
ONE OF THE basic problems has been
mutual ignorance of the other side's recent
history. The average Saigonese knew less
about life in North Vietnam and liberated
areas in the South than did many Americans.
Northerners, on the other hand, were not fully
aware to what extent the people of Saigon and
other southern cities had absorbed consumer
values during the period of American influen-
Mutual expectations were disappointed in
countless different ways: while many
southerners were relieved that a bloodbath
never materialized, others were surprised to
find that rice hand-outs would not begin im-
mediately and that the communists would
place the emphasis on self-reliance and hard
work. Later they would be shocked by the
rapid reunification of the country, and the
fast transfer to a socialist economy.
Returning southerners were taken aback by
the high standards of living their relatives
had enjoyed during the war, but others were
dismayed by a lifestyle they considered
frivolous and corrupt, marred by drug addic-
tion, prostitution and extreme inequality.
Today, tensions created by differences in
background and values remain, and have
perhaps been exacerbated by worsening
material conditions. I recently talked to a
young refugee in Singapore who told me that
her uncle, who had fought with'the Liberation
Front, had spent the past few years trying to
convince her family to stay in Vietnam. Her
father, a former official of the Thieu gover-
nment, had obviously not been impressed by
his brother's arguments, and now his
daughter was looking forward to furthering
her education in the United States.
MANY REFUGEES complain that there
was no place for them in the new society, or
that because of their past associations they
were not trusted. Former officials who have
been releaased from re-education camps say
that they had to report all their movements to
the local authorities.
On the other hand, Mrs. Ngo Ba Thanh, a
well-known opponent of the Thieu gover-

By Sophie Quinn-Judge

nment and former political prisoner, points
out that those like herself who advocated
early release of these officers were proven to
be too trusting. Reportedly a large number of
these released men joined resistance groups
against the present government after leaving
the camps.
Ngo Cong Due, newspaper publisher and
another former member of the anti-Thieu op-
position, claims that some southerners were
surprised to see how quickly the government
was releasing what he called war
criminals-former policemen and officers of
the old regime. According to Duc, some hun-
dred-odd released officers had been tried and
sentenced for their involvement in reisitance
activities by the time of out visit in Septem-
SOME SOUTHERNERS find it hard to ac-
cept that the elite of the Thieu regime should
be considered war criminals. The communist
authorities, for their part, claim that they are
demonstrating great restraint and humanity
by not putting these men on trial, whohc
would, without question, result in death sen-
tences for many.
The government policy, according to the
head of the Nam Ha re-education camp south
of Hanoi, is "to educate them to become good
citizens again even though they have commit-
ted many crimes and owe a blood debt towar-
ds our cQmpatriots. . . we educate them to
have a laborer's outlook and skill."
The communist attitude towards training
and "non-productive labor" has of course
been a stumbling block to the building of trust
in some quarters. In the estimation of the
State Planning Commission, "half of the
labor force in southern cities was unemployed
or led a parasitic life," before liberation.
WHILE IN THE southern cities buying and
selling was a way of life, to the Marxist
economists who are now in charge, the
trading activity in Ho Chi Minh City was not
only a waste of labor, but also a threat to their
efforts to lower prices and gain control of the
The gap in living standards between north
and south is still pronounced, and must be the
cause of some resentment to northerners in
all walks of life. Northern cadres find it dif-
ficult to live in Ho Chi Minh City on their
small salaries. Many are eager to return to
Hanoi, where a more developed network of
government shops and cooperative stores
make living cheaper..
For southerners, the material conditions in
Ho Chi Minh are much more spartan than
they were when it was reaping the benefits of
American largesse, but the living is still com-
paratively easy. My old friends had obviously
not bought new clothes since 1975 (one
requested a pair of blue jeans) but they still
have their Hondas. The price of pork may
have skyrocketed, but fresh fish and
vegetables are in plentiful supply in the
markets. Many people seem able to survive in
the city without official ration cards, and "eat
on the outside" as the slang goes.
IN THE NORTH, living standards have also
dropped since 1975, certainly in great contrast
to popular expectations. This is due mainly to
cut-backs in foreign aid, with the loss of

Chinese aid in 1978 causing the greatest
damage, but also to the continued need td
divert resources to the military.
It is sobering to see how much of the bomn
bing destruction is still unrepaired-in towns
like Bac Giang and Phu Ly, which were razed
by U.S. carpet bombing, only schools and of'
fices have been rebuilt while the townspeople
live in temporary housing, just wooden huts
and hovels. The peasants seem resigned to
more years of hardship, buy when I asked one
woman at a ferry crossing how conditions
were, she snapped back, "We're very
With the massive damage to hospitals,
schools, factories and other facilities on the
northern border towns during the Chinese in-
vasion last February, hopes for a better stan-
dard of living have become more distant than
There is not denying that Vietnam's future
looks bleak, with economic difficulties in the
south likely to produce more refugees in mon-
ths to come. Yet the Saigon men and women
who fought so hard to get rid of Thieu and his
corrupt regime are still there, working to
rebuild their society and keep com-
munications open between communists and
the rest of the population. People like Ngo
Cong Duc are confident that the different
sections of the country can continue to learn
from each other, and he notes that in Hanio
"they listen to what Ho Chi Minh City has to
DUC AND OTHERS, formerly identified
with the Third Force in South Vietnam, are
still trying to act as a bridge between the
government and the people. They spend a ce-
tain amount of their time trying to find work
for unemployed urbanites, particularly of-
ficers released from re-education. To set an
example to urban slackers, Duc's paper "Tin
Sang" operates two collective farms where
the stadff take turns working and where
unemployed city people are given permanent
The family, which definitely retains its im-
portance in present day Vietnamese society,
is another force being used to reconcile the
different segments of the population. As
various Vietnamese have emphasized to me,
a large proportion of those living in the south
had family members on both sides during the
conflict. When I questioned Mrs. Ngo Ba
Thanh and others about re-education camps,
the reply was ironic: "We thank you for your
concern, but we also share your concern since
these people are our compatriots and
It would be inaccurate to give the im-
pression that all the influencing and changing
is a one-way procesUSlince the end of the war,
blue-jeans, teesl irts, iand electric guitars
have appeared on the Hanio scene. The nor-
therners are eager to show that they are not
trying to make a virtue of austerity, and they
are well-aware that their children cannot live
on slogans indefinitely. One of my long-time
Vietnamese friends, a political activist since
the days of the August Revolution, says that
when he tries to explain to his children why
life is so difficult in the North, they reply,
"why do you talk politics all the time?"

Sophie Quinh -Judge wrote this piece
for the Pacific News Service.

Why Iranians want the Shah

By William Beeman
Americans the Iranian preoc-
cupation with the deposed
Shah is either a case of the
need for a scapegoat to cover
over the weaknesses of the
present Islamic government,
or a symptom of the chaos and
violence engulfing Iran. But to
Iranians, the Shah is still
regarded as a link to the
dreaded past which must be
destroyed if the Islamic
revolution is to forge a new
future. Iranian expert William
Beeman expains the context of
this Iranian perspective.
Beeman teaches anthropology
at Brown University. He has
spent seven of the last 12 years
living and studying in all parts
of Iran, returning to the U.S.
last March. He is the author of
a forthcoming book entitled
"Meaning and Style in Iranian
In Northeastern Iran, at the
time of the Islamic new year,
each village chooses a ruler, the
A mir f ,,e~w iam . Fn thti

of the old year are taken up into
the growing wheat and expelled,
ensuring good fortune and a new
beginning. Then, the Amir is
chased through the village and is
likewise thrown into a stream-a
ritual murder which ensures a
renewal of social order, a new
beginning for the village in the
new year.
THE CUSTOM, quaint in
peaceful times, has a poignant
symbolic relevance to the disor-
der of the present. For Iran today
is reeling under a double assault
of chaos, and many Iranians fir-
mly believe it can be checked
only by a great sacrifice-the
death of the Shah.
At the start of the Islamic
Revolution, with the coming of
Ayatollah Khomeini, the Iranian
people thought that the poisons of
the past had been expelled, and a
new social and moral order had
But the corruption of the past
could not be obliterated so
quickly. The collapse of the
Pahlavi regime was only the final
event for a nation already in the
process of collapse.
" NO EFFECTIVE political
leadership had been allowed to
develop under the Shah's highly
centralized monarchy;
" industrial development had
largely been based on wholesale
importation of assembly in-
dustry. and little attention given

" and, most importantly, the
population of Iran had no chan-
nels of redress under the Shah, no
access to the arrogant central
authority which depended for
survival not on popular support,
but on foreign oil sales and
military might.
Thus, with the Shah gone, the
public had every right to expect
positive results from the
revolution. It had shown itself to
be unified, strong, and able to
withstand hardships. Iran still
had immense oil wealth, and the
people felt that they had
eliminated all the bureaucratic
overlay that had prevented the
common man from attaining
prosperity and comfort. They felt
themselves free at last from
foreign dominance and under
the influence of the strong moral
force of the nation's principal
religious leader.
THE FEELING WAS not to last
long, however. The euphoric
solidarity of the new order was
bound to eventually show cracks
of divisiveness, for it lacked the
ruthless central organization
which held the old regime
together, and it was without a
unified set of beliefs (other than
opposition to the Shah) which
might cement a new regime.
Khomeini began to blame the
disorder on external forces: the
U.S., the CIA, communism,
Zionism, westernized intellec-

and promising in the long run, the
nation will face a period of inten-
se disorder which accompanies
any such radical experimen-
this transitional period is the
natural tendency of all
revolutions to backslide, to revert
to the centralism and ruthless
organizational patterns of the
past. The secular Bazargan
government was constantly being
compromised by the need to
shore up certain structures of the
past regime-such as military,
trade, and banking agreements
now repudiated by Khomeini.
The past, indeed, is still the
greatest threat to* Iran's
Many Americans may find it
hard to believe that a huge num-
ber of Iranians still think that the
Shah will attempt to return to
Iran and resume the reins of
power. But the fact that he has
not repudiated his throne, and the
fact that he is still identified as
"shah" by the American gover-
nment and much of the press, ad-
ds fuel to their belief.
Thus, from the point of view of
many Iranians, the only way to
ensure that the revolution will go
forward, rather than backward,
is to once and for all burn all
bridges to the past. The Shah, so
long as he lives, is the principal
bridge to the past. Only his death,

, 0ALL ~
p pf0 ARE'AiN '

.. -- - . .


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