Forty years to the day that Sen. John McCain and his fellow prisoners of war left Vietnam, the Arizona Republican said in a new op-ed piece that while he has made friendships with former enemies, he regrets that they don’t yet enjoy the “values that Americans hold dear.”
Writing in The Wall Street Journal,
McCain recalled his departure from Vietnam and his farewell to the former POWs who would become lifelong friends. “I doubt that any of us expected we would ever return to the country we had yearned to leave for so long,” he said.
McCain has been back several times on official business. “I’ve become fond of a place I once detested,” he wrote. “I am pleased that America and Vietnam have made so much progress in building a productive, mutually beneficial relationship in the wreckage of a war that was a tragedy for both our peoples.”
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He cited accomplishments in bilateral trade — up more than 80 times from 1994, when the U.S. lifted its trade embargo — and defense relationships, including joint military exercises. “Indeed, the USS John McCain, a Navy destroyer named after my father and grandfather, recently made a port visit into Danang, which shows that if you live long enough, anything is possible,” he said.
And yet, “When it comes to the values that Americans hold dear — freedom, human rights and the rule of law — our highest hopes for Vietnam still remain largely just hopes,” McCain continued.
“The government in Hanoi still imprisons and mistreats peaceful dissidents, journalists, bloggers, and ethnic and religious minorities for political reasons.”
McCain pointed to laws such as Article 88, “that give the state nearly unlimited power over its citizens,” and said Hanoi “still hasn’t taken modest actions that could put Vietnam squarely on the right side of internationally recognized human rights” such as ratifying the Convention against Torture.
In a positive step, though, McCain noted that Hanoi has started a dialogue with Amnesty International and “suggested that Vietnam may finally reform its constitution to better protect civil and political rights for its citizens.”
“I sincerely hope so,” he added. “For while great relationships can be built on the basis of common interests, as the U.S.-Vietnam one is now, the best and most enduring partnerships always rest on a foundation of shared values.”
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