First, he's not apologising for the absolute destruction of Laos and the horrific legacy of the CIA's Secret War which continues to kill and maim people even to this day. The country is to be pitied. Laos has the dubious distinction of being the most bombed nation in history. His offer of clean-up money is not an apology. Actually it's rather insulting and does nothing in the way of taking responsibility for the atrocity. It's a manipulative pittance, and little more.
Second, while Vietnam was historically tied to Russia due to their long term enmity with China... Laos and Cambodia have been within China's orbit. As a quick aside it's worth recalling that unified Vietnam and China fought a brief but intense war in 1979. The relationship between Mao's PRC and Ho's North Vietnam was never properly understood in the West. Vietnam is actually a natural ally to Anti-Chinese US Imperialism. The only obstacle has been the US intervention in Indochina and the nightmarish violence that it unleashed. It's not easily swept under the rug but that's exactly what is beginning to happen. It's been over 40 years, and both sides want to move on and embrace what I don't doubt that some view as historical necessity if not destiny.
Obama's visit to Laos and the bomb remediation package is an attempt to slowly woo Vientiane over into the American orbit. This began under George W. Bush in 2006 with a trade package, and is now being continued by the Obama administration. Historically there was a great deal of opposition to this from the Hmong exile community in the United States. Vang Pao, the Hmong leader in exile (who died in 2011), was implicated in a coup attempt in 2007, the year after Bush's trade deal. Whether this was a last desperate attempt on the part of the Hmong exile community or a ploy of the American Deep State is unclear.
At this point, the remaining leaders of the various factions that were involved in the Indochina War are gone or soon will be. There are still plenty of people who are alive that were involved in the conflicts but at this point even the younger participants are reaching old age.
Nevertheless when looking upon the history of the whole episode and US involvement in the region, from aiding the French in the wake of World War II, up to US involvement and machinations in the 1950's and then actual combat in the years following... I still cannot help but fall prey to a visceral reaction, and one of loathing, when I see Americans walking around wearing Vietnam Veteran hats or placing stickers on their cars.
They strike me as either callous reprobates and blind dupes that have not even begun to weigh, consider or contemplate the totality of what 'Vietnam' represents. Even if there's a certain stubborn pride in the fact that you were 18 and called up to 'serve' your country and you want to proclaim it and acknowledge it... I still fail to understand the desire to call attention to yourself. I can understand a belligerent defiance on the part of a lost person when it comes to rejecting feelings of criminality and self-loathing, a reaction to the years of shame regarding Vietnam, but I don't understand the pride of today and the rampant war revisionism. To celebrate your participation is to proclaim your ignorance if not (to be charitable) your amorality. If it's a celebration of nationalist ideal, then it is a religion and creed to be rejected just as one would repudiate the worship of Molech and Baal. The American religion, especially as expressed in the Indochina episode is one of blood sacrifice and the murder of innocents.
It was a criminal war... by virtually any standard. And no one can claim ignorance. There was enough truth available to challenge even the hardest of hearts and the most stiff-necked conscience. There were hints of the real dark and evil intrigues that later were exposed to the light of day. Now illumined, I cannot understand those who wish to celebrate their participation in theft and murder.
It's kind of like, even if I was a rabid Right-winger and hated Hillary Clinton and was determined to vote for Donald Trump.... I still wouldn't want to place a campaign sign in my yard. I wouldn't want to champion that cause even if I did support it as a tactical move.
Which I most certainly do not.
Maybe it's my own prejudices, but when I see Vietnam stickers and Trump signs, I cannot help but think... this person has some kind of deep character flaw. There's something really wrong with them. I'm afraid I have the same reaction when it comes to tattoos.
It's not too hard to contemplate when the person I'm looking at is lost. But when the person professes to be a Christian, sometimes I don't know what to think.
When I meet Christians who proudly tell me their son is in the army, I usually want to say, "Well, God can still save them."
Or when someone says I'm a retired Marine, I want to say, "Oh, so you're a newer Christian then?" or, "You became a Christian late in life?"
To be fair, I became a Christian while in the military, but I then began to work aggressively toward getting myself out as soon as possible. Within months of my conversion I knew I wanted nothing to do with it.
I realise few readers will be as extreme as I am when it comes to this topic, but Indochina in particular is still an issue that stirs the emotions. I grew up in its wake but I've imbibed too much of the historical record to not have pretty strong feelings about it and my reaction is pretty severe when I encounter Christians who champion its evil.
A related article: