President Joe Biden’s two-day visit to Vietnam, a stopover during his return to the US from the G-20 summit meeting in India, saw only the most perfunctory and superficial reporting in the American media.
The coverage obsessed about trivialities relating to domestic US politics. Did the 80-year-old president drool or babble more than usual at his middle-of-the-night press conference in Hanoi? Would, on the contrary, a five-day round-the-world trip show that Biden still had the stamina needed for a second term in the White House?
Or the media discussed the advantages the trip might provide for American imperialism: what were the prospects for Vietnam aligning with the anti-China axis being constructed by Washington, which has already enlisted Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand and India?
The business press reviewed how much money the trip would generate for US multinational corporations (a lot, as Vietnam Air confirmed a $10 billion purchase of jetliners from Boeing, and semiconductor manufacturers are to be “incentivized” to set up production facilities in Vietnam, another effort to diversify the sourcing of chips vital for US manufacturing and the US military).
There was little discussion of the bitter history of 30 years of warfare that resulted in the eventual liberation of the French colony of Indochina and the establishment of the independent countries of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, in the course of which Japanese, French and American imperialism were responsible for the killing of millions of people.
This history is rarely discussed in the American media or in the US educational system, and is now outside the personal experience of the vast majority of the American population. It is 50 years since the last American troops were withdrawn from Vietnam. Earlier key events, such as the 1968 Tet Offensive by the Vietnamese liberation forces, the 1964 Tonkin Gulf “incident,” which became the pretext for massive US military escalation, let alone the catastrophic French defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, are dimly remembered, if at all.