The passing of General Vo Nguyen GiapBy Asia Sentinel Oct 10, 2013 12:44PM UTC
An old soldier fades away, no longer a hero in his own country, writes Asia Sentinel’s David Brown
General Vo Nguyen Giap had already been dead more than 24 hours before the long-expected event was confirmed by Vietnamese Communist Party organs. Just before 7pm Hanoi time on Oct. 5, a “special announcement” in Nhan Dan, the voice of the ruling party, informed readers that Giap had passed away and would be accorded a state funeral on October 12 and 13.
By that time, news of the death of Vietnam’s legendary victor over French and American armies had already been flashed around the world, reported first by the nation’s online dissident press and then by the handful of journalists who represent the international press in Vietnam.
Like those prophets mentioned by Jesus (Luke 4:24, for instance), the 102 year-old hero of Dien Bien Phu was no longer much of a hero in his own country – at least not in the eyes of the people in power.
The obituaries posted by the remaining great organs of the world press dwelt without exception on Giap’s close association with Ho Chi Minh and his role as the architect of the 1954 Dien Bien Phu victory and of the 1968 Tet attacks that at a stupifying cost in soldiers’ lives turned US opinion decisively against America’s “Vietnam War.”
Many of the obits had the musty scent of text prepared and ‘canned’ long ago. Indeed, Judy Stowe’s rather better than average bylined piece in the Independent (UK) was presumably penned sometime before her own death six years ago.
Uniformly the obits in the international press do not explain why, with years to think about it, the Hanoi regime remained unsure if it should accord Giap a high profile state funeral. Nor, as a rule, do they note that by the decisive years of the “American War,” both Ho and Giap had been shoved to the margins by a younger and even more ruthless generation of revolutionaries, an event confirmed by Western scholars who’ve been able to rummage through Hanoi’s archives in recent years.
General Giap has been unpopular with his successors in Hanoi’s Politburo for a long time now, not least because his enduring popularity in the People’s Army made him the obvious focal point for cabals hoping to shift the balance of power in Vietnam’s regime. Insofar as is known, Giap never encouraged such plotting. Later on he did, however, speak out from the safety of retirement against trends that disturbed him.
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