By Chossudovsky, Michel
Canadian Dimension , Vol. 29, No. 4
On the 30th of April 1975, the Vietnam War came to a close with the capture of Saigon by Communist forces and the momentous surrender of General Duong Vanh Minh in Saigon's Independence Hall. As Vietcong troops marched into Saigon, US personnel and the last American soldiers were hastily evacuated from the roof of the US embassy. Twenty years later, for the Vietnamese people, a fundamental question still remains unanswered: "Who won the Vietnam War?"
Vietnam never received War reparations payments from the US for the massive loss of life and destruction, yet an agreement reached in Paris in 1993 required Hanoi to recognize the debts of the defunct Saigon regime of General Thieu. This agreement is in many regards tantamount to obliging Vietnam 'to compensate Washington' for the costs of the war.
Moreover, the adoption of sweeping macro-economic reforms under the supervision of the Bretton Woods institutions was also a condition for the granting of fresh credit and the lifting of the US embargo. The `free market' economy now constitutes the Communist Party's official doctrine.
With the normalization of diplomatic relations with Washington in 1994, reference to America's brutal role in the war is increasingly considered untimely and improper. Not surprisingly, Hanoi decided to tone down the commemoration of the Saigon surrender so as not to offend its former wartime enemy. The Communist Party leadership has recently underscored the `historic role' of the United States in `liberating' Vietnam from the Vichy regime and Japanese occupation during World War II. On September 2, 1945 at the Declaration of Independence on Ba Dinh Square in Hanoi, proclaiming the founding of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, American agents of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) (the predecessor of today's CIA) were present at the side of Ho Chi Minh. While Washington had provided the Viet Minh resistance (through the OSS) with weapons and token financial support, this strategy had largely been designed as a means of weakening Japan in the final stages of World War II without committing large numbers of US ground troops.
In marked contrast to the subdued and restrained atmosphere of the commemorations marking the end of the Vietnam War, the 50th anniversary of Independence is to be amply celebrated in a series of official ceremonies and activities commencing in September and extending to the Chinese New Year.
Prior to the `normalization' of relations with Washington, Hanoi was compelled to foot the bill of the bad debts incurred by the US-backed Saigon regime. At the donor conference held in Paris in November 1993, a total of nearly $2 billion in loans and 'aid' money was generously pledged in support of Vietnam's free market reforms. Yet immediately after the conference, a secret meeting was held behind closed doors under the auspices of the Paris Club. Present at this meeting were representatives of western governments. On the Vietnamese side, Dr. Nguyen Xian Oanh (economic advisor to Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet) played a key role in the negotiations. Dr. Oanh was a former IMF official who had occupied the position of minister of finance (and later acting prime minister) in the military government of General Duong Van Minh installed by the US military mission in 1963 in the aftermath of the assassination of President Ngo Dinh Diem and his younger brother. Dr. Oanh, while formally mediating on behalf of the Communist government, was nonetheless responsive to the demands of Western creditors.
The deal signed with the IMF (which was made public) was largely symbolic. The amount was not substantial: Hanoi was obliged to reimburse arrears of 140 million dollars (owed by the defunct Saigon regime) to the IMF as a condition for the resumption of new loans. To this effect, Japan and France (Vietnam's former colonial masters of the Vichy period), formed a so-called "friends of Vietnam" committee to "lend to Hanoi" the money needed "to reimburse the IMF. …