Although Josh Getlin's Feb. 23 article, "Dornan Leaves Hanoi With New Respect for Old Enemy," was well-written and an excellent account of my recent MIA/POW fact-finding mission to Hanoi, I take strong exception to the headline, which implies that I respect the Communist Vietnamese government.
As a staunch defender of liberty and justice, I could never respect a nation that enslaves and imprisons its own people--including nuns, priests and Buddhist monks for the nonviolent expression of their beliefs. Vietnamese officials in Hanoi told me that 7,000 Vietnamese political prisoners are being held in concentration, or "re-education," camps. Some U.S. officials' estimates have the count at close to 13,000. The families of more than 600 of these prisoners live in my congressional district.
As a staunch defender of the right of self-determination, I cannot respect a nation that imposes, at the point of a gun, its repressive ideology on neighboring countries--Laos and Cambodia--countries that were once pro-Western and progressive.
As a compassionate public official, I have no respect for a nation that refuses to answer America's reasonable questions about the fate of 2,433 American MIAs and POWs still unaccounted for since March 28, 1973, the last release of U.S. POWs 13 years ago.