Bissell on Vietnam

‘War Wounds,’ Tom Bissell’s great new Harper’s essay on returning to Vietnam with his father, a Marine and veteran of the conflict, is not available online. But his thumbnail sketch of Ho Chi Minh, ‘Was Uncle a Stalinist?‘, has recently appeared on The Old Town Review, a small online journal of culture and politics I help run. I must say that ‘War Wounds’ is one of the best essays Harper’s has published in recent months: full of humor and emotion, often heartbreakingly funny and sad at the same time. Here’s a taster from ‘Was Uncle a Stalinist?’, an excerpt from Bissell’s new project, a travel book about his experiences with his father in Vietnam:

‘Long after lying about it would have served any purpose, many of Ho’s comrades spoke of his lasting disappointment at falling out of U.S. favor, and until the United States dispatched its advisers to South Vietnam, anti-American sentiment was virtually unknown among North Vietnam’s Communists, much unlike their fellows in China and the USSR. Meanwhile, freedom-lovers in the U.S. government delayed the publication of [an OSS officer’s] memoir until the 1980s for the high crime of containing a positive portrait of Ho Chi Minh, and for decades hid from the American public the eleven letters and telegrams Ho Chi Minh had written President Truman, one of which offered to make Vietnam a protectorate of the United States “for an undetermined period” and another of which offered up Vietnam as “a fertile field for American capital and enterprise” in exchange for aid against the French.’