“Vietnam: The Door Opens a Little More” (editorial, Sept. 20) states that the lifting of some of the sanctions encompassed in the trade embargo “makes sense” because it balances U.S. companies’ commercial interests against concerns of families of our abandoned POWs. I don’t know what type of scale is being used to measure progress, but someone has his thumb on it. How else could our government even conceive that the Vietnamese are cooperating in accounting for our abandoned servicemen?
It is ridiculous to expect Vietnam to account for every American who did not return, but the resolution of 131 out of 2,265 POW-MIA cases in over 20 years is just as ridiculous. American POWs, acknowledged by both sides to be alive and in captivity, have neither been released nor have their bodies been returned. Vietnam has not even addressed, let alone resolved, any high-priority discrepancy cases, one such case being that of two American aviators, Henry Serex and Peter Mathis, whose authenticator codes were spotted by satellite imagery in June, 1992, outside of a prison complex.
Also, 181 eyewitnesses have stepped forward to tell of Americans they saw still in captivity in Southeast Asia; 89 of these sightings have been in the last four years, with 92 of the 181 in Vietnam. There has been no response from the Vietnamese government.
Fifty-one Americans who died while in Hanoi’s hands are still unaccounted for. We know they died, as other released POWs saw them. Hanoi has refused to return their remains.
The policy of this nation toward Vietnam, North Korea, China and the former Soviet Union should be “repatriate our live servicemen now,” then it can be business as usual. The former Bush plan, now being carried out by President Clinton, is nothing more than murder by the installment plan.
* The editorial states that “Vietnam’s communist regime has not been very cooperative on the POW-MIA issue until recently.” That’s the understatement of the year. The Vietnam government has lied consistently for over two decades regarding POW-MIAs.
Perhaps I’m being too emotional. Maybe The Times is right. After all, the ghosts of the thousands of Americans killed, tortured and held prisoner in Vietnam pale in contrast to those holy “lucrative contracts” for U.S. firms that chomp on the bit for Vietnam’s blood money.