LAST Monday's Panorama Special was called after its subject, the children who are known in Vietnam as the 'Children of the Dust', the 'Dust of Life', or 'Dust of the Road'.
They - between 15 and 17 thousand of them, mainly teenagers – are the offspring of American men and Vietnamese women, a by-product of the Vietnam war,
Rejected in Vietnam and according to all accounts treated very badly, they are belatedly, nearly a decade after the war ended, being offered entry visas to the USA.
They said they had been outcasts in Vietnam. deprived of food, housing and even education. One woman told of being forced to labour beyond her capacity and then being taunted, get your American son to work for you.
The cameras accompanied a well-off London-based American Jim Carroll, to retrieve his 16-year old son John (who had not been to school for eight years...).
Americans get no further than the airport at Ho Chi Minh City, where a big crowd of youths accompanied by mothers and occasionally grandmothers had gathered. Though denying that there is any official discrimination against the children, the Vietnamese Stalinist government is plainly eager to get rid of them. It is helping to round them up - including those whose mothers also have abandoned them. (Their appearance tells other Vietnamese the story of their origin).
The programme balanced well-off, concerned Jim Carroll, who whisked his son off to the stockbroker belt of London with John Hitt. Hitt is a deep-South redneck, married, fat, mid-50s, speech-impeded
He doesn't want to know his son, Kuan. Hitt's wife is vindictive towards the boy's
mother - a lady with an anxious smile who has left another child behind (temporarily, perhaps) in Vietnam.
Only a few dozen fathers have shown any interest in their children. Most of the thousands of Asian-Americans will go to orphanages or foster homes in the USA.
Is it just 'anti-Vietnamese propaganda'? If the stories of discrimination are not true, then why would the government collaborate in exporting children who are culturally and linguistically Vietnamese? Snatches of a bitter Irish nationalist song kept going through my head - 'Patrick Sheehan', about an Irish soldier blinded fighting for Britain in the Crimean war and forced to beg to stay alive.
"Since I joined my country's tyrants, my face I’ll never show/ To my old neighbours in the glen of Aherlow".
But vengeance on the children? This, of course, is the regime that created the ‘boat people', mainly persecuted ethnic Chinese.
It is another bitter footnote to the Vietnam war, which, for all its justice against the USA, resulted, to the misfortune of the people of Vietnam in the establishment of a totalitarian Stalinist regime throughout Vietnam.
Socialist Organiser 161