President Bush Arrives in Vietnam for APEC Summit
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
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Here's a comparison that some supporters of the war in Iraq usually avoid making. It's a comparison with the war in Vietnam. Such comparisons are inevitable today as President Bush visits Vietnam. He's there for an Asian economic summit. And he said the lesson he draws from the Vietnam War is not to give up.
NPR's Don Gonyea is traveling with the president in Hanoi.
DON GONYEA: This is President Bush's first ever visit to Vietnam. As a young man, he secured a spot in the Texas Air National Guard, thus avoiding service in the war in Southeast Asia. Now he arrives here as president of the United States at a time of another unpopular war.
Shortly after landing, the president was asked by a reporter what it's like as an American baby boomer to be in this country. He called it amazing, and noted that the drive from the Hanoi airport brought with it reminders of U.S. Senator John McCain, who was a POW for five and a half years after his plane went down in 1967.
President GEORGE W. BUSH: You know, one of the most poignant moments of the drive in was passing the lake where John McCain got pulled out of the lake. And, he's a friend of ours. You know, he suffered a lot as a result of his imprisonment.
GONYEA: When asked if Vietnam holds lessons for the war in Iraq, the president said one is that people want there to be instant success in the world, but that the task in Iraq will take awhile.
Pres. BUSH: We'll succeed unless we quit. The Maliki government's gonna make it unless the Coalition leaves before they have a chance to make it.
GONYEA: The White House continues, though, to dismiss comparisons between the Vietnam War and Iraq.
(Soundbite of band playing)
GONYEA: This is the official welcoming ceremony where President Bush was greeted by Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet. They walked side by side along a deep, red carpet for the traditional review of the troops - members of the Vietnamese Armed Forces - on the grounds of the presidential palace.
(Soundbite of military command calls)
GONYEA: This week's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit may provide an early test of how losses for Republicans in midterm elections will affect the president and his role in the world. Much of his time will be spent in meetings not officially part of the summit, on the topic of North Korea's nuclear weapons. He'll sit down with leaders from China, Japan, Russia and South Korea. Those are the other nations involved in talks aimed at pressuring North Korea to disarm.
The question for those watching Mr. Bush on the international stage this week is whether he'll still have the clout at home to follow through on pledges made here, given that an unpopular war has hobbled him in much the same way that the Vietnam War did his predecessors a generation ago.
Don Gonyea, NPR News, with the president in Hanoi.