US President Donald Trump. Picture: REUTERS/CARLOS BARRIA
US President Donald Trump. Picture: REUTERS/CARLOS BARRIA

On September 2 1945, Ho Chi Minh, war hero, political activist and leader of the Viet Minh, stood in front of a cheering crowd in Ba Dinh Square in Hanoi and declared Vietnam’s independence from France, its colonial overlord.

Although "Bac Ho" (Bac means uncle) was by 1945 an avowed communist, he was also a great admirer of the US Declaration of Independence. So enamoured was he, in fact, that the first line of his speech paraphrased the US preamble. "All men are born equal," he said. "The Creator has given us inviolable rights, life, liberty, and happiness!"

Bac Ho had every reason to believe the US would support his country’s bid for freedom, but the Vietnamese soon found themselves sold down the Red River. Cue five years of war with France (Vietnam 1-0), and then 10 years fighting the Americans (Vietnam 1-0).

The US made a stand in Vietnam against communism. America, the mantra went, stood for democracy and freedom, a multiparty system and free elections. (Don’t mention the Rome plough bulldozers and Agent Orange stripping the country of its forests, or B-52 bombers raining hell upon Hanoi.)

Fake it till you make it, goes the new mantra in the land of the free. That might work for landing a job via The Apprentice, but it does not offer much gravitas, say, for the job of US president.

Donald Trump’s refusal to concede risks a constitutional crisis and civil unrest. If this had happened anywhere else, there would have been congressmen puffing hot and dangerous air on The Hill and urging regime change.

They say you can choke on irony. But you have to know what it is first.

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