Greig Craft: People 'Ready to Embrace'

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Big corporations hire Greig Craft to smooth their way into Vietnam. Based in Hanoi since 1989, Mr. Craft helps American executives meet Vietnamese officials, obtain licenses, and find a place for their companies in a country with vast economic potential. His clients have included Ford Motor Co., Proctor & Gamble, and Motorola Corp.

But living and working in Vietnam is much more than a commercial enterprise for Craft. When he first landed here, he says, he felt he was having a religious experience and continues to see his work as a contribution to nation-building. "I just knew this was where I wanted to be," he says.

His office has a lobbyist's touch - pictures of Craft with former President Bush, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and former astronaut "Buzz" Aldrin. His rsum mentions a "close relationship" with the late Mother Teresa.

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But if Craft has a major client, it seems to be the US-Vietnam relationship itself. Years ago he organized Vietnamese delegations to Washington to push for the normalization of diplomatic ties, which the two countries agreed to in 1995, and recently urged President Clinton to consider visiting the country.

The war slips in and out of a conversation with Craft. He stresses the line that many American residents here take: "The war is over. These people are ready to embrace us." But for Americans of his generation, he says, "We grew up on Vietnam. It was our music; it was everything, whether we were fighting against it or we were over here as soldiers." Craft did not fight in Vietnam, and he confesses to some regret.

"I meet more and more guys my age who have those feelings of having missed something," he says, but soon snaps back to the present: "The American people have got to be able to see Vietnam not as a war."

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