The Vietnam War
In Ho Chi Minh City we visited the War Remnants Museum which provided an interesting if depressing look at the Vietnam War. Surprisingly, the anti-capitalist propaganda and America bashing were kept to a minimum, only appearing in a couple repeated phrases like “the aggressive US war”. The first floor of the museum was dedicated to depicting how widely unpopular USA involvement in Vietnam was, with pictures of protests from Europe, the middle east, Asia, Oceania and of course North and South America. The exhibit was fair to the people of the United States, showing citizens burning draft cards, soldiers refusing to fly bombing missions and the massive protests including the famous Kent State University protest of 1970.
The second floor of the museum was mostly pictures of the war and various war crimes that occured. Some of the pictures are incredibly powerful and others are very graphic. I have included a couple of the tamer pictures here.
The third floor is pictures and facts mainly about the herbicide Agent Orange. This substance was used to wipe out jungle and covered areas to expose Viet Cong and North Vietnamese soldiers who might be using the foliage for cover. It was also used on massive swaths of farm land to kill crops and try to choke the advance of the Northern Army by cutting off their food supply and forcing peasants to flee to US dominated cities, hopefully there to enter the war on the side of the Americans. 20 000 000 US gallons of herbicide were sprayed during the war. The effects of this spraying were also felt long after the war had ended. Agent Orange, in particular, has high levels of dioxin which cause all kinds of mental and physical disorders including but not limited to; cancer, down syndrome, spina bifida and children born with missing or deformed limbs. The pictures, mostly of children, were hard to look at. This exhibit also talked about the problems suffered by veterans exposed to the herbicides after they had returned to America and the compensation money they received. The tone of this floor was that the United States should also be providing compensation to the approximately 4 million Vietnamese affected by Agent Orange. Although there were some elements of the museum clearly designed to make Americans feel guilty, it is hard to miss the truth in some of what is said; this was a war that didn’t need and never should have happened. Both sides suffered and in the end, no one really won anything.