On our first day in Saigon we visited the well-known ‘War Remnants Museum’. Spending just a few hours walking round was enough to completely change my perspective of Vietnam and the Vietnamese people, as well as further making me wish for peace around the world.
To say that the material on display is any less than horrific would be lying. While Callum dismissed the whole thing as propaganda, I could not help but be very moved by a desire for peace and a dream that nothing close to it will ever happen again.
The museum is divided into different parts. They have a lot of photos of both sides of the war, but mainly focus on the achievements of the North and the atrocities of the South and the US. While these are not untrue, they do have to be taken with a pinch of salt. The facts are mind blowing and some of the pictures are very horrific and disturbing. A photo of 4 US soldiers proudly holding the decapitated head of two North Vietnamese peasants has a very reasonable statement underneath. It is written by an American (I presume from the language) and basically says that anything which can drive a human to do such a thing is surely the enemy. While you cannot dismiss the soldiers for such actions – it helps you to understand what they were going through, and realize that it was the soldiers themselves who were truly in hell (on both sides). However, the actions taken by the Americans were inexcusable, and the amount gunpowder, technology and toxic weapons that they used is truly mind-blowing. It seems somewhat ironic that they killed over 3 million people and devastated thousands of square kilometres of forest and countryside with chemicals while abusing, torturing and murdering innocent men, woman and children in the process (I’m not saying the Viet Cong didn’t either), and then bounce into Iraq and do the same thing because Saddam supposedly had chemical weapons.
Agent Orange, as it’s known, killed thousands of people and destroyed whole landscapes. The videos of people who were born with defects are some of the worst things I have ever seen. The list of diseases that have affected people living in these regions is huge and the worst thing about it is they do not have the means to move to better or cleaner areas. They have to use the polluted water to cook and wash and they have to live of the ground that is infested with man-made death. The museum has two glass jars with preserved bodies of babies born with defects. They also have life size replicas of prison cells used and actual torture implements on display.
I don’t want to make this a post about the horrible things I’ve seen, but more about the horrific nature of war. I took no pictures of anything which I considered disturbing as I don’t want to fill my site or my computer with such pictures.
What I found most interesting was the comments left by people in the books provided – mostly anti war (for the ones in English), and the pictures painted by Vietnamese children on how they view the war. While I know it is purely a propaganda mechanism I cannot escape the horror I felt as I saw children younger than my little brothers running for their lives, decapitated, burned by napalm or shot dead. To have a relationship with any small child lets you see the innocence and purity that we are born with, and to see images of that being taken away by grown men with guns and bombs without a second thought is truly horrendous.