Vietnam has a long history of throwing out colonial and imperial forces. Most famous is the Vietnam War of the American imagination. But even before the Americans, Vietnam had to throw off the colonial French, finally doing so in the victory at Dien Bien Phu. In the process of defeating first the French then Americans, a lot of artifacts of war were left behind. A few of them can be seen now in the War Remnants museum in Ho Chi Minh city.
The museum is a three story building displaying mostly photographs inside and the heavier stuff like field guns, tanks, helicopters and fighter jets outside. The photographs are split into various sections visually telling the history of the wars, those that supported Vietnam during the struggles, and most disturbing of all, the effects that chemical warfare – particularly the use of Agent Orange – had on the population. Pictures of deformed babies and children are shocking here.
While neither Susana nor I are American, there is something to learn here for everyone. The Vietnam war stands as a testament of military overconfidence, political miscalculations and the viciousness of man. Canada, our home country, is increasingly engaging more and more in military conflicts in an effort to “punch above our weight class”. Walking through the museum, Canada may wish to reconsider such a stance.