Peace! (by MAPG)

Trip Start Aug 11, 2009
Trip End Feb 19, 2010

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Sunday, January 24, 2010

Vietnam is an amazing country with wonderful people! If I didn't mention this before, it's time to do it now. It is a great place not only by the means it treats tourists, but this fact given the amount of courage and the sacrifice the Vietnamese people constantly showed in the last century. Unfortunately it was utmost during the Vietnam War that these qualities were tested to their limits. I'm afraid I will turn this into a history lesson, but it wasn't the night market nor the tourist area (although both a great for food, bargains, and night-life) that I will remember years to come, but two monuments that stand proof for what I mentioned before. 

First there was the War Remnants Museum. It is a sad truth about the inhuman ways of combat used in the Vietnam War, mostly by the American side. Their actions were against any war conventions and nobody was there to judge and stop them. Millions of innocent civilians were killed in a brutal and premeditated way. Statements like "Bomb the Vietnamese back into the Stone-Age" made by high-ranking US officials are evidence for the violence and the difference in combat-power between the two parties. While the US were using their latest weapons, hence transforming Vietnam into a testing-ground for weapons (against every war conventions), the Vietnamese guerrilla was collecting unexploded bombs and transforming them into lethal weapons such as traps or anti-tank mines. People in the US protested against the war and the US finally backed-down in 1975, after 15 years of direct intervention. Nevertheless, it took 4 presidencies, 14,300,000 tons of bombs, and US 676 bn before the mistake was acknowledged. The latter was interfering with the independence and autonomy of a country for economic purposes.

Second came the tunnels from Cu Chi, a village situated about 60 km north of Saigon. Built in the mid 50's as a measure of the immanent threat lurcking from the French, the network finally comprised over 200 km of subterranean tunnels. Compared to the tunnels from Vinh Moc ( in North Vietnam) that were used for living, the Cu Chi network, situated just miles away form the US headquarters, was intended for fighting. This made them very narrow and sophisticated. They served for cooking, weapon workshops, clothes manufacturing, and even planning rooms. Built in three levels, a total of 15,000 people used the tunnel system. It is a masterpiece of engineering that emerged form the desire to stay alive.

Of course there is much more to say about the war. We met a Vietnamese that told us that the South-Vietnamese regime wasn't only a puppet of the Americans, and that there were enough Vietnamese that didn't want to join the communist north. That the Americans were paying them big bucks to join them instead of going to the Viet-Cong, apparently did not play any role. History is written by the winners and there is no doubt about who that was in Saigon.

So the truth might not be exactly the way it is presented in the War Museum. Nevertheless, the amount of evidence that backs-up the crimes against civilians and against the generations that followed is impressive. Still, the Vietnamese people managed to rebuild this shattered country, making it a booming economy, and a fascinating experience for tourists.
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