War gives nothing, not victory and not happiness. No matter what the purpose is, war only creates new problems, with more agony, and more death, with sadness instead of happiness and peace or whatever was claimed by the side who initiated it.
Visiting War Remnant Museum wasn’t on my list when I went to Vietnam. But, curiosity hit me, and so I decided to stop by the museum which is located in the heart of the capital city– Ho Chi Minh City (Sai Gon).
The museum was opened on the 4th September 1975 as an exhibition house about the Vietnam War and the first Indochina War involving the French colonialists and the United States. It opened under the name “Exhibition House for US and Puppet Crimes”. This name sounds intriguing and provocative, doesn’t it? But, then, a little later in 1990 the government decided to drop “U.S” or “French” and changed its name to become the “Exhibition House for War Crimes and Aggression”. And again, in 1995, following the normalization of diplomatic relations with both countries (the United States and France), the government changed the name to “War Remnant Museum”. So, it wouldn’t offend their new friends. Therefore, as you enter the building, looking at the pictures one by one, you will know that they changed the name but not the purpose. The purpose of describing the war crimes that happened in wartime.
Comprising of a series of themed rooms, this three-storied museum exhibits not only pictures, but also the weapons, transportations, bombs and mines used in the war. You can easily find the military equipment as it is directly in front of the museum. On the left side of the entrance, beside the UH – 1 “Huey” helicopter that you might have seen in the Rambo movie, you will find a series of jails and reproductions of torture equipment used in the war. These include the tiger cage, guillotine and other devices that might disturb your sleep. The explanations are very thorough. Or, I can say – too thorough so that I could imagine how it was and it made me shuddered whilst also causing me deep sorrow.
The first floor of the museum is filled with pictures about how Japan (mostly) and other countries (including the U.S and France) tried to stop the war. Whether they helped to spread the message through the mass media, or through the long march to protest the war.
The second floor is dominated by pictures of the war itself. Besides that, they also exhibit military equipment such as weapons, mines and bombs. Third floor was full of what we call the ‘Operation of Agent Orange’.
A short explanation about Agent Orange: It is an herbicide and defoliant chemical. It was used by the U.S. Military in their operations during the Vietnam War. The chemical not only caused major damage to environment but was also fatal to those exposed to the defoliant. They suffered death or deformation. It not only affected those who were attacked by the gas but also their children. It has been passed down 5 generations as Agent Orange even effects the genes of its victims.
The use of Agent Orange had a greater purpose than just attacking the enemy soldiers – the U.S. Congress said at the time. They also wanted to trap the Vietcong troops in the jungle, but, of course, it seems that they didn’t understand the consequences, the side effects, and the collateral damage caused by its use. Or, maybe, that time they cared much more about their ideology than people’s souls...that is what happens behind all wars – the purpose, interests, benefits and the glory of one’s side comes above all else.
I couldn’t stand looking at those photographs on the wall and decided to skip it. Not because I didn’t respect them, but I couldn’t resist the feeling of hatred that I felt at the time I saw those pictures. The hatred for war and the hatred for those who authorize it for the sake of their own interests.