The Vietnam War And Ho Chi Minh’s Legacy

Vietnam. The word, indeed the nation, has come to represent much of what a new generation of travellers seeks in a destination: exciting, vibrant and affordable. For many, however, especially those who grew up in the aftermath of the sixties zeitgeist, the word is synonymous with the Vietnam War.

This is not a post about the Vietnam War. I have no desire to delve into the rights and wrongs of the conflict, nor the legitimacy, or otherwise, of the justifications presented by various parties involved. Such differences have already been stated by countless others over years past. Instead, this post is intended to convey the observations I made on this, and related issues, during my time in the country.

The War Remnants Museum, one of Ho Chi Minh City’s (“HCMC”) most popular attractions, says much about the changing relationship between the US and Vietnam. This is immediately evident in the numerous name changes that the museum has experienced over the years. When the museum opened in 1975, it was known as the “Exhibition House for US and Puppet Crimes”. In 1990, the name changed to the “Exhibition House for Crimes of War and Aggression”. Upon normalisation of US-Vietnam relations in 1995, the museum’s current name was adopted.

ho chi minh vietnam war museum

The effect of the normalisation of relations between the two countries is apparent throughout much of Vietnam’s big cities. Recognisable American brands are widely available, and there is no shortage of young people wearing American clothing and eating American fast food. I was surprised at the extent to which American fast food chains had permeated the Vietnamese market. What really surprised me was that McDonald’s currently has no presence in the country, however there are strong indications of a 2013/14 entry into the Vietnam for the Golden Arches. Edit, the first McDonald’s in Vietnam did indeed open in February 2014.

ho chi minh vietnam war museum

Since the normalisation of relations between the US and Vietnam, it appears the governments of both nations have let bygones be bygones. To a large extent this is the case, however the entire truth is somewhat more complicated.

When it comes to bias, the War Remnants Museum is unlike any museum I have seen. Most museums I have visited around the world have done well to deal with sensitive issues while presenting facts and not taking sides. Any bias that I’ve noticed has generally been minor. At the War Remnants Museum however, it’s a no holds barred barrage of propaganda, overwrought with emotive language and typical propaganda buzzwords

The United States Government was evil, the atrocities committed against innocent civilians and Viet Cong soldiers by the Americans were heinous and knew no bounds, the entire world (including the American people) were against the war.

The museum would have visitors believe without consideration, that the United States Government was evil; that American atrocities against civilians and Viet Cong soldiers were heinous and knew no bounds; and that the entire world, including the American people, were against the war. Conversely, the Viet Cong are supposed to have been kind to the soldiers they captured; they never wilfully harmed innocents; and all that the beloved leader Ho Chi Minh (or “Uncle Ho” as he is warmly referred to by the Government) wanted was peace.

ho chi minh vietnam war museum

This bias is to be expected in many ways. After all, the “Socialist Republic of Vietnam” remains a communist nation, ruled by the party that was founded by Ho Chi Minh. What governments like this don’t seem to understand is that excessive propaganda and bias weakens their argument. Put the whole truth out there, talk about what both sides did, and let the facts speak for themselves: there were instances where US soldiers committed heinous atrocities against civilians; the war was largely unpopular in the US and throughout much of the world; and the use of Agent Orange was a terrible thing, the effects of which are still being felt by children born today.

There is a very graphic, but I think important, display on Agent Orange, napalm and phosphorous and its short and long-term effects on people. It includes photos of the severe deformities caused, accounts from those who suffered terribly as a direct result of exposure, and words from those who suffer to this very day, born well after the war. The display also includes three jars of preserved deformed foetuses (there is conflicting information available as to whether or not the foetuses in these jars were deformed by Agent Orange).

ho chi minh vietnam war museum

The Internet in Vietnam is censored. Reporters Without Borders consider Vietnam to be an “Internet enemy” and Amnesty International has reported many instances of Internet users being arrested for their online activities.  In fact, Vietnam is second only to China when it comes to the number of netizens imprisoned (121 last year). From what I have been able to gather, Internet censorship in Vietnam relates more to things like the creation and dissemination of information (for example by bloggers and journalists) that could be considered critical of the Vietnamese Government, and websites that shed light on human rights issues in the country.

Just the other week, prominent blogger Pham Viet Dao, who wrote blogs critical of government officials and policies was arrested in Hanoi; accused of violating Article 258 of the Vietnam’s penal code for “abusing democratic freedoms”. The Committee to Protect Journalists has written a very good piece on the topic of the shrinking of Vietnam’s press freedom that I would highly recommend to anyone interested in the topic.

Despite this censorship, it was easy for me to find the truth, or various versions of it, on the Internet. I left the War Remnants Museum with more questions than answers, and when I returned to my hotel that evening, I was able to clarify a lot of the issues.

ho chi minh vietnam war museum

As well as housing numerous pieces of weaponry and captured US military equipment (to clarify, most of this equipment was actually US equipment that had been given to the South Vietnamese army); the museum also contains a fascinating section highlighting some of the brilliant, often horrific and sometimes hauntingly beautiful photos taken by foreign photojournalists during the war.

ho chi minh vietnam war museum

ho chi minh vietnam war museum

Posters, banners and billboards such as those shown below, are found throughout much of Vietnam. The first celebrates 38-years since the reunification of Vietnam, while the second celebrates what would have been Ho Chi Minh’s 123rd birthday. Unsurprisingly, Ho Chi Minh, children and workers are by far the three most prominent themes.

I have been to former Soviet countries in Europe, where this type of imagery and paraphernalia is found only in museums, or kitsch bars going for a retro-communist theme. It is very surreal to visit a country where it has real life relevance in 2013, when it feels like it belongs to a bygone era.

ho chi minh vietnam war museum

The personality cult the the Vietnamese Government has built up around Ho Chi Minh is extensive. Glorified by the government as an “immortal saint”, Ho Cho Minh’s face adorns the front of Vietnamese banknotes; while statues and busts can be found outside of most government buildings; and schoolchildren learn about what a brilliant person and leader “Uncle Ho” was. Publications critical of Ho Chi Minh and his reign, and those discussing his non-celibacy are banned in order to ensure that the government can exercise full control over Ho Chi Minh’s image and story.

ho chi minh vietnam war museum

ho chi minh vietnam war museum

Ho Chi Minh is buried in Hanoi, in a Mausoleum modelled off Lenin’s in Moscow. The line to get in is very long, and photography is forbidden. Inside the huge cavernous space is Ho Chi Minh’s embalmed body, protected by a military honour guard and flanked on one side by a large hammer and sickle flag, and on the other by Vietnam’s national flag. It is very surreal.

ho chi minh vietnam war museum

ho chi minh vietnam war museum

One of the questions I kept asking myself while in Vietnam was “do regular citizens buy into all of this?” About halfway through the trip, I decided they didn’t. It must be mentioned that I only really spoke to people from cities, and I suspect, as is the case in most countries, that in the more rural and impoverished areas, the story may somewhat differ.

In the cities, at least, there seems to be an indifference to Ho Chi Minh. Many of those who fought against the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War are still alive and remain staunchly anti-communist. This is evident in the South of the country where many still refer to Ho Chi Minh City by its old name, Saigon. The further North you go, the more visible Ho Chi Minh’s presence and influence becomes.

In any case, there can be little doubt as to Ho Chi Minh’s ability to draw tourists. His omnipresence piques the curiosity of visitors and there is no shortage of those looking to cash in on this curiosity with Ho Chi Minh related trinkets and gifts.

ho chi minh vietnam war museum

The Vietnam Military History Museum in Hanoi tends to focus on the actions of Vietnamese soldiers during all wars involving the country, including those fought during the French Indochina era, as opposed to the US Vietnam War focused War Remnants Museum. It is just as biased and propaganda filled as the War Remnants museum.

ho chi minh vietnam war museum

Some of Ho Chi Minh’s personal cars, as well as the Illyushin 14 army transport plane that Ho Chi Minh used to travel overseas on official business from 1957 (pictured below), are on display here.

ho chi minh vietnam war museum

ho chi minh vietnam war museum

Below is the tank that smashed through the gates of the Presidential Palace (today’s Reunification Palace) on the day that Saigon fell, 30 April 1975.

ho chi minh vietnam war museum

Maison Centrale is another attraction in Hanoi. Originally built by the French to hold political prisoners, Maison Centrale was used by the North Vietnamese government to hold prisoners of war during the Vietnam War. Most of the prison has been demolished, however, the gatehouse remains both as part of the museum and as a reminder of its dark past. It was sarcastically dubbed the “Hanoi Hilton” and was where many POWs were brutally tortured.

The museum is of course full of propaganda showing photographs of smiling US soldiers being treated humanely, joking about, playing cards and many such activities. The museum describes the “Hanoi Hilton” name coming about as a result of the excellent conditions the prisoners were supposed to have experienced. The actual accounts of the atrocities committed here are jarring, but the official Vietnamese Government line is that “the occasional slap” was as bad as it got

I had read about Maison Centrale prior to visiting the museum, so was mindful of the extent to which the propaganda might be more noticeable when compared to the other two war museums I visited. As expected, the propaganda is so over the top and ridiculous, it’s hard to fathom not only how someone might believe it, but also how anyone creating it might think others would believe it

ho chi minh vietnam war museum

US Senator John McCain spent time at Maison Centrale. This was the gear he had on him when he was captured by North Vietnamese forces.

ho chi minh vietnam war museum

The experiences that I have described reinforced two of my beleifs. First is the belief that war is futile. Vietnam is a fascinating country full of kind, decent people. Having visited the United States, it too is a country full of kind, decent people. Ultimately, it’s saddening to think of how many similarly good-natured individuals were denied the basic right-to-life, both in Vietnam and the world over, as a result of war.

Second is my belief that arguments based on facts and evidence are always more convincing than those based on propaganda and lies.


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27 Comments

  • one word – Fantastic. I am sending this article to anyone I hear is travelling to Vietnam so they can school themselves.

  • Robert says:

    The Vietnam Military History Museum is definitely worth a visit. A piece of history not to be forgotten. Thanks for sharing your story and the wonderful pictures.

    • Paul says:

      Thanks Robert. It’s definitely worth checking out and no matter what ones view are they are certain to get something out of their visit.

  • Marc says:

    I find that your opinion of internet censorship in Vietnam overrated. I’m an American currently living in Vietnam for almost 8 yrs now, and not much is different in terms of getting news, research, or information, except that it is slower. There is no block or firewall on Google like the one used in China.One big difference from the US is that internet is virtually free; when it isn’t, it’s cheap. Vietnam is a country of cafes – tons of them, and over 90 per cent of them provide free internet service. Believe you me, there are no such censorship.

    Now getting to your opinions of propaganda. If you want real propaganda, you need not look further than Hollywood and its bias depiction of history and war – any war. I’m sure another Vietnam war movie from someone’s version will make it to theater any time now. You’ve somehow forgotten to mention the thousands of unexploded ordinances and mines that are still killing and maiming innocent civilians, especially children. And you wondered or doubt if the dead fetus are even agent orange induced at all? Why not just go into an orphanage. Most orphanages will have several children with birth defects associated with agent orange. I will gladly pay for the DNA test just to prove it to you. You’re forgetting that under the tremendous pressure of the US public that forced the military to withdraw so excuse the Vietnamese for misrepresenting the facts. And it’s funny that while you wrote this blog, the US were still keeping “enemy combatants” without judicial oversight and are exploiting US laws by imprisoning them outside of US laws and jurisdiction. Let’s not make it seem like the US didn’t torture any Viet Cong. Why don’t you ask the US to open their log book and show us what they did to the people they captured? Let me guess, we feed them grandma’s apple pie until they threw up and told us everything they knew right? We’re Americans, we don’t stinkin’ torture. At least according to Dick Cheney.

    Look, I drive by these war museums almost every week and it’s nauseating just to look at the tanks, jets, helicopters, etc.. I kind of wish they just bury this crap in the scrap yard somewhere. I’m not here to defend its government or its way of dealing with people who has an ax to grind. In my opinion, these people are just as worse as the government they hate. I’m not saying that they deserved to be jailed but they have to understand that they still live under a communist system and has to abide by its laws; there are things you just don’t say.

    In many ways, Vietnam is a country that is probably the equivalent of pre-industrial US with the exception of technology, and has more freedom than the current state of the US due to its lack of laws on the books. It is still making up laws as it goes along, and It’s only a matter of time before this type of system comes to an end. However, it must do it at its own pace.

    • Paul says:

      Hi Marc. Thanks for your detailed comment. In relation to Internet censorship I agree that a lot was not blocked. As I stated in my article, I had no trouble accessing a variety of sources that provided information that countered that presented by the Vietnamese government and I also made good use of the free WiFi available in many of the cafes that I went to. To say that there is no Internet censorship however is simply not true. Reporters Without Borders and Amnesty International are two very reliable sources. I highly recommend reading the article by the Committee to Protect Journalists that I linked to in my article.

      Turning to the issue of propaganda, there is no question at all that the museums that I visited contained a lot of propaganda. As I mentioned in my article there are many examples of atrocities committed by the United States during the war – Agent Orange and the many unexploded ordinances and mines that you brought up are just the tip of the iceberg. What I stated in my article is that propaganda is not required. The facts speak for themselves and propaganda serves only to weaken what is a very compelling case. I don’t think I ever indicated that the US were saints in this war, however I think that it is blatantly false to say that the Viet Cong were saints. As I indicate, both sides had their reasons for doing what they did and both sides did a lot of things that were inexcusable. I think that the facts should be laid bare by both sides for all to see.

      Moving on to your last point, I’m not quite sure what you are trying to say. At first you say that Vietnam is free and that there is no censorship but then you go on to state that, in relation to the jailed journalists “they have to understand that they still live under a communist system” and “there are things you just don’t say”.

      • Dong chi says:

        Paul, other facts you got wrong. That is not Ho Chi Minh’s personal plane. It has Vietnam Airline written on the side. It is from the national airline. There is no collection of his cars at the museum . And, Sen. John mcCain was fished out of a lake in Hanoi, when he was shot down bombing the city, so you could have have said he was saved from drowning as much as he was captured. Don’t let little facts get in the way of your narrative.

        • Paul says:

          Hi Dong, you are correct about it not being Ho Chi Minh’s personal plane, and I have updated that sentence accordingly. It is, in fact the Illyushin 14 army transport plane that he used when he travelled overseas from 1957. There are a collection of his cars at the museum – they are inside and I saw them with my own eyes.

          As for Sen. McCain. His plane was shot down by the North Vietnamese, after which he was fished out of the lake and captured. This is a known fact, so I’m not quite sure what you are accusing me of here.

        • Marc says:

          Perhaps my last paragraph wasn’t very clear, There is a group of overseas Vietnamese who are funded by the U.S. to do nothing but spread propaganda (much like they do with Cuba) and bad mouth the Vietnamese government. Those who cannot do it from abroad will pay their proxies to do it from within. These people disseminate writings, to anyone who would read, and criticize the VNGvt. are jailed because you just don’t do this in a communist based country. This is what reporters without borders and Amnesty are bitchin’ about. The common sense is clear as day. I don’t speak for the VNG but I know that as long as I live in work in VN, the understanding is that I don’t criticize what they do. If I don’t like it I leave. Now I understand that native Vietnamese can’t do that but they also know the consequences of criticizing their government; that’s probably the only down side of personal liberty in Vietnam. Does the government interfere with what you do on the internet? I doubt it.and I haven’t said the nicest thing but I don’t tread the line either. There’s a difference between giving constructive criticism, ideas on improvement, and allegations or down right bad mouthing.of the existing government, which I think those “reporters” have fallen into the latter. Have there been cases where legitimate reporters get silenced or jailed over reporting of corruption or of stories relating to high level government personnel? Possibly, but you’d be pretty naive to think this doesn’t happen in the U.S. or any other western country. When I talk about freedom in this paragraph, I’m saying that personal liberty here is untether as long as you stay out of politics, with the respect of knowing what regime you’re living under. There’s no contradiction in my statements.

          On the subject of propaganda, you seemed to defend that your propaganda is “facts” and even admitting that the Vietnamese propaganda are “their side”, so it’s the us vs. them scenario. The problem is that your writing did not bring up and propaganda from the us side, but just merely brushing it off as both sides. You didn’t mention (as to be fair) for example that My Lai Massacre was a war crime (one of many) and not one perpetrator of this crime was ever punished or brought into to Hague for prosecution. Colin Powell, as I recalled, was one of the main culprit who fashionably swept this whole case under the rug and used the war for this budding political career. Ironically, it was he who stood in front of the UN to recite the lies that got Iraq invaded. So, the drum up for war by the NYT, WaPo, Fox, CNN, MSNBC, and thousands of talk radio aren’t propaganda? How about the hundreds of war movies and books that depicted the U.S as some kind of heroes as if they won the war, you don’t think that’s propaganda for the new recruits? Hey Paul, I got news for you, I enlisted in the U.S. Marines Corp. in 1987 so I know a little about propaganda. Perhaps the visitors see this as somehow a wall of propaganda, but it’s also there to remind people that this happened and it happened right where they are standing. Maybe it’s there to remind people that war is hell and people are just not collateral damages. Maybe since you were so concern with “facts”, you should have list the untruths that you find in these museums. If all of the evidence are true, then what is it that separate this as facts instead of propaganda? Again, Hollywood and their war films (completely backed by the pentagon) are entertainment and not propaganda right? You don’t think the image of the twin towers and the number 911 doesn’t motivate many people to hate Muslims? Oh that’s right, it’s “fact.” So I guess the Holocaust museum is also propaganda then right? It fits under your definition.

          Yes, you said, “the U.S. weren’t saints” but you didn’t write a comparative analysis between the VC and the U.S. Paul, when you only talk about one side and how bad they are and then say the other side does it too, it’s pretty meaningless because most people take that as the somehow, we’re the good guys. It’s the same methodology used by Foxnews, who is officially registered as “Satire” by the FCC, claims to be a “fair and balance” news outlet when what they really are, is an entertainment network. Notice how they can’t be sued for calling Obama a Kenyan. C’mon man, we ain’t that stupid on this side of the world.

          Regarding agent orange…again. You clearly stated that, “whether these foetuses were actually deformed by agent orange or not is not certain.”, is plain to me and most people here with a minimal degree of English would understand that you are somehow questioning the validity, or, is having doubts about this fact. Sorry but you’re going to have to be a little better than that and I’m not going to let you get away with it. I’m surprise you’re not working for Monsanto or Dow Chemical, which by the way, are doing business in Vietnam right now. You keep peddling to the line of “facts” like Foxnews but your portrayal of Vietnam government as playing the victim to take advantage of history is in poor taste. Just remember something, their museums exist not so much because of the war but because of the war crimes that existed. If I were them, I’d call it, “Museum of American atrocities.”

          • Paul says:

            Marc. You’ve said yourself that if one writes certain things that the government doesn’t approve of, you will get arrested. I don’t think there’s too much more that I need to say on this issue – people can read the Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders and Committee To Protect Journalists reports and make their own conclusions.

            As for your next 2 paragraphs, again I don’t think I need to say too much more beyond reiterating what I have already said. This is an article about what I observed in Vietnam and, in relation to the part of my article you are discussing, what I saw at the War Remnants Museum. I’m not talking about the war in general, I’m not attempting to do a comparative analysis. It’s not the focus of this piece, and I refer you to paragraph 2 of my article.

            I’m not sure what 911 and the Holocaust have to do with anything here other to reinforce to me that you have completely missed the point my piece. I’ve repeated myself in other comments on this site in addition to the main article and see no need to say anything more on the matter.

            Regarding the foetuses, I have done my own research and not been able to find compelling evidence to either prove nor disprove whether or not they were deformed by Agent Orange. I agree with you that the paragraph was a bit unclear and I have updated it to remove any ambiguity in my message.

      • Old Git Tom says:

        Mr Paul,
        you skip rather too rapidly thru the history of the US atrocities committed against Vietnam. Was that really necessary to get to your anaemic conclusion that ‘war is terrible’? Vietcong prisoners were routinely tortured, if mainly by US-supported South Viet stooges. In Operation Phoenix, US forces would heli in to villages, round up victims at random, & torture them for info about VC activities. CIA ops were often present, & women & children were not spared. In Saigon, political suspects were held in small ‘Tiger Cages’ (as in your photo?). After months/years of constriction, their legs would become useless. What made the Vietnam War even more hideous was that the US gov was never interested in ‘winning’. The war was extended as long as possible as a money-spinning enterprise for the industrial-military complex: it ‘won’, the USA did not ‘lose’. The sub-bestial creatures who made the war are still in power. It is not forgiveable to attempt to bury such history under liberal goodwill. Learn the lessons of history, or the horrors of the Vietnam War can come again to anyone, anywhere.

        Last, most Vietnamese have forgotten the war & seem to actually welcome Americans & westerners. But before criticizing things there now, visitors should imagine what the war did to the national psyche.

        • Paul says:

          Tom, I don’t necessarily disagree with what you’ve said, however as I state in the second paragraph of my post “This is not a post about the Vietnam War. I have no desire to delve into the rights and wrongs of the conflict, nor the legitimacy, or otherwise, of the justifications presented by various parties involved. Such differences have already been stated by countless others over years past. Instead, this post is intended to convey the observations I made on this, and related issues, during my time in the country.”

          True, I’ve not gone into much detail on the specifics of various US atrocities, but I haven’t gone into the specifics of North Vietnamese atrocities either. That’s not the purpose of this blog post.

  • frere anak tom says:

    excellent essay! uncle ho’s memory has been ruthlessly exploited since 1969. he instructed that his ashes be divided between the three areas of the country [reunification- sadly, 1975 was more like a conquest]. he apparently wanted general giap to take over – this became a minor re-run of stalin and trotsky but “stalin” was smart enough not to spit on the hero of dien bien phu. general giap was probably the only man who could denounce the government’s misdeeds without going to jail. the telegraph was the only british paper who seemed aware of/interested in uncle giap’s dismay at the “legacy of uncle ho”

  • Khang says:

    Your post is the one that full of propaganda Paul, the museums you mentioned display and tell only facts and evidences, even if those are one-side facts. I agree with you that “arguments based on facts and evidence are always more convincing than those based on propaganda and lies”, so base on what evidences and you accuse the Government in general and these museums in particular is LYING?

    With your very limited understandings about Vietnam and its history, you are just simply creating a delusively ridiculous Western style propaganda about the country in this blog. What I think is your traveling and blogging about Vietnam is a complete waste of time because what you have written here that Vietnam is full of lies, full of propaganda could be found in almost any Western high-school history books.

    Please do stay longer and learn more about Vietnam through Vietnamese people, young, old, northern, southern, the culture, foods before you go on creating any more misleading propaganda.

    • Paul says:

      The Oxford Dictionary defines propaganda as “Information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote a political cause or point of view”.

      I fail to see how anything that I have written in this post could be classified as propaganda. Regarding the museums, you yourself state that they display and tell only one side of the story. This is done to promote a point of view. This falls squarely within the definition of propaganda.

      I also disagree with your claim that I am “simply creating a delusively ridiculous Western style propaganda about the country”. In several instances I have acknowledged the fact that the facts alone support many of the ideas that are espoused in these museums and that the United States was far from blame free in this war. I agree that the United States government engaged (and continue to engage) in propaganda of their own about the Vietnam War, however that is not the focus of this blog post. I refer you to the second paragraph of my post.

      In response to your final sentence, I’d love it if you’d take a look at the other blog posts that I wrote about Vietnam. You’ll find that I loved the country and its people, and think that it’s a great part of the world.

      • Toby Prior says:

        As you say propaganda is information presented in such a way as to mislead and/ or to support a particular point of view. Paul, you have done this repeatedly in this article. The repeated use of the word “bias” creates a negative impression of the Vietnamese state. Someone else might expect them them to be “biased” against a country that went to great lengths to bomb the shit out of them. You also refer to the display on agent orange thus: (whether or not these foetuses were actually deformed by Agent Orange or not is not certain). Come on Paul, this sounds like you don’t believe that agent orange was that bad. Of course it was, and the use of it along with napalm was basically a war crime. You talk about propaganda weakening an argument and of how all facts should be put on the table. This manages to be naive and patronizing. Of course propaganda is everywhere Fox news, NY Times etc might be skillful at appearing to to put all the facts on the table but they certainly don’t and the only thing that damages US credibility is when someone gets caught red handed, like the helicopter pilots in the famous wikileaks video. Of course the whole world is rife with propaganda and the big difference with the Vietnamese is they are not as skilled at it as the Americans, or British. So shame on you for including all the loaded comments in what should have been a neutral, non-judging information piece on a fascinating place.

        • Paul says:

          Toby, it’s not misleading if it’s the truth. Yes, I have used the word “bias” several times, and this is because it’s the truth. Everything else aside, regardless of the ultimate validity of the viewpoint being promoted, there is no question that the information is presented in a heavily biased manner. In this regard I think that it is completely fair to be critical of those who are in charge of these museums.

          Regarding the display on the foetuses, I have it on good authority that the veracity of the claims made in relation to them is dubious. I will try and find this information for you. I did not say that they weren’t deformed by Agent Orange, just that it is not certain and, after seeing all of the other propaganda in the museum, I don’t think it is unreasonable to be suspicious.

          I make it sound like Agent Orange wasn’t that bad? A quote from my article “the use of Agent Orange was a terrible thing, the effects of which are still being felt by children born today.”

          One the main points of my article Toby, is that the facts do support a lot of the things in the museums. A lot of what is in there is completely true. The museums would be much more powerful places without the propaganda and bias, if the facts were left to speak for themselves.

          Yes propaganda is everywhere, however this does not make its use right.

          As an aside in regards to Fox News “appearing to be skilled in putting all the facts on the table”, I disagree completely. They are woeful at it and one of the most biased media outlets in the West. The way that they present information offends me just as much as the way that information was presented in these museums. More recently, the New York Times has deviated from its usual high standards too which is very disappointing. Generally though, they are very good in presenting both sides of the coin.

          All I ask for is the facts, and to be left to make my own mind up, regardless of the topic or arena.

        • Nguyen Van Hung says:

          “Negative impression of the Vietnamese state” – Arrest, disappearance, torture an execution of human rights/democracy/Vietnamese sovereignty activists, journalists, bloggers by the Communist regime is not “negative” enough? Violent quashing of protests (many of which are on Youtube) is not “negative” enough? Grave human rights violations (one of worst in the world), is not “negative”? Cover-ups, denial, deception, and/or manipulation of historical events negative about the Communists (eg Hue Massacre with 3000-5000 slaughtered, Dak Son Massacre with 300 killed, 172,000 civilians murdered in North Vietnam Land Reform under Ho Chi Minh, Ho Chi Minh having a son with Nong Thi Xuan then ordered her killed, 1 million South Vietnamese thrown into “reeducation camp” gulags where many died, “collectivizing” (stealing) private property incl. houses, businesses, possessions from South Vietnamese after the War for themselves, 2 million Boat People refugees fleeing Communist dictatorship after the War etc), is not “negative” enough for you? SHAME on YOU.

    • Tu Do-Dan Chu-Nhan Quyen-Doc Lap-Cho-Viet Nam/Freedom-Democracy-Human Rights-Sovereignty-For-VN says:

      Khang, so the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese massacred 3000-5000 people in Hue City, with the Hue Massacre being the largest of all VN War massacres, why is there NO mention of that in Vietnamese war museums? How about the VC massacre of 300 native people in Dak Son, why no mention in the museums? How about 0.5 to 1 million South Vietnamese thrown in “reeducation camp” gulags after the War, with hundreds of thousands of those dead during imprisonment or soon after release, due to torture, overwork, starvation, disease, labor disasters? Oh, because the reason is because you communists don’t want to expose any crimes, injustices and abuses they’ve committed, for fear of turning domestic Vietnamese and foreign opinion against them. Those atrocities and crimes i’ve listed above are also never mentioned in schools and textbooks or in the media. You are clearly LYING and IN DENIAL, not Paul.

  • rod says:

    Good article and thank you for responding to all who provided questions and corrections.

    • Paul says:

      Thanks Rod. I think it’s important that everyone gets a chance to speak their mind and the discussion in these comments has been very beneficial.

  • Colin Clegg says:

    Your Commentator has the nerve to speak about a biased slant on the american war, but then history is usually written by the victors so I suppose justice has been served in the end

  • Stewart Hart says:

    That the US is the villain of the Vietnam war is not opinion but official US Government documented fact. It’s all spelled out in the “Report of the Office of the Secretary of Defense Vietnam Task Force” popularly referred to as the Pentagon Papers.
    The US thoroughly documents how it started the war, lied to expand it, used large scale assassination programs against S. Vietnam president Diem as well as local village leaders (Phoenix), killed innocent men, women and children as policy and set up a huge Heroin smuggling operation. War crimes were the norm. None of this is opinion to be debated; it’s documented fact by our government, easily accessible in total since 2011.

  • Dave says:

    Hey Paul, thanks for the article. I felt as though the research you did prior to your visit to VN may have clouded your emotion and put you in a bias state. My conclusion is that you’re a patriotic American and the article is very bias toward your patriotic side. I see my students make the same “freshman” assessment all the time and I would tell them to do more research, a lot more, before making conclusions that affect others point of view. Again thanks for the blog and keep exploring.

  • Harold G says:

    Paul, I found your article interesting and informative. Being an American, it was nice to see VN through the eyes of a foreigner not from the U.S. My father was a Navy Vietnam war veteran and told me many things about what his take on what he saw over there. Much to my surprise, it never had anything to do with what either side did bad. It was always about what a beautiful country Vietnam was, and how all the locals he ever ran into were a loving and friendly people. It’s obvious to me by the comments of some of your detractors above that they are slanting their opinions with a hatred of the U.S., or at least what it stands for, or did stand for. The article you wrote took all of the politics out of it, and showed us what your take on what you saw. I don’t recall reading any articles by any of the folks who were talking smack about your personal opinions. Probably because nobody wants to read the same left/right leaning writings of some of the hateful types from both sides. It was a refreshing read, and I say keep up the great writing. Cheers.

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