Note: The following post contains imagery that may be disturbing to some readers.
War is a terrible thing – and it’s easy to forget that fact when we’re safe and well fed in front of our keyboards, thousands of miles away from where conflicts are happening. I mean, who cares about some faraway war, as long as they don’t affect us, right? It’s kind of sad that all some people worry about is whether or not their butt looks fat in this pair of jeans, whereas in war-torn countries they are constantly praying that they will live to see the next sunrise.
Although history has told us time and time again that war only brings about suffering for innocent people, human beings are still apt to repeat the same mistakes, commit the same atrocities – and one wonders if we as a race has ever learned anything through thousands of years of ‘civilisation’. Even today, although we might not want to acknowledge it, there is war EVERYWHERE. Fighting in Syria, the emergence of the IS, the killing of innocent civilians in Palestine, the intrusion of Ukrainian territory, atrocities and kidnapping against girls by the Boko Haram, etc.
If you think you’re safe because you’re far away, think again. I’m a Malaysian, and none of these conflicts affect me directly. And then bam, one of our planes were hit by a missile while flying through Ukrainian airspace. The hundreds of Dutch, Malaysian and other passengers on board that flight had nothing to do with any war either. It just goes to show that violence and conflict CAN happen, because human beings will always be the same deep down, no matter how ‘civilised’ we would like to portray ourselves to be.
I don’t believe in any one God, but sometimes I wonder if He existed, why did he make human beings to be so… cruel and barbaric?
Anyway, that was a long introduction for the next place I visited during my stay in Vietnam – the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh city. One of the most popular museums in Vietnam (at about half a mil per year – coz people, like me, have a morbid obsession with death), the place houses a collection of war time photographs and items, in particular from the Vietnam War. Just outside the grey blockish looking museum are a few old army crafts such as choppers and tankers used during that era.
Propaganda posters line the entrance to the three-storey museum.
The place is divided into a few sections – one chronicling the main battle between North and South Vietnamese troops (and their respective allies), others depicting the effects of chemical warfare aka Agent Orange against Vietnamese villagers, etc.
This museum is not for the fainthearted. The depictions of war crimes are extremely gory and brutal – pictures of soldiers posing with victims who are missing limbs or heads, of people skinned alive, lifeless bodies of women and children piled up in the dozens, of villages burnt and desecrated. It’s hard to stomach just looking at them – makes you wonder how human beings can actually commit such acts of savage barbarism against each other. Animals kill for survival and food, but only mankind relishes in causing pain and suffering in others. Call me a misanthropist, but I truly believe that the Earth would be a better place without us.
Some tourists have commented that the pictures are not an accurate representation of the War as a whole, being skewed towards putting the West and its allies in a bad light and glorifying the North Vietnamese troops as heroes. While that may be true to some extent, it is undeniable that some of these really bad things DID really happen.
A total of between 1 to 3 mil innocent civilians lost their lives in the fighting, and subsequent disease and starvation.
Shrapnel from an exploded bomb
Another section of the exhibits were dedicated to the horrifying effects of the chemical warfare dubbed Agent Orange, to root out the communists by destroying their crops. However, most of these ‘targeted’ areas were actually producing food for the local population, and with it destroyed or contaminated, the people were left to slowly starve to death. Those exposed to the toxic chemicals also suffered diseases. The pictures were really hard to look at – many of them showed severely deformed villagers, some who did not look like humans at all.
Even the military personnel during the war were not spared, as many US army veterans developed fatal diseases towards the end of their lives after being exposed to Agent Orange. While there ARE sadists in every army, I’m sure many of these were just ordinary American soldiers following orders and did not want to be part of this.
The bottom line is, who needs hell when you have it on earth, by mankind’s own hand?
Young children looking at Hazmat masks used during the war. I imagine their grandparents would tell them that they are very lucky to be born in a later generation. Who knows what horrors they would have seen 40, 50 years ago?
I feel truly blessed to live in Malaysia where it is relatively peaceful. However, forces of extremism are growing stronger and no real effort is being done to stifle them. We live in a world where tolerance seems to be eroding to make way for violence and anger. When I was growing up, ‘terrorists’ were unheard of, but today they are right on my doorstep. Many young Malaysians are being drawn away to war torn countries like Syria to fight for a misguided cause far away from home. If this trend of extremism continues, I doubt that Malaysia would be a ‘safe and moderate’ place for very much longer.
So this travel post has been quite depressing, but yeah.
WAR REMNANTS MUSEUM
28 Võ Văn Tần, 6, 3, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Phone: +84 8 3930 6325
Opening hours: 730am – 12nn; 1.30pm – 5pm