The Horrors of Chemical Warfare – Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

*Warning: This post contains graphic and disturbing details.

Big cities, regardless of the state or country, possess similar characteristics: persistent noise, apparent pollution, tall buildings, insistent traffic, and a dense population.

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The laws of the road are not followed in Ho Chi Minh City. As Captain Barbosa in Pirates of the Caribbean says, they “are more guideline than actual rules.” Scooters drive on sidewalks, pushcarts use traffic lanes, and walls of motor vehicles control the flow of intersections, not traffic lights.

 

 

He flew to Ho Chi Minh City for 24 hours for one reason: to attend the War Remnants Museum. The museum details the American Conflict, commonly known in the US as the Vietnam War. The museum utilizes graphic pictures and displayed weapons to showcase the violence and destruction inflicted on the Vietnamese people.

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One display tells the story of a town being invaded by American soldiers and three children hid in a storm drain for hours until they were eventually discovered. Two children were stabbed and one was disembowelled. There are tanks and planes used to kill and move through the difficult jungle terrain.

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There is also a guiltotine used for beheading and barbed wire boxes called tiger cages used to detain two or three prisoners at a time.

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The details, images, and items provoked emotions of guilt, sorrow, disgust, and fear in the Californian. He had attended the Holocaust Museum in Israel and was moved to tears while his body moved from display to display and his mind was stuck in a state of horror. That genocide hit close to home as he was raised with Judiasim and identifies as part Jewish.

He felt profoundly moved in Vietnam in a similar way when entering the final area of the museum. Agent Orange is weapon of chemical warfare used against the Vietnamese people that desecrated the environment and inflicted long term health damage to those exposed to the toxins.  In this final room those affected by Agent Orange sold bracelets and postcards to raise money for themselves and others as they physically can not live a normal life due to the chemical weapon.

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Some were people with dwarfed body parts that relied on wheel chairs to move around. One individual in the rear of the room with “regular” sized body appendages beautifully played an electric piano. This individual, however, did not possess eyes or eye sockets; the skin from his nose, cheeks, and forehead came together where eye sockets normally are. The Californian was able to see (a serious privilege) the effects of Agent Orange a half century later on the offspring of those whose parents were exposed to the chemical. Being able to obverse first hand and not through a monitor or photograph or display case was powerful.

He left the museum in contemplation of how terrible humans can be to each other. Seeing the effects of chemical warfare highlighted the harm humans and technology have the power to inflict. Despite being disturbed, he is thankful for the unique educational experience that not many are able to have. His convictions regarding appropriate conflict resolution were only made stronger.

The next day, after this somber experience, was a plane flight to a new country: Malaysia.

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