Thursday, December 23, 2004

To the victors go the spoils...

It's an old but true cliche that history is told by the winners. In the still-Communist People's Republic of Vietnam, that is remarkably true. There are several major sights throughout Siagon (the capital of the former South Vietnam, and losers of the war... a fate they won't forget too easily) dedicated to commemorating the American War, and each of them act as a stake through the heart of the Americans and South Vietnamese.

Yesterday I ventured to the War Musuem, which was formerly called something like the American War Crimes Memorial until they realised it was scaring off visitors. It serves as a comprehensive assessment of the war, through the eyes of the communist North Vietnam. There's no tact or subtlety to the message - the evil imperialist Americans and their puppets in the south committed heinous offences, and the world should never forget. The horrors of life in non-Communist South Vietnam are shared, as are the cruel and barbaric tactic used by the enemy soldiers. Whilst one side was fighting with the angel on thir shoulder, the other had the devil working in a military consultency role. Or so it seems.

Today's trip was to the Unification Palace (formerly the national independence somethingarather and before that the French colonial somethingarather). This was the ornate structure that served as the residence and cabinet rooms for the government of South Vietnam, and the site of North Vietnamese tanks rolling across the idyllic (well, probably not idyllic on that day, but they were when I visited) lawn signalled the end of the war on April 30, 1975. Just yesterday the palace was the sight of major celebrations of Vietnamese nationalism and military might - it was the 60th anniversary of the North Vietnamese Army, which later became the Vietnamese army, and there was a big ceremony to mark the occassion. Despite many thousands of those who fought with the South Vietnamese suffering horrific torture and re-education and the hands of this very army, the occassion was something that Saigon took to heart.

True, all these places present a very one-sided view of history. But perhaps I - and other visitors - are more acutely aware of it because we have heard a one-sided view of these historical events for much of our lives... the other side.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm wary of starting a debate about the Middle East, because I admit that I'm less well informed than Ari, our esteemed foreign correspondent. However I think his last paragraph could easily be read as referring to the Israel/Palestine conflict, or numerous other global issues for that matter. We all hear one-sided view of historical events for much of our lives...

Peter from Canberra, currently back in Melbourne