A few thoughts about US, French and Vietnamese history
21.04.2008 - 21.04.2008
American tourists are welcome in Vietnam. This did not surprise us. Now about 30 years after the war, there's no noticeable resentment towards Americans travelling in Vietnam. Of course, there are government museums that show the expected, one-sided views of history and do a fine job highlighting war attrocities by the US. But what communist society would be complete without such showcases? Their heros proudly and bravely doing what is just and heroic. With smiles on their faces.
We were struck, however, by how little emphasis appears to be place on France's role in Vietnam's historical plight. Museums may contain a few pictures of attrocities by the French (e.g., enslaving of Vietnamese and beatings of slaves) but the vast majority of the attention goes to the war the Vietnamese call the “American War".
A quick history-minute (as retold by Ren and Patty): France spent over 100 years trying to colonize Vietnam. Their goal was to profit from Vietnam's resources and cheap labor. France's efforts to make themselves rich while exploiting Vietnam created fertile breeding grounds for populist movements and ultimately the Vietnamese communist party. Eventually, the French colonial dreams failed. Enter the US (who had already been funding French efforts). The US' misguided efforts were to crush communism (anywhere) at (practically) any cost. And in guerilla warfare, that involved many deaths of Vietnamese villagers. Some of which were certainly soldiers. Some were Vietgong supporters. And others were just innocent, poor people stuck in the middle.
We expected to read a bit more about Vietnam's history with France, but this just wasn't the emphasis of the Vietnamese government and its museums.