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War Remnants Museum

VIETNAM | Monday, 28 May 2007 | Views [4473]

A tight squeeze, Catherine emerging from the Cu Chi Tunnels.

A tight squeeze, Catherine emerging from the Cu Chi Tunnels.

So this is me squeezing in to a tiny hole at the Cu Chi tunnels. You can see that the tunnels weren't built for tall white girls, but for tiny little 45kg Vietnamese soldiers. Unbelievably, they managed to survive underground all day for years, and the tunnels on the third level are 60cm x 60cm (that's about the size of my head).

After a morning spent marvelling at the tunnels, we went to the most sad place - the war remnants museum. It is shocking to see the statistics of war in black and white. The number of bombs dropped, villages destroyed, environment wrecked, people killed, nations lying (especially those great big super powers - shame).

For me, the most impact was made with the gruesome photos of bloody, smashed up bodies. The photos of skin melting off with napalm. The photos of burning skin and the pained faces of agent orange victims. The crying children and villagers that had nothing to do with fighting, and little idea about why people were fighting anyway. Truly horrific.

Even worse are the stories of people today. We already knew that agent orange causes birth defects for many generations. But to hear the stories of women who can't have babies because their husbands were exposed to the chemical is sobering. To see pictures of the families who could have children is worse. The kids have different problems, from blindness, to mental handicaps, to deformities. I can still see the girl who had one side of her head twice as big as the other, and the big side sagged down to her shoulder.

These people only survive because of money from international aid. We felt proud because little old New Zealand helps these people too. Just like they were funding projects in Cambodia and Laos. Big ups to New Zealand - we love you! Lots of countries send money to support the victims of agent orange - the people who cannot work because of disabilities and the people who cannot work because the chemicals still affect the quality and quantity of crops they can grow.

And can you guess the country that sends no aid? The one that won't sign the land mine treaty? The one who is directly responsible for deforming people and ending family lines?

That's right. The good old US of A. The one who spends millions of dollars on compensating its own soldiers who had contact with agent orange, and their children with disabilities.

Now the war is over, but the effects of chemical warfare continue. It is probably not appropriate to forgive and forget. We must not forget what happened in order to prevent it from happening again anywhere in the world. Judging by the tone of the museum, some people will never be prepared to forgive. Some people want revenge. In my opinion, for there to be peace, there can be no revenge.

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