The American War

The American War

I’m on a tour of Southeast Asia this month, and before leaving I composed a month’s worth of blog posts. The original post for this week was paired with an excerpt from Forced Air, the story of my Vietnam War experience, and suddenly, because of an activity this morning, the post seemed completely inadequate. I’ve substituted this one.   

Today our group went to Ba Dinh Square in Hanoi, the area where Ho Chi Minh lived during and after the war. The square is now dominated by a big, Russian-style mausoleum where Ho’s body lies in state.

Our guide, Tuyen, gave a brief, moving, personal commentary on the war and its aftermath, the gist of which was that the Vietnam War (here called the American War) had no winner. Both sides suffered, tragically and needlessly. The Americans were intent on preventing Vietnam from allying with China, somehow failing to notice that for two thousand years the Vietnamese had resented and even hated the Chinese, a feeling that, according to Tuyen, persists to this day.   

Someone asked Tuyen how much of the country today is communist and how much is capitalist. To our surprise, he said Vietnam is one hundred percent capitalist. In other words, he feels that the country is communist in name only.

What a thought—that the passage of time has accomplished what the Americans killed three million Vietnamese to do, and failed. This morning, standing in Ba Dinh Square, it all seemed unutterably sad.  


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