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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
Club Notice - 04/13/01 -- Vol. 19, No. 41
Table of Contents
Chair/Librarian: Mark Leeper, 732-817-5619, firstname.lastname@example.org Factotum: Evelyn Leeper, 732-332-6218, email@example.com Distinguished Heinlein Apologist: Rob Mitchell, firstname.lastname@example.org HO Chair Emeritus: John Jetzt, email@example.com HO Librarian Emeritus: Nick Sauer, firstname.lastname@example.org Back issues at http://www.geocities.com/evelynleeper. All material copyright by author unless otherwise noted.
Our trip logs for our recent trip to Vietnam and Singapore are available at:
I talked a little about the American view of the Vietnam War two weeks ago. That was written before my trip to that country. This week I want to talk a little about the impact on Vietnam of that war. It is not a continuation of that previous article, but as you can imagine Vietnam has been on my mind a great deal of late. The common belief is that the Vietnamese people have put the war behind them and are getting on with trying to become wealthy by overtaking Thailand as the largest rice exporter in the world. That surpassing may even happen this year. So they are getting back to business, but I think in some ways we have done a better job of putting the war behind us than the Vietnamese have.
First of all, American-Vietnamese relations are over-shadowned by this problem I call the "Grand Fenwick problem." Some of you may have read the book THE MOUSE THAT ROARED by Leonard Wibberly or seen the film made from the book. Grand Fenwick was a little independent European Duchy that fell on bad financial times. Seeing the financial aid the US gave its defeated former enemies of Germany and Japan, they decided they wanted to become a defeated former enemy of the United States. For this to happen they had to lose a war with the United States. They decided to have a small war which they would certainly lose. They put a complete incompetent in charge of their army of archers. But under conditions rather contrived by Wibberly and less than convincing circumstances the incompetent accidentally defeated the US. I am not saying that Vietnam accidentally defeated the US, but there are parallels in their resulting dilemma. It is easy to get aid from a country who has defeated you. It is very difficult to get financial support from a military giant if you have defeated them. Somehow the sympathy factor is missing and Vietnam certainly cannot force us to give them aid.
America is quite central to the Vietnamese economy. They would like reasonably friendly conditions with low tariffs in their relations with the US. This implies a friendship about which both sides feel rather tentative. Frankly I have done a lot of travel and I have never been to a country where the American dollar is so easily interchangeable with the local currency. I remember in India only one local business quoted its process in dollars. In Vietnam anybody who had anything to do with tourists seems to be ready, willing, and happy to accept payment in US dollars. It even seemed to be the preferred currency. The American brands are often preferred also. You saw a lot of primitive shop houses selling American brands to the locals. Unlike the US, just about any restaurant there gives you your choice of Coke or Pepsi. I do not remember seeing food franchises like McDonalds as yet, but it can not be long in coming. Yet the past is really not forgotten at least by the government and their museums and public buildings seem to dwell very much on the war.
In Ho Chi Minh City (which the locals tend to call by the nickname "Saigon") the War Remnants Museum is the recently renamed War Crimes Museum. It has graphic displays of citizens with their faces burned away and actual deformed babies in jars the results of napalm and chemicals used in warfare. It is a mostly convincing display, though it is easy to find errors in the exhibits indicating some may be contrived. For example they have an extensive quote from January 19, 1970, LIFE magazine about the sort of fighting we did. One problem: a quick calculation told me that issue of LIFE magazine never existed. LIFE magazine I remember always came out and was dated on Friday. In any case that was certainly true in 1970. The idea was it was a magazine to linger over on the weekend. January 19, 1970 was a Monday. I have since found an ad for a used January 23, 1970, issue of LIFE magazine confirming that 1970 issues were dated on Fridays. The quote may or may not have come from a LIFE magazine, but it certainly was not where they claimed it was. Their fact checking is very poor if a visitor can so easily find problems with their claims.
Now the Vietnamese are trying to change the tone of this museum. The final and biggest room documents the American experience in the war. The museum is now making the statement that both sides were noble and both suffered a great deal in the war. As you would expect there are some people there who still want to remember the Americans as arch-villains whom Vietnam destroyed, and others who want to think of them as trading partners. They are two opinions that do not rest easily side-by-side.
Quote of the Week:
Experience is a wonderful thing. It allows you to recognize a mistake when you make it again. -- Sandy Berger