It has been 50 years since the United States orchestrated a war in Vietnam, yet even today basic facts are ignored to accommodate simple historical narratives. Dahleen Glanton’s Monday article “Divisive war as seen from Vietnam” alluded to a museum that portrayed U.S. troops as inhumane and an inherent degree of poverty and lack of freedom that accompanied a post-war communist rule in the country.
Although painting all U.S. soldiers as criminals is not correct, under U.S. occupation an estimated 2 million to 3 million Vietnamese died. These casualties do not account for the use of chemical weapons by U.S. forces, which reportedly caused birth defects in children. The museum that was featured in the Tribune piece displayed pictures of Agent Orange casualties precisely because it inflicted so much untargeted damage. The message that the museum is spreading to its visitors is wholly accurate.
The storyline of communism bringing about sprawling poverty in Vietnam is simply not correct. In nearly a century of pre-war colonial rule, where seeds of capitalism were implemented, most peasant farmers lost what little they had, disparities between rich and poor widened, and wealth disproportionately ended up in the hands of few.
Today, there are haunting parallels between scenes of poverty described in the Tribune piece and Chicago. The Chicago coalition for the Homeless reported that 125,848 Chicagoans were homeless during the 2014 to 2015 school year, including 43,958 children and teens. The Tribune recently featured a story of homeless encampments on the banks of the Chicago River. These encampments of the poor are adjacent to wealthy tourist areas, where garbage is known to freely float southwest into sections of the city with rampant and engineered economic segregation.