April 30th marks the 40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam war. A war which spanned three decades during which millions died, many of them civilians and many of them engaged in armed struggle first against U.S. backed French colonizers and then against the U.S. itself who in addition to bombs covered the beautiful and biodiverse country of Vietnam in toxic chemicals which are still causing horrific birth defects to this day.
While so many eyes are on Japan and it’s Prime Minster in anticipation of how he will represent Japan in another WW2 anniversary apology I think more eyes should be on the U.S. for an apology which has yet to come for what it did in Vietnam as well as in neighboring Laos and Cambodia where people are still being maimed and killed as a result of unexploded bombs dropped by the U.S. which has thus far done far too little to clean up.
There are many lessons to learn from the Vietnam War including how racism and us/them thinking in general can pave the way to unthinkable acts one couldn’t even imagine enacting upon ones “own people”. More important than celebrating victory on this 70th anniversary of WW2 the U.S. should be humbly reflecting upon defeat on this 40th anniversary of the Vietnam War and how an ill-informed public along with bad foreign policy decisions like the one to support the French in their attempt to recolonize Vietnam after it fought with the U.S. in WW2 to expel Japanese forces led to such a terrible tragedy.