Fact Check

John Kerry in Vietnamese Museum

Does a photograph in a Vietnamese museum honor John Kerry as an anti-war protester?

Published Nov. 1, 2004


Claim:   Photograph in Vietnamese museum honors John Kerry as an anti-war protester.

Status:   Multiple — see below.

Example:   [Collected on the Internet, 2004]

In the Vietnamese Communist War Remnants Museum (formerly known as the "War Crimes Museum") in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), a photograph of John Kerry hangs in a room dedicated to the anti-war activists who helped the Vietnamese Communists win the Vietnam War. The photograph shows Senator Kerry being greeted by the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam, Comrade Do Muoi.

This photograph's unquestionable significance lies in its placement in the American protestors' section of the War Crimes Museum in Saigon. The Vietnamese communists clearly recognize John Kerry's contributions to their victory. This find can be compared to the discovery of a painting of Neville Chamberlain hanging in a place of honor in Hitler's Eagle's Nest in 1945.

John Kerry

Origins:   This is another of those political items tough to evaluate as "true" or "false" because it mixes fact with a large dose of interpretation and opinion.

The photograph displayed above, of Senator John Kerry meeting with Vietnamese officials, is on display in the War Remnants Museum (formerly the Museum of American War Crimes) in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon).

The significance of the photograph's presence and placement within the museum is subject to considerable debate, however. The picture on display does not capture John Kerry engaged in an anti-war activity (although such photographs are plentiful and easy to obtain), nor does it depict or describe him as an anti-war protester. The picture shows Senator John Kerry, a duly authorized representative of the United States government, meeting with Vietnamese officials in 1993 (long after the end of American military involvement in Vietnam) as part of a "high-level delegation" sent to Vietnam by President Clinton "to press for further progress on unresolved POW/MIA issues." The caption below the photograph makes no reference to John Kerry's anti-war activities, nor does it even identify him by name — it reads simply:

Mr. Do Muoi, Secretary General of the Vietnam Communist Party met with Congressmen and Veterans Delegation in Vietnam (July 15-18, 1993)

If the intent of the exhibit were for Vietnamese Communists to "recognize John Kerry's contributions to their victory," as claimed, it seems rather odd they chose a display that neither names John Kerry nor explains his importance to the Vietnamese, but merely includes him in a picture as an unidentified member of a U.S. "Congressmen and Veterans Delegation."

Since the photograph dates from a time when President Clinton was taking steps towards establishing formal diplomatic relations between the U.S. and the Communist government of Vietnam (a cause for which Senator Kerry and Senator John McCain were leading proponents), its significance to the Vietnamese is probably more that it conveys a sense of official U.S. "recognition" of the post-war Vietnamese government (by dint of U.S. congressmen, including Senator Kerry, meeting with Communist Party officials). As analogies go, this exhibit is less like "the discovery of a painting of Neville Chamberlain hanging in a place of honor in Hitler's Eagle's Nest in 1945" than it is like finding a photograph of President Richard Nixon meeting with Chinese Premier Chou En-lai hanging in Beijing's Museum of the Chinese Revolution.

Last updated:   1 November 2004

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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