Three, Six, Seven point Eight

 

 

Three days, six stories: a single earthquake in Nepal. This story isn’t over, but I’ll be passing the ink along to the next.

 

 

Thanks to all who send their kind thoughts and best wishes. I carry those home.

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Half Century

For the last two weeks, I’ve been in Vietnam reporting on the 40th anniversary of the Vietnam War. The product of this trip will be apparent in the days and weeks to come, but I wanted to mark an important anniversary today. On March 8, 1965, the US 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade landed on Red Beach, a crescent-shaped stretch of land in Danang, Vietnam. The date is somewhat arbitrary, of course, as US “Advisors” had been humping through Vietnam since at least 1959, but the marine landing signaled a clear escalation in the use of American power —an escalation that would lead America and Vietnam into a decade-long cycle of violence.

For this generation (and my generation) Vietnam has become little more than an anecdote —a reference, often trite, used to highlight a government’s penchant for military and political mistakes (i.e. Iraq or Afghanistan). Over the past weeks, and with the help of countless sources, guides, historians, and witnesses of this history, I have tried to color in that crude outline of the war in Vietnam. Not just because anniversaries demand reflection, but because wars linger long after the final shots are fired. For the two men pictured below (and for millions more) the war continues to shape their lives.

In the coming weeks, I’ll try and explain why.

Tan Hau, 17, was born both physically and mentally disabled, complications attributed to his father’s exposure to Agent Orange —the chemical defoliant sprayed by the US military across Vietnam.© Adam McCauley
Tan Hau, 17, was born both physically and mentally disabled, complications attributed to his father’s exposure to Agent Orange —the chemical defoliant sprayed by the US military across Vietnam. © Adam McCauley
Tuan, 29, lost his right arm and damaged his left hand at age 16 when a cluster bomb, dropped by the US military between 1965 and 1975, exploded.© Adam McCauley
Tuan, 29, lost his right arm and damaged his left hand at age 16 when a cluster bomb, dropped by the US military between 1965 and 1975, exploded. © Adam McCauley

A new museum stirs tensions in Hong Kong

Supporters of the June 4 Museum clash with police and members of the opposition at the opening of the June 4 Museum in Hong Kong on April 26, 2014. (Photo: Adam McCauley)
Supporters of the June 4 Museum clash with police and members of the opposition at the opening of the June 4 Museum in Hong Kong on April 26, 2014. (Photo: Adam McCauley)

Last Saturday, the June 4 Memorial Museum opened in Hong Kong. In the fifth floor of an unassuming office building, the 800-square foot museum documents the 1989 protests in Tiananmen Square, and commemorates the hundreds of lives lost (and the thousands injured) after the Chinese government’s crackdown.

[Read my full article on Al Jazeera]

As one of my sources told me: “In a debate where Beijing is charged (rightly) with lying about the past, getting the details right can really matter.” These details, such as who was hurt or killed (not merely student protestors, but also civilians and citizens sympathetic to the protest’s message) and where those abuses were committed (the military drove people into the streets surrounding Tiananmen Square). These little details, if missed, provide some parties with ammunition to deny the “history” of an event; it gives semantic weight to assertions by the Communist Party of China that, no, there were no actual deaths in Tiananmen Square, even if there were many near Tiananmen Square.

Whether marveling at the power of belief and the unwillingness of museum supporters (not to mention the Hong Kong Alliance who created the museum) to stand behind their message, I was struck most by Saturday’s comment by Johnny Lau, a journeyman journalist who reported from Tiananmen in 1989.

When I asked about the pro-Communist protestors who had amassed outside the museum’s entrance, he said. “Regardless of their message, at least they have the right to protest here.”

In the field: Kribi, Cameroon

I had rented a car to complete reporting in and around the town of Kribi, Cameroon. As I jumped out of the car for what I believed to be the final interview of the day, a four-hour drive from where we started that morning, I could hear an unsettling high-pitched hissing.

Having driven quickly over uncertain dirt, gravel and well-worn cement roads, we (myself and my priceless driver/assistant) shouldn’t have been surprised by the punctured front tire.

But as we worked on the car (thankfully there was a spare) men from a nearby village came out to help. Without any prompting, they had the old tire off, new one on, and were insisting we stay for something to eat and drink.

They didn’t have to help.
But I know we’re both grateful they did.