Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Anti-American Art: Now That's What I Call Money, Part 2

Sometime ago I posted some samples of Nicaraguan paper money from the heyday of the Nicaraguan revolution. Those banknotes showing Nicaraguan revolutionary heroes have nothing on these banknotes prepared in the 1960s by South Vietnam's National Liberation Front for use in areas it had liberated from U.S. and puppet rule. As near as I can tell these notes were not actually issued until the mid 1970s when the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam was in the process of integrating itself with the north in a new unified Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

Click on the images to see these larger, the detail is really extraordinary. In typical banknote-style engraving the back of the 2-dong note, shown above, reveals an elaborate pastoral scene. In the foreground peasants greet fighters of the NLF -- the socalled Vietcong -- and in the crossroads behind them the fighters raise the NLF flag over two captured American Armed Personnel Carriers (APCs), while a third one burns in a rice paddy by the side of the road. Three Americans with bowed heads are led off as POWs.

The scene on the 5-dong note is even more extraordinary. In the foreground peasants, NLF fighters and militia cheer enthusiastically as four American helicopters are downed in the floodwaters of the Mekong. With bodies of killed American soldiers bobbing in the waters around the crashed copters, a line of POWs is led off in the distance.

It seems remarkable all these many years later, but it really was a nation of determined people like the ones celebrated in these engravings who brought the mightiest military machine on earth to its knees. Has the U.S. recovered from that defeat? The evidence from Iraq and Afghanistan suggests that despite all the barbaric advances in people-killing technology the answer remains a firm and hopeful no.

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