A very interesting opinion piece about our commemorations in Vietnam courtesy of the AFR.
by Greg Dodds
Mines are terrible weapons. They can still blow the leg off an innocent trespasser years after a conflict has ended. Dan Tehan, the Minister for Veterans Affairs demonstrated that, figuratively speaking, last month when he snarled at the Vietnamese that their cancelling the 50th anniversary service for the battle of Long Tan was “no way to treat mates”.
The Vietnamese were ruthless, competent and game enemies but we’re now all mates?
Mind you, the Vietnamese were initially respectful of the Australian commitment to the dead and even recovered the Long Tan Cross for us from would-be souvenir hunters from Hanoi. Perhaps the Vietnamese thought these annual services would die off as people involved became too old to travel. But that didn’t happen and the appearance of “3000 veterans” must have unravelled whatever agreement had been struck with the local community.
I once suggested to a senior minister in the Howard government, himself a Vietnam veteran, that the only way this annual commemoration could continue was for it to become a joint commemoration of both the Vietnamese and Australian soldiers who died in the battle. The Vietnamese would be in it immediately, he surmised, but the Australian veterans would hit the roof; Aussies only need apply and white ones at that. The wisdom of leaving the issue unresolved – that silent mine – is now in question.