Australian involvement in the Vietnam War had its genesis in the ‘White Australia Policy’ which in turn had its genesis in the complexity of fears (1850’s - 1950’s) surrounding the possibility of an Asian invasion.
At the turn of the century (Federation, 1901), Australian politicians formally legislated to exclude migrants with skin colour other than ‘white’. They did this surreptitiously by applying a strict language entrance test. Pressure on the politicians came from the majority of the population who had concerns over such events as: racial tension in other countries, the American Civil War, violence between whites and Chinese on the goldfields, the importation of ‘Kanakas’ from the Pacific Islands to work the cane fields and the growing emergence of a ‘Westernised’ and militaristic Japan. The latter had just defeated China in the Sino-Japanese War of 1895 and was about to defeat the might of Russia in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5.
Furthermore, the later real threat from Japan in 1941, the Communist takeover in China in 1949, the expulsion of the Dutch from Indonesia in 1949, the Korean War of 1950-53 and the withdrawal of British forces from the Far East (1960’s) all did little to allay the concerns of those living in a perceived vulnerable Australia.
With the advent of multiculturalism imposed on a society without adequate consultation or prior debate and with the requisite dismantling of the White Australia Policy, some are left bewildered as to the reasons for the sacrifice made by so many young men and their families as a result of the Vietnam War. This poem asks the question on their behalf.
“Let us begin by committing ourselves to the truth, to see it like it is and to tell it like it is … to find the truth, to speak the truth and to live with the truth.
That is what we will do!”
- Richard Nixon (1968 acceptance speech for Presidential nomination).
“Nixon was the most transparent liar I have ever met!”
- from Fred Buzhardt, Nixon’s own Watergate lawyer, 1976.
“Mate, ... how did it come that it is I, and not you, standing here ... in this place?”
- Robert Cavill (ex-Tiger), mentally conversing with a KIA mate, on Anzac Day, 2006.
South Vietnamese civilian bomb victims - Courtesy cameraman Nick Ut
’Twas an age of confusion,
Clear ideals an illusion,
Lady Luck drew up a long list of names;
Like gambling gods rolling dice,
Or in a chess game’s sacrifice,
Old men used ‘boys’ as pawns in war games.
An “All the Way!” echo, a quote,
Selecting youth with no vote,
Wealth and power controlled all the clout;
Of those chosen, each changed,
Minds dismantled, re-arranged,
Yet sons of ‘pollies’ strangely missed out.
Exposed to death’s horror scenes,
Having just left their teens,
Conscription left lives in arrears;
Such victims just dumped and neglected,
The guilty again re-elected,
And ‘high brass’ forged their army careers.
Protesters caused war to drag,
(Huh! ... And these now want a new flag!)
Nigh a decade had rolled tragically by;
And our apathy back then,
Cost the blood of young men,
Until finally many asked: “Bloody why?”
* * *
Red mud from monsoonal rains,
Mixed up with all sorts of stains,
Patrols to search, kill and destroy;
Civilian base of that mount,
Clearly, evil not confined to Hanoi.
Villages ravaged and ‘raped’,
Country’s surface re-shaped,
Whilst we all had God on our side;
‘Pollies’ and top bureaucrats,
Safe at home ‘sitting fats’,
Once more, our leaders had lied!
Parents of dead suffered twice,
Ignored for their sacrifice,
This time all the troops wore the blame;
Up on the fence people here,
And others lent a deaf ear,
Ignorance ’tis bliss, ’twas their shame.
Having answered the calling,
To stop dominoes falling,
Around 500, mere ‘boys’, were to die;
Yet they then opened the door,
So what in the hell was it for?
To comprehend, I’m still asking: ... “Why ?”