In the 1960s was a perceived threat to Australia from the “Yellow Peril” coming down the Indo-China peninsula.
We had seen the Korean War, the communist insurgents in Malaysia on the border with Thailand and the Vietnam War had just kicked off.
My father, the Air Force officer, was a strident anti-communist and whilst he didn’t talk much about wars and stuff, he made it clear that there was a real threat to Australia. He firmly believed in the forward defence philosophy to counter the Domino Theory whereby the communists were taking over the countries in Asia one by one on their way here. We had to stop that advance before it got here.
By the time I was 19, the Vietnam War was in full swing and national service was on. My number didn’t come up but, believing in my father’s vehemence and patriotism, I volunteered to go in to the Army for two years to “do my bit”.
History later proved the war was wrong, the military philosophy was wrong and the politics were wrong. So too was I and I had sacrificed two years of my life for something that was wrong.
Don’t misunderstand me though. My respect and affection for Vietnam vets is unlimited. They were pawns as I was.
You’d reckon we’d learn something from this mistake, wouldn’t you? Nuh!
The first thing Australia did in the Vietnam War was to send in “training teams” to help the South Vietnamese Army defend themselves. Keith Payne VC is the most famous of those trainers. It was called the AATTV – the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam.
What is our PM doing now? Sending training teams to the Middle East as well as Air Force assistance with humanitarian drops and arms drops to the side we support.
It is the thin edge of the wedge. Next will be a squadron of SAS soldiers who are operational, not trainers. Then it will be a battalion. Then the body bag count will start.
I spent 40 years in guilt over my “bit” in the Vietnam War era and I don’t want that to happen again. I don’t want our kids being used as political pawns in a conflict which can only end in more lives being lost and our own security here being compromised.
This issue is not funny anymore. It is scary and we should not be anywhere near it.