April 26, 2005


Time unravels Whitlam's liberation theology: The Left got it badly wrong about Vietnam, yet few will admit it. (Gerard Henderson, April 26, 2005, The Age)

Three decades ago - after the fall of Saigon and Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge coming to power in Cambodia two weeks earlier - Gough Whitlam's Labor government welcomed what was then fashionably termed the "liberation" of Indochina.

Jim Cairns, Whitlam's deputy prime minister and the (then) guru of the Australian left, on April 8, 1975, had looked forward to communist victories in Vietnam and Cambodia, maintaining that this was "the only way to stop the carnage, the bloodshed and the suffering" in Indochina. On May 26, 1975 - two months after Saigon fell - Whitlam told the Parliament that "the changeover has been peaceful and effective". [...]

Once it was fashionable to support the communist victories in Indochina. This was the position of most leading ALP figures (Whitlam, Cairns, Tom Uren) and also of the overwhelming majority of academics, journalists and other opinion leaders involved in the public debate on our Vietnam commitment.

On January 26, 1978, Uren and some fellow Labor comrades issued a statement addressed to Pol Pot in Cambodia (then Kampuchea) and Phan Van Dong in Vietnam. The leftist signatories declared their support for the "national liberation struggles of both Vietnam and Kampuchea" and urged both leaders to resolve their "current border conflict". No mention was made about the human rights violations then taking place in both countries.

In September 1978, Whitlam addressed a conference in Canberra where he declared that he did not accept the validity of any of the reports about human rights violations in Vietnam, Cambodia or Laos. He was particularly emphatic about Cambodia, declaring: "I make bold to doubt all the stories that appear in the newspapers about the treatment of people in Cambodia." [...]

It is true that the regime that came to power in Saigon in 1975, assisted by the communist leadership in the Soviet Union and China, did not engage in wide-scale killings. But it did incarcerate about 1 million South Vietnamese in Hanoi's own gulag.

Our own Left sang from the same hymnal, as witness this priceless George McGovern quote:
The growing hysteria of the administration's posture on Cambodia seems to me to reflect a determined refusal to consider what the fall of the existing government in Phnom Penh would actually mean.... We should be able to see that the kind of government which would succeed Lon Nol's forces would most likely be a government ... run by some of the best-educated, most able intellectuals in Cambodia.

Who in their right mind would welcome government by intellectuals?

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 26, 2005 11:40 PM

Why not force these leftists to sleep in a bed full of cultivated bed bugs for a few days and then make them sit up on a stool in a brightly lit room for three more without water or sleep?

It would make a great reality t.v. series and could teach the younger generation what was really going on.

Posted by: Randall Voth at April 27, 2005 2:05 AM

Read a great essay from the Gaurdian of all places that essentially stated that everyone knows the function of the liberal left and their elite is primarily to criticize and that of the conservatives to run the government and the economy.

Posted by: Genecis at April 27, 2005 11:54 AM

i believe our esteemed comrades, the french, have a penchant for letting intelectuals set policy.

Posted by: cjm at April 27, 2005 1:06 PM

Forget the bed bugs - put them in pits full of skulls and rotting flesh. THAT will teach them what really happened in the 20th century.

Posted by: jim hamlen at April 27, 2005 3:57 PM

You mean like Rostow, McNamara etc.?

There were several lessons that we might have learned in Southeast Asia but didn't.

One was that they'd seen Christian government and wanted notthing to do with it.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 27, 2005 4:17 PM

They fought courageously to preserve their state and prevent the takeover by the Rationalists, but the American Left sold them out.

Posted by: oj at April 27, 2005 4:23 PM

how's that non-christian government thing working out for the vietnamese ? any boat people returned yet ? just checking...

Posted by: cjm at April 27, 2005 4:49 PM

And what would I do with my Nguyen Ngoc Loan commemorative Smith & Wesson Model 38 Bodyguard if I were standing next to a man who wanted to do that to my country?

Posted by: Lou Gots at April 28, 2005 9:47 AM

Well, apparently they are no worse off than under the French.

Orrin fantasizes. Nobody in Vietnam fought fo democracy, which was never on offer.

A few fought to maintain their privileges, more fought to get rid of outsiders, and the great majority would have preferred no fighting at all.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 28, 2005 5:54 PM


Yes, we know that you think Stalin and Ho and company were the best things that ever happened to their countries,

Posted by: oj at April 28, 2005 7:46 PM

Depends what the people who lived there wanted.

In Vietnam, not us.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 29, 2005 6:49 PM

Then why did they fight so hard against the North and then so many come here when the Democrats screwed them?

Posted by: oj at April 29, 2005 8:04 PM
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