April 26, 2005
IN THIRTY YEARS THEY'LL BE WRITING THE SAME ABOUT OPPONENTS OF THE WoT:
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