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Thursday, 1 April 1971


Senator CAVANAGH (South Australia) - I believe it is the intention at this stage, in the remaining half an hour of today's sitting, to debate the statement which was made on 30th March this year by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) on the withdrawal of Australian forces from Vietnam. Following a visit to Vietnam by the new Minister for Defence (Mr Gorton) the Government announced that Australia intendedto withdraw some 1,000 of her troops from Vietnam, leaving 2 combat battalions totalling some 6,000 troops in Vietnam. The Prime Minister said that the withdrawal of the 1,000 troops would be conducted over a period of 4 to 6 months and would commence in May. Therefore, if we can accept his statement at least 6,000 Australian troops will remain in Vietnam until November. One formed the opinion from Press reports that the combat forces of the United States of America would be withdrawn by the end of May of this year. If this happens Australia will be one of the few countries with combat forces left in Vietnam. The stage is being reached where our forces will be denied the necessary security of supporting forces as a result of the type of withdrawal which is to take place. It was only in 1968, after the Tet offensive, that the then Prime Minister stated that it was impossible to have a partial withdrawal of our troops in Vietnam - it had to be one out all out - because it would be dangerous to the small force which Australia had in Vietnam to withdraw some of the troops. Although this risk still remains, we find that some of the supporting troops of our forces in Vietnam are to be withdrawn.

The war in Vietnam has been costly to those nations which entered the conflict in a misguided effort to save someone or some principle. A report in the Press this week indicated that it had cost the lives of some 900,000 South Vietnamese, American and Allied servicemen in Vietnam. To suppress a small country of some 1 1 million people we have used three times the weight of bombs which were used in the First World War. Nowhere in Vietnam have the Americans left a good impression. Whilst it has been claimed that the stage has been reached where fighting can continue without the use of American ground forces, not nearly enough territory has been captured to make peace possible. American troops are being withdrawn only because the South Vietnamese have been sufficiently organised and trained to continue the war with American aerial support and advisers. We have not made any progress geographically nor have we made any progress towards the main objective of winning the hearts and minds of the people of Vietnam.

The Vietnam was has never been supported by the Australian Labor Party. It has been termed a dirty, filthy, immoral war in which we have no right to participate and sacrifice the lives of our young men. The Australian Labor Party has not been alone in this attitude. We find support has come even from those progressive elements in South Vietnam which wish that they could be left in peace to settle their own affairs and which believe that Vietnam should be left for the Vietnamese. 1 am indebted to the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) for supplying me with a translation of a declaration by the Liaison Committee of Peace Forces in Vietnam on the Intrusion of South Vietnamese Troops into Laotian Territory, which had been supplied to him by Don Luce, the representative of the World Council of Churches in Saigon and a Leading peace campaigner.

The organisations which supported he declaration were the People's Front Struggling for Peace; Saigon Student Union; Van Hanh Student Union, of the Buddhist University in Saigon; Buddhist Student Association; Women's Movement for the Right to Live; Movement for the Right to Live of Children and Orphans who are Victims of the War; Union of Private School Teachers; Unified Progressive Labor Forces; Progressive Cao Dai Scho lars Group, the Cao Dai being an important religious group; Minh Duc People's Movement; National Progressive Force; Struggle Committee for the People's Right to Live; Tin Sang Group, 'Tiri Sang' being the largest newspaper, the words meaning morning news'; and People's Self Determination Group. All these organisations met in Saigon and carried the following resolution:

While the Vietnamese people are very miserable and wretched as a result of the inhuman war which has lasted over 20 years; while people throughout the world arc strongly criticising the cruel war being waged in this part of our land particularly and the doctrine of imperialist invasion generally; while the peace lovers in Vietnam as well as throughout the world are trying to make initiatives and efforts to stop the war and restore peace; President Nguyen Van Thieu, on February g, 1971, officially sent the Vietnamese young people into the Laotian battlefield in order to carry out Nixon's goal: 'Use Asians to kill Asians.'

The Liaison Committee of Peace Forces in Vietnam proclaims that: The action of landing troops to intrude into Laotian territory violated rudely the Geneva Agreement of 1954 on Indo China, the Geneva Agreement of 1962 on L;\os, and seriously violated the international laws on the principle of respecting the territory of any nation. The action of intruding into Laotian territory is obviously aimed at widening the war, revealing once more the warlike nature of the Nguyen Van Thieu government which always uses the citizens' lives to serve its own interests. The action of sending Vietnamese troops into Laos in order to decrease the loss of American forces, as is President Nixon's declaration, reveals the submissive nature of Nguyen Van Thieu's government, using the lives of Vietnamese young men as cannon fodder for the American expeditionary soldiers in Indo China. The action of widening the war of invasion into Laos reveals once more the savage ambition of the United States Government, using the native servants of undeveloped nations to kill each other, serving the interests of the imperialist state. The Laotian, Cambodian and Vietnamese peoples are only the miserable victims.

From the above observations, wc solemnly declare that: We strongly oppose the action of sending troops to Laos by the government of Nguyen Van Thieu because it contrasts with the aspirations of the Vietnamese people and with the human ideals of peace, liberty and justice. We completely support the Laotian people's standpoint of opposing the intrusion of Laotian territory by the South Vietnamese Army. We ask for the immediate withdrawal of ail the troops which are intruding into Laotian territory. Simultaneously, we also appeal to withdraw all the expeditionary soldiers in Cambodia to save Vietnamese lives and create a good opportunity for the search for peace. The United States Government should withdraw at once all its expeditionary troops out of Indo China and stop ail elkins at widening the war and obstructing the restoration of peace though disguised in any form.

This declaration was made on 1 5th February 1971. In it we see that the people and organisations of Saigon are expressing opposition to the expansion of the war within their territory.

The war in Vietnam has been made more difficult because at no time since the invasion of Vietnam have the foreign invading forces received any support from the local Vietnamese population. We have now reached the stage where, for political reasons, the Australian Government is making a gesture by withdrawing 1,000 troops. But Australia is one of the few nations which has troops remaining in Vietnam. The New Zealand Government has announced its intention to withdraw its troops from Vietnam at a very early dale. We have seen reports in today's newspapers that President Nixon finds now that he can accelerate the withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam. We have received notification also that the United States ground forces are to be removed from Vietnam at a much earlier date than Australian ground forces.

Australia was the only country which voluntarily and' readily came to the assistance of the United States in the Vietnamese war. and it did so for internal political reasons. The Foreign Relations SubCommittee of the United States Senate has published information showing payments made by the United States to other nations in return for propping up American morale by sending their troops to Vietnam. The United States payment to Korea for this purpose was $l,000m: the payment lo Thailand was $200m; and the payment to the Philippines was SI 4m. That is the price that the United States has been prepared to pay in order to demonstrate that it has the support of the free nations of Asia.

We have known all along that Australia's purpose in sending troops to Vietnam was to boost the morale of the Americans, particularly the American population at home in the United States, and to show that there was support for American action, ft has been for this reason, rather than for what our 8,000 troops could achieve in jungle warfare in Vietnam, that our troops have been sent to Vietnam. The invading forces have moved through Vietnam destroying life and agriculture, and causing a destruction of the way of life of the Vietnamese people. There has been further invasion of the adjoining countries of Cambodia and Laos. The attempt to invade Laos was disastrous. Australian troops in Vietnam have made no impression. They have made no advances, nor have they won any friends.

The battle over the ideology that will control the future government of Vietnam still has to be fought, lt will be fought after the Americans and the Australians have left the country. The Vietnamese problem is a Vietnamese problem to be settled by the Vietnamese. This is not new. This is what we have been saying from this side of the chamber since Australians went into Vietnam. We have reached the stage where we have completely upset the old. high principled theories that we have always been the goodies in warfare and that we have always fought on high principles and for an ideal, and not on the basis of the rape, murder and invasion of another country.

The much discussed finding of guilt in the case of Lieutenant Calley over the My Lai massacre shows that in the American Army - an Army we are supporting - there can be terrorism, murder and massacre as great as we thought in the past belonged only to the enemies we were fighting. Whilst one of the lower ranking officers has been found guilty, as today's 'Australian' reports the defence counsel for Calley as saying, this man was following his teachers' instructions - kill, kill, kill. That has been his whole military instruction by America. Today's 'Australian' points out, I think very pertinently, that there are 2 questions. If Calley was following instructions and carrying out Army policy, is he the sole guilty person and should others be on trial for the massacre that occurred at My Lai? Sam Lipski's article in today's 'Australian' states:

Critics of American involvement in Vietnam are now asking if men like Lyndon Johnson, Dean Rusk, Robert McNamara, Walt Rostow, Richard Nixon. Henry Kissinger, Melvin Laird and William Rogers are guilty of war crimes under the Nuremberg definitions.

In Australia we had the judgment of a judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales who commented, in relation to an individual who had murdered someone at a motel, that his whole training for the past

Future of Australian5 years had been a training to kill. Someone has to be the scapegoat for the whole system that we put into operation. The American public is divided on the question: 'Whilst it is a lower ranking officer who has been found guilty, should we have a complete revision?'

Another question has also been posed. America, by finding this lieutenant guilty of his own action at My Lai, has established an acceptance of the Nuremberg trials principle that the individual is responsible for his own conscience and his own action. He cannot put on to someone else the blame for something he does which amounts to a crime under the laws of his country. Whilst the killing of an armed enemy in battle is excused, if he kills when killing is not necessary he is guilty of the crime of murder and is entitled to receive the death penalty, no matter what the cause was or what his instructions were, and he cannot place responsibility for it on someone else. lt also brings up this question: If this can be the fate of a lieutenant in the Army, what is the position of the bomber pilots who, with no knowledge of military targets, drop bombs on villages and create more devastation and more loss of life than did Lieutenant Calley, who has been found guilty of the killing of 22 people?


Senator Poyser - They even drop them on friendly villages and kill the population.


Senator CAVANAGH - They even drop them on friendly villages. Under the Nuremberg trials principle, this is now the question: ls such a pilot of such a bomber guilty? He no longer has the defence that he was acting under instructions from higher authorities. He no longer has the defence that he was carrying out military instructions. Dropping a bomb on a populated area, such as a street, where it will kill innocent civilians, is thought by some people not to be justified now, in view of the recent trial of Lieutenant Calley.

There is another question which must concern those who are interested in the future defence of any country. As has been stated, it is unlikely that anyone will volunteer to join an Army in which his

Forces in Vietnam731 actions may bring a death sentence upon himself and in which he has no defence that he was acting on instructions, ft is unlikely that anyone would voluntarily put himself in the position of joining the Army knowing that he may be found guilty of causing the death of somebody other than under the normal requirements of military action. In the excitement of the time, a person may do something which may bring him within the bounds of being charged with murder. No person - especially a person 20 years of age - knows how he would react on the tense scene of battle, when he has seen friends, companions or mates shot down by someone who appeared to be only on an errand. While it is a case of a life for a life and a struggle for survival, a person is justified in using a gun in his own defence.

There is this enemy that we have been creating. Calley said in his evidence: 'To me, they were not human beings; they were enemies'. Calley was a normal boy. He was brought up normally. He had no killer instinct before the American Army indoctrinated him into this psychology that everyone with slanted eyes in Vietnam was a pest that should be destroyed. This is brought about, as stated in evidence, by statements such as: 'You have seen your mates or companions killed not only by armed soldiers but by women and children who carry bombs'. So, we see the creation of this hatred. How would anyone going into the Army react in such a situation? No-one knows how he would react. The willingness of people to volunteer in the future will be greatly reduced by their being placed in a position in which, although it will be essential to kill a person, in doing so they will lay themselves open to the possibility of being found guilty of committing the crime of murder.

It is claimed that there is great difficulty in obtaining volunteers so it is necessary to have conscription. When a young man is faced with the alternative of refusing to be conscripted and spending 2 years in a civilian gaol within Australia, or perhaps reacting to the situation by committing an act which would justify a charge carrying the penalty of death or life imprisonment, is it not much more preferable and much more desirable from the point of view of the 1 April 1971 young man and his parents, for himto say that he will serve the 2 years gaol, which will be less than that with the remissions that the State grants, rather than find himself in the position in which a young American lieutenant now finds himself? We have altered the whole concept of recruitment in Australia. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later date.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.







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