THE RSL BOSS KEN DOOLAN
Rear-Admiral Ken DoolanAS A moral of the work included in each volume of his publication The Second World War, Winston Churchill wrote ”in war, resolution; in defeat, defiance; in victory, magnanimity; in peace, goodwill”. This sage advice has stood the test of time. Those involved in war return to a nation at peace in various conditions. they committed; ; ; and with the aim of building bridges of understanding so that the folly of war will not be visited by future generations. Australians understand and respect these varying attitudes and outlooks. The healing process that starts when wars stop is never easy, regardless of how each conflict ends. Bitterness and even hatred are understandable outcomes; but so too are moves made by those with an eye to the future and the avoidance of future wars. Australians have been grappling with these issues since our involvement in the Great War of 1914-18; and as is proper in a vibrant democracy, there are the inevitable clashes between those who wish to continue to harbour feelings of loathing and detestation towards former foes and those who see a need to try to heal the wounds and look to the future. The nation has made peace with former foes and demonstrates goodwill towards the citizens of the nations with which we were formerly at war. We have joined with others in being magnanimous in victory and now have a mutually respectful and proper relationship with such countries. This does not mean we have forgotten or will forget what transpired in yesteryear. But it does mean we continue to look to the future in the expectation of promoting peaceful relations for the generations to follow. Australia has sent members of our armed forces into battle will never be easy. But it is a noble cause from which we must not retreat. by Rear-Admiral Ken Doolan is the RSL national president. * The Vietnam Veterans Association was invited to comment but declined given its national executive will vote on the issue today. THE DAUGHTER KAREN PATTERSON
A member of the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam, Captain Peter Shilston, confirming by radio that the village that he is about to search with South Vietnamese troops has been properly cordoned. Shilston was one of six AATTV members to be awarded the Military Cross during his service in South VietnamI HAVE read with interest the recent reports on the RSL’s move to have a memorandum of understanding with the former soldiers of North Vietnam – My emotions have been mixed and my loyalties torn as I wrestle with the idea. I try to understand the anger of the Australian soldiers who say no – there will be no friendship. Clearly, it is not my place to judge. I wasn’t there in that jungle. I was a child, waiting at home in a faraway country for my dad to come home. He was a regular soldier and it was his second tour of duty. He grew up hearing about the ”yellow peril” that Australia faced and he truly believed he was helping save us and the South Vietnamese from the Communists. Last November, my sister Vickie and I visited South Vietnam, retracing the steps our father took, including his last steps among rubber trees before a mine cut short his life at 29 years of age. Mum and his seven kids could not have known how our lives were to change at that moment. I have forgiven the men that killed my father – and I hope and pray that the children of those men forgive my father for his actions. I wonder if there is a mother and her seven children in North Vietnam, whose husband and father is now a picture on the wall. We children didn’t choose the war – the adults in government did. But as for us being friends with the North Vietnamese, I don’t believe that is necessary. One can forgive in one’s heart and feel at peace, wishing only goodness to the others who have hurt them, without a gesture of friendship. Forgiveness and friendship are personal decisions and must be made that way – not enforced. I have come to know many of dad’s friends and fellow soldiers from the Vietnam War. Many are husbands, fathers, sons and brothers still struggling with ghosts of the past but soldiering on, always, looking out for each other, bonded in a way that no one else could ever know. The decision whether to reconcile with their former enemies is theirs to make – and I will love and respect these men still, regardless of that decision. by Karen Patterson is the daughter of Corporal John Joseph Kennedy. THE ACADEMIC JAKE LYNCH NO ONE can tell war veterans to reconcile with former enemies but many reach that point of their own accord, and their stories are inspiring and challenging. Pat Magee was an IRA man who planted the Brighton bomb, an attack on the Conservative Party conference in 1984. It killed five people including MP Sir Anthony Berry. Years later, his daughter, Jo Berry, met Magee and they began talking. ”An inner shift is required”, she has said, ‘‘to hear the story of the enemy.” Rather than forgiveness, she emphasises ”I’ve had such a clear understanding of his life that Magee was sentenced to life in prison, then released under the Good Friday Agreement. He volunteered for a cause summed up in the slogan that was posted on street corners in Republican areas of Belfast: ”Brits out”. On the other side, the Unionist community would intone: ”Keep Ulster British”. The agreement kept Northern Ireland with Britain, in the United Kingdom. But it also provided for power-sharing to enable the province to run its own affairs, while protecting minorities from discrimination; withdrawal of army bases and police reform. Magee had to respond, he recalls, to ‘‘mistreatment by the British” under the previous system of direct rule. As part of peace, the IRA laid down its arms. A sense of justice – that systems and structures, previously the wellspring of grievances, have been substantively changed – is crucial to reconciliation, and that is one of the lessons such stories can teach us. Petitioners to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa would have been within their rights to insist on police and court action against apartheid functionaries who had kidnapped, tortured and murdered their loved ones. Instead, they settled for an honest account of their fate, delivered by the perpetrators in person. They were prepared to accept it, but only in the context of political changes to bring justice, delivering democracy and freedom after decades of oppression. It shows it is worth persevering with efforts to build peace. Parties to conflict, even those who have committed and suffered atrocities, can make peace between them. But reconciliation requires a proper accounting for past suffering and a willingness to build a better, fairer life to replace what went before. by Associate Professor Jake Lynch is a director of the Sydney Peace Foundation and director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies. THE VIETNAMESE AUSTRALIAN VIET TRAN THIS saga started in March when it was revealed that more than 2000 Vietnam War veterans might join in a reconciliation parade with their former enemies, the North Vietnamese Army and Vietcong, to coincide with next year’s 50th anniversary of Australia’s involvement in the war. When a copy of the MoU began circulating last month among veterans and the Vietnamese community, the debate exploded. Technically, veterans are protesting because they were never consulted, though many of them are RSL members. Meanwhile, South Vietnamese (ARVN) veterans living in Australia – many of whom are also RSL members – are The draft document mentions ”the will and aspirations of veterans”. I don’t know if the RSL leadership realises that one of the aspirations of the (North) Vietnamese Army is to , and is concerned, has always been inhuman. It proposes ”exchanges and visits between … school students and academics”, which would , and ”exchange of information”, which Any government agency that has worked on projects with the Hanoi regime knows they will complain about their economic problems and Australians will have to subsidise them with taxpayers’ money, most of which will find its way into officials’ bank accounts. To find out if other Vietnamese think similarly, The overwhelming response was that they did not agree with rapprochement. As a Vietnamese expatriate and Australian citizen who came here in 1985, I cannot see any benefit from this plan. Why cause friction for uncertain benefits, or worse, for political expediency? By Viet Tran was awarded an OAM in 2000 for service to multiculturalism and the Vietnamese community in Queensland. Via Sydney Morning Herald: Should veterans reconcile with former enemies?