Painful divisions there 50 years on
cannabis for pain relief sends a particularly callous message, and one that’s utterly at odds with public opinion.
Back in the 1960s, public opinion was even more polarised over the Vietnam War, even if the passage of time has dulled the passions involved. Last week’s thwarted commemoration of the 1966 battle of Long Tan illustrated just how readily these painful divisions can re-emerge. Ultimately, Vietnam chose to cancel the 50th anniversary commemoration of a conflict in which between 250-900 of its troops had died.
Officially, Vietnam still treats Long Tan as a victory, despite those heavy losses, and despite the strategic setback the Viet Cong insurgency suffered in the wake of the battle.
Some 3000 Australian veterans – who also regard Long Tan as a
‘‘Parliament’s reluctance to embrace the medical use of cannabis for pain relief sends a particularly callous message.’’
victory - had spent a lot of money to attend the battle site, and they’ve been offended by a last minute cancellation described across the Tasman as a ‘‘kick in the guts’’. Still, Australia’s claim to sensitivity about Vietnam’s sensibilities felt somewhat at odds with the decision to restage a Vietnam War era concert by the Aussie singer Little Pattie, as part of the festivities. Ultimately, Vietnam concluded that the solemn occasion had not been sufficiently insulated from potentially offensive displays of Aussie triumphalism.
In New Zealand, the 50th anniversary of the Long Tan victory has been planned to commemorate our entire Vietnam War effort. Not far below the surface, the 1960s divisions rumble on.