I was happily sipping a very cold Fiji Bitter by the pool at the Westin last Friday when I decided to take a quick look at whatever 'Friday Fulminations' had to offer.
First up was a post by David calling on Vietnam veterans to stop whinging because the Vietnamese government had called time out on a range of activities proposed for an estimated 1,000 Oz and Kiwi veterans who had made the journey to Vietnam to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the battle of Long Tan. My good friend Adolf took issue with the post.
This is one of the few occasions where Adolf and I will have to agree to disagree.
But my real anger is directed at whoever organised the event. Did they not consider for a moment how ordinary Vietnamese (let alone the government) might view those sort of numbers of Uc Dai Loy and quan dao Tan tay lun descending on 'their' country to commemorate a battle where 42 members of 1st Australian Task Force were either killed or wounded against an estimated 595 from the VC 5th Infantry Division killed/wounded (and 3 captured). Ok, I understand that the organizers had invited some of our Vietnamese adversaries to share in commemorations (which included a concert and a 'gala' dinner) but that really is beside the point. It was crass, insensitive and a down-under version of Eugene Burdick and William Lederer's Ugly American in play in spades.
I have been to the Long Tan battle site. It's off the beaten track in the middle of a rubber plantation and you have to cross private land. It would be nigh on impossible to accommodate 1,000 all at once. I still have the receipt for 250,000 Dong I paid the local communist party office for a guide to take me there. He stood aside to allow me to pay my respects but 'no photographs please'. You have to respect that. How were the 'organisers' to manage 1,000?
The whole thing was a debacle and poorly thought out by people who forgot that those attending were the guests who may have won a battle (if you win battles) but lost a war in someone else's country.