Vietnam war protesters have welcomed an apology to veterans but say the Government should also apologise to the people of Vietnam.
Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt said he did not protest against the veterans but the Government that sent New Zealanders to fight in the war.
“What’s been so painful for those soldiers is that they did their duty for the country and they’ve really been treated extremely badly by successive Governments in terms of the sickness that they picked up while serving there,” Mr Shadbolt said. He said the Government’s apology was a good thing for New Zealand and will “help heal the wounds”.
“It will recognise the terrible ecological tragedy that so many went through that, at the time, neither the protesters or the soldiers were aware of.”
Mr Shadbolt said the Vietnamese people also had deformed children and an apology should be made to them also.
He was at the early protests where only 50 to 100 people would show up and said it was not until 1971 that 35,000 took to the streets.
It was the television which “beamed horror stories into our living rooms every night” that swelled the protesters’ numbers.
“I’m sure if Gallipoli was on the news every night, or Passchendaele, the protests would have been far bigger than anything we ever staged,” Mr Shadbolt said.
Another protester, Murray Horton, is now the spokesman for Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa. He said he was involved in the Progressive Youth Movement which, for three years in a row, laid a wreath at the war memorial on Anzac Day commemorating women and children killed by “fascism in Vietnam”. The wreath included a poster of dead women and children, killed during the My Lai massacre.
He said the veterans deserved all the help they could get after being “sprayed with Agent Orange”.
“I don’t bear any grudges against New Zealand’s Vietnam veterans. I ended up working with them,” Mr Horton said, referring to his time as a railway worker after the war.
“There is a huge responsibility on the countries, including New Zealand, that were involved in spraying Vietnam with the stuff. It was appalling. I understand hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Vietnamese were adversely affected by genetic defects and God knows what else.”
Geoff Chapple, also a protester, said the effects of Agent Orange and other chemicals had been covered up and veterans deserved an apology.
“And there should be an apology to the Vietnamese for an American foreign policy which was pretty simplistic,” Mr Chapple said.
He said the apology should come from the US Government.
Published: 2008, May, 29. | Time-stamp: 5:00 AM Thursday | By: Edward Gay | Article Link: nzherald.co.nz | Article Title: Now say sorry to Vietnam say anti-war protesters.