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Dunne's tribute to Vietnam veterans

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Dunne's tribute to Vietnam veterans

UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne joined in this afternoon's Crown Apology to Vietnam Veterans debate in Parliament, saying they had been forced to endure the hell of war well beyond the withdrawal of the last New Zealand troops at the end of 1972.

"If Korea was the "Forgotten War", then Vietnam was surely the "Despised War" and those who fought in it - for the noblest of motives at the time - have suffered consequently ever since.

"Today's Apology marks the formal closure of this sad chapter in our national history," he said.

Mr Dunne said he had been an active anti-Vietnam war protestor from the age of 15, and took part in many major anti-war mobilisations.

"However, I was also present in Auckland in May 1971, when New Zealand troops returning from Vietnam marched through the central city, only to be disrupted and splattered with red paint and other insults by protestors.

'While I shared the protestors' cause and continued to take a full part in anti-war protests until the fall of Saigon in 1975, I thought their behaviour on that occasion was profoundly disrespectful and disgraceful.

"I still hold that view: those soldiers were doing their duty at the behest of the New Zealand Government of the day, and did not deserve the treatment they received.

"Yet sadly, because of the general unpopularity of the war, it has been those who fought at the behest of politicians who have been forced to bear the brunt of that unpopularity for more than a generation.

"While today's Apology will come too late for many of those who fought in Vietnam, it is a necessary step," Mr Dunne said.

Mr Dunne said that the shocking way in which New Zealand had treated its Vietnam veterans had served as a national wake-up call for conflicts like Iraq and Afghanistan.

"While those conflicts may be equally as unpopular as Vietnam was, we have matured as a nation to the extent we will never treat the veterans of those conflicts in the same way.

"That may be some consolation to the Vietnam veterans, but it will never remove the blight of the appalling way our country - whatever individuals' views on the conflict were - has treated those who were brave and courageous enough to be prepared to make whatever sacrifices were necessary to serve their country," Mr Dunne said.


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