Fifth-columnist spitters?

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Rohan Cahill has an interesting post on Leftwrites on the treatment of Vietnam veterans after the war, or their perception of such treatment.

In his recent 814 page history Vietnam: The Australian War (HarperCollins, 2007), journalist Paul Ham relates how Australian troops returning home from the front lines of Vietnam were variously spat on and called “baby killers” by anti-war protestors. To a significant extent, Ham’s account relies on interviews he conducted with veterans in 2005/06. Journalist Ham seems to be of the opinion that former Australian anti-war activists owe veterans an apology; he notes that not one protestor has apologised for the abuse. At the same time he records the recollections of a few leading anti-war activists that, to their knowledge, the alleged abusive behaviour did not occur.

Momentarily Ham recognises a problem. On one hand he has veterans with memories of abuse; on the other, anti-war activists with no such memories. Rhetorically he asks, was the abuse the work of an “anonymous Fifth Column”? For journalist Ham, the abuse took place and was widespread. However, as an historian he should have seriously considered the possibility the abuse was/is mythical, part of a complex, essentially post-war, psychological and political process.

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