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Peace Council Statement on the 25th Anniversary of the Liberation of Viet Nam
30 April 2000
Peace Council of Aotearoa New Zealand Incorporated
April 30th 2000 marks the 25th anniversary of end of the 10-year war of liberation fought against the United States and its allies. The war took the lives of 4 million Vietnamese civilians and 250,000 soldiers, whilst 60,000 US soldiers were killed. The US airforce heavily bombed Viet Nam using weapons of mass destruction (and threatened to use nuclear weapons) that included fuel air explosives and cluster bombs and left the country in economic ruin. Deadly chemicals such as Agent Orange was sprayed which destroyed all vegetation that gave rise to birth deformities. Had the US respected the democratic rights of the Viet Nam people to decide their own future in accordance with the 1954 Geneva Accords which followed the defeat and capture of 10,000 French military forces at Dien Bien Phu the war could not have happened.
This war was the first time the anti-war movement was successful in bringing the war to an early end and virtually ended the deployment of US troops in an occupying role. The protest movement grew worldwide as daily death and destruction clips appeared on TV screens.
The first US combat troops landed in Viet Nam in March 1965 and in April 1965 the US president's special envoy Henry Cabot Lodge visited Wellington and demanded support for the US crusade from government. In May 1965, Prime Minister, Keith Holyoake, announced he would send an artillery battery. Other high officials from the US followed periodically seeking more military support including President Lyndon Johnston who arrived here in October 1966. However, with a Labour landslide victory in 1972, Prime Minister, Norman Kirk, influenced considerably by the anti-war movement withdrew our troops from Viet Nam.
The Peace Council played a key role in opposing the war from the outset. Among its leading spokesmen were Professor Willis Airey, professor of history at Auckland University, Rev, Dean Chandler, dean of Waikato, and Harry Slingsby, who during WW2 was a non- commissioned Officer on the personal staff of Vice Admiral Rawlings, KCB. Harry Slingsby wrote three books on the war in Viet Nam and met Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi in 1965. In Wellington he was in demand as speaker and addressed many anti-war rallies. In addition to organising protests, the Peace Council actively supported the NZ Medical Aid Committee, which collected more than $46,000 that went to assist the people of Viet Nam.
On 30 March 1968, the anti-war movement in New Zealand held the Peace, Power and Politics international conference in Wellington. Several keynote speakers hailed from all over the globe, notably Conor Cruise O'Brien, senior member of the Irish External Affairs department and member of its delegation to the UN, and V.K. Krishna Menon, leading figure in India's fight for independence. On the third day of the conference President Johnston announced he would not seeking re-election.
Despite a total US embargo imposed on Viet Nam, the Peace Council has since 1988 sent several container loads of medical equipment to Viet Nam, its replacement value worth millions of dollars. In a letter dated 30 November 1995, former Prime Minister, Jim Bolger, paid tribute to the Peace Council for this work, as did the Viet Nam Prime Minister, Vo Van Kiet, when he visited Wellington in June 1994.
It is a coincidence that the Peace Council is shipping another container of medical equipment to Viet Nam at this time.