Australian imperialism in the Cold War

by Tom O'Lincoln • Published 12 July 2013

Some things have become familiar. When Australia fights an overseas war in, say, Afghanistan alongside the United States, responses on the broad left will fit a pattern. Left critics will point to Australia’s dependence on the US. This is undeniable – most states in the world depend on US power in some way. From that recognition, however, the left generally proceeds to a much more questionable argument, lamenting what it sees as chronic Australian subservience towards the big-power ally. The USA is accused of dragging this country into wars that are not in “our” interest.

For example Alison Broinowski’s book Howard’s War makes a powerful critique of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, but then she complains that “instead of standing up for Australia…Howard bent over backwards to oblige Washington and London.” Regarding the government’s passivity about the fate of Australians in Guantanamo, she asks: “What makes us so meek?”[i] The conventional left view implicitly assumes that while US imperialist forces are evil, if left alone the Australian “Defence” Force would fight for good, protecting Australians and helping our neighbours. Loosely associated with this is the assumption that Australian soldiers in the field will be well-behaved and that, once again, responsibility for war crimes lies with foreigners.

I disagree. These views amount to a psychological interpretation without much structural or strategic content. More importantly, Marxists have traditionally argued that Australia isn’t “meek” at all. It’s an imperialist power in its own right, which has sent troops to distant wars to gain credit with Britain, and more recently America, hoping that these “great and powerful friends” would back up Australia’s interests in our own region. This approach doesn’t make Canberra a “lapdog” for the Americans. In 1962 journalist Dennis Warner described it more accurately as “life insurance that we’re taking out”.[ii] It’s part of a strategy for leveraging power, a sort of boutique imperialism in which Canberra manoeuvres carefully to maximise its clout. According to analyst Jeff Doyle, “Australia is an outrider of an English-speaking Empire whose symbolic capital once was London and is now Washington.” [iii] He needed to add that the “outrider” also has influence on what happens at the core, and that it promotes what it sees as its (bourgeois) national interest.

This analysis fits within the broad outlines of the Bolshevik theory of imperialism. Lenin, along with Bukharin, saw the outbreak of a great imperialist war in 1914 as linked to an alignment of capital and the state. This was occurring within individual countries and on a global scale, and was associated with the exploitation of what today we call the third world; and it had laid the basis to set the world on fire. It is easy to identify errors, indeed very serious errors, in Lenin’s argument. For example the export of capital to the third world is not a dominating factor in the imperialist system, as Lenin believed; and reformism in the Western labour movement can’t be explained by a transfer of wealth from the colonies to a privileged section of the working class as he also thought.[iv] Lenin was engaged in an urgent recasting of Marxist theory overall, with the aim of understanding the global catastrophe of the war and the path to a socialist revolution. Whatever he came up with was bound to be pretty rough. But many decades later it’s still relevant. In the aftermath of the Western onslaught on Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, the presence of something resembling Lenin’s schema is surely undeniable.

As well as mistakes, there are also gaps in Lenin’s theory. To understand the peculiar role Australia plays in the imperialist system, we need to consider something Lenin paid little attention to. For him the “whole world” was divided into a large number of oppressed nations and an “insignificant number of oppressor nations, which command colossal wealth and powerful armed forces”. So which category does Australia fit? Neither seems adequate. Australia is obviously not an oppressed nation, even though its leaders are constrained by their weaknesses relative to the great powers; but neither does it possess colossal wealth and power. Historically it has been closer to a third category: that of a frontier of imperialism driven by colonial settlers such as the Boers or the pieds noirs in North Africa.

Aghiri Emmanuel described the peculiar dynamic of settler nationalism. For settlers “the colonial adventure was…the mainspring of their existence and their supreme justification. They benefitted from colonialism and therefore promoted it, without reserve or contradiction.” This, ironically, could bring them into conflict with the mother country, which was less fanatical about imperial expansion in the settlers’ neighbourhood because the rulers at home had a global perspective.[v] Such states were complicit in the imperial project, yet not reducible to Lenin’s categorisation. The relevance to nineteenth century Australia is evident. Since Federation the Australian bourgeoisie has developed a more sophisticated and diversified role in the imperialist framework, including its own national state. The strategy of the “insurance policy” remains as a red thread tying together the great majority of two centuries of Australia’s manoeuvres. We’ve analysed most of the history of white Australia within the framework sketched above;[vi] but have never looked closely at the period 1945-1965, although that period saw four Asian wars.

This article closes the gap. It explains how Canberra’s key big-power relationship evolved from traditional British links to strategic relations with the United States, and how Canberra sought to get as much mileage as possible out of those relations despite frustrations from Washington. It demonstrates how the search for an “insurance policy” backed up by great powers has driven behaviour in Australia’s ruling circles.

World War II sealed Britain’s decline while opening the way for an “American Century”; and Australia has inevitably re-oriented from London to Washington. At first glance, the turning point seems to be John Curtin’s 1941 declaration that: “Australia looks to America, free of any pangs as to our traditional links or kinship with the United Kingdom.”[vii] However the statement shouldn’t be seen in isolation. There was also Curtin’s speech to the 1943 ALP Federal Conference predicting a “fourth [British] empire” after the war.[viii] And in fact the first ten to twelve post-war years witnessed a reaffirmation of Australia’s position within the empire. Imperial sentiment was only a secondary factor in this; much more important was the trade position. The Korean War wool boom apart, America’s economic profile in Australia was much lower than Britain’s, and this material factor ensured that other linkages with Britain retained their importance for a decade.

Should we celebrate or regret continuing British links? It depends on which atom bomb you prefer. All three governments wanted to develop advanced nuclear weapons. Scientist prodigy Marcus Oliphant had close links to the British scientific establishment, and so he had inside information about Britain’s own nuclear program from early in the war. He passed the details on to senior diplomat and cabinet minister Richard Casey and hence to the Australian government. Canberra initiated a new project to build a bomb, but British and Australians were driven by the same frustrations. The Americans wanted to maintain a nuclear monopoly; and neither Australia nor the UK seemed to have the capacity to develop nuclear weapons alone. Twelve months later a return to British-American collaboration abruptly ended the main aspects of the UK-Australia project. Britain dumped Australia from the nuclear game, and that was that. This prodded Canberra to look more closely at the American connection.[ix]

American strategy had prioritised Europe and the Middle East, with the Korean conflict seen as an anomaly. Canberra offered the “Australian territory” of Manus Island (part of Papua New Guinea) to the Americans as a military base, but this aroused little interest, and at first Washington also showed little enthusiasm for an Asia-Pacific security pact. However Communist successes in Asia began to focus minds in both Washington and Canberra. Since British power was clearly in decline east of Suez, entrenching Australian interests in Asia required a strengthened US alliance; and with France losing an Asian empire at Dien Bien Phu, there was realistically no way the Americans would hold back from trying to pacify South East Asia. The Chifley government had shown little desire to play a direct role in Asia beyond “Anzam” (Australia, New Zealand, Malaya), but this changed under the Menzies administration.

Canberra scrapped commitments in the Middle East in favour of the Commonwealth Strategic Reserve Centres in Malaya, and became a founder of the US-oriented South East Asia Treaty Organisation. Both the Centres and SEATO were ineffectual; their importance lay in signalling a change in orientation. The ANZUS treaty dated to 1951 and was potentially far more important; but its actual implications were unclear throughout the post-war period. The history of post-war Australian-American relations can be read as a continual testing of the treaty.

There was of course, a substantial common ideology between Washington and Canberra. The Americans were immersed in anti-Communist scares and Menzies promoted his own. Consider the timing of the 1955 dispatch of troops to Malaya to suppress Communist insurgents. This came within the same two years or so as the French defeat at Vietnamese Communist hands, the aftermath of the Petrov spy scandal and the anti-Communist split in the ALP. An anti-red psychosis accompanied the provision of troops to Vietnam, as illustrated by Brigadier Stuart Graham’s tantrum with a staff member in Vietnam: “Communism is evil! Communism is bad! You are a serving officer and you have no right to think anything else.”[x]

But common ground didn’t prevent tensions. The Americans complained of a maddening Australian aggressiveness. The US State Department thought Spender’s interest in a Pacific treaty was less about a guarantee of Australian security than access to allied decision-making machinery, while secretary of state Dean Acheson thought that the Australians’ most cherished idea was to have a “direct and permanent relationship between their chiefs of staff and ours”, a fixation which became an “embarrassing problem”.[xi] When a subsequent secretary of state, Dean Rusk, visited Canberra in May 1962, foreign minister Garfield Barwick “interrogated” him in a way that “visibly irritated the American and startled the New Zealanders present”.[xii] Far from being slave to Washington, Canberra jostled for an expanded influence.

The common ground rubbed against differing desires. Each time the Americans pressed Australia to commit more forces to US adventures, Canberra performed a balancing act. As described in Casey’s memoirs, there was a desire to minimise the drain on resources; but also a desire not to appear to be penny-pinching or stalling. Similarly one could disagree with the Americans, but preferably not in public. Casey felt Washington was aware of what a small military Australia maintained. For an ally constantly pestering the Americans to do things, the Australian imperialists didn’t contribute much themselves, which was embarrassing. Perhaps one ought to do more, Casey thought. Yet in Cabinet he stood against those who would follow the Americans “whatever they did”.[xiii] He thought the pros and cons must all be carefully calculated even if some of them counted against Washington. Here we have neither a conventional picture of the Americans charging headlong into war, nor one of Australian politicians crawling to the Americans. Instead there was cynical calculation on both sides, and not for the last time. Five decades later Paul Kelly would write:

For half a century the Australian way of war has been obvious: it is a clever, cynical, calculated, modest series of contributions as part of US-led coalitions in which Americans bore the main burden. This technique reveals a junior partner skilled in utilising the great and powerful in its own interest while imposing firm limits upon its own sacrifices.[xiv]

Every military scheme was for “defence”. But a key activity was “forward defence”, sending troops far to the north to fight people who had never dreamed of invading us. Key documents show there was no meaningful threat to Australia. While there were threats to Australia’s ability to exploit the world market, there was no military threat to people living on this continent. An internal government analysis of Australia’s strategic position from 1946 dismissed the major powers as benign or lacking the power to attack. Russia was a “potential enemy of the future” but even that country couldn’t mount more than raids on the Australian continent. Likewise a 1953 document dismissed actual defence of the Australian continent as presenting “a comparatively small problem”. When Australian strategists spoke of defence they meant protecting “Australia’s interests”, which tended to mean overseas investments, assets, revenues, trade links. A military raised only to defend Australia, Menzies jibed, would be like a “wooden gun”. It was in this context that Canberra desired to “take responsibility” for a strategic zone to the north and east.[xv]

To stop countries falling to the Communists, which could tip their riches into the hands of rivals, Australian “diggers” invaded these countries. And to persuade the public there was an actual danger, the “domino theory” argued that the fall of one pro-Western state would bring down another. Spender offered this argument immediately after the North Korean attack in 1950. It would be used many times.

‘Burn out the place’ – Korea and Malaya

At the end of the Second World War, Korea was split in two. Although the Soviets arrived in Korea a month earlier than US troops, they still honoured an agreement to divide the country at the 38th parallel. North of that line, the USSR was in control; below it the Americans. Australians played a certain role in the southern capital, Seoul. Not a very good one.

The pushy Australians had got hold of Britain’s seat in the UN Temporary Commission on Korea, which gave Canberra a certain influence on American policy, and on the political scene in Seoul, where they had an office. They found the South Korean capital a turbulent place, ruled by the Americans, the police and extreme right wing elements led by Syngman Rhee. During elections in 1948 Australian diplomats on the spot reported intimidation by right-wingers and police, who seized newspapers and engaged in such violence that all the political parties except the far right boycotted the election.

Prisons were more crowded with political activists than under Japanese rule, and one American observer was kept awake nights by the screams of tortured prisoners. However in general the American intelligence service G-2 was too preoccupied with suppressing the left to enquire closely into the methods of its Korean collaborators.[xvi] The Australian Labor government could have made high-profile international protests about these crimes, but it didn’t.

Despite politicians’ hostility toward specific aspects of Japanese politics, after World War II the overall Australian diplomatic stance towards north-east Asia had been vaguely left-liberal in character.[xvii] Following a lead from foreign minister H.V. Evatt, diplomats and analysts associated with external affairs secretary John Burton resisted the cruder anti-Communist and pro-Rhee attitudes coming out of Washington. This attitude was reflected in the frank assessments about Rhee from diplomats in Seoul in the immediate post-war years. Australia didn’t fully line up with the United States’ diplomatic position in Korea until Menzies’ conservatives won government in 1949. We might perceive a simple contrast between Labor and Liberal, with Labor as inherently more progressive. But in reality the changes in Australian policy began under Chifley. Burton moved to a position closer to the Americans in mid-1948; Evatt made his shift to the right some time before the 1949 poll. Labor politicians and diplomats were responding to right wing pressures mounting in Australian society.[xviii]

The oppressive right wing climate was also felt at the Australian grassroots, making it difficult to organise opposition to the war. Communist-led unions passed motions and the Seamen’s Union tried to create momentum for workers banning war shipments, but without much success. The Australian Peace Council pulled together a network of “peace parsons” and held sizeable meetings, but it was harder to mobilise against the actual war in Korea than around general sentiments. The Council could draw 10,000 to hear the Red Dean of Canterbury two months before the war began, but couldn’t repeat this later when it really mattered. There are reports of two small demonstrations, one by students.[xix]

Rhee won the 1948 poll, but by 1949 opposition was growing and insurgents were challenging the government. Australian observer A.B. Jamieson conceded that the regime’s legitimacy relied on the authority of a police state; he had personally rescued two journalists from “the more horrible types of torture”. Thirty candidates had been arrested and 5,000 people were in long term detention without trial. These new outrages didn’t prevent Canberra from recognising the “Republic of Korea” (South Korea).[xx] The level of discontent did however embolden the “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” (North Korea) to invade the south. North Korea’s opponents fought under the United Nations flag purely because the USSR had boycotted the UN Security Council on a crucial day. In reality it was an American war. The invasion was the beginning of a catastrophe for the Korean people, but it created salivating opportunities for the Australian government, and Foreign Minister Percy Spender eagerly cabled Menzies in London about seizing them:

I feel very strongly that we must give some immediate response… My appreciation of the military position in Korea is that the US, though not prepared to admit it, is in a very difficult if not desperate position…any additional aid we can give to the US now, small though it may be, will repay us in the future one hundred fold.[xxi]

The military impact might be slight, he added, but it could have considerable political impact. On the other hand, to hold back could cost “an opportunity of cementing friendship with the US which may not easily present itself again”. Menzies was overseas, hard to reach, and known to oppose any such ventures. Neither did he share Spender’s enthusiasm for a formal alliance with the US. But when it became clear that Britain would send troops to Korea, acting PM Artie Fadden agreed to do the same, making a point of acting before London did. Acheson and Truman signalled their pleasure by facilitating a large World Bank loan to build infrastructure in Australia. This sounds like surprising generosity from Uncle Sam, but the infrastructure would enhance Australian military power, contributing to a stronger alliance.

With the advent of the Cold War, American policy towards Japan had become less punitive towards the Japanese establishment (and more punitive towards the left) and much more focused on rapid economic development. Japan was to be a prosperous, right wing ally. Australia, still trading in paranoia about Japan, disliked the changes and demanded security guarantees. It was hard for Washington to oppose a Pacific security treaty when Spender put direct pressure on US presidential adviser John Foster Dulles and even on President Truman himself. Spender suggested the conversation with Dulles had been the “discussion from which the present framework of security in the Pacific stemmed”. That is, Australian initiatives rather than pressure from Washington had laid the basis for the ANZUS treaty.[xxii] It was a concession the Americans made to win acceptance of their Japan policy, and in exchange for Australia joining the war.

For the war, Australia provided the 77 Squadron of the RAAF, and a battalion of ground troops. The Australian troops, writes John Hooker, “had no idea that they were to be involved in one of the dirtiest wars in history.”[xxiii] Neither side was innocent, but it’s clear most of the mayhem came from the Western allies, for the simple reason that only the Western side had the capability to drop 550 tons of incendiary bombs on the city of Sinuiju alone, and “remove it from the map”, in Bruce Cumings’ words. Or to follow up a week later by blanketing the town of Hoeryong with napalm to “burn out the place”. By 1952 as a result of the Western onslaught: “Just about everything in northern central Korea was completely levelled. What was left of the population survived in caves, the North Koreans creating an entire life underground…”[xxiv]

No war crimes on the northern side matched the August 1950 Daejon massacre by Syngman Rhee’s forces, which killed 5-7,000 civilians. The only thing in doubt, write historians Stewart Lone and Gavan McCormack, is whether American agents were directly involved.[xxv] That Western soldiers, including Australians, committed smaller-scale war crimes is apparently not in doubt.[xxvi]

The fortunes of war were uncertain. A northern offensive nearly drove the southern forces into the sea, but Macarthur turned the tide with his Inchon landing and it appeared the northern forces would be wiped out. However MacArthur and his “favourite fascist” General Willoughby underestimated the capability of Asian fighters.[xxvii] Chinese forces drove MacArthur back, and the final outcome was a ceasefire at the 38th parallel. Strictly speaking the war continues to this day. It was a “draw”, but widely seen as a Chinese victory.

The most important Asian conflict through the fifties was the Malayan “emergency”. This had roots in post-war grievances, such as those of rural Chinese squatters who had trouble getting permanent residency. The squatters saw themselves as making an important contribution to Malayan society given they brought into use sizeable tracts of previously empty land and forest. They felt slighted, and their difficult circumstances led to unrest. The British authorities resorted to repression, not as bad as Syngman Rhee’s but cruel none the less.

The emergency also had roots in British-Australian plans to establish a new state in which the conservative Malay sultans would have the most clout. To clear the way for this, the imperialists set out to smash the left. The campaign against the left emerged slowly and unevenly, reflecting the contradictions of the immediate post-war situation, before the Cold War began and while Communists were still allies. A Communist guerrilla unit joined the victory parade in London and the Pan Malayan Federation of Trade Unions flourished. But by 1948 the colonial government launched an anti-union drive, cheered on by the employers who demanded “death, banishment and particularly flogging”. Much was at stake: Malayan rubber was the empire’s biggest foreign exchange earner.[xxviii]

As early as October 1945 government troops fired on a demonstration in the Chinese village of Sungai Sipit, in Perak. Perak was the country’s most urbanised area, centred on Ipoh. In June 1948 the authorities began destroying “illegal” crops, and in retaliation Communists had killed three managers of a farm. In June 1948 the union federation was banned. By August 4,000 people had been arrested, and by October some hundreds more as villagers in Perak were prosecuted and saw their homes destroyed by troops. They fled to the town. A prolonged guerrilla war began.

It was a disaster for the left, yet at the outset there were hopeful signs. The Communists were popular for challenging the power of gangs that exploited farmers, and their politics had some resonance. An April 1948 peasant conference in heavily Malay Kedah discussed the widespread evictions of farmers, and declared: “Our greatest enemies are the capitalists”.[xxix] Another plus was Washington’s clear signal that it would not intervene in Malaya barring extreme circumstances. But ethnic and other divisions in the working class and the populace generally sealed the Communists’ fate.

Australia sent an infantry battalion along with RAAF aircraft and personnel, artillery and engineers. A construction squadron built a runway for the Butterworth air force base. RAN ships fired on communist positions. But there were other forms of attack. On 11 December 1948, a patrol of Scots Guards surrounded and entered the village of Batang Kali, Selangor, where they separated the male villagers from the others. That evening one of the men was shot, and the next day another twenty-three. The Foreign Office and Defence Ministry have long insisted they were shot while trying to escape. But some of the Scots Guards published accounts in the 1970s that disputed the official version. An eyewitness remembered watching as the men were shot.[xxx]

The term “emergency” suited white settlers who could collect insurance money if that word was used; but it was a civil war, with roots in World War II. When news of it reached Australia, veteran Ken Harrison remembered the militia he had campaigned with against the Japanese; and he decided not to forward information to help the Malayan authorities find them. He thought of the smiling young men and the risks they took for the Australians. He remembered how shabbily the militia and villagers were treated in return:

I thought of how “military requirements” had caused us to burn down the Chinese village of Jemaluang in January 1942. We had watched dozens of Chinese families trudge past our gun pit carrying all that they possessed and with the black smoke of their homes hanging ominously above them… [L]ater some of those who had been our friends must have had bitter thoughts about the destruction of their homes, particularly as Jemaluang was neither attacked nor defended…[xxxi]

To suppress the insurgency the British used a ruthless counter-insurgency strategy known as the Briggs Plan. The cornerstone was forced relocation of around 500,000 rural dwellers – 400,000 of them Chinese – from villages on the edge of forests into guarded camps called “new villages”. Deprived of contact with their popular support base, the militia were defeated.

Malayan precedents were important for Menzies’ Vietnam War. A cabinet minute linked the two explicitly, and when the government faced warnings from “peace parsons” about the risks of war with Indonesia, it pointed to success in Malaya. Some of the same tactics would be employed again in Vietnam, but without much success, because there were important differences in the two wars.

China and the USSR provided ample support, delivered across borders the Americans were unable to seal. The Malayan insurgent militia at its height had some 8,000 fighters compared to 100,000 Viet Cong guerrilla fighters in South Vietnam and 250,000 soldiers in the North Vietnamese military.

The Vietnamese were relatively united on a national basis, whereas the people of Malaya were not; Malays and Chinese in particular were often at loggerheads, but the Chinese also had divided allegiances between the Guomindang nationalists and the Communists. It was the lack of a revolutionary political party capable of uniting the country’s ethnic groups that ensured defeat. The Communists made valuable efforts along these lines but these were ultimately limited by their nationalist approach. Britain’s success in launching an “independent” nation (Malaysia) undercut the patriotic politics of the Malayan left and was seen across Asia as countering the Western weaknesses exposed in Korea. The spotlight now shifted to Indonesia.

Confronting the West

Indonesia’s independence movement was led by mainstream nationalists rather than the Communist Party (PKI). This in turn made it easier for Washington to apply a “neo-colonial” approach, backing Indonesian independence as a way to displace the Dutch. But in West Papua, with a population ethnically and socially very different from the Malay peoples, the Dutch were able to hang on for longer by posing as sympathetic to Papuan independence. Both Jakarta and Washington were determined to nudge the Dutch out as Washington worked to improve relations with Jakarta. Canberra on the other hand loathed the prospect of an Indonesian take-over on “its” borders.

The United States attempted to tame Indonesia by backing the provincial rebellions of 1957-58. American officials were tipped off about these rebellions by their Australian counterparts. No doubt motivated by a desire to get oil companies like Caltex beyond Sukarno’s reach, the US supplied the rebels with money, arms, ammunition, even personnel. CIA pilots dropped supplies to the rebels, and bombed government forces. American Secretary of State John Foster Dulles publicly backed the insurgents and moved the US 7th fleet to Singapore. But the revolts fizzled out and the Americans concluded they had to live with the Sukarno regime in Jakarta, indeed to indulge it to a point, for fear Sukarno would turn to Moscow or Beijing.

As in Malaya, much wealth was at stake. Indonesia produced 40 percent of the world’s natural rubber and 20 percent of its tin, and a huge array of other resources including oil and precious metals. Japan, the main industrial economy in the Western-fostered alliance in Asia, got most of its oil from Indonesia. The island nation sat astride major sea routes, giving it a strategic importance to match its economic profile. Provoked by working class agitation and plant seizures, Sukarno had seized Dutch assets during the fifties, and was under constant pressure for further radical steps from the PKI.

Given determined Soviet and Chinese efforts to build influence in the country, it isn’t hard to see why the Americans wanted to stay on friendly terms with Sukarno. (So, for that matter, did Australia – Indonesia and Malaya were the main recipients of Australian aid under the Colombo Plan.) There were divisions in both Canberra and Washington about how to deal with Indonesia’s claims on West Papua, but ultimately it came down to the Australians seeing the prospect of an Indonesian take-over as a challenge to their island mini-empire centred on Papua New Guinea, and a more general fear on the part of Australian authorities that Indonesia sought “regional hegemony”.[xxxii] On the other hand, Robert Comer of the National Security Council spoke for many American leaders when he said that a pro-Communist Indonesia was a greater worry than whether Sukarno controlled “a few thousand square miles of cannibal land”.[xxxiii]

The Americans enabled Sukarno to secure West Papua for Indonesia, while frantic, counterposed diplomatic activity by the Dutch and Australians achieved little. Eventually the United Nations would preside over a bogus “Act of Free Choice” in which cruel repression by the Indonesian forces ensured that 1025 delegates voted unanimously to join Indonesia. In this situation Canberra showed itself to be a team player for imperialism. The Australian government forcibly prevented two Papuan leaders from travelling to the UN by jailing them when they reached Papua New Guinea; and it played a leading role in getting the UN General Assembly to accept the “Act of Free Choice” without debate. UN officials cited in a secret US document given to Australia said almost all Papuans wanted independence. When it was denied, Australia’s ambassador to Indonesia Gordon Jockel found the mass of Papuans “sullen and discontented”.[xxxiv]

Canberra was sullen for different reasons. In Australia’s most important regional crisis since World War II, the US alliance had proved less useful than hoped. Canberra concluded that it needed to get closer to the US leaders, and try more aggressively to shape US policy. Vietnam would soon provide an opportunity. But for the time being, Australian interest remained focused on Indonesia, led by the charismatic but chaotic Sukarno, and the British administration in Malaya along with its local supporters. Having defeated Australia over West Papua, Sukarno harboured other expansionist designs focused on British colonies in the Malay world. Having contained the emergency, the British proposed to establish a post-colonial state embracing Malaya, Singapore and north Borneo. It would be called Malaysia. The plan relied on juggling population balances between heavily Chinese Singapore and Malay-related ethnic groups in Borneo, to ensure a Malay majority. This proved unnecessary because Lee Kuan-yew took Singapore out of the deal. Even with a clear Malay majority, however, Malaysia was a threat to Sukarno’s ambitious plans to unite the region against Western imperialism. Under the slogan “crush Malaysia”, he declared plans for confrontation (konfrontasi).

The conflict sharpened after the December 1962 Brunei rebellion, sparked by the People’s Party opposed to federation. When this party took up arms, the Sultan called for British troops from Singapore to suppress the uprising. Australia provided aircraft to the British force.[xxxv] On the other side, there was some indication that the Indonesians helped the rebels. In Jakarta, foreign minister Subandrio announced a policy of confrontation with Malaysia, and in early 1963 Indonesia launched a series of cross-border raids into Malaysian territory. The government was under considerable pressure from below, as worker supporters of the PKI seized British firms and demanded nationalisation.[xxxvi]

April 12 saw the first clash of Australian troops with Indonesian infiltrators in Sarawak. Over the following two years Australia, alongside Britain, New Zealand and the US, struggled to find diplomatic-cum-military responses that would secure the new Malaysian federation while not antagonising Sukarno and propelling him into the arms of the Soviet Union. The undeclared war went alongside a curious sort of conciliation. For example in March-July 1965, Australian troops killed 30 Indonesian soldiers, and an SAS squadron was in the field. Yet regardless of this, Australia continued foreign aid payments to Jakarta. But Western aid and training was being channelled to the pro-Western Indonesian military, which would soon be ready to strike against the country’s president.

Despite posturing from Sukarno and alarmist talk in Canberra, nobody really thought Indonesia could win the confrontation militarily. However the West could suffer political defeats. To Canberra’s dismay, Britain was steadily losing interest in sustaining the remnants of empire east of Suez. Indonesian foreign minister Subandrio remarked pointedly to Australian diplomat Ed Shann that a war would “be the end of British influence in South East Asia, and this is the Indonesian objective.” Shann didn’t dissent.[xxxvii] Washington was worried that a disproportionate response to konfrontasi might push Sukarno into the arms of the Soviets, so the American and Australian delicate manoeuvres continued. When Jakarta placed stricter regulation on US firms in June 1963, President Kennedy offered a deal. When Sukarno seized British companies and cut diplomatic ties to Singapore in September, Washington suspended arms shipments but that was all.

Australia’s traditional backers, the British, were gradually being pushed out of their central role in Asia; while the United States showed little interest in Canberra’s plans to clip Sukarno’s wings. The ANZUS treaty seemed to be of limited use in informal conflict. A secret 1963 memorandum between Washington and Canberra said key passages in the treaty “related only to overt attacks and not to subversion, guerrilla warfare or indirect aggression”. It added that “any US forces would be air and sea forces, plus logistic support”. But without ground troops, a US intervention wasn’t much use.[xxxviii] One might call it a wooden gun.

So Australia had to make a substantial contribution. Canberra sent its usual battalion of infantry, but also two squadrons of the Special Air Service, a signals troop, artillery and engineers. Ships and RAAF squadrons also took part.

The balance sheet of US-Indonesian relations, from West Papua through konfrontasi, showed that the Americans, being farther from the action and with an eye on the global picture, were more willing to accommodate Sukarno. Moreover, Washington refused to make the public military commitments Canberra so desperately desired. In the subtle game of trying to get as much out of the Americans with the smallest contribution by Australia, the Menzies government had botched it. That would need to be fixed by paying some dues in Indochina.

If the US tended to see Indochina as the source of (mostly Communist) “threats”, for reasons of proximity Australia was more worried about Indonesia. The latter country represented a threat according to public statements out of Canberra, although internal Australian government documents described its military as “badly equipped and effective”.[xxxix] These contradictions ceased to matter when a 1965 coup by the Indonesian military eliminated the PKI from the political map, and largely isolated Sukarno as well. A CIA assessment described the post-coup massacres as among the worst mass murders of the century. The CIA’s own hands weren’t clean either. [xl] During the 1965 crisis, the CIA supplied arms and other help specifically earmarked for use against the PKI. Brad Simpson of Princeton University says it was “directly involved to the extent that they provided the Indonesian armed forces with assistance that they introduced to help facilitate the mass killings.”[xli] The US government also provided the names of thousands of PKI leaders to the Indonesian army, which hunted them down and killed them.[xlii] The fact that such stories took many years to come out appears to confirm American diplomat Marshall Green’s smug 1965 prediction that risks of exposing US culpability were “as minimal as any black bag operation can be”.[xliii]

Harold Holt gloated: “With 500,000 to one million Communist sympathizers knocked off, I think it is safe to assume a reorientation [in Indonesia] has taken place.”[xliv] Indonesia would cause the West no more bad dreams; America and its allies could focus on Indochina. Observers have suggested that with the fall of Sukarno and the PKI, the logic of Australia’s Vietnam policy should have changed. The key argument for backing the US in Indochina, notes Peter Edwards, was “to be confident of American military support if confrontation were to develop into a major conflict. [The Indonesian] events undermined much of the rationale for the Vietnam commitment…”[xlv] But that is to forget the more general lessons arising out of events before the coup (including konfrontasi and West Papua): that Washington didn’t seem to be sufficiently committed in Asia, or to backing Australia at key junctures. Menzies would search in vain for a solution in Vietnam.

Who drags whom into Vietnam[xlvi]

The 1954 Geneva Conference called for a temporary division of Vietnam, with elections to be held in 1956. But the Americans blocked the elections because the Communists, being better campaigners and ballot-stuffers, would have won them. Ngo Dinh Diem then won a fraudulent vote in the south and became president, whilst the Communists formed the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam, or Viet Cong. Under Eisenhower the Americans kept their involvement in the continuing conflicts to a minimum, leaving the Saigon regime to “sink or swim with Ngo Dinh Diem”.[xlvii] After 1960 President Kennedy took a more interventionist approach and Diem was bumped off, as was Kennedy in time. Kennedy’s replacement, Lyndon Johnson, was cautious about committing ground forces, but after winning the 1964 elections as a peace candidate, he used a probably faked incident in the Gulf of Tonkin to secure Congressional backing for a massive intervention.

In 1968 Johnson came unstuck. North Vietnamese and Viet Cong fighters staged the spectacular Tet Offensive, challenging American forces all over South Vietnam, with a devastating impact on US public opinion. Reports of the massacre of Vietnamese civilians at My Lai, dissent at home and an informal but massive rebellion in army ranks led by discontented black GIs sealed an American defeat. But earlier in the decade the Western powers still hoped sheer firepower could bring them victory.

In announcing the dispatch of an Australian battalion to Vietnam, Menzies declared the Western invasion of that country a great moral action. The Australian left saw the troops’ departure very differently. A Brisbane leaflet charged that “We are fighting for the sake of American imperialism. Our diggers die for dollars.” Labor Senate leader Murphy said Australians were involved because the US Government decided they should be, while the Sydney Trade Union Moratorium Committee argued that “the powerful and enormously rich families who own American monopolies see to it by lobbying, bribery and corruption that the war in Vietnam continues and escalates to the extent that they secure the maximum in profits from war contracts”.[xlviii] The left saw the US as dragging the country into war.

Neither scenario fitted the facts. Harold Holt touched on the real situation: the core objective was locking in the Americans to a deep Asian commitment. Winning in Vietnam was secondary, and safeguarding democracy came a dismal last. Echoing Dennis Warner, Holt told diarist and Minister Peter Howson that since the USA was now committed for the long haul, “we will win there and get protection in the South Pacific for a very small insurance premium.” Howson himself remarked that a US commitment in Asia meant protection for the Australian state. General John Wilton, chair of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, as if answering the standard leftist critique said “it wasn’t a question of us being dragged in by the USA, it was us wanting to have the USA dragged in.”[xlix]

The US had hesitated to get deeply involved in Vietnam, because it feared the political dangers of a major war in which its allies would be few and their contribution token. Despite US wariness, that is pretty much what happened. Only the South Koreans made a significant military contribution. Between 1965 and 1973 some 313,000 South Koreans fought in Vietnam. By contrast, from 1962 when the first advisers arrived, just under 60,000 Australians, including ground troops and air force and navy personnel participated in Vietnam. However the Koreans were effectively mercenaries, receiving significant pay from Uncle Sam.

Still for Australia the 60,000 figure was considerably more than joined the Korean, Malayan or konfrontasi hostilities. To lock in a certain level of American commitment, Canberra was now prepared to pay a political price by providing more troops, with the resulting casualties and unrest over conscription. But to sustain the war effort despite these problems posed additional challenges. One challenge was convincing ordinary Australians they faced some tangible threat. On 29 April 1965 when Menzies announced plans to send a battalion to Vietnam, he claimed that “the takeover of South Vietnam would be a direct military threat to Australia”. His Chiefs of Staff had said nothing about this menace, and Peter Howson wrote that such a threat remained “remote till at least 1970”.[l] Actually a look at the map showed how unlikely it was that Viet Cong would land at Bondi. The real danger on the government’s mind was a US withdrawal from Asia.[li]

Australian efforts to deepen Washington’s engagement in Asia gained traction only slowly. By 1964 the only way forward seemed to be persuading the Americans to escalate then win the Vietnam War; and Australia would have to provide some of the additional troops to be credible in American eyes. Canberra seems to have prepared a diplomatic offensive around this agenda, to be launched as soon as President Johnson won re-election in November 1964. Foreign minister Paul Hasluck arrived in the American capital on 21 November 1964 to pursue the war-hawk agenda, as did Defence Minister Shane Paltridge. Howson arrived a few days later with the same message. Johnson was still cautious, but Howson was pleased to get a “ready ear” from the Air Force chief, General Curtis LeMay. Lemay was the architect of unspeakable US fire-bombings over Japan, and was prepared to bomb North Vietnam back into the stone age. This is the element Menzies wanted to encourage.

In late 1964 and early 1965, American war planning centred on a two-phase escalation of the war. Phase One was a slight intensification planned to run for a month, followed by Phase Two. But Johnson was so nervous that Phase One dragged on. At this point (15 January 1965) a secret inter-departmental meeting recommended Australia should take the lead and press the Americans to move to Phase Two. “For the first time the Australian government had decided it must openly and actively attempt to change the direction of America’s Vietnam policy.”[lii] In point of fact, writes diplomat Malcolm Booker, “it was the Australian government which in the early part of 1965 pressed on the American government the need for strong military action in Vietnam”.[liii]

On 29 April 1965 Menzies announced commitment of an Australian battalion to Vietnam. He chose his words carefully. Australia was “in receipt of a request” from the government of South Vietnam for further military assistance. So it was. He had a letter from the South Vietnamese Prime Minister accepting “the Australian government’s offer” and requesting “dispatch of the force.”[liv] So he did. This glossed over the ambiguities of the request from Saigon and the degree of arm-twisting Washington and Canberra had to undertake. Until shortly before Menzies’ announcement there was still doubt whether Saigon would approve a role for Australian troops. Probably it only acquiesced under heavy pressure. Menzies on the other hand was utterly keen, later saying that his government had been “looking for a way in, not a way out”.[lv] It was the first war Australia fought without any British involvement.

Did the ALP oppose the war? Yes and no. Gough Whitlam and Arthur Calwell had anti-war reputations, and Calwell campaigned against aspects of the war in the 1966 election. But just as in the run-up to the Korean conflict, Labor was capable of a pro-war stance, the same applied in the mid-sixties. Labor leader Arthur Calwell attempted for as long as possible to balance between his pro-war deputy, Gough Whitlam and the genuine anti-war figure Jim Cairns. Calwell said that America must not be forced out of Vietnam, while Whitlam thought American motives in South Vietnam were “above dispute”.[lvi] Only after Menzies wedged him by announcing troops for Vietnam did Calwell make a major speech critical of the war. When Labor suffered electoral defeat in 1966, Whitlam set about pulling the party back to the right. Only when public opinion turned decisively against the war did the ALP do the same.

One way to present Australia’s boutique imperialism as superior to the crass American stuff, is to promote its supposed humanitarian virtues, claiming as an Australian editorial has done, that “our military has earned a reputation for compassion”.[lvii] But even if Australian troops in Vietnam committed no My Lais, there is still more to be said. To begin with, the main culprits of wartime atrocities were not the front line soldiers, but the leaders in Canberra and their associates in the Australian ruling class, who encouraged and apologised for the genocidal American war effort. No amount of restraint by front-line troops compensated for that.

And even where the Australians behaved better towards the local people, it didn’t change the reactionary logic of the war. Brigadier Stuart Graham tried to move away from the American approach, summed up in the mission statement for Operation Cedar Falls, which was a bald “Kill VC”. Graham drafted a new mission statement for his troops which amounted to protecting the people from the enemy. The trouble with this was that the people were the enemy. And so when Private Paul Murphy recalled another relocation exercise, he could say: “They hated us… Old ladies were crying and wailing; they’d just been thrown out of their ancestral homes.” Yet he could add that “militarily there was a justification for it”.[lviii] The abuses of war were not an optional extra.

And they did commit conventional atrocities. Their first resettling of villagers involved bombings and the destruction of the traditional village. Other documented cases include the shooting of wounded Viet Cong, the dragging of Vietnamese corpses behind armoured vehicles, and the water-boarding of a young woman – long denied but finally confirmed by an SAS sergeant who had been there. Finally there are Stuart Rintoul’s interviews which confirmed the general climate of fear: “you could see the fear in the faces of the old people. You’d kick a door down and there would be an old man and an old lady huddled up in the corner…”[lix]

Was this necessary to defend the Australian people? Hardly. No threats confronted us as a result of defeat in Vietnam. “The Prime Minister had tacitly acknowledged the fading relevance of forward defence against falling dominoes,” writes Paul Ham about the post-Vietnam situation. “China, steeped in domestic crises, was no longer considered a regional threat, and the Soviet Union preferred not to upset its delicate coexistence with the USA.”[lx] Australia remained aggressive because it was imperialist.

The Vietnam defeat resulted in the US retreat from Asia which Canberra feared. However the post-World War II imperial balance sheet for East Asia, following all the gore and horror, was more even overall. In South Korea a military embarrassment was giving way to economic boom. The Malaysia project had succeeded for its promoters and Indonesia was in the hands of its blood-stained anti-Communist military. Measured against the objectives set in the fifties, Australian policy seemed a modest, if morbid, success, yet a fundamental challenge remained: to ensure for Menzies and his successors a substantial US commitment to back Australia’s imperial interests in the Asia Pacific. New approaches to this task were found in the seventies. Canberra provided communications bases; today it invites US marines to lodge in northern Australia. The merchants of death have plenty more in store.

[i] Alison Broinowski, Howard’s War, Scribe, Melbourne, pp.3, 17.

[ii] Quoted in the introduction to Jeff Doyle et al, Australia’s Vietnam War, Texas A&M University Press, College Station.

[iii] Quoted in Doyle et al, Australia’s Vietnam War, p.7.

[iv] See Michael Kidron, “Imperialism: Highest Stage but One”, in his Capitalism and Theory, Pluto Press, London, 1974; and Tom Bramble, “Is there a labour aristocracy in Australia?”, Marxist Left Review, 4, Winter 2012. Imperialism as the “highest stage” is a mistranslation; more correct is “latest stage”.

[v] Aghiri Emmanuel, “White Settler Colonialism and the Myth of Investment Imperialism”, New Left Review, 73, May-June 1972, p.39.

[vi] See these works of mine: “The Neighbour From Hell”, in Rick Kuhn (ed), Class and Struggle in Australia, Pearson Longman, Frenchs Forest, 2005; “Robbers and Spoilers: Australia and Britain in the 19th Century Pacific”, polsci/marx/interventions/empire.htm; Australia’s Pacific War: Challenging a National Myth, Interventions, Melbourne, 2011.

[vii] David Black (ed), In his Own Words: John Curtin’s Speeches and Writings, Paradigm Books, Curtin University of Technology, Perth, 1995, p.195.

[viii] Wayne Reynolds, Australia’s Bid for the Atomic Bomb, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 2000, p.25.

[ix] Reynolds, Australia’s Bid for the Atomic Bomb. See also Alice Cawte, Atomic Australia: 1944-1990, UNSW Press, Sydney, 1992, pp.106-107, 127. “Secret Nuclear Testing at Woomera”, ABC radio AM archives, 2 April 2002,

[x] Quoted in Paul Ham, Vietnam: The Australian War, HarperCollins, Sydney, 2007, p.303.

[xi] Gregory Pemberton, All the Way: Australia’s Road to Vietnam, Allen and Unwin, Sydney,1987, pp.24, 31.

[xii] Doyle et al, Australia’s Vietnam War, p.9.

[xiii] R.G. Casey, Australian Foreign Minister, Collins, London, 1972, pp.125, 151-3.

[xiv] Paul Kelly, “No Lapdog, This Partner Has Clout”, The Australian, 28 August 2002, p.13.

[xv] Stephen Fruhling (ed), A History of Australian Strategic Policy Since 1945, Department of Defence, Canberra, 2009, pp.75, 133-35, 185. This is a collection of documents. Menzies on wooden guns: “Australia’s Forces to Serve Anywhere”, The West Australian, 23 September 1950, p.1.

[xvi] David Dutton, “An Alternative Course in Australian Foreign Policy”, Australian Journal of Politics and History, 43, 2 April 1997.

[xvii] This comes through in W. McMahon Ball, Japan: Enemy or Ally?, Cassell, Melbourne 1948.

[xviii] Dutton, “An Alternative Course”.

[xix] Richard Trembath, A Different Sort of War: Australians in Korea 1950-53, Australian Scholarly Publishing, Melbourne, 2005, pp.53ff.

[xx]Dutton, “An Alternative Course”.

[xxi] Quoted in Robert O’Neil, Australia in the Korean War, 1, Strategy and Diplomacy, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, p.65.

[xxii] Percy Spender, Exercises in Diplomacy: The Anzus Treaty and the Colombo Plan, Sydney University Press, 1969, p.48.

[xxiii] John Hooker, Korea: The Forgotten War, Sydney, 1989, p.18.

[xxiv] Bruce Cumings, “American Airpower and Nuclear Strategies”, in Mark Seldon and Alvin So, War and State Terrorism: The United States, Japan, and the Asia-Pacific in the Long Twentieth Century, Rowan and Littlefield, Oxford, 2004,

[xxv] Steward Lone and Gavan McCormack, Korea Since 1850. There is a plausible case that the US used biological warfare: see Stephen Endicott and Edgar Hagerman, The United States and Biological Warfare, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 1998.

[xxvi] See Cameron Forbes, The Korean War: Australia in the Giants’ Playground, Pan MacMillan Australia, Melbourne, 2010, p.173. Also Richard Perry, “Australian and British Soldiers Have Been Accused…”, The Times, 17 June 2011. The northern authorities are traditionally accused of “brainwashing” Western prisoners. But while both political agitation and abuse was used to win and break captives politically, the more sinister charges along these lines appear to be baseless. See George Keckeisen, “The Korean War ‘Brainwashing’ Myth…” Military History, 19, 3 August 2002.

[xxvii] Willoughby was an admirer of Franco and Mussolini. See Forbes, The Korean War, p.194.

[xxviii] Quoted in John Newsinger, The Blood Never Dried: A People’s History of the British Empire, Bookmarks, London, 2010, p.206.

[xxix] Christopher Bayley and Tim Harper, Forgotten Wars: The End of Britain’s Asian Empire, Cambridge, Mass, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007, p.419.

[xxx] J. Kent, “Lessons for Occupying Forces”, BBC online, 17 July 2004, “Malayan ‘Massacre’ Families Seek UK Inquiry”, BBC News, 7 May 2012,

[xxxi] Kenneth Harrison, Road to Hiroshima, Rigby, Adelaide, 1983, p.277.

[xxxii] Peter Dennis and Jeffrey Grey, Emergency and Confrontation: Australian Military Operations in Malaya and Borneo 1950-1966, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1968, p.185.

[xxxiii] Comer quoted in Pemberton, All the Way, p.86.

[xxxiv] Antony Balmain, “Australia’s Role in Irian Jaya Takeover Exposed”, The Age, 26 August 1999, p.14. Hugh Lunn, “How the West Was Lost”, Weekend Australian, 21-22 August 1999, p.29.

[xxxv] Department of External Affairs, Current Notes on International Affairs, Canberra, October 1963, p.18.

[xxxvi] J.A.C. Mackie, Konfrontasi: The Indonesia-Malaysia Dispute 1963-66, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1974.

[xxxvii]Quoted in Pemberton, All the Way, p.181.

[xxxviii] Cited in Richard Walsh and George Munster, Secrets of State: A Detailed Assessment Of the Book They Banned, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, p.3.

[xxxix] Stephen Fruhling (ed), A History of Australian Strategic Policy since 1945, Department of Defence, Canberra, 2009, pp.75, 133-35, 185.

[xl] John Roosa and Joseph Nevins, “The Mass Killings in Indonesia”,, 4 June 2012. Peter Scott, “The United States and the Overthrow of Sukarno, 1965-1967”, originally in Pacific Affairs, 58, Summer 1985, context=va&aid=1187.

[xli] Quoted in Armando Siahaan, “Historian Claims West Backed Post-Coup Mass Killings in ’65”, Jakarta Globe, 17 June 2009, news/historian-claims-West-backed-post-coup-mass-killings-in-65/312844.

[xlii] Kathy Kadane, “Ex-agents say CIA compiled death lists for Indonesians”, States News Service, 1990,

[xliii] WNET New York Public Media, history2.html.

[xliv] Quoted by Robert Manne in correspondence with Gerard Henderson, “Apologetics and Hypocrisy”, The Monthly, issue/2008/august/1299544936/robert-manne/apologetics-and-hypocrisy.

[xlv] Peter Edwards, A Nation at War: Australian Politics, Society and Diplomacy During the Vietnam War 1965-1975, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1977, p.63.

[xlvi] For detailed support for what is argued below see Lloyd Cox and Brendon O’Connor, “Australia, the US, and the Vietnam and Iraq Wars: ‘Hound Dog, not Lapdog’”, Australian Journal of Political Science, 47, 2, June 2012.

[xlvii] Homer Bigart’s joke, quoted in Seth Jacobs, Cold War Mandarin: Ngo Dinh Diem And the Origins of America’s War in Vietnam, Rowman and Littlefield, Baltimore, 2006, p.129.

[xlviii] Quoted in Rick Kuhn, “The Australian Left, Nationalism and the Vietnam War”,

[xlix] Holt quoted in Peter Howson (edited by Don Aitkin), The Howson Diaries. The Life of Politics, Viking Press, Ringwood, Victoria, 1984, p.223; Howson himself in Howson Diaries, p.141. Wilton quoted in Pemberton, All the Way, p.318.

[l] Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates, Reps, 1945, pp.1060-1. Howson Diaries, Viking, Melbourne, 1984, p.115. Pemberton, All the Way, p.313.

[li] For a concise and up to date summary of these issues, see Cox and O’Connor, “Australia, the US, and the Vietnam and Iraq Wars”.

[lii] Pemberton, All the Way, p.261.

[liii] Malcolm Booker, The Last Domino: Aspects of Australia’s Foreign Relations, Collins, Sydney, p.192. CPD4/1060.

[liv] Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates, Reps, 1945, pp.1060-1. Frank Frost, Australia’s War in Vietnam, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1987, p.20.

[lv] Quoted in Garry Woodard, Asian Alternatives: Australia’s Vietnam Decision and Lessons on Going to War, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 2004, p.251.

[lvi] Edwards, A Nation at War, p.35.

[lvii] “Troops Will Need Uncommon Virtue”, Weekend Australian, 18-19 September 1999. I grew up in the States believing just such claims about the US army.

[lviii] Quoted in Paul Ham, Vietnam, p.323.

[lix] Bob Gibson interviewed in Stuart Rintoul, Ashes of Vietnam: Australian Voices, Heinemann, Melbourne, 1987, p.1. See also interview with Zen Ben-Avi, p.165.

[lx] Paul Ham, Vietnam: The Australian War, HarperCollins, Sydney, 2007, p.254.

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