Iraq War

This is the text of an email I received recently. It would be a great pity if this were universally true, and an even greater pity that people are not able to distinguish between those doing their job and those making the policy. Same old same old.

AUSTRALIAN soldiers returning home from Iraq are being taunted and shunned because of widespread opposition to the US-led war, according to veterans advocates.

Nearly 40 years after Vietnam War veterans returned to a vitriolic reception, some Iraq Diggers believe not much has changed — and even claim sections of the Returned and Services League are hostile towards them.
The Australian Peacekeeper and Peacemaker Veterans Association, which represents returned Iraq Diggers, said some had been publicly abused.
“A lot of them do feel a bit uneasy. It’s not a popular war,” association president Paul Copeland said.

“A lot of them are frustrated. They feel like they are second-class citizens.”
Mr Copeland said several Iraq veterans had committed suicide, partly because of the reception they had received at home, which had compounded existing mental problems.

He said people within the RSL were also culprits.

Vietnam veteran and Nollamara RSL branch secretary Arthur Ventham said it was shocking that some returning Iraq soldiers felt they were being treated like Vietnam veterans.

“They say, `we’re not treated very well because of the opposition to the war’,” he said.

“I’ve heard some RSL people saying, `it’s a war we should never have been involved in’. And I thought, `people were saying that when we went to Vietnam’.

Former SAS officer Peter Tinley, who was the leading tactical planner for Australia’s Special Forces contribution in Iraq, blamed widespread opposition to the war for the current severe lack of defence force recruits.

“I’ve talked to a lot of Year 11 and 12 boys and a lot of them can’t see why they should join the defence force and end up going to Iraq,” he said.
He was aware of Iraq veterans receiving abuse and being shunned within sections of the RSL.

WA RSL president Bill Gaynor said the organisation was fully supportive of the returning Iraq Diggers.

“It would be a minor pocket (in the community) that has probably got an axe to grind. It would be very, very isolated,” he said.

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