The Guardian May 3, 2000

Commemoration of war

This year's ANZAC day commemorations are credited with being among the 
largest and most widespread. It is natural that families would wish to 
recall the memories of the tens of thousands who have been killed and 
wounded in the succession of wars in which Australian servicemen and women 
have been involved. This is the part that brings thousands onto the streets 
of cities and towns and attracts many tourists to visit Gallipoli and other 
former battle sites. Political leaders and the mass media, on the other 
hand, are clearly building up ANZAC day with another agenda in mind.

Australia has provided soldiers for the Boer war, World War I, for the wars 
of intervention in Russia following the Russian revolution of 1917, for 
World War II, the interventionist wars in Korea, Malaysia, Vietnam and 
Iraq. In the recent period Australian forces have participated in missions 
in East Timor and Bougainville.

The media and politicians present all these wars without any 
differentiation as to their cause or justification. The Boer war was about 
establishing British colonial domination over South Africa. It was a 
colonial war and there was nothing glorious about it.

World War I was an imperialist war between Germany on the one hand, and 
Britain, France and Czarist Russia and their respective allies, on the 
other. It was a war between the ruling classes of these countries and there 
was nothing in it for the soldiers of either side.

The landing on Turkish soil at Gallipoli was a part of this war and this 
particular landing was an unmitigated disaster. Did Australian nationhood 
really arise from this disaster? In the most puerile of all puerile 
speeches, John Howard at Gallipoli, claimed that this was where "our 
nation's spirit was born. He asserted that "We come to stand on soil rich 
with the lives of our kin, and vow that what they began we will finish. For 
they fought to build a nation ... It is certain that the soldiers 
attempting to struggle up the beaches of Gallipoli had no such thoughts in 
their heads.

WW2 was a just war against German and Italian fascism and Japanese 
militarism. The defeat of fascism led to new socialist revolutions in a 
number of countries and to the collapse of colonialism. It became a real 
people's war.

The wars in Korea, Malaysia and Vietnam, however, were all dirty wars that 
had the objective of imposing British (in Malaysia) and American (Korea and 
Vietnam) colonial domination. They were fought against the people of these 
countries who wanted nothing more than independence for their countries.

Some Australian forces were sent at the behest of the Americans to take 
part in the war in Iraq. Long after its objective was achieved and long 
forgotten, Australia remains an accomplice in one of the most disgraceful 
embargoes against the people of Iraq. It has already resulted in the deaths 
of hundreds of thousands of children because of a lack of food and 
medicines. But the Prime Minister who talked about "compassion at Gallipoli 
has no intention of extending compassion to the children of Iraq.

Air-Commodore John Kindler said in his ANZAC day address that "The greatest 
peace lovers are those who have suffered the horrors and barbarities of 
war. Maybe! But it does not stop the political leaders of this and other 
countries from boosting military spending to ever-higher levels. They, and 
some journalists, are already busy lining up the next war. Sydney 
Morning Herald (25/4/00) journalist David Lague, writes that "In the 
years since the Vietnam War it became unfashionable for Australia to have 
any meaningful military power. The fashion has changed.

He seems to have already picked our next "enemy and theatre of war. "China, 
he writes, "has taken delivery of Russian-built conventional submarines, 
surface ships and strike aircraft that dramatically boost its military 
firepower while India is also building up its military forces, including 
its navy.

So there we have it!

The White Paper on Defence that the Federal Government is busily preparing 
will undoubtedly announce boosted military expenditure over the coming 

The RSL can be assured that they will not lack for future members of their 
organisation if Howard and others have their way. For Australia's political 
leaders ANZAC day is a commemoration of war, not an occasion to announce 
peace policies.
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