In Australia, the war remembrance day is April 25, Anzac Day. It has to do with a World War I battle in Turkey in 1915, where losses were huge.
The commemoration always knocks me for a loop, I guess because it reaches that part of the brain where solemnity resides. Maybe we even have a mental faculty devoted to respect for the dead, or to love of our warriors.
At today’s dawn service we were given a handout that quoted Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, in 1934: “You mothers who sent sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.” How unusual!
Its counterpart is the very moving nationalistic poem, “The Soldier,” by Rupert Brooke (1887-1915). “If I should die, think only this of me: That there’s some corner of a foreign field that is forever England….”
When boys die in battle today, do they feel they are saving their nation? Is that possible, when a war is as non-nation-based as the so-called “war on terror”? Are they supposed to feel they are fighting for an ideal? Or is it for globalism?
One of our memorial plaques in Oz, referring to the Great War, says of the Anzac men (i.e., Australia and New Zealand Army Corps), “Their sacrifice was our salvation.”
I think that is incorrect, and that ‘the real history’ of the First World War will show all nations to have been duped, by a few war-makers who planned the whole affair clandestinely. Not our ‘salvation,’ but the opposite.
I’ve recently said that a bit more emphatically in an article linked below, entitled “Gallipoli -- A Hundred Years Is Enough.”
I am a dual citizen of US and Australia. I wish there would be a new national debate in the US on war, as was common in the past. It used to include clergypersons, historians, mayors, and Moms. Nobody was labeled a terrorist for raising the war issue.
Dear Americans, I know it is hard for you to even mention that there may be something wrong with “sending your sons over there,” as it goes against then natural tendency to support whatever seems to be the nation’s policy. But isn’t it your duty to help make that policy?
Here, let me give you a couple of quotes that are very mild indeed, but made by non-Americans, i.e. Australians, so you needn’t switch off listening for fear of disloyalty.
The local public broadcaster, ABC, asked the question “Was Australia’s role in the [recent] Afghanistan war worth the cost?” These two replies are from ‘Digger’ Leon Gray (Digger being the term for an Aussie soldier) and officer John Blaxland. First, Gray:
“Working with the Afghan army and especially the Afghan police is very, very difficult at the best of times. I'm taking a broad brush here but a lot of them were very difficult to motivate and there was a lot of corruption.
Has it been worth it? In my opinion if we'd pulled out three or four years ago, yes. Now I don’t think so.
Everyone knows it’s going to go back to exactly how it was before we went there in the first place.
So what do you say to that? [I’m] not playing down our contribution and I know every man and woman I served with is immensely proud of the contribution they made ... but on a strategic level, maybe not.”
And now Dr John Blaxland, who was the chief intelligence staff officer at Australia’s Joint Operations Command for some years during the conflict:
“In 2001 it seemed like it was worth it. In 2002 it still seemed like it was worth it. In 2005 it still seemed like it was worth it, but year in year out, it's worn us down.
Unfortunately we haven’t been very good at creating an alternate society in our image the way we'd hoped. What we've got in Afghanistan is a country that is not wanting to conform to a Western mould. Our efforts to squeeze them into that mould has failed.
I think there was ... certainly a lack of deep forethought about what was going to happen next and how we were going to deal with it….”
-- Both replies published December 13, 2013, at abc.net.au.
Yanks, I think your ‘debate’ also needs to include the insights of poets. Check this work by a Brit, born 1895, who only made it to his 20th birthday:
by Charles Hamilton Sorley
You are blind like us. Your hurt no man designed,
And no man claimed the conquest of your land.
But gropers both through fields of thought confined
We stumble and we do not understand.
You only saw your future bigly planned,
And we, the tapering paths of our own mind,
And in each other's dearest ways we stand,
And hiss and hate. And the blind fight the blind….
Come on, Fightin’ men, it is OK for you to think these thoughts, and express them openly and not wait till you are in the trenches! I realize it oughtn’t to be your responsibility to say if the US should or should not be in the Middle East; that’s the job of Congresspersons (who get a base pay of $174k, pa, for working hard on these things). But you can contribute your thoughts and experiences.
Citizens, too, can watch many videos on Youtube, in which soldiers report what they encountered in the field, such as a 6-minute one, “Soldiers Talk about What They Saw and Did in Iraq.” All teenagers should be watching these videos – they’ll get a fast education on life.
And, on Youtube, you can see General Wesley Clark quoting (from a 2002 Pentagon memo) that the US would flagrantly embark on the destruction of 7 countries. The first 6 have now been taken care of – Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan and [We will] “finish off with Iran.”
All that destruction without a statement as to why! Much less any reference to Article I, Section 8, Clause 11, of the Constitution, so carefully arranged by our Founding Fathers.
For today’s anniversary of Gallipoli, here is a wonderfully in-your-face song about the sad feelings of one Digger, composed by Scot-Australian Eric Bogle. After you hear it, you’ll think There’s not really much more to say, is there?