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Issue #1544      25 April 2012


Commemoration of war

In ANZAC Day week and with the announcement by the Gillard government of the pull-out of Australian troops from Afghanistan, The Guardian reprints the following editorial written by former CPA General Secretary, Comrade Peter Symon, in 2000.

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?

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.

Australian forces were sent at the behest of the Americans to take part in the war in 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 (25/4/2000) 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 RSL can be assured that they will not lack for future members of their organisation if the likes of the Prime Minister and others have their way. For Australia’s political leaders ANZAC day is a commemoration of war, not an occasion to announce peace policies.


Next article – NZ PM urged to raise human rights issues in West Papua

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