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Issue #1681      April 22, 2015


On war and peace

“The best war is the one that never has to be fought” – Sun Tzu, Chinese general.

As the 100th anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli approaches the glorification by the government of past conflicts and the preparations for the next continues unabated. Interestingly, certain important aspects of what is promoted as the making of Australia as a nation, remain unarticulated.

In Albury, southern NSW, this writer met a returned soldier who had had two tours in Afghanistan. The father of two small children, he had come home with post-traumatic stress disorder and was seeking support and compensation. But he wasn’t dealing with the Defence Department or any government agency; he was having to horse trade with AAMI.

The government has outsourced returned soldiers’ compensation claims to the big private insurance companies.

Since January 2000, according to the volunteer group Australian Veterans Suicide Register, 133 former ADF members have taken their own lives. The group says returned personnel now represent almost one in ten of homeless people on Melbourne’s streets. Every one of them suffer from mental illness.

Veteran Geoff Evans, who served two tours in Afghanistan, said, “People think things have changed since the Vietnam generation, but they haven’t. People have no idea this is going on.” He points out that 40,000 to 50,000 Australian troops have been through Iraq, Afghanistan and other conflict zones. There are an estimated 3,000 veterans living on the street on any given night, which he refers to as the tip of the iceberg.

At Narrabeen, on Sydney’s northern beaches, volunteers have converted retirement units into accommodation for former defence personnel and their families.

Mental health, suicide and alcoholism is playing out as it did in the Vietnam generation (1965-1972). Within two years of their returning home from that futile imperialist adventure, 2,000 had committed suicide.

So, the next time Tony Abbott evokes his “brave men and women of the Australian defence force” he should add “but if you come back damaged, we don’t want to know you.”

Because the agenda is for war and more war, the word “peace” is nowhere uttered. No one who has access to the loud discourse mentions it in relation to those who fought and died in what was a horror of slaughter at Gallipoli in 1915, part of the Dardanelles campaign which was in fact a world conflict carried out for the redistribution of markets by big capital.

The Turks in any case were not some long-despised enemy. In fact, Turkey posed no threat to Australia and the Australian soldiers returning from the fighting spoke highly of the behaviour of the “enemy”.

Also missing is any mention of the only just war of the 20th century, WW2, a conflict that had to be fought and won against German fascism and Japanese militarism. One gets the distinct impression that those promoting the planned coming conflagration believe the wrong side won that heroic struggle.

It was the last time the Australian military defended anything Australian in conflict. All the ensuing invasions and occupations – Malay, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq – were in service of big powers courtesy of successive subservient Australian governments.

Such is the class nature of war. The Communist poet and playwright Bertolt Brecht put it this way in “A mother to her son as he prepares to go off to war”:

Now as you go forth
To do your master’s
Bloody business,
Ahead of you
The enemy guns,
At your back
The officer’s pistol
Do not forget,
Their defeat is not yours,
And neither is their victory.

Next article – Austerity measures in Australia, Greece

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