by Rowan Cahill I found Anzac Day 2003 disturbing. The theme was "From Gallipoli to the Persian Gulf". From the Returned Services League (RSL) came the message that War is the price we pay for Peace. From Prime Minister John Howard we heard that the Anzac tradition is the most powerful force shaping Australian history. From the mouths of selected youngsters interviewed by the mass media came the nonsense that Australia's political freedom is due, historically, to Australia's battlefield prowess. In all of this there was no acknowledgement whatsoever that only during World War II was Australia's freedom ever threatened; no recognition that War should be the last resort, signalling the tragic failure of diplomacy and politics; no awareness that the impetus to establish Anzac Day began with the Christian Churches in Queensland in 1916, an expression of 'war theology', the widespread belief of non-Catholic clergy at the time that War gave the British Empire the God-given opportunity to spread the Christian Gospel to some dark heathen places. Anzac Remembrance 2003 was highly selective. So, for example, there was no reference to the tactical and strategic stupidity that Gallipoli represents; no reference to the abattoir slaughter of the Western Front in 1916; no reference to the way Robert Menzies lied to the Australian people and Parliament to manipulate Australia into the Vietnam War. Scant attention also to the fact that during the 20th century some 102,000 Australians died as the direct result of War. Part of the Anzac Myth is the proposition that Australia is a Peace-loving nation, that Peace is the preferred option of the Australian people, that as a nation, Australia only reluctantly goes to War. Sadly, and disturbingly, history suggests otherwise. Australia's military history begins with colonisation. The European occupation of the continent did not go unchallenged by the Aborigines. A state of war existed from Governor Phillip's time, right through the 19th century, as the invaders met with Aboriginal resistance. The defenders strategically employed guerilla type warfare against the superior military might of industrial Britain. Because this resistance was effective, and the enemy elusive, a bloody and vengeful military campaign was conducted in retaliation. There were punitive raids on camps, and terror was officially used to bring about Aboriginal submission. This protracted warfare resulted in the violent deaths of an estimated 20,000 Aborigines and 2000 Europeans. Before Federation in 1901, thousands of enthusiastic Australian volunteers participated in three imperialist military ventures overseas; against the New Zealand Maori tribes (the Maori Wars, 1863-72); against the Islamic rebellion in the Sudan (1885-86); against emerging Chinese nationalism (Boxer Rebellion, 1900-01). In each case the involvement was presented in adventurous, jingoistic terms, and the enemy portrayed as heathens devoid of human rights. This was a recipe for callous and criminal military behaviour. Australia's emergence as a nation was marked by the involvement of 16,175 troops in the Boer War (1899-1902) in South Africa, on behalf of British gold interests. It was a brutal war in which the British used scorched earth tactics and concentration camps to crush Boer resistance. Twelve years later Australia was at war again. The Great War (1914-18) realised the dream of those Federation polemicists who maintained that the nation should be born in the heat of battle and blood sacrifice. Out of the blood-fests of the Western Front, and the impossibilities of Gallipoli, the Anzac myth was crafted, telling of larrikin heroes, imbued with mateship and derring-do. Somewhere in this myth-making process the slaughter and senselessness of the War, so apparent to many participants, and to those who hoped it would be The War To End All War, was lost. Possibly deliberately so. In 1919 Australian troops were at it again, fighting the Red Army as part of the anti-Bolshevik North Russian Relief Force. Australians won two Victoria Crosses in this bloody and useless British initiative. The campaign aimed to advance British interests in the Baltic region and in Persia and, of course, to "strangle the Bolshevik baby in its bed" as Winston Churchill declared. The Force was withdrawn after British capitalists decided it would be better to develop trade links with the infant Soviet Russia. After an interlude of peace, conflict continued: World War II, the only time Australia was actually threatened with invasion; Korea; Malaya; Borneo; Vietnam; and more recently, Gulf Wars 1 and 2, with the "social worker with a gun" Timor Intervention sandwiched in between. Conspicuously missing from Anzac Day commentaries is reference to the use of the armed forces against trade unionists. This tradition reaches back to the Maritime Strike of 1890, finding fullness of expression with the Chifley (ALP) Government's use of troops as strike-breakers during the 1949 Coal Strike. Thereafter Coalition and Labor governments variously used the armed forces against trade unionists in 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1967, 1981, and 1989. The jury is still out on possible military involvement in the 1998 War on the Waterfront. The Vietnam War and conscription temporarily halted Australia's love affair with War. Since then, however, powerful forces including media organisations, the RSL, the Department of Veterans Affairs, Armed Forces and weapons industry lobbyists, have variously worked hard to blunt anti- war sentiment and encourage the martial spirit. Youth in particular have been targeted, and the fostering of the Anzac legend is central to the project. Dewy eyed celebration of Anzac Day 2003, politically heightened by the emotion of an ongoing war, coupled with the apparent electoral appeal of the repulsive 'war-leader' posturing of Prime Minister John Howard, suggest the martial spirit is alive and well in 21st century Australia, and probably will be for some time to come. I hope I am wrong.