Australia. Tuesday, 3am
Oh, it’s that time of year again.
Hey everybody, it’s war month!
Watch it on telly; hear it on the radio; buy the special cup; put a flag on your car (or is that Australia Day? Doesn’t matter, just leave it on!).
100 years years ago, the Australian spirit was born on a beach in Turkey. The Aussie spirit of bravery, mateship and a fair-go were forged in the mighty furnace of war. As we know, these are uniquely Australian qualities that make this country truly great.
100 years ago, after 50,000 years of peaceful relations with our neighbouring countries, Australia began fighting in other countries at the behest of whoever was our current master. You point; we kill. Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan. We are guns for hire – and you don’t even need to pay us.
100 years ago, on April 25, the British dumped Australian and New Zealand boys on a beach in a foreign country and said, ‘Go get ’em, lads!’ And we did. Sort of.
By the end of that year, nearly 9,000 Australians and 3,000 Kiwis had been killed at Gallipoli. Eighty thousand Turks died too. Sure, they won and successfully defended their country. But they didn’t have mateship and a sense of fair-go, did they? They didn’t birth a national identity, did they?
Enough joking. I really find a lot of the Gallipoli stuff going around at this time of year degrading to the memory of the awful reality, and to the people involved.
There was pointless suffering and wasted lives – on both sides. That makes it a sad blight on humanity’s record, not a celebration of nationhood. Gallipoli 100 years on is a solemn reminder of the madness of war, not a patriotic call to arms.
Gallipoli was a tragic farce. Young blokes died because of the folly of older blokes. Patriotism was manipulated to serve the interests of warring, but related, European families.
Gallipoli is still used to serve current political agendas. Politicians on both sides see the centenary as ripe for exploitation.
100 years ago, on April 24, a day before young Anzacs and Turks were chucked into the Gallipoli nightmare, the Turkish government began rounding up resident Armenian intellectuals. They hung them in the streets. For the duration of the war and beyond, the slaughter of Armenians continued, sending thousands on death marches to the Syrian desert. Over a million were murdered.
For Turkey, the Gallipoli centenary is a convenient smokescreen to an inconvenient reality.
For Australia too, Gallipoli is a convenient smokescreen behind which shadowy forces move. Patriotism was, and is, a tool to manipulate the gullible; to trick them into accepting the unacceptable.
This week, the war against ISIS was described by the Australian prime minister as ‘vital to the security and freedom of Australia’. Turning the Gallipoli message on its head, fear and nationalism is being used to justify Australia’s once again being involved in a war that will result in even more death, and even more restrictions on citizens’ rights. (Who was surprised when, just prior to the Gallipoli commemorations, an Australian ‘terrorist cell’ was uncovered? Not me.)
The really important issues, like climate change and resource protection, are lost in the smoke and mirrors of national security. The government is running scared on these matters.
Just when we should be contemplating the human calamity that is war, I see salespeople and politicians riding the Gallipoli bandwagon. They cheapen it with trite slogans, and whitewash the horror with a shiny coat of nationalism. Which just goes to show:
If you’re a nation, ideology or corporation, war can be quite useful.
But if you’re human, war is a tragedy.
Let’s not forget that.