EDITORIAL EXCERPT: Lest we forget — that war is hell

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Gallipoli was hell on Earth (Image by Archives New Zealand [CC BY-SA 2.0 ] via Wikimedia Commons)

It is right that we pay our respects to the fallen on Anzac Day — but that doesn't mean we should forget about everything else, writes managing editor Dave Donovan.

IT IS right and proper for us to pay our respects on April 25 — Anzac Day.

The day marks the storming of the beaches and cliffs at Gallipoli — the start of a tragic and ill-fated campaign. A campaign thick with the blood of our countrymen. One that demonstrated their resilience, valour, bravery and ingenuity — traits we cherish as part of our national identity.

It is right and proper for us to pay our respects to our heroes on Anzac Day. To honour their sacrifice. To remember the fallen.

Like yours, no doubt, our family have our war stories; have ancestors who suffered and sacrificed – some who made the ultimate sacrifice − in the Great War and in others. None were at Gallipoli, as far as I know, but one of my grandfathers (as you may have read last year) was with the Light Horse at the Charge of Beersheba, and was a hero of another famous battle. He had to shoot his beloved horse before he could come home. My other grandfather was a gunner in Papua New Guinea. He served bravely and came home with malaria for his troubles. Other uncles and great-uncles served in many battles in many far flung lands. Some never returned.

It is right and proper for us to remember the stories of our ancestors and pay our respects to the fallen on Anzac Day.

As a little boy, every year on Anzac Day, my father would creep out of bed to listen to the exciting war stories of his father and uncles. It was the only day of the year his father would take a drink. Dad heard their tales of heroism and courage. He also heard their tales of pain and loss. Anzac Day was the only day of the year his father would speak about what happened on the battlefields of the Middle East. The only time he heard about what his Dad had experienced in the Great War. Could begin to understand the joys and horrors, feel the warmth of their camaraderie and catch a sense of their grief.

It is right and proper for us to remember the agony of war on Anzac Day — a day that should be properly marked with quiet contemplation and respect, but not celebration.

A time to remember the tragedy and futility of the war, not to glorify it. As I said, my Dad’s father never spoke about war, except on this one day of the year. I suspect, like others, the shock and trauma he had endured lived with him every day of his life and so, only on this one day, around people who felt the same, could the curtain be pulled back, briefly, once more.

I wonder what he and my other grandfather ‒ the one that suffered from malaria for the rest of his days ‒ would think about the Government spending $500 million on a new addition to the Australian War Memorial, after spending $100 million on a museum in France. Would they think it right to lavish money on the departed, while veterans with war injuries and PTSD receive sub-standard healthcare, and starve in hovels from paltry pensions. That the Liberal Party would spend half a billion dollars on a Memorial run by one of its former leaders. One who has allowed this place, whose ‘purpose is to commemorate the sacrifice of those Australians who have died in war', to be sponsored by arms manufacturers. One who has granted the dealers in death huge advertisements, both throughout the complex and at Canberra Airport. One who has turned this once solemn Memorial into a war-themed amusement park.

(Image screen shot of awm.gov.au/visit/discoveryzone)

It is right and proper for us to remember Anzac Day — and to also remember why we there at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915.

The First World War was a colonial war; a European war. Australia was not threatened; it had no need to squander and scar the cream of our male youth, apart from to further the objectives of the British Empire. The invasion of the Dardanelles was a damnable folly devised by First Lord of the Admirality Winston Churchill, who had no qualms about using colonial troops as machine gun fodder. It was a disaster, with Allied troops being fed through a Turkish meatgrinder and dying in trenches for months before finally the inevitable retreat.

The First World War was meant to be “the war to end all wars”, but really it was a war that never ended. When the victorious powers divided up the spoils, drawing lines on a map to split nations and clans asunder, and create completely new countries where ones never existed before, they set the scene for the Middle East chaos and carnage that continues to this very day. Continues because our nation, like other western powers, blindly supports a militaristic America, which that has wrapped itself tightly around the globe like a vast serpent, ready to strike any who might challenge its vast might. That profits on war through disaster capitalism via its titanic military industrial complex.

I wonder what my grandfathers would think about a Government that let all the car plants close, but then puts billions into this same war industry. Which wants to become one of the world’s top 10 exporters of bombs and guns, and other military hardware. Says it wants to do this because it is a growth industry — especially in the Middle East. The same Middle East of Gallipoli and Beersheba. The same Middle East we still send troops, planes and bombs to today, to aid the meddling of our latest colonial master.

I wonder what my grandfather would think of his country still sending our troops to the same place he fought 100 years ago. About it creating an industry to leech on humanity’s unquenchable thirst for blood and power.

This is only half the story! The full version of this editorial, originally published as part of the Independent Australia weekly subscribers' newsletter, may be read in the IA members only area. It takes less a minute to subscribe to IA and costs as little as $5 a month, or $50 a year — a tiny sum for quality journalism and many great extras!

IA subscribers can read the full editorial HERE.

Subscribe to Independent Australia HERE.

You can follow managing editor Dave Donovan on Twitter @davrosz. Follow Independent Australia on Twitter at @independentaus and on Facebook HERE.

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