Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Lest we Forget- No More Wars

ANZAC Day (among other things) celebrates the Australian/NZ invasion of Turkey

4 May 2005

Dave Riley

With the increasingly strident nationalism that greets ANZAC Day each year, it is easy to forget what the ANZAC tradition celebates. In almost nine months of entrenched fighting on Turkey’s Gallipoli peninsula, Australian and New Zealand casualties reached 8587 killed in action and 19,367 wounded in the line of duty. Those Turks were defending their homeland from invasion.

Where so many died invading we now call “sacred ground”.

When the British Empire (which included the ANZACs) and French forces finally withdrew from the Gallipoli peninsula, they had suffered 44,000 deaths. At least 85,000 Turkish soldiers died during the campaign.

That was in 1915. The same year, ANZAC forces suffered massive losses of 28,000 killed or wounded during the first seven weeks of the Battle of the Somme. So it comes as no surprise that during the following year Australians rejected conscription at a federal referendum — with troops in the front line trenches strongly voting “No” . Another referendum the following year rejected conscription by an even larger margin.

So I am a proud Aussie, not because this country has a penchant to celebrate the slaughter of those who we sent to invade or defeat, or the deaths of those this country sent to do such deeds. I am a proud Aussie because, in the face of such slaughter, a massive campaign was organised in this country against strengthening that war through conscription — and it won!

You have to see past the jingoistic bullshit on Anzac Day. You can’t afford to forget, that’s true, all those who died. But for whom did they die? Not for me.

If conscription had prevailed many more would have died. That’s really what’s worth celebrating.

Lest we forget.

From Joe Hendren's blog

Today is the 30th anniversary of an action taken by four Wellingtonians on Anzac Day 1967, where they attempted to lay a wreath "To the dead and dying on both sides in Vietnam. Why must their blood pay the price of our mistakes?"

They were prevented from placing the wreath at the Cenotaph like other citizens. Despite one Returned Services Association (RSA) representative indicating they could lay it later (which they did), on doing so university lecturer Christopher Wainwright and student Christopher Butler were arrested by the police for disorderly behaviour and resisting the police. A judge later quashed the later charge, but upheld the other charge because they had presented "a point of view, however sincerely held, which they knew would be annoying to some and offensive to many". So much for free speech.

In 1970 the Christchurch Progressive Youth Movement (PYM) made a wreath from the poster of the My Lai massacre with the words "To the victims of Fascism in Vietnam". The Mayor of Christchurch at the time, Ron Guthrey, tore the wreath from the memorial and threw it away. It was put back later, only to be removed by the police. A Hamilton veteran of the Korean war turned his medals into Guthrey as a protest against the betrayal of the values for which he had fought.

A later Mayor of Christchurch, Neville Pickering, refused to attend the 1972 service as he believed the attempts the RSA to control the service, such as placing a cordon between the memorial and the crowd and vetting all inscriptions meant the ceremony was no longer a citizens service. The PYM attempted to place their wreath for the third successive year, only to have it thrown down, stamped on and utterly destroyed by the mob.

Mayor Pickering said "I can fully understand the sensitivity of former servicemen who watched their comrades being killed. But the older generation should show greater restraint and tolerance".

- Material sourced from Elsie Locke's excellent book 'Peace People'

posted by Joe Hendren

No comments: