April 25 is our national day of commemoration for all those that have served in our armed forces - ANZAC Day. ANZAC being the acronym for the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps and the date being a reference to the day in 1915 when our troops landed on Turkey's Gallipoli Peninsula.
On April 25 we honour the soldiers and their families who have been affected by their service in war or peacekeeping efforts (except our Indigenous peoples during the British invasion, but that's a tangent for another day). We may choose to do this by attending services at dawn, watching ANZAC parades that operate down almost every town and city main street or by wearing a red poppy. It is said that during the First World War, red poppies were among the first things to grow in the devastated battlefields of France and Belgium.
The respect shown to the diggers and their families on ANZAC day is fantastic. My Dad is one of the unlucky sods who's birth date was pulled out of a hat in the late 1960's and won a trip to Vietnam in 1968. The acknowledgement and respect he receives on that day, after almost 50 years of suffering its psychological fallout, is priceless. When he returned home in 1969, he was simply expected to forget about his tour and get on with life.
Those scars don't heal.
So, it's tricky to word a post about the negative aspects of ANZAC Day without looking like an ungrateful prick; an accusation easily thrown at those who are quite happy about the acknowledgement aspect, but not so thrilled about the media, retailers and the major sporting bodies celebrating the financial benefits that inevitably go hand in hand with 'remembering'.
Then, of course, there are the politicians.
I think you'd be hard pressed to find a sane person who doesn't think war is shit. Despite it being shit, a lot of people also view it as sometimes being necessary. In my experience, that viewpoint is typically a prelude to vague and tenuous reasons as to why the war is justified and why our country had to be involved.
So, what are the reasons we, as a country, should participate in armed conflict?
- to help out a country that's been invaded;
- in an effort to stop a lunatic from slaughtering lots of people;
- because one of your allies says that you should;
- to prevent an apparent lunatic from developing nuclear weapons, the same weapons that you or your allies have shitloads of;
- to stop communism;
- to stop terrorism;
- to provide the wonders of democracy to countries that don't currently enjoy it;
- because you're an elected politician and your popularity will improve;
- to prevent all the helicopters, jets, ships, subs, tanks and soldiers, that you've spent billions on, sitting idle.
- because the UK and/or US asked us to; or
- we volunteered to, so that we were seen to be supportive of the so-called democratic West.
I'm not saying there will never be a good reason to participate in war, I'm trying to point out that the decision to do so is inherently clouded by the fact that the people elected to make that decision are corrupt liars with more than one agenda, which is further complicated by the corrupt liars in the mainstream media.
How on earth are the average people meant to commit to an act of war when they are being fed blatant lies by scumbags who don't have any skin in the game? The scumbags are not the ones who have to don a helmet and risk their lives. They're not the ones who are left physically and psychologically damaged for life. They're the ones who benefit from death and destruction and then gather 'round on days like ANZAC day and piously lay wreaths as if they had nothing to do with the deaths of all those people, both in our country and the countries we effectively trespassed on.
As Paul Hogan once said (or the writer of a certain TV show in the 80s) - the politicians belong in B Company. They'll B here when the troops leave and B here when some of them come back.
Our schools teach kids about how many lives were lost in war, where they were lost and selected tales of bravery, but the reasons for joining the war are usually fairly light on for details.
Why did we join the Vietnam War? The official line is that "Australian support for South Vietnam in the early 1960s was in keeping with the policies of other nations, particularly the United States, to stem the spread of communism in Europe and Asia".
That's it. Because communism.
Which sounds very familiar to recent wars that are fought because terrorism. Because we don't like the ruler of another country or we don't think they should have the same weapons that we do. Don't we, especially our soldiers, deserve a better reason than that?
I don't know why it is any of our business what social system another country rules by. Why does it matter for some countries and not others? Why can the US Government continue to do whatever they want, international law be damned?
US exceptionalism is maddening; it's like the world is one big school yard and they're the over-grown bully. The Australian Government is the skinny weakling, hanging on to his back pocket, taunting the other unpopular kids who, one day, might decide to throw their considerable weight around. We're really that confident that the bully will help us out, if it does come to that.
I have so many questions and the only answers that make any sense to me, get so little exposure.
I'll continue to have mixed feelings about ANZAC Day. I'm grateful that my Dad came back from war in one piece and I'm proud of his strength to battle through life with mental scars he didn't deserve to receive. But until the day comes, when after the last post is sounded and the soldiers are acknowledged, we take a minute to remember the clowns who sent them all off to war...I'm not sure I'll be able to wholeheartedly get into the spirit of the day.
Maybe that makes me shallow and spiteful. I can't help it...it shits me that so many people are forgetting to ask some very important questions.
Why? And who decided why?