‘Staring at the abyss, thank God for Alan‘, Sydney Morning Herald, 20 April 2013
The second part of the article is a meditation on Anzac Day, which the author feels has virtually become ‘Anzac Week’. ‘The remembrance of courage and mateship is good and right, but I fear, increasingly, that the flags and bands and florid speechifying serve to conceal the horrors of war from younger generations.’
The author quotes Wilfred Owen and continues:
I think of his poem when April 25 comes around and I hear some blowhard civic worthy blathering on about the “supreme sacrifice” or “the fallen” or “our glorious dead”. Most of them haven’t a clue what they are talking about. There is nothing glorious about death in war. I saw it as a correspondent in Vietnam and know that it is brutal and infinitely disgusting. The truth is hideous. It is to have your guts ripped out by shrapnel in No Man’s Land, or to slowly drown in a torpedoed warship, or to be burnt alive in a shot-down bomber or – in our own time – to be blown to pieces by a jungle booby-trap or an improvised explosive device on some road in Afghanistan. No glory in that.
And soldiers do not die with a patriotic slogan on their lips. My late father-in-law, who fought with the Black Watch at Monte Cassino in 1944 and later with the Australian Army in Malaya, always maintained that a man’s last words were most often a cry for the mother who bore him. No glory there either. Only unbearable sorrow.
There must be ways of telling our children all this, but I do not know what they are. I despair that our political leaders these days so willingly lie about their reasons for committing us to futile wars and attempt to justify the inevitable deaths with obscene banalities about “fulfilling the mission”. It is the ultimate betrayal.