‘Statement in commemoration of World War I‘, MAPW, 27 April 2015
The Medical Association for Prevention of War (Australia) commemorates World War 1, including the Gallipoli landings of 25 April 1915, with a deep sense of the futility of the suffering endured and human losses incurred in that four-year long human catastrophe.
We see a different narrative from that of military strategies, political grand schemes and the shallow notion that war is a noble venture. We see a narrative of the individuals whose lives were considered expendable, of the cruel deaths repeated millions of times over, the mutilated bodies that no doctor could mend, the minds forever tortured by the sights and sounds of battle, the families grieving as the dreaded message came, and of each individual story of loss reverberating decades later.
The real stories of the war were not seen in the parliamentary chambers and the halls of power, but in the cemeteries, hospitals, asylums, and behind closed doors as damaged men returned home. They are the stories seen only by loved ones and health professionals left caring for the shattered minds and bodies that would never heal.
“The war to end all wars” brought no glory. Military “victory” and military “defeat” blurred into one long saga of death and destruction. There were no real winners, apart from the merchants of death, many of whom supplied weapons to both sides as their profits soared. There was simply human wastage on a colossal scale, landscapes scarred with the remains of battle, and the setting for a greater conflagration to follow.
We recognise the very many diplomatic and other lost opportunities to bring to an end the senseless slaughter as it unfolded, including the gathering in April 1915 of over 1000 women in The Hague to urge measures for a lasting peace. We recognise the heroic figures on every side who refused to fight.
As our nation commemorates, let us see the real face, the human face, of war, and let us resolve to learn. We urge that peace be pursued with even greater commitment, resources and patience than those that we devote to war, and that collectively we develop our tools for making peace with greater determination than we develop tools for going to war.
In commemorating, we also urge attention and action on indiscriminate weaponry that kills civilians and combatants alike. Warfare’s barbarity plummeted to new depths in World War 1 with the use of chemical weapons. A century later, we are threatened by weapons with infinitely greater capacity to destroy, nuclear weapons. The use of a small percentage of them could end civilisation as we know it. Just as chemical weapons are banned by treaty, nuclear weapons must be banned and eliminated.
Let us resolve to never again forget our common humanity. There could be no more worthy form of commemoration.