Newton, Douglas: Whitlam, Keating, Anzac, and the drums of wars past

Douglas Newton

Whitlam, Keating, Anzac, and the drums of wars past‘, Pearls and Irritations, 13 May 2021 updated

Looks at attitudes of modern Australian prime ministers to our old wars and goes on to summarise the history of the Great War, with particular reference to the foiled attempts for a negotiated peace. The relevance to today is clear.

Over a hundred years later, our latest expeditionary deployment to Afghanistan is winding down, and another against China is being talked up, by drums-of-war peril-mongers. Straining credibility, nationalist conservatives now claim a special affinity with the original “Anzac spirit” – ferociously democratic, fiercely hostile to privilege, and fervently egalitarian, as might be expected in a force dominated by trade unionists. We must prepare to send such “warriors” again, we are told.

But the conservative view of Anzac is naïve. The fixed gaze is always upon battle. It turns its face away from purposes. It is a callous blind eye. The biggest questions of all should still gnaw at our consciences. What are the true purposes for which we deploy our mostly young working-class men and women – those with the least to defend? Should we not be supremely cautious in deployment, and steadfastly caring when the forces return?

Douglas Newton has recently published Private Ryan and the Lost Peace: A Defiant Soldier and the Struggle Against the Great War which will be reviewed on Honest History soon (here it is). He had a chapter in The Honest History Book (2017) and some of his other writing can be found on the Honest History site by using our Search engine with term ‘Newton’.

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