Update 30 August 2016: Mick Cook (The Dead Prussian Podcast) talked to Sharon Mascall-Dare about Indigenous and non-Anglo Celtic Anzacs. Thirty minutes but no transcript.
Update 27 May 2016: we found this one much later, paragraphs lurking at the beginning of a piece by Nicolas Stuart about universities:
Anzac Day is an example of what happens when an institution becomes untouchable. It’s only appropriate for a glowing halo to surround the sacrifice of individual service people. The problem occurs when others grasp at this and drape it over their own shortcomings. Justified criticism of political failure is stifled and obvious military deficiencies are ignored.
By swathing themselves with the glowing halo of others, our political and military leaders hope to excuse their own bungling and unconscionable actions that led to war in the first place.
And the defeats. In the past 50 years Australia’s been involved in three wars – Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. All have been utter, tragic failures. Our biggest peacemaking operation – East Timor – was immediately followed up by spying on the fragile island’s government, as we did exactly what Beijing’s currently doing in the South China Sea; bullying smaller states to grab a greater share of underwater resources than the mid-point line represents.
Examine reality, rather than myth and it becomes obvious why politicians, particularly, don’t want you to examine the sordid, dirty truth. By allowing anyone to wrap themselves in the flag and draping the nobility of others over their failure, we enable such distortion. The noble sacrifice of those who died is perverted if anyone is encouraged to cloak themselves in nobleness while keeping base motives hidden.
Update 27 April 2016: We found these in the media of 26 and 27 April and thought they were worth passing on. They are notable because they tend to get beyond tropes about khaki heroes of the Great War.
- The usually excellent Michael Brull wrote in New Matilda about the difficulties of Anzac dissenters having their voices heard. Honest History thought he overstated the case – perhaps because he relied on dated sources – and we have offered to set him straight.
- David Donovan in Independent Australia called for Anzac Day to be rededicated as a day of peace and the tendency to make it a festival curbed.
Just one Anzac Day [Donovan said], I would like to see one of our leaders give a speech promising that no longer would people like him or her sacrifice our young in needless, futile, foreign adventures. To apologise for the mistakes of the past and promise never to allow them to happen again. To make our Defence Forces about defence and not about attack. To swear they will not put our sons and daughters in danger again, just so Australia can play at being a loyal Deputy Dawg in someone else’s aggressive strategic plans.
- Of course, there is always Quadrant and, donning the mantle of Mervyn Bendle, there is LT COL Alistair Pope (Ret’d) who has a long, passionate article about ‘the implacable assault on ANZAC’ (Colonel Pope insists on the capital letters) by the usual suspects, a cabal of leftie pinkoes. The article is an edited version of a speech to the Geelong Branch of the Royal United Services Institute. Pity not to have the full rant.
- Lowering the temperature somewhat, we move on to Tessa Fox in New Matilda, writing about the family-wide effects of PTSD. She notes that it took a decade after Australia’s Vietnam commitment ended for effective counselling services to be set up for veterans and their families, a detail which should be remembered as we enter the period of commemoration of that war and hear generalised remarks from politicians about how Australians treated returning soldiers. The clearest evidence relates to the inaction of government bodies and the insensitivity of some RSL branches.
- Over at The Conversation, Brad West writes about how tourism to Vietnam is transforming the view Australians have of that country. ‘Western tourists travelling to Vietnam today for the first time also express their surprise at how welcoming locals are and at their lack of antagonism in relation to the war. This is similar to Gallipoli in the 1990s.’ West goes on to say why this is so.
- Across the Tasman in Aotearoa New Zealand, residents of Wellington woke to a sculpture of Great War conscientious objector, Archie Baxter, tied to a flagpole, as the man was for 28 days for refusing to fight. Peace Action Wellington used the statue to make some powerful points about the futility of war and the ill-treatment of dissenters.
- In New Zealand, too, the anniversary of the Armenian Genocide was remembered in an article in the New Zealand Herald, which mentioned the work done by Australian and New Zealand soldiers to help victims.
- Back in Australia, Vicken Babkenian, co-author with Peter Stanley, Honest History president, of a recent book on Australians and the Armenian Genocide, spoke with Phillip Adams on Late Night Live about the events of 1915 and later. More on the Genocide. Sydney commemoration of the Genocide, including speech by Peter Stanley.
- Also on the ABC, Peter Stanley had a long conversation with Trevor Chappell about aspects of Anzac commemoration.
- In the Canberra Times, Ian Warden drew attention to a new comic about a nurse in World War I while Janet Scarfe in The Conversation wrote about nurses in World War II.
- Finally, because the prime minister used Anzac Week to make an announcement about building new submarines, we thought it was a good time to link to the famous Goon Show broadcast of 60 years ago, The Giant Bombardon, which is also about defence purchasing. It was, indeed, about ‘a mighty cannon designed to win the Crimean War’. Those not familiar with the Goons’ humour may find the show incomprehensible – it is, remember, about buying or building defence equipment – so we have linked to a script also.
- Update 28 April 2016: on the subject of submarines, like chariots in the middle ages and cavalry in World War I and bayonets in every war for the last century and a half, the submarines may well be outdated before they are built.
The Goons (Spike Milligan, Harry Secombe, Peter Sellers) (BBC)
Anzac Day 2016 probably produced the usual number of MSM ‘patriotic’ supplements. We didn’t go looking for them. It certainly delivered the standard ‘tens of thousands turned out’ stories though, if you read a bit further, you found the numbers were way down in a number of centres. (Sharon Mascall-Dare has written about tendencies in Anzac Day reporting: the gig often goes to the young and green, who look at ‘what we said last time’.)
Of more note, however, were these:
- sacked SBS journalist, Scott McIntyre, tweeting much the same things as he did last year but this time with impeccable evidence, though some commenters still wanted to ignore it all;
- historian Ross McMullin lamenting the failure of the Australian War Memorial to show any – that’s it, none at all – of the works of Will Dyson, whom McMullin calls our ‘finest war artist’;
- Guardian Australia‘s Paul Daley writing about ‘our penchant for selective historical memory’ (overseas wars in, Frontier Wars out; wartime jingoism in, division out) and getting more than 500 comments;
- New Matilda‘s Chris Graham agreeing that we owe a great debt to Australians who went to war but a greater one to Australians whose country was taken from them;
- Jeff Sparrow in Guardian Australia on a nasty incident of anti-German wartime bastardry at the University of Melbourne;
- John Bale of Soldier On interviewed on the ABC (and in The Australian, including Honest History commemoration spend figures) about the lack of connection many of today’s veterans feel with Anzac hoopla, especially if they are suffering from PTSD or are homeless; and
- on the ABC also, a story on soldier suicides.
The final word goes to John Bale:
I mean there are so many memorials in this country already. We have the Australian War Memorial, we have the cenotaphs. If you go to pretty much any small town in Australia there is a commemoration facility that you can go to and look at the people that fought in that town … I think what that money [the $500 million plus going on commemoration during the centenary] should have been spent on is supporting this generation of veterans. As I said, we have so many veterans that have come back from other wars that weren’t supported well enough. We should learn from those lessons and make sure that huge amount could go into supporting them.
25 April 2016