ANZAC opinion column

Published in the Cairns Post, Saturday 23 April 2011

“What would the ANZACS say and do about the war in Afghanistan?”

by Bryan Law

The author, assembling the ANZAC Eve lantern, as designed by Graeme Dunstan

This ANZAC Eve, on Easter Sunday 24 April 2011, there will be a lantern-lit ANZAC Peace Vigil starting 6.00 pm on the Esplanade – at the Cenotaph.

My father John Law saw service in New Guinea during WW2, and was part of the occupying force in Japan in 1945/6.  My maternal grandfather Joseph Tate saw service in WW1.  When I was growing up ANZAC Day was firstly a solemn commemoration of sacrifice, which then morphed into a day where surviving veterans played up (with or without permission).

ANZAC Day has changed since I was a kid.  The world has changed.  War has changed.  Not always for the better.  In recent years I’m increasingly concerned about the way politicians are using ANZAC Day to support the several wars we’re fighting right now.  Several more wars are likely to start tomorrow.

The wars of my father and grandfather were “exceptional”.  A failure of diplomacy betrayed us into a massive military industrial folly. We destroyed whole economies  and  chewed up two generations of fighting men.  Winners and losers suffered alike.  The “war to end all wars” had been fought.

Some Cold/proxy war glorifyers at the Mareeba Cenotaph last week.

Then we had the “Cold War”, and the scores of proxy wars fought around the third world.  Misadventures by the USA (Vietnam) and the Soviet Union (Afghanistan) proved the futility of fighting guerrillas with our own troops over foreign borders.  Now we settle for “maintaining security” overseas.  The largest contingent of armed personnel in Afghanistan today are mercenaries.

War today inflicts few casualties on western soldiers, and is easily accommodated by our domestic economy.  It is with us all the time in foreign policy.  Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd was a prominent urger for the current bombing of Tripoli.

In Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and now Libya, “the west” enjoys such an economic and technological superiority that our fighting troops are most often NOT at any significant risk.  Predator drone operators are most commonly working from Creech Air Force Bases in Nevada.  Civilians are regularly killed by drone attack.  The operators commute back home for a hot meal.

Unlike my Father’s and Grandfather’s wars, most casualties in wars today  are civilian.  Children.  Women.  Men. Civilians are dying as you read this.  On 1st March this year, in Afghanistan, nine boys aged between 7 and 13 years old were killed by Apache gunship while collecting firewood.

But the war in Afghanistan is far away. We don’t see.  Most of us don’t want to see.

How would you feel if you were this man?

ANZAC Day is a great opportunity to ask ourselves:

“What would the ANZACs say about the wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Libya”?  Those brave Australians and New Zealanders who struggled and shone and died over four years during WW1 – what would they say about the nine years spent so far in Afghanistan?

Didn’t most of them urge upon us the pledge to “never again” commit the folly of war!  Would they like to see their names used to justify today’s war in Afghanistan?

I know what my father thought.  He never fully recovered from the horror of his war.  (Today, four times as many Australian troops will die from suicide as the result of post traumatic stress disorder than will die on the battlefield).  My father wanted recognition for our Aboriginal people in the frontier wars… and he wanted peace.

In 2010 Cairns Peace by Peace joined forces with a national network of Christian, Quaker and Buddhist nonviolence groups to initiate a new event into ANZAC Eve that commemorates ALL the victims of War.  We hope to contribute through ANZAC Day towards the creation of a peaceful, just world – a world without war.

The Gospel passage at the centre of our vigil is John 15:12-14

This is my commandment, that ye love one another, even as I have loved you.

Greater love hath no man than this,  that a man lay down his life for his friends.

Ye are my friends, if ye do the things which I command you”.

2011 is the inaugural event in Australia, with the central focus being on events in Canberra.  http://www.peacebus.com/Anzac/LanternVigilBlog2011.html

Peace by Peace extends a warm invitation to all citizens and residents of the Cairns region to attend the inaugural ANZAC Eve Peace Vigil at the Cenotaph at 6.00 pm Easter Sunday, 24 April 2011.

4 comments

  1. Gill Burrows says:

    Great article and very timely Bryan, well done and thanks for sharing it. Every best wish for a beautiful and deeply moving lantern vigil tomorrow night. I will be thinking of you and the Canberra vigil too and focusing my thoughts on your quote from John’s gospel: “This is my commandment, that ye love one another, even as I have loved you….and the hope to “never again” commit the folly of war!
    With fond memories of our gathering for 2010 Anzac Day.
    Easter blessings of love and peace
    Gill x

  2. Hi,Brian. Just last week when I was handing out leaflets for GDAMS in King George Square, I asked a young woman what I would have to do to get the attention of passers-by. She said,”I guess you’d have to take your clothes off. Young folk are only interested in getting and spending money these days.”!!! Thank you for being willing to “take your clothes off”!!. In Peace

  3. Wendy Richardson says:

    Thank you Bryan your your thought-provoking piece on peace. I hope people stop and consider what you have had to say.

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