Not honouring war but the dead

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We were told to ‘stand at dawn’, and ‘to remember them’. We are told they died for our freedom. They made the ‘ultimate sacrifice’, for ‘King and Country’. In reality, from communities across our country, our sons, brothers, fathers and uncles were rounded up like sheep and exported to fight foreign wars. So today, ANZAC Day, throughout our communities again, people parade and march in an ode to war, a tribute to nationalistic, militaristic and patriotic ideals and those who died in leaders’ pursuit of them. I will remember them but I will not honour war.

Through our own ANZAC Day, war, and war death are made heroic and glorified. It makes it easier to accept that our people were killed in brutal conditions, far from home for questionable goals and strategy. We should remember them- the millions killed in active ‘duty’, those conscripted, those incarcerated or killed for refusing to serve. The men, women, children, and animals conned, coerced, corrupted and killed. The cities destroyed, the barbarism and horrors of war. And I do remember them – I respect them, but I won’t glorify war.

We learned lessons though didn’t we. Flag-draped coffins returning home are bad for domestic politics in the modern era. But being in the military is dangerous, not just because of enemy fire. In the New Zealand, Australia and the US armed forces, high suicide rates mean many more military personnel die from their own hands than even are killed in active combat.

For citizens, the period of ‘long peace’ after the Second World War has given way to ‘the new peace’. – A time without major military conflict between dominant nations, arguably because of nuclear deterrence, global economic co-operation, democratisation, the reduction of poverty, empowerment of women, human rights doctrines, education and quality of life changes as well as the unacceptability of wars of aggression.

But wars have become both more precise and also less discerning. It’s no longer acceptable or necessary for most western nations to send their men and women physically to war. In our time, our men aren’t dying in their thousands on foreign battlefields – which were just – fields, not too long prior. No muddy, bloody, trench warfare needed here. Sophisticated military technology has sanitised the act of killing. You don’t need to get too close to your target as drone strikes and American sniper type methodology show.

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We are privileged in time and place to stand distant from war. Our women and children aren’t being bombed out of, or shot in their homes.  But Operation Burnham exposed by Nicky Hager and John Stephenson show that innocent people are still – at least fairly recently, at risk of being killed in remote lands by New Zealand soldiers with guns. Let’s hope that particular era is at an end?

Let’s not forget the millions of refugees and displaced persons, the Palestinians, Syrians, and Yemenis, for whom war is not some distant legend, but a reality. We need to ensure that our own country and companies are not complicit in supporting wars, militarisation, oppression and aggression by other means; whether it’s through trade, supply or maintenance contracts, militarised space payloads launched from Mahia, through the Five Eyes Alliance, or active duty. No, not on Anzac Day nor on any day, will I accept war.

World War One British poet Wilfred Owen enlisted in the military and despite or maybe because of, shell shock and injury, he returned to the front line where he was killed a week before Armistice. The absurdity of his life and death, and of all victims of war, complete the story. It’s a lie – dulce et decorum est, pro patria mori.

19 COMMENTS

  1. Yeah, I will not have war, i will not stand by the values and culture of my heritage, I will not fight to retain the freedom and democracy of Aotearoa, I am happy for President Xi and President Putin to walk right on into NZ and take over!!! Happy days.

    Dumb asses…

    • Behonest: “….I am happy for President Xi and President Putin to walk right on into NZ and take over!!!”

      You know that this is nonsense, right? This notion results from US and UK propaganda. I advise you to ignore it.

  2. When I was young and told my ex-machine gunner father that I was a pacifist. ” He said ‘good – just remember that you are allowed to be a living pacifist because men fought and died for your right to be one.’
    (I understand pacifists in Nazi Germany were beheaded by guillotine).
    Something I have often pondered.

  3. I don’t think you can do that in NZ on ANZAC Day, well no, just flat out no you can’t do that here. You might be able to do something along those lines in say, Vietnam, if your family were Vietcong or similar.

  4. Let’s not forget the millions of Israelis facing Palestinian terror every day, still battling antisemitism and threats of annihilation after losing 6 million in the Holocaust. The author is lucky she’s not speaking Japanese or German. Typical leftist twaddle.

    • What’s wrong with speaking German or Japanese? After all, we, and they are all on the same side now. Capitalism triumphs. But of course, today’s bad guys were yesterday’s good guys – Russia, China, – should we go out and kill them now too?

  5. So true. Thank you. And thank you for including Wilfred Owen’s poem. Here is another https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/47395/strange-meeting
    Yesterday I was thinking about Laurence Binyon’s famous verse: ‘They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old; age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. . .’ It was published in ‘The Times’ on 21 September 1914, only a month after World War 1 began. I thought of wasted young lives of people would never have the chance to grow old. I thought that age might weary us physically, but they never had a chance to find happiness, or wisdom, or have families and friends and satisfying work, or the challenges of age. I thought that the years do not condemn us all, we condemn ourselves for giving up, and they never had a chance to discover who they were, as the living do. So I came to the surface of that, thinking how much sentimental lazy mush we let ourselves off with, every year and a few sad tears until the next ‘commemoration’. The Last Post is the saddest song I know.

    Also, at most services yesterday, people would have spoken of the ultimate or the final sacrifice those who died in wars had made. In all the paintings and photos – except for groups of leaders, all were so young; they were boys. The young didn’t make that final sacrifice, they never do. They were the sacrifice. Adult military leaders and politicians used their youth, strength and courage to make it. For whatever Freedom meant? And afterwards? Everywhere, boundless and bare, the lone and level sands stretched far away.

  6. ” Lest we forget…” More like ” Lest we remember.”
    In my learned opinion the very best way we can assure that no more wars are scripted by the military industrial complex then fought and the current conflicts that plague the common sense mind in these modern, and one would enduringly hope enlightened times, is to manufacture Methylenedioxymethamphetamine in such quantities that it’d be impossible not to ingest. Quality MDMA aka Ecstasy, Molly’s etc when taken would immediately stop all wars, all conflict, all hate, all sociopathic intention immediately.
    When politicians don’t listen, when war mongers don’t listen, when reason and debate fails, when hate becomes predominant, when God turns off his/her/its cell phone I say lets give drugs a go.
    We should remember those poor buggers, often kids no older than school kids. We should remember that they were the victims of a con job. We owe it to ourselves that we must do our best to enlighten people and to be eager and enthusiastic to love each other with patience and kindness. Especially towards our foreign brothers and sisters. Our fellow astronauts on our Pale Blue Dot.
    And we must remain ever vigilant for the scum in our mist who get stiffies from the knowledge that they can, when ever they like, send kids to war to be slaughtered and mutilated for their profits and entertainment.
    Remember the anti-war slogan from the mid 1960’s?
    “Suppose they gave a War and Nobody Came”
    “The anti-war slogan “Suppose they gave a War and Nobody Came” was the title of a 1966 essay by Charlotte Keys, the mother of an activist son [who] was imprisoned for refusing to serve after being drafted, that was published in McCall’s magazine.”
    Youtube.
    “One man climbed a tree ! ” Ba hahaha aa !
    British Army on LSD (Acid) drugs
    https://youtu.be/ziqpwkhqTRs

  7. Kia ora Christine
    It is not just war that is futile. There is also a futile tendency on the left to look for a way of celebrating Anzac Day which is devoid of militarism and imperialism. That is at best ridiculous, and more often disingenuous.
    The very word “Anzac” (Australia New Zealand Army Corps) makes it clear that the day is all about militarism, colonialism and imperialism.
    From the “Maori” wars, through the “Boer” war (in which the British invented the concentration camp, later adopted by the Third Reich) to the war against Afghanistan, the Colony/Realm of New Zealand has not once fought a just war.
    Every one of the Realm’s wars, including the Second World War, was fought to defend the British Empire and the Anglo-American world order. In the words of the Labour leaders Michael Joseph Savage and Peter Fraser “Where Britain goes, we go. Where she stands we stand” while the National leader Keith Holyoake declared “All the way with LBJ (US President Lyndon Baines Johnson)” as he took New Zealand the genocidal war against the Vietnamese.
    There is no way to sanitize the evil of Anzac. It must be absolutely expunged along with all the other works of colonialism.
    Say it like it is Christine.

  8. The cult like devotion to celebrating Anzac Day is disturbing? In 1935, General Smedley D Butler, a US Marine Corps Major, wrote a Book called “Wars a Racket”! This Book speaks from his own personal experience as someone who was part of the US War machine apparatus? Butler discusses how Big business interests & Weapons Manufacturers commercially benefit from these Wars & War profiteering, providing a major incentive to keep these Wars going, without end? WW1 was used as this Business model Template but first a gullible people had to be gaslighted & propagandised into believing they were fighting for King & Country when really they were fighting for Bankers & Corporations & their profit bottom lines? And that economic Template continues in our day & age? Even now, a massive & phoney threat inflation, drumbeat to War, is being propagandised by American interests, in a Worldwide CIA, psych op campaign to demonise Russia & China & goad them into a War with the West? The difference today is you are going up against Nuclear armed Nations who will defend their Sovereignty to the Death! We must never allow these Warmongering, War profiteering psychopaths to gaslight us into another World War, which if waged, will end Civilisation as we know it?

  9. You have encapsulated well my own unease with how we acknowledge Anzac Day in this country. I wonder if we will ever get to the place where it is stated openly and publicly that our soldiers who died in WWI, died in a futile arm wrestle between colonial powers and that it was nothing to do with our freedoms or liberty. And that those who died in WWII, died in a conflict that arose because the conditions at the end of WWI created the environment by which Hitler came to power, resulting in WWII. All of it depressingly avoidable.

  10. Chris
    Thank you.
    I ask what are we doing allowing this drum roll for war each year, to present the idea in our children’s mind that there is an expectation to lay down your life in War.
    This is a very unhealthy situation. Are we just preparing NZ for war instead of peaceful resolution of differences.

    As I have said in another recent post, Peace is only mentioned in passing if mentioned at all in the speeches on ANZAC day.
    Our children have no evidence that most people want peace as war is poked in their faces from when they are tiny.
    There is an international peace movement that gets treated as though it is a security risk.
    NZ
    https://www.peacefoundation.org.nz/
    Give it support

  11. It’s exactly this sort of crap; – “Yeah, I will not have war, i will not stand by the values and culture of my heritage, I will not fight to retain the freedom and democracy of Aotearoa, I am happy for President Xi and President Putin to walk right on into NZ and take over!!!” the promotion of which, by our newspapers then, and by our media today, of a non-existent threat, that was responsible for our grandfathers and great grandfathers going like sheep to their deaths in WW1.
    Anyone who doesn’t learn from history is bound to repeat it.
    And as for the nonsense about “Israelis facing Palestinian terror every day, still battling antisemitism and threats of annihilation after losing 6 million in the Holocaust,” well just last week right-wing Israelis marched through the streets of Tel Aviv screaming “Death to all Arabs,” and this week their party has been invited to form a coalition with Netanyahu, in government.

  12. If we don’t acknowledge the difference in attitude between then and now, it’s easy to say that wars are crazy. The fact is though, that public opinion 100 yrs ago was nothing like what it is now. Young people need to understand this. It was a completely different world back then and people WANTED to fight for the greater good. We should learn from those past generations and not condemn them. We are heading into the same cycle today because of wokeism and we will not win.

    • Thank you for the best comment on the thread. Always study history through the prism of the prevailing ethos of the times, not woke, mamby-pamby nonsense.

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