Anzac Day and Militarism

To question this appropriation of the tragic waste of life at Gallipoli for the purposes of reinforcing contemporary militarism is likely to be seen as disrespectful towards our Diggers, as devaluing the sacrifices made by them, and even as un-Australian. But it cannot be accepted that the unnecessary loss of so many young lives should remain unquestioned and that it should serve as a call for further (reckless) military ambition. We can sense in Australia a subtle but growing interweaving of military images and practices in our everyday lives: we accept fighter jets giving us impressive fly-over and fuel-burning performances, we see more and more school prizes and scholarships sponsored by returned services clubs and named in honour of military campaigns. Perhaps this is an overstating this. But it can be detected a growth of what David Stephens one writer has called ANZACkery, the ‘overblown, pious, often jingoistic evocation of this part of our history’ (See further reading).

The fact is that WWI left a legacy which continues to affect us terribly even today. Apart from making the idea of mass-warfare ‘ordinary’ and bringing war and its impacts ‘home’ to millions of people around the globe, it sowed the seeds of World War II when it imposed sole blame and massive reparations on Germany. The subsequent rise of Hitler did, unfortunately, necessitate a military campaign if we were to retain our freedom and values, but this war also exacted its terrible human toll. In turn, Nazi Germany’s Holocaust made the search for a Jewish homeland all the more urgent, but the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 brought with it, and continues to bring, deep division and bloodshed in the Middle-East. Even the current rise of ISIS – springing from the deterioration of the Syrian and Iraqi states, and enabled greatly by the catastrophic policies of the George W. Bush administration in Iraq – can be linked to local resentment about the drawing of artificial boundaries in the Middle-East. The Sykes-Picot secret arrangement of 1916 ‘settled’ the British and French carving up of the region and established what would come to be largely unworkable states such as Syria and Iraq. These states might have been able to remain stable under the authoritarian rule of strongmen such as Saddam or Assad (both of whom were supported at some time or another by the West), but they also brought privation and persecution for many of their citizens. The mess we now see in this region looks set to get much worse before it can get better, with ISIS declaring the end of Sykes-Picot, a savagery towards any opponents, including Muslim opponents, and the threat of destabilising further tracts of the region, including in Turkey and North Africa.