Wednesday, April 22, 2015
An Apology to Our ANZAC Heroes
In case you have been asleep during the last year or so, much of the world is currently devoting a lot of time, energy and money to remembering the First World War, which began and ended a century or so ago. In Australia the focal point for this is the battle that took place at Gallipoli, on the shores of Turkey, on and around April 25, 1915. In Australia we commemorate this as ANZAC Day, which is quickly becoming—if it is not already—the holiest day in Australia’s calendar. It was a massive catastrophe, a failed invasion, which resulted in the deaths of about 44,000 allied troops. ANZAC stands for ‘Australian and New Zealand Army Corps’. For anyone wanting more details, a quick Google search will yield hundreds of thousands of results.
About 8000 Australians died on the beaches of what is now ANZAC Cove. Although ‘claimed’ by Australia and New Zealand, we should remember that over 21,000 British troops also died during this debacle.
I have no problem with mourning the waste of life there and during the rest of this war. And a waste it was. This was no great defence of freedom; Australian troops were not ‘fighting for their country’. Australia had no argument with Turkey. This was very much a case of old men sending young men to die. Of course, many young Australians set off eagerly on this adventure, just as some young men today set off eagerly to fight alongside ISIS (or whatever we are supposed to call it these days). Rightly or wrongly, this is something that young men will do; a little encouragement from the ‘old men’ can turn a trickle into a flood.
Were the men brave who fought and died in these campaigns? Many probably were. Those who put their own lives at risk to save others, for example. An horrific scenario like this does indeed generate great acts of heroism. It probably also generates great acts of what some would call ‘cowardice’. Did many turn and flee? Probably. I wouldn’t blame them. I would likely have been among them. As much as heroism and bravery certainly occurred at Gallipoli and other World War One battlefields, being there in the first place was nothing short of stupidity.
As we remember this war, let’s remember it for its stupidity, waste and horror, rather than for the acts of bravery it triggered as a consequence. If we focus on the latter, do we not send the message that seeking out conflict in order to share in this glory, heroism, bravery and camaraderie is a good and worthy thing? Let’s not thank our heroes who fought and died in this pointless conflict. Let’s apologise to them.