Friday, April 25, 2008

For the fallen

Can’t let an ANZAC Day go by without raining on the right’s “They died for freedom” parade. These guys went through stuff we’ll never even have to imagine, so let’s do them the respect of not glorifying what it was about. Here’s a prayer you won’t hear this morning:

Here’s to the soldiers. All of them. The ones who died and the ones who lived. The ones from NZ and from every other country, from the ANZACs to the Waffen SS, who got sent off to kill and be killed in misery and squalour because their bosses were greedy, stupid or overly loyal when it comes to sacrificing someone else’s life for the local hegemon.

In NZ, we remember our brave men whose lives were thrown away because the British Empire was competing with some other empire in some part of the world we have no interest in – places like Turkey, France, Libya, Italy. We remember the brave men whose lives were thrown away because our local hegemon had a preferred form of Third World dictatorship it was backing – in places like Korea, Malaya and Vietnam. We remember that on the only occasion NZ was even remotely threatened by a conflict, that between the US and Japan, our soldiers were too busy fighting to keep North Africa British to be able to offer much assistance.

Let us remember, and be smarter next time.

39 comments:

PM of NZ said...

psycho,

While our fallen are rightly being remembered today, possibly not, as you suggest, for 'sacrificing someone else’s life for the local hegemon', what is your preferred political state for which you would stand up and be counted?

Psycho Milt said...

It's people keen on standing up and being counted who are the problem. A bit less of that and ambitious politicians would find it hard to start wars in the first place.

Since you ask - I'm quite happy with the shabby, run-down capitalist democracy we have right now, and would fight to defend it. I'd just prefer it if all potential soldiers in all countries would apply a pretty rigorous definition to what "defend" actually means (hint: it doesn't include invading Poland - or Iraq, for that matter).

KG said...

Let's just save this day for remembering our fallen soldiers, and leave the fucking political statements for another day.
Crusader Rabbit has an appropriate post up.

pdm said...

psych milt

As a baby boomer (born 1946) I am very pleased the leaders of my parents and grand parents generations stepped forward in both World Wars.

I have never had any inclination to be reading, writing and speaking Japanese or German.

I take this opportunity to also thank America for stepping into the South Pacific.

Clunking Fist said...

Actually, I take this post as "lest we foget".

And amongst the things to not forget:
- dangers of empire building
- glorification of war
- and not least, appeasement

Clunking Fist said...
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Clunking Fist said...
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WAKE UP said...

Nice try Milt, I know what you're trying to say (and I don't mean that to sound as condescending as it might :).

But -

The problem isn't only bosses and leaders, it's the second-rate, second-tier, seizing- their-chance Followers, the Goebbels and Goering types of the world.....

(contemporary illustration: Mugabe isn't laying waste to Zimbabwe - Mugabe and several thousand others are; and here at home - admittedly a milder exampple - Helen Clark isn't screwing up the country on her own, she's being aided by a bunch of cowardly, lickspittle sycophants )

...they're the ones who need to be cut off at the pass before they get entrenched (though we don't seem to have figured out how to do that even yet) because, if they get their hooks in, then it always ends up in a Gallipoli, a Paschendaele, a Somme, etc - where the "ordinary" staunch guys finally have to try to sort the
mess out and are sacrificed in the process.

It's all very well looking at it in hindsight, but ON THE DAY, those guys believed they had to go, and that they were right to do so. Bless 'em all.

I fear that we are going to need their kind in future, too.

Psycho Milt said...

Well, at least Clunking Fist gets it.

KG: use of military force is as political as it gets. Do the people you're commemorating the honour of thinking about what "Lest we forget..." actually means.

Pdm: our "leaders" didn't step forward, they stepped the rest of us forward, which is an entirely different thing. I'm not sure where you conjure this threat of having to speak German from, but the admittedly very remote threat of ending up speaking Japanese did exist - too bad our leaders had sent all our soldiers off to keep Egypt British at the time. As you say, lucky for us that the Yanks also wanted hegemony in the Pacific.

Wake Up wrote: It's all very well looking at it in hindsight, but ON THE DAY, those guys believed they had to go, and that they were right to do so. Bless 'em all.

"All" here including the men of the Wehrmacht, the Red Army, the Imperial Forces of Japan, the Ottoman Empire etc, who also believed they had to go. I wrote this for all soldiers.

KG said...

"Do the people you're commemorating the honour of thinking about what "Lest we forget..." actually means."
What it actually means will of course vary from one person to the next.
But what it means to many of us who have served is that the men and women who died did so in the firm belief that they were fighting to rid the world of evil bastards.
I don't give a fuck how many Germans or Japanese died and I don't go to a dawn service to remember them--I leave comfortable moral equivalence to leftards who wouldn't recognise valour and principles if they bit 'em on the arse.
Japan and Germany may be our civilised friends now, but they're civilised friends precisely because the allies won WW2.
Now I'm done with arguing politics on this day--fill yer boots with idiotic statements about what definitions soldiers should apply before going to war and consider the fact that if soldiers were free to do that, then China or Japan or whoever would be able to simply walk in and screw over your comfortable way of life while the debating club explored all the nuances of their position.

FAIRFACTS MEDIA said...

PM offers a fair comment in raising bad leadership and remembering the other side too.
However, I stand by my original views as expressed in the post below.
After we have paid our tribute, be it attending a parade, or just looking at photos and reports on various websites, it is inevitable politics/ debating issues will come into it.
The tributes and memoriams will lead to 'how can we avoid war again.'
Obviously, I have different views to PM, and we will both have differing views to other commetators on this blog.
And it is due to the sacrificies made by the fallen that we are allowed to have the debate we are having today.
Yes, I am guilty of pushing an ideological barrow, as I did with my post last night.
Just as PM pushed another argument this monring in response.
The question for us all, which view will help prevent us facing more conflict in future.

Finally, the best tributes come when they are personal. I recommend Whale Oil's ANZAC Day tribute, which he has posted on You Tube and saw last night.

Clunking Fist said...

Psycho, leaving aside WWI (which, with the benefit of hindsight was a war fought in less enlightened times than now), I was being a wee bit charitable. You painted "our" side (in the war, not NZ politics!) in almost the same light as the Germans, the aggressors. (There was a bit of a barb in my third point that was obviously too subtle.)
Sure, there was fighting in North Africa, but why wouldn’t you defend what you had, however "flawed" in the view of some. I gather some of the locals may have viewed the Germans as liberators, but just as Western lefties view Mugabe as a liberator maybe?

Psycho Milt said...

Fine, KG - I'll also leave it at this: how many soldiers of the last 100 years weren't convinced they were fighting to rid the world of evil bastards? That's exactly the problem.

Psycho Milt said...

You painted "our" side (in the war, not NZ politics!) in almost the same light as the Germans, the aggressors.

Only to the extent that all govts alike send soldiers off to kill people in what those govts perceive to be the national interest. Our national interest at the time, preserving the British Empire, was certainly a cut above the fascist states' national interests, but hardly a laudable goal in itself. We have a lot to be grateful to the Yanks for, really - they're the ones who forced the collapse of our Empire, stopped Japan gaining dominance in the Pacific, and eventually had to carry the can for Churchill and Roosevelt backing one form of totalitarianism over another. But even they were doing all those things in their own national interest, not out of some sense of altruism. We need to stop idealising this shit.

NB: we declared war on Germany, not vice versa. In our conflicts with them, we were the aggressor.

Whaleoil said...

Trust a lefty c**t to bring politics to a day like this, if you were on my blog I'd kick your arse off of it forever.

Disrespectful asshole.

FAIRFACTS MEDIA said...

Steady on Whale Oil, kicking PM off your blog might be a little strong.
Even the bishop or whoever was on TV1 this morning at the ceremony John Key attended seemed to be getting a little political.
He said something about nations forgetting how to fight.
No doubt the peacenics have infiltrated the churches with their pacifism and they were allowed to say their piece on national telly.
Much I disagree with what PM says, thanks to our forefathers, he still has the right to say it.

As for the churches, should we ever find ourselves under the Islamic yolk, I am sure the priests and vicar will be among the first to have their heads removed.
And some good pacifism will be then.
Pacificsm only works when eveybody is a pacifist and I cannot see that happening. Ever!

FAIRFACTS MEDIA said...

Oh and a fine post here from Poneke

http://poneke.wordpress.com/2008/04/25/anzac/

Blair said...

This moral equivalence bullshit pisses me off. Name one conflict, ONE, since the New Zealand wars of the 1860s, where New Zealand troops were not on the side of the good. There's not one single war in which we were on the wrong side.

Our troops have fought fascism, imperialism, barbarism and communism and we should be proud of them. End of story. There's no comparison to the Boers fighting for their fascist and racist republics, the Germans making yet another imperialist foray into France, the Turks obstructing aid to Russia (result: 70 years of communism and millions of deaths), the genocidal Nazis, the barbaric Japs, the oppressive communists of Korea, Malaya and Vietnam, and the detestable Taliban. To compare us with these and say they all had grieving mothers just doesn't cut it. We were good and they were evil. We were right and they were wrong. We are nothing like them, and to say we are is about as offensive as you can get.

Adolf Fiinkensein said...

PM you lost me with your gratuitous remark:

"NB: we declared war on Germany, not vice versa. In our conflicts with them, we were the aggressor."

I thought you were an intelligent man but for sheer ideological folly that takes the cake.

FAIRFACTS MEDIA said...

Indeed, much I respect PM's right to make his points, his German comment is somewhat bizarre.
I am sure any Pole might make an interesting response.

And well said Blair.

Psycho Milt said...

Call me a pedant, Adolf!

Anyway:

Trust a lefty c**t to bring politics to a day like this...

There isn't any commemoration of soldiers that doesn't involve politics - you just happen to dislike mine.

...if you were on my blog I'd kick your arse off of it forever.

Fine. However, I'm on mine so my arse stays right here.

Disrespectful asshole.

What's disrespectful is idealising these events to make it easier to put some other poor sods through it in the future. Learning from the past isn't disrespectful.

There's not one single war in which we were on the wrong side.

Blair, you're entitled to take as romantic and idealistic a view of those conflicts as you like. Others don't have to share either your romanticism or your idealism.

Blair said...

There's nothing idealistic or romantic about the Boer War, where the Boer Republics imposed draconian restrictions on foreigners and their commercial interests, then declared war on them when international pressure came to bear. They needed to be stopped, and we have apartheid as the lasting legacy of Britain's inability to completely do so.

There's nothing idealistic or romantic about the First World War, where the Germans decided to take a stroll through the French countryside just because they could. Nor about Galipolli - while I sympathise with the Turks, who were just defending their country, victory there would have almost certainly spared us the evils of Stalin and seventy years of communism in Russia and around the world. It might also have spared the lives of millions of Armenians. Just maybe.

Words cannot express my rage at your sympathy for the Waffen SS, so I am just going to skip to the fight against communism, which was neither romantic nor idealistic. You could ask the current residents of the North Korean gulags, or the former prisoners of the Hanoi Hilton, or the relatives of children macheted in their beds by the Vietcong. You can wonder what Malaysia would be like now if it had gone the same way.

Or would you prefer the continued repression and stadium executions of the Taliban?

Why is it bad to fight and kill the perpetrators of these evils in order to stop them, if there is clearly no alternative? And why do you smear our soldiers as being the equivalent of these people for trying to do so - ensuring that innocent men and women can live in peace and prosperity rather than under oppression?

Adolf Fiinkensein said...

Milt, you could have picked the Wehrmacht rather than the Waffen SS. Those guys were ultra bad bastards. They were hand picked for it.

Similarly the Abwher were significantly more civilised than the Gestapo.

Mark said...

We could also use Anzac day to remember those people who were and are still are murdered, tortured, staved and raped by various dictators around the world.

People who are denied the right to self determination.

Most of those countries who sit on the useless Human Rights Commision at the United Nations.

And because of that Psycho can sit on his arse and feel smug about doing nothing about it.

Psycho Milt said...

Ah yes, if only I had your steely determination to take action against the problem, Mark. Let us know how you get on fighting those dictators, won't you?

Blair: Indeed they weren't romantic or idealistic conflicts, it's your perception of them which is romantic and idealistic.

The picture you paint of these various conflicts is a propaganda one specifically crafted to put us in the best light. Oddly enough, the guys we were fighting in those conflicts had their own propaganda versions putting their side in the best light. It would be nice if people would take that into consideration when deciding whether to participate in invading someone else's country or not.

I don't believe we do our returned servicemen any justice if we construct simplistic and bullshit bad guy/good guy narratives out of the conflicts they fought in. What lesson would there be in that, apart from "Wars are great?" The only war of the last 100 years that even comes close to fitting your bad guys/good guys narrative is the one against fascism, but even that is tainted by it turning out that we effectively fought for communism.

I respect soldiers. The ones who've fought have experiences and a level of self-knowledge that I'll never have. I respect ours more than most because they're ours, but soldiers are soldiers. Going to war, though - that's politicians, not soldiers. Politicians I have no respect for. There is a difference, and you must know it.

WAKE UP said...

Gentlemen.

One of the problems with blogsites like this is that they become arguments BEWTEEN bloggers instead of observations and counter-observations on the core topic.

I try to avoid that syndrome - but MILT, I have to say:

I thought I wrote a pretty even-handed repsonse to your post, even beginning with a mild compliment.

But if I'd known how off-the wall your motivation actually was (as revealed in your later ripostes to others) I wouldn't have wasted my time.

I too was talking about ALL soldiers - but I'm stil capable of discerning which ones were on the right side (which in every instance, has been our side).

I too subscribe to Donovan's "Universal Soldier" sentiment (i.e without them there'd be no war), but I repeat - the problem is that we are always too far down the tubes when we finally wake up (Chamberlain at Munich is the standard example), by which time the poor ol universal soldier is well and truly in the shit.

Don't let your concern for all those guys blind you to what happens in reality.

MikeE said...

The important thing to note is that ANZACs died protecting Milt's freedom to disgrace them by comparing them to the SS.

And that freedom is a freedom worth defending.

Psycho Milt said...

MikeE: if your and Blair's reading comprehension is so poor you imagine I compare the ANZACs to the Waffen SS, it needn't surprise me that you both view military history as some kind of Spielberg movie.

Wake Up wrote: Don't let your concern for all those guys blind you to what happens in reality.

Thank you for not offering bluster a la Whaleoil or the simplistic homilies of Blair and MikeE. I do get carried away when confronted with simplistic commenters, so I accept your admonition and apologise.

Blair said...

Well yes, if you believe that your ethnic or religious group is special, blessed by God, and has a divine right to exploit others, then sure, you can't be blamed for picking up a gun and trying to defend those ideals. Likewise if you believe your political organisation should control the means of production in your country of choice. Couldn't blame you really could we?

But me, personally, I believe, along with most New Zealanders, that those ideas are evil and wrong. And throughout the 20th Century, lots of different people tried it on with those ideas - sometimes with us, sometimes with other people we felt moved to help out. They felt that was the right thing to do. How nice for them. Unfortunately it wasn't very nice for us, so we had to go shoot them.

Now you, Psycho Milt, may have had an easy conscience over letting British South Africans, French, Belgians, Armenians, Russians, Jews, Koreans, Malayans, Vietnamese and Afghans suffer, and you may not have minded being ruled by the Der Kaiser or Showa Tenno, but just be honest and say so. That would be better than just saying there's no difference between both sides of a war.

Blair said...

And dude, there is NOTHING more simplistic than a reading of war as a tool of the class struggle, as you have done here. I've been trying to engage by talking about specific wars and all you have done is talk in generalities - no more so than where you liken the ANZACs and the SS as both being innocent tools of their capitalist masters. That's not only nonsense, it's beyond offensive.

Psycho Milt said...

That would be better than just saying there's no difference between both sides of a war.

And then you complain because I'm calling you simplistic? Obviously there are differences between two sides in a war. My problem is with the kind of approach you have embodied in this thread, which maintains that "our" side is always on the side of right and goodness. That kind of attitude is exactly the one that allows rulers to order their people to invade Poland or Iraq in the full expectation that the suckers will not only go ahead and do it, but imagine the world should thank them for doing so. Consider the Waffen SS you hate so much - they couldn't understand why other Western nations weren't grateful to them for trying to save the world from communism. In your own mind, you're always the good guy.

My beef is, you aren't the only one who can come up with spin that puts their side's military always on the side of the angels - the other side always have their reasons, and are just as convinced they're fighting in a just cause. The important thing is to question that cause before you pick up the weapons.

You ask for specifics, and you've mentioned WW1. Here's my own spin, which naturally I rate as truthful a description of the conflict as you do your opposing one: this was a conflict between the Russian and French empires on one side, and the Austro-Hungarian and German empires on the other side, over which of them would dominate in Europe. Empires are like that. They find excuses to duke it out in the hope of material benefit. I can't think of any reason why German and Austro-Hungarian domination of Europe should have been viewed by New Zealand as worse than French and Russian domination of Europe, yet apparently it was a matter of such importance that our govt felt we should be conscripted and put to work killing and being killed for the French and Russians whether we wanted to or not. Net result was no good for any of the participants, including us. Net result of our staying out of it would have been an extremely grumpy British govt and far fewer dead NZers, otherwise not much.

The only concrete, useful thing to come from our participation in WW1 was a growing realisation that providing cannon fodder for imperial conflicts was not a productive use of New Zealand citizens. That's a damn good lesson and it would be nice if more of the blather we heard on ANZAC Day made reference to it. Your approach, however, is one that recommends only the further issue of cannon fodder.

Psycho Milt said...

PS - feel free to point out where I've likened the ANZACS and the Waffen SS to innocent tools of their capitalist masters. The fascists were only vaguely capitalist, for a start.

Mark said...

Psycho,

Well lets all put our support behind the UN to resolving human rights abuses then shall we.

As I pointed out the HRC in the UN has some of the worst of the worst on the panel.

If the UN was serious about Human Rights only democratic elected governments should sit on the UN. Not one party states.

Sometimes you need to fight for freedom, otherwise dictatorships will rule.

Have we learned nothing from Cambodia to Zimbabwe.

If you have a better solution let's hear it, rather than dismissing the sacrifices others have made for your freedom.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad its a prayer we didn't hear this morning. You may well have been set upon by the returned men. They do not regard their elected governments as greedy and stupid local hegemons. These men who fought in Korea Malaya and Vietnam protected a population's freedom to choose their own leaders. How many elections have they had in the murderous Peoples Republic of Korea compared to South Korea, or Malaysia and Singapore? Your simplistic twaddle about keeping North Africa British defies history. It was about the survival of Britain, the keeping open of Suez and the military defeat of Fascist Italy amongst other things.

Let us by all means be smart, but not smartasses with a chip on our shoulder. Something at which our own democratically elected leader excels.

Your attempt to enlist returned men to 'rain on the right's parade' is obnoxious, historically wrong and smart alec to boot.

Psycho Milt said...

I'll grant you "obnoxious."

You anonymous guys all look the same to me - come back when you got a name.

dad4justice said...

Any soldier would be disgusted in the dishonest Helen Klark regime of lies and more lies. She is a disgrace and she dishonours every man that has died on the battle field.

How long before this crackpot PM is exposed as the evil charlatan that she is?

danyl said...

Personally I always get a kick out of the ANZAC day commentators who opine about how the poor chumps who were slaughtered invading Turkey on behalf of the King-Emperor George V were somehow 'defending our freedom'. Nice one.

Pascal said...

Blair: There's nothing idealistic or romantic about the Boer War, where the Boer Republics imposed draconian restrictions on foreigners and their commercial interests, then declared war on them when international pressure came to bear. They needed to be stopped, and we have apartheid as the lasting legacy of Britain's inability to completely do so.

You might want to read up on British Colonialism and how the discovery of both diamonds and gold in the Boer Republics led to increased British territorial ambitions, to the point they staged the Jameson Raid to try and cause a revolt in the Boer capital.

The Boer Wars are not as black and white as you would like to paint them and NZ was partially responsible for some terrible atrocities in that time, including the purposeful deaths of thousands of women and children. Children were put on starvation rations because their fathers refused to surrender to the might of British Imperialism and a hunger for the gold and diamonds discovered by the Boers.

http://public.fotki.com/SAgenealogie/abo/konsentrasiekampe/page2.html

FAIRFACTS MEDIA said...

Good Lord! Nearly 40 posts on this issue.
What do we think this is, Kiwiblog?
And we were spared his trolls.
Keep up the good work PM.
I'm sure you can be a offensive and outrageous as I.