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Anzacs and Afghans

Written By: - Date published: 6:05 am, April 25th, 2011 - 43 comments
Categories: afghanistan, Anzac Day - Tags: , , ,

Today is the day that we remember our old soldiers. You don’t need me to add to the mountains of respectful words that get written about Anzac day every year. I too am grateful to those who fought and died, in whatever war, to defend their countries and their ideals. But perhaps we should now add a new element to Anzac day. Make it a day to also consider our current soldiers and how they are being used.

Case in point, Afghanistan. For myself, I could accept the argument for sending defence force engineers for reconstruction. But I’ve never been comfortable with the SAS involvement. And now the circumstances surrounding this deployment are growing murkier and murkier. We’re stuck in America’s stalled war, and America itself seems to have no exit strategy. Six New Zealand soldiers have died in that Afghanistan, with one of them (Lieutenant Tim O’Donnell) killed in combat. The SAS has conducted what appear to be revenge counterattacks against those responsible for O’Donnell’s death, amidst disputed accusations that civilians were also killed in that action (see Pablo at Kiwipolitico on this). There are further accusations that the SAS has been handing over Afghanis for torture, with our incoming Govenor General Jerry Mateparae apparently implicated in the scandal.

So, what are we doing in Afghanistan? Defence Minister Wayne Mapp doesn’t seem to know, his answers on Q+A yesterday were hoplessly confused and evasive (go read the transcript). Whatever mandate we had to send troops in 2001 seems to have long since evaporated in quagmire and controversy. In my opinion it is well past time to call it a day, and bring the troops home.

43 comments on “Anzacs and Afghans”

  1. John D 1

    Great post Rob, I think we disrespect those  that have died if we do not critically discuss why we are sending more young men to fight die and yes kill overseas.

    ANZAC day should not glorify the armed forces but should be a day on which we wish for an end to the need for armed forces.

  2. Hilary 2

    Hope that poppy in your picture is one made by the disabled workers at the Kilmarnock centre in Christchurch, and not one of the new cheaper imports that took the work away from those disabled NZ workers.

    • LynW 2.1

      My sentiments too re the poppy, especially when one looks into the history behind the making of them. There are other ways to increase takings…why not simply increase the price of locally made ones…I would like to think once people have the full story the support would be there.

      • Jilly Bee 2.1.1

        @ Hilary and LynW – I have commented on this at Red Alert [though it’s in moderation at present].  I challenged the poppy seller outside Countdown at Westgate on Saturday who assured me that the Kilmarnock Centre in Christchurch is unable to fulfil the RSA quota/contract due to other contracts and that is why the RSA has had to look for other suppliers and that only one side of the story had been published.  She also reminded me that China was our ally during WW2, as I muttered about yet more work being sent offshore.  I would like to know then, who is telling the porkies, Kilmarnock Centre, RSA or the poppy seller.

    • lprent 2.2

      It will be. It was put into the library some time ago.

      • LynW 2.2.1

        You obviously survive on little sleep lprent! Knew we could count on you re the poppy. Looks good. S’cuse my ingnorance but is the white flower beside it a camelia?

        • lprent 2.2.1.1

          I’m not sure. I think it is a white poppy – more realistic and less stylized.

          It was from a peace campaign over the years here. However it has a rather long history (here is the wikipedia) back to 1926. 

          Personally I knew absolutely nothing about it until Judith Collins started to say things like..

          It’s clearly a stunt, trying to take advantage of Poppy Day and it’s disgraceful

          Veterans’ Affairs Minister Judith Collins claiming the white poppy appeal was “incredibly disrespectful to those who served their country”

          Now I’ve been in the army as a volunteer, fortunately not having to have served in a war. Many of my family over the last century and a half have also been in armed forces in NZ. Some of my wider family still are.

          In my opinion, Judith Collins is just full of her characteristic ineffectual bullshit, bluster and bile. Just another stupid armchair general with no understanding of what she speaks of.

          Apart from anything else she clearly does not understand that most people who are actually in or have been in the military are more in favor or peace than the civilians are. They know what is involved when you need to use weapons. I think that she was dogwhistling to her political audience of other cartoon warriors with weapon fetish (Whale is a good example).

          So when rocky asked me to put that header up last year it was a bit late. But I said I’d do it this year unless other authors objected. None did.

          • Vicky32 2.2.1.1.1

            I tried to get a white poppy last year, but was told they’re not sold in Auckland…
            I am a total pacifist (it’s a very unpopular view but it is what it is.) World War 2 destroyed my father (he was from England, and had what we now know is PTSD). My uncle (his brother) died in the May blitz.
            I was appalled by the coverage on National Radio this morning (excerpts on the news). “Lest We Forget”? Oh no, this was gung-ho patriotism, and almost seemed calculated to make sure that any 10-18 year old listening couldn’t wait to enlist!
            My friend Rinny Westra (who was then a Metholdist minister) made an ANZAC day speech that caused quite a stir, in the 1980s. Then, he was criticised in parliament – I suspect now, he’d been arrested!
            (Having googled to find it, all I can find is my own h2g2 reference to it from 2008)
            http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/F19585?thread=5283303&latest=1

            • rosy 2.2.1.1.1.1

              I admire your pacifist stance Deb, and respect those who refused to fight in the days of conscription- we need the total pacifist view to check the warmongers.  

              For me ANZAC day is about the futility of war, and the damage they do to good men. But I can also see situations where I feel there are just reasons to go to war. The problem is we are usually pretty bad at picking them. I also detest the framing of ANZAC in the last few years as patriotism. That’s an Australian/US thing. I used to think we we never needed the peace poppy, the red one represented war and its horror. I’ve changed my mind now.  

              As for the church they’re a mixed bunch. The religious right in the U.S seem happy to send the sons of others off to war for any reason whereas the lead from mainstream churches e.g. the Anglican church (esp UK) seems much more circumspect.

              • Vicky32

                I agree with you, Rosy! If the red poppies still meant what they used to mean, it would be a whole other matter, but it seems to have become a big recruiting campaign!
                I have always felt pretty conflicted about it all, as although I have grown up in New Zealand, none of my New Zealand family ever ‘served’, (too old, too young, too female or too dead) so Anzac Day has never meant very much to me.  The poppies were all about supporting WW1 veterans in their rest homes, Mum told us… which is fair enough.
                But now it means all that sickening hyper-patriotism I have seen on the TV tonight, and I feel quite cool about saying ‘nah’ when someone tries to guilt me into buying a poppy. I’ll happily support ancient guys in old folks’ homes, but nothing else. As for the church, sadly you’re right about at least the American and American-influenced part of it. However when I reflect on the people I knew in the 70s, “conshies” to a man, and all what would be called “fundamentalist” – I am surprised myself!
                 

    • freedom 2.3

      The one Poppy that we all hope was made at Kilmarnoc is the one the PM is wearing at all the events he is currently attending.
       
      i must admit that part of me shamelessly (but not without a level of distaste for my own thought) hopes that Poppy is an import, because at least then it would be appropriate that he wore it.

  3. Chris 3

    “The SAS has conducted what appear to be revenge counterattacks against those responsible for responsible for O’Donnell’s death”
    A statement like that needs clear evidence to substantiate it. What evidence do you have make it ‘appear’ a revenge counterattack ? if you are guessing then you need to withdraw that statement. Do not disparage professional soldiers with out clear evidence.

    • PeteG 3.1

      I’ve also heard it being referred to as a reprisal.
       
      It’s actually not uncommon in wars for counter attacks and taking action against sources of aggression. It would be remarkable not to do anything if you are attacked and you know where the attackers came from. “Revenge” and “reprisal” are subjective emotive terms, designed more to attract attention to the article rather than represent what might have actually happened.

    • Carol 3.2

      Chris, you should try reading the links in the initial post: eg Pablo on Kiwipolitico & Guyon on Qu & A interviewing Wayne Mapp have drawn that conclusion from the evidence.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.3

      Lest We Ask

      In which the Press not only claims to know the purpose of the SAS mission but the motives of its members, and tells its readers that to question either is an insult to the SAS.

      This seems to apply to Chris as well.

      This “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy would seem to be at odds with the notion of an independent media which asks and tells but, clearly, even to think that Our Brave Lads of the SAS would do something bad is tantamount to treason. So unthink that thought and hang your head in shame.

      The Press and others are obviously channelling the scoundrels.

  4. todd 4

    My Grandfathers fought in WW2. They both had some close calls. I have a lot of respect for them and their service but I don’t have any respect for war, especially when they are illegitimate and for oil.
     
    “War is a poor chisel to carve out tomorrow.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

  5. LynW 5

    Thoughtful post with very valid points Rob

  6. Chris 6

    ‘Carol’ I have read the opposite in fact. Professional and highly trained soldiers like the SAS do not indulge in ‘revenge killings’. This form of behavior would cloud their judgment and place themselves and others at clear risk. It would go against their core belief system and what they have spent years training to do.

    • Carol 6.1

      Chris, have you read the links?  Pablo has a background in security matters, having been a consultant for the Pentagon. Espiner’s conclusion is based on the evidence he’s seen.
       
      So what is your evidence?  Or is it just in your mind?

    • Chris, Chris, Chris,

      That is exactly what highly trained killers do.

      They call it punishment or taking out the bad guys or making the world safer for the good guys. Name it what you will but war is about killing and destruction and emotion is what drives those who engage in it.
       

  7. Chris 7

    I don’t have to provide evidence as I am not making the claim. The literature and ‘evidence’ provided is based on conjecture and hearsay – there in no clear ‘evidence’ and doubtful there will be.

    • todd 7.1

      If you’ve read information ie evidence to show that the action was not revengeful (as has been widely publicized), then why can’t you link to it? If you don’t link to the evidence to support your assertion it starts smelling like bullshit!

  8. Lol. So kiwi soldiers get killed in an imperialist war and we are supposed to be sorry? Its a joke to say NZ is reconstructing anything while Afghanistan is occupied by NATO. Its purpose is to supply a thin veneer of ‘humanitarianism’ to legitimate this war. Then when a soldier gets killed the veneer gets quickly wiped off as we discover that the SAS are active combatants (no more than mercenaries really) fighting for NATO using the same methods of indiscriminate killing and torture. The tactic of retribution may blowback in this war as Kiwipolitico says and that is no more than historic justice. If more NZ soldiers got killed maybe more NZers would question the purpose of the war for Yankee oil and opium.

  9. SHG 9

    I have to bite my tongue every year at dawn services as I’m lectured by some religious nut about “the lesson of ANZAC”. What, that invading a nation with whom we have no quarrel on the orders of a declining northern-hemisphere superpower is a recipe for disaster?

    • felix 9.1

      Well put.

    • Vicky32 9.2

      as I’m lectured by some religious nut

      Is the ‘religious’ part actually true? (I doubt it, seriously) Ever heard of Christian pacifism?
      (A foster father I had, a New Zealand- American fundamentalist, was a conscientious objector. I don’t know why I was surprised, pacifism is a millennia-old Christian tradition.)

      • Pascal's bookie 9.2.1

        pacifism is a millennia-old Christian tradition

        So is war. So what makes you seriously doubt that the various clergy that speak at ANZAC day events are religious?

        • Vicky32 9.2.1.1

          To be honest, I’ve never been to an ANZAC Day event! (I’d sooner go to a brothel, a Rugby game or a cockfight.)
          I suppose his remark just sounded like bigotry to me, and he wasn’t talking about clergy, I assumed, but about random ‘Ancient Mariner’ types approaching him. That was my mental picture, sorry if I was wrong! I simply have got used to the random preaching of atheism on the Standard.

          • Pascal's bookie 9.2.1.1.1

            Oh right. So you had a mental picture of an event you know nothing about and from that you assumed the worst about SHG and and also assumed that Christians wouldn’t really be likely to be there making speeches about the ‘lessons of ANZAC’.

          • Rob 9.2.1.1.2

            There are religious speeches/prayers at almost every ANZAC event. It would be unusual to me for there not to be. The dawn service I went to today had no part of it that did not mention God.

      • SHG 9.2.2

        Is the ‘religious’ part actually true? (I doubt it, seriously)

        When the dude is wearing alb and stole and proceeds to recite the Lord’s Prayer, I think I’m safe in assuming that he is, in fact, a religious nut.

        • Vicky32 9.2.2.2

          Yes, SHG, just as I expected! Bigotry.. inasmuch as I am 100% certain that in your lexis, the word ‘religious’ is always followed by the word ‘nut’…
          Is it sad to be so predictable?

          • SHG 9.2.2.2.1

            “Religious nuts” isn’t bigotry. The word you’re looking for is tautology.

        • RedLogix 9.2.2.3

          It’s quite unfair to assume all people who are religious are always war-mad, right-wing, ultra-conservative, fundie nutters.  Just as in the political world there is a wide spectrum of ways in which our beliefs are expressed… it is the same in the religious domain as well.
           
          Both socialism and pacifism have long roots in the Christian faith, in which there’s always been deep tensions between those who understand their faith in broadly liberal, symbolic terms… and those on the opposite narrow extreme.

          • Pascal's bookie 9.2.2.3.1
            That’s certainly true red. But I’m not sure anyone was assuming that. The initial comment was about the religious aspects to ANZAC services. It doesn’t bother me overly much, but I can understand why it would bother others. 

            And just as there has been a strong leadership from sectors of the church on peace issues, there has also been a strong use of the church, by the state, in some of the less helpful and jingoistic aspects of things.

            The church does make some fine statements on these issues, and they have been better in the last twenty years IMO.

            It will be interesting to see how the Church leadership in Australia responds to the comments of Christian lobbyist Wallace linked to above. I think one of the main problems the church has PR wise at the moment, is that the leadership is silent, or as near as dammit, in the face of the right wing extremists; and those extremists provide better copy to the media than the more subtle and profound forms of Christianity

  10. Scott 11

    I’s easy to blame Key et al, but part of the problem lies with the failure of Kiwis to face up to what it is that their ‘defence force’, which beautifies its activities with vague phrases like ‘peacekeeping’ and ‘training and mentoring’, actually does in places like Afghanistan and East Timor. I blogged about this at:
     http://readingthemaps.blogspot.com/2011/04/what-keith-douglas-can-tell-us-this.html

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