War Its Ambivilance

The Ambivalence of War #

War is politics/diplomacy by another means.

Peace is merely the desolation left behind after the decisive operations of merciless power. Tacitus

To kill another human being is always murder; except if it is accompanied by trumpets. Voltaire

The allure of war can be an addictive drug, a narcotic or a blood lust, as people’s primal instinctive response to the drumbeat of war consists of an adrenalin charge. As Shakespeare expresses it; “let slip the dogs of war". (Julius Caesar) Antony (Act III, Sc. I).

Karen Armstrong in Fields of Blood explains it in terms of neurology:

“It may be too that as they give free rein to the aggressive impulses from the deepest region of their brains, warriors feel in tune with the most elemental and inexorable dynamics of existence, those of life and death. Put another way, war is a means of surrender to reptilian ruthlessness, one of the strongest of human drives, without being troubled by the self-critical nudges of the neocortex.

Some unblooded soldiers find it difficult to shoot another human being, and die instead, however once blooded, others become full of blood lust.

“The warrior, therefore, experiences in battle the transcendence that others find in ritual, sometimes to pathological effect. Psychiatrists who treat war veterans for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have noted that in the destruction of other people, soldiers can experience a self-affirmation that is almost erotic.

From earliest times, most young men were brought up within a warrior culture where going to war was their primary purpose. It is only within the last one hundred and fifty years that more and more of us have questioned the morality of war.

Evan Thomas in his book, The War Lovers, claims that the lust for war, or war fever, is an age old atavistic part of our male primordial psyche. Many see it as the purest test of manhood and national pride; In the words of Mussolini:

‘Fascism believes that war alone brings up to its highest tension all human energy and put the stamp of nobility upon the peoples who have the courage to meet it.’

However the increasing mechanisation of war has lessened our chances of real heroism. No matter how tough you are, being blasted by a bomb dropped by a remotely controlled drone is not an heroic death.

Theodore Roosevelt, despite his famous phrase, “talk softly but carry a big stick” was warmonger, willing to go to war on any pretext wanting to push the English out of Canada, the Spanish out or Mexico and Cuba and eventually managed to unintentionally do so in the Philippines.

Throughout history, according to James Hillman in A Terrible Love of War, during the past 5600 years of written history, there have been 14,600 wars. In 1914, the 1^(st) world war was called “The Great War” and welcomed as a major sporting contest. It was only the devastation of Gallipoli and later The Somme where 20,000 men were lost in a day that a more sobering assessment took some of the glory of war away.

Retrospective analysis of this “War to end all Wars” reveals not only the utter incompetence of the High Command, but their sheer callousness in regard to the wanton wasteful slaughter of thousands upon thousands of young men blindly sent “over the top” in futile assaults against impregnable defences. 60,000 men were sacrifices recklessly and needlessly on the first day of the Battle of the Somme for no appreciable strategic or tactical gain.

The tunnel – vision idiocy of those in charge of the “War to end all Wars”, those who heartlessly exploited our boys patriotism. Safely ensconced in their bunkers fifty miles behind enemy lines, the High Command had little idea of the conditions at the front and what they were ordering their troops to do.

Allan Clark remarked:

“The troops were Lions; Lions led by Donkeys”.

British Field-Marshal Lord Slim claimed: ‘‘There are no bad regiments, only bad officers.”

If that was not bad enough, it was the petty vindictive politicians who gave us the unforgiving Treaty of Versailles which became the catalyst for the transition into the next confrontation. Short memories later named World War II “The Good War”. In reality it was merely an extension of the 1 st World War following a 21 year intermission.

What basically ground the war in Vietnam to a halt was the media coverage, night after night - in our living rooms. A short decisive war can drum up and maintain popular support, but once it drags out past three years, war weariness and fatigue set in and the populace become harder to enthuse.

Today World leaders control the information of wars with embedded journalists. The military bring the journalists to where they want them to be. George W Bush’s administration even banned the televising of coffins of returning dead from the Iraq war. So we don’t get the full picture.

Stephanie Dowrick sees war as the “most extreme travesty of our human and sacred potential… war makes rage, prejudice and hatred reasonable”. It is the destructive often hidden costs of needless wars that should make us reflect on the senselessness of much of the conflicts. Once primed for killing by patriotic flags, trumpets, honour… soldier’s bloodlust can easily go out of control and as Cicero commented “laws become silent amid the clash of arms”.

The causes of War: #

War is often declared on flimsy grounds. Shakespeare has Hamlet conclude after seeing Fortinbras march through Denmark to attack Poland for a worthless piece of land:

Rightly to be great
Is not to stir without great argument,
But greatly to find quarrel in a straw
When honour’s at the stake.

In Henry V, Shakespeare condemns the hypocrisy and wanton destruction of England’s needless invasion of a sovereign France, killing thousands who were merely defending their homeland with this epilogue:

“They lost France and made England bleed”.

For war inspirational speeches here.

Wars seldom achieve anything; all that inspirational struggle for nothing; futile, stupid and pointless. As Larry Heinemann, an American Vietnam veteran turned novelist writes:*

“We were the unwilling, doing the unnecessary, for the ungrateful”

Many Wars are often fought under false pretexts and precipitated by confected popular opinion. When in 1853, Russia indicated its intention of attacking the failing Ottoman Empire, ostensibly to protect the Slavs, but in reality to gain access to an ice free port through the Dardenelles, the French and English became concerned that this would disturb the delicate Balance of Power of the five powers. Newspapers began a caustic propaganda campaign against Russia and raised an expeditionary force of 80,000 troops. Alarmed, Russia blinked and withdrew its intended assault. Because of the effective British and French media staged propaganda campaign that painted the Russian as sub human - a bear - and enthused or stirred their populations and soldiers to such high levels of espirit de corps or morale that when the Russians backed down, the French and British press urged their ministries to attack regardless and a force of just over 80,000 men was able to conquer a Russian force of over 300,000 serfs on their own territory.

The term Jingoist (one who wants war) is derived from a song of the time, “By Jingo we’ll show the Russians a thing or two.” Other noteworthy consequences were the contribution of Florence Nightingale organising field hospitals for cholera- stricken soldiers and Alfred Lord Tennyson’s The Charge of the Light Brigade, which chronicled a charge of light cavalry under confusing orders against impregnable Russian gun positions, giving us these memorable lines:

“Someone had blundered:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die”

The supreme irony of history is that sixty years later French, British and Anzac troops lost 60,000 troops at Gallipoli in a futile effort to gain Russian access to the Mediterranean Sea.

Another incident was the USS Maine, which exploded and sank on February 15, 1898, in Havana Harbour, Cuba killing 266 American marines. This incident was used by Randolph Hearst who claimed his newspaper’s jingoistic editorials led to the outbreak of the Spanish-American War. There have been several inquiries into the sinking. The most recent official enquiry was by the US Navy in 1976, and it “concluded that the damage was inconsistent with that caused by a mine …stated that the most likely cause was a coal dust fire.”

This conclusion has not been universally accepted, but it must be given considerable credence.

The famed Gulf of Tonkin incident (August, 1964) was a naval battle between the US and nobody else. The US claimed it was fighting North Vietnamese gunboats, but as Wikipedia reports:

In 2005, an internal National Security Agency historical study was declassified; it concluded that the Maddox had engaged the North Vietnamese Navy on August 2, but that there may not have been any North Vietnamese Naval vessels present during the engagement of August 4. The report stated

It is not simply that there is a different story as to what happened; it is that no attack happened that night. […] In truth, Hanoi’s navy was engaged in nothing that night but the salvage of two of the boats damaged on August 2.

This non-incident gave Johnston the opportunity to officially get involved in the war in Vietnam.

Bearing in mind the Weapons of Mass Destruction debacle used to invade Iraq in 2003, it is worth remaining a little bit sceptical about any “crisis” that leads to war.

Civil Wars #

The prominence of civil war is nothing new in world history. For at least 2000 years civil war has been the most frequent form of collective human conflict. It has also been among the most ferocious.

In the first century BC, at the height of Rome’s civil wars, about a quarter of all male citizens aged between 17 and 46 were in arms. About 1700 years later, probably a greater proportion of England’s population died during the civil wars of the 1640s than perished in World War I. Two centuries later still, the military death toll in the US Civil War was six times larger, relative to size of population, than the casualty rate in World War II.

Most major conflicts are now civil wars, conflicts fought within states not between them. In 2006, the last year for which we have an accurate count, there were 32 civil wars in progress, from Afghanistan to Sudan. And since 1989, 115 of the world’s 122 wars have been civil wars rather than international wars, though many of these civil conflicts have also drawn in outside powers.

The costs of civil war are still mounting. Development economists have recently put a lot of energy into calculating the impact of civil war and have come up with some hair-raising conclusions. The average cost of a civil war, in terms of lives and income lost and productive resources squandered, is almost $US60 billion ($61.8 billion). With roughly two new civil wars starting every year in the past half-century, that makes an annual price tag of about $US120 billion. To put this in perspective, that’s more than the developed world spends on aid to developing countries each year.

War in Afghanistan #

More than 2000 years ago, the Greeks learnt the hard way that Afghanistan was not a piece of cake. In the 19th century, the invading British army was completely wiped out by Afghan peasants. Twice.

The last time the British army occupied the capital of Afghanistan, it was forced into a retreat so disastrous that a force of 4500 British soldiers was reduced to a single survivor. Only the surgeon staggered out alive to tell the story.

The British were in Kabul to prop up an Afghan puppet ruler they’d installed. Their enemy was not especially large or powerful. They were routed by a relative handful of Afghan tribesmen. The 1842 debacle was not inevitable, or even necessary, but largely self-inflicted.

“The road was strewn with the mangled corpses of their comrades and the stench of death was in the air,” ran an account of the British retreat from Kabul to Jalalabad along narrow mountain passes in a bitter winter. “All along the route they had been passing little groups of camp-followers, starving, frost-bitten and many of them in a state of gibbering idiocy.

“The Afghans, not troubling to kill these stragglers, had simply stripped them and left the cold to do its work and now the poor wretches were huddling together naked in the snow, striving hopelessly to keep warm by the heat of their own bodies. There were women and little children among them, who piteously stretched out their hands for succour.”

*It was “the most disgraceful and humiliating episode in our history of war against an Asian enemy”, one of Britain’s better 20th-century commanders, Field-Marshal Sir Gerald Templer, said. *Excerpts from Peter Hartcher, SMH. May 19, 2012

Thirty years ago, peasants defeated Soviets armed with the most lethal weapons available. Now, nine years after US-led forces invaded, only the Dutch appear to have learnt anything. They are pulling out by 2010.(Letters to editor SMH July 19 08 - Bill Matthew)

Combating Insurgency #

Insurgency is loosely organised insurrection or rebellion against constituted authority. It is hard to fight because the enemy is often not apparent. They do not engage in open combat, but strike in unpredictable ways. The Indians of North America, the commando raids of the Boers peasants of Vietnam and the suicide bombers of Iraq are good examples.

The Phoenix Program was synonymous with the normalisation of murder and torture throughout Vietnam – and we’re using it in Afghanistan?

Here’s a participants’ account of Phoenix in Vietnam:

The normal procedure would be to go into a village and just grab someone and say, “Where’s Nguyen so-and-so?” Half the time the people were so afraid they would say anything. Then a Phoenix team would take the informant, put a sandbag over his head, poke out two holes so he could see, put commo wire around his neck like a long leash, and walk him through the village and say, “When we go by Nguyen’s house scratch your head.”

Then that night Phoenix would come back, knock on the door, and say, “April Fool, mother*cker.” Whoever answered the door would get wasted. As far as they were concerned whoever answered was a Communist, including family members.

In his 1995 memoir, In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam, Robert McNamara said he and his senior colleagues were “wrong, terribly wrong” to pursue the war as they did. He acknowledged that he kept the war going long after he realised it was futile because he lacked the courage or the ability to turn President Lyndon Johnson around. In his 2003 book The Fog of War McNamara said:

“War is so complex it’s beyond the ability of the human mind to comprehend … our judgment, our understanding, are not adequate. And we kill people unnecessarily.”

Arms Sales #

U.S. government-to-government arms sales are growing fast and will likely exceed the bullish estimate of $40 billion for 2009, after averaging $8 billion to $13 billion per year in the early 2000s, Wieringa. The Pentagon’s top arms sales official said on Wednesday at the Paris Air Show as many countries had aging equipment to replace.

Wieringa said the Obama administration was committed to building international partnerships, and arms sales were an important instrument of that policy.

“We sell stuff to build relationships,” he said.

Boom times for irony too.

Social costs of war #

The trauma of war is like a wound that never heals.

“No one survives a war, especially not the returning soldiers.”

War has many hidden costs; some which do not surface until years later. The Iliad by Homer demonstrates the devastating effects of War on all those involved or even inextricably caught up with it. The First World War produced a large number of returning maimed veterans with war wounds and a greater number with long lasting psychological ones; then known as shell shock. Successive wars, especially controversial ones, have had long lasting traumatic consequences. A 2005 study showed that National Service veterans were 43% more likely to die from suicide than non-veterans. Even children of war veterans are three times as likely to commit suicide than the general public. Veterans Affairs has only recently begun to keep track of these statistics.

War - Drinking to their deaths on Anzac Day

Crikey reader Paul Mitchell writes:

As well as physical wounds, my grandfather received deep psychological damage. Post-traumatic stress disorder was unknown in the ‘40s, and there were no counselling services. So he did what many of his mates did

  • numbed the pain with grog.

Bill drank solidly for 52 years and his liver, kidneys and spleen were shot when he died. But the alcohol didn’t just affect his body: he was a violent alcoholic who created a warzone. He physically and psychologically abused his wife and kids, and the effects continue: his four children have had psychological problems; two of his sons have been alcoholics (with four marriages between them) and one of their daughters suicided.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - Also called Shell Shock

As technology changes, our ethical values change. Hand to hand conflict is not the same as mechanical warfare - especially drones operated thousands of miles away from the conflict. The “*war injury” *may still kick in. The emotional wounds of the horrors of war can upend one’s moral and interpersonal framework. More and more troubled returned veterans are showing symptoms of disordered personal values conflicts caused by serving where the norms of civil societies have collapsed and others showed few signs of human decency. Especially where governments are involved in wars of questionable justness. Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan have all produced a number of ambiguous motives difficult to justify where soldiers are required to execute orders that may contravene the internationally agreed codes of conduct. Personal conflicts occur when individuals are forced to comply with orders they perceive as wrong or against their own inculcated moral values.

Military leaders counter by promoting it as “warrior culture”, a macho attitude that permeates throughout the Australian Defence Force. It breeds tough soldiers, sailors and airmen, who are trained to not complain and just get on with the job, despite the constant threat of life and death situations.

Part of that culture means shutting up about mental health problems. “There is a warrior culture encultured in to you,” Steve Ager, an Australian Army veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, told Crikey. “And that old warrior culture gets you through. It’s often five to 10 years after an incident that it comes out that you’ve got an issue.” Amber Jamieson, Crikey 21/03/13.

But while younger veterans may be angrier and more prone to drug use, many of the basic PTSD issues remain the same no matter the generation. Most people deal with nightmares, flashbacks and traumatic thoughts. PTSD sufferers experience both an increase and a lack of arousal: more prone to anger, sharp outbursts and suppressing emotions, less likely to seek out anything enjoyable and there’s often a loss of libido. Avoidance is also common: avoiding work, sleep, crowds, loved ones.

The biggest issue for returned veterans is often “moral wounding”, according to Doug Brewer: “It’s not so much the engagement with the enemy as much as being exposed to seeing the way that human beings treat one another.”

It’s almost a type of cultural shock: visiting countries where women may not be as respected, where children may not be regarded as important or where hard work isn’t valued.

PTSD is often experienced when someone’s value system is tested. Brewer gives the example of a solider being trained to neutralise the enemy and avoid contact with locals unless necessary, however a child may beg a solider for help and the solider may have to ignore the child (despite perhaps having their own children back at home) to focus on their job.

Younger veterans suffering PTSD often feel they are no longer a positive impact on their family and friends. Clinical director of the Hollywood Clinic PTSD program Dr Winston Chiu talks of one soldier who encountered a massacre on his second day of deployment – he could feel his body become “contaminated” by encountering such a horrendous sight. On his return home, he feared his own family would become “contaminated” by his presence.

However, the biggest moment of clarity is when the PTSD sufferer realises it wasn’t that their personal value system collapsed and they no longer care about things, but instead the reason they are so deeply affected is because their value system remains stronger than ever. They are pushing their family and loved ones away because they don’t want to hurt them – not because they don’t love them.

Suicide is commonly discussed during these programs. Chiu explains that many of their participants have pre-planned how they would commit suicide and may have already attempted it. “It’s a serious issue which we’re facing. PTSD does bring many of these people to a point where suicide becomes a reasonable way of dealing with these intense feelings and the intrusion of their past back into their daily life,” said Brewer. “There wouldn’t be a program we run with participants who aren’t severally affected by their colleagues who have died by suicide.”

AMBER JAMIESON Crikey journalist 27/03/13

Restoring a classic – the psychological wounds of war . The American Psychoanalytic Associationis drawing attention to a previously censored 1946 documentary about the psychological wounds of war, Let There Be Light , that has been restored and released by the U.S. Army.

The film, directed by John Huston, uses footage of unscripted conversations with veterans. The US National Film Preservation Foundation explains how by the time the film was first allowed a public screening – in December 1980 – “its remarkable innovations in style and subject, which in the 1940s were at least a decade ahead of their time, could be taken as old hat, especially because of the poor quality of then-available prints.”

This new restoration, says the Foundation, finally reveals the film’s full force as it examines what we’d now label PTSD – post-traumatic stress disorder – among returning soldiers.

John Huston, who was given the assignment of making a documentary about what World War II soldiers still called “shell-shock” under the working title of The Returning Psychoneurotics in June 1945 when a major in the Army’s Signal Corps, later described how he went about the project:

I visited a number of Army hospitals during the research phase, and finally settled on Mason General Hospital on Long Island as the best place to make the picture. It was the biggest in the East, and the officers and doctors there were the most sympathetic and willing…

The hospital admitted two groups of 75 patients each week, and the goal was to restore these men physically, mentally and emotionally within six to eight weeks, to the point where they could be returned to civilian life in as good condition – or almost as good – as when they came into the Army…

I decided that the best way to make the film was to follow one group through from the day of their arrival until their discharge …. When the patients arrived, they were in various conditions of emotional distress. Some had tics; some were paralyzed; one in ten was psychotic. Most of them fell into the general designation of “anxiety neurosis.”

[Charles] Kaufman and I wrote the script as the picture was shot, which, I think, is the ideal way to make a documentary. [The purpose] was to show how men who suffered mental damage in the service should not be written off but could be helped by psychiatric treatment . The original idea was that the film be shown to those who would be able to give employment in industry, to reassure them that the men discharged under this section were not insane, but were employable, as trustworthy as anyone.

War - Drinking to their deaths on Anzac Day

Crikey reader Paul Mitchell writes:

As well as physical wounds, my grandfather received deep psychological damage. Post-traumatic stress disorder was unknown in the ‘40s, and there were no counselling services. So he did what many of his mates did

  • numbed the pain with grog.

Bill drank solidly for 52 years and his liver, kidneys and spleen were shot when he died. But the alcohol didn’t just affect his body: he was a violent alcoholic who created a warzone. He physically and psychologically abused his wife and kids, and the effects continue: his four children have had psychological problems; two of his sons have been alcoholics (with four marriages between them) and one of their daughters suicided.

The cost of going to wars. #

“If any question why we died,* *
Tell them, because our fathers lied.”Rudyard Kipling

Inscription for a War

Stranger, go tell the Spartans
We died here obedient to their commands.

Inscription at Thermopylae #

Linger not, stranger, shed no tear;
Go back to those who sent us here.
We are the young they drafted out
In wars their folly brought about.
Go tell these old men, safe in bed,
We took their orders and are dead.
A.D. Hope

Since the terror attacks of September 11 2001, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) estimates that the United States has spent $1147 billion on going to wars. In terms of today’s dollars that makes the war on terrorism in Iraq, Afghanistan and on other operations such as those in the Philippines and the Horn of Africa, the second most expensive in the country’s history. Yet when the spending is converted into a share of US gross domestic product the spending comes in fifth behind the War of 1812, the Mexican War, and Union spending in the Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

The recently published CRS report Costs of Major US Wars attempts to compare war costs from the time of the American Revolution to the current day. Among the difficulties in doing so that it acknowledges is how to separate costs of military operations from costs of forces in peacetime. “In recent years,” the report says, “the DOD (Department of Defence) has tried to identify the additional ‘incremental’ expenses of engaging in military operations, over and above the costs of maintaining standing military forces.” The table below thus gives a figure estimating both “war” spending as a percentage of GDP in the peak year of each conflict and of total defence spending in the same year. Richard Farmer Crikey July 22 2010

WikiLeaks and Afghanistan: #

Harry Goldsmith writes: Re. " Whatever their motivation, WikiLeaks undermine international humanitarian law” (yesterday, item 10). Neil James tells us that:

“WikiLeaks is not authorised in international or Australian law, nor equipped morally or operationally, to judge whether open publication of such material risks the safety, security, morale and legitimate objectives of Australian and allied troops fighting in a UN-endorsed military operation. Nor should and can groups such as WikiLeaks be so authorised or equipped respectively, especially when they are unaccountable to any responsible authority or international humanitarian law (IHL) in a legal or moral sense.”

I am pleased that WikiLeaks was able to show the Helicopter Gunship Massacre, so we could see the barbarism that is war, especially in the light of Hans Blix’s comments before the UK Inquiry into the Iraq War. I understand that US’s appetite for war in Vietnam was reduced because TV audiences could see what was involved, and maybe the Helicopter Gunship Massacre will have a similar effect. So, too, will the airing of atrocities in Afghanistan.

Does Neil James think that Daniel Ellsberg, who famously leaked the Pentagon Papers was similarly “not authorized” and should therefore be condemned? (For those not aware of the Pentagon Papers, Wikipedia records that the “Pentagon Papers demonstrated, among other things, that the Johnson Administration had systematically lied, not only to the public but also to Congress, about a subject of transcendent national interest and significance.”

At my local RSL club, members and guests hear the words each night:

“Lest we forget”. I fear we do forget.

Have we forgotten that the Taliban are powerful in Afghanistan because the US assisted them to overthrow a previous government? The US action has come back to bite it in its metaphorical bum.

Propaganda #

Military PR has become more and more sophisticated. It took more than a century for the brass to realise that having a reporter like Russell¹ around during the Crimean War was a disaster for any attempt to promote our brave soldiers and a bigger disaster if you wanted to hide your incompetence.

From the Grenada invasion onwards the US military has been obsessed with controlling the message in a way which makes ALP apparatchiks look like the amateurs they proved themselves to be during the last election.

The US military now employs more PR people than any other organisation in the world. Part of their job is presenting a positive view of all things military; part is obscuring the disasters; and, an important part which helps with both is co-opting the media. There will be, under this policy, no more Vietnams where reality was broadcast into US living rooms.

There are many neo-cons and many military types who believe Vietnam could have been won if not for the disloyal media. Just as Douglas McArthur believed that with more troops – and the odd nuclear weapon – the Korean War could have been won. For anyone tempted to believe this nonsense a quick trip to the Cu Chi tunnels outside Ho Chi Minh City is a good guide to why their side won and the US were never going to. An enemy which can do this is very hard to defeat – as shown by Vietnam’s astonishing record of having defeated the French, the US and the Chinese in less than 40 years after the end of the Second World War.

Since Grenada, and particularly in Kuwait and Iraq, the military has made an art of embedding journalists. In both Iraq invasions it was probably not very dangerous as the speed with which both wars were concluded – at least in their first stages – demonstrated. There were to be no, or very few, Ernie Pyles and Damien Parers for generations of reporters to admire.

The embedded journalists are totally dependent on their protectors to channel the news. Indeed, few mainstream journalists have revealed as much about recent wars as soldiers who send email messages, with attached images, home and to their friends. The end result is that the new system is far more effective than old-style military censorship.

William Howard Russell (28 March 1820 - 11 February 1907) was an Irish reporter with The Times, and is considered to have been one of the first modern war correspondents, after he spent 22 months covering the Crimean War including the Charge of the Light Brigade. His dispatches were hugely significant: for the first time the public could read about the reality of warfare. Wikipedia

Ignaz Amrein writes : Crikey October 12, 2010.

If Tony Abbott wants to know what it’s really like being out there on patrol in Afghanistan, he should spend a couple of weeks with the soldiers who have come back from duty, soldiers who saw their mates killed and had other horrific experiences you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemies.

It is the coming home part of a war that politicians like Abbott (and Gillard) don’t understand and don’t want to know about, because it might do to their heads what it does to the soldiers heads they sent there.

Historically, Australia presents as a country unwilling to sit on the sidelines. Witness Crimea, South Africa, World Wars 1 & 2, Korea, Malaya, Vietnam, Iraq and now Afghanistan; and add in our “policing” activities everywhere – not all of these actions were insurance payments. So are we warmongers? Les Heimann writes, Crikey.com October 14, 2010

Resisting War: #

Keith Perkins writes : Crikey.com 26.10.10 Re. " Video of the Day: Adam Bandt’s speech on Afghanistan” (21 October, item 8). Whilst my eyes may not have watered my heart certainly wept in sympathy with Andrew Wilkie when he emotionally pleaded with his fellow parliamentarians to end the senseless killing of our finest young men and bring them home from Afghanistan. My sympathy for Andrew was combined with anger at the hopelessness of his task; he has Buckley’s chance of instilling the slightest measure of logic, let alone compassion, to his parliamentary colleagues regarding the futility of this conflict.

In a chamber consisting of 150 members only one, the Green MP Adam Bandt, supported Andrew and while I may have been sad and angry I was not surprised. What hope did Wilkie and Bandt have of persuading the government, a government representing what are possibly the most warring people the world has seen for hundreds of years, to end this senseless killing.

In the 222 years of existence Australia has involved itself in 16 wars, commencing with the 3,600 soldiers sent to fight against the Maori in 1860-66 In all those wars there was only one where Australia was militarily threatened and that was WW2, all the others were non-defensive.

In the sixteen wars and conflicts that Australia has been involved in, since 1860, including Iraq and Afghanistan, there have been 102,839 deaths or, in more shocking and disturbing perspective, an average of 686 young Australians have died every year since the first shot was fired against the Maori in 1860

What hope pacifism, when war is such an exciting and profitable industry?

Larry Heinemann, an American Vietnam veteran turned novelist writes:

“We were the unwilling, doing the unnecessary, for the ungrateful”

Interactive Exercise on War Themes: http://englishadd.host-ed.net/index.htm