The Guardian • Issue #1959

ANZAC Day and Australia’s dark foreign policy

Sunday 25th April marked 106 years since Australian and New Zealander troops landed on the Gallipoli peninsula of the then-Ottoman Empire, to fight and die in their thousands under an uncaring British command in pursuit of British imperial interests.

A tragedy worth commemorating, indeed. The tragedy of the horrors that wars, especially wars conducted on behalf of the interests of a foreign power, bring.

But this is not quite how it is being spoken about; indeed such an interpretation would be decried as sacrilege by much of the mainstream media and politicians.

The opportunity is being taken to promote a message that is utterly hypocritical. It is, in brief: let’s do it again.

On ANZAC Day, Mike Pezzullo, Secretary of the Department of Home Affairs, delivered a vile, provocative speech lauding the US-Australia alliance and containing talk of a new, approaching war.

“Later this year, Australia and the United States will mark the 70th anniversary of our military alliance. We seek to be militarily self-reliant in all contingencies short of great power war. Nonetheless, our national defence strategy has at its heart the protection afforded to Australia in the most perilous circumstances by the military might of the United States, including by way of the deterrence effect of its nuclear arsenal, and its willingness and preparedness to wage war against a major power adversary. […]

“Today, as free nations again hear the beating drums and watch worryingly the militarisation of issues that we had, until recent years, thought unlikely to be catalysts for war, let us continue to search unceasingly for the chance for peace while bracing again, yet again, for the curse of war. By our resolve and our strength, by our preparedness of arms, and by our statecraft, let us get about reducing the likelihood of war – but not at the cost of our precious liberty.”

It doesn’t take a genius to spot that the implication is the US’ desired war against China. Our “precious liberty” sure does a lot of travelling … from Korea to Vietnam, to Afghanistan and Iraq, now China. And always somewhere with vast resources the US has their eye on, and a government that doesn’t roll over and do the US’ bidding like ours does.

Do we want another war conducted on behalf of the interests of a foreign power?

A number of ALP figures criticised Pezzullo’s speech. However, the ALP is just as committed to grovelling at the feet of the US – recall Albanese in January: “The great tragedy of the recent past is the power of America’s example has been diminished from within. It is in Australia’s interests as a US ally to encourage the restoration of that power.”

To criticise the gross irresponsibility of Pezzullo’s speech and the warmongering rhetoric from other Liberal National Party figures, although correct, is only more hypocrisy from a party that is just as committed to upholding the guarantee that we will be forced to take part in these unjust US wars: Australia’s lack of independence.

If you ask Australians “when did Australia become independent?” probably the main answer you will receive is 1901, with Federation. These days, the story of Federation is usually taught with this implication.

Of course, this has no resemblance to the historical truth. Federation was merely the merging of multiple already-self-governing British colonies into one large British colony. Australians would still be considered British subjects for decades, and Australia was legally subject to acts of British parliament until 1986.

At the time of Federation there were Australian troops in South Africa (Second Boer War) and China (Boxer Rebellion) fighting on behalf of the British Empire and its imperial interests. Again in 1914, Australian troops were dispatched to fight under British command, and even by the time of World War II Australian troops were still considered British, although with more autonomy in some cases.

It was after the devastation of WW2 that the United States overtook Britain as the world’s foremost hegemonic power, and Australia’s primary allegiance immediately began to shift from the world’s most powerful empire, to … the world’s most powerful empire … but the new one.

And although the United Nations had just been established as an attempted vehicle of world peace, the US, on its new single-minded anti-communist mission, wasted no time perverting it into a vehicle of war.

When the Chinese revolution overthrew Kuomintang rule in the mainland and the “Republic of China” regime had been confined to Taiwan Province and a few other islands, backed up by the US military, the US refused to recognise the People’s Republic of China and began the extended farce of continuing to recognise Kuomintang rule over all of China, and keeping the “Republic of China” in the UN seat of China.

(It is interesting to note that at this point, the US had no confusion about the fact that Taiwan is part of China, and no objection to their Taiwanese puppet regime’s claims over the South China Sea, Tibet, Xinjiang, and even all of Mongolia.)

The Soviet Union began a boycott of UN Security Council meetings in protest. The US took that opportunity to push through a resolution on Korea that began the international intervention in the Korean War, which resulted in millions of Korean civilian deaths, and hundreds of Australian troops killed in action.

ABC News covered a 70th anniversary commemoration of the 1951 Battle of Kapyong (today in South Korea), 23rd April. The coverage was notable for being another case of irresponsible rhetoric at a highly sensitive time. It repeatedly emphasised that the battle was a victory against Chinese troops, and was also fought in defence of “democracy.” (What sort of democracy this was supposed to be is unclear, as South Korea spent the next four decades under a series of brutal right-wing dictatorships propped up by the United States, and today continues to be a dictatorship of the chaebol monopolies.)

While the auspiciousness of the 70-year figure is no doubt part of the justification for this story, it is hard to imagine the political messaging implied by placing this story in the present context was not considered in the editorial process.

The story also stresses South Korea’s “gratitude” for the service of Australian veterans, and that the sacrifices of veterans were the price for “the peace the peninsula currently enjoys.” A very bad joke?

Any gratitude held by South Koreans for Australian participation in the Korean War is of similar quality to Australian gratitude for being supposedly protected by the American nuclear umbrella.

Enough of all these wars! Enough of all these lies! Enough of all this destruction in pursuit of the economic interests of the already-wealthiest countries! Let’s make Australia a country that is genuinely peaceful, and genuinely independent.

Tags ANZAC war
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