Lest thou for­get

The things which thine eyes have seen


MANY of us will to­mor­row bow our heads to hon­our Dig­gers who made the ul­ti­mate sac­ri­fice, and those who self­lessly gave up their fam­i­lies, hopes and dreams.

As the bu­gle sounds the haunt­ing melody of The Last

Post, some of us might catch a fleet­ing glimpse of the hor­ror and hard­ship en­dured. Some will shed a tear for the 60,000 Aussies killed in the four years of the Great War. It is an epic tragedy. Just as tragic is that our hon­ourable and very hu­man sense of re­mem­brance is be­ing hi­jacked.

Our noble de­sire to hon­our those who fought for free­dom on our be­half — not just from 1914 to 1918 but in so many other wars around the world — is be­ing com­man­deered by an in­sid­i­ous war ma­chine.

If we do not ex­tri­cate our re­spect for the fallen from the ten­ta­cles of the in­ter­na­tional arms trade, the ter­ror of mass shoot­ings that oc­cur in the US on a weekly ba­sis will be repli­cated and mag­ni­fied on the global stage.

Rather than a lone gun­man slay­ing dozens of in­no­cents in schools, night­clubs, con­certs and houses of prayer, the slaugh­ter will be am­pli­fied and vis­ited on vic­tims in the hun­dreds and thou­sands.

The con­flict will be be­tween na­tions, re­li­gious sects and com­pet­ing ide­olo­gies and causes, some of which are yet to be imag­ined.

The wide­spread war­ring in the world to­day will seem in hind­sight like an epoch of peace.

The fear and dis­trust of neigh­bours that drives Amer­i­cans to arm them­selves to the hilt and fill their sub­ur­ban homes with the tools of war is be­ing spread un­bri­dled on a global scale.

Whether Filipinos, Viet­namese, Aussies or In­done­sians, we are urged to deck our­selves out with sub­marines, mis­sile sys­tems, war­ships, jet­fight­ers, he­li­copters, bombs, guns and mil­i­tary fa­tigues.

We are told that mu­tu­ally as­sured destruc­tion will bring about our safety, like it did dur­ing the Cold War be­tween Rus­sia and the US.

But just as the mass mur­der­ers slay in­no­cents in the US with­out re­morse, rogue states, run­away ide­ologs and mega­lo­ma­ni­a­cal lead­ers do not fear their own destruc­tion; the life-or-death throw of a dice ex­hil­a­rates, en­no­bles and em­bold­ens them.

Easy ac­cess to the tools of war em­pow­ers them.

The arms in­dus­try is a mer­ci­less, soul­less and morally bank­rupt in­dus­trial be­he­moth that preys on gov­ern­ments. It is arm­ing the world.

The trade’s al­lure to gov­ern­ments Left, Right and Cen­tre is that it de­liv­ers them power.

It’s easy. Gov­ern­ments spend pub­lic money build­ing gar­gan­tuan de­fence de­part­ments that stim­u­late eco­nomic growth and jobs. We’re all mil­i­taris­ing, Aus­tralia, the Philip­pines, Viet­nam, Malaysia, In­done­sia, Thai­land. All of us.

In Aus­tralia, states and ter­ri­to­ries squab­ble over de­fence con­tracts. Pri­vate en­gi­neer­ing and man­u­fac­tur­ing firms join over­seas part­ners. The eco­nomic stim­u­lus is real and mea­sur­able.

Gov­ern­ments thrive on the buoy­ant eco­nomic in­di­ca­tors de­liv­ered by the war ma­chine, and their lead­ers are ex­alted by the spread of na­tion­al­ism as they lay wreaths at our shrines.

There is a grow­ing aware­ness to be found in let­ters pages of news­pa­pers around the coun­try that the level of pa­tri­o­tism around days of re­mem­brance — such as Ar­mistice Day to­mor­row and in the grand memo­ri­al­i­sa­tion of war in gen­eral — is at fever pitch, verg­ing on hys­ter­i­cal.

Many who died and fought in our name would be aghast at the mis­ap­pro­pri­a­tion of their sac­ri­fice.

Coun­cils around the coun­try pour mil­lions into wor­thy memo­ri­als such as the $11 mil­lion foot­bridge be­ing built in Ho­bart to link the Sol­diers Memo­rial Av­enue with the Ceno­taph.

Half a bil­lion dol­lars is be­ing fun­nelled into the Aus­tralian War Memo­rial in Can­berra — with space omi­nously set aside for con­flicts yet to be fought — and $100 mil­lion was spent on the Sir John Monash Cen­tre in France, which opened this year.

The In­vic­tus Games, which drew much-needed at­ten­tion to the plight of those wounded in war, were spon­sored by weapons-mak­ers Lock­heed Mar­tin, Raytheon and Boe­ing.

Lock­heed is also work­ing with the Aus­tralian War Memo­rial on com­mem­o­ra­tions.

There’s been re­cent talk of salut­ing vet­er­ans and giv­ing them pri­or­ity board­ing on air­craft. The idea was howled down by vet­er­ans, who wanted noth­ing of the sort. Hardly sur­pris­ing con­sid­er­ing the leg­endary char­ac­ter of the Aussie Dig­ger. Our sol­diers in­fu­ri­ated Bri­tish of­fi­cers dur­ing the Great War by only salut­ing su­pe­ri­ors they re­spected.

“Why do you not salute?” a Bri­tish colonel asks an Aus­tralian pri­vate in a fa­mous car­toon pub­lished in 1917. “To tell you the truth, dig­ger,” the Aussie replies, “we’ve cut it right out.” And there’s the rub. I dare sug­gest many for whom we bow our heads to­mor­row would turn in their graves at this glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of war and fer­vent pa­tri­o­tism. Upon re­turn to civil­ian life, many re­fused to speak of the hor­ror they en­dured. Words failed them. War is hell. Some es­ti­mate that more than 80 Aus­tralian vet­er­ans killed them­selves last year, and Aus­tralian In­sti­tute of Health and Well­be­ing fig­ures show 325 took their own lives from 2001 to 2015.

To­mor­row, as the bu­gle blows, re­mem­ber that ar­mistice means to stop fight­ing. We owe the Dig­gers that much.

Lest we for­get.

If you need to talk to some­one, please phone Life­line on 131 114.

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