• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

Spring Donation Drive

CounterPunch is a lifeboat piggybank-icon of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight.
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The Toxic Myth of Anzac

Derry, Northern Ireland.

Scott McIntyre was sacked last week as a sports presenter on the Australian TV network Special Broadcasting Service for having tweeted acerbic comments about Anzac Day – the annual commemoration on April 25th of the role of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps at Gallipoli in 1915. “The cultification of an imperialist invasion of a foreign nation that Australia had no quarrel with is against all ideals of modern society,” was McIntyre’s opening salvo. Australians should rather be “Remembering the summary execution, widespread rape and theft committed by these ‘brave’ Anzacs.” The anger has been phenomenal. An online petition calling for McIntyre’s sacking attracted a reported 180,000 signatures in a day. Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull denounced him as “despicable…difficult to think of more offensive or inappropriate comments.” Twenty four hours after the messages were sent, SBS announced that it had “taken decisive action to terminate Mr McIntyre’s position with immediate effect.” Anzac Day is of huge significance in Australia and New Zealand. Australia had become independent 13 years before the outbreak of the first world war, New Zealand six years later. The white section of the population regarded itself still as empire-loyalist, but now with this difference: that in joining the conflict as independent entities, they could see themselves as having taken their place among the nations of the world. I

The writer of “Waltzing Matilda”, Banjo Paterson, caught the note perfectly:

The mettle that a race can show
Is proved with shot and steel
And now we know what nations know
And feel what nations feel.

McIntyre had trashed the foundation myth. More generally, he had drawn attention to the way soft-lit Remembrance is used slyly to promote wars of the present and future. On a visit to New Zealand on the eve of Anzac Day, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot referred to soldiers fighting in the Middle East today as “Sons of Anzac.”

There are no exact parallels with Ireland’s experience, except in this: that the sentimentalisation of slaughter which McIntyre lost his job for exposing is evident, too,  in the memorialising of the Irish misled into following England’s flag. Like the Kiwis and the Aussies, they, too, were flung to their deaths like fistfuls of chaff.

The attack on Turkey was intended to knock the Ottoman Empire out of the war and clear the path for Tsarist Russia through to Constantinople. In the longer term, it can be seen as the moment when Britain and France stepped decisively into the Middle East to replace the Ottomans as imperial rulers, then to draw the boundaries of invented nations, the better to divvy up the resources of the region between them. (A glance at today’s news pages will tell how that one worked out)

It is right and proper that all those killed in World War One should be remembered. But they should be remembered with rage against the obviously predictable futility of the enterprise and of the crime which it represented against humanity, not with reverence for a sacrifice well made.

How can it be that crowds gather today with heads bowed for the wilderness of victims but no show of anger against those responsible nor firm resolution of Never Again. How can there be commemorations of the ’14-’18 war which are not also anti-war demonstrations?

Herein, of course, lies the reason rouge is freshly applied every year to the skeletons of the fallen. In repose now, still beautiful, all worth it.

There is a positive size. After McIntyre had been battered for a couple of days, a different response began to emerge. A number of commentators spoke up, some to endorse what he’d said, others to defend his right to have said it. “It took four months for the defenders of free speech to move from #JeSuisCharlie to #SackScottMcIntyre” wrote one correspondent in the Sydney Morning Herald.

After apparent hesitation, the Australian journalists’ union, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, came out strongly in McIntyre’s defence.

Perhaps some who are sick in their souls at the drenching of Ireland in toxic Remembrance will be encouraged to disrupt the displays of consensus.

In the 1970s, the Scots-Australian song-writer Eric Bogle adapted Banjo Paterson’s anthem:

“They gathered the crippled, the wounded, the maimed, and they shipped us back home to Australia/The legless, the armless, the blind, the insane, those proud wounded heroes of Suvla/And as our ship pulled into Circular Quay, I looked at the place where me legs used to be/And thanked Christ there was nobody waiting for me, to grieve, to mourn, and to pity./ And the band played Waltzing Matilda…”

Very many of us who have no time for the nationalist falsifications of the history of the Easter Rising are nevertheless content that it was far better to die ‘neath an Irish sky than at Suvla or Sedd el Bahr. We should be saying that out more  loudly.

Eamonn McCann is an Irish journalist and political activist. He can be reached at Eamonderry@aol.com

More articles by:

Eamonn McCann is an Irish journalist and political activist. He can be reached at Eamonderry@aol.com

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

Weekend Edition
May 17, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Trump and the Middle East: a Long Record of Personal Failure
Joan Roelofs
“Get Your Endangered Species Off My Bombing Range!”
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Slouching Towards Tehran
Paul Street
It’s Even More Terrible Than You Thought
Rob Urie
Grabby Joe and the Problem of Environmental Decline
Ajamu Baraka
2020 Elections: It’s Militarism and the Military Budget Stupid!
Andrew Levine
Springtime for Biden and Democrats
Richard Moser
The Interlocking Crises: War and Climate Chaos
Ron Jacobs
Uncle Sam Needs Our Help Again?
Eric Draitser
Elizabeth Warren Was Smart to Tell FOX to Go to Hell
Peter Bolton
The Washington Post’s “Cartel of the Suns” Theory is the Latest Desperate Excuse for Why the Coup Attempt in Venezuela has Failed
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Analysis of Undecideds Suggests Biden’s Support May be Exaggerated
Peter Lackowski
Eyewitness in Venezuela: a 14-year Perspective
Karl Grossman
Can Jerry Nadler Take Down Trump?
Howie Hawkins
Does the Climate Movement Really Mean What It Says?
Gary Leupp
Bolton and the Road to the War He Wants
Jill Richardson
Climate Change was No Accident
Josh Hoxie
Debunking Myths About Wealth and Race
David Barsamian
Iran Notes
David Mattson
Social Carrying Capacity Politspeak Bamboozle
Christopher Brauchli
The Pompeo Smirk
Louis Proyect
Trotsky, Bukharin and the Eco-Modernists
Martha Burk
Will Burning at the Stake Come Next?
John W. Whitehead
The Deadly Perils of Traffic Stops in America
Binoy Kampmark
The Christchurch Pledge and a Regulated Internet
David Rosen
Florida’s Sex Wars: the Battle to Decriminalize Sex Work
Ralph Nader
Trump: Importing Dangerous Medicines and Food and Keeping Consumers in the Dark
Brett Haverstick
America’s Roadless Rules are Not Protecting Public Wildlands From Development
Alan Macleod
Purity Tests Can be a Good Thing
Binoy Kampmark
Modern Merchants of Death: the NSO Group, Spyware and Human Rights
Kim C. Domenico
Anarchism & Reconciliation, Part II
Peter LaVenia
Game of Thrones and the Truth About Class (Spoiler Warning)
Manuel E. Yepe
The Options Trump Puts on the Table
Renee Parsons
The Pompeo/Bolton Tag Team
David Swanson
Where Lyme Disease Came From and Why It Eludes Treatment
Cesar Chelala
Lowering Your Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Our Problems are Deeper than “Capitalism” (and “Socialism” Alone Can’t Solve Them)
Chris Zinda
Delegislating Wilderness
Robert Koehler
War’s Unanswered Questions
Robert P. Alvarez
Let Prison Inmates Vote
Barbara Nimri Aziz
A Novel We Can All Relate To
David Yearsley
Carmen’s Mother’s Day Lessons
Charles R. Larson
Review: Ziya Tong’s “The Reality Bubble”
Elliot Sperber
Pharaoh’s Dream
Elizabeth Keyes
Somewhere Beyond Corporate Media Yemenis Die
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail