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Last updated on June 15th, 2017 at 12:27 pm
Melbourne Age cartoonist Michael Leunig pays tribute to Australia’s war dead:
In the grisly light of the fact that Australian soldiers so recently took part in the invasion of Iraq, which involved the killing of more than 100,000 civilians, and lost not one soldier in the process, it feels somehow obscene, bizarre and shameful to be commemorating, yet again, Australia’s part in the invasion of Turkey in 1915. More than ever it feels to me that soldiers have been honoured more than enough and civilian victims have been honoured far too little. In the commemoration of war, as in war itself, civilians don’t ultimately matter. The failure to prioritise the remembrance of civilian victims is a reinforcement of the military right to abuse or obliterate them with impunity in times of war.
Leunig called for us to pray for Osama but wants us to shun our soldiers. Note also that “100,000 dead civilians” is now established fact, requiring no qualifying terms such as “estimate” or “claim”.
Where the Prime Minister sees courage, decency and goodness in professional soldiers – all those “best and finest” qualities – I cannot help but also see the possibility of perversity, emotional sickness and a latent murderous impulse. The innocent question won’t go away: “What sort of person volunteers to devote their life to the skills of destruction and the business of hunting, trapping and slaughtering humans?”
As for the men who refused the way of violence, there appears to be little cultural recognition or consciousness of those who rejected jingoism and the call to homicide, but who served their country well for an entire lifetime in creative, constructive and unglorified ways that are immeasurable.
Leunig has spent his entire life drawing idiots, and now he wants a medal.
Like so many other groups and other types, it is possible that they have been cold-shouldered out of the official, heroic version of the national story. Yet their lives and their efforts may have contributed more to what is valuable in the Australian identity than we care to contemplate, and the legacy of Gallipoli and war may have much to do with what is dysfunctional, tragic and ugly in our society.
War is to blame for the Melbourne Age?
Soldiers can quickly tire of patriotism and piety in the globalised world. Many become mercenaries now and sell their souls to the highest bidder as hit-men; which may tell us something about what it takes to be a soldier. Iraq is crawling with these lapsed “best and finest” people.
That the Age would run this just one day after the murder of Australian contractor Chris Ahmelman in Iraq is staggering. No prayers for him, eh, Michael?
UPDATE. Reader Harry Buttle in comments:
Leunig has the right to say what he pleases. My service and the service of hundreds of thousands of others over the years guaranteed this.
One could perhaps ask what it is that this pretentious arse known as Leunig has ever done to improve or protect the lives of others and in what way he ever suffered to do so. But perhaps that would be unkind.
The true shame belongs to the Age for publishing it.
They will not get another cent from me as long as I live.
Good call. Send letters here.
UPDATE II. This is more like it:
BANGOR, Maine — Tired and bleary-eyed, Marines of the 1st Battalion, 7th Regiment, based at Twentynine Palms, Calif., were finally back on U.S. soil after seven months on the front lines in Iraq.
But they were still many miles and hours from their families and the homecoming they longed for. Their officers told them they would be on the ground for 60 to 90 minutes while their chartered plane was refueled.
So they disembarked and began walking through the airport terminal corridor to a small waiting room.
That’s when they heard the applause.
Read the whole thing, then click over to the Maine Troop Greeters.
UPDATE III. Rafe Champion writes:
The Champion name was in the news this week with the burial of Lieutenant Christopher Champion along with three other diggers whose bodies turned up decades after their deaths in France during the last German offensive in WWI.
According to a newspaper report the Lieutenant was mentioned in dispatches for coolness and leadership throughout a day spent holding a strategic position against the German advance. He was killed at seven in the evening of 19 April 1918. He was aged 25.
Fred Thornett alerted me to these developments last week because no next of kin had been located. His hunch was correct. The father of Christopher, the Reverend Arthur Champion of The Rectory, Bungendore, was a brother of my grandfather Alfred.
The Rev Champion was head of Launceston Grammar (where Christopher was born), then he moved to the Kings School and then on to a country parish near Canberra (the oral history of our family did not record where). The Rev Champion and his wife lost a second son in the war; Geoffrey Savante Champion was killed in France in 1916, aged 21.