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Tuesday, August 05, 2014

WW1: a century later NZ none the wiser

The NZDF commemorate the outbreak of the First World War with 100 gun salute in Wellington.  How inappropriate for that imperialist mass slaughter.  A hundred crosses, or a hundred candles, or a hundred doves, a hundred seconds of sirens, 99+1 luftballoons, or a hundred anything other than weaponry/explosions would have been fine.  But no, the creative genius of government and military demand one hundred shots from the artillery regiment.  Ghastly.

I remember my Great Uncle Snow, but he never told us any tales and his medals can't speak.

I remember interviewing old Norm around the corner for a school project: Paschendale, battles as "stunts", death, madness, quivering flesh in the gas-filled crater, the worst scenes imaginable.  I scribbled away, hiding my mortification.  I stuck to the questions, I asked about bayonets, guns, tanks, gas, combat.  And so the horror proceeded.  A no-man's land of crater upon crater, the ocean of mud, duckboards, the big push, over the top, the barbed wire, gas masks on all the time, gas in every shell, mates torn to pieces, wholesale carnage, bombardments, the most awful conditions, wounded, a hospital of jabbering shell-shocked, cripples.  And then shipped back home to NZ with the compliments of the Empire.  I will never forget that encounter and the impression he left me with: when the war ended it had been so traumatic that they truly believed that it was the last war and that peace would be permanent, that the expectation - not just hope - would be that a rational system of sorting out disputes between powers would prevail - there would be no more war.  It was the war to end all wars - they believed that then.  The day the war ended was the happiest day ever.  A war more awful than this had never occurred or could be allowed to happen gain.  This is what I learnt from Norm.

Today NZ has its military at the disposal of the Americans, not the British, but the roll call of imperialist occupation is the same as it was a century or more ago: Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine.

The Chief of Army was on RNZ this weekend talking about 'evil' people in Afghanistan needing a military treatment and how teaching the occupied peoples English and spreading Western values was part of the NZDF mission.  Army engineers would help build things, he said, and described what was some sort of armed development agency. Letting his troops be used as an act of colonisation in a NATO drama was apparently in our interests.  Afghanistan was apparently in our neighbourhood.  There were lots of good reasons for NZ forces to be in there he said, but I never heard any from him that made any sense.  He was proud to come from a long line of soldiers which may account for what a prize fool that man was.  

In a constitutional sense only is NZ better suited to avoid a general conflagration than it was when the Premiere and the Governor rubber stamped the declaration of war from Britain a hundred years ago today; but the NZ entity of this era seems just as embroiled and beholden to the same forces of imperialism as a century ago which led to such a calamitous folly. 

I think of all the thousands of names down the halls of the Auckland War Memorial Museum and how they were sacrificed for greater European interests.  I think how conned they were to have enlisted.  Their grotesque, moronic enthusiasm.  How wrong they were to be conscripted.  How right it was for those Waikato and others who resisted that conscription.  How right the seditionists were to preach peace and neutrality despite the hostility from the warmongers.


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