Tuesday, April 26, 2011

From Gallipoli to Guantanamo

I was struck by the fact (no doubt a pure coincidence) that the contents of WikiLeaks files on the Bush concentration camp at Guantanamo hit the proverbial fan on the very day set aside by Australians for the celebration of our heroes of Gallipoli and the Western Front. Consequently, yesterday's media sites offered us countless photographic reminders, not of Diggers in slouch hats, but of miserable inmates in orange convict clothes.

Australia's annual celebrations of the allegedly glorious deeds of her dead soldiers have always irritated me, for three precise reasons:

— No past wars, whether won or lost, should be celebrated. They remain a source of deep reflection, particularly for historians, but under no circumstances should they be envisaged as a pretext for marching triumphantly through the streets. [Readers might ask me: And what about Bastille Day in France? My answer: It's a modern military pageant, and in no way a nostalgic evocation of past conflicts.]

— In the horrible context of the so-called "great" war of 1914-1918, it is difficult to find anything other than absurd butchery, enhanced by ample military blunders, often based upon the stupidity of the commanders. No cause for celebrations

— In drawing attention to the exploits of her Diggers, Australia runs the risk of downgrading all the other countless victims of 20th-century armed conflicts, many of whom were innocent civilians. To take just one example, is there a place in the Anzac Day marches for individuals wearing the striped uniforms of Auschwitz?

People might say: Gallipoli was one thing; Guantanamo was a different affair. Let's not forget that John Howard was a buddy of Bush, and acted constantly as if the Sun shone out of the Texan's anal orifice.

So, in a certain sense, Guantanamo remains a symbolic stain on Australia's recent political profile just as surely as it infects memories of the Bush war against "the axis of evil". For Bush and his cronies and lapdogs, all these men in orange were assumed to be eviluntil proven innocent (if ever). Even today, as the WikiLeaks data reveals, the files of Gitmo inmates are so inextricably fuzzy that Barack Obama is having a tough job trying to introduce some clarity into the situation, in the hope of shuttering this hell hole as soon as possible.

Beyond pure symbols, let us not forget that the Australians David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib once wore the orange convict clothes, and endured the typical US treatment of Gitmo inmates.

Today, it is thanks to another Australian, Julian Assange, that we have become more aware of the unpardonable sins of many of the world's would-be leaders. This fellow has been celebrated throughout the planet. But is he an Anzac Day hero in his native land? That's like asking: Is there a place in the Anzac Day marches for individualslike Hicks and Habibwearing the orange convict clothes of Guantanamo?
[Click on the WikiLeaks symbol to access
the two Gitmo files for Australians.]

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