Lest we forget, so why do we keep forgetting?

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It’s easy for young Australians to forget that yesterday was about more than biscuits, two-up and a day off work. The city was clogged with elderly men in their Sunday best, wearing freshly polished medals – shiny trinkets that seem hardly enough to recognise such bravery.


Still, it’s a more dignified way of commemorating their sacrifices than a shabby old RSL club.
We don’t revere much in Australia, but we’re right to honour our veterans for enduring unimaginable horrors on our behalf. I find it impossible to relate to being conscripted to risk death for my country.
How would my apathetic, self-absorbed generation cope with going and getting shot at on a beach in Turkey when we find it almost too much effort even to vote, except in Big Brother?
Our national obsession with a military disaster seems a more accurate understanding of the nature of war than countries which are hung up on some ancient victory. With Gallipoli seared on our consciousness, Australians, above other nations, should be pacifists.
But now our country has gone to war for no good reason, thanks to the Bush doctrine of “pre-emptive war”. The CIA has revealed the White House knew there were no weapons of mass destruction, but the hawks went ahead anyway thinking the horrors of war could be avoided with modern technology.
But that only happens when you go to war on your PlayStation. George W. Bush went to extreme lengths to avoid Vietnam, hiding out in the Texas National Guard; Dick Cheney got several deferments; but countless thousands of Iraqis and Coalition troops haven’t been so lucky. Try telling the family of the young Australian soldier who just died in Iraq that the “mission” was “accomplished” years ago.
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The true lesson of the Anzacs is not that Australians are brave in war, but that we should do our utmost to avoid situations where they need to be. If they must go, we should follow the restrained “Colin Powell doctrine” that was disastrously lacking in both Gallipoli and in Iraq today, and have clearly defined, realistic objectives and an exit strategy.
Because war, above all, is inevitably a waste. And even though we all solemnly said “Lest we forget” yesterday, the sad fact is that our complicity in inflicting an unnecessary war on Iraq shows that we have, in fact, forgotten.

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