Anti-Anzac and anti-Maori?
The recent Anzac Day protests by anti-war activists have prompted furious debates on indymedia and other parts of the internet. Here's one piece of criticism that appeared on indymedia, together with a reply from me.
I'm 15 and will eventually join the army as an officer. You bastards this is not about glorifying war. It is about the fallen men of New Zealand and Australia. Yes there is a time for protest but why now, why on Aotearoa's day of remembrance. Your forefathers would ashamed of you. My Dad was in Timor, Afghanistan and the Solomons not for war, but to keep the peace, which of course is why you protested isn't it...for peace! This song is my favourite:
Maori Battalion march to victory
Maori Battalion staunch and true
Maori Battalion march to glory
Take the honour of the people with you
We will march, march, march to the enemy
And we'll fight right to the end.
For God! For King! And for Country!
AU - E! Ake, ake, kia kaha e!
These protesting pigs need to be thrown in jail. I am going to join the forces not because I want to kill...which many of you pigs reckon...But because of my family tradition. I'm Maori and would die for my whanau and my country. Not like you cowards who hide behind signs smoking dak. What does protesting prove? Nothing...
We were bound by our own free will to defend Britain and go to war for her. Yes World War One was pointless and many lives were lost that should not have been. But the fact is it happened and our soldiers belived that they were doing the right thing by going to fight for King and country. The protesters are entitled to their opinion and could have chosen any other day to voice it to any other authority and they would have been appluaded by many including myself. Now I am nothing but angry with them and I feel they have insulted me, my ancestors an all that fought in, died in and returned from the wars and conflicts that this country has served in.
Here's my reply:
You need to question a few of those assumptions.
Being Maori doesn't mean having to take part in the wars of the British and American Empires. Did you know that the very first Anzacs fought not at Gallipoli but in the Waikato War of 1863-64, when land-hungry Europeans attacked the independent Waikato Kingdom? Some of them are buried in the yard outside St John's Church in the village of Drury, where I grew up.
When the first World War broke out, Tainui and several other iwi refused to take part. 'Why should we fight for an Empire that stole our land and resources?' they asked. Princess Te Puea, the great leader of the Tainui people, made an alliance with Pakeha trade unionists and socialists and led a campaign of resistance when attempts were made to conscript young Maori men. In his biography of Te Puea, Michael King describes thousands of men who refused to serve gathering at Mangatawhiri Marae near Mercer, where they were arrested. They were imprisoned in places like Mt Eden Prison and Narrowneck Naval Base; dozens were killed by the inhumane conditions there.
The year after the bungled invasion of Turkey that you want to celebrate, armed Pakeha cops attacked the town that Tuhoe had established underneath their sacred mountain Maungapohatu in the Urewera Ranges. Because the leader of the Tuhoe, the prophet Rua Kenana, had advised Maori to refuse to fight in the war, the town at Maungapohatu was sacked. Kenana was arrested and imprisoned, and one of his sons was shot dead.
It's true that some Maori took part in the First World War and more took part in the Second. The Maori Battalion was set up by leaders like Apirana Ngata, who believed that Maori should turn their back on their history of resistance to colonialism, and instead try to win the 'respect' of the Pakeha establishment by fighting in wars on the other side of the world.
There's no doubt that Maori did fight and die with courage in both World Wars. They died in such great numbers that many whanau and hapu were deprived of a generation of males. But was the sacrifice worth it? Ngata’s hopes that the blood Maori spilt on the mud of the western front and the deserts of North Africa would persuade Pakeha governments to honour the Treaty of Waitangi and reverse the land and resource theft begun in the nineteenth century were disappointed. After the war, Maori remained second-class citizens in their own country. The path of compromise with the government in Wellington and its imperialist allies did not bring justice.
It was only in the 1970s, when a new generation of Maori rejected Ngata's moderation and launched land occupations and other protests, that progress began to come. By taking direct action, and forging alliances with trade unions and left-wing groups, Maori have won back some stolen land at places like Raglan and Bastion Point, as well as state recognition of and funding for their language and other parts of their culture.
At every step of the way, though, the state forces which you want to celebrate have been used against Maori trying to reclaim what is rightfully theirs. There’s a movie from 1980 called Bastion Point: Day 507 which you should watch. It documents the day in 1978 when a convoy of massive New Zealand army trucks rolled through Auckland to Bastion Point, where Ngati Whatua and their supporters had been occupying land stolen from the tribe. Soldiers from the army you want to celebrate were used to demolish the village Ngati Whatua had built at Bastion Point, as hundreds of Maori and their supporters were arrested (Ngati Whatua would eventually win their land back a decade later).
The events of that day in 1978 show that the army is a tool of the New Zealand state, a state that was founded on the dispossession of Maori. And the army acts in the same way abroad as it does at home. In Korea, Malaya, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and now East Timor Maori soldiers have acted as foot soldiers for the same sort of aggressive imperialism that stole their own land and resources in the nineteenth century. Half of the Kiwi troops who fought in America’s war on Vietnam were Maori; many of them have never recovered from the experience.
Last February, Anzac troops staged an attack on a refugee camp near the East Timorese capital Dili which had many parallels to the attack on Bastion Point. Supported by two tanks, the Anzacs smashed their way through barricades into the camp, whose homeless residents had been refusing government demands that they move away. Three Timorese the same age as you were shot in cold blood by these heroic Anzacs; two of them died of their wounds.
If you become an Anzac, you’ll end up on missions like the one to Comoro refugee camp, doing the dirty work for American and Australian imperialism. With US imperialism in crisis and lashing out desperately around the world, there will be no shortage of new wars and colonial occupations for you to take part in. You might find yourself on the streets of Kabul, or in the mountains of Iran, or in the jungles of South America. You might even find yourself aiming a gun at protesters in Aotearoa. Wherever you go, though, you’ll be despised, as a hired thug for imperialism. Go and talk to one of the soldiers who fought against the tangata whenua of Vietnam, and are still filled with self-hatred. There are easier things to do with your life, comrade.