Who's honouring the past?
The Dominion Post has done its best to close down any debate about last week's Anzac Day protests with a nasty editorial that compares the protesters to neo-Nazis who would have liked Hitler to have won World War Two. One of the protesters has fired back a letter, which you can read here.
It’s notable that the defenders of the sanctity of Anzac Day tend to dwell on World War Two, rather than the score of other conflicts Australian and New Zealand troops have taken part in over the last century and a half.
World War Two is the only conflict in which Anzacs have fought for a progressive cause. All the others, from the Waikato War of 1863-64 to the Boer War to the farce of the First World War to the crusades against communism in Korea, Malaya, and Vietnam look very shabby today, when viewed in the cold sober light of fact, rather than through the prism of jingoism.
And even the hopes of the Anzacs who fought fascism in World War Two were in many ways betrayed, as the Allies turned the defeat of Japan into an operation to prop up rotten empires in the Dutch East Indies and French Indochina, and the war against Hitler segued into anti-communist pogroms in Greece and the cynical division of Europe into US and Soviet spheres of influence. The Allied war effort produced such horrific effects in South Asia that it encouraged tens of thousands of Indian nationalists to fight on the side of the Japanese.
Anzac Day actually does a grave disservice to the Anzacs who fought against fascism in World War Two, because it links them to criminal enterprises like the Vietnam War. Kiwis like John Mulgan, who hated fascism and fought alongside the European resistance to Hitler, have nothing to do with the Anzacs who terrorised the tangata whenua of Vietnam, or the poor conscripts who died for Winston Churchill’s ego on the beaches of Gallipoli.
Today it is the United States, rather than Germany and Japan, which represents the greatest threat to world peace. The aggressive imperialism of the Bush regime has set the Middle East ablaze and aroused opposition around the world. New Zealand is being dragged into Bush’s war in Afghanistan, and is supplying troops to the US-backed, Australian-led occupations of East Timor and the Solomons. In their opposition to aggressive imperialism and its wars of conquest, the Anzac Day protesters honour the memories of Kiwis who fought against fascism in World War Two more truly than the warmongers and nationalists rushing to salute the flag.