The World of Woke is waging war on Australia’s armed forces, with the Labor premiers of Victoria and Western Australia in the frontline trenches. Victoria has had more than 50 days with no locally acquired Covid-19 cases and WA has only had 100 locally acquired cases during the entire pandemic yet both have dramatically restricted the commemoration of Anzac Day.
How ironic. We ask soldiers to fight in the most perilous theatres of war in the world and then pretend it is too dangerous to honour them because of a virus confined to a couple of hotels in our capital cities.
Andrews has a problem with the military. He wouldn’t use them to enforce quarantine, and now he wants to restrict Australians from paying their respects to the armed services for defending our freedom. He initially cancelled the Anzac service altogether but has now confined himself to limiting the march to just 5,500 people, on the same day as 75,000 AFL fans will cram into the Melbourne Cricket Ground. There are also nonsensical Covid restrictions forcing diggers to march in age groups rather than their serving battalions and requiring them to register online beforehand. It’s the same in WA where there will be a full house at the Optus Stadium for the football but a limit of only 10,000 people at King’s Park for the Anzac Day service. Queensland’s Premier has at least demonstrated that she has a functioning political antenna having announced in March that Anzac ceremonies would go ahead as normal this year.
New federal Defence Minister Peter Dutton however is valiantly fighting back by questioning the numbers. The claim that the rules are different because football fans are seated is absurd. First, there is no Covid anywhere in Australia. Second, the crowds are hardly levitating into the stadiums cross-legged, like fakirs on flying carpets – they have to stand to walk in and out. Third, both activities are outside where the risk of transmission is minimal, even supposing there was any Covid to transmit and fourth, Anzac ceremonies are quiet and reflective and far less likely to spread germs than raucous crowds of cheering fans.
Dutton has also pulled rank on the chief of the Australian Defence Force, Angus Campbell, overriding Campbell’s appalling decision to revoke a meritorious unit citation awarded to 3,000 special forces soldiers who served in Afghanistan. As Dutton pointed out, it was disgraceful to punish the whole unit when most of the soldiers had shown extraordinary valour and some had given the ultimate sacrifice defending Australia’s values and interests and preventing terrorist attacks.
Naturally, voices on the Left criticised the government for the ‘humiliation’ of the general as Michelle Grattan put it. According to her, ‘salt has been rubbed in by Dutton seeking to highlight the override, with a leaked story in the Australian’. There was no mention of the humiliation meted out to veterans and their families, including the 41 defence personnel who have died in Afghanistan since 2001.
A conclusion in the Brereton report delivered last November was that there was ‘credible information’ of 23 incidents in which non-combatants or prisoners of war ‘were unlawfully killed by or at the direction of members of the Special Operations Task Group’. The report recommended the referral of 36 matters involving 19 individuals to the Australian Federal Police for criminal investigation. Yet, Campbell’s decision to strip the unit of its award before the allegations had been tested in court swept away the presumption of innocence.
Grattan admitted that prosecuting individuals for the alleged crimes would be ‘incredibly complex and difficult’ but failed to acknowledge that that was partly because the war was waged in a theatre where the rules of combat were honoured only in the breach by an enemy that engaged in terrorism and used civilians as human shields so that it was impossible to know who was who. Grattan argued that the difficulty of securing a conviction ‘made it even more important to carry through the symbolic gesture of removing the citation’ before any attempt at giving the accused a chance to defend their actions and clear their names. Why? All this did was prompt China to gloat and manufacture libellous propaganda to sully the West.
But perhaps the most disheartening attack on the morale of the Australian armed forces is the decision of US President Joe Biden to withdraw the remaining US military forces from Afghanistan by 11 September, twenty years after the war began. Naturally, Australia has no alternative but to leave too. This is a strategic blunder as momentous as that of the US failing to back the South Vietnamese government in 1974 and ‘75, despite the promises made of support. And for what? To bring home only 2,500 US troops who are maintaining a flawed but functioning democracy that is far preferable to the thugs who will inevitably take over when the Allied forces depart.
In this Biden is on a unity ticket with Trump, underlining the isolationist impulse that together with foreign intervention, represents the two poles between which the US oscillates. Yet despite the obvious stability that is created by keeping US forces around the world over the long haul – think Japan, South Korea, Germany – when it comes to Central Asia and the Middle East, the West cannot be relied upon as an ally. Thus, the sacrifices made by Australia’s 30,000 soldiers who fought in the war and the 41 who died, will be swept aside.
The lunacy of the decision is underlined by Biden’s announcement that he’ll ask Pakistan, Russia, India, Turkey and China to do more to support Afghanistan. China is already reaping the rewards of the US keeping the peace with massive investments but if it secures peace on its own terms it will certainly do it far more brutally, exploiting its rights to rare earth minerals and advancing its Belt and Road agenda at the expense of the West.
Whether it’s strangling Anzac Day in crazy Covid restrictions, stripping dead soldiers of their medals or throwing away the attainments of war, the sacrifices of our soldiers are treated in cavalier fashion. Little wonder then that from 2001 to 2017, there were at least 419 suicides in current and former defence force personnel. A Royal Commission into veteran suicides announced by the government this week is overwhelmingly supported by veterans and their families. If listening to the harrowing experiences of our warriors can awaken a sense of respect in even a few of the Woke, it will be worth it. Lest we forget.
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