Anzac Day 2009: Sacrifice

Photograph of a sprig of rosemary, for remembrance

The cat vomited this morning. Again. Artemis has this habit of gorging her food and then, five minutes later, throwing up wherever she’s standing.

Today it was a projectile effort from the heights of the TV stand, a reddish-brown spatter right across the living room floor.

Remember that last time you threw up? How the acrid stomach acids burnt your throat and mouth? How it felt like it was surging up into the back of your nose? It’s just like that. Freshly warm and mixed with the reek of cheap fish.

You can’t help but get it on your hands as you wipe it up.

I’ll bet just the thought of that smell is causing tightness in your sinuses, clenching in your throat.

Wiping up cat vomit first thing in the morning is rather unpleasant, no?

If wiping up cat vomit is the worst you have to think about today, then you’re one of the luckiest bastards on this planet. It’s not a particularly demanding sacrifice to make in return for some furry companionship.

Today is, of course, Anzac Day, our national memorial for those who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice for our country, and that other country.

Continue reading “Anzac Day 2009: Sacrifice”

Links for 29 January 2009

Here are the web links I’ve found for 29 January 2009, posted automatically with some manual editing and lubricants.

  • Media 09: I’ll be going to this and liveblogging on 13 February. “Media 09 is a one-day international gathering of the world’s leading digital media executives and entrepreneurs, showcasing global best practice in digital media innovations. Media 09 is designed to assist you shape successful digital media content offerings, business models, and advertising appeal to make the best weather of these turbulent times.”
  • Labor’s Plan for Cyber-Safety | Australian Labor Party: This is the actual text of the ALP’s policy, as it was stated for the 2007 federal election. Note on page 5 that the policy talks about it being mandatory to “offer” a “clean feed”, not make it compulsory.
  • 2007 policy documents | Australian Labor Party: The complete official ALP policy documents for the 2007 federal election are listed under “downloads” on this page.
  • Modern Security Thinkers | Kotare: A list of current thinkers in the realm of strategy and security. Much to explore.
  • SYN: Student Youth Network: Launched in January 2003, SYN is proudly Melbourne’s only independent youth media organisation. SYN broadcasts on 90.7 FM, and has 5 hours per week on Channel 31 community TV. Plus there’s a regular email newsletter and this website. I shall explore further!
  • Netspace’s Government ISP Filtering Survey Results: When asked “Do you agree with the Federal Government’s policy to make ISP level filtering mandatory for all Australians?”, 79% of respondents said they disagreed or strongly disagreed. There were 9700+ respondents, roughly 10% of Netspace’s customer base.
  • Time Line of Mandatory ISP Filtering Proposals 2003-2006 | Electronic Frontiers Australia: An invaluable chronology of the current push for mandatory Internet filtering in Australia. It all really does seem to have started with Clive Hamilton.
  • How the Press, the Pentagon, and Even Human Rights Groups Sold Us an Army Field Manual that (Still) Sanctions Torture | AlterNet: Yes, the new edition of the US Army’s field manual still permits the torture of “unlawful enemy combatants”, that strange new category of people invented by the US to circumvent the provisions of the Geneva Conventions.

Links for 12 January 2009 through 18 January 2009

Stilgherrian’s links for 12 January 2009 through 18 January 2009, gahered with care and moistened with love:

About fucking time, Australian Defence Force!

Finally! After a three-year battle, the families of four Australian soldiers who committed suicide will receive ex gratia compensation payments. The amounts have not been disclosed. My feelings are very mixed — because this is very personal.

I’ve told some of this story before, in last year’s post Releasing the Black Hawk crash video was A Good Thing and this year’s Anzac Day Rememberings. I won’t repeat it all now — though I reckon your time spent reading those essays and following the links will be well spent.

All I’ll say today is something I said on Anzac Day:

I pray that the commanders of Australia’s military forces, and their political “masters”, will one day remember that there are more important, more admirable personal qualities than the ability to cover one’s own arse.

That four fine young men who volunteered for the armed forces ended up taking their own lives is a tragedy.

That there are people who have tried shifting the blame and who have delayed these four families receiving the justice and closure they deserve is truly, truly disgusting.

Anzac Day Rememberings

Photograph of a sprig of rosemary, for remembrance

Where the fuck do I start? For me, Anzac Day is a tangled mess of emotions and ideas — some about grand themes of global and national politics, others deeply personal.

What pleases me most about Anzac Day is that Australia and New Zealand commemorate the sacrifice of their war dead not through parades of tanks and missiles and a glorification of war but with highly personal ceremonies of remembrance starting before dawn.

We talk not of our nation’s military prowess — though Australia is, by all accounts, capable of fielding professional military forces which make almost everybody else look like disorganised amateurs — but of the personal qualities which have made this nation great.

Those qualities were listed in an Army recruitment advertisement designed by a soldier. They were reiterated this morning by Major General Mark Kelly:

Regardless of religion, racial background, or even place of birth, we gather not to glorify war, but to remind ourselves that we value who we are and the freedoms we possess, and to acknowledge the courage and sacrifice of those who contributed so much in shaping the identity of this proud nation…

The term Anzac has transcended the physical meaning to become a spirit, an inspiration which embodies the qualities of courage, discipline, sacrifice, self reliance, and in Australian terms, mateship, and a fair go. This is what Anzac means to me.

These are the qualities which once gave Australia such a fine reputation overseas — before our foreign policy became one of subservience to American Neocons, and before symbols of military might were perverted into supporting a never-ending War on Abstract Nouns. Before quiet patriotism turned into loud but ignorant flag-draped jingoism. John Birmingham wrote about this in his Quarterly Essay, A Time for War: Australia as a Military Power. But what does it all mean now under Chairman Rudd?

Continue reading “Anzac Day Rememberings”

Releasing the Black Hawk crash video was A Good Thing

[Update 13 April 2012: It turned out that the Black Hawk wasn’t a perfectly good helicopter after all. I will eventually update this post. Perhaps. But today I’ll be linking to this post because the Department of Defence has respected the wishes of the family and not released the Inquiry Officer Report into the death of Sapper Jamie Larcombe. I think that’s wrong for the reasons set out in this post.]

Frame grab of Black Hawk helicopter crash on HMAS Kanimbla: click for YouTube videoAn open letter to family and friends of those who died in the crash of the Black Hawk helicopter on HMAS Kanimbla, and to those who survived.

I understand why you didn’t want the crash video made public. Every time you see it, you’ll re-live that crash. And every time, you’ll feel that black void of horror creeping back up into your mind. The horror may stay with you for years. It’s pretty fucked, I know.

But despite the on-going pain it inevitably causes, I think it’s not only reasonable that such videos be made public, I think it’s essential.

In 1992, there was another accident. During an army live-fire exercise, an assault rifle accidentally discharged and a soldier died. A very good friend of mine was holding that rifle. And while both a military inquiry and a civilian coronial inquest agreed it was an accident and found my friend blameless, the post-traumatic stress and guilt stayed with him for years — to the point where it became unbearable and he hanged himself at the end of 1996.

His parents were devastated. I wasn’t too thrilled either, having cut him down from the tree in my back yard and, later, helped carry him to his grave.

Some of us reckon the army hadn’t taken proper care of one of their own. The 2005 Senate inquiry into the The effectiveness of Australia’s military justice system agreed.

As a direct result of Senate recommendations, the inquiry into the Black Hawk crash was headed by a civilian judge — the first time that’d happened. And that judge declared the video should be released. It was right and proper that he do so.

Secrecy provides a breeding-ground for corruption.

Secrecy can be used to cover up incompetence.

Secrecy is, of course, essential in many military operations. But when it comes to finding out why a perfectly good helicopter slammed into the deck of a ship and then dragged two fine men to their deaths, secrecy has no place. Justice needs to be done — out of respect to those men, and out of respect to every man and woman who chooses to serve the Australian people in the armed forces.

Justice not only needs to be done, we need to see that it’s being done — and that means putting the evidence on the public record.

I’m sorry you’ve had to re-live the disaster. I know even reading this letter will hurt. I’ll have trouble sleeping tonight too, having re-lived my own story. That’s the price of Justice. It’s worth paying.