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A Clash of Civilisations, Lest We Forget

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A half-mile up the street from my place, there’s a busy bus interchange and railway station, a hub for three rail lines, bordered by a huge shopping mall complex on one side, and on the other by a few dozen shops that run each side of the old two-lane Pacific Highway, now a secondary road bypassed years ago by drivers preferring the freeway between Sydney and the northern coastal port town of Newcastle.

There, on a beautifully maintained grassy square, sits a stone war memorial, a cenotaph, engraved with the names of hundreds of men long since dead. It’s always there, sometimes with flowers left at the base, in all its silent, imperial-looking splendour, right opposite the traffic lights where I turn each day onto the old highway for the trip into town after dropping off my youngest daughter in her very prim and proper English-looking school uniform.

Underneath the engraved bronze plaques, on the side that you can see, are the names of a dozen or so battlefields from WWI and WWII – now fallen deadly quiet, and peaceful resting places for the Australians who lost their lives so far from home. Apart from the WWI human meat-grinder battles at Gallipoli, on the Dardanelles peninsula of modern-day Turkey, the slaughterhouses of the Western Front (France and Belgium), and the WWII jungle battles in New Guinea, the names of the campaigns are only vaguely familiar even to me, and would be unknown to most Americans, except for the history buffs: Salonika, Palestine, Egypt, Mesopotamia (Iraq), etc …

On the weekend, with Anzac Day approaching, and noticing that wreaths had been left in the rain at its base, I decided to wander up there and look at the other three sides of the memorial. Here, add Korea and Vietnam and a couple of little-known British wars of the post-war modern era, too, in Malaya and Borneo. Another side simply says “Other conflicts”, and would doubtless include The Sudan and The Boer War (Britain’s 19th-century Vietnam) and those in which we’re currently embroiled. Those honoured are all men from the local Shire. Many were just boys. The sandstone structure itself is unremarkable, and probably looks like the many thousands of other memorials you’d see across towns, cities and villages all over Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States, Britain, Africa, even Ireland, the Caribbean, parts of south-east Asia, and the Indian subcontinent.

Mostly, too, they’d be listing many of the same conflicts. I know for a fact there are memorials at villages across India to the many hundreds of Indian Army soldiers who died fighting a British war in Iraq (sadly, much like that of America’s today) in the 1920s and 30s. Which is also what got me thinking a while back: why are these all “foreign” wars, and is it just this and a common language that binds us, and keeps us close? Are we really all just engaged in one seemingly never-ending, blundering imperialistic adventure, Marks I and II, as our enemies would have us believe? So, is it just that and if not, then what is it that, despite all our obvious differences, makes us all so remarkably similar?

That little memorial near the railway station, and the thousands of others around the country, provides part of the answer but not all of it. In the the case of Australia, at first glance, it might indicate that a loyal but genetically recalcitrant former colony (I’m sure the stiff Germans and fanatical Japanese would have been mortified to know they were copping it up the backside from the unruly descendents of the unwanted, exiled convict dregs of the British Empire) suddenly switched allegience somewhere along the line as one master handed over the baton to another.

The battle lists on these memorials tell the story: they go abruptly from El Alamein, the last great battle waged by the British against the Germans and Italians in north Africa, to New Guinea, literally on our doorstep, where the divisions of Australian desert-war veterans were rushed home to reinforce the civilian Militia battalions fighting the Japanese along the Kokoda jungle track in New Guinea. Soon, they were to be joined by the Americans, and the whole thing came under the command of the prickly General Douglas MacArthur, and our new (neo) colonial masters in Washington.

You could say that except for New Guinea and the south-west Pacific, when the Japanese really did present a threat to Australia, all those wars were not ours at all. Even the naval and air force memorials are silent reminders of battles waged in sea and sky many thousands of miles from home, in the Mediterranean, the Atlantic and over Europe in WWII. But the truth is, when you think about it, they really weren’t foreign wars at all. Nor should the fighting of them be regarded with nostalgia or fond but jingoistic notions of the ultimate triumph of imperial grandeur – old-style, neo-, corporate or otherwise.

For what they really signify is the willingness of men and women to give up peaceful lives (reluctantly too, one would suspect, for who wants to throw away a life barely lived?) to fight for a common and shared belief. Read: mostly for a good cause, even if sometimes flawed, imperfect, or arrogantly and naively executed.

That common and shared belief has as its foundation the concept of a civil society (in the most literal sense) that values the personal freedoms of its peoples above all else, and has made that possible through tolerance of opposing viewpoints and the evolution of grand institutions of democracy and law that makes governments answerable not to Kings, Queens or Presidents but to the people who elect them.

It’s about societies that have a shared hatred of real tyranny. And these notions have nothing to do with race, either. It is not about some blind, Nazi-like belief in the racial superiority of one over another, for people of many races have come to share the same beliefs that continue to grow along that same, common thread. For example, there is room in my country, and many of the others I’ve mentioned above, for people from many different backgrounds. The reason they come here is to live a life of hope and opportunity, rather than of fear and hopelessness. They are not all anglo-saxon, or anglo-celtic, or European or North American. They come from all over the world and now they, too, are bound with us in this wonderful shared belief.

It’s what makes Anzac Day nothing like a celebration of useless war and senseless slaughter. Of course, I didn’t really understand any of those things as a young Air Force cadet in the 1970s, the first time I marched along George Street on Anzac Day, or even why I was marching – although I felt I knew. In preparation for the event, all our parade time for weeks before was spent drilling and marching around town, much to the annoyance of motorists, some of whom helped us on our way with a gobful of Aussie invective. We polished our boots for hours the night before, so you could shave in them; our collars were starched stiff and our dark RAAF Blues pressed with knife-edge creases, even the shirts underneath that no one would see _ in honour, of course, of the fallen Anzacs who stormed ashore at Gallipoli at dawn on April 25, 1915, and for the veterans dead and alive of all those battles before and since. Or so we thought, anyway.

In marching order, brass and steel shined up and glinting under the bright southern sun, chests puffed out and heads held high, stiff leather and metal soles crunching loudly in perfect time on the asphalt as we wheeled through Sydney like the Brigade of Guards at Buckingham Palace, I thought I’d like to be like the old Diggers marching with their battle flags and medals.

I thought the “Anzac Spirit” and its notions of “mateship” were just about being brave, being a hero, and winning the Victoria Cross, but none of those ideas lasted long. The Vietnam War was still on, and to say it was unpopular would be an understatement, and it could have gone on for another 50 years for all we knew. At a certain age, I had no desire to be packed off there, or anywhere else for that matter, and left because I wanted to go surfing, not flying, and became a journalist instead. I certainly wasn’t ready to die for Her Majesty when the beach seemed like a much better option.

And that’s really what this is all about. Because, as I came to understand later, for my grandfathers’ generation, and my father’s generation, and for me, it wasn’t about any of that bullshit hero stuff in the final wash-up. It all came down to being given the opportunity that allowed me to make that choice. It really boils down to a clash of civilisations, or even clashes of sub-civilisations, and of ideas.

That’s where my thoughts will be when I go to the Dawn Service tomorrow (Wednesday). No doubt too I’ll shed a quiet tear as the bugler plays out the last mournful and haunting notes of the Last Post.

It won’t be about glorifying war, because there’s nothing glorious about war or killing or dying and anyone who thinks so is a fool. No – just silent thanks to all those who were prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice, even when they’d rather have been doing something else. I will also understand that in spite of our many imperfections, it’s not just a matter of good luck that’s made it that way, but the result of collective good management going back 10 or more centuries that has given us all the wherewithal to stand up to tyrants, mass murderers and modern-day barbarians.

I will also be reminded that these grand institutions and the contract between people and government that give us these freedoms also come with certain responsibilities, even if we have to take them up with sad reluctance and weary resignation.

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About the silver surfer

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Good read, Stan. When you live in the middle of history’s vortex, like I do, it is a bit hard to step back and look “objectively” at events.

    The clash of civilizations is very clear to me – Islamo-nazis on the one side a satanic cult that has seized control of Islam and made it a nightmare of murder, influenced itself by a satanic cult that perpetrated genocide in Europe 60 years ago, on the one side – and an unsure people who are not really used to being being vicious fighters on the other. It’s all very close to home. Our doctor’s daughter was killed in a terror attack in Jerusalem, for example.

    On Sunday night at patrol at the edge of Jerusalem, I was “breaking in” a new volunteer, a young woman. After I struggled in Hebrew (after 5½ years, it is still a struggle) to explain to her, a native speaker, the basic duties, she let on that she had been an intelligence officer, and was familiar with all that I had been explaining I had spent a good fifteen minutes or more for nothing! What was worse, she spoke perfect (American) English!!!

    My commander in this unit is an Aussie, a Sidneysider. Yesterday, as part of the commemorations for Israel’s Remembrance Day for the Fallen Heroes of Israel, my unit paraded from Zion Square to Saffra Square, where the Municipality has its headquarters. The majority of this unit is either Americans, Russians with almost half native Israelis. The Israelis command, and most of them have been reservists in the IDF, like the Aussie from Sidney, Major Bob, the lone Anglo with serious rank. Some of the Americans had served in the armed forces of the United States. The Russians had all served in the military of the USSR.

    We weren’t the only ones to parade down the Jaffa Road yesterday. There were a bunch of high-schoolers and a small detachment from the Giv’ati Brigade, wearing olive green and purple berets.

    When the column was called to stand to attention at Saffra Square to be reviewed by Mayor Lupolianski, you could tell the difference between the Giv’ati detachment, standing at attention with their M16’s presented, the high schoolers, who tried to imitate the Giv’ati detachment, the volunteer policemen, and the Aussie who stood at the head of our ranks, Major Bob from Sidney.

    While most of us did things in American style, which is a tad more informal than the British, Major Bob was all spit and polish. Coming to attention was done with a neat stamp of the left foot, as was returning to an “at ease” stance. Even being released from the column to break ranks came with a neat right face maneuver, executed in the British style – again with a sharp stamp downward of the left foot. I couldn’t help but notice the shine on Major Bob’s shoes. Had I wanted to, I could have shaved by their reflection.

    I realize this is nothing new to all of you with a background of British training in marching up and down a hill. But it still impresses me.

  • STM

    Ruvy wrote: “I realize this is nothing new to all of you with a background of British training in marching up and down a hill. But it still impresses me.”

    Yes, just like the Grand Old Duke of York, they DID actually march us and down the hill, then marched us back up and marched us down again … over and over, and it could never be less than perfect. Endless hours were spent perfecting it.

    I asked my father, a veteran of the British Army, why he thought we needed to do all that stuff and he just said “Son, soldiers need to LOOK like soldiers”. Which really didn’t answer my question at all.

    I used to heat up my boot polish with a candle for a near-reflective shine, but my old man showed me how to get an even better shine with layers of spit and polish applied in tiny circles, left for a few hours, or better still overnight, before wiping off. You would have to carry a polishing cloth with you during the day and hope no-one stood on your boots.

    In those days, the RAAF seemed to have inherited the legacy of the RAF, which pre-WWII ran on spit-and-polish and “bull”. Standing at ease was as much effort as standing at attention.

    I must say though Ruve, I did tire of it quickly. But like you, I still like watching them.

    Major Bob sounds like good bloke! Tell him to have a beer for me on Anzac Day.

  • troll

    unless you humans can come up with an option to bombs and bullets and bullshit to solve this clash of civilizations you are surely and truly fucked

  • S.T.M

    I feel the same way troll, but it probably means we are well and truly buggered then. The other mob aren’t playing by the rules. They don’t want to talk – they just want to blow the shit out of us. The sooner we face up to that, the better.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem


    “You humans?”


    You can use any moniker you wish and call yourself Mother Goose if you desire. But don’t imagine that merely because you call yourself Mother Goose, you’ll lay eggs – golden or otherwise – other than your last rather lame comment, a goose egg, if I ever saw one.

    A brief story for you. Two Jews, Yehuda Magnes and Martin Buber, had a running correspondence with the rising Indian leader of independence, Mohandas K. Gandhi. This was around 1937-38.

    This correspondence was to be far more costly than the pice or mils spent in sending the letters back and forth from India to the Land of Israel.

    Magnes became convinced that he ought to follow a path of non-violence. As president of Hebrew University in 1948, he turned down offers of the Haganá for protective trucks for the medical convoys going to and from Hadassah Hospital on Mt. Scopus, the main treatment hospital in 1948 Jerusalem. On 13 April, 1948, one such convoy was bombed by Arabs near Sheikh Jarrah, on the road to Mt. Scopus. Seventy eight doctors and nurses were murdered that day, and British authorities kept the Haganá away so that the Arabs could complete the massacre.

    Stan Denham is playful in his contempt for the British. I’m not. They are still the same deceitful bastards now that they were in 1948.

    Don’t tell me about needing to find peace. Tell the Arabs who want us to die and scream it from the muezzins every Friday. More importantly, tell it to the shits who command British society, from the royals who wear Nazi uniforms down to the teachers who kiss the asses of the Islamo-nazis in Britain by refusing to teach about the evils of the Nazi murder of 6,000,000 of my people, not to mention 5,500,000 others in death camps. Tell it to the BBC also.

    I do not need to know.

    In the Traveller’s Prayer, which I recite every time I leave town, it says, in part;

    “May it be the Will of of our G-d and the G-d of our fathers to cause us to walk in peace, to guide our steps in peace, to lead us in peace and return us in peace…”

    That doesn’t mean that the driver travels unarmed on what can be a dangerous road.

    Get the picture?

  • troll

    I’m with you Stan – ‘buggered’ it is as peace makers are few and far between on both sides

    Ruvy – we can come up with endless examples of man’s inhumanity to man but none alone or en mass will justify your acceptance of violence as the correct response

  • Beautiful writing, Stan.

    I can’t say much more than that; it would be presumptuous of me.

    I asked my father, a veteran of the British Army, why he thought we needed to do all that stuff and he just said “Son, soldiers need to LOOK like soldiers”. Which really didn’t answer my question at all.

    Yes, it did. A soldier’s first, and most important training, both for the mission, and his own survival, is discipline.

    I’m glad you will honor the brave Australian soldiers on Anzac Day. I will too, in my thoughts.

    I know they deserve it.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    “we can come up with endless examples of man’s inhumanity to man but none alone or en mass will justify your acceptance of violence as the correct response.


    After the Oslo accords were signed, and the Arabs pursued terror in Israel, YitzHak Rabin came up with the phrase “sacrifices for peace” to describe those who died in the terror incidents. Somehow, your comment above has the same ring as Rabin’s…

    And it’s disgusting.

    I do not believe in “sacrifices for peace.” There is no such thing. Either you defend your homeland and crush those who would murder you, or you die. I intend to live, and if that doesn’t have YOUR moral approval, that’s just too damned bad. I answer to G-d, not you.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Major Bob sounds like good bloke! Tell him to have a beer for me on Anzac Day.


    As far as blokes go, he is top shelf. I sent him your article, along with your good wishes. He is presently working on a doctorate on media coverage in the Middle East. He may want to contact you at some point – you appear to have some small connection with the media.

  • troll

    Ruvy – yup – you will answer to your god and I suspect that in your final moment he’s gonna kick the shit out of you for being so dense and causing the destruction of so much of his handy work

    you intend to live you say – ?

    then you’d best work on turning the page – changing the paradigm – or what ever you want to call the process – toward non-violent conflict resolution

    the logical result of your acceptance of violence as the way forward will be the destruction of all that you hold dear…

    the prospect of which I find disgusting myself

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Boy, you are thick, troll.

    The whole point of the story in comment #5 is that Yehuda Magnes did exactly what YOU advised me to do for exactly the same reasons. It cost the lives of 78 men and women, and all of the descendants they might have had.

    I can’t second-guess the Almighty, but I imagine that if a Haganá team had gone out checking the road, the massacre that the Arabs perpetrated that day might well have not happened. They didn’t because the so-called “peace-maker” Magnes ignored Arab threats. Magnes had much blood on his hands because he believed what Gandhi said, instead of the Haganá.

    The boys at Hebrew U. and the secular government here is careful to sweep all that shit under the rug – but some of us are a little more thorough than others in looking under the official rugs here. And G-d sees through rugs… and judges accordingly.

  • troll

    with all due respect to the author –

    I suggest that readers remember that war is a matter of individual free will…and request that they question the glorification of militarism embedded in this article

    don’t let anyone tell you who to kill – that’s a personal decision

  • troll

    Ruvy – I understood your tale both times – but so what – ?

    you approach will cost the lives of millions

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Right now, I do not have an approach…

    Your fleet sits off of Iran ready to strike, HizbAllah arms and arms, and a European fleet sits off of Lebanon, likely with the purpose of invading here UPON THE INVITATION OF THE “ISRAELI” GOV’T.

    Waiting is…

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    And war looms on the horizon, troll. Time for smart goats and trolls to get off the bridge.

    Like I told you, if you are indeed a farrier, buy some extra iron, nails, generators. Oh yeah, add a troy scale so that when folks weigh out gold to pay you, you have a way to charge them for your services.

  • troll

    Ruvy – the situation that you describe makes it imperative that individuals step back and consider the consequences of their actions

    and your approach consistently has been to preach hatred for a ‘non-people’ and the rationality of violence up to and including the use of atomics against your enemies

  • Baronius

    Troll, I don’t think this article glorifies militarism at all. Quite the opposite. Stan criticizes his own youthful misunderstanding of militarism. As an adult, he sees the need for the military, which is different than militarism. He points this out quite well. In fact, I don’t see how someone could read this article and not understand the difference.

  • It doesn’t glorify militarism.

    We have choice today. They didn’t. We luckily get to sit, wonder, argue about all sorts of things today. Not back then. Of course many wanted to surf but they made the ultimate sacrifice that’s why remember.

    On my own blog I honored the Canadian soliders who took Vimy Ridge for this reason. Yet, some kid leaves a note telling me I glorified war. They just don’t get it.

  • troll

    Baronius – the glorification of militarism in the article that I refer to is not that of cowboy hero fantasies but rather that of its sad inevitability as the solution to the looming next chapter in the clash of civilizations

    the author says in essence honor those who have and will kill (albeit reluctantly) for ‘our’ cause

    I say the future depends on those who refuse to do so and seek alternatives to violence

  • troll

    oh – and alessandro –

    have you considered the proposition that it is you who blinded by sentimental fatalism has missed the point – ?

  • Baronius

    Troll, maybe it is fatalism. I don’t think so, but you could argue that point. You can’t argue that it’s militarism.

  • troll

    Baronious I do understand your point – but I would call the honoring of and dependence on military solutions past and present ‘militarism’

  • STM

    Troll: I am not glorifying militarism here. Far from it. I do NOT want my country to be at war for forever and a day, which is how it feels at the moment. I would always go the preferred option: talking it out.

    I don’t think any of those men whose names appear on that memorial would have chosen to throw away their lives.

    But talk, sadly, is cheap – and here’s a thought: imagine the world today with Nazi Germany and militaristic Imperial Japan the two main powers.

    Doesn’t bear thinking about, does it? Like all evil and misguided ideologies, both were consigned to the dustbin (trash can?) of history where they belong.

    It would have been nice for that to happen without anyone losing their lives, but sadly, that wasn’t possible.

    And Ruvy might have a thing or two to say about those first named.

  • “have you considered the proposition that it is you who blinded by sentimental fatalism has missed the point”

    Yes, I have and I don’t buy it. I’m not blinded by anything. I’m no nationalist. Give me a break. I will honor them and will make no apologies for it. Poor us normal folk always blinded. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

    I’ve met and talked with too many soldiers to think otherwise. Because war is evil we have to forget the men and women who served? It makes no sense because logically we loathe war to ignore its reality. I’ve been to the ceremonies in Dieppe. It’s not only about militarism. It simply is not. They gained their FREEDOM. Sounds jingoistic to us pampered brats but these people take that stuff very seriously. Don’t blame them.

    Again, there is no glorification here. I think it’s pretty clear that no one here would ever claim war is good – though there have been many splendid wars where the opressed managed to gain their freedom – but we are able to temper it with some realism. I happen to appreciate, for example, that hockey, football and baseball players went over to fight for what they believed in. My grandfather said it simply: ” We knew what was at stake. It was so clear to us.” I don’t know if they were suckered but I do know they had a clear conscious.

    What the heck do we believe in? Everything is cynically deemed “so-called” now. We’re a bunch of talkers who want to get our fingers manicured.

    I’m not sure there’s a clash of civilizations. More a clash of modernity versus tradtionalism; Of rural versus urban.

    So try not to be presumptuous, Troll. I’ve thought this long hard and to be frank it really isn’t all that hard to understand.

    And you know what else? Thanks to this article I stand by the Aussie’s too.

  • Spelling corrections: conscience (not concious) and oppressed (not opressed). Sorry.

  • MBD

    All that war does is create the environment for the next war.

    It’s nothing but a big pissing contest.

  • troll

    gents – I’ve had my say here and have expressed my discomfort with what I perceive to be the drum beat underlying this piece – to my ear a cadence for the march of lemmings

    my intension was to push at the edge of civil discourse…if I communicated nothing more than a presumptuous and insulting attitude then I guess I failed

    so what else is new – ?

  • STM

    I hope our mob keeps pissing furthest then, or we’re in deep shit. Not talking about Iraq, either. That’s a total debacle. But there are people out there who want a new world order, and we have to die or do what they want for that to happen. But I’ll it say it once again, this story is not pro-war. Read it properly if you’re in doubt. What it asks is, why the fu.k can’t we be left in peace?

  • MBD

    “why the fu.k can’t we be left in peace?”

    Why the fu.k can’t we leave others in peace?

  • STM

    “I’ve had my say here and have expressed my discomfort with what I perceive to be the drum beat underlying this piece – to my ear a cadence for the march of lemmings”

    You have the point entirely, in that case.

  • STM

    lol. Sorry troll … should say: you have MISSED the point entirely

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    and your approach consistently has been to preach hatred for a ‘non-people’ and the rationality of violence up to and including the use of atomics against your enemies

    And here, troll, we come to the fine difference between deceitful bastards and murderous bastards.

    When dealing with deceitful bastards, as did Gandhi in India and the Etze”l is Israel under Britain’s Mandate, one COULD attempt to engage in peaceful non-violent resistance. For Gandhi it was a success. For our folks, dealing with a lower class of colonial (India was the prize post), we were also sort of successful. Boatloads of refugees from Europe were not shot on sight, but sent to DP camps in Mauritius and elsewhere.

    But when Gandhi ran into a murderous bastard – a Hindu who called him impure – he succumbed to a bullet.

    When dealing with murderous bastards, like the Nazis and Islamo-nazis, there is no possibility of peaceful non-violent resistance. You either fight or die.

    I’ll fight. A pacifist in a foxhole who wants to live cocks his rifle and fires.

  • “my intension was to push at the edge of civil discourse…if I communicated nothing more than a presumptuous and insulting attitude then I guess I failed”

    No you haven’t failed. You simply misread the piece. No one would ever argue with the concept of ‘no war.’ Or of what MBD OR yourself have proposed. That much is understood. However, war has been a perplexing reality of man’s nature for thousands of years. There will ALWAYS be malignant leaders and societies (just like there will always be bullies in school who do not a good shot to the head every once in a while) bent on aggression. What happens if you’re the recepient of it? Would you not want your military to defend your world view? Of course you would. What if you’re Belgium and you get suckered by Hitler do you not have the right to take up arms? By extension, if you succeed do you not have the right to honour your victory? As the Romans said, “You want peace, prepare for war.” That’s the realist and pragmatist in me speaking.

    I think this line of thinking is closer to the piece. It does not attempt to underline anything militaristic – though I can see why you would make that connection. It just accepts history for what it is.

    That said Troll, there is NO drum beating. That’s the point. I don’t disagree with your overall point but where I break with you is that I do not entirely equate honoring fallen soldiers with the glorification of militarism.

    Look at me, I wouldn’t even make the army because of two bad knees, fragile ankle, a destroyed shoulder and horrible hearing in my right ear. Years and years of sports injuries got me nothing. Lotta good I would be. :<)

  • just like there will always be bullies in school who DESERVE a good shot to the head every once in a while.

    Man, I gotta stop these errors.

  • troll

    I have no problem honoring soldiers…except that the act itself produces copy cats – thus the ‘drumbeat’ image

    I’m looking for the last best hope that enough individuals on both sides of the clash will refuse to participate in violence – which history shows tends toward scorched earth type devastation – and will seek compromise

    imo this is the only pragmatic solution…is it realistic – ?

    probably not

    and while we’re doing the history thing – maybe the lesson to be learned from Hitler is: never humiliate alienate and marginalize a people as was done post WWI to Germany

  • STM

    “and while we’re doing the history thing – maybe the lesson to be learned from Hitler is: never humiliate alienate and marginalize a people as was done post WWI to Germany”

    I agree with you on that one, except that the Weimar republic was probably doomed to failure from the start and it wasn’t just Hitler among Germans who was angry about the country’s defeat in WWI. The place was fertile ground for extremes of political thought, both on the right and left. As it turnedout, the right appealed more to the militaristic nature of Germany at that time and got the nod.

    But imagine if they’d at some point gone to the left and become allied with the soviets, thus splitting Europe in two in a different way.

  • Troll, humans are burnt.

    I tend to agree with Stan’s assessment. No doubt Germany had to face penlaties they could not possibly pay back but at the same time the Weimar Republican was dead before it even got started. France was bent on making Germany pay. The U.S. and Britain wanted a softer edge.

    Was this what lead directly to Hitler?

    I think WWII and its origins go a little deeper and probably dates back to the late 19th century.

  • MBD

    Was this what lead directly to Hitler?

    What else?

  • STM

    Hitler was a corporal in the German Army who had been decorated for bravery in WWI. Have you read Mein Kampf? It’s turgid and full of poison, but I like to go back to it every now and then to remind myself of how people like Hitler can appeal to the basest instincts of others.

    The real story behind his rise to power is the seething anger he felt when Imperial Germany signed the ceasefire, rather than a surrender really, to end the war. He and millions of other Germans felt they hadn’t been defeated, and resolved to restore Germany’s “honour”. Like I say, it was very fertile ground for bizarre threads of political thought in a country that had been sent to the wall by four years of war, had suffered millions of casualties and had been stripped down to its bones to pay war reparations. You can’t blame the French and British for being pissed off, though …

    It was almost a given that the Germans would go to war again, no matter what.

    I KNOW none of my family wanted that, though. They had been terribly affected by WWI, like most families of that era, and it must have been dreadful for them to watch it all unfolding again after barely 20 years of peace. Nazi planes flying over London and dropping bombs on my mother’s street probably convinced them they didn’t have much choice.

    I’m glad they stood up to those mongrels, though. I don’t fancy the idea of walking around saying “Sieg Heil” to every second idiot in a silly uniform and a swastika armband.

  • Zedd


    Some may suggest that what is common are the economic ties of the elite in those countries. Some think that a lot of those wars had more to do with power and economics than freedom and all the rest of what you said.

    Those that actually do the fighting do fight for those ideals. However the question is is that what the wars are really about?

  • STM

    Yes, I agree Zedd (look at the Boer War and the Vietnam War, two classic examples of wars waged purely for economic benefit in different centuries, and both equally unpopular and “undermined” by the public in Britain and the US). However, I would see things differently in terms of Nazi Germany. British and US forms of imperialism might still be imperialism, but it’s been a very benign form of imperialism and far less overt than others, and whether you agree with its reason for being or not, in most cases – not all – it’s brought more benefit than harm.

    Neither of those countries can be compared to say, France under Napoleon, or Nazi Germany, imperial Japan, or the Soviet Union.

    If I had to be bullied by someone in a New World Order, I’d rather be bullied by the US than a group of people who want to take me back to the middle ages.

  • troll

    the real story of his rise to power was his practical plan for the unemployed…build an army

  • STM

    Bit more to it than that, troll. He built a few freeways and fixed up the rail network too (perfect for moving armaments).

  • Zedd


    but it’s been a very benign form of imperialism and far less overt than others, and whether you agree with its reason for being or not, in most cases – not all – it’s brought more benefit than harm.

    I don’t know Stan. Sometimes its good to see the enemy clearly. A murky enemy can produce negative results which last much longer and become ingrained into the culture of the victims. Case in point, the entire continent of Africa. The seemingly benevolent imperialism forged a malaise which fostered a sick admiration for the oppressors which stunted the will to prevail against them. Once a few people woke up, extreme propaganda had to be used to en-vibe rebellion. It is that extreme rhetoric that has contributed partially to the waisted energy and chaos of the past 40yrs on the continent.

    The same can be said with African Americans. Having engaged with an admired monster, it became difficult to liberate from his clutches. The psychological impact of that manner of enslavement still affects that community immensely.

    Its good to see the enemy clearly.

    Its also good for the enemy to know that it is an enemy. Purporting to be benign fools the population of the people in that country. The severity of their actions is never understood. The general soft sweep if ideas about their country’s engagements cheats them the opportunity to be moral and to speak out against evil, unfortunately, their own evil.

    Abu Ghraib happened with us sitting in our living rooms and speeches about liberty and hope streaming through our televisions. Had that incident never been revealed, it would have never happened in our minds. I’m certain that many more things of that nature have occurred without our knowledge. Our declaring ourselves good and just doesn’t make us good and just. Killing, kidnapping and torturing doesn’t feel any better from German hands than from American hands. Even its done with a smile.

  • troll

    *Bit more to it than that…*

    my point exactly Stan…while ‘seething anger’ was the yeast in Hitler’s putsch idle hands and empty bellies were the dough rising in a radicalized political environment

    he baked quite a strudel in his corporate ovens

    could the capitalist states have designed timely interventions for these factors through investment given the boom and bust nature of their own post war economies – ?

    and today

    are we trapped by our own military superiority complex unable to ‘plan for peace’ in the world – only able to ‘prepare for war’ – ?

    how about we mourn our war dead and maimed who were caught up in the squabbles between rich men…and honor the peace makers – ?

  • MBD, exactly what STM said: read Mein Kempf. It says much about his state of mind. Everything else were just details and excuses.

  • STM

    Troll said: “how about we mourn our war dead and maimed who were caught up in the squabbles between rich men…and honor the peace makers – ?”

    Troll, that’s pretty much where the story was at. Have a good read of it. There’s no underlying call to go to war, just a warning that we should be on our guard – so that it doesn’t happen again.

  • I hope the observation of Anzac day proved to be all it should have been, Stan.

  • STM

    Also Troll, it’s worth considering that my perspective on this might be quite different to the average American’s, Australia not ever planning to go to war but having been dragged into every one of Britain’s wars since The Sudan in the 1800s, except the Falklands (and trust me, that’s a lot of wars), and every one of America’s since WWII. Between America’s wars in Korea and Vietnam, we were also dragged into two British wars in Malaya and Borneo. This is a small country and so that much conflict has had a tremendous effect on our national psyche, especially with the dreadful losses of the two big wars. So here I am, living in this beautiful peaceful country, and every few years because of our alliances, someone comes along and says, hey, you’re on our side aren’t you, let’s go (which is what is happening right now).

    I would like a government that thinks more carefully about this stuff. But i DO believe we need to protect our way of life, although perhaps with a more reasoned approach.

    I also believe the price of peace is eternal vigilance.

  • STM

    Clav wrote: “I hope the observation of Anzac day proved to be all it should have been, Stan.”

    Hey Clav, morning old boy. Yeah, thanks mate. We just had a quiet day … then I had to go to work. It’s been more important this year because my father died recently.

    And in answer to your possible question: “Whez me fucken’ ‘at?”

    I am picking it up tomorrow, so I will stick it in the post Monday and you should get it within a few days. I will also put special instructions in for Americans, which shows which end is front and which is back 🙂

  • MBD

    “I also believe the price of peace is eternal vigilance.”

    Yes, and America is in trouble for that reason. There is no vigilance.

    Most Americans are ignorant of our foreign policy. They understand sports events and what is happening in Hollywood but government? Let someone else be concerned about that.

    Even our press corps doesn’t want to understand what’s going on.

  • STM

    Here’s a classic example, MBD. When I pick up a newspaper in Sydney or London, I get up 10 pages of world news in a designated world news sectuion, and in some of the Sunday papers they’ll have this plus a whole lot of features about world events that are in the news.

    In America, pick up most newspapers, possibly with the exception of the NYT, and even then it’s paltry, you’ll get virtually nothing.

    America is a very isolationist place. The majority of Americans, even relatively well-educated ones, can’t identify other countries on a world map.

    I think it’s highly telling that the time Iraq started to go really pear shaped was the time of Abu Ghraib, when the reserve military police recruited from small-town America (and with the mentality prevailing in the US correctional system) failed to understand just how sensitive a mission they were undertaking.

    America as a whole must be more aware of what is happening in the world, for reasons other than it is having an effect on the US economy or doesn’t fit with questionable US foreign policy. Right now, it’s in blunder mode. They inherited that from their cousins, the British – who have since learned the lessons for the most part.

    That’s not a put-down, just a fact. However, America can still be the bastion of freedom and fair thought it wants to be and we want it to be – with a little more fair thought.

  • Whez me fucken’ ‘at

    Love it! My first Aussie phrase.

    I’m prehcktisin’ it in front o’ me fucken’ myrrh, mate.

    How’d oi do?

  • STM

    Lol. Not too bad for a first-timer.

    Fuck me, it must be hard for people from overseas when they come here – especially people who’ve studied English and think they can speak it conversationally. I’ve got a French mate whose mother is an English teacher, and she asked me: “What did you do to my son … he no longer speaks English”. French-accented “strine” is hilarious, BTW, except they already understand that the H is silent.

    Did you see my post earlier to you on how to speak strine? Just string all your words together so no bastard can understand what you’re saying.

    As in, aorta is not a noun in Australia: “Aorta fix them fucken’ roadz”.

    On the neighbour’s new house: “Geez, valandmick’ve got a Gloria Soame’.

    At election time: “The Laura Norder debate”.

    Frequently asked questions: “Djgoda” .. as in, “Djgoda tennis/lunch/dinner/work/Anzac Day”.

    And so it goes. Sisyphus lived here for two years and said it took another two years after he got home to stop calling everyone “mate”.

  • I did see the comment on ‘strune.

    We have a special vernacular in Miami, too.

    The Cubans have developed their own “English” words, which even the other Latinos don’t understand easily.


    When speaking in Spanish, Cubans tend to drop “s” sounds, which then become a sort of “h” sound. Thus, in Miami, “expressway” becomes “ehprehway” and a “greasy spoon” (downscale diner) becomes a greehy ‘poon.

  • STM

    Hah. Lol. I have heard Miami-speak, and it did make me giggle, out loud too sometimes. Most people of Spanish background can’t pronounce my name. They always say Estan. Of course, Sydney becomes es-Sidernee.

    My favourite is Chinese/Japanese-Engrish.

    You know, the one where that famous song, “Cry me a River”, in Hong Kong and Tokyo becomes: “Cly me a Liver”.

    If you want many hours of fun, Clav, go to the website http://www.engrish.com

    It’s a hoot. All fair dinkum too. There’s another too where a Chinese guy explains hilariously what those Chinese tattoos westerners are so fond of getting REALLY mean.

    Like the one on a woman’s lower back that loosely translates as” “Thank-you, please come again”.

    I will find the name of it and keep you posted.

  • Zedd


    I’ve always wondered….. What’s in it for the Australians? Why does Australia participate in British and American conflicts? Its as if they are a shoo-in every time. Like the skinny side kick of the toughest kid on the campus.

    It seems that the Australian people are very individualistic. Australians also seem to be the least gullable people on the planet. How is it that you seem to tow the line every time when it comes to your international opinions in the UN or elsewhere. Do you exchange your “pride” or “autonomy” for being one of the gang (economically and strategically)? or Is your historical and “biological” allegiance that strongly pronounced.

    It just doesn’t seem to fit and it always baffles me.

    Is there some unspoken alliance between the Anglophiles?

  • STM

    I don’t know Zedd, but I think in this current case (Iraq, Afghanistan) it has a lot to do with honouring the spirit if not the letter of our alliances (ANZUS).

    Vietnam, however, was a right-wing, communist-fearing government supporting the US in the cold-war era, Korea was a UN decision and WWII was about a small country first up standing up to a bully (Hitler) and then later fighting for its own survival (Japan).

    WWI was different, because I suppose we were still part of the Empire and therefore it was a given that we’d be involved in a British war. In the 1950s and 60s, Britain’s wars in Malaya and Indonesia were actually legitimate and the reasons for Australian involvment were probably also legitimate for the period: communist insurgents, against the wishes of most of the population, were trying to take over areas of Malaysia and prevent its independence as a democratic (Islamic) nation, and in Indonesia, the Indonesians decided to “confront” (with arms) newly independent Malaya because they felt it was just another guise for British colonialism (as has been shown since, it wasn’t anything of the kind and has been a beacon in south-east Asia – for the most part).

    The only one I can think of recently that wasn’t about any of that was in East Timor, where the Australian military was deployed a couple of years ago and very heavily to prevent a genocide and to help a fledgling republic. It didn’t make us too popular with the Indonesians, however.

    However, I must say I am not sure about our continuing involvment in Iraq.

  • Zedd



    I find the Vietnam and Iraq involvement most interesting and perplexing. Just as they feared communism then, we fear terrorism today however there is reason within all of the mayhem and certainly governments understand the finer points of international engagement that surpass political rhetoric. Surely they understood the true landscape in both situations. I cant imagine that they were duped by the Americans.

    Did or does Australia stand to gain anything regarding oil revenues or anything of that sort? Has the press uncovered anything?

  • STM

    No, Zedd, I don’t think there is much economic benefit for us – and really the involvement in Vietnam was simply part of our obligations in our alliance with the US. Although the Australian government could have said No, I guess it has to be seen in the context of the times, the fear of communism etc.

    It was also important for the US – as it is now – for the Americans to have other western democracies (Australia and New Zealand) involved in Vietnam, so that they could point to and say, see, we’re not the only ones who are worried.

    It wasn’t until the whole thing became mired and fraught that everyone realised it might not have been such a good idea.

    You don’t hear a lot about the Malayan emergency or Konfrontasi in Australia because the British and Australians managed to outlast and defeat the insurgents in both cases, and the results were positive.

    Interesting that we are now rather closely allied with Indonesia, our closest neighbour, a muslim country, but not with neighbouring Malaysia.

    The Vietnam thing is starting to feel familiar though in relation to Iraq. The US really needs to take a different tack there and once it settles, get the hell out of the place. I like the British concept of doing “armed social work”, rather than just “armed”. You would think the Poms would be pretty good at counter-insurgency too, given their post-colonial legacy. Perhaps the US military would in this case benefit from listening to what they have to say about it.

    And as much as I hate the ongoing war there, in Iraq most of the people DON’T want the insurgents to win, and don’t want the US to leave yet, no matter what you hear in the US from the left.

  • @#60:

    You’re nothing if not even handed, Stan.

    Fair dinkum, mate.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    “‘Whez me fucken’ ‘at’

    Love it! My first Aussie phrase.

    I’m prehcktisin’ it in front o’ me fucken’ myrrh, mate. How’d oi do?”

    Living in Israel, I’ve gotten a good dose of the different English accents and expressions that one hears as an English speaker. In Ma’aleh Levona alone, there is the South African who drives me into town on Sunday mornings, who sounds like his fellow South African, the late Abba (Aubrey) Eban, z”l; the Irishman who lives in the village with the name of Mahoney; the Geordie who virtually founded the village, Eric; at least two Texans and one Tennesseean; a guy from upstate New York, and a woman who incessantly reminds me that she is from San Francisco. In addition, there is this fellow from Boston, and his wife, who comes from my old neighborhood in Brooklyn and is the person I understand the best in the entire country (my wife excepted).

    Then there is my Australian police commander, and his assistant, a Brit from London, my wife’s girlfriend from Chicago, and the president of Root & Branch, who hails from Westchester, New York.

    Talk about a clash of civilizations, eh?

  • Clash or harmony, Ruvy? You write of them rather fondly.

    Sounds like you have a lot of Gringos; is that the case throughout Israel?

    I’ll bet the president of Root and Branch, ex of Westchester, has beaucoup Shekels, right? Long, long ago, before they moved to Mexico, my parents lived in Larchmont.

    What is Root and Branch?

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem


    In this country, we are called Anglos. In Tel Aviv, you do not hear much English except in the rich areas; in Ariel, a couple of hilltops away, you are more likely to hear Russian than Hebrew, but in Rana’ana and K’far Sava, two cities just west of Qalqilia and east of Netanya, you will hear lots of English. In Netanya, you will hear loads of Russian.

    In the smaller towns, you had better know Hebrew. In downtown Jerusalem, you might think you were in Flatbush or Midwood. Not only do you hear lots and lots of English, you hear Brooklyn English.

    There are lots of us Brooklyn Joos there.

    As for the fellow from Westchester, Aryeh Gallin, no, he is not loaded with shekels. Most of us Anglos are not rich at all, having taken a few steps down the societal ladder to come here and do something we believe in.

    To find out more about Root & Branch, go to its web site. The site is undergoing some revision and growth, and with time, there will be a lot more resources there than there are now…

    By the way, there are loads of folks who speak Spanish in Israel. I understand Ladino (the language of the Jews expelled from Spain) better than I understand Spanish itself (I lost most of my Spanish trying to learn Hebrew) and can usually understand about half of the news in Ladino on the Voice of Israel when I pick it up. There are a lot of new immigrants from Spanish speaking countries, including Venezuela, lots of converts to Judaism, and lots and lots of Christians discovering their Jewish roots and leaving Christianity, now that there is no auto da fé to keep them within Rome’s clutches.

    Clavos, this is a far more culturally and racially diverse country than you might imagine… I know the cultural and racial diversity certainly surprised me when I got here.

    In the Hebrew language, English is used much as French used to be in English and Russian, to get points across, and to show off “higher culture.”


  • Ruvy,

    Thanks for the background! I understand that Americans are called Anglos, but my Mexican side only accepts Gringo. A small payment for all the stolen land :>)

    Your Westchester friend must have left most of his wealth behind. Westchester has no poor areas.

    BTW, my best friend and his family travel often to Israel; they are strong supporters of Technion, and are very involved with it.

    Did you know that a prominent Miami man, Shepard Broad, was instrumental in the formation of Israel?

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    I went to your link and saw that Shepard Broad was part of the famous bunch or millionaires who helped ben-Gurion get arms… That is what heroes are made of sometimes – money.

  • Zedd


    Very even handed indeed.

    Do you think that this last support of America based on allegiance, will affect Australia’s response to the next plea for military accompaniment?

    Also, is there a disconnect between the people of Australia and their views about such matters and the Australian government.

    I would also state that its not the left that states that Iraqis don’t like us. It is the purported left. In today’s climate, there is reality and then there is the spinned (spun) reality. The spinned reality works for people who have been fully infiltrated by the great PR machine that manipulates us. It eventually becomes the standard view and even those who it was defining eventually give into it and don’t refute it. Its weird but that is partially what explains how we became what we are today; why Bush is President and why we are so “divided” (we really aren’t. We are just mad at the spinned opposite/enemy which doesn’t exist).

  • Zedd


    I love your picture of Israel (accept for the lack of Palestinians but that’s another topic).

    I love the variety even among “Anglos”. Beautiful!

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem


    I didn’t mention them in the other comments because they don’t predominate anywhere, but anywhere you go, you can see young black men and women in uniform or out of it talking Hebrew or Amharic. In addition, in the villages of Samaria, you can see young men and women who look as if they come from Burma, wearing kippot or long dresses. It’s nice to see – proof that our people have spread world wide irrespective of race – and have come home, bringing the world with us.

    On Sigt, the first day of Kislev each year, thousands of Ethiopian Jews come to Jerusalem either to the Old City or to Talpiot MizraH facing the Old City north across the Valley of G-d’s Judgment (‘Émek Yehoshafát). From all over the country they come to receive the blessings of their priests from Ethiopia and offer special prayers. Perhaps in days to come, they will gather on Sigt and bring sacrifices to the Temple that will arise in the future, the House of All Nations that will be the splendour of Jerusalem.

  • Zedd


    I wasn’t thinking of the racial aspect of things. Race in the middle east is doesn’t fit does it? I suppose unless you have been socialized in European countries including the US I suppose.

    Anyway I was just appreciating the diversity.

    Perhaps 50yrs from now your grand children will be naming Palestinians among that beautiful rainbow of cultures. That would be truly a lovely place, spiritually as well.

  • STM

    Zedd wrote: “I love the variety even among “Anglos”. Beautiful!”

    I don’t know about Israel, but here’s the bizarre thing about Australia, Zedd. Black Americans and Brits are regarded as “anglos”. As you would be, with your japie accent and desire for all products British …

    I’ve got a mate here whose family is from the West Indies, but he’s a Pom. The only time I’ve ever heard him cop any shit is when the cricket’s on and he’s waving the cross of St George and shouting “Come on England” each time they lose another wicket 🙂