23 April 2009
The Australian-based veterans group Stand Fast, comprised of veterans and former military personnel who oppose the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, today called on people to reject blind patriotism and flag waving this ANZAC Day. Stand Fast has called for reflection on the brutality of war and for people to question if Australia’s current wars are really in the interest of the people of Australia.
In Brisbane Stand Fast spokesperson and East Timor veteran, Hamish Chitts said the group thinks the increasing spectacle of flag waving and cheering on ANZAC Day departs from its origins as a sombre day of remembrance. The group is concerned that this trend stops people openly questioning these wars amid fears that they will be accused of being ‘unpatriotic’ or not supporting the troops.
Vietnam veteran and Sydney based Stand Fast member Gerry Binder said, “The original idea was to remember the brutality that war is so that we would never let it happen again, not marching up and down with bands and people waving and shouting and cheering.” He said, “I’ve marched in Anzac Day marches and I was horrified that people are bringing their kids to cheer, to clap. I don’t want to be congratulated; I want them to understand that this must not be repeated.”
In Melbourne former army Major Chip Henriss, a Bouganville and East Timor veteran said, “I march on ANZAC Day every year but along with my medals I wear a button that says "War is Terror". For us in Australia it's been about mainly young people that have gone off time after time on what we believed was a just crusade only to return wounded physically and mentally. Yes I love the mates I served with and many of whom continue to serve but it doesn't mean I can't see these wars for what they are.”
According to Chitts Stand Fast believes that “to claim these wars bring democracy and that they are in our best interests are ridiculous. Stand Fast believes politicians are looking after the interests of big business and dressing it up to look like the people of Afghanistan or Iraq have the capability and desire to attack Australia”.
Former Royal Australian Navy officer Mark Rickards led over 70 vessel boardings in the Red Sea following the first Gulf War. Speaking from Hobart Rickards said, "Anzac Day is an opportunity to pay tribute to those who served, and particular who died, in wars which were fought in defence of peace. However it is also the perfect time to stop and reflect on the growing death toll of Australian service personnel who are currently serving in unjust wars.
Chitts continued, “These members of parliament, both Labor and Coalition vie with each other to be more ‘the diggers friend’ than the other. Most have never served in the Defence Force and would be horrified if their children did. As veterans, our thoughts are with all those who have suffered from war, those still suffering physically and mentally because of war and all those still in harm’s way in Iraq and Afghanistan. No more blood should be shed for the profiteers. Those who truly support the troops should join the call to bring all the troops home now”.