From ANZAC to AUKUS: More than a century of carnage and cowardice

April 24, 2024
Trench at Lone Pine after a battle and showing Australian and Turkish dead on the parapet, August 1915. Photo: Phillip Schuler/Australian War Memorial PS1515

In 1914, the global powers of the day declared war on each other, kick starting the Great Imperialist War.

The mechanistic savagery and carnage unleashed on the participating nations and their imperial dominions have never been matched.

The working class of Greater Europe and Britain, although hoodwinked by racist propaganda and false promises of ethno-nationalist glory, willingly signed up to what amounted to ritualistic class suicide in a bloody battle over imperialist spoils.

Australia’s adolescent government of the day eagerly took all its foreign policy cues from Britain. Liberal leader (and former leader of the Anti-Socialist Party) Joseph Cook and Labor leader Andrew Fisher enthusiastically exclaimed support for the Western war effort.

From a population of fewer than 5 million more than 420,000 young working men were sent to the western front and the Middle East, including the slaughter at Gallipoli, upon which the myth of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) is based.

In all some 65,000 Australians perished and more than 150,000 were seriously wounded or poisoned by chemical weapons.

While Australia’s participation in World War II could be seen as contributing to a just defence against German and Japanese imperialist ambition, the government nonetheless contributed lives and logistics as, and when, ordered by its British and American masters, without question.

In line with the relocation of global capitalism’s headquarters from London to Wall Street in the post WWII era, Australia’s foreign policy orders were from then on dictated from Washington DC.

Throughout the latter half of the 20th century, Australian governments willingly participated in the US’ wars of ideology in Korea and Vietnam.

In the early 2000s, then-Prime Minister John Howard, a man vastly more craven and fanatically wedded to the US than any leader before him, eagerly signed Australia up to participate in the Afghanistan and Iraq occupations and wars.

While only a few Australian troops were killed in these wars, the damage to Iraq and Afghanistan was immense, and it continues.

Australia is now forever linked to the torture of prisoners and direct deaths of more than 500,000 civilians in Iraq, and more than 70,000 in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Now Australia’s defence minister, the emptiest of empty suits Richard Marles’ enthusiastic support for the AUKUS military alliance, exposes Labor’s lie about having a sovereign foreign policy.

AUKUS represents a preparation for war against China.

The much-debated submarine purchase is nothing less than a wealth transfer of almost $400 billion to the US and British militaries.

The Sinophobic sabre rattling, so favoured by Marles, provides ideological cover for the transfer of this vast sum away from urgent social and ecological needs.

The real aim of the AUKUS pact is to completely subsume Australia within the US’ military industrial apparatus.

Under the guise of “interoperability” Australia will allow the US Navy unfettered access to all naval ports. A huge radar array to monitor global and satellite communications will be built in Western Australia in 2026 to compliment operations at the Pine Gap spy base.

Australia signed up to the AUKUS terms to invest, manufacture and share hypersonic ballistic missiles, drone weaponry, artificial intelligence and cyber surveillance technology.

Warfare, like so much else in modern life, is fully abstracted.

Never again will we need to agree to sacrificing large numbers of young men and women to a foreign imperialist war project.

We now readily accept the sci-fi fantasy that AUKUS means a heroic defence of “our values” against China, Iran or North Korea, using high-tech guidance systems and submarines.

In reality, these modern systems of mass surveillance and death, much of it housed here, will never be used against any foreign adversary, but against those deemed as being outside the project of relentless global profit extraction.

Climate refugees, environmental protesters and defenders, striking workers in the Global South and people, such as the Palestinians, who seek freedom from historical oppression and ongoing subjugation will be the main targets of any emergent AUKUS capability.

Australia’s record of cowardice and carnage looks likely to reach far into its second century — unless we stop the next imperialist war before it starts.

You need Green Left, and we need you!

Green Left is funded by contributions from readers and supporters. Help us reach our funding target.

Make a One-off Donation or choose from one of our Monthly Donation options.

Become a supporter to get the digital edition for $5 per month or the print edition for $10 per month. One-time payment options are available.

You can also call 1800 634 206 to make a donation or to become a supporter. Thank you.