Stand Fast, an anti-war group of military veterans, released the statement below on April 24.
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“You do not honor the dead through mindless flag waving, rewriting history or promoting new wars,” said Hamish Chitts, East Timor veteran and spokesperson for Stand Fast — a group of veterans and former military personnel who oppose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Chitts said: “ANZAC Day has become a nationalist circus with little real reflection on why governments sent soldiers, sailors and airmen to their deaths. All we get is glib cliches and a perverse ‘cult of sacrifice’ where we’re told that it doesn’t matter why you are sent to war, whether your government lied to you or not, the greatest thing an ordinary Australian can do is die in a war.
“A classic example can be seen on the streets of Brisbane. The RSL have put up banners and ads on buses saying, ‘420,127 Queenslanders have courageously fought for our freedom since 1915.’ This is absolutely ridiculous and an outright lie.
“How did the insane slaughter of World War I gain freedom? The overwhelming majority of those poor souls that ended up fighting in those trenches that did come back knew it was a war benefiting only the rich and something that should never happen again.
“Which war gained women the right to vote? Which war gained the 8 hour work day? Which war gave people the right to hold public demonstrations? There isn’t one, our freedom has always been fought and won by the people, civilians, standing up to their own government.
“The myth that if Australian troops fight they are automatically fighting for our freedom needs to be busted because it lets warmongering politicians off the hook when they slaughter our youth.
“The quagmire of Afghanistan and the soldiers it has and will kill on the battlefield and from suicide could have been saved if we had learnt from the past. As Australia accelerates its retreat from that disaster the criminal politicians responsible for this need to be brought to account.”
According to the Department of Veteran Affairs at least 78 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have taken their own lives and hundreds have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Chitts said: “Stand Fast does not oppose remembering our comrades-in-arms that have died in war, but, if you are serious about honoring their memory learn about the real reasons they were sent to war, pledge to stop this from happening again and join the call for an immediate withdrawal of Australian troops from Afghanistan.”