War poet's words still resonate


On April 28, an Australian soldier died in Afghanistan — the fifth since the US-led invasion in October 2001. He was part of an international invasion force to impose a colonial occupation on the Afghan people.

During the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, the Afghan mujahideen were referred to by the Western press as "freedom fighters". Now that Afghanis want to be free of the latest occupiers, they are labelled insurgents and terrorists.

The Western media sees no contradiction in calling the legitimate resistance "invaders" and "outsiders" rather than the murderous invading troops and their mercenaries.

The first to realise the lies of the media are the soldiers on the ground. One such man in WWI was Siegfried Sassoon, an officer with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers in France. In 1917 he published an open letter to his commanding officer and the media, which was published in the London Times under the heading "A soldier's declaration".

"I am making this statement as an act of wilful defiance of military authority, because I believe that the War is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it", Sassoon's letter said. "This War, upon which I entered as a war of defence and liberation, has now become a war of aggression and conquest."

Sassoon also wrote poetry about his experiences, which argue to the stupidity of the war and its wastefulness of human life. In the poem "Does it matter?" (published in Counter-Attack and Other Poems, 1918), Sassoon says:

Does it matter? — losing your legs?

For people will always be kind,

And you need not show that you mind

When others come in after hunting

To gobble their muffins and eggs.

@poetry = Does it matter? — losing your sight?

There's such splendid work for the blind;

And people will always be kind,

As you sit on the terrace remembering

And turning your face to the light.

@poetry = Do they matter — those dreams in the pit?

You can drink and forget and be glad,

And people won't say that you're mad;

For they know that you've fought for your country,

And no one will worry a bit.

Sassoon went on a lecture tour as a socialist and anti-war activist after the war. His younger brother Hamo had died at Gallipoli. He lost countless close friends on the western front. Sassoon recognised that the real enemies were the profiteers who made money from selling their armaments to all sides.

When is the last time you saw a media article that asked veterans what it was like to kill or live in fear of being killed? Or one that asked how veterans felt knowing it was wrong to murder in civilian life but extolled as heroic when you murder on behalf of the state wearing a uniform?

How many know about the mutinies that occurred in the French army, the German navy, and the Russian army in 1917? The media serves a critical role in maintaining the myth of military glory at Anzac Day. In this way, they seduce another generation of youth to go to war and die a meaningless sacrifice on behalf of the merchants of death.

We have many decent people to thank for showing us who profits while others die in the wars of the 20th and 21st Centuries.

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