Saturday 28th of January 2023

symbolism, silence, sacrifice and dead soldiers...


The Hall of Silence, located at the centre of the Sydney War Memorial, is striking in its starkness, and has a powerful effect on visitors.


The room is circular and Rayner Hoff's sculpture Sacrifice stands in its centre. The floor is Ulam white marble (from SOUTH WESTERN SLOPE OF MT MCCAMLEY, 15 KM SSW OF MARMOR, 60KM NW OF GLADSTONE, Queensland), and there is a bronze “eternal flame” that flares out from the sculpture. The ceiling curves up toward the carved marble banister that defines the Well of Contemplation, a large circular opening in the floor of the level above. This opening provides the only natural lighting for the Hall of Silence and has the effect of focusing that light onto the central sculpture. The cornice is a marble frieze in which are carved the names of the great battles fought by Australians forces during the war. According to Dellit (the architect), the names “complete the message which the group of sculpture symbolising Sacrifice is intended to deliver”


Let's hope we don't have to add the names of more wars to the cornice... 


See also: the WW1 conspiracy...


Anzac day: Thursday, 25 April in NSW.


See Gus's picture of the outside of the Sydney War Memorial:

war fodder...




Picture at top by Gus Leonisky.

fudging history, back and forth...

America’s Democratic Party ‘news’-media are now defending themselves against charges that they had trumpeted false allegations against Donald Trump regarding “Russiagate.” Republican Party ‘news’-media are strutting because they didn’t. But in the lead-up to America’s invasion and destruction of Iraq (and here’s “How the U.S. Destroyed Iraq”), the mainstream ‘news’-reporting was just as bad then as now, only with the partisan sides switched. ‘Russiagate’ thus mirrors ‘WMD in Iraq’. The chief difference between then and now is only that the media now have been fictitiously demonizing Putin and Trump by means of lies, whereas back in 2002 and 2003, they were fictitiously demonizing Saddam Hussein by means of lies.

In that prior instance (lies about Iraq), the Republican media were the worse of the two Party-propaganda-lines. Republican Party followers were the more-deceived back then, just as Democratic Party followers are the more-deceived today. Whereas, in 2003, increased exposure to news, about what had led up to the invasion of Iraq, produced, for Democrats, higher scores on a test of knowledge about that matter; for Republicans, it actually produced lower scores about that matter.

For Republicans, at that time, the ‘news’-reporting decreased, rather than increased, a historically accurate understanding of the lead-up to (and into) Iraq-invasion events. By contrast, now in 2019, when the evidence has finally become clear that the Russiagate accusations against Trump were intensely politically motivated, it is Democratic Party followers who are the more-deceived today. In fact, whereas, back in January of this year, 83% of Republicans said that the reason for the Russiagate investigation was “politically motivated,” 84% of Democrats said that it was not.

The more that Democrats had become influenced by Democratic-Party ‘news’-media, the more inaccurate their understandings of the events were. On this matter, Democrats were oblivious about the reality, just swamped by their own Party’s propaganda — just like had happened to Republicans regarding the invasion of Iraq.

In both of these two instances (both Democratic ‘news’-media now, and Republican ‘news’-media then), all of America’s major media actually hid — and continue to hide — the key facts, from the public (even 16 years, now, after the invasion of Iraq). On the deeper-level issues concerning Governmental policies, there is bipartisan deceit against the American public. These are issues on which all of the billionaires were and are united, against the American public (and especially against the “40.6% million people in poverty” — the neediest instead of the richest who are themselves, those billionaires), and they therefore benefit from the public’s ignorance and misconceptions about such matters (so that the Government will continue serving chiefly themselves).

These super-rich are determined to continue controlling Government-policies, for their own benefits, like increased ‘defense’ spending to buy increased products from their corporations such as Lockheed Martin, and for increased access to raw materials by their firms such as ExxonMobil. It’s all — according to their propaganda-media, ‘in defense of freedom and democracy and human rights’. That’s always the billionaires’ line. It’s always “Trust us!” “Our Government is democratic — a democracy, not a dictatorship [by us]!” So, the message from them is: invade Iraq! And: oppose any U.S. President who would meet privately to negotiate with Russia’s President!

America’s billionaires fear peace abroad. They thrive on conquest (their coups and invasions) abroad. For example, this is the reason why, consistently in Gallup’s findings, “The military” (which is actually the most corrupt of all American institutions) scores, by far, at the very top of the 17 listed “Institutions” in American society — way above (for examples) “the Supreme Court,“ or “The church or organized religion,” or “The public schools.” The billionaires shape the culture, and this is how they’ve managed to get the U.S. to spend about half of the entire world’s total military expenses — all to be paid for by the taxes and governmental debts that the public (and their descendants), and not merely those billionaires (the actual beneficiaries) pay, and will be paying in the future. This is the way that a global empire is built, and maintained — ‘for peace and freedom and democracy and human rights around the world’.

The two Parties disagree with each other, but each Party represents only a different faction among the billionaires (not among the public) regarding what they want the public to believe. The billionaires and their corporations contribute the vast majority of the money to the major candidates, and control the think tanks and ‘news’-media that enables each winning national U.S. politician to become and remain a winning national U.S. politician and thus to become and be the President, or member of Congress. So, these few extremely wealthy individuals are America’s real, behind-the-scenes, government — the “Deep State” that’s represented by the top levels at CIA, Britain’s MI6, Wall Street, etc. (all servants — a few of whom are billionaires themselves — of America’s billionaires, and of their allied foreign billionaires).

No faction within America’s 585 billionaires actually represents the American public — neither group of billionaires (Democrats or Republicans) represents the public of either Party. Each of them represents only him-or-her-self and the property (and employees and other agents) which that individual controls. (Of course, that’s millions of people, who are hired and promoted and demoted by the billionaires.) But because billionaires’ wealth is so extremely concentrated within this tiny number of people (585), and is so huge, and because their corruption reigns, these few individuals effectively control the Government.

Especially America’s foreign policies (including, in 2002, toward Iraq; and, in 2016-18, ‘Russiagate’, toward Russia and Trump) represent only the interests of billionaires, not of the American people, who are mainly interested in domestic affairs, such as health care, education, crimes, etc.

Right now, the billionaires are (via their media-proxies) battling each other over whom to blame for ‘Russiagate’: if not Trump, then whom? But that’s only a Democrat-versus-Republican issue. It appeals to the partisans on each side. It’s more of the same, so that the billionaires’ control over America’s Government continues to face no challenge.

Whenever American billionaires’ desires contradict the public’s needs, the latter have “a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy”, and this has been scientifically proven to have been true since at least 1981.

Though it’s true regarding any field of public policy, it is the most true regarding international policies, because those are the ones on which deceiving the publicis the easiest to do. Furthermore, the controlling owners of international corporations (and these are billionaires) are vastly more concerned about foreign affairs than the general public is. Whereas domestic affairs interest everyone, foreign affairs receive far less attention from most people — but not from billionaires, who are, if anything, often even more interested in those matters.

Donald Trump represents one faction of America’s billionaires; Barack Obama represented another faction of them; but each President (at least since 1981) has been representing only them (America’s billionaires). Furthermore, the 2016 Presidential contest was no exception to this rule; and, so, American democracy has been destroyed by America’s own billionaires, and not by any foreign country.

Russia didn’t do this to us. Not even Israel (which interferes in American national elections vastly more than does Russia, and which also has officially the fourth-largest of all foreign nations’ lobbies in the U.S. Congress) did. America’s billionaires did (and do) it.

Overwhelmingly, it is they who actually control America’s foreign policies. (Moreover, on international matters, there appears to be virtual unanimity amongst the aristocracies of Britain, Israel, and U.S.; and, on 15 February 2009, Britain’s Guardian reported that “The pro-Israel lobby’s contributions reach a majority of US politicians. In 2018, it spent money on 269 representatives’ and 57 senators’ campaigns, and gave to Democrats at a two to one ratio.”

So: it’s not only the Republican Party that’s fronting for Israel. To front for Israel is also to front for America’s billionaires — even for the roughly 70% of America’s non-Jewish billionaires. But to front for Russia is ‘traitorous’ while to front for Israel is ‘not’ — and yet Russia never attacked and slaughtered Americans, whereas Israel did, and so did another ‘U.S. ally’, Saudi Arabia. (Yet, America’s aristocracy is closely allied with both Israel’s and Saudi Arabia’s — not just with Britain’s.)

All of these assertions will be further documented and exemplified in what follows.

The two examples to be focused upon here will be America’s successful rape of Iraq in 2003, and the Democratic Party’s unsuccessful effort, which started in 2016, to delegitimize the Republican President Donald Trump as being some type of Russian agent.


Here’s Robert Mueller testifying to Congress about WMD (weapons of mass destruction) in Iraq, before we invaded and destroyed Iraq:

On 11 February 2003, the then-FBI Director Mueller testified, to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, that: 

Secretary Powell presented evidence last week that Baghdad has failed to disarm its weapons of mass destruction, willfully attempting to evade and deceive the international community. Our particular concern is that Saddam may supply al-Qaeda with biological, chemical, or radiological material.”

He just reiterated the President’s lies (and he credited Colin Powell’s supposed naiveté in having spouted them — for which deception Powell subsequently apologized, but Mueller never did). Mueller’s concern wasn’t to raise any question about the lies that led to the Iraq-invasion, but was simply to reinforce these lies. He didn’t work for the public. He worked for the President.

As I said 16 September 2016:

On 7 September 2002, U.S. President George W. Bush blatantly lied to concoct a “new report” by the IAEA about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction program, and the U.S. news-media reported the statement but hid that it was a lie. He said (and CNN and others quoted it): “a report came out of the Atomic — the IAEA that they were six months away from developing a weapon. I don’t know what more evidence we need,” when he was asked at a press conference, “Mr. President, can you tell us what conclusive evidence of any nuclear — new evidence you have of nuclear weapons capabilities of Saddam Hussein?”

Immediately, the IAEA said then that there was no such “new report,” and that the last they were able to find, there was nothing left of WMD in Iraq. The American news-media simply ignored the IAEA’s denial, and we invaded Iraq, almost six months after that boldfaced lie, a lie the press refused to expose, at all — ever. They still haven’t exposed it, even to the present day; and instead there remains a ‘debate’ as to whether George W. Bush lied or was instead merely misled by “defective U.S. intelligence.” 

In this particular instance, he wasn’t even citing U.S. intelligence, but instead citing the IAEA, and they immediately denied it, but the press failed to report that fact; so, really, the President was simply lying, and the press just continue to lie by saying he had only “been misled by the CIA” (which he actually controlled; but he didn’t control the IAEA). The American press hide the fact that the American President lied his nation into invading Iraq. The press lie that it was only “bad intelligence,” no lying President.

(Because of the news-media’s ignoring the IAEA’s denial of the President’s statement, the author of the IAEA’s denial, Mark Gwozdecky, spoke three weeks later, by phone, with the only journalist who was interested, Joseph Curl of the Washington Times, who headlined on 27 September 2002, “Agency Disavows Report on Iraq Arms” — perhaps that should instead have been “President Lied About ‘Saddam’s WMD’” — and Curl quoted Gwozdecky: “There’s never been a report like that [which Bush alleged] issued from this agency. … When we left in December ’98 we had concluded that we had neutralized their nuclear-weapons program. We had confiscated their fissile material. We had destroyed all their key buildings and equipment.” Other news-media failed to pick up Curl’s article. And, even in that article, there was no clear statement that the President had, in fact, lied — cooked up an IAEA ‘report’ that never actually existed — and that he never corrected his false allegation; that he compounded his lie by not correcting it.)

This is hardly the only instance where the U.S. news-media cover for the President’s lies about foreign affairs, by merely stenographically reporting what he says, while hiding the truth that his statement was a baldfaced lie. For example, how many times have you read in the newspapers, or in a magazine, or seen on TV, or heard on the radio (all of which are supposed to report these things), that in February 2014, the Obama Administration perpetrated a bloody coup d’etat that overthrew the democratically elected President of Ukraine, and replaced his government with a racist-fascist, or anti-Russian nazi, government, so that Ukraine, which had been at peace for decades, was now suddenly torn by a racist bloody civil war— a war of ethnic cleansing? Oh? You were instead told that ‘democracy’ started (instead of ended) when Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown then, in a ‘revolution,’ not in any U.S. “coup”?

The very next day, on 8 September 2002, the New York Times bannered “THREATS AND RESPONSES: THE IRAQIS; U.S. SAYS HUSSEIN INTENSIFIES QUEST FOR A-BOMB PARTS”, and reported that, “In the last 14 months, Iraq has sought to buy thousands of specially designed aluminum tubes, which American officials believe were intended as components of centrifuges to enrich uranium.” That, too, turned out to be fiction, which the ‘news’-media stenographically reported to be reality, as any propaganda-agency is paid or otherwise rewarded to do.

Also on September 8th, Bush’s National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said on CNN, “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.”

On 9 September 2002, the IAEA denied the existence of the ‘new report’ that Bush (seconded by British Prime Minister Tony Blair) had just said was proof that Saddam was within six months of having a nuclear bomb. Neither the NYT nor other ‘news’-media reported that the President had lied on September 7th. So, Gwozdecky of IAEA tried again, on September 27th, but the NYT and all the others continued to ignore them. That (the U.S. President’s deceiving this nation into an invasion) wasn’t included to report — wasn’t even buried (like on an inside page) — in “All the News That’s Fit to Print”.

Did the NYT (and WP and CNN, etc,) lose subscribers, and go out of business, for that serial-deceit of the public? The opposite: they thrived. And, now, they accuse smaller news-media (which had had nothing to do with deceiving Americans into invading Iraq) of providing ‘fake news’. And the standards of American ‘journalism’ are just as poor today as they were back in 2002 and 2003.

Then, on 8 October 2002, President Bush delivered, to the nation, his major address on why we needed to invade Iraq very soon. He said: “Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun, that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.” Condoleezza Rice’s fictitious “mushroom cloud” was now — exactly a month later — President Bush’s, too.

On 18 March 2003, President Bush ordered the U.N.’s weapons-inspectors out of Iraq by telling them that if they wouldn’t be gone within 48 hours they’d be under U.S. bombing there. Hans Blix and his team rushed out, to meet that deadline. The Iraqi people couldn’t do any such thing — Bush’s warning simply spelt doom for them.

Nobody in the mainstream press, at the time, or afterward, reported that the IAEA had actually issued no such ‘new report’. It didn’t exist, at all. The American public didn’t know that Bush was lying through his teeth and that this invasion was 100% a blatant international war-crime. They didn’t know, because the billionaires’ American ‘news’-media hid that fact.

All of these ‘news’ lies are stenographic ‘reporting’, and it’s endemic in all of America’s mainstream ‘news’-media, all of which are controlled by billionaires, via ownership and/or their corporations’ advertising. Stenographic ‘news’-reporting is still as acceptable to them as it was to them then, when we invaded and destroyed Iraq, on the basis of those stenographically reported lies from the Government and its agents.

That’s America’s mainstream. Many in alternative, smaller, news-media had reported over and over and over and over and over and over — and even Rupert Murdoch’s own London Times had reported as early as 26 November 2009 (after the Republican President Bush was no longer in office and had been replaced by a Democrat) — that all of the insiders had known that Iraq didn’t have weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). What all of the mainstream ‘news’-media were publishing, back in 2003, were merely lies from the Government.

What should have been the first question, then, on 9 September 2002 when the IAEA said that there wasn’t any “new report” from them, about the matter such as the U.S. President had alleged?

The questions were never asked, much less followed up immediately to expose the response to be yet another lie. This is how Bush and his team got away with mass-murder abroad. There was no resistance, in any of the mainstream (the billionaire-controlled) media. Not even in the Democratic-Party ‘news’-media. This was bipartisan evil (by the billionaires) and ignorance (by the public).

On 22 January 2018, CNN reported that, “George W. Bush’s favorable rating has grown from 33% to 61% since he left office. … Most of Bush’s climb back to popularity came from Democrats and independents. His favorability mark among Democrats has soared from only 11% in February 2009 to a majority 54% now.” 

Maybe that’s because of ‘news’-media such as CNN, continuing to trumpet ongoing official deceits as if those were instead established truths. The U.S. Government can lie as much as it wants, because there’s nothing to stop it from lying. There is no accountability in an aristocracy, but only in a democracy (and the U.S. is an aristocracy).

The media-mainstream, and its supporters, refuse to become honest. Mainstreamers think that they’re terrific as they are, and certainly shouldn’t be put out of business for the mass-murdering lies they’ve pumped. The ‘Russiagate’ fraud is the latest example of this. If it had succeeded, then not only would U.S. ‘defense’-spending soar even more and the Government’s domestic spending plunge, but World War III against Russia would suddenly become enormously more likely.


On 23 March 2019, main conclusions from the Mueller Report — the report fromU.S. Special Counsel Robert Swan Mueller III — became published. Democratic Party politicians and ‘news’-media were shocked and stunned that Mueller’s report asserted:

“[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

One needs to see the complete sentence, there, not just part of it (which is all that was released); but, if this quotation from the Report isn’t out-of-context, then the entire investigation was pursuing a Democratic Party lie and found it to be a lie.

On 24 March 2019, Michael Calderone at Politico said that “while fair-minded criticism can be beneficial to the news media, there are likely to also be bad faith attempts to delegitimize journalism.”

He said there “journalism,” instead of “propaganda.” He was writing propaganda for America’s Democratic-Party ‘news’-media. Calderone was happy to report that “Some journalists have already pushed back on the weekend criticism. ‘Given the issues, stakes, and seriousness with which special counsel treated all of this, the media’s coverage of Russia-Trump connection and possible obstruction over the last two years was somewhere between about right and not quite aggressive enough,’ tweeted Esquire’s Ryan Lizza.”

On the same day, Paul Farhi of the Washington Post headlined “Conclusion of Mueller probe raises anew criticisms of coverage” and reported that “Among the theories commentators advanced was one by New York magazine writer Jonathan Chait, who speculated in a cover story in July about whether ‘the dark crevices of the Russia scandal run not just a little deeper but a lot deeper.’ … In a statement Sunday night, Chait stood by his article. ‘That story relied on reports in credible public sources. None of those reports have been refuted.’”

That’s rabidly false, though the top editors at both the Washington Post and the New York Times were quoted there as making similar false assertions.

Farhi continued: “In fact, revelations by the Times and The Washington Post about contacts between Russian agents and Trump’s campaign advisers in 2016 helped prompt the inquiry that the special counsel took over in May 2017. The two newspapers shared a Pulitzer Prize for their reporting on the issue that year.” He seemed to be actually bragging about his very successful and severely failed ‘news’-paper and its main competitor.

On March 25th, Amy Chozick in the New York Times bannered “After Mueller Report, News Media Leaders Defend Their Work”, and she reported that, “Jeff Zucker, president of CNN, said he was ‘entirely comfortable’ with the network’s coverage. ‘We are not investigators. We are journalists, and our role is to report the facts as we know them, which is exactly what we did,’ Mr. Zucker said in an email.”

Furthermore: “Ben Smith, the editor in chief of BuzzFeed News, defended coverage of the Russian investigation, including the decision to publish a dossier put together by British intelligence officer Christopher Steele full of tantalizing (and unsubstantiated) reports about Russian efforts to blackmail Mr. Trump. ‘It’s pretty hard to imagine a scenario in which people were aware of its existence but not allowed to see it,’ Mr. Smith said of the dossier.” 

Smith took seriously the “unsubstantiated” ‘dossier’ that the DNC had hired for creating the myth that the cause of Clinton’s loss was Putin and Russia, instead of herself, and her profoundly corrupt Party (no different, basically, from the Republican Party).

On March 26th, The Hill headlined “Media have account to settle with American people over Mueller investigation coverage”, and a journalism professor said that the news industry” had been “stumbling around unsuccessfully in the dark trying to find fact nuggets on which to build the Mueller story.”

Two days later, he told Wisconsin Public Radio that “The media did underperform over the last couple of years.” The problem was just blunders, and ‘underperformance’ (instead of its long-proven-normal performance) — not the entire corrupt system of ‘journalism’ in America, where the people who do the hiring are answerable ultimately to the same billionaires who effectively control the Government. No — not that — not at all (according to him).

As I have pointed out and documented (via links to solid ultimate sources, sometimes in the linked-to sources in linked-to articles, but all ultimate sources having been very carefully verified by this reporter as being true, and those sources remaining solid), “All U.S. Gov’t. Accusations Against Russia’s Gov’t. Are Lies.” 

That’s right: all of “Russiagate” is based on very dubious ‘evidence’. This means that the time-line, in the Mueller Report, lists some ‘events’ that did not happen, and some events that were not partisanly involved in the 2016 Presidential contest between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

And Robert Mueller himself has a very bad record, but how widely has that been reported?

Originally posted at

Eric Zuesse

home on anzac day...



In this cartoon (detail) by Cecil Hart, published in Humorosities in 1917, there is a strange nostalgia, borderline on explaining the meaninglessness of war, which, to Gus, is only sustained by a sad romantic attachment to symbols of service... It's "elevated" and yet disturbing at the same time. 



LADY: "And where is your home?"

SOLDIER: "'Ome! Why I'm home when I've got my 'at on."



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arms manufacturer sponsors australia’s war dead monument...

Anti-war campaigners are urging the Australian War Memorial not to strike a new sponsorship arrangement with BAE Systems when its longstanding partnership with the arms company expires in coming weeks.

On 13 June 2013 the memorial struck a seven-year partnership deal with BAE, a British multinational that manufactures arms and defence technology.

The company has been a major supporter of the memorial, and has been rewarded with naming rights over the AWM’s conferencing facilities, named the BAE Systems theatre.

The AWM would not say whether it planned to renew or extend the arrangement when asked by Guardian Australia.

“The Australian War Memorial highly values its continued partnership and association with BAE Systems Australia,” a spokesman said. “We encourage those who support the memorial’s purpose, mission and vision to become donors and partners in this shared endeavour.”

BAE Systems said no new agreements for future sponsorship were in place “at this stage”. But the company said it was proud of its “long-term support” of the memorial.

“It plays a central role in recognising the commitment made by Australia’s service men and women to our national security,” a spokeswoman said.

Brendan Nelson, a former AWM director and Liberal leader, prompted controversy during his tenure for allowing arms manufacturers to sponsor the memorial for Australia’s war dead.


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the old and respectful glory is enough...


| On 5 November 2020

The Australian War Memorial development project will have major heritage impacts on the Memorial, a place that has deep meaning for all Australians. The intervention by the Australian Heritage Council, the government’s principal adviser on heritage matters, shows that reconsideration of the project is imperative.

22 October 2020

The Hon. Scott Morrison MP
Prime Minister
Parliament House

Dear Prime Minister

The Australian War Memorial development project will have major heritage impacts on the Memorial, a place that has deep meaning for all Australians. The intervention by the Australian Heritage Council, the government’s principal adviser on heritage matters, shows that reconsideration of the project is imperative.

The Council is chaired by the Hon. Dr David Kemp AC, a former Cabinet minister. Its recent submission to the Memorial under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC) 1999 concluded thus:

Regrettably the Council cannot support the conclusion that the proposed redevelopment will not have a serious impact on the listed heritage values of the site and recommends that the matters above [set out in the Council’s submission] be given serious attention.

While the signatories to this open letter have multiple perspectives on the many issues raised by the project, we strongly support the Council’s views and are united in our concerns about the heritage impacts. These impacts include:

· the proposed demolition of the award-winning Anzac Hall (2001);

· the loss of the free-standing form of the Memorial building, to be swamped by a huge glazed addition (that will also be visible down Anzac Parade);

· the loss for most visitors of the existing commemorative entry, with entry mostly being via the lower ground level; and

· on the overall landscape setting of the Memorial from changes to the Parade Ground in front of the Memorial, the expansion of other buildings on site and the overall hardening of what is currently a respectful balance of built and landscape elements.

The Memorial must be supported to achieve its core functions, but this should (and can) occur without damage to its core commemorative strength – the iconic heritage building and site.

We urge the Australian Government not to accept the current proposal. It should be withdrawn and significantly amended, or EPBC Act approval should be refused.

In view of the importance of this issue, a copy of this letter has been forwarded to the Ministers for the Environment and Veterans’ Affairs, the Acting Chair of the Public Works Committee and Members of the House of Representatives.

Yours faithfully, the following organisations and individuals


Australia ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites): Helen Lardner, President

Australian Historical Association: Professor Melanie Oppenheimer, President

Docomomo Australia: Dr Scott Robertson, Australian President (Docomomo is the international organisation concerned with the documentation and conservation of buildings and areas of modern architecture)

National Trust of Australia (ACT): Gary Kent, President

Walter Burley Griffin Society (Canberra Chapter): Brett Odgers


Geoff Ashley, heritage consultant, Blake Ayshford, screen writer, Vicken Babkenian, researcher, Australian Institute for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Paul Barratt AO, former Secretary, Department of Defence, Professor Emerita Joan E Beaumont AM FASSA FAIIA, Australian National University, Dr Margaret Beavis, Vice President, Medical Association for Prevention of War, Professor Diane Bell, Professor Frank Bongiorno AM, Max Bourke AM, founding Director, Australian Heritage Commission (later Council), Penleigh Boyd, architect, Dr Alison Broinowski AM, former Australian diplomat, Richard Broinowski AO, former Australian diplomat, Bishop George Browning, former Anglican Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn, Pamela Burton, Richard Butler AC, Professor Marie Carroll, Dr Peter Cochrane FAHA, historian, Hon. Associate, University of Sydney, Peter G. Corlett OAM, sculptor, Associate Professor Martin Crotty, University of Queensland, Paul Daley, author and journalist; Walkley Award winner, Professor Joy Damousi FASSA, Director, Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences, Australian Catholic University, Mark Dawes, former Assistant Director, Branch Head, Corporate Services, Australian War Memorial, Emeritus Professor Phillip Deery, Victoria University, John Denton, architect, Australian Institute of Architects gold medallist, Dr Meredith Edwards AM, Hon. Elizabeth Evatt AC, Dr Romain Fathi, Senior Lecturer in History, Flinders University, Stephen B. Flora, veteran and citizen, Peter Freeman OAM, architectural historian, conservator and writer, Dr Bill Gammage AM FASSA, historian, Dr Rolf Gerritsen, Professorial Research Fellow, Charles Darwin University, Paddy Gourley, former First Assistant Secretary, Department of Defence, Emeritus Professor Tom Griffiths AO FASSA, Major General Steve Gower (Ret’d) AO, AO Mil, Vietnam veteran, former Director, Australian War Memorial, Dr David Headon, historical consultant, Alistair Henchman RPIA, tourism planner, Dr Carolyn Holbrook, ARC Senior Fellow, Deakin University, Dr Douglas Hynd, Adjunct Research Fellow, Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture, Professor Tracy Ireland, Professor of Cultural Heritage, University of Canberra; editor, Historic Environment, Dr Benjamin T. Jones, Central Queensland University, Brendon Kelson, former Director, Australian War Memorial, Dr Julie Kimber, Senior Lecturer, Politics and History, Swinburne University of Technology, Emeritus Professor Hon. Dr Carmen Lawrence, chair, Australian Heritage Council 2010-18, Richard Llewellyn, former Registrar, Australian War Memorial, Dr Judith McKay, former Curator, Australian War Memorial; former member, Queensland Heritage Council, Professor Mark McKenna, Chair, Department of History, University of Sydney, Dr Michael McKernan, historian; former Deputy Director, Australian War Memorial, Eric Martin AM, heritage architect; former access consultant, Australian War Memorial, John Menadue AO, publisher, Stewart Mitchell, former head of heritage, buildings and services, Australian War Memorial, John Myrtle, Dr Douglas Newton, historian, Brett Odgers, Walter Burley Griffin Society (Canberra Chapter), Professor Melanie Oppenheimer, Chair of History, Flinders University; President, Australian Historical Society, Roger Pegrum, architect, Margaret Pender, Michael Piggott AM, former Senior Curator, Australian War Memorial, Richard Reid, former Senior Historian, Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Professor Henry Reynolds, Professor Noah Riseman, Australian Catholic University, Associate Professor Tilman Ruff AO, Co-President, Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Professor Lyndall Ryan AM, Penelope Seidler AM, architect, Wendy Sharpe, artist and Australian War Memorial official war artist, Professor Peter Stanley FAHA, UNSW Canberra, Dr David Stephens, convener, Heritage Guardians, Professor Alistair Thomson FASSA, Professor of History, Monash University, Shobha Varkey, Dr Sue Wareham OAM, President, Medical Association for Prevention of War, Don Watson, author, Dr Don Watson FAIA, Adjunct Professor of Architecture, University of Queensland, Dr Peter Watts AM, Emeritus Director, Historic Houses Trust of NSW, Ernst Willheim, Visiting Fellow, ANU College of Law, Janet Wilson, retired librarian, JB Windeyer, Professor Angela Woollacott, Manning Clark Professor of History, ANU, Professor Clare Wright, Professorial Research Fellow and Professor of History, La Trobe University

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lauding war and the military mind...

The Australian War Memorial is being transformed, against the wishes of the Australian people, from a place of war commemoration to a place that honours war itself, a militaristic and rousing endorsement of every decision to send Australians to war. 


Manufacturing consent: Australian War Memorial has become a cheerleader for war


By Sue Wareham

The $500 million expansion of the Australian War Memorial can be added to the long list of national scandals where public money has been treated as the plaything of those in power, in this case mostly military and former military personnel on the Australian War Memorial Council.

Consider the farce that was the public “consultation”. This followed, rather than preceded, the Prime Minister’s November 2018 announcement of the extension plans.

Strong public opposition to the redevelopment has been apparent at every step, but the views of the public have never really been wanted. Consent has been manufactured, including by a series of surveys designed to give the desired responses. The most recent, conducted in early February, included multiple questions with no options for participants to write their own views.

For example, to the question: “Which of the following statements best reflects your view of the Australian War Memorial?”, the only possible responses were positive, with no space for critical comment.

Contrary views have been marginalised, ridiculed and dismissed. Even the advice of the government’s own heritage advisory body, the Australian Heritage Council, that the project should not go ahead, was brushed aside.

But what is at stake is not simply an unconscionably gross overpayment for a plot of airport land, or the allocation of sports grants for political advantage, serious though these transgressions are, but the militarisation of our nation.

While the immediate issue is the partial demolition and expansion of this pre-eminent institution to make way for large displays of weaponry and for exhibitions of wars that have not even finished, the problem runs much deeper.

The $500 million expansion is transforming the focus of the war memorial from a commemoration of our war dead to a place that honours war itself.

Where once we commemorated family members and others who died in Australia’s wars, we will now honour all those who fight and have fought: past and present, dead or alive, disabled by their service or fighting fit. We will gaze in awe at the machinery of warfare, the tanks and fighter planes that will occupy most of the additional 24,000 square metres, and pretend that we understand war better for it.

The Australian War Memorial’s corporate plan for 2020-24 states that the institution’s purpose is “to commemorate the sacrifice of those Australians who have died in war or on operational service, and those who have served our nation in times of conflict“.

The words in italics – to include all those who have fought – appear to have been unilaterally tacked on by the AWM council, disregarding the significant distinction between dying and not dying.

The words are a stark departure from the relevant words in the 1980 Australian War Memorial Act, which refers to a national memorial to Australians “who have died on, or as a result of, active service”.

One of the major problems with honouring the living and current wars – as well as the dead and past wars – is that of truth-telling. Responding to the release of the Brereton report into alleged war crimes committed by Australian troops in Afghanistan, War Memorial director Matt Anderson said that the institution is “a place of truth” where the darker parts of Australia’s history should be acknowledged.

That is an admirable goal. But is Anderson really suggesting that the War Memorial would tell the unvarnished truth about current wars, even when such truth-telling undermined enthusiasm for a war or the morale of our fighters? On the contrary, exhibitions on current wars are always at risk of simply become propaganda tools, the antithesis of truth-telling.

The memorial’s corporate plan also sets out the institution’s vision as being “To ensure that their sacrifice is not in vain – We remember them.” But what of the situations where Australia’s wars have been in vain? The vision assumes magical qualities for warfare where there must always be a silver lining.

Whether or not a sacrifice is in vain will be judged by historians; it is not for the AWM to arbitrarily determine. Extraordinarily, there is not a single historian on the Australian War Memorial Council. Following the death of Les Carlyon, who was the sole historian on the council, he was replaced a military officer.

The reality of lives lost in vain can be unbearably harsh for those left to grieve. The remedy, however, is not to shape history to our liking, but for our political leaders to honour their responsibility towards our service people – to get right the decisions about going to war. In this, they have grievously failed.

Last week, the Public Works Committee of Federal Parliament rubber stamped the $500 million project, despite the fact that a strong majority of the large number of submissions were against the project. In a rare turn of events, ALP committee members David Smith and Tony Zappia, who objected to the price tag, wrote a dissenting report.

But on Thursday just one member of parliament, Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie, voted against final approval.

The Australian War Memorial risks becoming an honouring of war itself, a rousing endorsement of every political decision to send Australians to war, instead of what it should be: a memorial to our war dead.

The struggle to save the AWM might not be over. The Australian Institute of Architects, in a scathing critique of the Public Works Committee decision and the whole process, stated: “How could we stay silent when we know without doubt that this unpopular and inappropriate development will negatively impact one of our nation’s most significant monuments?”

But time is running out. The final rubber stamp needed before the bulldozers move in is that of the National Capital Authority. We will see how highly the NCA rates public opinion.

A different version of this article was published in the Canberra Times on February 27, 2021. 


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contaminated by international armaments makers ...


Brendan Nelson’s Gold Brick Road. Part 3

By William De Maria


Former Defence Minister Brendan Nelson’s troubling hook-up with Boeing Defence.

The relationship between Nelson and Boeing goes way back. They probably went to school together! When Defence Minister, “Biggles” made the surprise announcement to spend $6 billion with Boeing on 24 Super Hornet fighter aircraft for the Australian Air Force. Reports are that this decision was made by Nelson outside the normal procurement processes. In fact, one report says the purchase order did not even come from the RAAF, it came from Nelson himself. If these reports are correct, then in “Biggles” we find a man comfortable with the capricious exercise of power.

Five years after quitting the defence portfolio, Nelson surfaced as the Director of the Australian War Memorial. This hallowed site was well on its way to being contaminated by international armaments makers loitering with intent around the solemn precincts. These money changers began appearing in the temple around 15 years ago. Tenix Defence was one of the first. Recall in the first article in this series that Peter Reith went from Defence Minister to Tenix in 2001. In 2005 it gave the Memorial over a quarter of a million dollars. With a cavalier attitude to the majesty of the English language, both Tenix and the AWM called this a “donation”. Over time, other arms dealers like BAE Systems, Northrup Grumman, Lockheed Martin, and Thales started turning up.

When Nelson came to the AWM in 2012 he brought with him a string of high-level friendships cultivated over many. These corporate connections are governed by like-mindedness, genuine friendships and, where the payload is, mutual self-interest and reciprocity. Notable amongst these relationships were the ones cultivated between “Biggles” and the arms dealers, who vied for association with the most hallowed historical site in Australia. The dealers get enormous reputational flow on, which money cannot buy, and the AWM gets extra cash to splash around on collecting more and more war toys.

Boeing Defence Australia, a corporate partner of the Australian War Memorial since 2011, provided $500,000 and a ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicle towards the now widely discredited propaganda exhibition Afghanistan. The Australian Story. Boeing told me it “remains a proud supporter of the Australian War Memorial.”

While he was still AWM director, yes, while he was still AWM director, Nelson took a fee-paying job advising Thales, the arms manufacturer quarter owned by the French Government. Ethically minded people only need to take one step back from this to see this for what it is: a morally unconscionable act. In any other statutory authority this would be blocked by the conflict-of-interest provision in the Australian Public Sector Code of Conduct. But then, the Australian War Memorial is no ordinary statutory authority and Brendan Nelson was no ordinary public servant.

Nelson said he donated all the money to the AWM. That is not the point is it? The point is that Nelson moonlighted with an arms manufacturer whose ethos was the very opposite of the other place where Nelson worked. What is the difference between this and the chair of a lung cancer research institute being on an advisory board of an asbestos manufacturer?

Internal documents obtained by Guardian Australia through freedom of information show Nelson wrote to the Minister for Veterans Affairs in February 2015, seeking approval for a second job. Nelson explained that the Thales advisory board role would give him no responsibility for the company’s governance, performance, regulatory compliance, or compliance with contracts with the defence department. “Instead, the advisory board considers strategic matters such as programs, workforce development and overall future direction within Australia,” Nelson wrote. Again, the obvious question that no one on the AWM Council, nor the Minister for Veterans Affairs wanted to ask; what is a director of the Australian War Memorial doing giving strategic advice to an arms manufacturer? Nelson went on. “Indeed, my participation in this will complement much of what I do at the AWM where Thales is also a corporate partner.” What does that mean?

The documents obtained by Guardian Australia show Nelson obtained the required approvals of the then veterans affairs minister, Michael Ronaldson, the then chair of the War Memorial Council, Ken Doolan, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs secretary, Simon Lewis and the then public service commissioner, John Lloyd, in early 2015. Nelson covered all the legal bases. That does not mean what he did was right. And it does not mean that these men carried out any significant due diligence into Nelson’s request.

The Guardian documents however do reveal a sense that the Minister felt Nelson was skating on very thin ice. Ronaldson said he was comfortable that “there does not appear to be a conflict” but said: “However, where the two roles could potentially be in conflict, I ask that you take the necessary steps to avoid these circumstances”.

How was this engagement not a conflict of interest and a threat to national security? So significant is the embargo about paid employment outside the duties of his office without the approval of the Minister that if he had not done so he could have been terminated.

Nelson went onto the Thales advisory board in 2015, the same year that the Defence Department changed its mind about the purchase of new protected mobility vehicles for the Army. Defence originally decided in 2006 and again in 2008 to purchase Lockheed Martin’s Joint Light Tactical Vehicle. Then something happened. Defence cancelled with Lockheed Martin and entered a new $2.2 billion contacted with Thales in 2015 to acquire and support 1100 Hawkei vehicles and 1058 trailers.

I asked Thales whether its senior management prevailed on Brendan Nelson, while on the Thales Advisory Board, to lobby the Defence Department to change its procurement of a light tactical vehicle from Lockheed Martin JLTV to Thales’s Hawkei. Thales refused to answer my question.

When the Auditor-General put his eye over the Hawkei purchase deal he smelt a rat. He was concerned about Defence’s sole-source procurement strategy. The risk was that Thales was only capable of manufacturing a relatively small run of vehicles when Lockheed Martin was beginning a similar but much larger program, the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle. The Auditor-General was also concerned, as he always is, as to whether the Australian taxpayer was getting value for money on the Hawkei deal.

Then an extraordinary intervention occurred. The Attorney-General, Christian Porter, issued a certificate on 28 June 2018 that in his opinion the disclosure of certain information in the Thales audit would be contrary to the public interest. By that he meant disclosure would be contrary to the commercial interest of Thales. Not for the first time, the Commonwealth Government put commercial interests before the public interest.

After intense lobbying from Thales, the Attorney-General used his unprecedented powers to redact six paragraphs from the Auditor’s report that showed the Thales vehicle was twice as expensive as the Lockheed Martin was. Obviously, the Auditor-General’s conclusion was that the Defence-Thales contract did not provide for an effective use of taxpayer’s money, and, by consequence, a huge waste of money.

His redacted report also found the government had not been made aware of a Monash University study commissioned by Defence, which found the local benefits of the Hawkei were limited. The study found Thales would send most of its profits offshore in the long term, the job multiplier effect was relatively small, and that the government faced a $452m premium for building the vehicles in Australia.

The seriousness of this unwarranted intervention by the Attorney-General (the second time since 1987) is brought home when the Audit-General comments that he “has not been able to prepare a report that expresses a clear conclusion on the audit objective in accordance with the ANAO Auditing Standards. Accordingly, I am unable to express a conclusion on whether the Department of Defence’s acquisition of light protected vehicles under Defence project Land 121 Phase 4 was effective and achieved value for money.” So we will never know.

I asked Thales whether senior management had prevailed on Nelson lobby the Attorney-General to redact sections of the Auditor-Generals report on the procurement of the Hawkei. Once again Thales refused to answer me.

Thales, which Brendan Nelson once referred to as a “remarkable company” had big plans to introduce a semi-automatic rifle (banned in Australia) into the American market from its factory at Lithgow, NSW. At the US SHOT Show in Las Vegas in 2016 it said that it planned to sell a civilian version of the Australian Army’s semi-automatic rifle based on the F90 version of the Steyr.

The USA has the highest gun death and ownership rates in the developed world. American research shows that shootings in which at least one perpetrator uses a semi-automatic rifle left an average of 4.25 people dead and 5.48 people wounded. The last thing it wants is the Thales’s F90, which has a cyclic rate of fire of 650 rounds per minute.

It took Thales three years to understand these statistics. In 2019 it apparently had a moral epiphany and said it was abandoning the venture on “ethical grounds.” This does not have any ring of truth to it. “Arms manufacturers” and “ethics” are not viable partnerships. It is more likely that Thales underestimate the market strength of Smith and Wesson, Springfield, Ruger, Colt and Beretta. I asked Thales whether the decision to reverse its 2016 commitment to enter the American market was based less on “ethics’ and more on a glut on the American market. I got no reply.

Nelson retired from the Australian War memorial on 23 December 2019. One month later he was appointed president of Boeing Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific. In announcing the appointment Sir Michael Arthur, president of Boeing International said:

Boeing is proud to have Brendan join our team after his many years of outstanding public and private sector service. His proven ability to understand and manage complex situations – first as a medical doctor [?], later as a government leader and diplomat – will be put to good use as he leads Boeing Australia, the company’s largest presence outside the US and home to a large engineering and technical staff.

Yes, “Biggles” is going to be “put to good use”. Can we say the same for the Australian national interest?

This ends the three-part tracking of the post-politics careers of Christopher Pyne, Julie Bishop, and Brendan Nelson. The conclusion? These and other well-connected power figures will continue to do what they please. There is no binding law to stop them, only hollow conventions and shallow standards. Nothing will happen until the Australian people realise the nature of the scam occurring before their eyes.


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(from John Richarson... — 

vale john, we miss you dearly...)


and plenty more on this site...

an emotional moment...


An Australian War Requiem


In this Anzac Day special, hear Christopher Bowen’s requiem with text by Pamela Traynor, based on letters between Australian mothers and their sons in France.

An Australian War Requiem premiered in 2014, marking the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War—the Great War, the ‘war to end all wars’. It is an intensely moving, large-scale choral work, with a libretto based on letters between soldiers at the front and their mothers at home, interspersed with excerpts from the Stabat Mater, the ancient hymn portraying the suffering of Mary at the crucifixion of her son, Jesus Christ.

An Australian War Requiem pays tribute to the unbreakable bond between mothers and sons, undiminished even through the horror of war. It draws on letters and poems from soldiers such as Vivian Neville Main, who wrote to his mother from ‘somewhere in France’ on Christmas morning 1917, only to be killed in action later that afternoon; of Reginald Godfrey from South Australia who enlisted in 1915, served in Gallipoli and on the Western Front, was awarded the Military Medal for ‘conspicuous services rendered to a wounded solider’, and only returned home in February 1919 having served 3 years 310 days on overseas duty. And also Alice Crowley’s heart-breaking letter, written to her son Clive in March 1918, telling him how much she missed him, and of her fervent prayer that God would protect him. Clive died on 25 June 2018, near Villers-Bretonneux.

This special broadcast features the album An Australian War Requiem released by

A live recording


Christopher Bowen: An Australian War Requiem (text by Pamela Traynor)


Taryn Fiebig (soprano)
Ashlyn Tymms (mezzo-soprano)
Andrew Goodwin (tenor)
Adrian Tamburini (bass)
Wade Kernot (bass)
Mercy Catholic College Choir
Sydney University Graduate Choir
Sydney University Orchestra
Waitara Voices Children's Choir
Christopher Bowen (conductor)


Hear on Sunday 25th April 2021 on ABC FM, 1:00 PM.


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Then go to the pub... and demand freedom for Julian Assange...



versions of history...


By David Stephens


Many more things happened in the past than are recorded in history. Some versions persist. Others have currency for a time, then get put aside, because fashions change or because the version does not fit political agendas or notions of what audiences expect. Some versions have been sanitised. Others are just suppressed. The Australian War Memorial has form in this regard, although there are some glimpses of change.


Honest history is interpretation robustly supported by evidence. Alison Broinowski and I wrote that in the introduction to The Honest History Book, published in 2017. It is as true now as it was then. Much as some of us (including former prime minister Howard) would like there to be just one, immutable version of history – which we might like to call “the truth” – history is always changing as we interpret and reinterpret the past. “All historians select evidence”, as we wrote in the book. “It is how they select it that matters, not the fact that they do.”

Here are a few examples. The Memorial still displays on its walls the famous, “You, the mothers, who sent their sons …” words, supposedly those of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of the Turkish Republic, even though there is no strong evidence that the man ever said or wrote them, and plenty of evidence that he did neither. The Memorial’s website retreats a little by saying the words are “often attributed to Atatürk in 1934”, but the casual visitor to the Memorial is unlikely to read that.

The Memorial continues to spend vast sums on paintings by Indigenous artists of massacres of First Australians and related incidents but has no plans for a dedicated Frontier Wars gallery. It encourages families to provide information about their dead ex-service relatives for possible commemoration in the daily Last Post ceremony but then censors the stories to ensure the right tone prevails. (Difficult to include that Uncle Harry went Absent without Leave many times or joined the peace movement after the war.)

On the other hand, the Memorial’s staff is “reaching out” to the community to get ideas for what should go into the extended galleries in the Memorial after the big $498m build is completed. For example, there’ll be more space given to the efforts of Australian members of United Nations peacekeeping forces in various theatres, though it’s less certain that more will be said about why those wars started and what Australia could have done to prevent them.

Memorial Director Matt Anderson reacted to the Brereton Report by saying the Memorial wanted to be “a place of truth” about Afghanistan but seemed to become a bit more cautious after strong reactions from, successively and quickly, 2GB shock jock, Ben Fordham, the prime minister, and the Memorial Council. Now, the mantra is “hasten slowly”, strategy, nothing will be taken down (not even the portrait of innocent-until-proven-guilty Ben Roberts-Smith in martial pose) and nothing will be put up.

Some encouraging signs, then. But why does it matter? It matters because what the Memorial makes of our wars is important. What the Memorial chooses to tell us tends to become our received wisdom – what we know. Tourists spending their one or two hours at the Memorial often have no other source of information about our wars than the Memorial. They might be looking for Uncle Harry’s name on the wall and they love the view from the steps (soon to be obliterated by building work as the Stokes-Nelson legacy project gets underway) but mostly they are not military history buffs and often they have no more than a passing interest in the place.

Meanwhile, children are channelled to the Memorial by the PACER subsidy scheme (their travel to Canberra is subsidised provided they go to the Memorial, Parliament House, and the Electoral Education Centre, but there is no compulsion on them to go to any other cultural institutions in the city) or by a desire to gawp at war machines made by BAE, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Thales and so on. (Fortunately, the awful Discovery Zone for children has been closed by COVID, for the time being at least.)

Children lap up the sanitised stories of the Drip Gun (a good yarn but irrelevant to the Gallipoli evacuation in December 1915), G for George (Lancaster bomber over Europe, a very dangerous assignment for those flying it, but even more so for German civilians on the ground, though visitors don’t get much of that side) and the Army sniffer dogs in Afghanistan (one of them is in a display case, stuffed but still cute).

The young visitors also find out that the force at Gallipoli included New Zealanders helping to save the world from the Kaiser and the Turks, but they probably miss the history that, long before Gallipoli, in the 1860s, 2500 white Australians went to New Zealand in the much less worthy cause of killing Maori. These children still look like those of a decade or more ago, whom historian Anna Clark thought had absorbed the idea that military involvement was an inevitable part of being Australian.

To finish with a song title, “Taint what you do (It’s the way that you do it)”, which dates back to 1939 and has been sung by Ella Fitzgerald among many others. And the end of the verse runs, “And that’s what gets results”, which is very relevant to the public relations style of the Memorial, as it has changed from the long tenure of the former Director, Dr Brendan Nelson, to the incumbent, Matt Anderson, now just finishing his first year in the job. The Director’s job is above all about public relations.

Nelson sought to get results from emotional and emotive outbursts, such as the one in support of his friend (and Memorial mascot for a while), Ben Roberts-Smith in 2018 (Nelson asked where was the national interest in “tearing down our heroes”) and in gratuitous and inaccurate abuse of the critics of the Memorial redevelopment. Nelson cried a lot during his many speeches to the National Press Club. He is now a big wheel at Boeing.

Anderson, on the other hand, is quieter and more measured, but still not beyond spinning the Memorial’s story, most recently in his claim in Senate Estimates that the Memorial’s Afghanistan exhibition is “currently in an exit corridor”. It is actually in two places, one is a corridor leading to the Memorial shop – the exhibits here are very popular – the other is a wide space one floor down, through which occasional researchers and staff proceed to the Memorial’s Research Centre.

Despite this dissembling, Anderson seems to be committed to the Memorial covering more aspects of our wars than it has done in the past – though he uses that slippery term “truth”, as in “the Memorial should be a place of truth”. It will be interesting to see how far he succeeds in his ambitions, against the likely opposition of shock-jocks, nervous politicians, and some returned service people. It would certainly be a tragedy if the new, bigger Memorial were to tell the same old sanitised and emotive stories that it has mostly specialised in over the decades since it opened in 1941. We should wish Matt Anderson well.


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war side-salads...


by Colleen Bolger (Red Flag)


Ben Roberts-Smith, Australia’s most decorated veteran of the war in Afghanistan, isn’t just embroiled in a defamation case. By launching legal action against journalists, he's effectively put himself on trial for war crimes. At the heart of the case is whether he murdered six Afghan prisoners of war in 2009 and 2012—and revelled in their killing. If that were true, it would be the act of “an ostentatious psychopath”, his barrister, Bruce McClintock SC, declared in his opening address in court this week. Indeed.

This man should be in the dock of the International Criminal Court in the Hague. Instead, for a cost that must be $20,000 per day or more, he’s taking his enemies to court, bringing defamation proceedings against the outlets that published investigative articles by Nick McKenzie, David Wroe and Chris Masters that revealed the accusations.


If Ben Roberts-Smith loses, he won’t go to jail. If he wins, he’ll seek the largest payout of aggravated damages ever in an Australian case, potentially pocketing millions of dollars. An outcome like that would send a message: report on war crimes at your peril.

Defamation proceedings are a weapon in the arsenal of the rich and powerful. Lawsuits and threats of lawsuits are wielded to intimidate journalists and their publishers. But in this case, the publishers’ decision to run a “truth defence”—which means that they’ll argue that the articles weren’t defamatory because they were true—will make this trial more like the public truth commissions of past wars. Of course, it will be run by elite barristers instead of dissident veterans and anti-war activists. Nonetheless, the testimony from 21 former or serving soldiers about what happened in these six incidents has the potential to further expose the myth that the war in Afghanistan was to liberate women and bring democracy. 

McClintock has drawn the battle lines in the courtroom over class. The allegations, he says, are motivated by jealousy. It’s a trope that Liberal and Labour politicians sometimes employ: “the politics of class envy”, they call it. But revealing the despicable behaviour of our so-called superiors, who are usually protected by networks of powerful people with ways of making people fall into line, isn’t a sin: it’s laudable behaviour.

Most ex-soldiers don’t lead the lifestyle of Roberts-Smith. Upon retiring from full-time service in 2013, he was offered a scholarship to study business at the University of Queensland. Rarer still for any undergraduate, he was offered a job as a general manager of Seven Media Queensland outfit twenty months before he graduated.


Roberts-Smith is no rank-and-file grunt: he’s the son of Major General Len Roberts-Smith, also a former justice of the Supreme Court of Western Australia. Like so many scions of the ruling class in Western Australia, he attended Hale, recently famous for its debating team champions who later entered politics. Coincidentally, his father was appointed judge advocate general for the defence force in 2002, making him responsible for reporting on disciplinary action against service personnel. Nowadays, Roberts-Smith junior is the protege of Seven Media chief Kerry Stokes, who hired him to a management position and is bankrolling the trial. 

The testimony of the 21 soldiers who are willing to subject themselves to cross-examination and tell their stories is an important event. It can lay bare the horrors of Australia’s crimes in Afghanistan. But even here, access is restricted: if you can’t stay in the courtroom all day, transcripts cost $2,000 for a day’s worth of material. So much for open court.

McClintock’s opening notably quoted a line attributed to Winston Churchill: “We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those would do us harm”. It’s the classic defence of killing as the moral price brave soldiers pay so that we yellow-bellied, civil rights-loving civilians have the luxury of asking questions like “Were unarmed Afghans murdered?” The message is that soldiers—and, by extension, war—should be above question. 

In this case, the rumours of atrocities committed by a group of SAS soldiers in Afghanistan were so compelling, they prompted an internal Defence investigation led by Major General Paul Brereton, a former judge of the NSW Court of Appeal. Brereton’s report found that 25 soldiers committed war crimes, resulting in the deaths of 39 Afghans. (It’s during this investigation that Roberts-Smith allegedly obtained disposable “burner phones” to communicate with witnesses, and sent threatening letters to others.)

The crimes seemed so widespread that the military hierarchy intervened to strip the unit of its honours. Yet Peter Dutton as defence minister intervened to reverse the Army’s decision. The message is clear: Dutton will make sure that the government throws its weight behind the perpetrators of systematic, sadistic murder in war. 


The defence of Roberts-Smith and the murderous SAS goes hand in hand with whitewashing and rehabilitating the very concept of imperialist war. Take another strong supporter of Roberts-Smith: Brendan Nelson, John Howard’s old defence minister, who is now tasked with redeveloping the War Memorial in Canberra. War memorials are contradictory places. The long list of names brings home the horror of the slaughter of so many working class people for the imperial ambitions of the rich. That horror is manipulated into a “national spirit” that papers over the class division at the heart of war. A name on a wall is a consolation that the sacrifice will be remembered—and was worth it after all.

War museums can be places where people learn the history of savagery that our rulers are prepared to carry out to assert dominance in a region that matters for their position in the global market. The war museum in Ho Chi Minh City is full of photographs of US atrocities committed in the Vietnam War. It’s impossible to leave without thinking that the US military should never be allowed to deploy its troops ever again.

But Brendan Nelson has a different vision for our war memorial: he plans to install a museum of all our biggest, coolest military hardware. Where war is presented as a set of technical considerations of battle tactics and technology, it means we don’t see it for what it is: an atrocity perpetrated by our ruling class and their political servants. Just as key figures in the ruling class recognise that the outcome of the Roberts-Smith trial is another iteration in the battle to legitimise war, it should be of interest to all those who work to expose its true imperialist nature.


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