The Gallipoli Centenary Peace Campaign hosted a public forum on 22 April called ‘Gallipoli and Anzac after 100 Years: Lessons and the Prospects for Peace Today’.
Despite the bad weather, over 80 people attended the forum at the Petersham Town Hall to hear three speakers: Douglas Newton (historian), Margot Pearson (Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom – WILPF) and Anne Noonan (Medical Association for Prevention of War – MAPW).
In his address, Douglas Newton, expressed his respect for all men and women who had served and suffered in war. He noted, however, that to do so “does not mean that we throw a red, white and blue flag over everything problematic – how we get involved in wars, the purpose of those wars, the mistakes made in prolonging those wars. It’s a simple principle: love the warrior – hate the war; we must respect the troops – we may question and we may reject the war.”
Douglas added “We have to challenge the familiar smear: that all those that send and keep our troops abroad love, respect and honour them; and all those who question the wars to which the troops are sent hate, disrespect and dishonour them.” That, he claimed, is “contemptible political fakery”.
Topics covered in his address included (a) the Anzac spirit (b) the Great War and the dimensions of the disaster (c) commemoration (or disremembering) (d) hard truths about the Great War (e) hard truths about Gallipoli (f) the lessons of the Great War and (g) the prospects for peace.
The second speaker, Margot Pearson, recounted the birth of WILPF following the International Women’s Congress held in The Hague, Netherlands, in 1915 and the Second International Women’s Congress for Peace and Freedom held in Zürich, Switzerland, in 1919. Australian women peace groups affiliated with the international body participated in this second congress which gave the organising committee its current name. Margot also discussed the evolution of WILPF, the challenges it faced during WW2 and its primary objectives today.
In her concluding remarks, Margot emphasised the distinction between ‘military security’ and ‘humanitarian security’ and argued that peace is more dependent upon the security of civil society, i.e. security of food and shelter etc. than it is upon militarisation.
The third speaker, Anne Noonan, from MAPW discussed the humanitarian costs of WW1 and the ongoing humanitarian toll of warfare today. As a practicing psychiatrist, Anne talked about the changing diagnoses associated with battle trauma, from ‘shell-shock’ in WW1 to PTSD in subsequent wars. As an affiliate of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), MAPW is the most prominent medical NGO campaigning today for a global treaty to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons.
Anne also noted that MAPW had broadened its campaign in recent years to include the humanitarian crisis in West Papua and the need to dramatically reduce carbon emissions to prevent runaway climate change. It is MAPW’s firm belief that environmental degradation, dwindling resources (especially water) and climate change will exacerbate current tensions around the world and be a primary cause of major conflicts in coming years.1
1. Read MAPW Statement in Commemoration of WW1, 27 Apr 2015