I wrote on this blog four years ago about going to Yeppoon to participate in the Peace Convergance, protesting against the Talisman Sabre military exercises, which are held nearby in the beautiful Shoalwater-Byfield area. This weekend I went to Yeppoon for the same purpose, speaking at a rally held on the beachfront.
I speak at and support such events because I believe it is important to encourage more people in our community to speak in support of peace and against militarism. I attend the Peace Convergence to support the many people who are dedicated to promoting peace, often in the face of significant hostility from some sections of the community.
It was not that long ago that hundreds of thousands of people around Australia public protested against Australian involvement in the invasion of Iraq. Their voices were not only ignored, but dismissed with contempt by our government. Today, poll after poll shows a clear majority want Australian troops removed from Afghanistan yet their views are ignored by government.
Yet people who protest against militarism and in favour of peace are still met with hostility from sections of our community. I believe they deserve praise, support and encouragement. It is our governments who deserve the condemnation for pursuing military involvement in wars we should have no part in, for turning a blind eye to human rights abuses when they are committed by military allies, and for repeatedly wasting billions of dollars in ‘defence’ spending.
Military spending is not only money spent on causing harm and destruction, it is money that could have been spent on alleviating poverty and addressing social needs.
Cutting out these very expensive military exercises in Shoalwater Bay would save many millions, as well as prevent damage to the magnificent marine environment in which they take place. It would also send a clear message that as a community and a nation we are placing a higher priority on peace, rather than accepting a default position of war.
War is a cause of far more of the world’s instability and injustices than it solves. Most Australians are blessed in not having been exposed directly to the horrors and destructiveness of war. This is a good thing, but it also means many of us have little appreciation of the immensity of these horrors and the enormous costs in human, economic and environmental terms that can stretch on for generations.
You don’t have to be a pacifist to recognise that war should be an absolute last resort. You can acknowledge the dedication of our defence personnel whilst calling as loudly as possibly for them not to be involved in wars of aggression or deception or transgression of long-standing human rights principes – something which unfortunately Australian troops have been involved in over the last decade.
It is a very rare war which can justify the destruction it sows, and the enduring responsibility which that entails. It is time our public debate recognised this basic fact.