The Brave Ones
Tidying up my study the other day I chanced upon a press release dated 18th June 2003 – the day of the march celebrating the return of Australian service men and women from the Iraq war.
I remember it well. Along with the thousands of people waving flags and cheering the marching military, a small group of people lined up outside the U.S. embassy holding pictures of an Iraqi child killed in the war. We had two signs with us. One said “Thankfully no Australians were killed. Hundreds of Iraqi children were”. The other: “We will remember them”.
Even I had my doubts about the wisdom of the protest and this was increased by person after person ringing up and saying that they would not be attending. It was, they said, “too culturally sensitive”. My reservations were heightened when a faithful TV camera man told me his producer had ruled against any coverage of our humble little group.
The press release stated that an Iraq veteran would address the protest group at 11am, and I duly addressed them with these words:
“In an hour’s time, our society will celebrate the return of soldiers from the Iraq war. We share with them their joy and their family’s joy at their safe return. I hope we will never again do what we did to the soldiers returning from Vietnam. That kind of treatment should have been reserved for the politicians who sent them. Like Vietnam, the recent war will be regarded by history as a monumental mistake. Iraq posed no threat. We were deceived into the use of unwarranted armed force. It was not Iraq that was the aggressor. It was the United States and Australia. We do not question the commitment of our armed forces. We do however challenge the lie that sent them to war
The fact that not one Australian life was lost is very significant. What kind of a war is it when one side has no casualties? It points up the fact that it was not in fact a war. It was a massacre! The enemy had no air force, no navy and no weapons of mass destruction. The destruction was reserved for thousands of Iraqi women and children.
This is what we gathered here today will not forget. Alongside the posturing of our Prime Minister, we will remember the devastated families of Iraq, families that were massacred in the name of war.”
As I was speaking I noted another brave one nearby, the TV camera man who had put his conscience before his producer and who left with the words “I will see what I can do”. And he did! At the end of three minutes covering thousands of service men and women marching with people cheering and waving flags, there was a three second shot of eighteen people holding photos – people whom I today salute as “The Brave Ones”.