Australian, Japanese militarists celebrate World War I


This video says about itself:

Australian comfort woman Jan Ruff-O’Herne

Jan Ruff-O’Herne told her shocking story on Australian Story in 2001 – a secret that took her 50 years to come to terms with before finally, she revealed it in a letter to her two daughters.

An idyllic childhood in Java was brought to an abrupt end by the Japanese occupation during Word War Two. Aged 21, she was taken from her family and repeatedly abused, beaten and raped – forced to be a sex slave for the Japanese military.

The term coined for this brutal sex slavery was ‘comfort woman‘.

But since revealing her ‘uncomfortable truth’ Jan Ruff-O’Herne’s suffering has been transformed into something affirmative.

In February this year, this 84-year-old Adelaide grandmother made the long journey to testify before Congress in Washington DC. The Congressional hearing was the pinnacle in her 15-year global campaign to seek justice for ‘comfort women’.

Now six years since Australian Story first aired her story, Jan Ruff-O’Herne feels she is one step closer to finally achieving her ultimate goal.

By Richard Phillips in Australia:

Australia’s WWI Albany commemoration: All about the future, not the past

7 November 2014

The former whaling port of Albany in Western Australia was the setting last weekend for the “Albany Convoy Commemoration.” It was part of the Australian government’s World War I centenary program—a multi-million dollar four-year campaign aimed at preparing the population for new wars.

In October 1914, King George’s Sound, just off Albany, was the assembly point for merchant ships carrying Australian and New Zealand troops, later known as Anzacs, before they set sail for the slaughter houses of WWI.

The first armada of 32 ships, carrying 30,000 troops and 8,000 horses, departed from Albany on November 1 under escort from three Australian navy vessels and HIJMS Ibuki, a navy cruiser from Japan, a British wartime ally. It was the first of two convoys that conveyed 41,000 troops from Albany that year. A third of these soldiers were killed in the attempted allied invasion of Turkey in 1915 or on the European battlefields.

Last weekend’s commemoration was attended by an estimated 40,000 people and senior government representatives from Japan, France and New Zealand. It was an occasion for government and military heads to wave the flag and issue proclamations about the birth of the “Anzac spirit,” while engaging in high-level discussions with military allies for new wars.

The three-day extravaganza, initiated by the former Rudd Labor government in 2008, featured a re-enactment of the convoy’s departure, involving four Australian warships and a submarine, a New Zealand navy vessel and a Japanese destroyer. A military march through the town was accompanied by low-flying Australian air force planes roaring overhead. Then came a commemorative service and the opening of the National Anzac Centre, a so-called interpretative museum.

More than 800 Australian Defence Force personnel were involved in the proceedings, along with soldiers from New Zealand and the French Pacific colony of New Caledonia. On Saturday night, WWI memorabilia were projected onto local buildings, alongside an outdoor “community concert.” Nearby Middleton Beach was covered with 30,000 hand-sewn red poppies.

No doubt many of those in attendance came to honour relatives who served in the war and were genuinely interested in trying to understand what produced the 1914–18 slaughter. That, however, was the last thing on the minds of the official speakers. Those in charge were preoccupied with obscuring the real reasons for WWI as they discussed, in private, preparations for new wars.

Australian Veteran Affairs Minister Michael Ronaldson chaired the commemoration ceremony. Japanese officials in attendance included Kazuyuki Nakane, the vice-minister for foreign affairs and Hideshi Tokuchi, the vice-minister of defence. Tokuchi oversees all Japanese negotiations with US and international defence officials.

Disingenuous speeches were delivered by Australian and New Zealand prime ministers Tony Abbott and John Keys, pledging to “never forget” the “selfless sacrifices” of the war dead and the “spirit of Anzac.”

The so-called Anzac spirit—of mateship and unwavering devotion to the nation—is an entirely invented reality and one that denies the imperialist character of the war. The Australian and New Zealand troops on board the ships were mobilised in 1914 as part of the British Empire’s war efforts to retain its global dominance. The soldiers had never even heard the term Anzac.

Abbott called on those present to remember “the soldiers and sailors of the countries of the British Empire, of gallant France and of Japan—first an ally, then a foe, now the very best of friends.”

In 1914, the ruling elites in Australia, New Zealand and Japan were driven by long-held imperial ambitions in the region. The sacrifice of thousands of Australian and New Zealand troops was the human down-payment for the emergence of Australia and New Zealand as imperialist powers. As soon as the war began, all three countries seized German territories in the Asia-Pacific.

Japan had told the British government that it would only enter the war if it could take Germany’s Pacific territories. On 7 August 1914, Britain officially requested Japanese assistance to destroy German navy ships in and around Chinese waters. Japan declared war against Germany on 23 August and attacked the German settlement at China’s Tsingtao a week later.

Australian and New Zealand forces took over Germany’s South Pacific colonies, including German New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Nauru and Samoa, while the Japanese military seized the Mariana, Caroline and Marshall islands, north of the equator.

Japan, which expanded its influence in China at the expense of Germany and other European powers during the war, not only escorted Anzac troop convoys to Egypt and Europe in 1914. It was also involved in the bloody suppression of the Singapore Mutiny, an anti-colonial uprising against the British in Singapore six months after the outbreak of WWI. In February 1915, Japanese marines were mobilised to assist British forces crush the week-long rebellion by 850 Indian members of the British army stationed there.

While speakers last weekend shed crocodile tears over the death of Allied soldiers in WWI at the official ceremonies, Australian Defence Minister David Johnston met with his New Zealand, Japanese and French counterparts to discuss the current war in the Middle East and preparations for future conflicts.

Johnston and New Zealand Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee held the annual Australia-New Zealand defence ministers’ meeting, which covered “recent developments in Iraq, and shared perspectives on security issues in the South Pacific.” Johnston then met with the French minister for defence, Jean-Yves Le Drian, to further Australia’s “close cooperation with France in the South Pacific” and “shared interests” in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Johnston also held extensive talks with Japanese officials Nakane and Tokuchi on Australian-Japanese involvement in the US-led “pivot to Asia,”—Washington’s diplomatic offensive and military build-up against China.

Over the past 18 months, the right-wing Liberal Democratic Party government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has rapidly increased military spending, “reinterpreted” the Japanese constitution to end legal restraints on participation in US-led wars and increased Tokyo’s diplomatic and military pressure on Beijing.

As well as collaborating closely in Washington’s war preparations against China, the two countries are strengthening their own military ties. In July this year Abe, while visiting Australia, announced new defence agreements between Canberra and Tokyo which could pave the way for the Australian purchase of Japanese submarines.

This is another clear indication of increasing geo-political tensions, particularly between China and the US and its allies, and the danger of wider conflict in the region.

The author also recommends:

New warnings of war in Asia
[5 November 2014]

Alan Seymour (1927–2015)—a critical voice against Australian militarism: here.

14 thoughts on “Australian, Japanese militarists celebrate World War I

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  3. Denied the overblown patriotism that accompanies the Anzac Day ceremonies, journalists covering Remembrance Day events for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) found “news” elsewhere. What emerged in the reports were insights into the terrible plight of young veterans who were sent to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the anti-war sentiment that was expressed by people who turned out for the ceremonies.

    In Darwin, the ABC interviewed Rhys Kelly, an Afghan war veteran suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Kelly said: “I couldn’t leave the house. I had anger issues. I was hyper vigilant…. There are a lot of guys who have killed themselves—three times what we’ve lost overseas.”

    Liam Haven, a veteran wounded by a roadside bomb in Iraq, told the ABC he was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder. “It is a mood disorder stemming from the trauma. It was more that I wasn’t prepared to deal with the fact that I could be damaged psychologically upon my arrival back in Australia. People were saying I was hero. I didn’t do anything … There’s many men and women who are falling through the cracks and unfortunately taking their own lives.”

    A woman who attended the service in Sydney, to honour her father-in-law, who fought in World War II, commented to the ABC: “I hope we never have this again. To have this ceremony is fantastic but let’s never send our troops overseas to be slaughtered again.”

    Between 1914 and 1918, out of a population of barely five million, 417,000 young Australians joined the military, of whom 332,000 were sent to the killing fields of WWI. Some 61,000 lost their lives and 152,000 were wounded. It is estimated that many as 60,000 of the wounded died from their injuries within two years.

    The widely-held attitude that the lives of an entire generation were squandered in World War I is vociferously opposed in the ruling class and the political establishment. The essential purpose of the celebrations underway of the centenary of WWI, which will be reach obscene dimensions next April with the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landing, is to glorify all wars involving Australia as necessary and cultivate a social base for militarism.

    Former Prime Minister John Howard, whose government embroiled Australia in the illegal wars and occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq, used his Remembrance Day speech in Canberra to hail the sending of troops back to Iraq. In language that inadvertently pointed to the fact that the deployment in the Middle East will inevitably escalate, Howard lauded “our mission in Iraq and wherever it may ultimately lead.”

    The general anti-war sentiment in the working class, and population more generally, cuts across such attempts to justify the present wars being fought by Australian imperialism and the future ones being planned behind the backs of the people. It is therefore critical that the ruling elite’s efforts to undermine and eviscerate this sentiment be exposed and defeated by opponents of militarism.

    http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/11/13/reme-n13.html

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