Nothing in this blog can be believed. If you think that anything in this blog is true or factual, you'll need to verify it from another source. Do you understand? No? Then read it again, and repeat this process, until you understand that you cannot sue me for anything you read here. Also, having been sucked into taking part in the mass-murder of more than 3 million Vietnamese people on behalf of U.S. Big Business "interests", I'm as mad as a cut snake (and broke) so it might be a bit silly to try to sue me anyway...

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Of sabres, swords and ploughshares...

Talisman Sabre is a joint Australian/US military exercise held every two years. It is also a magnet for anti-war protesters. I am an anti-war protester, and I may one day get up to Rockhampton to join such protests.

However... this year there was an incident which I found difficult to condone.

A protester took to a military helicopter with a mattock, causing $200,000 damage, according to an (exaggerated?) estimate by the military.

Among the anti-war protest movement this action was seen as noble and heroic, and it attracted accolades for the mattock-wielding protester from like-minded protesters. It was labelled by them as a classic "swords to ploughshares" action.

But it left me feeling uneasy when I read about it. As an advocate of non-violent protest, I do not condone any injury to people or damage to property. The "swords into ploughshares" rhetoric is convincing for some, but it does not sit well with me.

For a start, the biblical origin of this idea had to do with people voluntarily turning their own swords into ploughshares. This is not the same as seizing someone else's sword and, against the owner's will, beating it into a ploughshare. The former is a truly peaceful action, whereas the latter is clearly a physically aggressive action driven by a "the end justifies the means" mentality.

And then there's the psychological aspect. If the aim of the protest is to persuade people not yet on-side to come on-side, then damaging helicopters is, I would argue, not very likely to achieve that aim. People currently unable to see anything wrong with joint Australian/US military exercises are likely to find the damaging of helicopters by protesters an affront.

I would argue that such actions offend the very people whose minds we are trying to change. I would further argue that such actions are ego-driven, attention-seeking behaviour aimed, not at changing the attitudes of the as-yet unconvinced section of the public, but more focussed on militancy and winning the approval of the already-converted. It is, in my book, totally incestuous and counter-productive.


Blogger phil said...


You'd be right. But Talisman Sabre takes place at Shoalwater Bay, just north of where I live, not in Townsville.

The protester in question has been here for the last several exercises and arrested each time I think. There is not a substantial anti-exercise or anti-war movement here and in fact most people in the region support or are ambivalent about Taslisman Sabre.

This bloke just manages to annoy everyone.

That said, not having been in combat myself I believe that it's only blokes like you, who have, that have the right to protest.

Finally, based on what I've said above, if you did come you wouldn't have many protestors around you.

But I'll buy you a beer.

kind regards


October 02, 2011 7:21 PM  
Blogger Gerry said...

Dunno what made me type "Townsville". Slip of the brain, maybe. :-( I knew it was near Rocky.

If I ever get up that way I'll take you up on your kind offer.

But just between you and me, I'm not convinced that rocking up to Rocky is the best way to protest our involvement in stupid US wars.

And as far as the Aust/US alliance is concerned, again, trying to create a bit of a brouhaha at Talisman Sabre is perhaps not the most effective way to protest the wrongs of such an alliance.

BTW, I had you pegged for living in Brisbane. Dunno where I got that idea. :-(

October 02, 2011 10:12 PM  
Blogger AndrewM said...

@Phil: Of course you can believe what you want, but I think your assertion that only combat veterans have the right to make anti-war protests is silly. And undemocratic.

@Gerry: If you are going to protest the ANZUS Treaty you need to influence politicians here in Canberra, not grunts in uniform up at Rockhampton. Mind you, if some wanker with a hammer can take one of our choppers out of service, it doesn't say much for that purchasing decision.

October 03, 2011 10:24 AM  
Blogger phil said...

AndrewM - I guess I was trying to get at some notion of a deep understanding of war from a first person experience that subsequently underpins a moral, shit, I dunno, 'superiority' is the word that comes to mind but it carries connotations I don't really mean. Anyway I accept your argument about lack of democarcy and didn't mean to imply that.

Gerry - we moved from Brisbane some 3 years ago - may have contributed to the misapprehension. And not to drop into shallow equivocations, but the 6th Navy Fleet band absolutely rocked/swung/made the Yeppoon waterfront jump this year. Say what you like about the Yanks and I'd probably agree, but they do soft power really well.

October 03, 2011 9:37 PM  
Blogger Gerry said...

@AndrewM: Yep. Exactly right about the Canberra not Rockhampton thing.

@Phil: You can call it 'soft power', I call it psychological warfare.

October 05, 2011 12:43 AM  

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