And the Band Played “Waltzing Matilda”

26 04 2008

Yesterday was ANZAC Day. It’s the day we should honor “the forgotten heroes of a forgotten war“.

In 1915, the British and French governments decided to try and capture the strategic Dardanelles, which was held by Turkey, an ally of Germany. Through staggering levels of stupidity at the highest levels of their chain of command, incomprehensible levels of bigoted wog-bashing ignorance, and the utter failure to provide even the minutest pre-invasion intelligence gathering, the British and French decided to land a couple of divisions of troops at Suvla Bay.

Clueless British and French senior officers hampered the operation from the beginning, landing from converted coal-carrier boats onto beaches covered by Turkish machine guns and artillery. Casualties were appalling (over 70% in many units) and only got worse as more Turkish divisions arrived. The Turks eventually outnumbered the French and British by nearly three to one, they held all the high ground, and they were fighting for their homes and homeland.

In stark contrast to the imbeciles in charge of the French and British troops, the Turks had several excellent senior officers in charge. One of the Turkish commanders at Suvla was a man named Mustafa Kemal, who would later go on to become Kemal Ataturk- the leader of Turkey and the man who created the modern Turkish Republic.

After sending several hundred thousand men into a meatgrinder, any moron of average intelligence would probably realize that the campaign was a lost cause and give up. The British officer in charge of the campaign was not such a man. It wasn’t until journalists smuggled accurate reports of the carnage to the international press that anyone back in London questioned the status of the campaign. Even at that, it took Bulgaria joining the war against the Allies (thereby making it possible for the Germans to directly reinforce the Turks) before the General in charge was relieved and the decision made to evacuate.

The Turks alone lost 195,000 troops. Total casualties were in excess of 350,000. Some of the ANZAC units suffered 90% casualties. The New Zealand Wellington Battalion, for example, started the campaign with 760 men- 711 of which ended up as casualties.

The men who did the actual fighting at Gallipoli did all they could to win. No blame for the defeat rests with them. Those who should be blamed are the senior officers who casually disregarded basic operational security because “the wogs haven’t a chance against the Empire, don’t you know. We’re British.” The officers who casually fed more men into a cauldron of death, blood, and fire because they had nothing but contempt for the men serving under them. “Australians, New Zealanders, and Canadians? They’re half wog themselves, you know. Bloody convicts and savages, really. Not proper British soldiers at all.” The officers who kept hurling the bodies of young men into the teeth of Turkish guns in the vain hope that they could somehow salvage their careers thereby.

War is a messy business. War should be avoided unless the alternatives are worse. When you do go to war, the soldiers and sailors and airmen who do all the actual fighting are capital assets, and should not be needlessly expended. The senseless waste of hundreds of thousands of lives at Gallipoli offends me greatly.

When I was a young man, I carried my pack, and I lived the free life of a rover.

From Murray’s green basin to the dusty Outback,I waltzed my matilda all over.

Then in Nineteen Fifteen, my country said, “Son. It’s time to stop rambling, for there’s work to be done.”

And they gave me a tin hat and they gave me a gun, and they sent me away to the war.

And the band played “Waltzing Matilda”

As we sailed away from the quay.

And amidst all the tears,

the shouts, and the cheers,

we sailed off to Gallipoli.

By the way, the Turks set aside the whole end of the penninsula as a memorial to those who had fallen … on both sides. Visitors can still see the barbed wire, trenches, and artillery positions. Ships passing through the Dardanelles can see the towering monument erected on the site for miles. The Turks consider it sacred ground. And so do I.

Current status: Sad

Current music: And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda by the Pogues

The 75-Year Party

7 04 2008

Seventy-Five years ago, the United States surgically repaired its collective craniorectal inversion and repealed Prohibition. Let us take a moment and reflect on this historic occasion.

A small but very annoying group of Puritans had managed to browbeat everyone else into banning the production, sale, or distribution of alcohol in the United States. This policy was a colossal disaster. Millions of dollars were wasted trying to enforce this ridiculous law. This in turn led to the epic expansion of organized criminal gangs, which grew rich and powerful on the profits from bootlegging. Since drinking was still a popular pastime, huge numbers of people continued to drink booze- even if it meant consorting with hoodlums or making it themselves.  This led to widespread and flagrant disrespect for the law and those who enforced it. Worse still, the majority of Americans- most of whom saw nothing wrong with having a drink- were turned into criminals.

One would think that this catastrophic attempt at legislating morality would have served as a lesson in the futility of such adventures. One would be wrong.

Far from learning a lesson from the Prohibition fiasco, the Puritans among us have kept at it, trying desperately to force their morals upon everyone else. Beer can’t have more than a specific amount of alcohol by volume. You can’t make liquor without a license- even for your own personal use. The penalty for smoking marijuana is legally identical to shooting heroin. Car speedometers can’t show speeds above 80 MPH. People aren’t allowed to have sex in certain ways or at certain times. All of these were legislated at one time or another. Some of them still are.

I’m a firm believer in “live and let live”. I don’t give a shrill soprano hoot in Hell what consenting adults do in the privacy of their own homes- provided they aren’t hurting others. I’m also a firm believer in telling Mrs. Grundy she can die in a fire. Whenever someone starts a sentence with, “I know it’s none of my business, but …“, I am a firm believer in applying a period after the word “but”. If it’s none of your business, keep your mouth shut. I don’t poke my nose into other people’s business without an invitation, and I expect the same courtesy in return. I seldom get it.

Mind your own business. It’s really that simple. If everyone would mind their own business, there would be a lot less trouble. If someone starts poking their nose into your business, feel free to cordially invite them to eat a bowl of dicks. “I just wanted you to know what I think about what you’re doing …” deserves no courtesy in reply. I would refrain from punching the nosy parker in the face, but loudly telling them to go to Hell with their opinion is certainly warranted.

Now let us project this idea forward into Government. I am a firm believer in, “He governs best who governs least“. Combine that with “Mind your own damned business“, and we have the beginnings of Policy.

In my opinion, the Gummint has no business legislating morality. So long as basic requirements are met (you can find those in the Preamble to the Constitution), the rights of the People (all of them- not just the loudmouths) are respected, and the worst types of crime are made hazardous for the criminals, the Gummint is doing all that is necessary. Anything beyond a strict interpretation of this policy is an unnecessary intrusion into the lives of the People.

For those of you on the Road to Serfdom (the I-5 corridor from San Diego to Seattle), allow me to lay a startling truth upon you: Any powers not expressly permitted the Government by the Constitution are reserved to the People. Period. Full stop. The Constitution is designed to limit the power of Gummint. Governments are made up of fallible humans, and everyone knows what they’re like. Worse, the people who supposedly run our country (our elected representatives) are self-selected as people who want to run things.

Any government will work if authority and responsibility are equal and coordinate. This does not insure “good” government; it simply insures that it will work. But such governments are rare—most people want to run things but want no part of the blame.

Does that sound familiar? Far too many politicians are getting away with their manifold stupidities, and we (the People) are to blame.

Political tags – such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth – are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surely curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.

So we’re back to these quotes by Robert Heinlein. What sort of person are you? Are you the sort who is willing to poke your nose into someone’s business out of a desire to “do good”?

If I knew a man was coming to my house with the express purpose of doing me good, I would run for my life.

You believe what you want to believe- just leave me out of it. I don’t want you to save my soul. I’m not interested in submitting to the will of Allah, Jehovah, Zeus, Kali, Amaterasu, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I have no interest in hearing joyous news about Angry Invisible Skyman and his Zombie Offspring. I am also profoundly uninterested in any legislation you think necessary because of those beliefs.

Prohibition was an attempt to enforce fundamentalist religious principles on a non-fundamentalist population. That sort of nonsense only breeds repression, resentment, and rebellion. There’s a reason why we have the First Amendment. Prohibition was good evidence that the authors of that Amendment had it right.


Current status: Miffed

Current music: Canon in D by Pachelbel