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THE FUTILITY OF WAR

This is the story of a 93-year-old man and and an 11-month-old boy.

Each occupy a bookend of life; together they paint a picture of the futility of war.

My grandfather Jack Dihm was a decorated war hero – a veteran of Libya, Egypt, Greece, Crete, and the Pacific. On Anzac Day he would march, chest proudly pinned with medals of valour.

Like many young men in the 1930s he lied about his age, aching for the excitement of active service.

What he witnessed could not be put into words.

At times, a glass of wine would bring a tiny tear to the corner of his eye. He would remember. Then yearn to forget.

This is what I learned: war veterans are the greatest pacifists.

“War is a terrible thing,” he once said. “It’s not just the horror. It’s the sheer pointlessness of it all. One side says or does one thing. The other side strikes back. Where does it end?”

This conversation was prompted by my 7-year-old son (pictured right with Jack Dihm) playing with a toy gun. I thought his great grandfather would be chuffed seeing Taj dressed up in combat gear, but his face bore a mask of horror.

That particular fancy dress costume soon saw the lining of the bin.

I was reminded of my grandfather’s words while reading analysis of the latest conflict in the Middle East.

A photograph of the broken body of an 11-month-old boy in the arms of his father took my breath away.

He was the son of a BBC journalist who lives in Gaza. The grief etched on Jihad Masharawi’s face is palpable.

Jihad Mashawari holds the body of his 11 month-old son Omar. Image via fairfax.com.au

 

I could not look away.

I tweeted a similar picture on the weekend,  but it was too confronting for some.

“The photo you RT’d of a dead child in Gaza showed up as a thumbnail on my phone app. I had no warning/choice before seeing it,” one wrote.

Perhaps I should have added a warning. But don’t we need to see these images?

The image of Jihad Mashawari holding the body of his child says more than all the opinion pieces in The Australian (pro-Israeli) and Fairfax (pro-Palestinian) could convey.

No one side is solely to blame: everyone is culpable, and the death of this child – one of many – underlines the futility of war. Innocent children are being used by both sides as tools for propaganda and if my grandfather was alive today, I know what he would say.

“How many more young lives will be wasted? When will we learn?”

You might be reading this thinking, “It’s human nature to defend our patch. History is littered with the corpses of fallen soldiers. It will always be so.”

But why?

It is incumbent upon us all to question so-called conventional wisdom.

I prefer the wise words of my grandfather, to be read out during his eulogy tomorrow.

On his deathbed last week, when asked what he wished for, it was one thing: to see peace in this world.

Not a picture of another family torn apart by a pointless war.

 

 

MORE ARTICLES BY TRACEY SPICER

The Hobbit of Homophobia

Life’s A Glamorous Gamble

Dear Mr Sexist

 

 

*Tracey Spicer is a respected journalist who has worked for many years in radio, print and television.
Channel Nine and 10 news presenter and reporter; 2UE and Vega broadcaster; News Ltd. columnist; Sky News anchor …it’s been a dream career for the Brisbane schoolgirl with a passion for news and current affairs.
Tracey is a passionate advocate for issues as diverse as voluntary euthanasia, childhood vaccinations, breastfeeding, better regulation of foreign investment in Australia’s farmland, and curtailed opening hours for pubs and clubs. She is an Ambassador for World Vision, ActionAid, WWF, the Royal Hospital for Women’s Newborn Care Centre and the Penguin Foundation, Patron of Cancer Council NSW and The National Premmie Foundation, and the face of the Garvan Institute’s research into pancreatic cancer, which killed her beloved mother Marcia 11 years ago. But Tracey’s favourite job, with her husband, is bringing up two beautiful children – six-year-old Taj and five-year-old Grace. Visit Tracey’s website at www.spicercommunications.biz or follow her on Twitter @spicertracey.

 

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26 Comments

  • Reply November 20, 2012

    Wendy Harmer

    I am so sorry for your loss, Tracey. Your Grandfather sounds like a fine man. My father in law – whom I didn’t get to meet- was also a war vet. My husband tells me he never mentioned the war, and lke your pop, was a deeply committed pacifist.

  • Reply November 20, 2012

    Thomas Brookes

    War is about three things and three things only. Greed, Power and money. And more is coming. U tube General Wesley Clark and you will be shocked at the US Agenda. Kevin Rudd has stated twice in the last month of the “impending conflict between the USA and China”. Our military people have stated that China will strike at Australia first with a nuclear missile to cripple the USA communication base at Pine Gap. Australia must remove all US bases from Australia including the US Navel base planned for the Brisbane River. Fraser, Rudd and Keating are all saying it. Lets do it….

  • Reply November 20, 2012

    Red60

    I too am so sorry for you loss, Tracey.. Both my Grandfather and Father have gone to war.. and both were emotionally, and physically effected. Not to mention our Family.. There is no winner in war..

  • Reply November 20, 2012

    red60

    So sorry for your loss Tracey. Both my Grandfather, and Father has gone to war. and have been effected emotionally and physically. Not to mention what it does to the family left at home. There are no winners with war.

  • Reply November 20, 2012

    ro.watson

    War, and its shadow down the generations, is awful for participants and innocent bystanders.

  • Reply November 20, 2012

    ro.watson

    My mum endured the buzz bombs over London, and then worked with young burns’ victims as a physiotherapist. I think about those (usually) men with their medals who come back to their families and collapse under the weight of the trauma of war~ and all those women who suffer, and have suffered secondary trauma…and keep enduring, under the weight of war..

  • Reply November 20, 2012

    Sam Stone

    I am sorry for your loss Tracey. My Dad’s best friend is a Vietnam vet, he doesn’t talk about the war to us but you can tell he suffers; he can’t sleep, he wouldn’t dream of boarding a plane and now sees a therapist.

  • Reply November 20, 2012

    ro.watson

    Post traumatic stress is a real tragedy for anyone who suffers from it~ and anyone near them….I dislike the way this space is occupied by the military~even if true enough about war suffering~ civilians also suffer~and as a woman raped by two men in my own home in suburban Australia~ having sought therapy and experienced the “stigma” of being a home grown survivor who was let down by her mates~ I am no longer patient about this. Indeed, I was shocked by a lack of empathy.

  • Reply November 20, 2012

    ro.watson

    When anyone says: “I reckon..” I reckon~ where is their moral compass? I have enjoyed some respect off, and on, with friends and family, and lovers~ and now,now it has such an ephemeral feel~anyway~ I am glad all those fighting people~ maintain their dignity and say how useless it is to follow powerful people into stupid wars….

  • Reply November 20, 2012

    Karen

    I think that is quite possibly one of the most heartbreaking images I have ever seen. You are right Tracey – no side can claim the high ground. That child is dead because of the actions of adults, on both sides. The world needs to condemn BOTH sides, and ask both to face their judgement – on their hands be this boy’s blood, and I hope all war protagonists stand one day before their respective higher powers (in whose name these tragic, non-winnable wars are fought) and answer for his death, and the death of thousands of other innocent children.

  • Reply November 20, 2012

    ro.watson

    Peace for its own sake~ not for anything else, or replaced by anything else, just peace and thanks for us living here on earth who enjoy our life with you….so sorry for children and their parents who have died or wilted too soon in wars…

  • Reply November 20, 2012

    Layla

    Very true
    Very real
    Very moving
    In the end most of us are ego hungry overly emotive beings that just can’t help ourselves.

    Very very sad that the end of warring is such an unlikely outcome.

  • Reply November 20, 2012

    ro.watson

    I get you may not be addressing me~ but I shall respond anyway~Layla~with a riff~yes very disappointing that our egos~ namely early survival mechanisms~ get the bettter of those who have survived, with post traumatic stress,as adults~ from events we would not wish on anyone else~ who then after something or other,behave as,er, tragics reconfiguring ourselves into a weird, unrecognisable form~aside from the actual event(s)~which produces a profound loss of hope~ and also causes a loss of a good sleep and has a lot to do with imbalance in mood and general function…

  • Reply November 20, 2012

    ro.watson

    Post-traumatic stress experience is something that happens after trauma…there it is spelt out~ for those of you who don’t know~sleep disturbance,and then, der, mood disturbance and ghastly flashbacks…. followed by relationship difficulties and then a sense of isolation and stigma…

  • Reply November 20, 2012

    ro.watson

    I correct myself~ actual stigma and isolation.

  • Reply November 21, 2012

    Tony W

    “This is the story of a 93-year-old man and and an 11-month-old boy.”

    Very moving story Tracey, and vale to your grandfather. I salute him for his war service and his pacifism equally. His reaction to your son’s toy gun is revealing – no amount of distressing war photos can compare to the actuality of war. If more of us had to experience it we’d be less quick to choose sides and more interested in seeking peace.

    • Reply November 21, 2012

      lucille

      I really enjoy your posts TonyW. I actually put one up on my FB page – with acknowledgement to you.

  • Reply November 21, 2012

    lucille

    I’m sorry about your Grandfather Tracey. My father didn’t talk about his experience in Darwin when it was bombed, but he was a very sad introspective man, and hated the defense department.

    I guess we still have ‘cannibals’. Check out this song by Mark Knopfler

    http://youtu.be/ZQxAAWnzpc8

  • Reply November 23, 2012

    tgif | Many Things

    [...] Tracey Spicer The Futility of War. [...]

  • Reply November 25, 2012

    Jill

    On at least 20 separate occasions this year, the Israeli government appealed to the UN to take action against Palestinian rocket attacks on Israeli civilians, in letters sent to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the President of the Security Council.
    In these letters, Israel urged the United Nations to act against repeated rockets attacks from Gaza against Israeli civilians, and, at a minimum, to speak out and condemn the attacks.

    “Inaction today could help ignite an escalation of conflict tomorrow,” Israel warned the UN, while exercising astonishing measures of restraint that no other country facing a similar onslaught of rockets has ever shown.

    The UN did not deign to take action til Israel responded to attacks on it.

  • Reply November 29, 2012

    Jill

    Reckon there was time lag between 2nd and 3rd posts.
    @TheHoopla, if you want to delete the very last post I just put up, I will not complain because it is in effect a double post.
    But please leave the second last post with the links up, because this is about accurate sources in journalism, nothing else.
    Good night.

    • Reply November 29, 2012

      Wendy Harmer

      Jill, if you have a complaint about a photo being incorrectly indentifed.Please get in touch and let us know. It is that simple. Mistakes happen.Our contact is as below. Thanks.

  • Reply November 29, 2012

    Rhoda

    It’s all bad. All of it. Whichever side, whoever fires the gun or explodes the bomb. We desperately need to know each side’s position, the whole history so we can find solutions. Ignorance will prolong the conflict and kill many more innocents. We need the full picture.

  • Reply November 30, 2012

    Jill

    Hi Rhoda.
    The problem is jihad, the solution is not giving in to jihad.

  • Reply November 30, 2012

    Rhoda

    Jill, Imran Khan was shot down in flames last month when he declared the war in Afghanistan against foreign troops was a jihad. Seems everyone has their own interpretation of it.

    I wish it was a simple black and white issue but clearly it isn’t.

  • Reply December 12, 2012

    Jill

    Rhoda, a jihad is Islamic holy war against non Islamic infidels.
    Imaran Khan was not giving another interpretation of jihad, merely pointing out another instance of it.
    Jihad is not location-specific!

    More’s the pity.

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