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Anti-war debate has been disrupted as Australia commemorates ANZAC Day | War Stories


Melbourne, Australia – Bob Manz was 19 years old when, in 1967, he received a draft certificate from the Australian Army during the Vietnam War.

“I’m about to turn 20,” he told Al Jazeera. “It didn’t seem real to me – it didn’t sound real that I could end up in Vietnam with bullets flying around.”

In 1964, the Australian government volunteered to send troops to Vietnam to help the United States.

On his way to the White House, Prime Minister Minster Harold Holt at the time said his country would go “all the way with the LBJ (Lyndon B Johnson)” – even if it meant forcing young men like Bob to “do national work”.

Yet Bob – and a lot of guys like him – have taken on a big part of being a critic; a person who is required to serve in the military for legal reasons, but who refuses to do so.

“I was just an opponent who did this because I wanted to do everything I could to prevent the Australian government from participating in the war because it was an unjust war,” he said.

Protests against military service against the Vietnam War through the streets of Melbourne in 1966 [David Glenn/State Library of Victoria]

Bobbie Oliver, a professor at the University of Western Australia, is currently researching and writing a book on conscientious objection.

His research shows that between 1961 and 1972, more than 60,000 Australians took part in the Vietnam War, a third of those registered.

Of the 521 Australians who died while working, about half were deported.

However, compulsory military service was rejected.

Oliver said compulsory military service was not popular because it was not protected by the public or by Parliament.

“When the civil service was restored in 1964, it became very clear that the election was sending people to Vietnam,” he told Al Jazeera, noting that the opposition to his candidacy was also affected by the US opposition group.

“There was no referendum. He did not agree with both sides of the law or anything. It was just announced that this would happen. This is one of the reasons why there was so much opposition to money. “

‘Unknown War’

April 25 marks ANZAC Day in Australia and New Zealand, as people in both countries commemorate the various conflicts their soldiers have been having, often in unison – New Zealand has also sent troops to Vietnam, although it has not registered.

But while the day is a show of dedication and commitment to those who go to war, little is known about the people who opposed these conflicts, often at great prices.

Australian strikers, ancient and modern, commemorate ANZAC Day as they travel through Sydney early Sunday morning [Jaimi Joy/Reuters]

Oliver said conscientious objectors are now being drafted if they refuse to serve in the military because of their conscience, which means that they have to go to court and demonstrate their peaceful conduct, especially for religious reasons.

However, he said, “by about 1967 and 1968, there were many people who refused to comply with this law.”

“The majority did not oppose Christianity or any other form of religion – many opposed it, especially the Vietnam War, which was an unknown war,” he said.

For young men who are conscientious objectors or conscientious objectors, the punishment for failing to comply with military might or for not expressing certainty that they are cruel can be cruel — including long prison terms in military or military prisons.

Rev. William “Bill” White was one of the foremost activists, and in 1966, the courts rejected his conscientious objection to military service.

When he refused to listen to the summons, the police dragged him to their home and arrested him.

In 1969, John Zarb’s two-year imprisonment in the prestigious Melbourne Prison in Melbourne sparked major protests, and the government finally released him after 10 months.

Oliver said his research reveals “dangerous issues in how they are treated [in prison] – they kept bread and water, got up every hour and night, and were told to stand up and say their name, rank and number. ”

Released, tortured

Such punishments – including exclusion from society and the family, as well as torture – mean that those who conscientiously object to military service and those who refuse to serve in the military are scarred.

“People met with co-workers or relatives who refused to talk to them later,” Oliver said. “Some told me they were harassed at work and refused to be promoted.”

Bob Manz, a former war veteran in Vietnam [Ali MC/Al Jazeera]

When he refused to go for a medical examination, the judge sentenced Bob Manz to one week in prison, which he said gave him a taste of prison if he did not comply with his sentence.

After his release, Manz went undercover ignoring the final notices of the “summons” and spent a long time in 1972 “going beyond the police”.

Fortunately, the choice of Anti-war President Gough Whitlam The same year marks the end of war and enlistment.

It also meant that Manz could once again be in the public eye.

“Whitlam won the election on Saturday and Wednesday, [the conscripts] he was out of prison, ”he recalled. “And it was so. A normal life. I was free, I could move around. ”

The commemoration of the Australian War, which monitors military history in the country, also included in its war in Vietnam demonstrations against the war and the role of conscientious objectors.

The memorial also contains photographs, videos, interviews and exhibition related archives.

But Bob Manz says there is still much to be done in acknowledging the Vietnam War, as well as freedom fighters, whether they are forced to join the military or not.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison recently announced a The Royal Commission has already committed suicide – including those who have recently served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

An exhibition inside the Australian War Memorial to the Vietnam War [AWM supplied]

At least 400 Australian military personnel have died in suicide since 2001 compared to 41 casualties in Afghanistan at the same time.

“The old warriors have done justice for many years,” Manz said. “He wants us to understand and support. And while we’re at it, we need to re-launch our anti-war contributions.”

Before the day of ANZAC, Bob – now 73 – thought about his opposition role.

Don’t regret it.

“I am still proud of what I did. I think it was the right thing to do and I’m glad I did. ”


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