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Turkey right to be angry at ANZAC aggression

By John Williams - posted Monday, 25 March 2019

The Australian Prime Minister has responded to the politically motivated Turkish president Tayipp Eroganin over his tactless comments on the current NZ catastrophe with the murdering and wounding of worshippers at a Christchurch Mosque by saying that any visitor to Turkey with anti-Muslim views would be sent back in coffins like their grandfathers. He was relating to quotes by the nameless Australian gunman who made threats in his manifesto against Turkey and his pejorative remarks about the Ottoman Empire. Morrison authoritatively stated in Trumpian macho style rhetoric "All options are on the table."

His use of this phrase was obviously an allusion to President Trump in his recent incautious threatening rhetoric. Trump was conveying himself as a powerful leader speaking loudly and carrying a big stick, a departure from President Theodore Roosevelt suggesting in 1903 that a powerful county in international diplomacy should "Speak softly and carry a big stick". Morrison has broken convention on the international stage and, in reality, speaks loudly without any stick.

The political insensitivity will soon be accommodated within diplomatic pragmatism using euphemistic circumventing phrases like "mistaken context" but the strident comment by president Tayipp Eroganin reveals an underlying festering issue about the history of Australian relationships with Turkey. War historians' interpretations aside there is still a residual feeling that Australia's involvement in Gallipoli was an act of aggression whilst its action on the Western Front was an act of defence.


It can be viewed that we claim Gallipoli as a sacrosanct area for the resuscitated annual ANZAC spiritual pilgrimage, now an experience of nationalistic religious dimension, in no small part due to the efforts of former Prime Minister John Howard. It could appear to some that there is a presumption for automatic entrance to the killing fields in Turkey but let us not forget the disproportionate 900% more Turkish casualties than Australians in that military engagement.

The attempted landing was a British Military, Winston Churchill-planned disaster. Nevertheless, along with brave allied forces, Australia invaded another country and was defeated.

With all the Morrison and Dutton bravado over the past 5 years, regardless of their belated high moral stance, it was directed at potential "invaders" to our shores yet inevitably was vulnerable to be perceived by Muslims that all the hype was directed at them as a collective and open to an inference of racism and Muslimphobia.

Mindful of that lambasting what inopportune compulsion to buy into the debate about Gallipoli, incited by the politically savvy Erogan, by both the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader and the quoting of more enlightened words by the former secular Turkish leader Ataturk made whilst he was transforming his country into a modern secular state. They fail to see that this is the very point for Erogan as he laments the loss of the Ottoman Empire and in that country's complex, cruel divide he is seeking loyal community Muslim support for his return to government.

The Gallipoli casualties were horrendous but the disproportionate cost to Turkey was overwhelming:

  • Allies forces had 44,150 killed and 97,397 wounded at Gallipoli
  • The Turkish had 87,000 killed and 164,309 wounded at Gallipoli.
  • The Australians had 8,709 killed and 19,441 wounded at Gallipoli.
  • The Australians had 46,000 killed and 139,000 wounded on the Western Front.

Gallipoli has similarities to Dunkirk in the next World War, which also had high casualties, but for the 1914 -1918 'War to end all Wars' the decisive outcome was achieved in the battles on the Western Front, ironically less acknowledged in Australia, but that was a war against an aggressor who was defeated and the men who died did not die in vain. Australia's engagement was pivotal and the strategic role of the Australian general, Sir John Monash GCMG, KCB, has been acknowledged by war historians to have been an indispensable contributing factor in that blooded victory.

It may be prudent seeing Australia better served by acknowledging its defeat by the nation it invaded and whilst continuing our ANZAC tradition respecting and remembering the bravery of the warring combatants be conscious of the 87,000 graves of valiant Turks at Gallipoli who died defending their country and quietly turn our national humble reverence and grateful respect to the Western Front victory with its immeasurable cost, away from Turkey where it was defeat with the connotation of invasion, mindful that those who escaped with their lives from Gallipoli went on to fight and die on the Western Front, and in those costly battles, Australians had the highest percentage of deaths and wounded than any other of the participating nations.

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About the Author

John Williams lives in the Southern Highlands and is the son of a soldier who served in WWI. In 2017 he became a Member of the Order of Australia for "Significant service to Indigenous rights through health and social welfare organisations, and as an agent for reconciliation".

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