Black Hawks, Minstrels, and a losing war

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Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been noticing that the government has been rolling out the propaganda machine for the armed forces and the war in Afghanistan.

Before the NRL Grand Final, a Black Hawk helicopter from the 6th Aviation regiment flew into the stadium, nodded its nose to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, turned three hundred and sixty degrees and then flew out again. The announcer told the crowd that the helicopter was leading the in a Mexican wave. As a recruiting campaign it was pretty lame – they could have at least had some dudes sliding down ropes with automatic rifles on their backs, doing combat rolls when they hit the turf.

Then there was the disastrous “last ever” episode of Hey Hey its Saturday on Wednesday night on Nine. We were sitting on the couch watching it and every time Daryl (botox) Summers said “we’ll never do this segment again, because it’s our last ever episode!” we rolled our eyes, thinking yeah, sure mate, bet there’s already a full season  proposal on an executive’s desk somewhere, and then they pulled out the Jackson Jive Red Faces skit. Five white doctors with their faces painted black wearing black wigs, one white doctor with white face-paint as Michael Jackson. It was in extremely poor taste, adds further credence to international perception of Australia as a racist country, but most importantly will hopefully guarantee that it will be the last ever television appearance for Daryl Summers & Co.

minstrels200(If you’re not sure what was so wrong about the skit, maybe check out this article on the Blackface style of theatre and this one about the Black and White Minstrel Show in the UK.)

But I digress. Another feature of the show was a couple of live links to Australian troops in Afghanistan. It was a very strange part of the show, marketing the war as part of everyday life and family viewing.  What made it worse was that the soldiers were talking via Skype and using a dodgy webcam from a laptop, so the video was of a poor resolution and moving at an extremely slow frame rate.

The war in Afghanistan doesn’t appear to be going well. The top U.S. Commander wants 40,000 more troops from his president, even though it’s an unpopular decision with the public.  General Stanley McChrystal has said that unless more troops are provided, the war will “most likely end in failure”. British troops have asked for “more troops, equipment and training”.

To our faces, Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith is saying that Australia won’t be sending any more troops, but with the family friendly army propaganda designed to soften the hearts and minds to warfare, are we being softened up for a further commitment to a far off war?

Personally, I haven’t worked out all of my views on war – except to know that it’d be really nice if it never happened. But there are plenty of people out there strongly opposed to it. This video was made last Thursday at a Sydney Rally against Australian troops in Afghanistan. Check out the Stop the War Coalition if you’re as strongly opposed.

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