Don’t make history a fairy tale
Today the bulldozers moved in on ATS

On winning whatever the price

World War II Japanese gun on Kangu Beach  south Bougainville
World War II Japanese artillery piece on Kangu Beach, near Buin south Bougainville

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‘Only the dead have seen the end of war’ – Plato

KIETA - These are my thoughts from looking around Buin in south Bougainville every time I travel there. It is a great place, like other regions on the island.

It is also where I first saw, in 1964, the menace of war in the relics that all wars leave behind. The relics of Buin are from World War II, when Bougainville came under Japanese control.

The world is littered with war relics and human remains in marked and unmarked graves. Many are buried in mass, unidentified graves.

There are rules of engagement in war (and for the peace that follows). These are accepted by nations around the world.

Wouldn’t it be good if it was as widely accepted that wars are calculated, created and fought by humans to deliberately and intentionally injure, maim, decapitate and kill each other?

Wars are not ideological feuds. They are fisticuffs for territorial conquest and, with it, the spoils of victory, invariably resource grabs and control, domination and influence.

Relics and human remains from a war that had its origins a long way from here litter the southern end of Bougainville Island.

The passage of time and the elements have taken their toll on the World War II relics scattered across south Bougainville.

Some of them have rotted into the forest. Others – despite being more than 70 years old – look like they will be part of the landscape for as long as this planet lasts.

Whenever men with machines confront each other, human calamities follow.

The Allies held their forts and held their own at Torokina in the most decisive battle of the fierce campaign on Bougainville. This area is littered with armour and equipment left by the warring sides.

At war’s end the weapons of war were buried and discarded to rot or be concealed by the unrelenting tropical undergrowth.

The area in Buin that stretches the length of the beach and bushes from Kihili, Kangu, to Moila Point and beyond contains a repository of Japanese war relics.

Seeing these machines is to be reminded of the industrial ingenuity that produced them with one aim in mind: win whatever the price.

One tragedy of war – on top of its many other tragedies – is that the world pays little attention to the litter left behind and the scars on the environment, not to mention the physical and mental wounds that stay with people for life.

Will wars ever end in a world where man rules the roost? Are wars a necessary evil?

Isn’t it remarkable how after World War I and World War II and all the big and little wars fought throughout the millennia, we have not learnt very much at all?

Certainly, we should respect those people that volunteer or are drafted or enlisted to defend their country, homeland and the values they hold dear, just as we must respect the acquiescence of parents whose children are deployed to fight in foreign wars.

They are entitled to welcome them as heroes and say, ‘We wouldn’t be here without your sacrifice’. I don’t think we can do these people wrong.

In the same way, we must remember that it is usually former soldiers who point out that ‘war is hell’.

The debris from World War II littered across southern Bougainville provides a fascinating history lesson.

But beyond the history lesson, perhaps these decaying machines can remind us of the realities of war – the injuring, the maiming, the torturing and the killing – and maybe that can prompt us to opt for peace over war.

May peace prevail on earth. May peace prevail in Papua New Guinea and Bougainville. May we never do one another wrong.


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