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Our Global Neighbours: Australia and Turkey at War

By: Dr Stan Florek, Category: Science, Date: 20 Apr 2015

The profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.

Arabian Sword E67277 AA

Arabian Sword E67277 AA
Photographer: Stan Florek © Australian Museum

Our Global Neighbours is a blog series containing stories from and about cultures around the world.

Over 80,000 Turkish and Arab soldiers were killed and twice as many wounded defending Gallipoli in 1915. Nearly 9,000 Australian soldiers lost their lives. About 140,000 allied troops were killed or wounded and the total for both sides is estimated at nearly 400,000.

The First World War was total industrialised international madness. Mass produced killing machines were deployed on land, sea and in the sky. Steel, fire, lethal chemicals, bombs, bullets, explosives and loads of money were put to work. And money is a key to understanding war.

Some large corporations and bankers made phenomenal profits and United States of America emerged from WW1 as the industrial powerhouse and giant military power. Money-making and killing machines were increasingly fuelled by petroleum. Anglo-Persian, British Petroleum and Royal Dutch Shell were racing for the liquid gold from oil fields in the regions of Basra, Baghdad and Kuwait.

While the term ‘military–industrial complex’ was not coined until the early 1960s, its existence was patently exemplified by WW1 which was industrialised for commercial interest and exploited with stunning success.

WW1 accelerated the demise of the Ottoman Empire. It crumbled in blood and sweat, massacres and internal conflicts. The much ‘slimmer’ state of modern Turkey emerged from the ashes. The rest of its middle-east estate was carved up by colonial powers, splitting and conjoining people, ethnic groups, communities, cultures, faiths and traditions at will and without logic – setting the scene for the next hundred years of conflicts and nurturing radicalism. Some resemblance of stability was achieved by support for the worst dictators in human history, as long as petroleum was flowing.

For a detached observer it would be intriguing that an unsuccessful invasion in a faraway land could become such a potent and willingly mythologised national symbol. But the national psyche is not necessarily rational; it’s made of stories, emotions, grieving, dreams, aspirations and yearnings. And for the sake of our soldiers who died and endured the horrors of war we want our story to be noble.