It’s a beautiful place to sit, on a bench overlooking Tarakena Bay on the southeast corner of New Zealand’s North Island. One can watch the ferry boats traversing Cook Strait which separates the North and South Islands, and in the foreground are rocky crags with nesting gulls.
Just to divert a moment from the main subject, we observe a nesting gull (White, yellow beak with a red spot, gray wings) shift position as a juvenile gull (all brown) settles in on the nest. The juvenile stretches its neck up and down a couple of times, then bows down low, obviously to disgorge some food to unseen chicks in the nest. I didn’t know that juveniles did that! But we check the bird book. Adult gulls are similar in appearance but the juveniles are brown.
What a grand thing we’ve seen. A bird of one generation giving up food for members of its own generation. The mind wanders. In the US the government is running up a huge debt with ever-increasing gigantic deficits to finance corporate welfare and needless wars, when those funds could be used to house and feed the needy. What we could learn from gulls!
Anyhow, I told you that to tell you this. If you were fortunate enough to be sitting on that bench, and you looked up and over your left shoulder, you would see perched on a bluff a large concrete structure called “Ataturk Memorial.”
The Ataturk Memorial is an outcome of an agreement between the Turkish, Australian and New Zealand governments. In 1984, Australia asked Turkey if the cove on the Gallipoli peninsula could be renamed Anzac Cove in memory of the Australian and New Zealand troops who died there in 1915 during the Gallipoli Campaign of World War One. The Turkish Government agreed to change the cove’s name from Ari Burnu and also built a large monument to all those who died in the campaign. In return, the Australian and New Zealand governments agreed to build monuments in Canberra and Wellington to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who served as a divisional commander at Gallipoli and went on to become the first president of modern Turkey.
Here is the inscription on the memorial:
Those heroes who shed their blood and lost their lives, you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side in this country of ours. You, the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears, your sons are now lying in our bosoms and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they become our sons as well.
No problem, mothers, simply wipe away your tears.
In Australia and New Zealand, the campaign was the first major battle undertaken by a joint military formation, the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC), and is often considered to mark the birth of national consciousness in both of these countries. Anzac Day (25 April) remains the most significant commemoration of military casualties and veterans in Australia and New Zealand, surpassing Armistice Day/Remembrance Day.
The resulting offensive lasted 249 days. The line of attack was simple: Secure the heights, destroy the Turkish defenses, and sail on up to Istanbul. If the current hadn’t swept the Anzac’s landing boats a mile off course or if someone other than Mustafa Kemal had received the orders, then Turkey would probably be part of Greece right now and y’all would be reading another book. But tides were swift, communications were faulty, decisions were hasty, and watches were unsynchronized. The Gallipoli campaign ended on January 9, 1916, when the Allies withdrew in the middle of the night. The Turks boast that not one life was lost in the pullout; the Anzacs, leaving on boats in the darkness, said about their fallen comrades, “I hope they don’t hear us go.”
The death toll was numbing: Roughly 86,000 Turkish forces and more than 160,000 Allied soldiers perished in the campaign. A staggeringly high number of Allied casualties were Anzac men — unfathomable losses for two countries with such small populations. Indeed, it’s all but acknowledged that during the campaign, the Brits offered up the Anzac troops as cannon fodder; consequently, a trip to Gallipoli has become a grim pilgrimage of sorts for countless Australian and New Zealand tourists.
In any case, the Ataturk Memorial is an amazing and probably unique memorial to the victor of a major battle in the land of the defeated attacking force. So I got to thinking — perhaps the US should have memorials, perhaps on the Washington Mall, to the victors in recent failed American military campaigns. Memorials to Ho Chi Minh, Saddam Hussein, and in the future Mullah Mohammed Omar. Possibly, as the US sinks downward in world stature and economic power, as the President says “we’ve got to refine our goals” in Afghanistan, and he waffles on Iraq, how about plans for a grand memorial to Osama Bin Laden?