According to a recent news story, several prominent Australian musicians are refusing to go to Iraq to play for the troops there. Pete Murray, the Whitlams, and Augie March are amongst those who say they won't perform Christmas concerts for the troops in Iraq, as they don't agree with the war. Even Col Joye, an entertainment industry veteran who performed for the troops in Vietnam, refused to go to Iraq, saying, "Sooner or later you have to stand up and say what you think. In Vietnam, we didn't know any better." Meanwhile, the Defence Minister, Brendan Nelson, has chided the musicians for not being able to seperate the politics of the war from the sacrifices being made by the troops.
Well, it's not this story itself that's especially interesting. I won't describe the Australian contingent serving in Iraq as tokenistic (not this time, anyway) but there are only 450 Australian soldiers on the ground in Iraq at present. So the issue of providing entertainment for them is not exactly major, especially since I'm sure the US happily invites the Australians along to their own USO shows.
What's amazed me is the silence from the right wing columists on this one. Sure, Mark Latham has a new book out, so they're busy gleefully denouncing it. And I do understand that most right-wingers find it pretty much impossible to think about more than one thing at a time. Still, I would have expected the conservative bloggers (or con-bloggers, for short) to be all over this like Piers Akerman with the News Ltd expense account during a long lunch. Imagine the invectives they could come up with for the recalcitrant performers - "Cowards!" "Un-Australian!" "Chardonnay-sipping elites!" "Boycott them!" You know, they same drivel the cons come out with for all those they disagree with.
But nothing. The few comments I've read generally agree with the stance the musicians have taken. As for myself, generally my feeling is it's up to the individuals to decide what they want to do. (Which is my opinion on more issues than just this). What if I were asked to perform for the troops in Iraq? Maybe they need someone to display an exciting new variation on stand up comedy - "fall down comedy". Though I'm sure the novelty of the sight of myself repeatedly tumbling over would tire quickly for a sober audience.
Still, I have to admit I felt a little uneasy when I read the story, though I couldn't pinpoint just why. Maybe it's because I actually have more experience of military service than of attending concerts. Maybe because I think it is possible to disagree with the war, and still entertain the troops - Al Franken has been to Iraq twice. Maybe the unease was simply reading about the Australian "entertainers" who have been to Iraq so far - Lee Harding (the punk Wiggle) and Bessie Bardot (well, the troops probably would have liked that). Come on, Pete Murray, Tim Freedman - the troops over there knew they'd endure soaring temperatures, uncomfortable conditions and being shot at, but they never agreed to being forced to hear "Wasabi"! Go play them some real music!