Wars

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Colonial Ties, Not Oppression, Is the Best Reason for Granting Asylum

This has been irritating me for some time now, and so I’m going to try to get it off my chest. A month or so ago I went to a Virtual meeting, organised by the left wing of the Labour party, on why socialists should be anti-war. It was part of the Arise Festival of ideas, and featured a variety of speakers all concerned with the real possibility that the war-mongering of Tony Blair, George W. Bush and so on would return. They made the point that all the interventions in Iraq, Libya and elsewhere were motivated purely by western geopolitical interests. Western nations and their multinationals had initiated them solely to plunder and dominate these nations and their industries and resources. One of the speakers was the Muslim head of the Stop War Coalition, who stated that many people from ethnic minorities had supported the Labour party because historically Labour had backed independence for their countries of origin. And obviously the Labour party was risking their support by betraying them through supporting these wars. After the failure of these wars – the continued occupation of Afghanistan, the chaos in Iraq and Libya – the calls for further military interventions had died down. But now these wars were being rehabilitated, and there is a real danger that the military-industrial complex will start demanding further invasions and occupations.

I absolutely agree totally with these points. Greg Palast’s book Armed Madhouse shows exactly how the Iraq invasion had absolutely nothing to do with liberating the Iraqi people from Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship, but was all about stealing their oil reserves and state industries. The invasion of Afghanistan has precious little to do with combatting al-Qaeda, and far more to do with the construction of an oil pipeline that would benefit western oil interests at the expense of Russia and its allies. And the overthrow of Colonel Gaddafy in Libya was also about the removal of an obstacle to western neo-colonial domination. These wars have brought nothing but chaos and death to these countries. The welfare states of Iraq and Libya have been decimated, and the freedoms women enjoyed to pursue careers outside the home have been severely curtailed our removed. Both of these countries were relatively secular, but have since been plunged into sectarian violence.

Despite this, one of the speakers annoyed me. This was the head of the Black Liberation Association or whatever Black Lives Matter now calls itself. She was a young a woman with quite a thick African accent. It wasn’t quite what she said, but the tone in which she said it. This was one of angry, indignant and entitled demand, rather than calm, persuasive argument. She explained that the Black Liberation Association campaigned for the rights and self-government of all nations in the global south and their freedom from neo-colonial economic restrictions and domination. She attacked the ‘fortress Europe’ ideology intended to keep non-White immigrants out, especially the withdrawal of the Italian naval patrols in the Med. This had resulted in more migrant deaths as unseaworthy boats sank without their crews and passengers being rescued. This is all stuff the left has campaigned against for a long time. I remember learning in ‘A’ Level geography in school that Britain and Europe had erected tariff barriers to prevent their former colonies competing with them in the production of manufactured goods. This meant that the economies of the African nations, for example, were restricted to agriculture and mining. As for the withdrawal of the Italian navy and coastguard, and the consequent deaths of migrants, this was very much an issue a few years ago and I do remember signing internet petitions against it. But there was one argument she made regarding the issue of the granting of asylum that was weak and seriously annoyed me. She stated that we had to accept migrants because we had oppressed them under colonialism.

This actually doesn’t work as an argument for two reasons. I’m not disputing that we did oppress at least some of the indigenous peoples of our former colonies. The colour bar in White Rhodesia was notorious, and Black Africans in other countries, like Malawi, were treated as second class citizens quite apart from the horrific, genocidal atrocities committed against the Mao-Mao rebellion. The first problem with the argument from colonial oppression is that it raises the question why any self-respecting person from the Commonwealth would ever want to come to Britain, if we’re so racist and oppressive.

The other problem is that the British Empire is now, for the most part, a thing of the past. Former colonies across the globe formed nationalist movements and achieved their independence. They were supposed to benefit from the end of British rule. In some cases they have. But to return to Africa, since independence the continent has been dominated by a series of brutal dictators, who massacred and looted their people. There is an appalling level of corruption to the point where the FT said that many of them were kleptocracies, which were only called countries by the courtesy of the west. Western colonialism is responsible for many of the Developing World’s problems, but not all. I’ve heard from a couple of Brits, who have lived and worked in former colonies, that they have been asked by local people why we left. These were older people, but it shows that the end of British rule was not as beneficial as the nationalists claimed, and that some indigenous people continued to believe that things had been better under the Empire. But the culpability of the leaders of many developing nations for their brutal dictatorships and the poverty they helped to inflict on their people wasn’t mentioned by this angry young woman. And that’s a problem, because the counterargument to her is that the British Empire has vanished, and with the handover to indigenous rule British responsibility for these nations’ affairs ended. It is up to these countries to solve their problems, and we should be under no obligation to take in people fleeing oppression in these countries.

For me, a far better approach would be to stress old colonial ties and obligations with these nations. Part of the ideology of colonialism was that Britain held these countries in trust, and that these nations would only remain under British rule until they developed the ability to manage themselves. It was hypocritical, and I think there’s a quote from Lord Lugard, one of the architects of British rule in Africa, about how the British had only a few decades to despoil the country. Nevertheless, it was there, as was Kipling’s metaphor of the ‘White Man’s Burden’, in which Britain was to teach these nations proper self-government and civilisation. It’s patronising, because it assumes the superiority of western civilisation, but nevertheless it is one of paternal responsibility and guidance. And some British politicians and imperialists took this ideology very seriously. I was told by a friend of mine that before Enoch Powell became an avowed and implacable opponent of non-White immigration with his infamous ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech, he sincerely believed that Britain did have an obligation to its subject peoples. He worked for a number of organisations set up to help non-White immigrants to Britain from her colonies.

It therefore seems to me that supporters of non-White migrants and asylum seekers would be far better arguing that they should be granted asylum because of old colonial ties and kinship in the Commonwealth and continuing paternal obligations, rather than allowed in as some kind of reparation for the oppression of the colonial past.

The first argument offers reconciliation and common links. The other only angry division between oppressed and oppressor.

By ‘Force and Fraud’: Is This the End of the US Democracy Doctrine?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/01/2021 - 4:30am in

In an interview with the British newspaper, The Times, in 2015, former US Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, vehemently denied that exporting democracy to Iraq was the main motive behind the US invasion of that Arab country 12 years earlier.

Rumsfeld further alleged that “the idea that we could fashion a democracy in Iraq seemed to me unrealistic.” But the US’ top military chief was being dishonest. Writing in Mother Jones, Miles E. Johnson responded to Rumsfeld’s claim by quoting some of his previous statements where he, repeatedly, cited democracy as the main reason behind the US invasion, a war that was one of the most destructive since Vietnam.

Certainly, it was not Rumsfeld alone who brazenly promoted the democracy pretense. Indeed, ‘democracy’ was the buzzword, parroted by thousands of Americans: in government, the military, mainstream media, and the numerous think-tanks that dotted the intellectual and political landscape of Washington.

One could not help but reflect on the subject when, on January 6, thousands of Americans stormed the Washington Plaza, climbing the walls of Capitol Hill and taking over the US Congress. A country that has assigned itself the role of the defender of democracy worldwide, now stands unable to defend its own democracy at home.

 

In the case of Iraq, as soon as US soldiers stormed into Baghdad, they hurriedly occupied all government buildings and every symbol of Iraqi sovereignty. Triumphant soldiers were filmed rampaging through the offices of former Iraqi ministers, smoking their cigars, while placing their dirty boots on top of their desks. Bizarrely, similar scenes were repeated in Washington 1

7 years later, this time in the offices of top US legislators, including the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi.

In Iraq, from March 2003, ministers were hunted down, as their photos and names were circulated through what the US military referred to as Iraq’s ‘most wanted deck of cards’. In the American scenario, US Congressmen and women were forced to cower under their desks or to run for their lives.

The violent events in Washington have been depicted by US mainstream media as if a temporary crisis, instigated by a president who refuses to concede power peacefully and democratically. The truth, however, is far more complex. There is nothing transitory about any of this and, while Donald Trump is largely to blame for the bloody events of this day, the man is a symptom of America’s rooted democracy crisis, which is likely to worsen in the future.

Famed American linguist and historian, Noam Chomsky, has long argued that the US is not a democracy but a plutocracy, a country that is governed by the interests of the powerful few. He also argued that, while the US does operate based on formal democratic structures, these are largely dysfunctional. In an interview with Global Policy Journal in 2019, Chomsky further asserted that the “US Constitution was framed to thwart the democratic aspirations of most of the public.”

This has been evident for many years. Long before Trump became President, the dichotomy of American democracy has expressed itself in the way that the American people interact with their supposedly democratic institutions. For example, merely 20% of US adults trust their government, according to a Pew Research Center poll published last September. This number has remained relatively unchanged under previous administrations.

With the US economy rapidly sinking due to various factors, including the government’s mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the people’s distrust in government is now manifesting itself in new ways, including mass violence. The fact that 77% of those who voted for Trump in the November elections believe that Joe Biden’s win was due to fraud, suggests that a sizable percentage of Americans have little faith in their country’s democracy. The consequences of this realization will surely be dire.

America’s constitutional crisis, which is unlikely to be resolved in the current atmosphere of polarization, is compounded by an external political crisis. Historically, the US has defined and redefined its mission in the world based on lofty spiritual, moral and political maxims, starting with ‘Manifest Destiny’, to fighting communism, to eventually serving as the defender of human rights and democracy around the world. The latter was merely a pretense used to provide a moral cover that would allow the US to reorder the world for the sake of expanding its market and ensuring its economic dominance.

Thomas Paine, whose influence on US ideals of liberty and democracy is arguably unmatched, warned, in ‘Common Sense’ in 1776, against the potential tyranny of those who “attempt to govern mankind by force and fraud, as if they were all knaves and fools.”

Alas, Paine’s warning went unheeded. Indeed, the democracy ‘fraud’ that Rumsfeld, George W. Bush, et al carried out in Iraq in 2003, was a mere repetition of numerous other fraudulent military campaigns carried out around the world. The ‘protectors of democracy’ became the very men responsible for its undoing.

Unquestionably, the storming of US Congress will have global repercussions, not least among them the weakening of US hegemonic and self-serving definition of what constitutes a democracy. Is it possible that the US democracy doctrine could soon cease to be relevant in the lexicon of US foreign policy conduct, one that is predicated, per Paine’s logic, on “force and fraud”?

Feature photo | An Afghan boy watches Cpt. Chris Esrey of Havelock, North Carolina, with India, 3rd Battalion 5th Marines, First Marine Division, company, scan the area during a patrol in Sangin, south of Kabul, Afghanistan. Dusan Vranic | AP

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA) and also at the Afro-Middle East Center (AMEC). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net

The post By ‘Force and Fraud’: Is This the End of the US Democracy Doctrine? appeared first on MintPress News.

Archaeologists Find More Skulls in Aztec Tower in Mexico City.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 15/12/2020 - 10:49pm in

Yesterday’s I for the 14th December 2020 also carried the news that archaeologists had discovered even more skulls, which formed part of a tower built with the remains of the heads of victims sacrificed to the Aztec god Huitzilopochtli. The article on page 33, titled ‘Tower of skulls found at Aztec dig’, runs

Dozen more skulls have been found by archaeologists digging at an Aztec temple beneath the centre of Mexico City.

The 119 skulls made up part of a tower of heads of sacrificed humans kept as a trophy by the pre-Columbian civilisation. A five-year dig beneath old buildings near the city’s Templo Mayor ruins has so far revealed 603 skulls.

The latest are thought to be part of a skull rack from a temple dedicated to teh Aztec god of the sun, war and human sacrifice. Known as the Huey Tzompantli, it stood on the corner of the chapel of Huitzilophchtli, the patron of the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan. The Aztecs dominated large parts of central Mexico from the 14th to the 16th centuries.

Their empire was overthrown by invaders led by the Spanish conquistador, Hernan Cortes, who captured Tenochtitlan in 1521.

The piece included this photo showing the skulls encased in the tower’s walls.

The Aztecs were one of the world’s great civilisations, no question, and its destruction by the Conquistadors and the decimation of the Amerindian peoples by slavery and disease is one of the great crimes of western imperialism. But they were aggressive, warlike and cruel. They believed that the sun god, Tezcatlipochtl, depended on a constant supply of human blood to sustain him. Hence, while other peoples made treaties with their neighbours trying to make peace, the Aztecs did the opposite. They made a treaty with two of their neighbouring civilisations for perpetual war in order to supply the sacrificial victims their religion required. Their architecture reflected the bloodthirstiness of their religion. Some of their great buildings have carvings of the flayed skins of their enemies, which were hung on poles and worn by the priests. So horrific are some of their monuments, that when the British Museum held a special exhibition on them, ‘Empire of Blood’ a few years ago, the Independent’s arts journo, Philip Hensher, compared them to Auschwitz and said he wanted nothing to do with it. It sounds like an overreaction, but as I’ve hard it said that about 30,000 people a year were sacrificed in their temples, and that these deaths were celebrated in their architecture and sculpture, which Hensher also found unattractive, describing it as ‘blocky’, you can see his point. Some western archaeologists have also said that the destruction of their religion was no loss to humanity. I was reading a book on the archaeology of death around the world, and the author described the horrors of the Aztec sacrificial cult. He said very clearly that no matter how bad Christianity was, it was far better than the religion it replaced.

A Trlingual Dictionary of an Ancient Arabic Language

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 11/12/2020 - 11:35pm in

A.F.L. Beeston, M.A. Ghul, W.W. Muller, J. Ryckmans, Sabaic Dictionary (English-French-Arabic)/ Dictionnaire Sabeen (anglais-francaise-arabe) (Beyrouth: Lbrairie du Liban; Louvain-la-Neuve: Editions Peeters; University of Sanaa, Yemen, 1982).

Sabaic is the ancient Arabic language of Sheba, whose present, Arabic name is, I believe, Marib. It’s located in what is now Yemen, and its Queen famously visited King Solomon. Fabulously wealthy, it flourished in the 10th century BC on the profits of the spice and perfume trades, and conquered Abyssinia, now Ethiopia. The Ethiopian languages Amharic, Tigray and Tigrina are Semitic languages descended from the South Arabic language spoken by these ancient settlers.

The book’s the product of a Colloquium on Yemeni Civilisation, which requested the four authors to compile this dictionary. It appears to be of the terms found on inscriptions in the Yemen, and possibly one or two other places. It is just a dictionary, and doesn’t include any texts or inscriptions although it does give the alphabet in which they were written. I picked it up really as a curiosity in one of the secondhand bookstalls in Bristol through my interest in archaeology and the Ancient Near East. The book’s really of use only to archaeologists, linguists and historians working in Yemen, and it’s another language that I haven’t learned. Nevertheless it’s a reminder of just how ancient and advanced civilisation has been in the Middle East. I don’t know if there are any books specifically on the archaeology of Yemen, but I found a book a few years ago on the archaeology of Arabia, which I think contained a chapter or two on Yemen.

And these nations’ antiquities are seriously threatened by the region’s wars. When I was doing the doctorate at Bristol Uni, one of the speakers at an archaeological seminar said that much of the archaeological heritage of Syria had been trashed by the fighting. We’ve seen ISIS destroy precious mosques, churches and other shrines, as well as an ancient sculptures from the ancient Mesopotamian civilisations like Babylon and Akkad. It therefore wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Yemen’s archaeological heritage, including that of an Sheba, isn’t also seriously endangered and damaged by the current war between the Houthis and Saudi Arabia. And I am afraid that Iran’s similarly ancient and precious archaeological heritage won’t also suffer catastrophic losses if Trump and the Neocons have their way and launch an invasion of that country.

We need to stop these wars, because the cost in human lives and to the nations’ cultural heritage has been immense. Hundreds of thousands have been killed, millions forced to flee and priceless objects and monuments destroyed. And so our knowledge of the past is diminished.

But books like this help preserve and stimulate an interest in the preservation and exploration of these ancient treasures, if only among those few scholars able to read the ancient languages.