Archive for the ‘Iraq’ Category

History Debunked Attacks NATO Warmongering

January 15, 2023

This is shocking! Far-right YouTuber Simon Webb of History Debunked put up a piece yesterday attacking NATO’s warmongering, from the bombing of a TV station in Serbia during the war in the former Yugoslavia to the Iraq invasion and the bombings of Libya and Syria. In his view, NATO is an aggressive force, and as two of the countries it attacked were allies of Russia, one of them being Syria, it is no wonder that Putin in his suspicious and hostile towards the west. He states, however, that he is certainly not a supporter of Putin either.

This is very much what left-wing critics of NATO have been saying, like the late, long-term critic of American imperialism, William Bloom and the Stop the War Coalition on this side of the Atlantic. I think Webb also may have been critical of the expansion of NATO until it’s on Putin’s doorstep. This may have been prompted by the Ukrainian president’s statement that his country is now effectively a member of NATO. But it wasn’t meant to be like this. The original agreement after the fall of communism was that NATO would not expand eastwards. Instead the newly independent states would remain militarily neutral, and their security would be guaranteed by both NATO and Russia. But NATO’s rapid expansion to include Poland and the Baltic States put an end to that and almost certainly provoked Russian fears of encirclement.

As for the Maidan Revolution in Ukraine that is one of the major causes of this fiasco through the overthrow of its former president, who favoured closer ties with Russia, this was definitely not a spontaneous public uprising. It was very carefully engineered by Hillary Clinton and Victoria Nuland at the American State Department and the National Endowment for Democracy, the quango set up by the American government to engineer regime change after it was taken away from the CIA. Conservative critics of the war in Ukraine have also made the point that their president is as much a dictator as Putin, jailing opponents, banning rival political parties and closing down critical TV stations. Some of this is self-serving – both the British Conservative party and the Republicans in America under Trump benefited from Russian support and donations, but it is still nevertheless true. Of course, Ukraine has the right to protect itself and Putin’s invasion of a sovereign and independent state is wrong. But this seems to be a war between ruthless oligarchs and international geopolitics, rather than a defence of an independent, genuinely democratic nation. And Webb, appallingly right-wing though he is, is right to criticise NATO for its belligerence. And what is even more surprising is that some of his commenters actually know that its due to NATO’s bombing of Syria and the Middle East that we now have the migrant crisis. So, no nutters ranting about Jewish conspiracies and the Great Replacement, although I think they also turn up in the comments section..

John Bird and John Fortune Skewer the Iraq Invasion: Yes, It Was All About Oil

January 10, 2023

The satirist and actor John Bird passed away just a week or so ago over Christmas. As well as appearing in the short-lived BBC comedy series Chambers and Absolute Power, he and John Fortune appeared on Bremner, Bird and Fortune on Channel 4 as ‘The Long Johns’, whose satirical dialogues expertly lampooned the rich and powerful. This had the same view Private Eye’s Ian Hislop stated on a radio 4 show some time ago, that satire should also have a serious intent and show what was really going on underneath the surface. It was incisive, witty stuff that revealed the reality behind the fine words uttered by politicians, businessmen and elite bankers to show the greed, double-standards and predatory exploitation underneath. Many of the dialogues had a simple formula. They took turns playing George Parr, who changed his profession to match the topic of the day. One week he could be a general, another an admiral, or a senior civil servant. Other characters included Washington diplomats and the dictator of an anonymous African country, who was happy to see his people mired in starvation and poverty so long as he could take the money from the Chinese building his nation’s infrastructure. The other John would play a journalist interviewing him. The questions would result in bizarre denials from the official, which would show the contradictions in the official’s story or decision and lead to them actually revealing the real reasons for the decision or policy in spite of themselves.

In this piece from 2007, posted on theDossier’s YouTube Channel, the two discuss the-then recent admission by Alan Greenspan, the head of the Federal Reserve in America, that it was embarrassing to have to admit it, but yes, the Iraq invasion really was all about oil. As everyone knew. The official denies that this was the case, pointing out that before the war Blair had passed a resolution stipulating that the oil reserves should stay in Iraqi hands. This was revoked a year later after the war, when Blair passed another resolution saying that the allies should have it for safekeeping or something. As a measure of generosity, the allies allowed the Iraqis to keep 17 oil wells out of a total of 80, and promised to give 20 per cent of the profits from their oil fields to the Iraqi government. Iraq nevertheless contains an extremely large proportion of the world’s oil, whose worth is in the trillions.

The former Guardian journo Greg Palast amply demonstrated in his book, Armed Madhouse, that the Iraq war was an attempt by the American and Saudi oil industries to seize the Iraqi oil fields and their wealth, as well as the Neo-Cons attempting to seize the country’s state industries for America and create the kind of low tax state founded on free trade they wished to see in America. The result was the absolute collapse of the Iraqi economy with soaring bankruptcies and unemployment. Not to mention the chaos and bloodshed caused by the war and the sectarian violence that followed it, and the unrestrained, murderous, Nazi criminality of the private military contractors – read: mercenaries – who were hired by the Americans as part of the peace-keeping forces.

This is political satire at it’s best, and some of the commenters on YouTube have compared Bird and Fortune with the superb BBC comedy, Yes, Minister, which is also still relevant even after all these decades. John Fortune died some years ago, and was much missed, as John Bird will be, for his part in these dialogues. You wonder what they’d have to say about Sunak and the present government. It, and it’s equally incompetent and corrupt predecessors, would have been excellent material for them to send up.

Simon Webb’s Speech to the Traditional Britain Group: A Critique

December 29, 2022

One of the great commenters on this blog asked me the other day if I’d watched Simon Webb’s speech to the Traditional Britain Group, which has been posted up on YouTube. Webb is the man behind History Debunked, in which he criticises, refutes and comments on various historical myths and distortions. Most of these are against Black history, as well as racial politics. Occasionally he also presents his opinions on gay and gender issues. Like other YouTubers and internet commenters, you need to use your own discretion when watching his material. Sometimes, when he cites his sources, he’s right. At other times he’s more probably wrong. As much of his material is against mass immigration, particularly Black and Asian, and he believes that there is a racial hierarchy when it comes to intelligence, there’s some discussion of the man’s political orientation. He’s definitely right-wing, reading the Torygraph and attacking Labour as ‘high spending’. But it’s a question of how right-wing. Some people have suggested he’s English Democrat or supports a similar extreme right fringe party.

The other day he gave a speech at the Traditional Britain Group, which is a particularly nasty set of rightists within the Conservative party. There was a scandal a few years ago, you’ll recall, when Jacob Rees-Mogg turned up at one of their dinners. Mogg claimed he didn’t know how far right they were, but was shown to be somewhat economical with the actualite when someone showed that he’d actually been warned against associating with them. They are fervently against non-White immigration and some of them have a dubious interest in the Nazis and the Third Reich. I’ve also been told that their members include real Nazis and eugenicists, which is all too credible. They also want to privatise the NHS. I found this out after finding myself looking at their message board a few years ago. They were talking about how they needed to privatise the health service, but it would have to be done gradually and covertly because at the moment the masses were too much in favour of it. Which has been Tory policy for decades.

Webb’s speech is about half and hour long, and takes in slavery, White English identity and how Blacks have taken ownership of the subject so that it’s now part of theirs, White guilt over it and the industrial revolution and how White Brits are being made to feel ashamed of imperialism. He also blamed Tony Blair for mass immigration and claimed that it was due to this that the health service was collapsing.

The British Empire

He started off by saying that when he was young, everyone believed that the British Empire was a good thing and that we had brought civilisation to Africa and other parts of the world. I don’t doubt this. He’s older than me, and so I can believe that the received view of the Empire in his time was largely positive. Even the Labour party broadly supported imperialism. Its official stance was that Britain held these countries in trust until they were mature enough for self-government. This has changed, and there is a general feeling, certainly on the left, that it’s something we should be ashamed of. But this has come from historians and activists discussing and revealing the negative aspects of colonialism, such as the genocide and displacement of indigenous peoples, enslavement, forced labour and massacres. The end of empires tend to be particularly bloody, as shown in the various nationalist wars that ended the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans and the French possession of Algeria. Britain fought similar bloody wars and committed atrocities to defend its empire, as shown in the massive overreaction in Kenya to the Mao Mao rebellion. Jeremy Black, in his history of the British Empire, also argues that support for the empire fell away from the 1970s onwards as British youth became far more interested in America. I think the automatic condemnation of British imperialism is wrong and one-sided. It’s also somewhat hypocritical, as the same people condemning the British Empire don’t condemn other brutal imperial regimes like the Ottomans. It’s also being used by various post-colonial regimes to shift attention and blame for their own failings. But all this doesn’t change the fact that some horrific things were done during the Empire, which politicians and historians have to deal with. Hence the shame, although in my view there should be a space for a middle position which condemns the atrocities and celebrates the positive.

Britain and Slavery

He then talks about how slavery is now identified solely with Black transatlantic servitude. But he argues that the White English can also claim slavery as part of their identity. He talks of the first mention of the English in Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People, when pope Gregory the Great saw some English children for sale in the slave market in Rome. Asking who such beautiful children were, he was told they were Angles. At which Gregory punned, ‘Non Anglii, sed angeli’ – ‘Not Angles but angels’. At the time of the Domesday Book 10 per cent of the English population were slaves. And the mob that tore down Colston’s statue in Bristol were unaware that the city had been exported English slaves over a millennium before. These were shipped to the Viking colonies in Ireland – Dublin, Wexford and other towns – from whence they were then trafficked internationally. Slavery existed long before Black transatlantic slavery. The first record we have of it is from 4000 years ago in the form of document from the Middle East recording the sale of slaves and pieces of land. While they weren’t aware of transatlantic slavery at school, they knew slavery existed through studying the Bible. The story of Joseph and his brothers, and the Israelites in Egypt. But slavery has now become identified exclusively with Black slavery and is part of the Black identity. It’s because we’re supposed to feel guilty about slavery and feel sorry for Blacks that Black people over overrepresented in adverts, on television dramas and even historical epics, such as the show about the Tudors where half the actors were Black.

Webb is right about slavery existing from ancient times. There are indeed documents from the ancient near eastern city of Mari in Mesopotamia recording the sale of slaves along with land and other property, as I’ve blogged about here. One of the problems the abolitionists faced was that slavery existed right across the world, and so their opponents argued that it was natural institution. They therefore also claimed that it was consequently unfair and disastrous for the government to abolish it in the British empire. He’s right about Pope Gregory and the English slaves, although the word ‘Angli’ refers to the Angles, one of the Germanic tribes that settled and colonised England with the Saxons and Jutes after the fall of the Roman Empire. Angles in Anglo-Saxon were Englas, hence Engla-land – England, land of the Angles, and Englisc, English. Bristol did indeed export English slave to Ireland. Archbishop Wulfstan preached against it in the 11th century. We were still doing so in 1140, when visiting clergy from France were warned against going for dinner aboard the Irish ships in the harbour. These would lure people aboard with such promises, then slip anchor and take them to Ireland. The Irish Vikings also imported Black slaves. One chronicle reports the appearance of a consignment of blamenn, blue or black men in Old Norse, in Dublin. David Olasuga has also claimed that they imported 200 Blacks into Cumbria. Bristol’s export of White English slaves is mentioned in a display about it in the city’s M Shed Museum, which also contains the statue of Edward Colston. I do agree with Webb that there is a problem with popular attitudes towards slavery. Its presentation is one-sided, so that I don’t think many people are aware of it and its horrors outside the British Empire, nor how White Europeans were also enslaved by the Muslim Barbary pirates. I very strongly believe that this needs to be corrected.

Black Overrepresentation on TV

I don’t think it’s guilt over slavery alone that’s responsible for the large number of Black actors being cast on television, particularly the adverts. I think this is probably also due to commercial marketing, the need to appeal to international audiences and attempts to integrate Blacks by providing images of multiracial Britain. Many adverts are made for an international audience, and I think the use of Blacks has become a sort of visual shorthand for showing that the company commissioning the advert is a nice, anti-racist organisation, keen to sell to people of different colours across the world without prejudice. At home, it’s part of the promotion of diversity. Blacks are, or are perceived, as acutely alienated and persecuted, and so in order to combat racism the media has been keen to include them and present positive images of Black life and achievement. There are organisations dedicated to this task, such as the Creative Diversity Network, as well as systems that grade companies according to how they invest in multicultural enterprises, such as television and programmes with suitably racially diverse casts. Webb has himself talked about this. He’s also stated that Blacks are disproportionately represented on television, constituting only 6 per cent of the population but a very large proportion of actors in TV programmes and adverts. This might simply be because other, larger ethnic groups, such as Asians, aren’t so concerned with entering the entertainment industry and so aren’t represent to the same extent. Hence, Blacks sort of stand in for people of colour as a whole. As for adverts, I’ve also wondered if some of this might be purely commercial – a concern to sale to an emergent, affluent, Black market, perhaps. It also struck me that it might also be a make work programme. As I understand it, there are too many drama graduates for too few roles. This is particularly going to hit Blacks and other ethnic minorities because Britain at the moment is still a White majority country. There have consequently been demands for colour blind casting, as in Armando Iannucci’s recent film version of Oliver Twist. A year or so ago one Black actor announced that there should be more roles for Blacks or else they would go to America. As for the casting of a Black woman as Anne Boleyn, this seems to follow the theatre, where colour blind casting has existed for years. I think it also follows the tacit demand to create an image of the British past that conforms to modern multicultural society rather than how it really was. And some of it, I think, just comes from the feeling that as modern Blacks are as British as their White compatriots, so they should not be excluded from appearing as historical characters who were White. I think these considerations are just as likely, or more likely, to be the causes of the disproportionate number of Blacks appearing on camera than simply pity for them as the victims of slavery.

Blair Not Responsible for Mass Immigration

Now we come to his assertion that Blair was responsible for mass immigration. When he made this declaration, there were shouts, including one of ‘traitor’. I don’t believe that Blair was responsible for it, at least, not in the sense he means. The belief that he was, which is now widespread on the anti-immigrant right, comes from a single civil servant. This official claimed that Blair did so in order to change the ethnic composition of Britain and undermine the Tories. But did he really? This comes from a single individual, and without further corroboration, you can’t be sure. In fact Blair seems to have tried to cut down on immigration, particularly that of non-Whites. In order to dissuade people from coming here, he stopped immigrants from being able to apply for welfare benefits. The food banks now catering to native Brits were originally set up to feed those immigrants, who were no longer eligible for state aid. I also recall David Blunkett stating that they were going to cut down on immigration. The Guardian also accused Blair of racism over immigration. He had cut down on non-White immigration from outside Europe, while allowing White immigration from the EU and its new members in eastern Europe. The right had also been concerned about rising Black and Asian immigration for decades, and in the 1980s Tory papers like the Depress were publishing articles about unassimilable ethnic minorities. This started before Blair, and I don’t think he was deliberately responsible for it.

But I believe he was responsible for it in the sense that many of the migrants come from the countries Blair, Bush, Obama and Sarco destroyed or helped to destroy in the Middle East, such as Libya, Iraq and Syria. Blair had made some kind of deal with Colonel Gaddafy to keep migrants from further south in Libya, rather than crossing the Mediterranean to Europe. This was destroyed when Gaddafy’s regime was overthrown by Islamists. The result has been the enslavement of Black African migrants, and renewed waves of refugees from North Africa fleeing the country’s collapse.

He also stated that the industrial revolution, which was something else that was traditionally a source of pride, is now considered a cause for shame instead. Britain had been its birthplace and given its innovations to the rest of the world. However, we are now expected to be ashamed of it through its connection to slavery. The cotton woven in the Lancashire mills came from the American slave south, while sugar came from the slave colonies of the Caribbean. We’re also supposed to be ashamed of it because it’s the cause of climate change, for which we should pay reparations.

The Industrial Revolution and Climate Change

Okay, I’ve come across the claim that the industrial revolution was financed by profits from the slave trade and that it was based on the processing of slave produced goods. However, this is slightly different from condemning the industrial revolution as a whole. You can lament the fact that slavery was a part of this industrialisation, while celebrating the immense social, technological and industrial progress itself. After all, Marx states in the Communist Manifesto that it has rescued western society from rural idiocy. The demand that Britain should feel ashamed about the industrial revolution because of climate change comes from Greta Thunberg. It is, in my view, monumentally stupid and actually shows an ignorance of history. It’s based on an idealisation of pre-technological societies and an idealisation of rural communities. It’s a product of European romanticism, mixed with contemporary fears for the future of the planet. But the agrarian past was no rural idyll. People in the agricultural societies before the urbanisation of the 19th century had very utilitarian attitudes to the environment. It was a source of resources that could be used and exploited. The nostalgia for an idealised rural past came with the new generation of urban dwellers, who missed what they and their parents had enjoyed in the countryside. And rural life could be extremely hard. If you read economic histories of the Middle Ages and early modern period, famine is an ever present threat. It still was in the 19th century. The Irish potato famine is the probably the best known example in Ireland and Britain, but there were other instances of poverty, destitution and starvation across the UK and Europe. Industrialisation has allowed a far greater concentration of people to live than would have been possible under subsistence agriculture. Yes, I’m aware that overpopulation is a problem, that industrial pollution is harming the environment and contributing to the alarming declining in animal and plant species. But technological and science hopefully offer solutions to these problems as well. And I really don’t want to go back to a subsistence economy in which communities can be devastated by crop failure.

The call for climate reparations, I think, comes from Ed Miliband, and in my view it shows how out of touch and naive he is. I have no problem the Developed World giving aid to some of those countries threatened by climate change, such as the Pacific islands which are threatened with flooding due to the rise in sea levels. But some countries, I believe, are perfectly capable of doing so without western help. One of these is China, which also contributes massively to carbon emissions and which I believe has also called for the payment of climate reparations. China is an emerging economic superpower, and I see no reason why the west should pay for something that it’s doing and has the ability to tackle. I am also very sceptical whether such monies would be used for the purposes they’re donated. Corruption is a massive problem in the Developing World, and various nations have run scams to part First World donors and aid agencies from their money. When I was at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum one of these was a scheme for a hydroelectric dam in Pakistan. The Pakistani government was calling for western aid to finance the project. Britain refused, sensing a scam, for which we were criticised. Other countries happily gave millions, but the dam was never built. All a fraud. I suspect if climate reparations were paid, something similar would also happen with the aid money disappearing into kleptocrats’ pockets. There’s also the problem of where the tax burden for the payment of these reparations would fall. It probably wouldn’t be the rich, who have enjoyed generous tax cuts, but the British working class through indirect taxes. In short, it seems to me to be a colossally naive idea.

But these ideas don’t seem to be widespread. When he announced them, there were shouts from the audience to which Webb responded that it was coming, and they should wait a few years. Perhaps it will, but I’ve seen no enthusiasm or even much mention of them so far. They were mentioned during the COP 27 meeting, and that’s it. Thunberg’s still around, but after all these years I think she’s somewhat passe. At the moment I don’t think these ideas are issues.

Mass Immigration Not the Cause of NHS Crisis

Now let’s examine his statement that it’s due to immigration that the NHS is in the state it’s in. This is, quite simply, wrong. He correctly states that while Britain’s population has grown – London’s has nearly doubled and Leicester’s grown by 30 per cent – there has been no similar provision of medical services. No new hospitals have been built. As a result, where once you could simply walk into your doctor’s and expect to be seen, now you have to book an appointment. And when it comes to hospitals, it’s all the fault of immigrants. He talks about a specific hospital in London, and how the last time he was in that area, he was the only White Brit in the queue. This was because immigrants don’t have GPs, and so go to the hospital for every problem. We also have the problem of sick and disabled people from the developing world coming to the country for the better services we offer. A woman from the Sudan with a special needs child will therefore come here so that her child can have the treatment it wouldn’t get in the Sudan.

I dare say some of this analysis is correct. Britain’s population has grown largely due to immigration. One statistic released by a right-wing group said that immigration was responsible for 80 per cent of population growth. It’s probably correct, as Chambers Cyclopedia stated in its 1987 edition that British birthrates were falling and that it was immigration that was behind the rise in the UK population. I don’t know London at all, and I dare say that many of the immigrants there may well not have had doctors. I can also quite believe that some immigrants do come here for our medical care. There was a case a few weeks ago of a Nigerian woman, who got on a flight to London specifically so that she could have her children in a British hospital. I think this was a case of simple health tourism, which has gone on for years, rather than immigration.

But this overlooks the fact that the problems of the NHS has been down to successive Thatcherite regimes cutting state medical care in Britain all under the pretext of making savings and not raising taxes. Thatcher closed hospital wards. So did Tony Blair, when he wasn’t launching his PFI initiative. This was supposed to build more hospitals, but led to older hospitals being closed and any new hospitals built were smaller, fewer and more expensive. Cameron started off campaigning against hospital closures, and then, once he got his backside in No. 10, carried on with exactly the same policy. Boris Johnson claimed that he was going to build forty hospitals, which was, like nearly everything else the obese buffoon uttered, a flat lie. And Tweezer, Truss and Sunak are doing the same. Doctors surgeries have also suffered. Many of them have been sold off to private chains, which have maximised profits by closing down those surgeries that aren’t profitable. The result is that people have been and are being left without doctors. If you want an explanation why the NHS is in the state it is, blame Thatcher and her heirs, not immigrants.

Conclusion

While Webb has a point about the social and political manipulation of historical issues like the slave trade and the British Empire, these aren’t the reasons for the greater appearance of Black actors and presenters on television. Blair wasn’t responsible for mass immigration, and it’s underfunding and privatisation, not immigration, that’s responsible for the deplorable state of the health service. But he’s speaking to the wrong people there anyway, as the TBG would like to privatise it.

I am not saying it is wrong to discuss these issues, but it is wrong to support a bunch of Nazis like the TBG, who will exploit them to recreate all the social inequality, poverty and deprivation of pre-modern Britain.

A Slavery Document from Nuzi of the Ancient Near East

September 23, 2022

I’ve got the impression that many of the people talking about the various issues connected with the British enslavement of Africans and its continuing legacy don’t actually realise that slavery existed long before the rise of Black transatlantic slavery in the European conquest and colonisation of the Americas. But the supporters of slavery were very much aware of it and used it as part of their polemic against the abolitionists. Slavery had existed in the ancient world, not just in ancient Rome, but also in Egypt, Persia and the other ancient civilisations. It also formed part of the social systems of present-day non-Western societies like the Ottoman Empire. This formed part of their argument that slavery was somehow natural, and that it was unfair for Britain to ban it when other nations and peoples all over the world still kept people in bondage.

As an example of just how ancient slavery was, there’s this document from ancient Nuzi, one of the city states of ancient Iraq. Twenty thousand clay tablets illustrating everyday life in the city c. 1500 BC were excavated by the University of Pennsylvania, the American Schools of Oriental Research, the Harvard Semitic Museum and the Iraq Museum from 1925-1931. This was when Nuzi was under the control of the Hurrians. The tablets themselves were written in Akkadian, the language of the Assyrian empire.

Tablet JEN 845 documents the sale of a female slave by Ziliya, Sukriya, Tehip-sarri, and Silahi, the sons of Silwa-Tesup to Hut-arraphe son of Tisam-musini in return for movable goods that they’ve received.

See Ernest R. Lachman and Maynard P. Maidman, Studies on the Civilization and Culture of Nuzi adn the Hurrians, vol *: Join Expedition with the Iraqi Museum of Nuzi VII, Miscellaneous Texts (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns 1989) 40, 268. This needs to be taken into account in any discussion of western slavery to counter the tendency to present it as something that only Whites did to Blacks. It also needs to be included in order to gain a proper appreciation of the difficulties the abolitionists had combating a system that was both global and ancient.

Why Did British Public Opinion Turn Against the Empire?

August 10, 2022

The British empire and its history is once again the topic of intense controversy with claims that its responsible for racism, the continuing poverty and lack of development of Commonwealth nations and calls for the decolonisation of British museums and the educational curriculum. On the internet news page just this morning is a report that Tom Daley has claimed that homophobia is a legacy of the British empire. He has a point, as when the British government was reforming the Jamaican legal code in the late 19th century, one of the clauses they inserted criminalised homosexuality.,

In fact this is just the latest wave of controversy and debate over the empire and its legacy. There were similar debates in the ’90s and in the early years of this century. And the right regularly laments popular hostility to British imperialism. For right-wing commenters like Niall Ferguson and the Black American Conservative economist Thomas Sowell, British imperialism also had positive benefits in spreading democracy, property rights, properly administered law and modern technology and industrial organisation around the world. These are fair points, and it must be said that neither of these two writers ignore the fact that terrible atrocities were committed under British imperialism either. Sowell states that the enforced labour imposed on indigenous Africans was bitterly resented and that casualties among African porters could be extremely high.

But I got the impression that at the level of the Heil, there’s a nostalgia for the empire as something deeply integral to British identity and that hostility or indifference to it counts as a serious lack of patriotism.

But what did turn popular British opinion against the empire, after generations when official attitudes, education and the popular media held it up as something of which Britons should be immensely proud, as extolled in music hall songs, holidays like Empire Day and books like The Baby Patriot’s ABC, looked through a few years ago by one of the Dimblebys on a history programme a few years ago.

T.O. Lloyd in his academic history book, Empire to Welfare State, connects it to a general feeling of self hatred in the early 1970s, directed not just against the empire, but also against businessmen and politicians:

”Further to the left, opinion was even less tolerant; when Heath in 1973 referred to some exploits of adroit businessmen in avoiding tax as ‘the unacceptable face of capitalism’, the phase was taken up and repeated as though he had intended it to apply to the whole of capitalism, which was certainly not what he meant.

‘Perhaps it was surprising that his remark attracted so much attention, for it was not a period in which politicians received much respect. Allowing for the demands of caricature, a good deal of the public mood was caught by the cartoons of Gerald Scarfe, who drew in a style of brilliant distortion which made it impossible to speak well of anyone. The hatred of all men holding authority that was to be seen in his work enabled him to hold up a mirror to his times, and the current of self hatred that ran so close to the surface also matched an important part of his readers’ feelings. Politicians were blamed for not bringing peace, prosperity, and happiness, even though they probably had at this time less power – because of the weakness of the British economy and the relative decline in Britain’s international position – to bring peace and prosperity than they had had earlier in the century; blaming them for this did no good, and made people happier only in the shortest of short runs.

‘A civil was in Nigeria illustrated a good many features of British life, including a hostility to the British Empire which might have made sense while the struggle for colonial freedom was going on but, after decolonization had taken place so quickly and so amicably, felt rather as though people needed something to hate.’ (pp. 420-1).

The Conservative academic historian, Jeremy Black, laments that the positive aspects of British imperialism has been lost in his book The British Empire: A History and a Debate (Farnham: Ashgate 2015):

‘Thus, the multi-faceted nature of the British imperial past and its impact has been largely lost. This was a multi-faceted nature that contributed to the pluralistic character of the empire. Instead, a politics of rejection ensures that the imperial past serves for themes and images as part of an empowerment through real, remembered, or, sometimes, constructed grievance. This approach provides not only the recovery of terrible episodes, but also ready reflexes of anger and newsworthy copy, as with the harsh treatment of rebels, rebel sympathisers , and innocent bystanders in the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya, an issue that took on new energy as demands for compensation were fuelled by revelations of harsh British policy from 2011’. (p. 235).

He also states that there’s a feeling in Britain that the empire, and now the Commonwealth, are largely irrelevant:

‘Similarly, there has been a significant change in tone and content in the discussion of the imperial past in Britain. A sense of irrelevance was captured in the Al Stewart song ‘On the Border’ (1976).

‘On my wall the colours of the map are running

From Africa the winds they talk of changes of coming

In the islands where I grew up

Noting seems the same

It’s just the patterns that remain

An empty shell.’

For most of the public, the Commonwealth has followed the empire into irrelevance. the patriotic glow that accompanied and followed the Falklands War in 1982, a war fought to regain a part of the empire inhabited by settlers of British descent, was essentially nationalistic, not imperial. This glow was not matched for the most recent, and very different, conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. These have led to a marked disinclination for further expeditionary warfare’. (pp. 421-2).

In fact the whole of the last chapter of Black’s book is about changing attitudes to the empire and the imperial past, which Black feels has been distorted. The British empire is seen through the lens of atrocities, although its rule was less harsh than the Germans or Italians. In India the view is coloured by the Amritsar massacre and ignores the long periods of peace imposed by British rule in India. He also notes that the cultural and international dominance of America has also affected British ideas of exceptionalism, distinctiveness and pride, and that interest in America has superseded interest in the other countries of the former empire.

Attitudes to the empire have also changed as Britain has become more multicultural., and states that ‘increasingly multicultural Britain sees myriad tensions and alliance in which place, ethnicity, religion, class and other factors both class and coexist. This is not an easy background for a positive depiction of the imperial past’ (p. 239). He also mentions the Parekh Report of the Commission on the Future Multi-Ethnic Britain, which ‘pressed for a sense of heritage adapted to the views of recent immigrants. This aspect of the report’ he writes, ‘very much attracted comment. At times, the consequences were somewhat fanciful and there was disproportionate emphasis both on a multi-ethnic legacy and on a positive account of it’. (p. 239). Hence the concern to rename monuments and streets connected with the imperial past, as well as making museums and other parts of the heritage sector more accessible to Black and Asians visitors and representative of their experience.

I wonder how far this lack of interest in the Commonwealth goes, at least in the immediate present following the Commonwealth games. There’s talk on the Beeb and elsewhere that it has inspired a new interest and optimism about it. And my guess is that much of popular hostility to the empire probably comes from the sympathy from parts of the British public for the various independence movements and horror at the brutality with which the government attempted to suppress some of them,, like the Mau Mau in Kenya. But it also seems to me that a powerful influence has also been the psychological link between its dissolution and general British decline, and its replacement in British popular consciousness by America. And Black and Asian immigration has also played a role. I’ve a very strong impression that some anti-imperial sentiment comes from the battles against real racism in the 1970s and 1980s. One of the Fascist organisations that founded the National Front in the 1960s was the League of Empire Loyalists.

This popular critique on British imperialism was a part of the ‘Nemesis the Warlock’ strip in 2000AD. This was about a future in which Earth had become the centre of a brutally racist, genocidal galactic empire ruled by a quasi-religious order, the Terminators. They, and their leader, Torquemada, were based on the writer’s own experience as a pupil of an abusive teacher at a Roman Catholic school. The Terminators wore armour, and the title of their leader, grand master, recalls the crusading orders like the Knights Templars in the Middle Ages. One of the stories mentions a book, published by the Terminators to justify their cleansing of the galaxy’s aliens, Our Empire Story. Which is the title of a real book that glamorised the British empire. Elsewhere the strip described Torquemada as ‘the supreme Fascist’ and there were explicit comparisons and links between him, Hitler, extreme right-wing Tory politicos like Enoch Powell, and US generals responsible for the atrocities against the Amerindians. It’s a good question whether strips like ‘Nemesis’ shape public opinion or simply follow it. I think they may well do a bit of both.

But it seems to me that, rather than being a recent phenomenon, a popular hostility to the British empire has been around since the 1970s and that recent, radical attacks on imperial history and its legacy are in many cases simply an extension of this, rather than anything completely new.

Stop the War Coalition Newsletter on NATO in Afghanistan and Trade Union Organising against the War in Ukraine

August 5, 2022

Just now I got the latest email newsletter from the Stop the War Coalition, notifying its readers of the organisation’s forthcoming events. One will be an evening with veteran civil rights campaigner, author and broadcaster Tariq Ali about the consequences of forty years of war in Afghanistan, including NATO’s occupation of the country. They are also organising a conference for trades unionists next year and encouraging members of the unions to affiliate their unions and their local branches to them. And, of course, they also appeal for people to join them. The email runs

NATO’s Legacy in Afghanistan

Afghanistan has been abandoned by the international community following the events of 2021 when the 20-year NATO occupation of Afghanistan came to an end.

It seems the only thing the West now has to offer Afghanistan is extrajudicial killings. After the appalling Panorama revelations of a ‘campaign of terror’ by British special forces during the occupation comes the assassination of Ayman al Zawahiri. Quite simply, such attacks are war crimes and do nothing to “make us safer” as Joe Biden stated this week.

With the Taliban back in power and stronger than it was in 2001, NATO’s occupation has been an outright failure. From the lies of installing democracy to improving quality of life to liberating women, the War on Terror did nothing but cause death and destruction.

The country is home to one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, as 90% of the population live below the poverty line. The country’s economy is at a standstill as sanctions cripple the nation.

One year on from the end of the occupation, join us for an evening with Tariq Ali – writer, film-maker and author of The Forty Year War in Afghanistan: A Chronicle Foretold – as he takes a look at the current state of the country and the myths surrounding the Western occupation.

Register Here – Free & Open to All!

The World at War: A Trade Union Issue
Stop the War Trade Union Conference 2023

We have called our first ever trade union conference because we believe that it is always working people who are the first victims of war and that the record sums being spent on arms and the military should be redirected to public services, to the NHS, social care and our crumbling schools. We believe that the slogan ‘cut warfare not welfare’ should be taken up by the whole of the trade union movement.

The conference is open to all trade unionists. We urge you to register but also to spread the word in your branches and trades councils.

We have called our first ever trade union conference because we believe that it is always working people who are the first victims of war and that the record sums being spent on arms and the military should be redirected to public services, to the NHS, social care and our crumbling schools. We believe that the slogan ‘cut warfare not welfare’ should be taken up by the whole of the trade union movement.

Register Now

head of the conference, we’re asking all trade unionists who support Stop the War to affiliate to us. By affiliating your branch or region you can ensure that our movement will continue to campaign against the British government’s war policies. We receive no grants from governments or financial backing from commercial backers.

It is only because of individuals and organisations like yours that we are able to continue to build the anti-war movement so that future generations may live in a more peaceful world.

Affiliate to Stop the War Today

Be Part of a Growing Movement Against War

This week our Vice President and founder member Jeremy Corbyn has once again come under fire for standing up for peace. He said in relation to the war in Ukraine that…

“Pouring arms in isn’t going to bring about a solution, it’s only going to prolong and exaggerate this war…This war is disastrous for the people of Ukraine, for the people of Russia, and for the safety and security of the whole world, and therefore there has to be much more effort put into peace.”

He’s right. And we must further his call for peace and negotiation.

One small way to help us intensify our campaign against the warmongers is by becoming a member.

As a small incentive for doing so, we are offering a special discount for members on our merchandise. You also get a free ‘Drop Beats Not Bombs’ tote bag when you join.

We do understand that these are difficult times and we are only asking you to support us if you can. Membership costs as little as £2. We hope you will consider joining.

Become a Stop the War Member Today

Ali’s interesting. Apparently the Stones’ ‘Street Fighting Man’, written during the wave of sixties radicalism, is all about him. I read in one of the papers that apparently when he was a little boy, he had an aunt knit him a jumper with Stalin’s head on. This was presumably before people knew what a monster Stalin was, when his sycophants were falling over themselves to declare him the grreat saviour of the international working class and progressive humanity. He had his own Black interest programme on satellite or cable television, or at least he did. And a few decades ago he published an anthology of classic texts from the golden age of Islam to show to young Muslims how enlightened and tolerant Islam had been, as against the intolerance and bigotry of the Islamists. He’s very careful about history. On one of his shows, he pointed out that during the period of racist lynchings in America, more Italians were murdered in Louisiana than Blacks. This surprised me, because I thought it was only Blacks who were being murdered by these mobs. But I’ve no doubt that it’s true.

Afghanistan is, like Iraq, a country where the real reason for the invasion has nothing to do with combatting terrorism or installing democracy. It was about oil. The American oil industry and Republican administration was negotiating for an oil pipeline with the Taliban. When the Taliban stalled, the policymakers took the decision to hold back until there was some kind of crisis which they could use. This would provide a pretext to invade the country and build the pipeline anyway, without the Taliban’s consent. This came with 9/11 and the al-Qaeda attack.

Arise Event Tonight on How We Can Achieve a Peaceful Future

July 17, 2022

I got this notice of an online event tonight on obtaining peace, put on as part of the Arise Festival of left-wing ideas

Push for Peace – no to an era of permanent war

Premiering online, Sunday July 17, 19.00.Register here // Retweet here // Get ticket for the whole festival here.

With: Kate Hudson (CND), Shadia Edwards-Dashti (Stop the War Coalition) & Andrew Murray (author, ‘Fall & rise of the British Left.’)

A discussion on building a peaceful future. Premiering on the Arise YouTube & Facebook channels.

Part of the “Sunday premieres” series as part of Arise 2022 – A Festival of Left Ideas.

If only there were some successful strategy for gaining a just and lasting peace around the world, as it really does seem we have entered the era of ‘forever wars’ with the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, the various military interventions in Libya, Syria and elsewhere, the various wars in Africa and now the war in Ukraine.

Blairites Clearly Worried that Strikes May Be Popular

July 1, 2022

Bravo to the RMT’s Mike Lynch, who’s been humiliating various journos on the right-wing news programmes by ably answering some of their stupid and very leading questions. Momentum put up a three minute video the other day of him being interviewed by Kaye Burleigh on Sky News.
She asked him what he was doing picketing. He casually turned part way round to indicate the picket line behind her, telling her that they were there and would try to persuade workers not to cross it. But what if they tried? asked Burleigh. Then we’d try to persuade them not to, replied Lynch. At which point she got a bit huffy. The miners’ strike was mentioned, with Lynch wondering if she was old enough to remember it. She said huffily that she was, and she knew what picketing was. She was clearly desperate to get him to say something incriminating, like violence might happen, but Lynch would not be baited. And he’s been causing panic with his calm, reasoned answered right across the news programmes. I went to a left-Labour Zoom meeting on Wednesday. It was a conversation between the mighty Richard Burgon and Jess Barnard, the awesome head of Young Labour. During their conversation they said that public support for the train workers – not just the drivers, but also the signalmen and the people who work to maintain it all – had gone up. Several Labour MPs have even defied Starmer to express their support and solidarity with the union and its strike.

This has clearly put the wind not just up Starmer, but up the Blairites as a whole. And as Corporal Jones used to say in Dad’s Army, ‘they do not like it up ’em. They do not!’ For some reason I’ve had a short, 1 1/2 minute video from New Labour appear on my mobile this afternoon of Tony Blair telling anyone who’ll listen why we shouldn’t support public sector strikes.

Rubbish! As Burgon and Barnard said, Labour was founded by the unions to defend union rights. And that also means public sector unions. I see absolutely no reason why anyone, who wishes to remain true to the party and its great traditions, should listen to either Starmer or Blair. When Blair took over the Labour party, he threatened to cut its ties with the unions if he didn’t get his way on reducing their voting powers in the party. This would effectively have torn the heart out of the party as a genuinely working class organisation. The subtitle for this wretched video described Blair as Prime Minister from 1997 to 2007. So he was, during which time the number of people voting Labour actually went down along with the party’s membership. The number of people voting for Blair was actually less than those voting for Jez Corbyn. Blair only won because the Tories were even worse.

Why did the Labour vote and membership decline? That’s not a difficult question! It might have something to do with Blair carrying on Thatcher’s programme of privatisation, including that of the NHS, the further destruction of the welfare state and lying about Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction which he could launch within forty minutes to take us into an illegal war. A war which wrecked a country and destabilised the entire Middle East, leaving it vulnerable to the horrible predations of ISIS. Hussein was a monster, but by the time he invaded he was not a threat to the other countries and something of a joke in the Arab world. He was certainly no threat to Britain. We sent our brave lads and lasses into Iraq not to defend Blighty, not to give the Iraqis democracy, but simply so that the oil companies and multinationals could steal Iraq’s oil and its state industries.

Blair’s a war criminal who should have been put on trial at the Hague alongside other monsters like Slobodan Milosevic. But somehow New Labour, now looking very shabby and shop-soiled, expect us to hang on his words like an elder statesman, like some latter day Pericles or Solon, but from Islington rather than Athens.

Bilge! Blair should shut up and keep silent. He had his time and it was over 15 years ago. As for Starmer, he’s a disgrace. They’re probably arguing that supporting public sector strikes will make the party unpopular. But I think they’re really scared that the RMT strike is proving all too popular, and that other unions are joining in to demand better wages for their workers.

And hooray for them, and yay for Mike Lynch!

Here’s the video Momentum put up of Lynch very capably rebutting Kaye Burleigh’s questions.

Stop the War Coalition on their Protests Planned for this Saturday

June 21, 2022

I got this email from the Stop the War Coalition about a number of protests they’ve organised for this Saturday, 25th June 2022.

We have groups up and down the country – from Glasgow to Southampton – organising for the International Day of Action this Saturday. 

In London we are holding a protest outside the Ministry of Defence.

We will be there from 2:00-4:00 pm. Do get along if you can.

We have a great line-up of speakers including: Mohammad Asif, Director of Afghan Human Rights Foundation; Alex Gordon, President of RMT; Lindsey German, Convenor StW; Roger McKenzie, Liberation general secretary; Kate Hudson, CND general secretary; George Solomou, former British soldier who resigned over the Iraq War; and musician Sean Taylor.

The war in Ukraine is ongoing and on the brink of escalation. It is fast developing into a proxy war between Russia and NATO and it is the Ukrainian people who are suffering the consequences.

Rather than sending extra missiles to Ukraine, the British government should be urging for a ceasefire and getting both sides around the negotiating table in peace talks. From the beginning of the war we demanded that Russian troops withdraw from Ukraine and that the British government stop fuelling the conflict.

Join the Protest

There are protests organised in DorsetLondonManchester, Sheffield, BrightonGlasgowSouthampton and Cardiff plus other events in NottinghamYork,  Hull and Shrewsbury.

If you’ve got a protest or event organised let us know

I’m Organising An Event on 25 June

I strongly support Ukraine’s right to exist as a free, independent sovereign state and utterly condemn Putin”s invasion. As for Putin, he’s a monster. Since he came to power Putin has demonstrated over and over again that he’s an authoritarian butcher with nothing but contempt for democracy and the rule of law. He’s done everything he can to all but outlaw public protest, has banned those parties that look like beating him in elections, and the journalists that dare to criticise him have had visits from his thugs to show them the error of their ways. And twenty years later, the murder of the Russian dissident Politovskaya, who was a very trenchant critic of the arkhiplut, still looks very suspicious. He started a murderous war in Chechnya at the beginning of this century, which included horrific massacres of the civilian population, such as in the city of Grozny. And his wretched long arm has stretch out over here to assassinate his critics and foes who’ve taken refuge in our great nation.

But Stop the War’s analysis of the situation is right. There is a profound danger of the war escalating. We had a general only the other day telling us that British troops should be prepared to fight in Europe. This is terrifying. I think the Coalition are correct in saying that NATO should not have expanded up to the Russian border, so that the Russians felt threatened. This was the original agreement signed after the Fall of Communism and the end of the Cold War. But it was violated and as a consequence this terrible, evil war has broken out.

We desperately need peace, and far more jaw-jaw not war-war. As John Lennon said, ‘Give peace a chance’.

White British Woman Harassed for Wanting to See Movie about Mohammed’s Daughter Fatima

June 14, 2022

Rafida+ is a Muslim YouTuber, and I would guess, a Shia, who’s staunchly behind the British movie Lady of Heaven. This is about the life of Mohammed’s daughter, Fatima, as told to a young girl fleeing from the horrors of ISIS’ regime in Iraq. It was written by Sheikh Habib, a respected Shia cleric, and its executive produce, Malik Shlibak, is also Muslim. Nevertheless, Cineworld were forced to withdraw it from cinemas last week following protests in Bradford, Birmingham and other cities. The protesters ranted that it was blasphemous and causing sectarian hatred. The real issue, it appears, is that it presents the story from the point of view of the Shia. Fatima was married to Ali, who is revered by the Shia as the first Imam and the true leader of the Muslim community after the Prophet’s death. One of the most important works of Shia Muslim theology and jurisprudence it the Kitab al-Irshad, or Book of Guidance. This includes the legal decisions made by Ali. Cineworld pulled the movie because they felt they could not protect their employees. This is the underlying threat presented by such protesters. The teacher at a school in Batley,, who was at the centre of protests after he showed his class the Charlie Hebdo cartoons in a lesson about free speech, is still in hiding. And in Britain these protests can be traced back to the campaign against Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses in the 1980s. This was accompanied by cynical, opportunistic fatwa demanding Rushdie’s murder by the Ayatollah Khomeini. As a result, the author was forced into hiding for years.

Rafida+’s video presents the opposite case for the showing of the film. In it, a White British woman explains that she wants to see the movie because she works for the oil company, Saudi-Aramco. As a result, she’s been around Muslims, knows something about the religion, and would like to know more. A security guard at the mall or wherever then walks over to her to rant about how it’s blasphemous, ‘there isn’t an inch of truth in it’, and that it shouldn’t be shown. He keeps walking away and coming back. You can see in the background women dressed in the all-enveloping chador, and there are women’s voices off camera reassuring her that she’s right and the security guard most definitely isn’t and should mind his own business. I’m sure that these are Shia women, who also want to see the movie, and who appreciate the White woman’s interest in their religion.

Normally I’m very much in favour of people’s right to protest, but this right ends when there’s a threat to people’s lives. The protesters have a right to voice their opposition to the movie, but not to the extent that the cinema manager and chain feel their lives and those of their employees are at risk. And just as they have a right to protest, so others have the right to see the movie. If the protesters want to show their opposition to the movie, they are free to make their own movie presenting their point of view, just as they are free to produce books, pamphlets and video material doing the same. This is free speech.

What they should not be doing is demanding the suppression of a film that contradicts and challenges their views with masked and tacit threats.

In doing so, they are the ones trying to stop people learning more about Islam and communities coming together through the movie.