Random Thoughts

Modus Operandi of Empires

WW1 led to the defeat of the Ottoman Empire and its dismemberment by the triumphant British and French Empires to whom the League of Nations granted a mandate over present Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Kuwait, Palestine and Jordan. Both Britain and France wanted to control oil rich Kirkuk. This is why they took it away from Kemal Ataturk's Turkey. It is said that Gertrude Bell, a British woman Arabist and Churchill took up a napkin on their breakfast table and drew the current boundaries of Iraq. The Kurds were denied a hearing at the Paris Conference by the hypocrite US president Woodrow Wilson, who touted freedom and self-rule for all nationalities and major ethnic groups. Of course he meant for Europeans. Ho Chi Minh was refused a hearing for an independent Vietnam which remained a French colony and India was represented by two British administrators who affirmed the need for continuing its colonial status.

When the sons of the Sharif of Hijaz were installed as puppet kings in Jordan and Iraq, the British retained military and political control just as they had done with sundry Indian states of the Raj. They also carved out little independent states like Kuwait, Bahrain and the Gulf states of the United Arab Emirates. France partitioned the province of Syria into two states, Syria and the then predominantly Christian Lebanon to favor the Christians. Britain emasculated the newborn Iraq by cutting out Kuwait and giving Iraq a tiny outlet to the Gulf. By creating small states with relative poverty (oil was discovered later in UAE, Bahrain and Kuwait) and insecure rulers, the imperialists assured themselves of military bases and alliances. The rulers with restive minorities and fear of being engulfed by Iran, Iraq or Saudi Arabia first signed treaties of allegiance with Britain and France and subsequently with their successor hegemon, America. Currently America's shadow protects Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, UAE etc.

Similarly the collapsing British Empire of India was never meant to be a united country. The British raised their responsibility to the princely states and to the Hindu and Muslim subjects in the areas of direct control. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel managed to bring most princely states into the Indian Union and had to use the threat of force with the Nizam of Hyderabad and rescue from Pakistani Razakars for Jammu and Kashmir. The latter is still a bleeding wound for India. This cunning strategy of the British shattered the subcontinent into India and the two Pakistans. The foolishness of our leaders still plays the despicable communal game for captive vote banks as our current Prime Minister proves.

Another way retreating imperialists sow discord is by religious conversion by coercion or bribery. The Islamic conquest of India resulted in the first and the Christian conquest in the second. These seeds of discord are visible today in the Indian northeast and an even worse example is the secession of East Timor from Indonesia and its current slaughtering civil war and unrest. The purpose was to create a weak small state with oil resources which would need the protection of Australia. The first principle of imperialism is divide and rule and the last one is if you cannot rule, divide even more. Their second principle is set the parameters of debate. Thus in 1857 there was a mutiny in India, but in 1776 there was a war for independence in America. The Irgun of Palestine, the patriots of America and the Resistance to German occupation of France were freedom fighters but resistance in Algeria during French rule, in the Philippines during US occupation and the Viet Cong were terrorists.

Another method is to turn colonies into a source of cheap natural resources or labor and captive markets for expensive manufactured goods which are required for the existence of capitalism. When the British came to India and China it was to import and trade Indian textiles and Chinese silk and porcelain. There was no market for coarse British woolen garments in India. After the industrial revolution in Britain, it de-industrialized India and turned it into a captive market for British textiles. This is why Gandhi started 'Khadi' and burnt British garments. Indian opium was forcibly sold in China to pay for British imports of Chinese silk and porcelain. The hypocrisy of these shameful crooks now criticizing Afghanistan, Colombia or Mexico should not be lost. A similar irony is these western slave traders now spouting human rights while they still practice torture as Chile, Central America, Abu Ghraib, Bagram, Guantanomo and renditions to Poland, Romania, Greece, Egypt and Syria prove 'Sau sau chuhey khaa ke billi haj ko chali'.

It is easy and convenient for us to point fingers at others while forgetting our own faults. If there were no selfish collaborators like in the Nawabi of Arcot or Oudh, French Dupleix and British Clive would not have laid the roots in India. It was a weak Mughal Emperor of Delhi badly in need of revenues who gave the contract to the East India Company to collect taxes in Bengal. This is why the East India Company came to be called 'Company Sirkar'. It was the fight between two Irish Lords that led to asking for British assistance and the colonization of Ireland which still persists.

The neo-liberal neo-imperialist strategy is to use the WTO, IMF and World Bank to open up markets for so called free trade, especially for heavily subsidized EU and US agriculture products that lead to farmer bankruptcy and suicide in India, Mexico and Africa. There is a insistence on TRIPs (intellectual property) which allows advanced countries to patent the genome of Basmati rice and the Neem tree and to use their advanced technology, expertise and finance to takeover banking, insurance and securities trading by their multinationals.

Once again our own people, leaders and governments become collaborators for enrichment by personal bribes. The takeovers of farm land by the Communist West Bengal government and the Jharkhand and Orissa governments show how we sell our own citizens for the benefit of the rich corporations. It was the East and West African chiefs who sold their own people as slaves to the British, French, Portuguese and Arabs. Imperialists grab land by force, fraud or stealing as the European colonization of the Americas, Australia, New Zealand and Africa attest to. A new development is to transfer polluting manufacturing to poor countries with no or lax pollution laws and enforcement and with cheap labor and no unions, like Mexico and China. This why ships and computers with toxic components like Cadmium, lead and asbestos are shipped to Bangladesh, Alang in India or China. Some countries are accepting trash as developed countries run out of landfills.

Finally empires become purveyors of violence and genocide. Germany killed Jews and Gypsies (whose origin is India) by the millions. They did the same with Herreros in Southwest Africa. The Belgians did the same in the Congo. The British committed genocide in Tasmania, Australia, Canada and USA. The US killed hundreds of thousands of Filipinos, nearly four million Vietnamese, one million Indonesians when Sukarno was overthrown, two million Iraqis in two wars and sanctions in between, as well as innumerable American Indians and African slaves after independence. The Spanish committed mass murder and atrocities in Central and South America. The Portuguese did the same in Africa and Brazil. Empires often use surrogates to start wars as the US did between Iraq and Iran in which over a million died or were maimed in the 1980s. The misadventure in Iraq to capture cheap and reliable oil this time, may lead to a massive Shia Sunni conflict that will kill thousands more just as the two world wars between empires led to over fifty million deaths.    


More by :  Gaurang Bhatt, MD

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