The Cocos (Keeling) Islands is a tiny group of coral atolls in the Indian Ocean 2800 kilometres north-west of Perth and 900 kilometres from Java. It has a population of about 600.
These islands were nominally a British territory between 1858 and 1955, when they were transferred by a British act of parliament to Australia. Yet for the next 17 years, the Australian government allowed the islands to operate as a private fiefdom of the Clunies-Ross family — just as the British had for 100 years before then.
The islands were uninhabited until 1826, when Alexander Hare, a former minor British colonial official, set up an establishment with about 50 slaves, mainly of Malay background, and a personal “harem” he had collected from many colonial outposts.
Hare was displaced a year later by his former business partner, John Clunies-Ross, a Scottish ship captain whose descendants enriched themselves on the labour of the Malay plantation workforce, who they paid with tokens that could be spent on only the company store.
The Malay islanders had no access to formal education, but the Clunies-Ross children were sent to private schools in Britain. The head of the Clunies-Ross family was the island’s lawmaker, judge and administrator. Anyone who did not accept his rule was banished.
So it is no surprise that, when the Cocos Islanders were finally given the choice between independence, free association and integration with Australia in 1984, they overwhelmingly voted in secret ballot for integration. Only members of the Clunies-Ross family and a couple of loyal servants were in favour of “independence”.
But the Australian government did not offer the islanders their liberation from semi-feudalism just out of respect for freedom.
Kenneth Chan, the Australian administrator on the Cocos Islands from 1983-85 admitted in a largely unnoticed academic paper he wrote in 1987 that the islands’ strategic location was the main motivation to acquire and integrate this Indian Ocean territory.
The islands were used as a military base by the British in World Wars I and II. Now, the US military wants the islands as a base for drones and other spy planes. Pentagon officials hope Australia will make up for a possible closure or downgrading of its main Indian Ocean island military base in Diego Garcia, which the US leased from Britain in 1966.
The US built its giant base on Diego Garcia in the 1970s after the 2000 Chagos Islanders were forcibly removed through trickery and starvation, a colonial crime exposed to the world relatively recently.
The US has used Diego Garcia as a base for nuclear weapons, marines, warships, bombers and spy planes. It has used it as a transit station for political prisoners sent for “rendition” to other countries so they can be tortured, though this is officially denied. Diego Garcia is a strategic hub of the US killing machine.
But the US lease runs out in 2016 and the Pentagon wants to relocate at least some of the military functions of the base to various Australian bases in Western Australia, Darwin and the Cocos Islands.
The Gillard Labor government and the Liberal-National opposition wholeheartedly support this process and have already agreed to station thousands of US marines in Darwin.
- Australia may allow US spy flights to Asia from remote island territory (scotsman.com)
- US drones to be based on Australian territory..for “humanitarian events”.. (seeker401.wordpress.com)
- UK annihilates records of colonial crimes (alethonews.wordpress.com)
NEW YORK, (SANA) – The UN security council on Saturday unanimously adopted a resolution on deploying 300 unarmed observers in Syria on preliminary basis for three months to monitor the ceasefire.
The resolution calls on the Syrian government to support the observers mission by helping deploy its members and provide transport for them without hindrances, calling upon the UN and Syria to reach an agreement on providing the planes needed by the mission.
The resolution also called on all sides in Syria to guarantee the safety of the mission members, stressing that the primary responsibility regarding the observers’ safety falls upon the government.
The Russian resolution stipulates that the deployment of the observer mission will be evaluated by the UN Secretary General based on relevant developments on the ground, including the cessation of violence.
The resolution called upon all sides in Syria to cease violence, saying that the cessation which has been achieved so far is clearly imperfect.
Al-Jaafari: Syria Showed Full Cooperation and Commitment to Annan’s Plan
In a speech during the Council session, Syria’s Permanent Representative to the UN Dr. Bashar al-Jaafari said that some of the statements made during this session called upon Syria to implement the Council’s resolution while those who made the statements themselves are moving away from it.
He said that he met with the UN Secretary General and senior aides on Saturday and appealed to him to exert good offices and be more involved in the efforts to guarantee applying the desired political and national solution to resolve the crisis, adding “this is a good opportunity to appeal to you all and address to you the same appeal which I addressed to the Secretary General.”
Al-Jaafari said that the Syrian government was open to any honest and neutral initiatives and efforts since the beginning of the crisis to help emerge from it while preserving Syria’s sovereignty, independent national decision, security and stability, with Syria showing great cooperation and commitment to Annan’s efforts.
He affirmed that Syria implemented its part of Annan’s plan and is still committed to this, and that it’s updating Annan on regular daily basis with written reports on steps taken in this regard, which includes releasing detainees who did not shed blood, delivering humanitarian aid to affected areas in cooperation with OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs), and allowing over 600 media outlets to enter Syria.
Al-Jaafari said that the Syrian government on Sunday informed Annan that it carried out the second article of his plan completely, saying that police and law-enforcement forces will be charged with keeping peace and order and will show the utmost self-restraint while remaining ready to confront armed terrorist groups should they continue to breach the cessation of violence, while the Syrian Arab Army will remain prepared to defend Syria from any attack and secure strategic sites.
He noted that sending neutral observers was originally a Syrian demand based on self-confidence and a position of strength, and that the reason behind such a demand is to inform the world public opinion of the terrorists’ crimes away from media and political misdirection, noting that this happened with the Arab League observers who presented an objective report documenting the crimes of terrorists, which prompted Qatar and Saudi Arabia to withdraw their observers, suspend the entire mission, and ignore their report completely.
Al-Jaafari added that Syria renewed cooperation and openness by signing the preliminary agreement organizing the operations of UN observers in Syria, and that the Syrian government is ready to sign the protocol organizing the deployment of observers when the UN is ready, stressing that Syria has a true interest in ensuring the success of the observer mission, with emphasis on the need for the observers to be objective, neutral and profession.
“Some sides responded on this clear commitment by the Syrian government by carrying out a hysterical campaign of doubt that unveiled ill intentions on their parts on principle regarding Syria, accentuating their strong frustration over the signs of returning stability and calm to Syria,” he said.
He went on to note that terrorists answered the Syrian government’s commitment to Annan’s plan with a long series of violations, with them intensifying their terrorism and attacks against civilians, law-enforcement forces and public and private facilities, saying that the Syrian government provided Annan, Ki-moon and the Security Council with detailed information on the violations made by armed groups after the beginning of the ceasefire on April 12th, adding that the violations number over 593 as of Saturday.
Al-Jaafari voiced Syria’s deep concern over the continuing of the suspicious disregard of terrorist activities which were accompanied by a methodical media and political misdirection campaign aiming to demonize the Syrian authorities and army by blaming the terrorists’ crimes on the Syrian state and manipulate public opinion by twisting facts and employing a total media blackout regarding the terrorists’ crimes.
“All these practices aim at foiling Annan’s mission and ascribing the responsibility of this failure to the Syrian government in order to reach military action under humanitarian excuses, similarly to the lies that led to the destruction of Libya’s infrastructure and the death of 150,000 Libyan civilians at the hands of NATO with Qatar’s participation,” he said.
Syria’s Representative stressed the need for Annan and the Security Council to deal with the Syrian crisis comprehensively by exerting efforts to ensure that armed groups and those supporting them are committed to the cessation of violence in order for this cessation to be sustainable, reiterating that Syria’s support alone isn’t enough to ensure the success of Annan’s efforts, as Arab, regional and international sides must commit in words and actions to stopping the funding, arming, training and encouragement of armed groups, as well as stopping their instigation of the Syrian opposition to reject dialogue.
“Some who predict the failure of Annan’s plan are doing their best to fulfill this ominous prediction… the best example of this is the statements of the Emir of Qatar in Rome only two days after the Security Council adopted resolution no. 2042 when he said that the chances of Annan’s plan to succeed don’t exceed 3%,” al-Jaafari said, adding that some countries are also creating parallel tracks to Annan’s plan that could undermine it and waste the efforts for reaching a peaceful solution, with these tracks including the conferences held in Tunis, Istanbul and Paris which pass plans outside international legitimacy to arm the opposition, reject peaceful solutions, and imposing sanctions on the Syrian people.
He noted that sometimes there’s boasting of increasing sanctions as if harming the Syrians and taking away their livelihood and rights to development and stability is a major victory.
“It’s a paradox that after every Syrian openness in dealing with any political proposition, a conference is held in parallel to fan the flames of the crisis, push towards removing the solution from its peaceful outline, and undermine any positive solution to resolve the crisis without shedding the blood of Syrian civilians and military personnel,” al-Jaafari said.
He pointed out that the absolute truth among Syrians is their rejection of interference in their country’s internal affairs, commitment to protecting their country’s sovereignty, continuing with reform and national dialogue, and not allowing time to be turned back to any form of subjugation or custodianship or occupation, be it direct or indirect.
“The Syrians know full well that the forces who have ill intents for Syria are targeting them all and trading with their pain and legitimate ambitions in the bloody stock market controlled by the interests of Israel and its governments and allies,” he said.
Al-Jaafari concluded by addressing a statement made by Germany’s Representative who voiced his country’s commitments to protecting “minorities” in Syria, stressing that there are no minorities in Syria; rather only Syrians who are proud of their cultural and religious diversity and don’t want Wahabi and Salafi extremism to sneak among them through oil money and religious and sectarian incitement which is preached by some Qatari and Saudi channels.
Churkin: Countries that Have Influence on Opposition Should Encourage it to Stop Violence, Apply Annan Plan
Russia’s Permanent UN Envoy Vitaly Churkin stressed that the resolution adopted today by the United Nation Security Council (UNSC) on the deployment of UN observers in Syria sends an important international message.
In his speech before the UN Security Council, Churkin said this resolution shows that only the UNSC has the right to make resolutions for resolving regional crises such as the Syrian crisis.
The Russian Envoy added that any group of friends or countries with interests or any other party must clearly abide by the UNSC resolutions and not undermine the possibility of implementing it.
Churkin affirmed the importance of this resolution to push the process of peaceful settlement in Syria forward besides [its] being embodies a unity and consensus of the Council regarding Annan’s six point plan.
Churkin stressed that all external sides related to the crisis in Syria should act in a responsible manner, adding that “The Syrians themselves should determine the destiny of their country.”
He made it clear that any attempt to impose outside powers on the Syrian people could exacerbate the crisis, calling on countries that have an influence on the opposition to encourage it to stop violence and apply Annan’s plan.
Baodong Reiterates China’s Commitment to peaceful Solution to Syria’s Crisis
For his part, China’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Li Baodong, reiterated Beijing’s commitment to reaching a peaceful solution to Syria’s crisis and within the framework of respecting the will of the Syrian people and keenness on Syria’s territorial integrity.
In his speech before the UN Security Council, Baodong added that Annan represents an important channel to solve the crisis in Syria, calling upon all Syrian sides to completely cooperate with Annan in order to launch a political process led by Syria.
Baodong stressed his country’s rejection of all efforts and statements that could hinder Annan’s mission, hoping that the monitors’ mission will fully respect Syria’s sovereignty and work in accordance to the authorization granted by the Council.
For his part, South Africa’s Representative stressed the importance of supporting Annan’s plan in order to reach a peaceful solution for the crisis in Syria through political dialogue that meets the aspirations of the Syrian people and ensures the unity and the territorial integrity of the country.
In turn, Azerbaijan’s Representative stressed his country’s support to Annan’s mission and the importance of respecting Syria’s sovereignty and unity.
India’s Representative said that the efforts of Annan contributed to improving the situation in Syria, calling upon all sides to adhere to Annan’s plan in order to reach a full ceasefire.
He highlighted that the international observers should implement their duties in an objective and neutral manner with the aim of starting a comprehensive political process led by Syria to meet the aspirations of the Syrian people.
For his part, Pakistan’s Representative expressed his country’s hope that Annan’s plan will lead to a full cessation of violence and creating the appropriate circumstances to carry out a political process that will respect Syria’s sovereignty and lead to a peaceful solution to the crisis.
Guatemala’s Representative stressed his country’s support to Annan’s mission and to all efforts exerted with the aim of restoring peace and stability to Syria.
Colombia’s Representative also stressed his country’s support to the monitors’ mission in Syria, adding that the current proposal is ideal and typical.
As for the western countries’ representatives, they continued their deliberate disregard of the acts committed by the armed terrorist groups which claimed the lives of hundreds of citizens and army and law-enforcement personnel.
The French Representative renewed his country’s incitement against Syria, laying the responsibility of the armed terrorist groups’ violence on the Syrian government.
He urged the Syrian government to immediately adhere to Annan’s plan and mentioned nothing about the fact that the opposition didn’t show any commitment to the same plan until now.
Similarly, Germany’s Representative recited a stream of lies and false allegations against the Syrian government, twisting the facts by alleging that the Syrian government is the side that is committing kidnapping, torture and violence against children, women and “minorities.”
The U.S. Representative, oblivious to her country’s deception of the international community when it waged a war on Iraq under false allegations of nuclear weapons, announced the failure of the observers’ mission before it even started, alleging that their presence will not make the Syrian government stop violence.
The U.S. representative, whose country murdered millions of innocent around the world, defended the acts of the armed opposition, alleging that the opposition welcomed the presence of the observers.
Churkin: This is the First Time During the Syrian Crisis that the Security Council was Able to Express Itself in Support of a Positive Political Plan
In a press conference following the Security Council session, Churkin said that this session marks the first time during the Syrian crisis that the Security Council was able to express itself in support of a positive political plan and strategy and to support with practical steps through the deployment of observers.
Churkin said that when the Council adopted resolution no. 2043, it affirmed its responsibility for security and peace in the Syrian crisis, hoping that the international community and various groups will respect the Council’s decision and authority and act accordingly.
He welcomed the decision and hoped that the observer mission will play its role in supporting stability in Syria, noting that the resolution doesn’t address only the Syrian government, but also the opposition, asking it to cease violence, support observers and commit to Annan’s plan.
Churkin noted that the observer mission’s jurisdiction suits the arrangements made by the UN General Secretariat and the Syrian government, adding that the decision is the responsibility of the UN and the Syrian government and that they should work to make all necessary arrangements.
On the U.S. stance, Churkin said that he had hoped that the statements would be more in line with the spirit of the resolution, but some of the speakers wasted a chance to address the opposition, adding that negative expectations are more akin to predictions.
He added that Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem informed Annan that the Syrian government carried out the second article of the plan and withdrew armored vehicles and military forces from cities.
Churkin hoped that the political momentum is a positive sign, calling for abandoning threats and negative expectations and staying the course which the Security Council finally managed to support rather than returning to conflict scenarios which proved to be dangerous and likely to lead to further escalation.
He stressed that Russia isn’t against the opposition, saying “we’re doing the right thing and we’re comfortable for our stance,” noting that Russia worked hard to put the Security Council on the right track, adding that there are forces who don’t want this strategy to succeed and have other plans which aren’t useful and will weaken Annan’s plan.
Churkin said that the observers are facing monumental tasks, thus they must be respected and provided with all the conditions needed by them to carry out their work successfully.
On the observers’ nationalities, he said that there are no information of specific agreements in this regard, noting that the Syrian government approved of the candidates.
In response to a question on a full ban on weapons, Churkin said that even if such a ban succeeded with the Syrian government, then there will be those who deny that and continue to provide weapons to opposition groups, similar to what happened in prior experiences.
M.Nassr / Ghossoun / H. Sabbagh
- Syria Welcomes New UN Resolution, Observers to Arrive Late Sunday (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- UN Security Council Votes To Send 300 Observers To Syria (eurasiareview.com)
- Security Council changed prerogatives in Syrian crisis – Churkin to RT (rt.com)
An Associated Press article by Diaa Hadid, filed from Tel Aviv and published Wednesday, warns of a potential increase in anti-Semitism and possible anti-Jewish violence in Europe if Israel carries out a military assault on Iran. The piece focuses on Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, speaking at Tel Aviv University “after the presentation of an annual report on worldwide anti-Semitic attacks” and in advance of Holocaust Remembrance Day. Kantor said “he feared a minority of angry, extremist European Muslims who live in impoverished neighborhoods might use an Israeli attack [against Iran] as a pretext to hit local Jews, particularly in France and Great Britain.”
The report cited by Kantor was issued by Tel Aviv University’s Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry. And yes, the Kantor Center is indeed named after Moshe Kantor himself, who paid for its creation in 2010. Kantor is not only the head of the EJC, he’s also the Chairman of the European Jewish Fund (which he established in 2006) and, with his net worth of $2.3 billion, one of the richest people in the world.
AP quotes Kantor as saying, “If Israel attacks Iran, it will be a dramatic increase of anti-Semitic, very violent attacks against Jews. And the vehicle for the realization of the attacks will be these enclave communities, where the level of hatred is very high and they are prepared to attack enemies inside their countries.” An Israeli assault on Iran would produce, in Kantor’s words, a “tsunami of hate against Jews.”
Note how Kantor worries that an actual, unprovoked violent attack by a nuclear-armed state against a non-nuclear-armed state is called a “pretext” for potential, future anti-Semitism in Europe. So what are Kantor and the EJC doing about this? Well, AP reports that “his group is prodding European governments to take more measures to protect Jewish communities. He said its biggest efforts were focused on combatting anti-Semitism in the radical fringes of European Muslim neighborhoods.” Kantor also described this alleged latent and potential violence emanating from Muslim communities in Europe as “a bomb ready to explode.”
That’s right. Kantor isn’t using his platform in Tel Aviv and position in Europe to warn against an illegal Israeli attack; no, he just wants more protection for European Jews if and when such an attack occurs. Apparently, the ancient community of 25,000 Iranian Jews don’t need similar protection for Israeli missiles and bombs.
But, this type of fear-mongering about the so-called “new anti-Semitism” is old news. While the provocation – “pretext” – is now linked to Iran, in the past it has been focused more on Palestine.
Over eight years ago, in March 2004, Los Angeles Times staffer Jeffrey Fleischman wrote, “Intolerance toward Jews is changing. Traditional anti-Semitism is coinciding with leftist opposition to Israel’s response to the Palestinian intifada. And attacks on Jewish institutions in France, the Netherlands and elsewhere suggest that a burgeoning population of frustrated Muslim men is transplanting Middle East animosities into Europe.”
Despite describing Europe as “an eloquent testament to constitutions and human rights,” Fleischman claims that, “as Europe reinvents itself, so does the way it hates.” He also quotes Cobi Benatoff, then-president of the European Jewish Congress, as issuing a “warning cry, a warning to Europe,” saying, “Anti-Semitism and prejudice have returned. The monster is with us again. What is of most concern to us, however, is the indifference of our fellow European citizens.”
Naturally, the Palestine connection is made. “The backlash against Jews over the Palestinian struggle to gain statehood is more pronounced in countries with large Muslim populations such as France, where about 700,000 Jews live amid more than 5 million Muslims,” Fleischman reports. “Germany has about 100,000 Jews and 3.5 million Muslims, and Britain has 300,000 Jews and about 2 million Muslims.”
Look at how outnumbered they are! Those poor, potential victims, adrift in a sea of bearded barbarity! How spooky!
But this type of hysteria is nothing new.
In 2006, journalist Jonathan Cook reported that there has been an intense effort on the part of the Israeli government to push the concept and fear of the “new anti-Semitism” dating back decades and reemerging more stridently in 2002. Cook explained that “Israel alerted the world to another wave of anti-Semitism in the early 1980s, just as it came under unprecedented criticism for its invasion and occupation of Lebanon. What distinguished the new anti-Semitism from traditional anti-Jewish racism of the kind that led to Germany’s death camps, said its promoters, was that this time it embraced the progressive Left rather than the far Right.” This narrative was again picked up twenty years later by members of Ariel Sharon’s administration, and championed by a rather familiar character. Cook reports,
Like its precursors, argued Israel’s apologists, the latest wave of anti-Semitism was the responsibility of progressive Western movements – though with a fresh twist. An ever present but largely latent Western anti-Semitism was being stoked into frenzy by the growing political and intellectual influence of extremist Muslim immigrants. The implication was that an unholy alliance had been spawned between the Left and militant Islam.
Such views were first aired by senior members of Sharon’s cabinet. In an interview in the Jerusalem Post in November 2002, for example, Benjamin Netanyahu warned that latent anti-Semitism was again becoming active:
“In my view, there are many in Europe who oppose anti-Semitism, and many governments and leaders who oppose anti-Semitism, but the strain exists there. It is ignoring reality to say that it is not present. It has now been wedded to and stimulated by the more potent and more overt force of anti-Semitism, which is Islamic anti-Semitism coming from some of the Islamic minorities in European countries. This is often disguised as anti-Zionism.“
The entire Cook article is vital reading on the subject.
The disingenuous association of anti-Semitism with progressive ideology, along with the absurd conflation and equation of anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism, has only been further exploited in the intervening years and the examples are legion.
The American Jewish Committee released a lengthy report in 2002 that declared, “Over the past two years the specter of anti-Semitism has spread over that part of peaceful, democratic, and law-abiding Europe that prides itself on the high degree of safety it affords its inhabitants.” Written by Villanova professor Gordon Murray, the report charged that, due to “the one-sided condemnation of Israel and the failure of [European] governments to condemn atrocities committed against Israelis, along with “their unbalanced, strongly pro-Palestinian line in the Middle East conflict, Western European governments have given a pass to those who wish to play out the intifada on the streets of Paris, Antwerp, Madrid, and Berlin.” Murray also condemned the “left” for its support for the Palestinian cause, in part blaming the “left’s sympathy for Palestinians and antipathy for Israel on, what he deemed, “the left’s congenital anti-Americanism.”
In September 2008, Paul A. Shapiro, Director of the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. delivered the keynote address at a conference in Bucharest, Romania. In his speech, which warned of the “dangers of resurgent antisemitism” in Europe, Shapiro described the “multiple agents” responsible for the trend, “each capable of being effective with one or more audiences:”
1) Radical and jihadist elements within Islam; (2) right-wing bigots, including neo-Nazis, skinheads, paramilitary militia movements, ultra-nationalists, Holocaust apologists; (3) left-wing ideologues, in particular in the European region, as well as some more mainstream intellectuals, who in the current atmosphere are susceptible to anti-Semitic expression or to the use of code words (e.g., “New York,” “the Israel Lobby”) to express negative views of Jews and protest Jewish “power” and “influence”; (4) extreme anti-Zionists; (5) representatives of a variety of religious denominations who, through their preaching, writing, or speech tap into religious fervor and belief to assault the legitimacy of Judaism and Jews.
Shapiro also stated that this bigotry manifests itself in many ways, not only is physical attacks against Jews or Jewish organizations, but also in the form of “boycotts and divestment efforts against Israel” and “anti-Zionism.” Shapiro continues,
Scholars debate whether anti-Zionism is necessarily and always to be understood as a form of antisemitism. Many argue, I believe correctly, that one can be critical of specific Israeli policies and actions and not be antisemitic. However, what is often called “legitimate criticism of Israel” frequently crosses the line and becomes vilification of the Jewish state as such. This is characterized by demonization, delegitimization, and judging Israel by double standards, i.e., standards not applied to others. Denunciations of Israel as a “Nazi state,” an “apartheid state,” a state guilty of “ethnic cleansing” or “genocide” are antisemitic. Demonizing Israel, denying its right to exist, and attributing its perceived faults to its Jewish character crosses the line, encouraging both verbal and physical violence against Israel and against Jews in general.
So how real is this threat? Well, the report cited by European Jewish Congress head Moshe Kantor, while noting “an increase in cases involving harassment and violence against Jews worldwide, singling out western Europe, Australia and Canada as three of the places most affected by the trend, also “found that on average the number of verbal threats and vandalism cases against Jews were down 27% in 2011 with 446 incidents compared to 614 in 2010.” Furthermore, “57% of hate crimes involved vandalism.”
“The decrease was the second year in a row that the research center, which focuses on the study of European Jews, has counted fewer global anti-Semitic attacks,” reported The Jerusalem Post.
The Times of Israel was quick to point out that the “Antisemitism Worldwide 2011” study alleged that “[r]adicalization among young Muslims, as well as the growing dissemination of anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli propaganda online, contributed significantly to the increase in harassment and incitement throughout the world,” adding that “France led the list of countries where major violent incidents occurred with 114, followed closely by the UK with 104 cases.” The report also claimed that, while “the number of attacks declined in 2011…they were generally more violent than in previous years.”
By contrast, in 2010, the organization Human Rights First reported, “Authorities in France do not report explicitly on violence against Muslims, but their reporting of racist and xenophobic hate crimes offers a window into the problem of anti-Muslim violence, with 33 percent of reported incidents perpetrated against people of North African (Maghreb) origin, who are predominantly Muslim. In 2009, authorities reported 1,026 racist or xenophobic hate crimes, a 219 percent increase from 2008 (467).”
Additionally, a 2009 survey by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) that reported discrimination against immigrants and minorities in the EU found that “1 in 10 of all Muslims surveyed (11%) was a victim of racially motivated ‘in-person crime’ (assault, threat or serious harassment) at least once in the previous 12 months.”
The research, compiled in 2008 via face-to-face questionnaire interviews of a total of 23,500 immigrant and ethnic minority people in all 27 Member States of the EU, also indicated that, if the data were translated “to the entire Muslim population in the Member States where Muslim respondents were surveyed, the level of victimisation would extend into thousands of cases every year that are not recorded by the police as racist incidents in the majority of Member States.”
The FRA report also stated, “On average 1 in 3 Muslim respondents (34% of men and 26% of women) stated that they had experienced discrimination in the past 12 months. Those Muslim respondents who had been discriminated against stated that they had experienced, on average, 8 incidents of discrimination over a 12 month period.”
This is not to mention the actual laws and policies implemented in the West in the past few years that explicitly discriminate against and brutalize Muslims, such as bans on clothing and architecture and the systematic, institutionalized destruction of equality, human rights and civil liberties.
The association of Muslims in Europe with both violence and anti-Semitism is also completely disingenuous. Between 2006 and 2008, a mere 0.4% of all terrorist attacks in Europe could be attributed to extremist Muslims. Meanwhile, a recent survey about anti-Semitic sentiment conducted by the Anti-Defamation League in ten European countries and which reportedly found increased levels of bigotry against Jews within some European populations, polled only 500 people in each country and compiled (or at least reported) absolutely no data on the religious identification or political ideology of the respondents.
The exploitation of this “new anti-Semitism” charge as a method of policing speech and terminology, dismissing historical events, marginalizing comparative narratives, and delegitimizing the efforts of those who challenge the inherent racism, colonialism and ethno-religious exclusivism of Zionism is laid bare in a statement by Dr. Roni Stauber, a senior research fellow at the Kantor Center and one of the report’s authors:
“We began compiling these reports in 2001 and while we were very strict at the beginning, about differentiating between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, in recent years it has become virtually impossible.
“The data derived suggests that the propaganda promoted by the world’s radical Left and far Right have meshed together the hatred for Israelis and that of Jews; and have created the perception that all Jews are ‘in cahoots’ with Israel, and therefore anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are the same.”
The purpose of the “new anti-Semitism” charge is abundantly clear: it not only serves to fear-monger about Muslims in Europe but also, perhaps more importantly, is a way to demonize and cow into silence critics of Israeli policy and advocates for human rights and international law.
Bahrain, with a total population of approximately 1.3 million, is smaller than most metropolitan cities in the world. But, over the past week the country has made headlines across global media. The fact that the Formula One Grand Prix is going to be held in the capital Manama this weekend while a majority of the island is besieged by protests, clashes, and arrests has become an ethical quandary with multiple dimensions.
The hunger strike of the country’s most well-known human rights activist, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja has finally “earned” the attention of worldwide media. Despite being in a prison cell, the hunger striker has become the beating pulse of protests in Bahrain, with his photos and posters splashed across the streets and banners calling for his immediate release. After months of torture and 70 days into a painfully prolonged “fast for freedom” al-Khawaja is finally “news.”
But long before the sporting event became an “angle” of focus, al-Khawaja and hundreds of thousands of people in Bahrain have been fighting for greater political rights with sparse attention from the media or the international community-at-large. Geopolitics, sectarian divides, and short attention spans overshadowed grave human rights abuses that have been ongoing for more than one year in Bahrain, without signs of near future reconciliation.
Here are reasons why Bahraini-Danish hunger striker al-Khawaja’s story has always been important, well before he entered this critical phase, where his time is now numbered in days or even hours.
As a man known to practically every household in Bahrain, he commands a mobilizing effect needed to carry on the pro-democracy protests that have been overshadowed by geopolitics involving the US and Iran. The Bahraini regime has taken away an important leader of the revolution because they are simply threatened by his singular presence on the streets that strengthens the voices of more than 70 percent of the population in the country. It is an act of cowardice.
Al-Khawaja has spent his entire adult life advocating for greater political rights for the majority population of Bahrain, starting as a university student in the United Kingdom.
This is not just al-Khawaja’s story. It is also the story of his two activist daughters, son-in-laws, brothers, and wife, all of whom have been persistently targeted by the government and arrested for their dissidence. His story is intertwined with hundreds of thousands of people who have been marching on the streets from Bahrain to London calling for his immediate release. Al-Khawaja’s story illustrates the powerful ties between the Al-Khalifa family in Bahrain and the Saudis, who would like to prevent a similar scenario in Saudi Arabia. The US government, that is in turn close allies with the Saudis, has been unabashedly silent on the issue while simultaneously calling for imminent action on Syria. His story is one that could cause a ripple effect in the Gulf States that continue to stifle protests with unhindered force.
The accusations against al-Khawaja of attempting “to overthrow the Government by force in liaison with a terrorist organisation working for a foreign country” have been unfounded. The “terrorist” organization in question is of course Hezbollah and the foreign country is Iran. The Shias of Bahrain do not wish to see Iranian/Hezbollah influence in their country. They do not wish to have an Islamic theocracy for a leadership. There has been no evidence, whatsoever, of exchanges between al-Khawaja or the February 14th coalition and Iranian/Hezbollah agents.
Al-Khawaja has spent his entire adult life advocating for greater political rights for the majority population of Bahrain, starting as a university student in the United Kingdom. He has been persistently targeted by the government of Bahrain even before he co-founded the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, formed not in Iran or Lebanon, but in Denmark, where al-Khawaja and his family sought political asylum for 11 years. He was repeatedly arrested and beaten for championing human rights and democracy, since his return to Bahrain in 2001, upon an official pardon from the king.
We, as a the media community, remained passive in the face of blatant injustice for a long time.
If the Bahraini government is looking for culpability, they should point toward Copenhagen where he received training as a human rights defender. But since al-Khawaja’s background hardly constitutes grounds for a life sentence based on “conspiring with foreign agents,” the al-Khalifa regime has sought the tried and tested strategy of manipulating sectarian divides. Based on al-Khawaja’s Shia identity and that of at least 70 percent of the population in Bahrain, whose voices have been stifled, they blame the Iranians and their purported aims to create a “Shia Crescent” across the Middle East.
Al-Khawaja must not be allowed to die.
His critical condition has already led to heightened tensions in a country, where protesters have been marching in tens of thousands for his immediate release. His death will lead to irreconcilable anger amongst the protesters who have been promised change again and again, but with no consequence. His death will create a fault line in the movement and minds of the youth who have been met only with resistance to change and oppression without accountability.
We, as the media community, have remained passive in the face of blatant injustice for a long time. We have failed to empower the tens of thousands in Bahrain by highlighting the story of one man’s plight. We have simply stood by until his penultimate moments.
But, It is not too late for us to look beyond the simple appeal of al-Khawaja’s hunger strike and render greater meaning to his struggle. We must learn to better decipher the current state of affairs in the Island Kingdom of Bahrain and the larger picture of how it affects the Gulf and beyond. We must maintain the momentum.
Preethi Nallu is a print and broadcast journalist with a special focus on human rights issues.
- Another Bahraini killed by poisonous tear gas (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Caracas – A Venezuelan judge has fled to the United States after he was dismissed as a Supreme Court Magistrate on March 20th, when an investigation was launched into his links to Venezuelan drug lord Walid Makled. Venezuelan born Makled is currently on trial in the country for crimes including narco-trafficking and murder, after being extradited from Colombia to Venezuela in May last year.
According to the charges levelled at the ex-magistrate, Eladio Aponte, the judge granted a falsified identification document to Makled which named him as a member of the magistrate’s staff, permitting him free passage to anywhere in the country.
In an interview on Wednesday night for US television channel SOiTV, the ex-judge hit out at Venezuelan politicians and high ranking members of the army, accusing them of having intervened and manipulated the Venezuelan judicial system. He also added that he thought Makled to be a “reputable businessman”.
The government has categorically refuted the claims, which they say are an attempt to smear the Chavez administration.
“He is an ex-magistrate being prosecuted for his links to drug trafficking, and who has sold his soul to the devil,” said Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Nicolas Maduro, whilst defending the country’s judicial institutions as independent.
“We can say with total certainty that in the case of Aponte, the decisions taken by our public institutions were in total compliance with the law, demonstrating that there are laws in Venezuela, that here there or no privileges and that no one is protected by narco gangs”. “Aponte is a totally discredited man,” he added.
The minister also went on to criticise the role of the U.S.’s Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in engineering Aponte’s escape after it emerged that a DEA plane had transported the fugitive from Costa Rica to the United States.
“The DEA now takes away this man accused of being linked to drugs trafficking mafias to turn him into a spokesman against Venezuela… The United States continues to be a sanctuary for drug traffickers, the corrupt, traitors and terrorists,” he said.
Maduro’s sentiments have been echoed by other members of the Venezuelan government and armed forces, as well as by US- Venezuelan attorney and investigative journalist Eva Golinger, who said that Aponte’s claims were part of a “systematic” campaign by Washington to depict Venezuela as a “narco-state” using whatever means possible.
OFAC Criticises “Worrying Trend”
Aponte’s flight to the U.S. comes as the Director of the United States’ Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), Adam Szubin, criticised a “worrying trend” in Venezuela, relating to the presence of “drugs kingpins” in the country.
In an interview with opposition newspaper El Universal earlier this week, Szubin stated that the organization was particularly concerned with individuals who were in violation of the “Kingpin Act,” which “goes after foreign persons” accused of financially aiding or supporting the international trafficking of narcotics. Several Venezuelan government officials have been controversially added to the organisation’s sanctions list since 2008.
“The designations made over the last two years,” said Szubin, “conform to the Kingpin Act and point towards a worrying trend in Venezuela.”
“Nobody is added to the list by mistake,” he continued, although conceding that 400 individuals had been removed from the list since 2009.
Szubin went on to cite current Venezuelan Defence Minister, Henry Rangel Silva, who was placed on the agency’s sanctions list in 2008 for allegedly attempting to increase cooperation between the Venezuelan government and Colombia’s FARC guerrillas as proof of this trend. To date, no evidence has been presented by the OFAC in support of these allegations.
As a division of the Treasury Department’s “Terrorism and Financial Intelligence” agency, the OFAC is responsible for administering and enforcing sanctions against states, individuals and groups accused of terrorism, such as those currently being enforced against Iran. The agency is described by the Washington Post as being an institution that “U.S. policymakers increasingly rely on to advance national security and foreign policy goals in the post-9/11 era”.
Since 2008, six other members of the Venezuelan government, including former Caracas mayor Freddy Bernal, have also been added to the OFAC sanction list.
Relations between the United States and Venezuela in the fight against the international drugs trade have been strained since the latter expelled the U.S.’s Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in 2005 for acts of espionage, with the Venezuelan government charging the agency with maintaining a consistent campaign against the left wing politics of the government, as opposed to focusing on counter-narcotics operations.
Item number five on UN Envoy Kofi Annan’s 6-point plan for Syria is the following:
“(5) Ensure freedom of movement throughout the country for journalists and a non-discriminatory visa policy for them.”
At a delicate moment in the hard-fought Syrian conflict that could potentially destabilize the entire Middle East, the United Nations believes getting more journalists into Syria is one of the six most urgent actions to consider?
Why? Are foreign reporters trained in special “observer” skills – with unique truth-detecting abilities bubble-wrapped in bullet and mortar-proof goop? And what will they see that Syrians – who know Syria best – cannot observe for themselves?
What the UN is really demanding – let’s be honest here – is for the Syrian government to open up the country to “Western” journalists. Yet, in all the conflicts covered in recent years, I cannot recall one that has been more badly covered by the mainstream western media than this Syrian crisis.
Almost to a person, western journalists are blaming their substandard coverage on the fact that they have been denied entry into Syria. And also – to a person – they seem to think that the world needs them there to understand what is going on inside the country.
Paul Conroy, the Sunday Times freelance cameraman who was injured by an explosive in Homs in February, tells the BBC’s Hard Talk that Syrians need their events verified by people like himself and his now-deceased colleague, war correspondent Marie Colvin, in order to be believed:
“It is a sad state of affairs that it does need people to go in… and actually be Western and be official journalists to make it real in the public eye.”
Is that like a Western-journalist-verification-stamp of some sort? Does it come with a guarantee – for accuracy in reporting?
Because, right now, I honestly cannot think of a group of people less capable of verifying things in Syria than western journalists. And it is not because they aren’t physically there or can’t string together more than two words in Arabic. It is largely because they feast at the trough of their own governments’ narratives on All Things. Western journalists are heady with a sense of righteousness leached from the oxymoronic “western values” shoved down our collective throats. Those same western values that demand “accountability” and “transparency” from all nations – while offering cover for western governments to hack their way through Muslim and Arab bodies in endless “national security” wars.
Do tell… Which major mainstream western media outlet has ever fundamentally questioned their government’s narratives on these wars? Which major western journalist risked career for truth on affairs related to the Middle East? Give me the name of that brave western network reporter who disrupts press conferences regularly with inconvenient questions on weapons sales to Gulf dictatorships – and has his bosses go to the wall to ensure he remains in the White House press pool. Show me the western reporter at the Washington Post, New York Times, CNN, BBC, France 24 who has made a career of doggedly questioning Israel’s disproportionate use of force against civilian populations – a journalist who sticks a microphone under Sarkozy, Obama or Cameron’s nose and bellows: “What fucking Peace Process are you chaps banging on about?”
No? Not one? Come on!
“No Syrian Visa” is just a convenient excuse for the lazy and sloppy reporting of western media in this Syrian conflict. It is a handy sound bite these days – one that quite deliberately ignores the Arab League Monitors’ January 2012 Report that 147 foreign and Arab media organizations were operating in Syria during their month-long observations.
“No Syrian Visa” tries hard to distract from the reality that most western journalists never actually go out to the front lines of conflict when filing their stories. Increasingly, reporters are sent out in organized pools by host governments – or in the case of recent US-initiated wars in the Middle East – by the invading armies.
“No Syrian Visa” selectively forgets that entering US-foe Syria as a journalist today is no more difficult than waltzing into US-ally Saudi Arabia – or US-ally Bahrain, when Formula One cars are not racing there.
And “No Syrian Visa” will blush hard when recalling that there was no similar collective western media outrage when the government of Israel declared “No Gaza Entry” as it pounded Palestinian populations in 2009.
Glossy Journalists Seek Content Not Facts
No. The problem with western reporters is that they are past their due date – remnants of an industry we once believed brandished standards of objectivity we never actually witnessed.
They are news-as-entertainment professionals – packaging glossy corporate content for maximum distribution and big bucks. The goal is not objective reportage. Their targets are quantifiable and highlighted in a business plan somewhere. Success is based on a simple formula: stay within parameters “understandable” to a wide audience that devours sound bites and familiar storylines on the hour, every hour. Like trained seals whose every desire, instinct and buying pattern has been measured by corporate media’s marketing department for the consumption of its advertisers, the audience demands satisfaction – and western media delivers it.
With the exception of a few proud holdouts, western media has made a beeline for the sexy story in Syria – which is essentially the fairytale of the “Arab Spring” with a little twist: Bad regime, good activists – but kick out this dictator and it’s a three-for-one, with Iran and Hezbollah tossed in as a bonus.
There are only three guiding rules for most western journalists inside or outside of Syria: 1) only quote anti-regime populations, 2) do not seek out independent domestic opposition figures, 3) evidence is unimportant, as long as you loosely “source” it:
They head straight for the Syrian activist, the anti-regime demonstration, the man with the gun in a “hot spot.” These are one side of the Syrian story, for sure. But you will not find mainstream western journalism broadcasting a pro-regime rally of tens of thousands, the national flag painted on the faces of Assad supporters – young and old – waving posters of their president. Pro-regime Syrians, a majority of whom voted in a national referendum in February to adopt constitutional reforms, are never interviewed by these reporters.
You will not find western journalists side-stepping the NATO-friendly Syrian National Council (SNC) “opposition” to interview the dozens of domestic Syrian opposition figures – most who have spent years in regime prisons – but who also unanimously reject the militarization and internationalization of the conflict; i.e., “non-Syrians butt out.”
And most importantly, you will never find mainstream western journalism seeking out “evidence” to support the false narratives of their governments. Who is included in the daily death count reported around the world? Who has killed thousands of Syrian soldiers? Who is killing children in Syria? Who is killing journalists in Syria? Who stands to gain from these deaths? Who stands to gain from this video footage or still photo emailed to my desktop? How do I know that plume of smoke was caused by a regime mortar? Who is the sniper? Why do so many Syrians still support Bashar al-Assad?
Propaganda As a Weapon of War
The “Big Lie” is a propaganda technique used liberally by western governments in the Middle East. The Big Lie refers to “the repeated articulation of a complex of events that justify subsequent action. The descriptions of these events have elements of truth, and the Big Lie generalizations merge and eventually supplant the public’s accurate perception of the underlying events.”
Using Big Lie techniques in the Middle East are particularly easy because western media is so happily complicit in propagating one-dimensional stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims. These assumptions are programmed so deeply, that even after months of watching on our TV screens disparate populations of all backgrounds and political convictions rally to reshape their governing systems… we still see regional events only through the prism of a one-size-fits-all Arab Spring.
The US Military’s Special Forces Unconventional Warfare manual describes ways to overthrow a government outside of a conventional combat format. In a section headlined Will of the Population, the manual explains ways to overcome popular support for the existing national government and alter natural hostility to foreign intervention:
“Information activities that increase dissatisfaction with the hostile regime or occupier and portray the resistance as a viable alternative are important components of the resistance effort. These activities can increase support for the resistance through persuasive messages that generate sympathy among populations.”
The manual expounds on this in another area:
“The USG (US Government) begins to shape the target environment as far in advance as possible. The shaping effort may include operations to increase the legitimacy of U.S. operations and the resistance movement, building internal and external support for the movement, and setting conditions for the introduction of U.S. forces. … The population of a recently occupied country may already be psychologically ready to accept U.S. sponsorship, particularly if the country was a U.S. ally before its occupation. In other cases, psychological preparation may require a protracted period before yielding any favorable results.”
The Syrian crisis is not about reforms any longer – it has become a geopolitical battle for influence in the Middle East, with NATO, the GCC and BRIC nations taking sides. Western media fails to address this larger picture, so glaringly obvious to people in the region. Instead it focuses almost entirely on the “David vs Goliath” or “good vs evil” themes that appeal to a broad audience of dumbed-down media consumers. These populations in turn become perception “leaders” when they back foreign military adventures in opinion polls broadcast back to us by – you guessed it – western media. And in that neat trick, your western government checks off a tick-box called “citizen approval.”
But Syrians have approved no such thing. More than a year after the first anti-government protests – which have never grown into the hundreds of thousands and millions experienced elsewhere in the region – Syrians have not ejected their leader, nor is there any evidence that the majority of Syrians wish to do so. The constitutional referendum in February, which a small majority of Syrians approved in an excellent turnout, should have been some indication for the media that popular sentiment is not necessarily reflected in an unverifiable cellphone image.
The daily casualty statistics coming out of Syria are deliberately misrepresented as regime “kills,” satellite photos of alleged regime shelling contradict the dominant narratives, activists faking events begs the question “why would they need to falsify evidence if the regime is so brutal?” But western media hears and sees nothing that doesn’t suit their formulaic narrative.
There is no better example of how mentally embedded western media has become with the Syrian “opposition” (itself a very broad and mixed bag), than a recent incident with CNN in Homs. Correspondent Arwa Damon and her non-Arab crew were tipped off about a potential pipeline explosion, so they pre-positioned their camera in a window frame facing the exact location of the anticipated bombing. When the pipeline explodes some time later, Damon and her crew look exultant – almost drunk on their success. Scoop? Try complicity in an act of terrorism. Can you imagine them doing this if the target was an American installation in Iraq or a NATO depot in Afghanistan? They would never live it down.
A year after the first small protests in Syria, the Syrian government stands strong, bolstered by its many constituencies, and spared the mass defections experienced by other Arab leaders. It appears that propaganda is not enough to shake the foundations of all Arab states. Now is the time for western media to ask why they got it so wrong. And some are indeed questioning their information, sources and assumptions.
There are western journalists who are doing a more than creditable job of writing about Syria from outside the country – the Independent’s Patrick Cockburn and The Guardian’s Seumas Milne come to mind. Please feel free to list other responsible, professional western journalists in the comments section below – I am sure we all want to celebrate their courage and increase their page views.
As for the others, their arrogance and cowardice is dangerous. False narratives have emboldened Syrians and other regional actors to act incautiously, angrily, even euphorically, when they might have benefited from nuance and calculation. People have died in the spinning of this conflict.
It is clearly time to challenge the dated concept that mainstream western media is impartial, objective or professional in their coverage of Mideast affairs. But we shouldn’t just bemoan this injustice in yet another stream of impotent essays and editorials. We must drag this industry of disinformation into the public arena, and make them accountable throughout the region by acting to affect ratings and readership.
Kofi Annan needs to immediately drop item number 5 on his Syria plan. While freedom of speech is important to uphold – even more so in times of strife – today, mainstream western journalism is nothing more than another face of the “external intervention” he so gravely warns against. Toss those western journos out of Syria unless they can demonstrate independent, objective, responsible reporting of this conflict. False narratives are costing Arab and Muslim lives. And media “combatants” need not apply to practice their craft in this region any longer.
Sharmine Narwani is a commentary writer and political analyst covering the Middle East. You can follow Sharmine on twitter @snarwani.
- Foolishly Ignoring the Arab League Report on Syria (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Syrian opposition leader, in unprecedented interview with Israel Radio, says Syrians want peace with Israel (timesofisrael.com)
- UN ‘aid’ program to be used in establishing NATO ‘humanitarian corridors’ (activistpost.com)
Revealed: Britain’s Orwellian Empire
After his death, George Orwell’s terrifying vision in Nineteen Eighty-Four of a future in which the past could be erased and rewritten at will by a faceless bureaucracy was quickly appropriated in the US and Britain for the purposes of Cold War propaganda. The novel was taken as confirmation of a worldview that divided the globe according to an almost ontological opposition, between a ‘free world’ that clung to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and a ‘them’ who were not only violent and cruel (after all, hadn’t ‘we’ had recourse to massive violence, from the fire-bombing of Dresden to Hiroshima and Nagasaki?), but who offended against the very laws of empirical truth and the sanctity of the historical record. But without in any way detracting from the crimes of the Soviet empire or the Communist Party regime in China, in reality the calculus of violence and horror in the postwar world was never so neatly and cleanly divided, especially once the populations excluded from the Cold War algebra of ‘us’ and ‘them’ begins to be taken into account—namely the populations of the ‘Third World,’ upon whom so much of the bloody Cold War was fought out. The upcoming disclosure of a massive haul of some 8,800 secret files—which one respected British historian has called “the ‘lost’ British Empire archive” (BBC News, 17 April 2012)—may require a rethinking of the whole Cold War narrative. For while the Cold War warriors of the West rightly denounced Stalinist and other regimes for their horrifically cynical and insidious rewriting of the past—airbrushing out not only individuals, but whole institutional structures of criminality, and indeed the fate of whole populations—these archives suggest that the decolonizing British state was also guilty of manipulating the historical record and hiding major crimes against humanity, albeit on a scale that has still to be assessed and fully understood.
The secret colonial archive is comprised of thousands of documents that detail the military and police activities of British colonial administrations in 37 British colonial territories, from Malaya, Kenya, Cyprus, and Aden—the scenes of high profile late-colonial wars—to much less well-known and often overlooked colonial flashpoints, such as the Chagos Islands, Guyana, Botswana, and Lesotho. As the prospect of national liberation loomed in each territory, British officialdom conducted a wholesale program of stripping the colonial archives, extracting incriminating documents that recounted acts of murder, torture, and wide-scale human rights abuses, and ‘repatriating’ them to Britain. Significant instances of crimes that are recorded in these files that have emerged so far include the reported murder and torture of Mau Mau insurgents in Kenya in the 1950s, the alleged operation of a secret torture center in Aden in the 1960s, and the forced removal of Chagos Islanders to make way for the massive US base on Diego Garcia (Guardian, 18 April 2012). There are indications that documents were also removed that might embarrass British allies, especially the United States.
However, in British law such documents once ‘repatriated’ should have become available for public scrutiny; instead they were hidden, and their existence denied. The secret archive only came to light in 2011 as the result of a court case taken by five elderly Kenyans, who sued the British government claiming that they had been tortured during the Mau Mau Emergency, an uprising led by the Kikuyu people against British rule that lasted from 1952 to 1960, and which resulted in an estimated death toll of between 25,000 and 300,000 (Guardian, 21 July 2011). Historians working for the claimants began to unearth evidence of a secret trove of documents that had been deliberately ‘disappeared’ by the Foreign Office, and which appear to record not only atrocities in Kenya, but also a whole host of criminal state actions across the late-colonial world. According to Professor David Anderson of Oxford University, “the British Government did lie about this,” and as he observes “this saga was both a colonial conspiracy and a bureaucratic bungle” (BBC News, 17 April 2012). Shamed by the revelations in court, the British Government has promised full disclosure, with documents being released incrementally in tranches from this month through to the end of 2013. This is a massive archive, and clearly no firm conclusions can be drawn at present. It will need the scrutiny of activists, civil rights professionals, academics, and civil society groups from across the world to begin to make sense of the material, and to begin to understand its importance not only for the historical record, but also for current political circumstances.
Yet even at this early stage, the revelation of this secret archive offers an important insight into the ways in which the British government cynically and quite deliberately sought to reconstruct the postwar record in order to manipulate wider perceptions of the West’s postwar global role. While sometimes conducted hastily, the winnowing of the colonial archive was calculated and designed with systematic intent. Files that could be left behind after independence were classified as “legacy,” while those considered too sensitive to fall into the hands of post-independence governments were designated as “watch,” and could only be handled by colonial officials who were “British subject[s] of European descent” (BBC News, 17 April 2012).
However, not only was the historical record being quite deliberately edited, but in truly Orwellian fashion the process of censorship was itself carefully concealed. As The Guardian newspaper reports:
Painstaking measures were taken to prevent post-independence governments from learning that the watch files had ever existed. One instruction states: “The legacy files must leave no reference to watch material. Indeed, the very existence of the watch series, though it may be guessed at, should never be revealed.” [Therefore, when] a single watch file was to be removed from a group of legacy files, a “twin file”—or dummy—was to be created to insert in its place. If this was not practicable, the documents were to be removed en masse. (Guardian, 18 April 2012)
Given the complicated and time-consuming nature of the process of combing through the files, it appears that in their haste officials increasingly resorted to the wholesale destruction of sections of the colonial archive. A memo from April 1961 advises: “To obviate a too laborious scrutiny of ‘dead’ files, emphasis is placed on destruction—a vast amount of paper in the Ministry of Defence secret registry and classified archives could be burnt without loss” (BBC News, 17 April 2012). The secret cache of 8,800 files is thus most likely the reduced remnant of a much larger ‘ghost’ archive, comprising files destroyed not only to hide evidence of criminal actions but also to conceal the very program of concealment itself. Although initial indications suggest that this archival destruction was conducted on a massive scale, its full extent may never be known.
The intellectual legacy of the Cold War was the starkly melodramatic opposition of ‘free world’ and ‘evil empire’ so memorably rehearsed by President Ronald Reagan. However, one unacknowledged consequence of the overwhelming focus on the crimes of the Soviet regime was the airbrushing from popular consciousness of the continuing historical role of British colonialism in the postwar period, and its continuity with the emergent US hegemony. The aggressive defense of a late colonial edifice based in the Middle East, East Africa, and the Far East—regions that continue to number among the central battlefields of the US ‘war on terror’—was at the time a serious embarrassment to the Western Cold War vocabulary of ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy.’ But it now transpires that the West’s capacity to win the propaganda battle was not simply a matter of the best arguments winning the day, but depended on the bureaucratic manipulation of the past and the systematic liquidation of extensive sections of the historical record.
Orwell himself was in fact much less convinced by the Cold War’s stark oppositions than his subsequent promoters were willing to concede. As a former colonial policeman in Burma, he wrote about the insidious suppression of independent thinking among European colonial administrators in his 1934 novel Burmese Days. And although routinely read as a straightforward Cold War text, his more famous novel Nineteen Eighty-Four involves a more complex geopolitical vision than it is usually given credit for. As Orwell explained in a letter to Roger Senhouse dated 26 December 1948, rather than focusing exclusively on the critique of totalitarianism, the novel also sought “to discuss the implications of dividing the world up into ‘Zones of influence,’” an insight that had been prompted by the news of the collaboration between Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin in organizing the postwar world.1 In Orwell’s mind, the suppression of autonomous political action by the emerging geopolitical power blocs of East and West was intimately bound up with the suppression of individual freedom of thought and the destruction of a historical record that functioned according to shared norms of inclusiveness, accuracy, and fidelity to verifiable data. We might speculate with good reason, then, that Orwell would not only have welcomed the revelation of the secret imperial archive, but might not have been so surprised to learn of it in the first place.
Graham MacPhee is Associate Professor of English at West Chester University. He is the author of Postwar British Literature and Postcolonial Studies (Edinburgh University Press, 2011), and co-editor of Empire and After: Englishness in Postcolonial Perspective (Berghahn, 2007).
1. George Orwell, In Front of your Nose: Collected Essays, Journalism, and Letters 1946-1950, edited by Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus, Boston: Nonpareil (2000), 460.