It’s an anthem that is usually sung with chest-thumping pride and misty eyes by British imperialists. “Rule Britannia, Britannia rules the waves”. This jingoistic celebration of Britain’s former global conquest may yet degenerate into “Rue Britannia, Britannia rues the waves”.
This is because, as The Guardian newspaper reports this week, the
London government has at long last been forced into recognizing compensation payments for as many as 50,000 Kenyan nationals who were victims of torture and other crimes against humanity during that country’s independence struggle in the 1950s. The eventual bill for compensation could run up to tens of millions of pounds.
But the bad news for financially bankrupt Britain does not end there. With this precedent established of compensation for past British imperialist crimes, that now leaves the way open for a global flood of similar claims.
Jingoistic British imperialists may therefore soon rue their often-made reference to Britain ruling the waves and so many countries the world over – at the height of the British Empire some 20 percent of the globe’s land mass was under colonial domination. That’s a lot of people who can claim recompense for past British horrors and deprivation.
If the bill for Britain’s crimes against humanity in Kenya alone runs into tens of millions of pounds, then we can easily multiply that sum manifold if the millions of other victims from across the world who suffered under the British jackboot come forward to claim justice.
The Guardian listed just a handful of additional class-action cases for compensation against the British government. They included the former colonies of Cyprus, Yemen, Swaziland and British Guiana. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg when measuring Britain’s global legacy of crimes and human suffering. Many others would include Britain’s dirty wars and repressive colonial regimes in Bahrain, British Somaliland, Burma, Ghana, Nigeria, Northern Ireland, Oman and Zimbabwe. Even that list is far from complete.
Iran presents a challenging case too. After the British-assisted coup in 1953 that led to the 26-year reign of terror under Shah Pahlavi, tens of thousands of Iranians were subjected to torture by the Western-trained and armed Savak secret police. Iranians therefore have a case for compensation against the British government.
Previously, the British House of Lords decreed arbitrarily that no cases for compensation stemming from before 1954 can be brought to an English court. Fortunately for the British establishment, that ruling excludes millions of more potential litigants from former British India, which gained independence in 1947.
Given the appalling suffering inflicted by the British overlords in India – from starvation, massacres, mass imprisonment and destruction of farming and textile livelihoods to give British exporters a competitive advantage – the resulting claims if filed to the Exchequer would definitely spell good night for Britain’s sputtering economy. Far from ruling the waves, Britannia would sink to a watery grave.
But the real point perhaps is more about principle than money – important though material redress is to victims of injustice. What the case of the Kenyans against the British government is really achieving is to strip bare the truth about Britain’s imperial legacy. British national conceit and history books are replete with double standards and moral relativism. It is too widely and fatuously assumed that Britain’s Empire represented somehow a benevolent contribution to history. British people, and unfortunately English-language academia and media across the world, tend to perceive Britain’s “decolonization” – its retreat from imperial territories – as a magnanimous gesture of granting independence. This delusional notion is best summed up in the Orwellian term “the British Commonwealth of nations”.
With conceited moral duplicity, Britain insists that Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany must pay out compensation to victims of their conquests. But no such obligation pertains to Britain, according to the British rulers. Why not? Only imperial arrogance and a certain sense of victor’s justice stemming from the Second World War are invoked to subjectively justify that contradiction. In the world of objective facts and evidence, Britain is equally liable for redress to its global victims of crimes against humanity.
When Britain set out to destroy the Mau Mau struggle for Kenya’s political independence during the 1950s, the British were not interested in benign, passive “decolonization”. For the British rulers, it was a life-or-death challenge to the entire global system of British Empire and its exploitative excrescence on the world. The same British “siege mentality” manifested ruthlessly against the independence movements in all its colonies.
Up to 300,000 Kenyans were incarcerated in concentration camps during what the British euphemistically called “The Emergency”. That same quaint word – “Emergency” – was used by the British to dissemble their barbarism and brutality in Burma against pro-independence communist guerrilla. During Bahrain and Northern Ireland’s struggle for freedom from Britain’s unlawful dominance, the preferred euphemism for repression was “The Troubles”.
But these semantics aside, the nature of repression meted out by British rulers and their officers was systematically criminal and brutal and comparable to the worst genocidal regimes the world has known.
The Kenyan Mau Mau may have suffered the most, probably owing to a twist of racist depravity among the white British counterinsurgency practitioners. Kenyan prisoners were castrated and roasted over fires by British officers using methods of torture that even classified British records explicitly sanctioned as “Gestapo techniques”.
During the British suppression of the Cypriot insurgency during the 1950s, inmates were routinely tortured by water-boarding sessions in which Kerosene was added to the drowning water. Later, during the 1970s in Northern Ireland’s conflict, Irish prisoners were incarcerated without charge and tortured by hooding, prolonged wall-standing, sleep deprivation, white noise and intimidation with guard dogs, not to mention routine physical beatings.
If such torture and generally repressive regimens sound similar to what has since been uncovered in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay it is because they are wholly consistent. These are the standard operating practices of British military doctrine and that of its close American ally.
The reason why such barbarity continues to be practiced is because of the moral duplicity and propagandized version of history that the Western media and academia instill. Barbarity is something that others perpetrate, not us.
The glacial pace of justice – as shown by the more than six decades’ delay for the Mau Mau victims of British crimes – is reflective of the massive public deception instilled by Western media on behalf of their criminal governments.
However, thanks to the courageous pursuit of justice by many people across the world, this edifice of deception will eventually be broken down. This is imperative as a matter of justice for the millions of victims of British crimes against humanity.
But, in addition, the exposure of British criminality is crucial to deleting the duplicity that serves to give contemporary British and other Western governments a veneer of legitimacy. Britain has no right to pontificate and brow beat Syria, Iran or any other nation about “international obligations”. With the full record of British criminality on display, this is a country that, far from lecturing others, should be made to hang its head in shame and remain silent.
“This is a terrible day for British justice. After fierce lobbying by the government, peers have failed to restore even minimal amendments previously included to this deeply damaging bill,”
The cherished and vitally important principle that justice must be done and seen to be done has been dealt a serious blow this evening,” said Tim Hancock, Amnesty International’s UK campaigns director.
Legal Agency Reprieve executive director Clare Algar said the secret courts will “do irreparable damage. It is deeply shameful that the government has been allowed to push these plans through parliament, despite the total lack of evidence that they are needed. Secret courts will ….. do irreparable damage to our reputation as a country which respects fair play and the rule of law,” she said.
British secret service officials, claim the Bill is designed to protect national security by preventing informers from being exposed.
Amnesty International said earlier, that the plan gives the British government the power to “simply play the ‘national security’ card whenever it wants to keep things secret”. The British government only needs the Queen’s Royal stamp of approval, to start the secret courts as new law in Britain.
Some of the public’s reaction in Britain is as follows.
All those lives lost in WW2 just to be ruled by Nazi-s again. Those that died in WW2 must be somersaulting in their graves.- Vincent
When those who oppose some British Government policies like the welfare cutbacks, bank bailouts and banker bonuses, privatisation and illegal foreign wars (like me) or those who complain about injustice start disappearing, losing their citizenship, being renditioned and killed by armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV drones) then no one in any central or local government roles including ALL employees, councillors, MP’s, and other politicians can be trusted. The number of people who criticise the British Government will rapidly reduce when the secret courts starts. It will not affect organisations like the SWP, EDL, BNP as they are funded by the Zionists, Bankers and operated by the security services MI5 and MI6 in order to control and suppress dissent among the sheople.- Student
The silence from the British legal fraternity in academia and in legal practice is shocking and a shameful indictment on the” profit without ethics” system that has pervaded every aspect of British life today. Justice must not only be done but be SEEN to be done. Having secret courts is an attempt to avoid scrutiny of checks and balances, to ignore rules of evidence and deny an accused person the right to defend themself agianst the mighty apparatus of state.
That’s why UK raceist authorities have been busay to make fake-secret documents against people they have targeted. They abuse people in UK and claiming that they have secret information about them, the information they have fabricated. UK has returned back to the medieval time. – Pam Cox
UK abused people for years and now want to kill them through their secret court so that nobody will realise what happened to them. UK is just trying to destroy the evidence of their abuse and mistreatment for the past decade so that created a legal support for themselves. I’m sure that the lives of thousands innocent people in the UK are at risk. – A Solicitor
My God, my ancestors will be turning in their graves. The Tories are finally realising what they have long dreamed of – throughout the years of the post-war settlement, they moodily incubated a determination to reverse the social and economic gains fought for and won by people of unparalleled toughness and determination, people who took on the might of privilege and wealth and defeated it. This is the New Tory moment; this when they come out from behind their cosmetic masks of reasonableness and fairness and social concern and display their true dark hearts before the world.
But I reserve my greatest contempt for those of us on the left; this is all happening on our watch. We betray those people I mentioned above, who vanquished the landowners and the factory and coal owners. And what are WE up against? a couple of Bullingdon hooray-henries and a leadership reject with the political acumen of petrified bird droppings . But the neoliberal apologists and careerist politicians that have infested the Labour Movement see only the votes of bigoted Middle Englanders and the ignorant Sun reading dross that posts here waiting to be harvested. The latter busy calling for their own enslavement, too ignorant or misinformed to notice the turkey staring back at them in the mirror of a Christmas Morning. And in the new Dark Age heralded in by IDS, every morning will be Christmas Morning for the beneficiaries, the businesses who will exploit this measure to access free labour, the talk of charities being a transparent smoke screen to hide the fundamental dismantling of the human right for a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.
Make no mistake, this is just the beginning. Anyone who thinks that once the principle of unpaid labour has breached the social repugnance it generates that it will stop at a month’s work for ‘idlers’ is the kind of fool the Tories are relying on get this through. These are the descendants of people who built vast fortunes and empires on the sweat and death of their factories and workhouses; they are past masters at dressing up inequality and evil in Protestant work ethics and biblical rhetoric denouncing the peril of idleness – except where it’s practised in its purest forms of course, by digital fortune shufflers and land owning parasites drawing their subsidies while they indulge Mediterranean waves with their oversized cock-yachts.
Shame, shame on us all. Tolstoy said everyone was innocent. I say everyone is guilty. And our children will never forgive us for allowing this to happen. The Tories talk of not saddling future generations with our debt; I think only of future generations facing the return of evils greater than any debt, that we had long thought banished from the lexicon of social intercourse and post war economics, all presented as some kind of economic panacea. Who is really ‘taking the piss’ here?
No doublethink, no prevarication, no quarter.