Sunday, 16 March 2014

Which wars, Mr Cameron?

On Friday, the 14th of March, Prime Minister David Cameron gave a speech to the Scottish front of the Conservative Party.
He spoke of the people his government had given work to, proclaiming that 'more of our countrymen and women than ever before' have jobs, yet was silent on workfare and zero hour contracts.
He spoke of looking after our troops, yet said nothing of those who he had given P45s to.
He spoke of our oil and gas industry needing Westminster's 'broad shoulders', yet ignored the far superior management of North Sea resources by our near neighbour and friend Norway.

Yet there was one line, mixed within Mr Cameron's positive case for the union, which intrigued me the most:
"...[The UK is] A family forged through shared endeavour, through the fires of war..."
The first question I thought of was, which wars was David Cameron referring to. Below a list of possibilities:
The Mau Mau Uprising - 1952 to 1960

"Elkins reveals that the British detained not 80,000 Kikuyu, as the official histories maintain, but almost the entire population of one and a half million people, in camps and fortified villages. There, thousands were beaten to death or died from malnutrition, typhoid, tuberculosis and dysentery. In some camps almost all the children died.
The inmates were used as slave labour. Above the gates were edifying slogans, such as "Labour and freedom" and "He who helps himself will also be helped". Loudspeakers broadcast the national anthem and patriotic exhortations. People deemed to have disobeyed the rules were killed in front of the others. The survivors were forced to dig mass graves, which were quickly filled. Unless you have a strong stomach I advise you to skip the next paragraph." - Guardian Newspaper, 23rd of April 2012
Unfortunately we will never learn the full extent of what happened in Kenya after it was revealed that Westminster systematically destroyed records to prevent their crimes from being exposed. The fire of war was quickly followed by the shedding of evidence.

The First Opium War - 1839 to 1842

"British and Chinese merchants alike had long benefited from the lucrative opium trade through Canton, but by the late 1830s the social and financial costs of the trade had become too high for the Chinese government to bear. Trade deficits related to the growing production of tea in India and other British colonies, combined with reversal in the flow of silver into the country made the opium trade a less financially appealing option than it once was.

In addition, the social costs of the drug quickly came to outweigh any financial benefits the trade might offer. The transition from eating to smoking the drug around the turn of the 19th century transformed opium from primarily medicinal in its usage into an addiction epidemic that was becoming a serious drain on Chinese society; even the emperor’s own son died from overdose." [source]

The quantity of opium being sold in China had been building up at an alarming rate prior to the start of the First Opium War. This escalated dramatically following the signing of the 'unequal treaty', as the chart below shows. There had been attempts to prevent the sale of this poisonous drug however these proved to be unsuccessful, as the fire of war was lit once again.

"We have further learned that in London, the capital of your honorable rule, and in Scotland, Ireland, and other places, originally no opium has been produced. Only in several places of India under your control such as Bengal, Madras, Bombay, Patna, Benares, and Malwa has opium been planted from hill to hill, and ponds have been opened for its manufacture.

For months and years work is continued in order to accumulate the poison. The obnoxious odor ascends, irritating heaven and frightening the spirits. Indeed you, O King, can eradicate the opium plant in these places, hoe over the fields entirely, and sow in its stead the five grains [millet, barley, wheat, etc.]. Anyone who dares again attempt to plant and manufacture opium should be severely punished.
This will really be a great, benevolent government policy that will increase the common weal and get rid of evil. For this, Heaven must support you and the spirits must bring you good fortune, prolonging your old age and extending your descendants. All will depend on this act." Lin Tse-Hsu’s Letter of Advice to Queen Victoria, 1839
For balance, we'll show you the BBC's alternative view on this conflict:
"In June 1840 a fleet of British warships sailed into China's Pearl River Delta and unleashed a barrage of violence, overwhelming China's weak coastal defences and bringing the country to its knees.

This was the First Opium War in which thousands were killed in the name of free trade." BBC History
Another notable section from the BBC version is the line: "For the British the highlight of the deal was the acquisition of Hong Kong Island, which would be used as a hub to increase trade in opium with China."

That seems a very strange use of the term 'highlight' to me.

The Second Boar War - 1899 to 1902 

"Thousands of newcomers arrived at Bloemfontein camp. Thousands became sick. The marquee hospital tents were always full. The doctors worked day and night. We found pieces of blue stone vitriol in the sugar. Lots of people were poisoned. People died like rats. Carts came down the rows of tents to pick up the dead. There were funerals every day." A Boer Girl's Memories of the War
The Second Boar War started not long after the discovery of large gold reserves was made in The Republic of Transvaal. This was "potentially a political and economic threat to British supremacy in South Africa" [BBC History]. One of the most terrifying aspects of the war were the concentration camps.
"Eventually, there were a total of 45 tented camps built for Boer internees and 64 for black Africans. Of the 28,000 Boer men captured as prisoners of war, 25,630 were sent overseas. The vast majority of Boers remaining in the local camps were women and children. Over 26,000 women and children were to perish in these concentration camps." Geni, Geneology Website.
"It is for their protection against the Kaffirs," said the British War Secretary, oblivious to the fact that Africans were being armed and encouraged by the English to attack a mutual enemy. Also ignoring the fact that 115,000 "black Boers" were sent to their own concentration camps, loyal servants who saw twelve thousand of their number die." A Boer Girl's Memories of the War

The sickness of the cruelty of these camps can only be matched in revulsion by the docile nature of the UK media:
"British propagandists alleged that Boer mothers were killing their children through their own stupidity and carelessness. When seven-year-old Lizzie van Zyl died of hunger at Bloemfontein, a report said her mother starved her."  A Boer Girl's Memories of the War
The Second Boer War ended after 2 years and 8 months of fighting. The Republic of Transvaal, and its gold resources, fell under Westminster control.

We've mentioned before our thoughts on Westminster's wars. We've tried to explain that a privileged few always profits from these conflicts, and that war is, has been, and always will be, a racket, yet we have a Prime Minister claiming that these same conflicts, and the 134 others we've taken part in since 1707, are a reason to maintain Westminster's power over Scotland.

Modern conflicts tend to consist of coalitions of nations working in conjunction with one another. Each member of these coalitions makes their own decision on whether or not to join based on a number of factors, including negative ones such as self-interest, corporate interests, political expediency, a warped sense of unjustified self-importance, and fanatical ideology, as well as more positive influences including morality, solidarity, and preventing genocide.
The decision facing us on the 18th of September is not what will influence our decisions regarding war, but whether we get to make a decision at all. Do we decide when we send our youth into harms way, or leave the thinking to whoever is elected at Westminster?
Who do we trust more...ourselves or a Westminster system that both lights and celebrates the fires of war?
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