British imperialism

100 years of RAF bombing

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This year the establishment has been celebrating the centenary of the founding of the Royal Air Force. All very well if you enjoy celebrating colonialism made cheaper and more deadly.

In 1921 eight RAF planes carried out a bombing raid against a village in Iraq. The villagers were terrified and men, women and children fled their homes, taking shelter in the shallows of a nearby lake. This, as the official report noted, made them “good targets for the machineguns”.

Their crime was non-payment of taxes. For some reason the massacre of rebellious “natives” from the air for non-payment of taxes has not really figured in this year’s celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the RAF.

Regime change in Iran: yesterday and tomorrow

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President Donald Trump is ratcheting up the pressure against Iran, as well as elsewhere. Indeed, his election campaign was fought partly on the “bad deal” that was struck over Iran and nuclear weapons. Now he has pulled out of the deal and is putting pressure on others to do the same. In order to understand the current situation we should revisit the history of meddling by the US.

The Skull of Alum Bheg

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This is a remarkable work of historical detection. A skull found in a pub in Kent in 1963. A handwritten note inserted in an eye socket: “Skull of Haviladar Alum Bheg 46th Bengal N Infantry who was blown away from a gun. He was a principal leader of the mutiny of 1857 and of a most ruffianly disposition.”

Kim Wagner, who had been writing and researching colonial executions, is alerted to its existence and “found myself standing at a small train station on a wet November day with a human skull in my bag.”

British values, Western barbarity

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The Tories talk about democratic “values”, yet the hypocrisy of the British state — one of the world’s top arms dealers — is astounding. John Clossick looks at a new book on Britain’s role in spreading torture.

The British establishment revels in its certainties, not least its “British values”. Actions, say ministers, are always consistent with international legal obligations and “our values as a nation”. Yet torture led directly to the Iraq war. Wide-ranging hypocrisy is plain for all to see.

Theresa May declares claims of abuse by British troops against former detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan are “an industry of vexatious allegations”. The European Human Rights Convention formally bans torture. So the Tory response is withdrawal from parts of the convention.

War criminals exposed

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The Chilcot report went further than many expected in condemning Tony Blair's role in the invasion of Iraq. As Judith Orr says, it also reinforced the need to be vigilant against all warmongers.

It took 12 days for the Chilcot report on the Iraq war to be read aloud non-stop at the Edinburgh Festival event last month. The 2.6 million words of the report were not the whitewash some had feared. In fact they were a confirmation of what so many of those who protested against the war at the time said.

Rhodes must fall - and the rest

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Over at the privileged cloisters of Oxford University there’s a bit of bother over the statue of Cecil Rhodes. On one side are those who want it removed as an icon of racism and oppression, and on the other there are those who are horrified at the suggestion, arguing that its removal will suppress serious and impartial debate on the rights and wrongs of imperialism.

Letter From... South Yemen

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It is 50 years since 14 October 1963, the day that marked the start of the armed struggle for independence from Britain. Four years later the British were kicked out and the state of South Yemen was born on 30 November 1967.

To celebrate this anniversary, and despite soaring temperatures, last month the city of Aden hosted a two-day protest and carnival. It was the biggest such event in the city's history.

It featured cultural and regional dance, displays by young artists, new revolutionary songs by youth musicians and other activities.

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