By focusing on the historical crimes of Western imperialism, we are in danger of forgetting that some terrible wrongs were done more recently in US-led ‘regime-change’ operations for which no one has yet apologized.
We live in strange times. Ordinary people are being encouraged, some would say gaslighted, to feel guilty over bad things done by Western powers hundreds of years ago, over which not even their great grandparents had any control. Yet at the same time they are expected to ignore or forget about equally awful things which happened in living memory.
The dominant hegemonic narrative has it that exploitative ‘imperialism’ – and the attitudes of racial superiority that went with it – ended with the demise of the old European empires. But that is absurd. Arguably an even worse form of it has emerged in recent decades, one which has caused an enormous amount of death and destruction around the world.
Yet while the ‘old’ imperialism and anyone associated with it is completely beyond the pale, the new turbo-charged, ‘politically correct’ imperialism, which often masquerades under a ‘progressive’ or ‘humanitarian’ banner, gets off very lightly. Consider what has happened these past 30 years.
Destruction of Iraq
In 2003, Iraq, already targeted for years with draconian sanctions which caused great harm to the civilian population, including the death of many children, was subject to an all-out military assault on the fraudulent grounds that its leader Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction which could be assembled and launched within 45 minutes.
Result: Iraq was destroyed. Hundreds of thousands died during or following the invasion. The chaos caused by ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’ led directly to the rise of the death cult IS/Daesh.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, in 2011 more or less the same was done to Libya. The country with the highest Human Development Index in the whole of Africa in 2009 was bombed back to the Stone Age by the NATO ‘human rights’ crusaders.
The pretext for the assault was that Muammar Gaddafi was about to slaughter the inhabitants of Benghazi. But five years later, after the country lay in ruins, the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee report held that ‘the proposition that Muammar Gaddafi would have ordered the massacre of civilians in Benghazi was not supported by the available evidence.’ Just like Iraqi WMDs.
In 2017, it emerged that black Africans were being sold at slave markets in ‘liberated’ Libya for as little as $400.
Almost the entire British political and media class – including virtue-signaling Labour MPs now ‘taking the knee’ to protest against racism – supported the bombing of Libya, a regime-change op which was marked on the ground by racist pogroms against black Africans by NATO-backed ‘rebels.’
You don’t have to be Einstein to spot the double standards.
War in Syria and Yemen
After Libya came another imperialist regime-change op in Syria, which entailed once again the sponsoring of violent extremists, and British involvement in the war in Yemen – described by UNICEF as the largest humanitarian crisis in the world.
Surely we should feel more strongly about these operations than those which took place centuries ago?
Yet we don’t. Ask yourself this question: If/when neocon warmonger John Bolton, who supported – and indeed cheer-led for – the above ‘interventions’ comes to Oxford University to speak about his new book attacking Donald Trump, would there be more, or less, demonstrators than for the ‘Rhodes Must Go’ statue protest last week? Or if David Cameron, who led Britain into Libya in 2011 and wanted to bomb Syria in 2013, came to give a talk?
To make it clear: this is not about absolving Cecil Rhodes. My wife and I visited the Kimberley Mine Museum in South Africa a few years ago and we were appalled about the way the indigenous black people were treated by the utterly ruthless individuals who made vast fortunes out of Africa’s mineral resources.
But isn’t it strange that a statue of a man who died 120 years ago gets people more worked up than those still alive, who have played key roles in today’s blood-stained imperial projects and who have never said ‘sorry’ for the misery they caused?
If you’re being cynical, you could say it’s far better for today’s power elites that we do indeed focus on historical figures in funny old clothes from centuries past who did bad things, than those following in their footsteps today. Because if we did concentrate more on current imperialism, the power elites might actually lose their power.