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INSTRUMENTS OF BRITISH IMPERIALISM by Lloyd Taylor

posted 14 Jul 2014, 20:36 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 14 Jul 2014, 20:37 ]
Thanks is in order to Gerry Kangalee, Cecil Paul and those at the National Workers Union for providing pretty comprehensive coverage of the launching of the book VICTORY AT DAMIEH: CIPRIANI’S SOLDIERS IN PALESTINE.

I myself was not aware of it even though I am here for a few days. It goes to show how much one can be out of touch. The writing, completion and eventual launching of the book by Arthur L. McShine is a very commendable event and I join with others in offering heartiest congratulations. Arthur L. Mc Shine never seems to allow it to be known that he was working on Cipriani's victory at Damieh. The doggedness required to do such a work is a rare quality, especially in a country that places a low value on archives and museums.

Points of additional work to be done should be noted well: one by Professor Brereton that the life of Captain Arthur Andrew Cipriani, meaning a full length biography has never been written; Raffique Shah's observation that the tactical aspects of the battle remain to be told as part of 'our' military history although under conditions of imperial rule. It is somewhat hard to claim ownership even though the choice to fight and the request to do so were necessary to be on the battlefield in active combat. Cipriani would have done us justice to document that himself.

On an altogether different matter is the observation made by Raffique Shah that war seems to be part of the human DNA. Wars in history are essentially events initiated by ruling classes most everywhere and more wars in today's world are conducted more often in poor countries with rich mineral resources. Mankind is largely  peaceful in my interpretation of history.

One needs also to revisit the role of Lawrence of Arabia, a British agent, officer and archaeologist who was something of a virgin maverick that led Arabs into battle against the Turks. He seemed not to have shared imperial policy in Arabia by the fact that his primary objective was to rally Arab nationalism and to construct an Arab nation state.

British ruling and political classes would have none of that foolishness. In the end Lawrence's valiant activity was in vain. The Arab lands under the Ottoman Empire were cut up by two public servants representing Britain and France, and became known as the Sykes-Pico Agreement and new boundary lines were drawn.

The rail transport which was constructed under the Turks to service the Arabs was destroyed. Today we wonder why there is so much bitterness among Arabs and we misconstrue it as one Harvard professor, Samuel P Huntington (1993, 1996) has done, as a religiously motivated clash of civilizations.

The irony is that the Turks and Turkey are now ensconced in the European Union as a restless instrument for NATO forces to reach into Syria, Libya and Iraq. Saudi Arabian rulers were left alone because at the time the imperial powers had no knowledge that below the ground was the largest concentration of hydrocarbon resources. They have forged an alliance with British interests and is a middle management player in foreign relations of the great powers.

Although we have to own the history of those who were born into colonialism and who had no citizenship or rights, I do believe there is not much we have to celebrate or any point in lamentations here. We have to describe the fact of that world and time and factor it into the reconstruction of a brave and bright new world and civilization that shuts its face firmly against asymmetric warfare now conducted writ large among the poorest places and people on planet earth..

We have to celebrate the world we will and must create here in these still wretched islands driven to small common purpose. Manley and Butler and Cipriani did their thing after demobilizing from the wars but after seventy five years of effort we have barely scratched the road to progress. Mr McShine deserves our congratulations.

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