Sunday, May 13, 2007

Imperialism in 1857 & 2007

New Delhi in 1857 and Baghdad in 2007 - Imperialism then and now.

Mike Ghouse, May 13, 2007

The following article about 1857 is worth reading. Jack Straw, the British foreign Secretary recently disclosed the atrocities the British Raj in India, including splitting the nation and creating long term strife. He was regretful of their past.

President Bush and Vice President Cheney are equally hallucinated, we may deny the concept of empire, but the imperialism beneath this war mongering and destruction is very apparent. They just cannot understand that they are responsible for the genocide of the Iraqis and that their bull headedness is apalling. The graceful thing to do is to bring our sons and daughters home. They can be wrong and be accountable to the lord, but we the Americans are the one's who have to bear the guilt of this genocide by the foursome; Cheney, Bush, Rice and Rumsfield and we don't.

Had we not gone to war, we would not have killed 650,000 + Iraqi lives, and 3500 of our own sons and daughters. We have wreaked havoc with the death and destruction of the Iraqi people and their infrastructure, and yet we blame their culture and religion for attacks and the sectarian violence. We have messed up the Iraqi people for at least two generations. It is a destructive war, we are wrong and we have to bring God in to our lives and be the humans Jesus and all the great teachers wanted us to be. Enough is enough.

The foursome owe an apology to Americans for lying and uploading the guilt of genocide on us, and to the Iraqi people for slaughtering their kith and kin. We went in for WMD, that was a lie, then we called it regime change, then we called ourselves liberators. Great job in fooling us, you can fool us a few times but not forever.

The British did not go to India to save the people; neither had they had the intent of staying and developing the nation, all they were interested in was shipping the raw materials back home, make products and sell it back. There was nothing wrong in doing business, but when it is un-fair, immoral and un-just, it does not survive. By God they were brutal monarchs, they did what they wanted to do, no rule of law, no morality, no accountability and no conscience.

The UK Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, has blamed Britain's imperial past for many of the modern political problems, including the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Kashmir dispute. In an interview with a British magazine, the New Statesman, Mr Straw spoke of quite serious mistakes made, especially during the last decades of the empire.

He said the Balfour Declaration of 1917 - in which Britain pledged support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine - and the contradictory assurances given to Palestinians, were not entirely honourable. "The Balfour declaration and the contradictory assurances which were being given to Palestinians in private at the same time as they were being given to the Israelis - again, an interesting history for us, but not an honourable one," he said.

Mr Straw acknowledged "some quite serious mistakes" in India and Pakistan, jewels of the British empire before their 1947 independence, as well as Britain's "less than glorious role" in Afghanistan.

What about us? We are a democracy and we are letting our foursome make decisions in our behalf, our occupation is causing death and destruction. I beg our president not to wear that imperial hat, it does not fit him, he represents our will and not the imperial order.

History does not have to judge us, our conscience will, we have to answer to our kids and grand kids, what would we say to them? That we were chickens, and that we did not have guts to speak out and stop the massacre? And yet we are the nation that leads in humanitarian work, we are compassionate people yet shamelessly did not do anything about it. We have to answer ourselves

For God's sake, let's Speak out for your own sense of balance, at least we can tell the lord (or answer the conscience to mitigate the guilt) that we have done our part.

Mike Ghouse is a Speaker, Thinker, Writer and a Moderator. He is president of the Foundation for Pluralism and is a frequent guest on talk radio, discussing interfaith, political and civic issues. He founded the World Muslim Congress with a simple theme: "good for Muslims and good for the world." His personal Website is and his articles can be found on the Websites mentioned above and in his blogs: and . He can be reached at Mike lives in Carrollton with his family and has been a Dallasite since 1980.


Delhi, 1857: a bloody warning to today's imperial occupiers,,2076320,00.html

A century and a half after the Indian mutiny, echoes of the arrogance and lies that sparked insurgency could not be clearer

William Dalrymple
Thursday May 10, 2007
The Guardian

Soon after dawn on May 11 1857, 150 years ago this week, the Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar was saying his morning prayers in his oratory overlooking the river Jumna when he saw a cloud of dust rising on the far side of the river. Minutes later, he was able to see its cause: 300 East India Company cavalrymen charging wildly towards his palace.

The troops had ridden overnight from Meerut, where they had turned their guns on their British officers, and had come to Delhi to ask the emperor to give his blessing to their mutiny. As a letter sent out by the rebels' leaders subsequently put it: "The English are people who overthrow all religions ... As the English are the common enemy of both [Hindus and Muslims, we] should unite in their slaughter ... By this alone will the lives and faiths of both be saved."

The sepoys entered Delhi, massacred every Christian man, woman and child they could find and declared the 82-year-old emperor to be their leader. Before long the insurgency had snowballed into the largest and bloodiest anticolonial revolt against any European empire in the 19th century. Of the 139,000 sepoys of the Bengal army, all but 7,796 turned against the British. In many places the sepoys were supported by a widespread civilian rebellion.

There is much about British imperial adventures in the east at this time, and the massive insurgency it provoked, which is uneasily familiar to us today. The British had been trading in India since the early 17th century. But the commercial relationship changed towards the end of the 18th, as a new group of conservatives came to power in London, determined to make Britain the sole global power. Lord Wellesley, the brother of the Duke of Wellington and governor general in India from 1798 to 1805, called his new approach the Forward Policy. But it was in effect a project for a new British century. Wellesley made it clear he would not tolerate any European rivals, especially the French, and planned to remove any hostile Muslim regimes that might presume to resist the west's growing might.

The Forward Policy soon developed an evangelical flavour. The new conservatives wished to impose not only British laws but also western values on India. The country would be not only ruled but redeemed. Local laws which offended Christian sensibilities were abrogated - the burning of widows, for instance, was banned. One of the East India Company directors, Charles Grant, spoke for many when he wrote of how he believed providence had brought the British to India for a higher purpose: "Is it not necessary to conclude that our Asiatic territories were given to us, not merely that we draw a profit from them, but that we might diffuse among their inhabitants, long sunk in darkness, the light of Truth?"

The British progressed from removing threatening Muslim rulers to annexing even the most pliant Islamic states. In February 1856 they marched into Avadh, also known by the British as Oudh. To support the annexation, a "dodgy dossier" was produced before parliament, so full of distortions and exaggerations that one British official who had been involved in the operation described the parliamentary blue book (or paper) on Oudh as "a fiction of official penmanship, [an] Oriental romance" that was refuted "by one simple and obstinate fact", that the conquered people of Avadh clearly "preferred the slandered regime" of the Nawab "to the grasping but rose-coloured government of the company".

The reaction to this came with the great mutiny, or as it is called in India, the first war of independence. Though it reflected many deeply held political and economic grievances, particularly the feeling that the heathen foreigners were interfering with a part of the world to which they were alien, the uprising was consistently articulated as a defensive action against the inroads missionaries and their ideas were making in India, combined with a generalised fight for freedom from western occupation.

Although the great majority of the sepoys were Hindus, there are many echoes of the Islamic insurgencies the US fights today in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Delhi a flag of jihad was raised in the principal mosque, and many of the resistance fighters described themselves as mujahideen or jihadis. There was even a regiment of "suicide ghazis" who vowed to fight until they met death.

Events reached a climax on September 14 1857, when British forces attacked the besieged city. They proceeded to massacre not only the rebel sepoys and jihadis, but also the ordinary citizens of the Mughal capital. In one neighbourhood alone, Kucha Chelan, 1,400 unarmed citizens were cut down. Delhi, a sophisticated city of half a million souls, was left an empty ruin.

The emperor was put on trial and charged, quite inaccurately, with being behind a Muslim conspiracy to subvert the empire stretching from Mecca and Iran to Delhi's Red Fort. Contrary to evidence that the uprising broke out first among the overwhelmingly Hindu sepoys, the prosecutor argued that "to Musalman intrigues and Mahommedan conspiracy we may mainly attribute the dreadful calamities of 1857". Like some of the ideas propelling recent adventures in the east, this was a ridiculous and bigoted oversimplification of a more complex reality. For, as today, western politicians found it easier to blame "Muslim fanaticism" for the bloodshed they had unleashed than to examine the effects of their own foreign policies. Western politicians were apt to cast their opponents in the role of "incarnate fiends", conflating armed resistance to invasion and occupation with "pure evil".

Yet the lessons of 1857 are very clear. No one likes people of a different faith conquering them, or force-feeding them improving ideas at the point of a bayonet. The British in 1857 discovered what the US and Israel are learning now, that nothing so easily radicalises a people against them, or so undermines the moderate aspect of Islam, as aggressive western intrusion in the east. The histories of Islamic fundamentalism and western imperialism have, after all, long been closely and dangerously intertwined. In a curious but very concrete way, the fundamentalists of all three Abrahamic faiths have always needed each other to reinforce each other's prejudices and hatreds. The venom of one provides the lifeblood of the others.

• William Dalrymple's The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty, Delhi 1857, has just been published in paperback by Bloomsbury

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Another comment relating to parallels between 1857 and Iraq/Afghanistan today.

In 1857, Britain was the de facto 'paramount power' in India (and generally the whole world.)The known world (or several known worlds) has/have had a paramount power since the Neolithic revolution c.10 thousand years ago. This, whatever bleeding-heart liberals, socialists, Third-Worldists, Christians and suchlike may think, is not going to change in the foreseeable future.

As the paramount power, Britain was under obligation to impose its vision of law, order and civilization on those under its 'yoke'. Having realized that many of the policies and practices of the 'Honourable East India Company's' rule had been incompetent and overly exploitative, the British government took India under its direct control in 1858, told Indians that they they would get law, order, civilization (as Britain saw it) and a degree of prosperity for themselves, BUT that, from now on, they would bl**dy-well do what they were told. That is the job of a paramount power. (Thank God Russia, France or Germany never attained that status.)
The British record in India from 1858 until Independence in 1947, was relatively benign and successful.

Yes there was the Amritsar massacre (British military stupidity conspiring with some Indians refusing do what they were bl**dy-well told), several horrific famines (British bureaucratic bungling and Indian superstitious primitivism making things worse) and, worst of all, the caving in to the Moslem fanatics over an independent Pakistan (hence 1947 massacres, Bagladesh War, Waziristan, Taleban, madrassas, 9/11, 7/7 etc. etc.) The great success was an India based on a secular ideology (now dying)and free of any REAL influence by 'naked fakir' primitivists such as Gandhi, whose intellectual ancestors had been defeated in 1857.
Today we have, God help us, as the world's paramount power, the United States of America !; a state based not primarily on enlightened self-interest but on a relgio-political ideology - 'Gahd-an'-Demahcracy'. So what do we get, after a perfectly legitimate attack on Afghanistan's Taleban (hosts of the 'Beardy Arab') and on the former client dictator Hussein (a real threat to the oil supply of the civilized world - forget the WOMD garbage)? What we get is a mad scheme to introduce democracy and humanitarian values into Moslem societies which, with their history and ideological underpinnings, have no possibility of adopting them.
As the British in 1857, the USA should have said/should now say to the Middle East, from Lebanon to the Indus is - 'We will give you order, law (as we see it, and it includes full equality of women)and (our) peace as well as a degree of prosperity. And from now on you will bl**dy-well do what you are told. End of message.
No hope of that of course, and we can only hope that the USA will soon decline ignominiously into second-rank power status, What abyss of oblivion awaits my native country (Britain), I shudder (and weep) to think of. The Moslems think they will be the next paramount power, with their Mohammedan 'caliphate'. Fat chance of that, praise be to All*h !

When China assumes its natural role as the world's 'central country', which we can only hope will be asap, we will have no nonsense of Western democracy, humanitarianism or religion. The greatest Chinese thinker, Lao Tze, established the basic principle of enlightened paramount power over two thousand years ago - 'Keep the stomachs of the people full and their minds empty.' and we can bet that they will apply it.

Presumably the Chinese will be too polite (and ethnocentric) to impose their order by overt aggression or insult but I, for one, would be delighted to receive their message in the following form - 'Now, you barbarians, br**dy-well do what told. Chop, chop!'

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A few interesting comments;

Scrutator, “I was astonished at the insights Mr Dalrymple provided in his earlier book 'White Mughals', most particularly the recognition of Wellesley's fundamental role in promoting British exclusiveness, the 'stiff upper lip' and the belief that the Englishman was not like other people but had been chosen by God for a higher purpose.
I guess this new book will further his explication of what our forebears did in the sub-continent, for better or for worse. I shall look forward to reading it. My own research into the old English-language newspapers of Bombay etc suggests that everything the India Company did was consistently intelligible only in terms of profit. No wonder parliament required the destruction of the Company's commercial records.
I think it can reasonably be established that the Indian War of Independence commenced soon after Clive got the diwani of Bengal. Hyder Ali is an early exemplar and the Maratha attacks continued more or less continuously up to 1857. They were the people who might have governed India after the Mughal Raj had the English not intervened.
It has been a shock to see the India Company's tactics being repeated as western policy towards the rest of the world of late. The old phrase 'if you are not with us, you are against us' which a famous politician used recently, is a polite way of saying 'do as I say or I'll hit you'. Can we not do better than that?
What I particularly wish to thank Mr Dalrymple for is this percipient reminder that a people should know their history and understand the significance of it. If that message can be communicated to just one reader, this book will be completely worthwhile.’
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Dante, “Part of me hopes America continues to undermine its own dominance in this fashion, since this will probably lead to a fairer world more quickly, and part of me hopes for a more peaceful transition of power.”
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Grand Old Man, “One example i would give: The Mutinous sepoys- both hindu and Muslims- rushed to Delhi to proclaim the old Mughal "Emperor" to be their titular leader, not because he symbolised moderate islam, but because he was the ONLY crexdible candidate to be their titular leader- so i doubt that had anything to do with his religion.
There is also the use of emotive language- "Delhi, a sophisticated city of half a million, was left an empty ruin"- Implying all 500,000 inhabitants were ethnically cleansed.
Although there were no doubt many thousands of innocents murdered in the British revenge, I know of no reputable historian who would suggest the entire population were murdered or expelled.”
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Marksa- I'm no expert on Indian history, so I may be corrected on this: Both Suttee and Thugee DID exist in India and were punished and more or less eradicated by the Brits, but were almost certainly not as widespread as the Brits made out- because of course any incidents justified their "benevolent" and "civilising" rule in India.
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Schlik, “May 10, 2007 12:30
In answer to your questions, I offer you the following quote -
"How did 10,000 Englishmen rule more than 400 million Indians?
The English ruled Indians with Indian help. The most obvious example is in the fact that Indian and Nepalese troops were used to quell Indian uprisings. Thus Punjabi soldiers quelled movements in Bengal as Gurkha soldiers quelled uprisings in Punjab. After the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny, the colonial authorities used Indians from one region to patrol Indians from other regions."
(from Vikrum Sequeira's 'Indian nostalgia for the Raj; What's going on?'), as mentioned in my previous post.
P.S. Hitler was a famous admirer of the Indian Raj. He saw the British dominance as a good example of racial superiority and efficiency, which is exactly the same as the British saw it.
P.P.S. Incidentally, the US occupation of Iraq is using the Israeli-trained Kurdish militias, and Shia militant factions (which together make up the Iraqi army and police)
to combat the Sunni insurgency with a campaign of terror.
Divide and rule is the oldest occupation strategy on the planet. It was the reason for the campaign successes of both Caesar and Cortez, and I'm sure was used by others even before these two colonising generals came along and wreaked their havoc.”
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Eccentrix, “I've noted a rather unpleasant piece of behaviour. Many people really think that the British Empire was established for the greater good and one particulary myopic poster suggests that India was run "for the good for all".
That's a load of crap. The Empire was based on Britain's ability to expand their area of influence by force in order to benefit Great Britain, first and foremost.
All talk of unpleasant local cultural practices are used as a smokescreen to distract attention from brutality meted out to people IN THEIR OWN COUNTRY by foreigners!!! If you manage to stretch the argument, you could even argue that saving women from burning themselves (as if that was the reason for colonising that part of the world) was worth all the lives lost in the rebellion and subsequent skirmishes. Rubbish.

The arrticle points to mistakes that were made in 1857 and frankly speaking (disregarding semantics), I can see the same mistakes being repeated 150 years later. Imposition of values on a foreign country, helping to turn country into a warzone, increased level of atrocities meted out by military of occupying force, rising alienation of local population and an unwavering delusional belief that if we carry on, everything will be alright eventually.

A wise man once said "Those who cannot remember history's mistakes are doomed to forever repeat them". Never were truer words spoken.”
Friday, 15 November, 2002, 17:11 GMT
British Empire blamed for modern conflicts

Jack Straw said serious mistakes had been made

The UK Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, has blamed Britain's imperial past for many of the modern political problems, including the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Kashmir dispute.
"A lot of the problems we are having to deal with now - I have to deal with now - are a consequence of our colonial past," he said.

The Balfour declaration... again, an interesting history for us, but not an honourable one

Jack Straw

In an interview with a British magazine, the New Statesman, Mr Straw spoke of quite serious mistakes made, especially during the last decades of the empire.

He said the Balfour Declaration of 1917 - in which Britain pledged support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine - and the contradictory assurances given to Palestinians, were not entirely honourable.

"The Balfour declaration and the contradictory assurances which were being given to Palestinians in private at the same time as they were being given to the Israelis - again, an interesting history for us, but not an honourable one," he said.

The odd lines for Iraq's borders were drawn by Brits

Jack Straw

Mr Straw acknowledged "some quite serious mistakes" in India and Pakistan, jewels of the British empire before their 1947 independence, as well as Britain's "less than glorious role" in Afghanistan.

'Odd' borders

Mr Straw blamed many territorial disputes on the illogical borders created by colonial powers.

He mentioned Iraq, the region which was governed by Britain under the mandate of the League of Nations after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I.

"The odd lines for Iraq's borders were drawn by Brits," he said.

And he said the British Government had been complacent about Kashmir at the time of Indian independence, when it quickly became the most contentious issue between India and Pakistan.

'Sensible statement'

This is not the first time Mr Straw has made controversial remarks about British history.

In the past he has blamed the English of oppressing the Scots, the Irish and the Welsh.

Mr Straw said British colonial past was less than honourable

Members of the main opposition Conservative Party accused Mr Straw of undermining British foreign policy, particularly in Zimbabwe, where President Robert Mugabe has justified his campaign against white farmers as a way of righting the wrongs of colonialism.

But Downing Street said Mr Straw's remarks were "a sensible statement of history".


BBC's Diplomatic correspondent Barnaby Mason says that Mr Straw's critical remarks about British colonialism would be unsurprising coming from virtually anyone else.

Such views have been commonplace across the world and among left-wingers in Britain.

Our correspondent said 30 years ago, Mr Straw used to be an outspoken left winger himself.

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