British imperialism: looking for a way out of the impasse

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In July, during a visit to India no less, David Cameron, British Prime Minister, no doubt delivering a message from his earlier meeting with the US administration, accused Pakistan, or elements within Pakistan, of exporting terror and playing a double game. He should know. The export of terrorism and the double games that surround it are a speciality of British imperialism – as Pakistan well knows.

The Guardian newspaper, as a national newspaper, is one of the elements of the British state, but some of its reporting on Iraq and Afghanistan has been extremely informative about the double-dealing going on. Reporters Simon Tisdall and Haroon Siddique and columnist Mark Curtis, author of the book Secret Affairs, Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam, have recently provided some strong evidence that Britain, too, is ‘facing both ways’.

First of all, on the AfPak border, Tisdall quoting from Stephen Tanner’s Afghanistan, A Military History: “This arbitrary line (the Pakistan/Afghanistan border), drawn through the mountains in 1893 by the bird-watching Englishman (Henry) Mortimer Duran, was meant at the time to split the Pashtun people, the world’s largest remaining tribal society”. Tisdall goes on to say: “London also wanted to keep Peshawar, Quetta and the strategic Khyber Pass in the territory of the Raj. It succeeded in both aims – but the partition of ‘Pashtunistan’, heartland of the Taliban, is now a major complicating factor in the security situation. This problem was made in Britain”.” Made in Britain”, like so many of the continual running sores and flashpoints of imperialism today that have their roots in British double-dealing and the policy of divide and rule: Iraq, Palestine, the Balkans, Africa, etc.

Mark Curtis (The Guardian, 6.7.10) shows that British involvement with and manipulation of militant Islamist groups goes back decades and that Whitehall’s collusion with “terrorist” Islamist groups is continuing. He shows how two of the London 7/7 bombers were trained in camps in Pakistan run by the Harkat ul-Mujahideen (HUM) group that received at least indirect aid from Britain. MI6’s covert operations in the AfPak region in the 80s, involved, along with the CIA and government of Benazir Bhutto, the aiding, financing and training of various Islamist and Talib groups to fight against the Russian occupation. One of these faction’s warlords was “Jalalludin Haqqani, who is now the Taliban’s overall military commander fighting the British: his past is not something that the Ministry of Defence relates to the young soldiers deployed to Helmand province.” Curtis also talks about the warlord/killer Hulbuddin Hekmatyar, now on the ‘other’ side, who met Foreign Office officials in Whitehall. Noises from the F.O. suggest that Britain will, once again, have to deal with these men to extricate themselves from the mess they are in. Curtis quotes the head of the British army, Sir David Richards, saying that the “UK’s authority and reputation (!) in the world” are at stake. Since 2004, Britain has been holding talks with elements of the Taliban and this should come as no surprise given Britain’s historical entanglement with Islamic fundamentalism. Curtis again: “The Anglo-American operation in Iran in 1953 to remove the popular Mossadeq government, which had nationalised British oil operations, involved plotting with Ayatollah Seyyed Kashani, the founder of the militant fundamentalist group Devotees of Islam. Both MI6 and the CIA were involved in this plotting and scheming. “Also targeted was Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser, who in 1952 overthrew the pro-British King Farouk, providing an Arab nationalist alternative to the pro-western monarchies in the Middle East. Britain had first covertly funded the Muslim Brotherhood, a new radical force with a terrorist wing, in 1942, and further links were made with the organisation after Nasser’s revolution. By 1956, when Britain invaded Egypt, contacts were developed as part of the plans to overthrow Nasser. Indeed, the invasion was undertaken in the knowledge that the Muslim Brotherhood might form the new regime. After Nasser died in 1970, the pro-western president Anwar Sadat secretly sponsored militant Islamist cells to counter nationalists and communists (mainly Russian influence, but workers would have been directly attacked). British officials were still describing the Brotherhood as a ‘potentially handy weapon’”.

Britain certainly contributed to the rise of global terrorism even if local conditions were favourable to it: support for the anti-Russian “holy warriors” in the 1980s which resulted in Al Qaida, support for Algerian fundamentalist killers, giving them, among many others, safe haven in London, where, along with elements of the British state they plotted and schemed. “But Whitehall’s view of Islamic militants as handy weapons or shock troops is far from historical. In 1999, during Nato’s bombing campaign against Yugoslavia, the Blair government secretly trained fighters in the Kosovo Liberation Army to act as Nato’s soldiers on the ground (also importing fundamentalists from the AfPak region). The KLA was openly described by ministers as a terrorist organisation”. The SAS was involved in training them and “... one KLA unit was led by the brother of Ayman al-Zawahiri, Bin Laden’s right-hand man. This murky feature of Blair’s ‘humanitarian intervention’ remains overlooked in most accounts of the war”.

British imperialism’s involvement with radical Islam continued into the aftermath of the war in Iraq relatively recently, with British army commanders sucking up to the fundamentalist groups in Basra, effectively handing over security, i.e., its own brand of terror and oppression, to the Shia fundamentalists.

Britain, as a major power, is by no means alone in using, sheltering, aiding and manipulating fundamentalist terrorist groups and warlords. Imperialism abounds globally, nationally and locally and there is no escape from it or its decomposing spread of warfare and militarism. Around the Union Jacks, nationalism and processions of returning soldiers coffins or young men who have been blown apart, yet still live, and those many more that have been brutalised and traumatised, we will hear nothing of all these dirty dealings of the British state. Instead, the Goebbels’-type Big Lie is repeated again and again: we are in Afghanistan to provide security to the local population and keep the streets of Britain safe. Military, Labour and Conservative liars covered in blood. Baboon. 12.8.10