This AWTWNS news packet for the week of 25 April 2016 contains three articles. They may be reproduced or used in any way, in whole or in part, as long as they are credited.
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Note: There was no awtwns packet for the week of 18 April, 2016.
- Mass deaths in the Mediterranean: a “non-event”
- Barrack Obama and Winston Churchill
- The Easter Uprising and Brexit
Mass deaths in the Mediterranean: a “non-event”
25 April 2016. A World to Win News Service. No one knows exactly how many refugees drowned in a shipwreck somewhere between Libya and Italy in late April. The 41 known survivors, who drifted in a small boat for days before being picked up by a freighter, said that between 400 and 500 died.
When an airliner full of Western Europeans or other people called “white” goes down, the media talk about little else for days. But these hundreds of deaths of Somalians and other East Africans barely made it into the news. This was not only because they were born in countries where the common people have no right to expect to stay alive, in some Western eyes, but even more because these deaths are part of a shameful situation that all the Western powers have conspired to bring about.
A similar shipwreck in October 2013 left hundreds of bodies of adults and children floating off the shores of the Italian island of Lampedusa. At that time, only fisherman and other local people bothered to try to save them. With its legitimacy and the “normal” functioning of society at stake, the Italian government launched Mare Nostrum, a naval operation to rescue people.
Though many people drowned, about 150,00 people were pulled out of the water during the following year. Many European governments considered that a problem: the chances of death had to be drastically increased to keep out migrants. UK Prime Minister David Cameron was the loudest among the voices publicly calling for the programme’s cancellation. Mare Nostrum was replaced by Operation Triton, with police vessels that are not equipped to rescue and safely transport people. Italy’s participation is called “Mare sicuro”, because the aim is to “secure” the European coastline from non-Europeans.
Leading European politicians and their media stooges bang on about how “traffickers” are responsible for these deaths. Yet if these traffickers say, we don’t have the facilities to rescue anyone when boats accidentally tip over and at any rate we’re not in the business of saving people – isn’t that exactly what Nato and the European Union are saying? And these traffickers, unlike the Western powers, are not responsible for the situations that makes risking death at sea the best option for whole populations.
The European authorities have had to go back and forth on this, sometimes trying to emphasize their “humanitarian” values so that the indifference to human life of their states and system does not stand naked. Almost exactly a year before this latest criminal tragedy, after 800 people drowned under similar circumstances, Europe also launched Operation Sofia, which has rescued 12,600 people. Almost four times that number are believed to have drowned since then. Amnesty International said that Operation Sofia was “bound to fail” because saving people is not the mission it is meant and equipped for.
Right now, there is not a single government-owned ship in the Mediterranean meant for that mission. The only such vessel has been the Aquarius, operated by Medicins du Monde and SOS Mediterranee. Financed mainly by donations on the Net, this former German coastguard patrol boat rented by the NGOs is fitted to carry up to 500 people, equipped with a clinic and staffed by medical personal. Without emergency treatment, many people found floating in the sea will die. After the latest drownings, Medicins Sans Frontieres, whose three ships halted their work in January, resumed operations, finding and rescuing hundreds of people immediately.
The Aquarius has been stationed just outside Libyan territorial waters. It is this part of the sea and, perhaps, the Libyan coastline, where Nato and the EU are now discussing sending their warships – not to rescue people, but to stop them.
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Barack Obama and Winston Churchill
25 April 2016. A World to Win News Service. During a stopover in London, US president Barack Obama encouraged voters in an upcoming referendum to approve the UK’s continued membership in the European Union and avoid what is widely known as a Brexit (Britain Exit). London’s pro-Brexit mayor Boris Johnson provoked major controversy with an article claiming that Obama had banished a statue of Winston Churchill from his office as a snub to Britain’s World War II prime minister, considered one of the most important individuals in British history. Johnson called this a “symbol of the part-Kenyan President’s ancestral dislike of the British empire.” (thesun.co.uk, 22 april 2016)
Obama’s press secretary responded that it is customary to return items given to former presidents, and that another bust of Churchill enjoys a prominent place in the White House. Obama said he keeps this Churchill bust where he can see it every day. “It’s there voluntarily… I love Winston Churchill. I love the guy.”
What is there to love about Winston Churchill? His hands were shamelessly drenched in the blood of literally millions of people in Africa and Asia, and he defended these deaths by arguing that the world’s dark-skinned natives benefited from the rule of the superior white man. Yet people are so brainwashed that UK polls hail Winston Churchill as a great statesman, perhaps the greatest ever.
As a young man he set off for Africa to take part in “a lot of jolly little wars against barbarous peoples”. When he found the local population fought back against British troops and settlers occupying their land, he branded their resistance as “a strong aboriginal propensity to kill” and demanded they be crushed. He defended the British concentration camps in South Africa where 28,000 Boers (Dutch immigrants) died, and separate camps where 150,000 Black Africans were herded and 14,000 died. As Colonial Secretary in the 1920s, he unleashed Black and Tan thugs (the Special Forces of the day) on Irish rising up against British rule. When Kurds rebelled against British domination in the 1940s, he declared himself “strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes”.
Churchill believed the fertile highlands of Kenya should belong to white settlers and indigenous populations should be cleared out. When the Kikuyu people fought against this in what became known as the Mau Mau rebellion, some 150,000 were forced into detention camps. In her book Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag, based on five years of investigation, Pulitzer prize-winning historian Professor Caroline Elkins describes the electric shocks, whipping, horrendous mutilation and murder, including burn people alive, used against Africans suspected of of supporting the uprising.
He offered the “Promised Land” to Jews and dismissed the Palestinians already living in the country as “barbaric hoards who ate little but camel dung”. He created Jordan and Iraq, using arbitrary borders to divide and rule ethnic groups, bombing whole villages into submission and setting the stage for today’s crisis. The terror bombing of civilians in 1920 was a preview of US and British tactics during the invasion and occupation of contemporary Iraq.
In sheer numbers, Churchill’s imperial policies were most brutally demonstrated in colonial India. In the 1943 famine, at least 3 million people starved to death in Bengal. In full awareness, Churchill refused to send food supplies to the region, saying it was the fault of Indians themselves for “breeding like rabbits”.
Madhusree Mukerjee’s book Churchill’s Secret War vividly describes the famine’s effect, drawing on interviews with survivors. “Many suicides, mercy killings and cases of child abandonment took place among families who could no longer bear to see the wild-eyed, starving faces of their children. Mass prostitution by village mothers, wives or daughters with anyone who had grain often saved whole families. Brothels for [British and Australian] soldiers were serviced by the starving young girls from the countryside. Many were lured by promises of a real job and then forced into servitude, in much the same way as today women are forced into prostitution around the world.” (See awtwns110411)
After WWII, the British empire gave way to US domination, and British imperialism flourished as junior partner in this new “special relationship” with the U.S. The days when Western powers enjoyed direct and open government over colonies may be mainly over, but imperialism as an economic and political system in which a handful of countries dominate and bleed the world is still in force. For instance: the troop occupations and wars spawned by the need to protect US, UK and other Western interests in the Middle East, and the sweatshops in Bangladesh and China without which there would be no Western malls, are no less devastating than the horrors faced by directly colonised peoples who once made up most of the world’s population.
Obama’s own Kikuyu grandfather was imprisoned under Churchill’s reign. But Churchill is Obama’s role model, just as he is for most leaders and would-be leaders of imperialist powers. When Obama says “I love the guy”, he is speaking as the commander in chief and chief executive officer of the American empire, and like Churchill, he is prepared to do whatever he can to defend it.
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The Easter Uprising and Brexit
25 April 2016. A World to Win News Service. The heating up of the debate about a “Brexit” (a British exit from the European Union) has coincided with the centennial of the Eastern Rebellion against British rule of Ireland. What’s the connection?
On 24 April, 1916, while hundreds of thousands of Irish were fighting in the British army to save the British empire from its German rivals in World War One, a few thousand Irish men and women organized an armed insurrection to free Ireland from British domination.
After five days of urban warfare, massive British troops surrounded the General Post Office and other rebel positions. Reinforced by a gunboat able to steam into the heart of Dublin, they set off the same kind of artillery barrage that made the war on the continent so murderous.
When the rebels surrendered, the British subjected 187 people to immediate, secret trials led by victorious British officers with no right of defence. All seven signers of the call for the Easter Uprising regardless of their actual role, and eight others, were executed immediately, including James Connolly, one of the leaders, so badly wounded that he had to be brought before the firing squad tied to a chair. Thousands of suspects were rounded up and about 1,800 sent to concentration camps. It took six years of war and civil war before Britain exited from most, but not all, of the island.
Today, it goes without saying, none of the authorized voices debating Brexit are calling for the UK to exit from the part of Ireland that remains its colony, nor for Britain to give up its continuing exploitation in former colonies and of the billions of human beings in countries dominated by imperialist capital in general.
Although the complex issues involved in the Brexit debate need to be analysed in their own right, to put it simply, they revolve around what is considered best for the interests of the same criminal British imperialist ruling class targeted by the Easter Rebellion, especially how best to partner and rival with the other other big power imperialist ruling classes who are, separately and together, responsible for the greater part of the misery of the world’s billions, from two world wars to today’s wars, repression and unbearable conditions from which tens of millions of people are fleeing in a humanitarian crisis that is no less criminal in its origins and consequences.
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