Rule Britannia For Global Crimes
By Finian Cunningham
Clearing House" -
It’s an anthem that is usually sung with chest-thumping
pride and misty eyes by British imperialists. “Rule
Britannia, Britannia rules the waves”. This jingoistic
celebration of Britain’s former global conquest may yet
degenerate into “Rue Britannia, Britannia rues the waves”.
because, as The Guardian newspaper reports this week, the
London government has at long last been forced into recognizing
compensation payments for as many as 50,000 Kenyan nationals who
were victims of torture and other crimes against humanity during
that country’s independence struggle in the 1950s. The eventual
bill for compensation could run up to tens of millions of
But the bad news for financially bankrupt Britain does not end
there. With this precedent established of compensation for past
British imperialist crimes, that now leaves the way open for a
global flood of similar claims.
Jingoistic British imperialists may therefore soon rue their
often-made reference to Britain ruling the waves and so many
countries the world over - at the height of the British Empire
some 20 percent of the globe’s land mass was under colonial
domination. That’s a lot of people who can claim recompense for
past British horrors and deprivation.
bill for Britain’s crimes against humanity in Kenya alone
runs into tens of millions of pounds, then we can easily
multiply that sum manifold if the millions of other victims
from across the world who suffered under the British
jackboot come forward to claim justice.
Guardian listed just a handful of additional class-action
cases for compensation against the British government. They
included the former colonies of Cyprus, Yemen, Swaziland and
British Guiana. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg when
measuring Britain’s global legacy of crimes and human suffering.
Many others would include Britain’s dirty wars and repressive
colonial regimes in Bahrain, British Somaliland, Burma, Ghana,
Nigeria, Northern Ireland, Oman and Zimbabwe. Even that list is
far from complete.
Iran presents a challenging case too. After the British-assisted
coup in 1953 that led to the 26-year reign of terror under Shah
Pahlavi, tens of thousands of Iranians were subjected to torture
by the Western-trained and armed Savak secret police. Iranians
therefore have a case for compensation against the British
Previously, the British House of Lords decreed arbitrarily that
no cases for compensation stemming from before 1954 can be
brought to an English court. Fortunately for the British
establishment, that ruling excludes millions of more potential
litigants from former British India, which gained independence
Given the appalling suffering inflicted by the British overlords
in India - from starvation, massacres, mass imprisonment and
destruction of farming and textile livelihoods to give British
exporters a competitive advantage - the resulting claims if
filed to the Exchequer would definitely spell good night for
Britain’s sputtering economy. Far from ruling the waves,
Britannia would sink to a watery grave.
the real point perhaps is more about principle than money -
important though material redress is to victims of
injustice. What the case of the Kenyans against the British
government is really achieving is to strip bare the truth
about Britain’s imperial legacy. British national conceit
and history books are replete with double standards and
moral relativism. It is too widely and fatuously assumed
that Britain’s Empire represented somehow a benevolent
contribution to history. British people, and unfortunately
English-language academia and media across the world, tend
to perceive Britain’s “decolonization” - its retreat from
imperial territories - as a magnanimous gesture of granting
independence. This delusional notion is best summed up in
the Orwellian term “the British Commonwealth of nations”.
conceited moral duplicity, Britain insists that Imperial Japan
and Nazi Germany must pay out compensation to victims of their
conquests. But no such obligation pertains to Britain, according
to the British rulers. Why not? Only imperial arrogance and a
certain sense of victor’s justice stemming from the Second World
War are invoked to subjectively justify that contradiction. In
the world of objective facts and evidence, Britain is equally
liable for redress to its global victims of crimes against
When Britain set out to destroy the Mau Mau struggle for Kenya’s
political independence during the 1950s, the British were not
interested in benign, passive “decolonization”. For the British
rulers, it was a life-or-death challenge to the entire global
system of British Empire and its exploitative excrescence on the
world. The same British “siege mentality” manifested ruthlessly
against the independence movements in all its colonies.
Up to 300,000 Kenyans were incarcerated in concentration camps
during what the British euphemistically called “The Emergency”.
That same quaint word - “Emergency” - was used by the British to
dissemble their barbarism and brutality in Burma against
pro-independence communist guerrilla. During Bahrain and
Northern Ireland’s struggle for freedom from Britain’s unlawful
dominance, the preferred euphemism for repression was “The
But these semantics aside, the nature of repression meted out by
British rulers and their officers was systematically criminal
and brutal and comparable to the worst genocidal regimes the
world has known.
The Kenyan Mau Mau may have suffered the most, probably owing to
a twist of racist depravity among the white British
counterinsurgency practitioners. Kenyan prisoners were castrated
and roasted over fires by British officers using methods of
torture that even classified British records explicitly
sanctioned as “Gestapo techniques”.
the British suppression of the Cypriot insurgency during the
1950s, inmates were routinely tortured by water-boarding
sessions in which Kerosene was added to the drowning water.
Later, during the 1970s in Northern Ireland’s conflict,
Irish prisoners were incarcerated without charge and
tortured by hooding, prolonged wall-standing, sleep
deprivation, white noise and intimidation with guard dogs,
not to mention routine physical beatings.
torture and generally repressive regimens sound similar to what
has since been uncovered in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay
it is because they are wholly consistent. These are the standard
operating practices of British military doctrine and that of its
close American ally.
The reason why such barbarity continues to be practiced is
because of the moral duplicity and propagandized version of
history that the Western media and academia instill. Barbarity
is something that others perpetrate, not us.
The glacial pace of justice - as shown by the more than six
decades’ delay for the Mau Mau victims of British crimes - is
reflective of the massive public deception instilled by Western
media on behalf of their criminal governments.
However, thanks to the courageous pursuit of justice by many
people across the world, this edifice of deception will
eventually be broken down. This is imperative as a matter of
justice for the millions of victims of British crimes against
But, in addition, the exposure of British criminality is crucial
to deleting the duplicity that serves to give contemporary
British and other Western governments a veneer of legitimacy.
Britain has no right to pontificate and brow beat Syria, Iran or
any other nation about “international obligations”. With the
full record of British criminality on display, this is a country
that, far from lecturing others, should be made to hang its head
in shame and remain silent.