The TV screens of Australian audiences have been taken up by the ongoing internecine fighting between branches of the English royals – the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha-renamed Windsor family. The interminably boring, collectively narcissistic preoccupations and tribulations – the latter overinflated by an obsequious corporate media – are intended to occupy our attention spans as we consume what is proffered as news.
The history of English royalism has never experienced different and rival branches of aristocratic entitlement fighting each other over the Crown and its wealth – no, that has never happened in the history of the British Isles. Surely, the English royals would never be involved in the crimes of empire, not in modern times?
As the multiple news stories, Netflix specials and triviality-based outpourings continue in this Australian version of societal Stockholm Syndrome, one particular episode is worth discussing. Actually, I have written about the Harry and Meghan soap opera before, years ago. However, moving with the times, another opportunity presents itself to discuss the nature of the British state and its role in the world – and something that Harry wrote let the cat out of the bag.
Harry, writing in his memoirs, revealed that during his military service in Afghanistan, he killed 25 Taliban fighters. Regarding his military role, he stated that it is easier to kill the enemy if you don’t think of them as human; they were, he opined, chess pieces on a board. He went on to explain that his training enabled him to view the enemy as the ‘Other’. I suppose that is a distinct nod to official wokeness, a quality that increases one’s credentials as a ‘social media influencer’.
The official response from the English media and high-ranking military officers was one of criticism; that attitude is not ‘who we are’ opined one expert. However, in one way, Harry inadvertently let the mask slip — the British military, and ruling political establishment, do not regard nonwhite people as humans, but as inconvenient obstacles to be removed in the pursuance of imperial projections.
The Taliban, via a spokesperson, were quick to respond to Harry’s boast, stating that the people he killed were not chess pieces, but human beings with families. Anas Haqqani, the aforementioned spokesperson, made a barbed jibe at Harry and the British military, writing that not all British officers have the courage and decency to admit their war crimes and killings.
No, we do not agree with the Taliban, but Haqqani is correct on one point — British military forces have committed war crimes, involving the killing of civilians, in Afghanistan. The Special Air Service (SAS) in particular, deified in Britain as the elite of the élite military units, killed numerous civilians in night raids in Afghanistan. I doubt whether these revelations of war crimes will result in any diminution of the cult of the SAS.
The choreographed grovelling towards Harry and Meghan on the part of the corporate media will continue, and the recycled soap opera of English royals tearing strips off each other will continue to preoccupy the minds of Australian and British audiences. However, let us turn our attention to a news story that is important in revealing the nature of Britain’s imperial delusions.
In India, the crown jewel of the British empire, at least 50 million excess deaths from famine were caused by British government policies over a forty-year period from 1880–1920, according to academics writing in the World Development journal. British colonial policy involved deindustrialising India, which in the 1820s was on the cusp of an industrial takeoff, and transferring wealth and resources to Britain.
Demolishing India’s manufacturing base, and establishing a system of legalised robbery extracting natural resources from India, set the conditions for widespread famine. We all know of the famines, and associated mortality, which occurred in 1930s Soviet Russia, Maoist China, North Korea, Pol Pot’s Cambodia and Mengistu’s Ethiopia. Combining all the victims of those famines would still not equal the total famine deaths caused by the policies of Imperial Britain.
Britain’s decision-makers were well aware of the consequences of the policies they drafted and enacted. The wealth of Britain’s élite continued to increase in this period — they watched the impact of famine in India and did nothing to help. The past cannot be changed, but exploitive practices can and should be. Speaking of famines, the sanctions that the US imposed on Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover are pushing millions of Afghanis into a condition of starvation.
Let’s examine and change the destructive course of Anglo-American policies on the world’s poorest people, and devote our energies to improving the living conditions of our fellow human beings. Being enraptured by the squabbling circus of mutually narcissistic vipers combating each other in an obsolete institution – which should be abolished – is a drain on our energy that we could do without.