Editorial from Church & State, Winter 2008/09 (Number 95)

Sowing The Whirlwind

There has been a dramatic increase in British Army recruitment in the Republic. That is the line the BBC has been pushing out. But in fact the dramatic increase amounts to a percentage increase on a very small base. The hope is that enlistment in the British Army will be a normal thing to do in republican Ireland. But a vigorous British recruiting drive produced about a couple of dozen recruits for the Army in 2008.

We'll have to do better than that if the spirit of the Afghans is to be broken.

The business of taming and civilising the Afghans and bending them to our will has now been going on for more than a century and a half. One of the early editorials of the Young Ireland paper, The Nation, in the 1840s, was about it. The Nation contrasted the response of the Afghans to British invasion with that of the ultra-civilised Chinese.

A British Army of 20,000 marched through Afghanistan to its capital, Kabul, around 1840, meeting with little resistance. Only one of these soldiers managed to get out again. They were butchered by the populace in various barbaric ways. The civilised way of doing it would have been the way of Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Major Paddy Ashdown's spirits perked up in 2001 when yet another invasion of Afghanistan was projected. He revealed that his great-great-grandmother was caught up in the First Afghan War. And he reminded us that the British Empire took revenge some years later for the loss of the Army in 1840. But the Afghans remained Afghans. It proved impossible to engender existential discontent among them. So the struggle goes on. They cannot be let be, because they don't live right.

The ultra-civilised Chinese, on the other hand, just suffered in the First Opium War (Britain's war to open China to British opium exports from India). The Chinese State was not expansionist. It never attacked others or tried to interfere in the affairs of others. And, for that reason, it was unable to defend itself in a world that was being remade by the British Empire. The influential ideologist of the Glorious Revolution of 1688, Algernon Sydney (whose writings were also very influential in the United States for many generations), laid it down that attack was the best form of defence. Sydney came to be forgotten as his teachings were absorbed into the habitual practice of the British State. Attack is now called pre-emptive defence.

The Chinese State, having been unaggressive for countless centuries, was unable to defend itself. Its Government paid reparations to Britain for having tried to defend itself, handed over territory to it, and opened some of its ports to British merchants to sell opium in. But it kept on trying to apply its anti-opium laws, and so a Second Opium War had to be fought.

Napoleon looked at China and decided it would be foolish to awaken that "sleeping giant". But Britain, driven by some demon within itself, could let nothing in the world be. It poked at China and tormented it for a hundred years, until eventually China renovated itself politically and constructed a modern Army equipped with the most advanced military technology, and acquired the means of economic intervention in the Western States that had tormented it for so long.

A pre-emptive war against a non-existent threat from Iraq was launched by the USA and Britain with Irish complicity five years ago. When the threat was demonstrated not to have existed, the invasion was justified on other grounds. Martin Mansergh, the only member of the upper stratum of Fianna Fail who likes to talk about foreign affairs, said that at least the invasion got rid of Saddam Hussein. So it did, along with at least a hundred thousand Iraqi civilians.

Iraq was a liberal secular state until the invasion. It was not democratically organised. There is no necessary connection between liberalism and a democratic mode of government. Britain, the prototype of the modern liberal state, established its liberal culture under an aristocracy or oligarchy. The origin of the liberal regime is conventionally put at the accession of William of Orange—though the 1688 revolution was in fact a rejection of the much wider liberalism of James 2. The first small measure of democratisation did not come until 1832—and it was very small indeed. A majority of adult males did not get the vote until 1868. A majority of the adult population only got the vote in 1918. The complete adult franchise followed about ten years later.

By excluding females, one can say that Britain became a democracy after an aristocratic liberal regime had been functioning for a century and three-quarters. If females are not excluded, the gap is two centuries and a half.

Iraq was thrown together by Britain to be a subordinate 'nation-state' around 1920. There was no prior Iraqi nationalism to sustain it. The first election, that of a King, was openly rigged by the British administration. The candidate who would certainly have won, Sayid Talib of Basra, was invited to tea by the famous British Arabist, Gertrude Bell, so that he could be kidnapped out of sight of the populace, and he was deported. The electorate gathered the meaning of democracy from this masterful action of the conqueror, and they voted for the candidate the British brought in from the Western desert, who had no prior association with Basra or Baghdad.

Nominal independence was granted to Iraq in 1933 on the understanding that there would be ongoing British hegemony. A 'Treaty' was signed. Like the Irish 'Treaty', it was not an agreement between sovereign powers. It was dictated by the Imperial Power, the alternative being continued Imperial rule.

Under the terms of the 'Treaty', British military bases remained in Iraq, and Britain had the right to pass an Army through Iraq. In 1941 Britain decided to invade Iran and the Iraqi Government was informed that it would be sending an Army through Basra. Baghdad did not object, but said it would supervise the passage of the British Army through its state. Churchill took offence at this. He declared Iraq to be in "revolt", overthrew the Government and installed a puppet regime. The puppet regime lasted for almost twenty years. It was morally undermined by the British invasion of Egypt in 1956 and was overthrown. A period of confusion, of coup and counter-coup, of conflict of Communism and nationalism followed. Eventually a stable regime was established by Saddam Hussein with American support and dedicated to the realisation of the American dream in the Middle East. A liberal state was set up in a predominantly Muslim country, and while it was based on the Sunni community, it drew Shia, Kurds and Christians into its system.

Then there was the fundamentalist Shia revolution in Iran, and apprehension about its expansive power around the Middle East. Liberal secular Iraq went to war with Islamist Iran with the approval and support of the liberal West. A big airliner full of pilgrims to Mecca took off from Iran and was shot down by an American warship in the gulf on the off-chance that it might be a military plane on the way to Iraq.

The Iranian revolution was contained by the Iraqi invasion, but proved to be stable internally. The war ended in stalemate.

The significant thing about Iraq was that the liberal secular regime in the state was not subverted by Shia dissent during the war with the Shia revolutionary power in Iran, although a substantial part of the Army was Shia. The conflict demonstrated the stability of both the Islamist regime in Iran and the liberal secular regime in Iraq.

The "terrorism of evil tyrants" does not explain such things. The Shah had a terror regime in Iran but it melted away almost overnight when it affronted the sentiment of the populace.

The liberal state was functional in Iraq until the leaders of the liberal West decided to destroy it by use of overwhelming military power, followed by a draconian sanctions policy approaching blockade.

At the end of the war with Iran, Iraq found that Kuwait was encroaching on its oil-fields while demanding punctual repayments of loans given to help fight the war. These Gulf States, with small populations and deluged with money, are Ameranglian constructs for Ameranglian purposes. Iraq consulted the USA about the conduct of Kuwait and was given the green light to deal with it by direct action. But, when it did so, Britain joined America in denouncing it as a war crime. The 'diplomatic offensive' that was launched was not intended to achieve an Iraqi withdrawal. It was conducted with the purpose of preventing Iraqi compliance by making it humiliating. America's General Schwarzkopf later explained on Radio Eireann that an Iraqi withdrawal in good order was the "nightmare scenario". So it had been decided in Washington that the regime which it had helped to put in place, and had supported against Iran, must be destroyed.

It was in those circumstances that Iraq declared the annexation of Kuwait—on the principle that it might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb. (Kuwait was part of Basra province that had been nipped off by Britain for the obvious reasons.)

The Iraqi Army was defeated as a matter of course—and was slaughtered without military purpose in the great aerial "turkey shoot" after it had disengaged and was retreating.

Ameranglia then called on the oppressed peoples of Iraq to arise and overthrow the regime. Those who were oppressed were the Shia Islamists and the Kurdish separatists. When the US saw what the insurrection in Southern Iraq was, it changed its mind and lifted its interdiction of Iraqi air space so that Baghdad could restore order.

Force was used to suppress that insurrection, like any other insurrection, but force does not explain the restoration of the liberal secular regime, and its continuation despite severe economic sanctions and the deliberate destruction of the infrastructure of urban life by the United Nations—which in this instance amounted to US/UK on the Security Council.

Madeline Albright did not dispute the figure of half a million children killed by sanctions, but said it was worth it. Worth it for what purpose was unclear, because the liberal secular regime remained secure.

Then five years ago there was a direct invasion. The people were called to arise and loot. A statue of Saddam was pulled down by the Americans and a group of Iraqis was rounded up to come along and beat it for television. And British Defence Minister Hoon gave a loutish performance in the Commons, praising the looting as the first fruit of freedom.

The Ameranglian propaganda had from the first the purpose of inciting civil war. The Shia were told that the Sunnis were their oppressors and were urged to take revenge. It seemed for a while that there would be all-out civil war, but this was averted as an element of Iraqi statecraft emerged out of Shia fundamentalism, e.g. Moqtada al Sadr's movement. (The US tried to assassinate Moqtada.)

Who among us can imagine how he would behave if an absolutely overwhelming military force descended on us—a force capable of exterminating us at the push of a button if it wanted to—and incited us to arise, to rebel, to loot, to destroy, to pay off grudges, to put every fantasy we ever thought of into action?

The remarkable thing is that, despite all of this the US has found itself confronted with such a stubborn national will in Iraq that it now seems to have agreed to a comprehensive withdrawal, which is not something it contemplated when invading, or even last year.

Undoubtedly it went into Iraq with a programme of using it as a base for mopping up the Middle East and putting the place in order. Now it has been given notice to quit within three years.

The net result of all the killing and mayhem is increased scope for the terrorism it was supposed to restrict, and the replacement of a liberal secular state with an Islamist state.

The Irish Government played the part of a sneak-thief in the Iraq affair, but it seems to have become ambition to play a bolder part. The country is being saturated with militarist propaganda. The Home Rule participation in the Great War of 1914-18 is being glorified. Recruits from Ireland into the British Army are being sought out and publicised as "Irish soldiers".

But amidst all of this we are not told what the Great War was about. Why did Britain intervene in a European War and make it into a World War? Was the outcome of the War such that, one can look back on it and see that, whatever Britain's motives might have been in launching it, the result of it was good for the world? Why did the Irish national leadership discard the traditional Irish scepticism about Britain's motives for going to war? What effect did the war have on Unionist/Nationalist hostility within Ireland?

Radio Eireann broadcast a programme about the Great War towards the end of November. Chris M'Gimpsey of the Ulster Unionist Party took part in it. It was put to him that the great slaughter suffered in the bungled attempt to invade Turkey in 1915 had led to a degree of alienation between the Australians who took part in it and the British Empire. Why did it not alienate the Ulstermen who took part in it?
M'Gimpsey's reply was matter-of-fact, well-informed and realistic. It was unapologetically Ulsterish. It put the World War into proportion as a marginal event, the conflict in Ireland over Home Rule being the main event.

It was in that sense a continuation under fire of the training which the UVF had been undergoing in the parks of the Big Houses in the North in the Spring of 1914 with the rifles got through the Larne gun-running. The Great War was an incident in the Home Rule conflict. It was not something to be taken seriously in itself and brooded over. And the UVF came back "tooled up" for the real war at home—as he put it, "both sides came back tooled up".

The Home Rule leadership disorientated itself by taking the propaganda of the War too much in earnest. In recruiting for the war on Germany, it was fighting its corner too, but it felt obliged to engage in a groundless idealism of deception and self-deception about German evil. It built castles in the air about how Nationalists and Unionists overcame their own antagonisms when they joined the British Army to make war on this evil.

T. Ryle Dwyer wrote an article in praise of the World War for the Irish (formerly Cork) Examiner (8.11.08), in which he included the Examiner's victory editorial of 12th November 1918:

"Might, no matter how gorgeously it may be apparelled, and fortified with all the aids that wealth and science can bring to its support, can never usurp the place of Right. The war has demonstrated that the principles of Christianity and humanity are stronger than the armies that Germany has been able to raise, or the implements of destruction that have been placed in their hands."

That's the hype of Empire in the moment of victory when there is nobody to dispute it. But, looking at the facts of the matter soberly, it is evident that the balance of Might was heavily against Germany even before Britain increased it by joining in. The War lasted so long because of the spirit—the morale/morality—of the Germans who were conducting a desperate defensive war, at any rate from September 1914 onwards. Britain, France and Russia were unable to win with their preponderance of Might. What beat the Germans finally was the entry of an American Army into combat in 1918. And what counted was not American numbers, but the fighting spirit and technique of an American Army in whose formation there had been a strong Prussian input.

The mind-boggling thing about the victory editorial is the counter-posing of Christianity against Germany in 1918. Christianity was indisputably stronger in Germany, (both kinds of it), than in Britain—where it had been subjected to creeping euthanasia by the dominant culture of the State over many generations and was dead—or in France, where it was officially persecuted. Russia had left the War and formally renounced Christianity.

This nonsense about the defeat of Germany being a victory for Christianity is an echo of the demonology inserted into the British propaganda right at the start by two smart Home Rule intellectuals writing for the London papers, Tom Kettle and Robert Lynd.

Kettle had the bright idea of telling the confused English Liberals, who had been manipulated into the war by the Liberal Imperialist clique that had gained control of the Party and the Government, that Germany had fallen under the spell of Nietzsche's philosophy of Evil and was dedicated to restoring barbarism in Europe.

Clive Bell of the Bloomsbury set recalled this in a book called Civilisation published in 1928:

"…just when we were beginning to wonder whether the war could be exactly described as a crusade, some cautious and cultivated person… discovered that what the Allies were really up against was Nietzsche.

"That discovery was, at first, a great success. Nietzsche was a butt for the high outrageous mettle of every one of us. That he was a German and a poet sufficed to put him in the wrong with the ruling class; and since he was said to have despised mediocrity the middle and lower had some grounds for disliking him. Down with Nietzsche! Ah, that was fun, drubbing the nasty blackguard, the man who presumed to sneer at liberals without admiring liberal-unionists. He was an epileptic, a scrofulous fellow, and no gentleman. We told the working men about him, we told them about his being the prophet of German imperialism, the poet of Prussia and the lickspittle of the Junkers. And were anyone who had compromised himself by dabbling in German literature so unpatriotic as to call our scholarship in question, we called him a traitor and shut him up. Those were the days, the best of 1914, when France and England were defending Paris against Nietzsche and the Russian steam-roller was catching him in the back.

"And yet this holding the fort against Nietzsche was not satisfying either… Nietzsche was so difficult to pronounce; and besides it seemed to odd to be fighting against someone of whose existence, six months earlier, not one in ten thousand had heard" (Introduction).

Tom Kettle knew Nietzsche well. He supplied an Introduction to a Life of Nietzsche, translated from the French of Daniel Halevy by J.M. Hone, another Home rule intellectual, that was published in London in 1911 as a companion volume to a translation of Nietzsche's Collected Works.

The message of Nietzsche's Zarathustra that God was dead, and we had to learn to live without him, was more relevant to France and England than to Germany, where god was far from dead amongst the populace—in addition to which, Nietzsche was venomously hostile to the German Empire (i.e.,, to the Union of German States that was formed after 1870). All his books were commercial flops in Germany.

Nietzsche had done nothing towards killing God. That was done by rationalist critics of the Bible in England and France and in German Universities. When Nietzsche came on the scene, he saw that the deed had been done, and he asked "What now?" He did not celebrate Deicide. He saw it as a dangerous problem for European culture:

"The sea of religion is receding, leaving swamps and stagnant pools; nations are pulling apart again in a hostile manner and longing to tear each other to bits. Sciences pursued without restraint are shattering all firm belief. The educated classes and the states are swept along by a despicable money economy. The world was never more worldly, and never poorer in love and goodness. The educated classes are no longer beacons or refuges amidst the turmoil of secularisation, but themselves grow more restless daily, more thoughtless and more loveless. Everything in art and science now serves the approaching barbarism" (Thoughts Out Of Season, Part 3, No. 4).

Kettle was in Europe, buying guns for Redmond's Volunteers, when the War started. The English Liberals had seen that their leaders were intent on War and had tried to raise a campaign to stop them. But things happened too fast. War was declared by the Liberal Imperialists. The Liberal press was baffled. It did not dare to oppose the War after its party leaders had declared it, but did not know on what ground to support it. The famous Editor of the Manchester Guardian (now the Guardian), C.P. Scott, would not write war editorials. He let his Assistant Editor and son-in-law, C.E. Montague, write them. Montague, another Irish Home ruler, became a very fierce war propagandist.

The main Liberal Party paper was the Daily News (founded by Charles Dickens). Right from the start, Kettle supplied it with inflammatory articles which overwhelmed reason with raw emotion in fine disregard of facts. His article Europe Against The Barbarians (10 August 1914) declared: "The 'big blond brute' has stepped from the pages of Nietzsche out on the plains about Liege". And English Liberalism was quickly infected with Kettleism. Public opinion was maddened and was in no fit condition to make a workable peace settlement four and a quarter years later.

A chain reaction of wars was set off. The condition in which the Great War left Europe led quickly to a Greater War. The Cold War was inherent in the way Britain conducted the Second World war. The USA defeated Germany in the First World war launched by Britain, and Bolshevik Russia did it in the second. Straight away in 1945 the struggle began to destroy the Power that had destroyed Nazi Germany. The means was the deliberate instigation of nationalism in the Soviet sphere, even where the antecedents of some of those nationalisms were fascist. The Soviet sphere collapsed in 1990 and nationalist wars began.

In Ireland James Connolly paid no heed to Kettle's ranting. He said a victory for Germany would be best for the working class. And he said a good word for Nietzsche in The Workers' Republic.

But it's no use mentioning Connolly to the Irish warmongers of today. Despite his substance and good sense, he was degraded into a hollow icon long ago. So let's end with the views of George Kennan, the American architect of cold War strategy, on the First World War that the Irish Government now insists on celebrating. It is from a lecture at Chicago University in 1951:

"I would like… to say a word about the total result of these two world wars in Europe. These wars were fought at the price of some tens of millions of lives, of untold physical destruction, of the destruction of the balance of forces on the Continent—at the price of rendering western Europe dangerously, perhaps fatefully, vulnerable to Soviet power. Both wars were fought, really, with a view to changing Germany, to correcting her behaviour, to making the Germans something different from what they were. Yet, today, if one were offered the chance of having back again the Germany of 1913—a Germany run by conservative but relatively moderate people, no Nazis and no Communists, a vigorous Germany, united and unoccupied, full of energy and confidence, able to play a part in the balancing-off of Russian power in Europe—well,, there would be objections to it from many quarters, and it wouldn't make everybody happy; but in many ways it wouldn't sound so bad, in comparison with our problems of today. Now, think what this means. When you tally up the total score of the two wars, in terms of their ostensible objective, you find that if there has been any gain at all, it is pretty hard to discern…

"Eclipsed for many of us by the fresher and more vivid recollections of World War 2, this first World War has become in many respects the forgotten factor. Yet all the lines of inquiry, it seems to me, lead back to it. World War 2 seemed really so extensively predetermined… And the main elements of that tragic situation—the sickness and impatience of Germany, the weakness of eastern Europe, the phenomenon of bolshevism in Russia, and the weariness and debility in France and England—all these things took their origin so clearly in the period of 1914-20 that it seems to be here, if anywhere, that the real answers should be sought" (American Diplomacy 1900-1950).

Contents of Number 95

Sowing The Whirlwind.

Cathal Brugha.
(Reader's Query)

Harris, Hard Gospel & Hot Stuff In Co. Cork.

A Dysfunctional Family (Poem).
Wilson John Haire

India: A Fenian Protest (Poem).
Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa

The Devil's Wind: Savage Crushing Of India's 1st. War Of Independence (Hidden History, 2).
Philip O'Connor

Vox Pat.
Pat Maloney

Stuart Ireland & The Cromwellians.
Catherine Dunlop (Review)

Pat Muldowney

Contending For The Faith.
Stephen Richards

The Culture Wars To Come.
Jack Lane (Reply to Seán Swan)

The Phenomenon Of Mum.
Tom Doherty

G. M. Williams

Mandate For A Rebellion.
Nick Folley

Wee Joe Devlin: Ulster Organiser (Part One).
Seán McGouran

Anti-Semitism & British War Aims In 1930.
Eamon Dyas

Coolacrease & The Sunday Business Post.
Brendan Clifford

A Response To Steven King.
Niall Meehan

"Woodstock" Apology.

Conor Cruise O'Brien.

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