Guns before butter

From Socialist Appeal, the priorities of our ruling class:

Afghanistan: Guns Before Butter Print E-mail
By Ewan Gibbs
Wednesday, 08 July 2009
As the Pakistani army continued to be bogged down in a ferocious battle against the Taliban inside its own borders and yet another British soldier is killed in Afghanistan, to date the one hundred and seventy-sixth since 2001, it is evident that the British military is engaged in a war it cannot win. Defence Minister Bob Ainsworth has outlined desperate measures which entail a wholesale reform of the Territorial Army. Gone forever will be the image of a glorified Dad’s Army as the TA is to be integrated with the rest of the army and better prepared for wars abroad.afghan_map.gifThe plans will see the TA trained more quickly for deployment abroad, and will come alongside an attempt to bolster the TA’s numbers which have halved to just 330,000 in recent years. Unsurprisingly when presented with the prospect of having to risk their lives in a deployment to either  Iraq or Afghanistan fewer people have signed up to the TA or the military as a whole during the last few years. Under the conditions of the recession this is starting to change. Faced with either the dole queue or the army many young people, in particular male sixteen year old school leaver opt for the latter. The military knows this and in recent months has upped its recruiters’ presence in areas with a high rate of unemployment, disgustingly exploiting the situation that the capitalist crisis has put many working class people in.

False Hopes For The Imperialists

However, even the increasing numbers of economic conscripts that are signing up for the US and British militaries are not enough. The US and its junior partners thought they were on to a winner when they started their predatory wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. These imperialist adventures aimed to establish political hegemony and secure control over natural resources, including oil and gas for the Americans and their allies. Initially all seemed to be going well. Who could forget Bush’s  Iraq War victory speech delivered on board an aircraft carrier, complete with his very own presidential action man uniform? The period since has seen the American’s success turn into its opposite. Iraq and Afghanistan have become death traps for the military forces trying to contain the insurgency and suck up billions upon billions of dollars that even the world’s biggest military and economic power cannot sustain indefinitely. Next to no resources, aside from Afghan opium which comes alongside a flight of skilled labour, are being reaped from either country whilst this whole area of the world has been destabilised. The departure from Iraq seems to be well under way following Obama’s inauguration, and an undignified retreat from Afghanistan will have to follow at some point. Yet it is clear we have entered a new period of global instability that will lead to more so called ‘small wars’ as the recent episodes in Georgia and the Gaza strip have demonstrated.

TAs In Trouble

bobainsworthinbasra.jpgAinsworth has said in words that the proposed changes will leave intact the TA’s ability to come to the country’s aid in the event of a national catastrophe, whilst the plans presented suggest otherwise. Actions speak louder than words. Reservists already account for 9% of British troops deployed in Afghanistan and over 17000 TA troops have been deployed abroad since 2003. (BBC News 28/4/09) It is clear the government wishes to see these figures rise. It must be noted that these measures have more than just an immediate military purpose. The expansion of the TA and the increasing presence of the Officer Training Corps and Cadets in universities and schools represent attempts to build an auxiliary state military apparatus outside of the army itself. Perhaps the layer of ‘economic conscripts’ to the regular army, recruited because they had nowhere else to go, are unreliable? Could they be trusted to fire upon working class people in this country? Better perhaps to rely on some gung-ho volunteers who were not forced into the ranks of the military outside of economic necessity alone. The Officer Training Corps and Cadets are invariably dominated by middle-class youth who are much more likely to be sympathetic to the reactionary role they will be asked to play. The same applies to the TA.

Armed Bodies Of Men

Engels famously explained that the capitalist state could ultimately be reduced to armed bodies of men standing in defence of private property. The actions of the police at the G20 protests in London brutally revealed the true nature of the British state. The reservists being trained and sent to oppress and kill workers and peasants in Iraq and Afghanistan today could well be deployed on the streets of Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow or London tomorrow if Britain were ever to face a revolutionary situation.

ta.jpgAfter spending so long telling us the money was not available for even the most basic reforms, government found the money to bail out the bankers at the drop of a hat and is continuing to fight and fund their wars. The resources have been found for this whole sale rejuvenation of the TA that will see infrastructure, training and structure renewed, whilst billions are being poured into the Trident nuclear weapons programme. All this leaves working people asking where their bail out is as they face unemployment and repossessions. Clearly the only form of Keynesianism boost to the economy this government is interested in is the same kind Ronny Reagan was: military Keynesianism! That shows where their priorities really lie and who they serve.

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America’s war in Pakistan threatens our security

UK PM Gordon Brown has said he is “permanently on guard” against the threat of terrorism. (If only the security services had been in 2005 when Saudi intelligence warned of a terrorist attack which killed 52 people.)

Today’s Guardian reveals that Bush is planning a war in Pakistan, something which is sure to increase the chances of another 7/7 occurring here. Secret orders have been signed by the president allowing special forces to operate within Pakistan – even though they do not have permission from Pakistan’s government.

Brown will be compounding the terror threat, which is to a large extent caused by the UK’s involvement in occupying Iraq and Afghanistan, by backing this terror campaign in Pakistan and perhaps sending UK forces across the border from Afghanistan to assist. UK forces in Afghanistan are likely to come under increase attacks as the conflict esculates – leading to more fatalities and injuries amongst service personnel and Afghan civilians.

On Tuesday a US drone killed 23 people in North Waziristan and injured 20 others. Ironically, this was an attack on a school set up by Jalaluddin Haqqani, one of the mujahideen fighters the US backed in the 80s – you know, the foreign fighters who used the porous border to enter Afghanistan…

Pakistan’s armed forces aren’t pleased about US plans to enter the country and wage war on the population – already attacks carried out by drones have prompted the army to cut off Nato supplies. And it is unlikely that Nato forces will be used in these operations – something which is sure to increase the tensions between Nato member states.

Making a spectacle of myself

I seem to have been interviewed by The Pakistani Spectator. It’s just as well I’m not famous, really. Some of the answers I give are terrible.

Would you please tell us something about you and your site?

Rebellion Sucks! has been going for over a year now. It’s focus is on the struggle of working people in England to improve their lives by organising and gaining political representation.

My intention is to spread socialist and anti-imeprialist ideas using blogging technology. I want to encourage working people to examine their role in society and that of the class which profits from their labour, become more conscious of the economic motive behind the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq and the need to bring the armed forces home from these imperialist wars.

I have made an effort to highlight the English Question – that because Britain is not a federal state, it’s largest nation lacks any form of devolved government, which has been granted to Scotland, and to a lesser extent, Wales. It is my view that the establishment of an English parliament will assist the working class in winning beneficial reforms, as has happened in Scotland and Wales, and will help the development of an inclusive national identity based upon secular civic institutions rather than exclusively on ethnicity or religious faith.

Do you feel that you continue to grow in your writing the longer you write? Why is that important to you?

I have become more reliant upon quoting other sources – why repeat badly what someone else has already said adequately?

I’m wondering what some of your memorable experiences are with blogging?

Most memorable was my part in preventing the billionaire Alisher Usmanov from censoring the writer and former diplomat Craig Murray by reproducing his article in full. the article concerned Usmanov’s past, somthing he did not want publicised as he was attempting to purchase a football team. Many other bloggers took part in this action which lead the mainstream media to report Usmanov’s alleged criminal past.

What do you do in order to keep up your communication with other bloggers?

I occasionally post comments on their blog entries – if I have something to say.

What do you think is the most exciting or most innovative use of technology in politics right now?

The social networking site Facebook is used by many activists in politics and the trade union movement to co-ordinate campaigns and publicise activities.

Do you think that these new technologies are effective in making people more responsive?

It allows more people to make their opinion known and hopefully encourages a broader debate than that allowed by the state or corporate media.

What do you think sets Your site apart from others?

The focus on both working class struggle and national self-determination.

If you could choose one characteristic you have that brought you success in life, what would it be?

Good manners.

What was the happiest and gloomiest moment of your life?

I’m not going to get personal here, so these are the political highs and lows of recent years… The gloomiest moment was being unable, along with millions of other people, to prevent my country participating in the US-led wars against Iraq and Afghanistan. The happiest was learning that the people of Ireland had rejected further military and political integration with the European Union in a referendum.

If you could pick a travel destination, anywhere in the world, with no worries about how it’s paid for – what would your top 3 choices be?

Peru, New Zealand, and China.

What is your favorite book and why?

The Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels, it’s nice to read a political tract that is so clear and concise.

What’s the first thing you notice about a person (whether you know them or not)?

If they listen as much as they speak.

Is there anyone from your past that once told you you couldn’t write?

No.

How bloggers can benefit from blogs financially?

I don’t know. I don’t think they should, actually. Blogging should be for fun and for free.

Is it true that who has a successful blog has an awful lot of time on their hands?

No, some people are skilled writers.

What role can bloggers of the world play to make this world more friendlier and less hostile?

Be willing to engage with those one does not agree with and debate the issues instead of using insults.

Who are your top five favourite bloggers?

Louise Whittle of Harpy Marx, Richard Seymour of Lenin’s Tomb, Stuart Parr of Wonko’s World, Andy Newman of Socialist Unity, and John McDonnell of Another World Is Possible,

Is there one observation or column or post that has gotten the most powerful reaction from people?

That Alisher Usmanov post.

What is your perception about Pakistan and its people?

That there is an ongoing struggle for popular sovereignty, national independence, and social justice.

Have you ever become stunned by the uniqueness of any blogger?

No.

What is the most striking difference between a developed country and a developing country?

Perhaps that in the so-called “developing” world there is a greater awareness of imperialism and its history,

What is the future of blogging?

More blogging.

You have also got a blogging life, how has it directly affected both your personal and professional life?

Negatively.

What are your future plans?

More blogging, I suppose.

Any Message you want to give to the readers of The Pakistani Spectator?

Please visit my blog and tell me what you think of it.

Birds of a feather: unelected Brown lunches with military dictator Musharraf

Yes, today two illegitimate leaders met at Number 10…

Relying on a dictator
(Monday 28 January 2008)
NO-ONE can take seriously Gordon Brown’s po-faced assertion that he told Pakistani military dictator Pervez Musharraf that credible elections are “essential” in that country.

“Or what?” the self-styled president might well have responded if he wanted to test the Prime Minister’s resolve.

He must have known, as do the rest of us, that Mr Brown’s only riposte would have been “Oh, or nothing.”

The general, whether in uniform or mufti, has made himself indispensable to Washington in its efforts to impose its military superiority in central Asia.

Mr Brown himself refers to General Musharraf as a “key ally in combating terrorism and extremism,” which means that, free elections or not, his position in Pakistan will not be questioned by the imperialist allies.

The general appreciates this, which is why he plays along with the democracy chat, while knowing that he will do nothing to further weaken his already shaky position.

While he may tell Mr Brown that “all electoral processes are in place to ensure transparent, credible polling,” he will allow no such election to take place because, in any free expression of the Pakistani people’s will, this quisling mountebank would be sent packing.

His backing is concentrated at the highest level of the armed forces and he depends on aid from the US and Britain to keep the top brass on side.

There is opposition within the forces to his leadership, both from a democratic standpoint and also from a position sympathetic to the Islamist forces that have the run of the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

In fact, it was Gen Musharraf who encouraged the latter tendency, authorising the ISI military intelligence arm to organise, finance, arm and train the youth in certain madrassas, setting in train a process that culminated in the Taliban being formed and sent into Afghanistan to overthrow the government of warlords previously known as the mojahedin.

He was encouraged at the time to do so, since Western security agencies were open to encouraging Islamist forces against left and democratic currents.

But this position changed with the emergence of al-Qaida, which was seen by Washington, wrongly, as a worldwide organised conspiracy to destroy Western society.

Gen Musharraf was told to drop his alliance with the Islamists and sign up for the phoney US global war on terror. Failure to do so would result in a massive US military attack on Pakistan.

He changed sides and has, ever since, been portrayed as, objectively, democratic, even though his dictatorial grip on Pakistan and its people has tightened.

He has ordered political parties to close, banned normal democratic activity and even sacked the head of the judiciary to prevent him ruling that the general’s appointment as president was unconstitutional.

And there is still the unexplained murder of Benazir Bhutto in the garrison town of Rawalpindi, followed shortly by the hosing down of the streets to wash away evidence.

This scuppered the US plan to use Ms Bhutto as the respectable international face for Gen Musharraf’s regime, but her demands for a higher price almost certainly sealed her fate.

Doing deals with a ruthless, power-obsessed general is not the way forward for Pakistan. Indeed, the precursor to democracy has to be his removal.

Who killed Benazir Bhutto? Who benefits?

The assasination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto is sad news for the people of Pakistan and will benefit the US-funded military dictatorship.

The wave of anger generated by Bhutto’s killing will give Musharaf a pretext for suspending the constitution again – during which time opposition activists and trade unionists will be rounded up and all dissent forbidden.

Respect MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, George Galloway, had this to say of his late friend:

Benazir Bhutto is yet another martyr from a family whose tragedy would have taxed Shakespeare himself. Her father, both brothers and now she have been murdered one way or another whilst serving Pakistan. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto the founder of the Pakistan Peoples Party was hanged by the military tyrants who have sucked Pakistan’s blood since its foundation. Her brothers, Shahnawaz was poisoned, and Mir Murtaza was gunned down in much the same way as she now has been herself. I have no doubt that Benazir has been murdered by the dictatorship of president General (Retd) Parvaiz Musharaf. The professionalism of the assassination, the way in which the killer managed to get within pistol range of the opposition leader, the decoy suicide bomb story, all point to the intelligence apparatus of the dictatorship being involved in the crime. But it is worse than a crime, it’s a blunder. A terrible wave of violence and extremism will now sweep and perhaps break Pakistan. I was lucky enough to be Benazirs friend from the time she arrived thin, bleeding from her ears as a result of ill-treatment in the Rawalpindi jail in the early 1980s. I was with her when she became the first elected woman leader of a Muslim country in 1988, with her too when she was twice deposed with western collusion and in her long exiles. She was the bravest woman I ever met, bright brave and beautiful. I planned to be with her on the campaign trail from January 2nd. I am broken hearted that I will never see her again.

The following analysis of the events comes from Socialist Appeal:

On the murder of Benazir Bhutto
By Rob Sewell
Thursday, 27 December 2007

Today’s cold-blooded assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Rawalpindi has once again thrown Pakistan into political turmoil, less than two weeks before national elections. Thirty more people have died and 40 injured in the bomb blast after the assassin blew himself up. Millions of supporters of the Pakistan Peoples Party are in a state of shock, disbelief and grief. But they are also angered by this murderous act by the forces of black counter-revolution.

Thousands have taken to the streets throughout Pakistan in protest at this outrage. People flocked to the Rawalpindi General hospital and have been chanting anti-Musharraf slogans, including describing him as a “dog”. The street protests have also spread, with reports of demonstrations in Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Karachi, Peshawar, Multan, and Quetta. The Pakistan army has been put on ‘red alert’ and an emergency meeting has been convened by Musharaff of top officials to decide the fate of the forthcoming election. There is a danger that emergency rule will be re-imposed.

Who benefited from this murder? Those behind the killing clearly wanted to prevent the victory of the PPP on 8th January. They are the Pakistani ruling elite, which has brought the country to ruin. The fact that the assassin was able to shoot Benazir at close quarter after passing through several levels of security checks, indicate the involvement of sections of the security forces. Once again the assassination points to the Islamic fundamentalists linked to al-Queda, who have close links with the security forces (ISI) and have stepped up their attacks, especially since the storming of the Red Mosque in July. Already this year, nearly 1,000 people have been killed by suicide and armed attacks.

This whole situation underlines the counter-revolutionary role of fundamentalism, which despite its demagogy, carries the banner of black reaction, and is linked by a thousand threads to the ruling elites of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran and elsewhere.

On Benazir’s return on 18th October, the first assassination attack came at a mass rally the following day, claiming 140 deaths and 500 injured. Bhutto pointed her finger at the Islamic groups for the bloody attack. During the election campaign, attacks have continued, most notably in Peshwar and Islamabad. Today, minutes before to Benazir’s murder, a simultaneous attack resulted in four people being shot dead at an election rally of Naswar Shariff in Islamabad.

The West’s plans and calculations of “managed transition” are in complete disarray. The American imperialists had supported General Mushariff, but this role had been discredited. They were hoping that a “conconciliation” would take place between him and Benazir. They were hoping that Benazir would pursue their interests. However, behind Benazir and the PPP stood the millions of workers and peasants who were yearning for fundamental change.

“We stand with the people in Pakistan in the struggle against the forces of terror and extremism,” said George Bush. But the plans of Washington have now gone up in smoke. It was their actions (the so-called war on terror) which have built up the fundamentalists throughout the region. They initially financed and armed al-Qaeda and their supporters, which has now fallen to the drug barons and secret services to continue. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have added to the chaos. The imperialists are in uncharted waters. The UN security council has even called an emergency session to discuss the assassination. There is a note of alarm in their statements, fearing that the region could spiral out of control.

The campaign to postpone the elections is an attempt to block these pressures welling up in Pakistan for revolutionary change. Despite Musharrif’s calls for calm, shops and businesses have been closed and demonstrators have taken to the streets across Pakistan. Police cars and other vehicles have been set alight. It is a spontaneous protest against the counter-revolution. It is defiance against those responsible for the attack and the beginning of a fight back by the masses.

Whatever the immediate outcome, including the likely postponement of the national elections, the masses will seek to push the PPP into power at the earliest possible moment. They will seek the road of fundamental socialist change by demanding that the PPP return to its revolutionary roots as the only way forward. The death of Benazir Bhutto, despite the initial shock, will act as a spur to the further radicalization the party and the millions that follow it throughout Pakistan. The assassination will certainly not break the will of the masses to change society. It will harden their determination.

Gordon Poodle

[Tuesday]

Yesterday, Gordon Blair attempted to impress the British ruling class by displaying his hard-on for US imperialism:

Gordon Brown has said Britain’s “most important” relationship is with the US, in his first major foreign policy speech since becoming prime minister.

He warned that he had “no truck with anti-Americanism” and said the EU should strengthen ties with the US.

Mr Brown also called for more “hard-head internationalism” in peacekeeping, aid and reconstruction.

In the speech at the Lord Mayor of London’s banquet, he also warned Iran over its “nuclear ambitions”.

The analysis of the speech offered by the BBC’s Paul Reynolds correctly notes that there’s no legal basis for a war with Iran, nor evidence the country is constructing anything other than power plants – something Brown is keen on in the UK – but the following is dodgy:

When considering the relationship a British prime minister must have with the United States, it must never be forgotten that there is a not-so-secret tie binding the US and UK together.

It is the agreement, renewed only in the past year, under which the United States and Britain swap information on nuclear weapons and Britain buys US missiles for its nuclear submarines.

No British prime minister can afford to distance his or her country from the US to such an extent that the trust involved in such an arrangement is dissipated. After all, the US has given the UK the ability to destroy much of the American homeland, an act of trust with no parallel in history.

If Britain were ever regarded as an unreliable or perhaps even an ungrateful ally, the US could pull the plug.

The US has not given it’s junior partner the power to destroy it, however. The so-called “independent nuclear deterrent” is no more independent than it is a deterrent – the missiles cannot be launched without first getting permission from the US government.

The Morning Star‘s James Tweedie also notes Brown’s turn towards Washington, the opposite of Malloch-Brown’s promise of a foreign policy distance:

Mr Brown welcomed the recent improvements in relations between the US and Europe, formerly referred to as “cheese-eating surrender monkeys” by US neoconservatives.

He argued that French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s cosy relations with George Bush had paved the way for reforms of international institutions such as the UN.

Mr Brown added: “I think it’s important to remember that Britain is part of a network of relationships around the world and the strength of our relationship with America is incredibly important to the future of the world.

“If we’re going to rebuild the international institutions, as I think we should be doing, to meet the challenges of the next stage, then we want to work with America to enable us to do so.”

Mr Brown refused to rule out support for a US attack on Iran, claiming: “The diplomatic route is bearing some success and it’s got to be stepped up over the next period of time, if that becomes necessary.

“I believe, however, that, while nothing should be ruled out, it is important to say that the sanctions we are placing on Iran are having some effect.”

A Stop the War Coalition spokesman charged: “After Nicolas Sarkozy’s recent trip to the United States, we now have Gordon Brown saying ‘plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.’

“Exactly as Tony Blair would have done, Brown has given his fulsome support to the preparations for an attack on Iran. He is as close to George Bush as Blair was.”

Respect MP George Galloway added: “This is a deeply disturbing, although predictable, development. It’s predictable because Gordon Brown has never given any indication that he would distance himself from Washington.

“But it’s disturbing because he is making this speech at a time when the telephone wires are buzzing with talk of an attack on Iran.”

The focus on Iran was to the detriment of Pakistan – Brown didn’t have much to say about the crisis in Pakistan. No threats, here, and it’s little wonder, as General Musharraf, and the army he leads, could not survive without the political support and military aid from the UK and America:

Washington would prefer to give Pakistan’s client state a democratic facelift. This is why it supported the British-brokered deal between former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and Musharraf, enabling Musharraf to maintain power while allowing Bhutto to get “democratically” elected to prime minister.

The deal has been costly to Bhutto and has borne no fruit for her. Bhutto’s popularity has greatly suffered not just among the public but specifically within her own People’s Party, many of whose members are opposed to dealing with the military dictatorship. This is why Bhutto has spoken out against the imposition of martial law in recent days.

Will Brown speak out for the billionaire Bhutto, or has Washington told him to keep quiet on this one?

Robert Griffiths on the Empire’s limits

[Friday]

The limits of empire

Wed 05 Sep 2007

ROBERT GRIFFITHS joins the dots between British imperialist rule in India and the equally racist occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.

AMONG the spate of articles marking the 50th anniversary of India’s independence on August 15, several raised the question of whether Britain cleared out too soon.

They argued that a more protracted “transition” to independence might have reduced, if not eliminated, the chaos and slaughter which accompanied British withdrawal and Indian independence.

As it was, millions of people migrated between India and the breakaway Muslim state of Pakistan in the summer of 1947 as intercommunal violence between Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims claimed half a million lives.

The subtext of these articles for today is that Britain needs to “stay the course” in Iraq and Afghanistan, ensuring peace and security so that eventual withdrawal does not plunge those countries deeper into civil war.

President George W Bush delivered a similar message with his speech on August 23, only he used the example of the US flight from Vietnam in 1975 to warn against “cutting and running” from Iraq today.

The draft-dodging son of an oil tycoon has long believed in fighting for ignoble causes to the last drop of a poor soldier’s blood.

But the use of India and Vietnam as “precedents” to avoid now in Iraq and Afghanistan also demonstrate something else, namely the arrogance, ignorance and racism of the imperialist mindset.

Let’s take the question of India first.

The fact is that, from the end of the second world war, British rule in India rapidly became untenable. The question was not how long would Britain decide to stay, but how much longer would the presence of the colonial administration be tolerated. The mass struggle of India’s people supplied the answer in the course of 1946 – months, not years.

In February 1946, for instance, a general strike and uprising in Calcutta united workers and students, Muslims and Hindus. One week later, Indian naval ratings mutinied in barracks and aboard three warships, hoisting the flags of Congress, the Muslim League and the Communist Party in place of the Union Jack. Tanks helped kill 500 solidarity strikers in Bombay, where martial law had to be declared.

The British Labour government’s promise of negotiations to transfer sovereignty failed to prevent the mutiny from spreading to other sections of the imperial armed forces in India.

In Travancore, peasants marched and occupied their villages against landlordism and the threat of famine, with the Communists organising a general strike from October 1946 which provoked another large massacre by the colonial military.

Meanwhile, Communist-led risings of peasants and landless labourers were underway in Telengana and Maharashtra. In the course of 1946, there were 1,629 industrial strikes in Bengal alone.

This whole, decisive period of mass struggle was entirely overlooked in recent anniversary articles and programmes in the British media. Covering it up in order to concentrate exclusively on Gandhi’s pacifism serves several useful purposes for the imperialist mindset.

First, it denies the capacity of subject peoples to resist in huge numbers with courage and ingenuity. Occupied natives are to be portrayed instead as compliant if not welcoming. When roused against occupation, this is attributed to a simple-mindedness which makes them prey to Communist and terrorist agitators, as in a recent BBC programme about the Malayan “emergency,” or to mystic, messianic leaders such as Gandhi.

Second, non-violence is upheld as the only legitimate form of protest against occupation – a lesson which violent oppressors everywhere wish the oppressed to learn.

Third, this approach makes it possible to argue that occupations – sorry, “humanitarian interventions” – end as the result of “moral” considerations in the pursuit of justice. In other words, imperialism operates in accordance with moral force, not brute force.

In the case of India, denying the role of mass struggle also denies its potential for building unity among different sections of the Indian people. The imperialist mindset sees only differences and divisions among the occupied and the oppressed.

Even today, most news reports about India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka seize upon ethnic and religion-based conflict as evidence that, having foolishly spurned the benign embrace of empire, these countries are forever doomed to pay the price in disunity.

The role of empire in promoting divisions invariably goes unmentioned. For example, nowhere in the recent coverage was it pointed out that British political leaders and the intelligence services had been promoting Mohammed Jinnah’s Muslim League for a separate state of “Pakistan” from the early 1930s.

Or, for that matter, that Britain had legislated for the “right” of states run by feudal native princes to opt out of an independent India, thereby necessitating armed struggles in Travancore (now part of Kerala) and Telengana (which includes Hyderabad).

Indeed, delaying British withdrawal enabled the colonialists and local reactionaries to fan communal strife for a few more years before independence.

It was a strange feature of this period that, while the utmost military force could be mustered to suppress united non-sectarian action by peasants, industrial workers or students, the colonial power seemed powerless to suppress the instigators of communal riots and massacres in Calcutta, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Punjab.

In the case of Vietnam, the imperialist mindset again excludes the struggles of the oppressed.

We are invited by the Hollywood myth manufacturers to sympathise with the plight of GIs, whether they are killed, missing in action or brutalised by war. The atrocities committed by the occupiers are mostly hidden and the crucial strategy of divide and rule goes unmentioned. Even today, the war is portrayed as the Communist north attacking and conquering the “democratic” south.

Now the imperialist mindset wants to rehabilitate the ludicrous notion that the US had an option to fight on. In reality, by 1973, there was no prospect of a military victory or even of propping up the southern puppets for more than a few years.

US forces had no real choice but to quit Saigon, leaving behind the world’s biggest brothel and three million dead Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians.

So it is today. When Iraqi and Afghan resistance make it impossible to stay any longer, the imperialist powers will have to go and they will go without a second thought about the fate of the collaborators or civilians left behind.

In the meantime, calculations in Washington and Whitehall about staying in Iraq and Afghanistan have nothing to do with securing democracy, fostering stability, preventing civil war or wanting to avoid further military or civilian casualties. As ever, the key considerations relate primarily to US geopolitical, military and energy interests.

How cold-blooded these calculations can be were brought home to me in 1993, when I learnt that IRA and Sinn Fein representatives had begun talking to British government officials.

But the willingness of the Irish republican movement to contemplate a ceasefire as part of a comprehensive peace process were being interpreted by the British as a sign of battle-weary weakness.

In February 1993, an IRA bomb in Warrington had killed two children. Tory government ministers announced that the killers would be hunted down relentlessly and that talks with such heinous terrorists were unthinkable.

In private, meanwhile, the arrogant attitude towards the Irish republicans continued. Then, in April, a truck bomb in Bishopsgate destroyed City premises to the value of £350 million.

British government representatives urgently sought another meeting, where they greeted the Irish republicans with words to the effect: “OK, lads, we’ve seen what you can do, so let’s get down to business.”

The IRA had hit British state-monopoly capitalism where it really hurts – in the wallet. Discussions recommenced in earnest.

The Tory government eventually admitted on November 29 that it had been involved in secret contacts with the IRA and Sinn Fein, the bombs stopped and the first ceasefire was officially declared in August 1994. The government’s grief and fury had been strictly for the cameras.

Most of the top decision-makers in Britain’s state apparatus do not lose a moment’s sleep over the deaths of children, civilians or soldiers, whether British, Iraqi or Afghan, and never have done.

The imperialist mindset breeds such callousness alongside arrogance, racism and the ability to lie without blushing.