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Turks haven’t learned to deny atrocities

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    Turks haven t learned the British way of denying atrocities By George Monbiot http://www.dawn.com/2005/12/28/int11.htm LONDON: In reading reports of the trial
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 4, 2006
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      Turks haven't learned the British way of denying atrocities
      By George Monbiot

      LONDON: In reading reports of the trial of the Turkish novelist Orhan
      Pamuk, you are struck by two things. The first, of course, is the
      anachronistic brutality of the country's laws. Mr Pamuk, like scores
      of other writers and journalists, is being prosecuted for "denigrating
      Turkishness", which means that he dared to mention the killing of
      Armenians in the first world war and the killing of the Kurds in the
      past decade. The second is its staggering, blithering stupidity. If
      there is one course of action that could be calculated to turn these
      massacres into live issues, it is the trial of the country's foremost
      novelist for mentioning them.

      As it prepares for accession, the Turkish government will discover
      that the other members of the EU have found a more effective means of
      suppression. Without legal coercion, without the use of baying mobs to
      drive writers from their homes, we have developed an almost infinite
      capacity to forget our own atrocities. Atrocities? Which atrocities?

      When a Turkish writer uses that word, everyone in Turkey knows what he
      is talking about, even if they deny it vehemently. But most British
      people will stare at you blankly. So let me give you two examples,
      both of which are as well documented as the Armenian killing.

      In his book Late Victorian Holocausts, published in 2001, Mike Davis
      tells the story of famines that killed between 12 and 29 million
      Indians. These people were, he demonstrates, murdered by British state
      policy. When an El Niño drought destituted the farmers of the Deccan
      plateau in 1876 there was a net surplus of rice and wheat in India.

      But the viceroy, Lord Lytton, insisted that nothing should prevent its
      export to England. In 1877 and 1878, at the height of the famine,
      grain merchants exported a record 6.4m hundredweight of wheat. As the
      peasants began to starve, officials were ordered "to discourage relief
      works in every possible way".

      The Anti-Charitable Contri-butions Act of 1877 prohibited "at the pain
      of imprisonment private relief donations that potentially interfered
      with the market fixing of grain prices". The only relief permitted in
      most districts was hard labour, from which anyone in an advanced state
      of starvation was turned away. In the labour camps, the workers were
      given less food than inmates of Buchenwald.

      In 1877, monthly mortality in the camps equated to an annual death
      rate of 94%.

      As millions died, the imperial government launched "a militarised
      campaign to collect the tax arrears accumulated during the drought".

      The money, which ruined those who might otherwise have survived the
      famine, was used by Lytton to fund his war in Afghanistan.

      Three recent books — Britain's Gulag by Caroline Elkins, Histories of
      the Hanged by David Anderson, and Web of Deceit by Mark Curtis — show
      how white settlers and British troops suppressed the Mau Mau revolt in
      Kenya in the 1950s. Thrown off their best land and deprived of
      political rights, the Kikuyu started to organise — some of them
      violently — against colonial rule.

      The British responded by driving up to 320,000 of them into
      concentration camps. Most of the remainder — more than a million —
      were held in "enclosed villages". Prisoners were questioned with the
      help of "slicing off ears, boring holes in eardrums, flogging until
      death, pouring paraffin over suspects who were then set alight, and
      burning eardrums with lit cigarettes".

      Licence to kill The soldiers were told they could shoot anyone they
      liked "provided they were black". Elkins's evidence suggests that more
      than 100,000 Kikuyu were either killed or died of disease and
      starvation in the camps. David Anderson documents the hanging of 1,090
      suspected rebels: far more than the French executed in Algeria.
      Thousands more were summarily executed by soldiers, who claimed they
      had "failed to halt" when challenged.

      These are just two examples of at least 20 such atrocities overseen
      and organised by the British government or British colonial settlers;
      they include, for example, the Tasmanian genocide, the use of
      collective punishment in Malaya, the bombing of villages in Oman, the
      dirty war in North Yemen, the evacuation of Diego Garcia. Some of them
      might trigger a vague, brainstem memory in a few thousand readers, but
      most people would have no idea what I'm talking about. Max Hastings,
      on the opposite page, laments our "relative lack of interest" in
      Stalin and Mao's crimes. But at least we are aware that they happened.

      In the Express we can read the historian Andrew Roberts arguing that
      for "the vast majority of its half-millennium-long history, the
      British empire was an exemplary force for good ... the British gave up
      their empire largely without bloodshed, after having tried to educate
      their successor governments in the ways of democracy and
      representative institutions" (presumably by locking up their future
      leaders). In the Sunday Telegraph, he insists that "the British empire
      delivered astonishing growth rates, at least in those places fortunate
      enough to be coloured pink on the globe". (Compare this to Mike
      Davis's central finding, that "there was no increase in India's per
      capita income from 1757 to 1947", or to Prasannan Parthasarathi's
      demonstration that "South Indian labourers had higher earnings than
      their British counterparts in the 18th century and lived lives of
      greater financial security.")

      In the Daily Telegraph, John Keegan asserts that "the empire became in
      its last years highly benevolent and moralistic". The Victorians "set
      out to bring civilisation and good government to their colonies and to
      leave when they were no longer welcome. In almost every country, once
      coloured red on the map, they stuck to their resolve".

      There is one, rightly sacred Holocaust in European history. All the
      others can be denied, ignored, or belittled. As Mark Curtis points
      out, the dominant system of thought in Britain "promotes one key
      concept that underpins everything else — the idea of Britain's basic
      benevolence ... Criticism of foreign policies is certainly possible,
      and normal, but within narrow limits which show `exceptions' to, or
      `mistakes' in, promoting the rule of basic benevolence".

      This idea, I fear, is the true "sense of British cultural identity"
      whose alleged loss Max laments today. No judge or censor is required
      to enforce it. The men who own the papers simply commission the
      stories they want to read.

      Turkey's accession to the European Union, now jeopardised by the trial
      of Orhan Pamuk, requires not that it comes to terms with its
      atrocities; only that it permits its writers to rage impotently
      against them. If the government wants the genocide of the Armenians to
      be forgotten, it should drop its censorship laws and let people say
      what they want. It needs only allow Richard Desmond and the Barclay
      brothers to buy up the country's newspapers, and the past will never
      trouble it again.—Dawn/The Guardian News Service



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