Sunday, 29 March 2015


An update is long overdue.  I penned my first essay on this subject 82 years ago as a high school student in a small town.  I was growing up amid hundreds of veterans of the South African Boer War and the Great War and their children.  Most of these veterans had carved out successful post-war careers but  too many were burdens on their families and the town.  They were crippled by mental and physical wounds from totally unnecessary wars.  It was easy to see that those who fought the wars suffered; those who supplied the weapons prospered.
Our species has many remarkable attributes.  Learning from History and current facts is not one of them.    When biology, culture, education, geography, or what-have-you gives one boy an advantage over others he can revel in his invincibility and is easily persuaded into offensive actions.  What a shock when he discovers the enemy can also inflict pain but by that time he is locked into a war of attrition until one side emerges the victor amid the slaughter and destruction.  So, who prosper and who do not?  It seems obvious that those who prosper are found only among the victors.     And, as with all human wars, who speaks for the many thousands of animals, such as horses, who are denied their freedoms and forced to serve, and die for, humans?
One human taking unfair advantage over another is an original sin, that is still with us.  Organized warfare commenced after the introduction, 14,000 years ago, of the bow and arrow, but advances such as iron over bronze, hoplites and phalanxes, cavalry and chariots, gunpowder, machine guns, aircraft, tanks, submarines, blitzkrieg tactics, biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons, and drones all encouraged first-use advantages.
Instruments of Death include automobiles, cigarettes, ladders, and swimming pools.  Builders of some of these have been punished for their faults, but their products were designed for other roles unlike guns whose sole purpose is to kill custodians of the most marvellous, complex, and promising structure yet to evolve on this globe.  Why do we not punish munitions manufacturers?  Who are they?  And why do we give them annually $1.5 trillion so sorely needed elsewhere to provide the environment needed to allow all of us to understand how to use this gift which is so much like computers and smart phones that are capable of doing so much more than most of us can master?
On this tiny globe of almost 8 billion humans 72 countries produce major arms in 633 locations, cleverly dispersed to gain wide support for the jobs they bring.  The biggest bully on the block is the United States with 114.  Lesser bullies include Russia with 29, Turkey 27, the UK 26, Italy 25, France 21, Germany 19, South Korea 19, Japan 18, Canada 18, India 17, Spain 14, China 13, Indonesia 12, Chech Republic 11, Brazil 10, Australia 9, Colombia 9, Argentina 8.   That country we have selected this time to fear, Iran, actually has 3 sites compared to 9 for Israel which also has a nuclear arsenal and enormous help from its prime ally which is now having much-belated  second thoughts.    Ignoring other lethal threats like over-population and climate change the nuclear bomb club of the US, Russia, UK, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea, rather than eliminating these arsenals are insanely modernizing and increasing their ability to create devastation to all living things. 
Then, there are about 900 far-right armed militia groups in the USA and, since 2009, there have been some 19 incidents of gunfire with law enforcement units. Gun ownership in the US is the world’s highest at 90%.  Serbia is next with 70%.  Canada, France,  and Germany have 30%, Australia 15%.  
  Main arms exporters are Russia, the US, China, France, the UK, Germany, Italy, Israel, Spain, and Ukraine.
       Main importers are: Saudi Arabia, India, China, UAE, Taiwan, Azerbaijan, Indonesia, the USA, and Pakistan.
    Instead of exporting arms, would it not be wiser to export contraceptives?  The huge savings would permit us to build schools and infrastructure, reduce poverty, and have a go at reducing the root causes of conflict.
     Peace movements have been numerous but, so far, ineffective.  Why, if this is the will of the majority?   We have had Geneva Conventions, biological, chemical, and nuclear restrictions, mines outlawed, START treaties and the like.  In fact there are 15 countries who have stopped or discarded nuclear bomb programs they once had.      
      We now have 115 peace groups in Europe and North America alone.  We have people who profited from the arms industry, like Alfred Nobel and concerned scientists, turn against what they conceived to work vigorously for peace.  We have philanthropists like Warren Buffet, Bill Clinton, Bill and Melinda Gates, Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, and organizations like Amnesty International, Concerned Scientists, Doctors Without Borders, and Greenpeace.  All are worthy of our support.  Alas, almost as bad as arms merchants, there are multi-nationals that put profits ahead of people.  We do need a strong UN to regulate both, but it needs all of us to join the task of denying Greed and Ignorance the ability to team up to thwart our best efforts.    All this at a time when Planet Earth is in mortal danger of losing its prime species, Homo sapiens - or is it Homo the Sap?  How can we be so heartless as to eliminate the homes of so many trillions of our body bacteria?  Who else would miss us if we stay on the path to extinction?

Ye Olde Scribe and his trillions of contributing bacterial lodgers.

Saturday, 14 March 2015


Gad, Sir!   I do get annoyed at those, who lack our sense of responsibility, decry our imperialism.  It sullies the honour of all those brave lads and lassies who sallied forth from Hampshire and Warwickshire, from Glamorgan and Radnor, from Argyll and Aberdeen, from Tipperary and Tyrone, and from all those other shires that make up this great kingdom, not to conquer and oppress, but to bring the benefits of our industry, our democracy, and our humanity to the less fortunate of this world.
Being flat broke after WWII we were pressured by others, for their own gain, to grant independence and go home well before some colonies were prepared to go it alone in a new world.   So, we have post-independence examples like the Hindu-Muslim massacres in India, Nigerian civil wars, tribal slaughters in Uganda, piracy off west Africa and S.E. Asia, Middle-East slaughters, and once-prosperous Rhodesia with equality to all tribes reduced to poverty and oppression in a one-party Zimbabwe.  Many former-French African colonies are better off today than ours because the French have retained some control.
When we built the British Empire we had a conscience. We were proud to be members of Her Majesty's Imperial Forces or Civil Service because "imperialism" meant "responsibility".  We made mistakes; we were guilty of some greed and cruelty; and we did not thank the Dutch enough for what we learned and took from them, but our admitted shortcomings pale in face of the great contributions we made.  Frankly our biggest problems came from among our own settlers. 
Most Britons never wanted an empire. Of the hundred colonies we had, only India was profitable to us, so we gave more than we received. As a token of gratitude for our parenthood, millions of Canadians, Australians, Indians, South Africans, New Zealanders, Fijians, and others sprang voluntarily to our aid in two world wars, and we remain grateful for this.  Many have remained in the Commonwealth Club. And, let us not forget our erring daughter, the United States, who also came to the rescue of her mother in her hour of mortal danger.  Our imperialism could not have been all that bad!  Let us take a brief look:
PAX BRITANNICA:    Our Royal Navy swept pirates from the seas, permitting all merchants to trade unhindered.   Our navy controlled the behaviour of merchants of many nations, punishing abuses against native populations. We fought many "savage wars of peace" to halt tribal and religious aggression. At Egypt's request, we sent troops to stop the slaughter of Christians by Muslims in the Sudan, and we kept peace there for 50 years. Now that we have left, the persecution has returned, but no one seems to care.  In India we kept peace among warring groups, and we stopped the Afghans from raiding Indian farming villages.  We also outlawed widow-burning and murder cults. We tried to limit the cruelties of the caste system.  In Africa we stopped the Arab slave trade.  In Nigeria, the Gold Coast (Ghana), Nyasaland (Malawi), and Uganda we stopped inter-tribal warfare and the exploitation of weaker tribes by the stronger. In the South Pacific we stopped cannibalism. 
HUMAN RIGHTS:   When we started our empire, there were precious few human rights anywhere.   We pioneered fair play, sportsmanship, and sympathy for the underdog.  Much of our concern grew out of our sufferings during our industrial revolution.  In almost all cases we cared more for our colonial charges that did their own rulers.  In most of our African colonies we restricted the purchase of land by Europeans, even though the lbo, Hausa, Kikuyu, Swazi, and Zulu had taken these lands from other peoples.    The Swazi King Mbandzeni sold 67% of Swaziland to Swiss and German speculators in return for Greyhound racing dogs. British taxpayers bought it back, replaced the king, and gave the land back to Swazi cattle herders.  When mine owners in South Africa increased profits by importing cheaper labour from India because Indian maharajas sold their own people into virtual slavery, the British Governor-General in India intervened, forcing higher pay, fixed terms of service, return passage to India, and the right for wives to accompany husbands.  In New Zealand we refused independence to our settlers until they guaranteed the rights of the native Maori.  There was no slavery in most of our colonies.  An exception was the West Indies, but this did not sit well in London, and we freed these slaves long before the U.S. freed its slaves.  We bought land in Sierra Leone in 1787 to resettle freed slaves.  The Bantu, from whom we bought the land, massacred the first shiploads of freed slaves, so we had to send in marines to protect future shiploads.  We drained the swamps, made farm lands, subsidized the freed slaves, and guarded them until 1961 when Sierra Leone became a free member of the Commonwealth.
IMPROVING REAL ESTATE:  We were great railway builders, but poor debt collectors.  Our railroads eliminated famine in India and we left it with the best railway system in Asia.  We never recovered the cost for this or for the railways we built in North and South America.  Another example of our many generosities: in 1819 Sir Thomas Raffles bought a mangrove swamp from the Sultan of Johore.  British merchants and the Royal Navy transformed the swamp into the metropolis of Singapore which was granted its independence in 1957.  Its population is now mainly Chinese attracted there by free enterprise.
EDUCATION:  There were no free schools in Britain for Britons in 1809 when we built free schools in Africa for Africans.  In fact we built seven schools and hospitals for Blacks for every one we built for Whites.   Before 1960 only four per cent of our students got university education, yet we gave such education to thousands from our colonies, many of whom became leaders - like Mohandas Gandhi.  In the Gold Coast (Ghana), Governor George MacLean, with 120 men and an annual budget of  $19,000, stopped tribal wars and built a prosperous, peaceful country.  At independence in 1957 we left a budget surplus of $560,000,000.   It took the new ruler, Kwame Nkrumah, only five years to squander this surplus.  Even he admitted that, of all colonial powers, the UK was the best.
     Perhaps a few lines from Rudyard Kipling will explain our frustrations: “Take up the White Man’s burden, Send forth the best ye breed, Go bind your sons to exile. To serve your captives’ needs  Ye dare not stoop to less. Nor call too loud on Freedom. To cloak your weariness.  By all ye cry or whisper. By all you leave or do, The silent, sullen people, Shall weigh your God and you.

Ye Olde Scribe (with Irish and French blood)

Sunday, 8 March 2015


  Always an incubator for prophets, the Middle East has produced yet another, but this new one writes his own script.  Of all those who preceded him many were crucified and only a couple made it to stardom and they did so through the writings of others.  This new Israeli-born but US-educated prophet is on a mission to warn the world about a monster set to devour us.  It is quite a difficult mission as he must remain constantly on the offensive to hide the unsavoury baggage he carries.  Prophets attract sceptics so they must gather converts to maintain momentum.  In Washington he got standing ovations from the GOP (now Guardians of Privilege) and snubs from the Democrats.
     Netanyahu’s vision can be traced back to the major victors of WWI who dismembered the Ottoman Turkish empire that, founded in 1299, grew to encompass lands as far west as Algeria and Austria, and the Russian steppes in the northeast and eastwards to Iran.  The Sunni-Muslim Ottomans tolerated all ethnic groups and their religions.  Anyone could rise to high office.  Nevertheless, numerous ethnic groups (or their leaders) yearned for complete independence.  In Palestine there were over a million Arabs and under half a million Jews whose help was needed by the British and ANZACS to conquer with the promise of homelands for both. In 1920 the League of Nations granted mandates.  Because of its revolution Russia was left out as was the USA who had not participated in that theatre of war and whose Republicans had shot down Woodrow Wilson’s welcomed plans for, and assistance to, the League.  That left the spoils to the UK, France, and Italy.  France accepted the responsibility of caring for Syria and Lebanon; the UK’s mandate included Palestine and Mesopotamia; while Italy became dominant in Libya.
     In spite of the cost and headaches in blood and treasure of controlling restive groups (and their resources) the prestige (and profits to some) was considered worth it.  
     Building towards becoming the world’s dominant power, the US found itself with no Middle East base to call its own.  A great opportunity came in 1948 when the British, exhausted with the impossible task of fulfilling promises to both Arabs and Jews, gave the problem to the United Nations.  As Jews had contributed six million of the 13,750.000 undesirables exterminated by the Nazis, there was deep and widespread sympathy to create a homeland somewhere, other than in the victor nations, for surviving Jews.  Of course the Jews desired their old homeland which they had cruelly conquered from others only to be cruelly evicted by the Romans,  exhausted putting down numerous revolts after treating them better than most provinces and allowing many Jews to attain great wealth as servants of Rome.  The UN was reluctant and did not have the votes to impose on Palestine the punishment for a German crime so no new Israel in Palestine was possible until US President Harry Truman, with a larger and influential Jewish population at home, used the promise of foreign aid to buy sufficient UN votes to establish the new Israel.  This created a strong US-Israel bond that let the US stock pile weapons to back up its growing influence in the area.  It also created many new enemies.  The Jews who fled other parts of the world, bringing talents, wealth, and ideals cherished by ‘Western’ nations, have built a powerful industrial state that does need more room than the original choice lands stolen from Palestine, so thefts continue, the Palestines continue to be persecuted, the US is frustrated but deems it necessary to downplay Israeli atrocities that include creating a secret nuclear arsenal, hidden in South Africa then Israel, amid defying numerous UN resolutions.  Netanyahu, and the US, refuse to mention this  while vilifying Iran.
     This behaviour, not condoned by many Israelis, plus the desire of US hawks to remain militarily dominant need persistent enemies to justify it.  In none exist, create some.
      Iran and its religious rulers were created, after all, mainly by the misdeeds of British and US interests.  Iran does house thousands of contented Jews, yet it does persecute its Baha’i followers - a religion created 150 years ago in Tehran and now with a world following that embraces all those good things we hold dear.  But, crime of all crimes, it pursues nuclear bombs which it denies as does even Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service.  Having done far more harm to Iran than it has ever done to us, we ostracize it, impose harsh sanctions, and use it as an excuse to maintain excessive military force and lead us to the brink of new wars that we cannot win militarily or morally.
     Iran does have provocation from WWI and WWII occupations, an 8-year invasion from Iraq, and nuclear-armed neighbours: India, Israel, Russia, and Pakistan, not to mention France, North Korea, the UK, and the US all of whom we must persuade to dismantle their arsenals as have done: Argentina. Belarus, Brazil, Iraq, Japan. Kazakhstan, Libya, South Africa, Sweden, and Ukraine.  And thanks to all those nations with nuclear energy programs, quite capable of building nuclear weapons, but have declined the madness of doing so.
     And, Turkey, could you somehow revert to those good old days and persuade your former empire to return to the live-and-let-live mentality?   
Ye Olde Scribe,  08 March 2015