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Ed Webb

Two New Books Spotlight the History and Consequences of the Suez Crisis - The New York ... - 0 views

  • The Eisenhower administration relied on the advice of officials who admired Nasser as a nationalist and anti-Communist: a secular modernizer, the long hoped-for “Arab Ataturk.” The most important and forceful of the Nasser admirers was Kermit Roosevelt, the C.I.A. officer who had done so much in 1953 to restore to power in Iran that other secular modernizer, Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi.
  • To befriend Nasser, the Eisenhower administration suggested a big increase in economic and military aid; pressed Israel to surrender much of the Negev to Egypt and Jordan; supported Nasser’s demand that the British military vacate the canal zone; and clandestinely provided Nasser with much of the equipment — and many of the technical experts — who built his radio station Voice of the Arabs into the most influential propaganda network in the Arab-speaking world.
  • Offers of aid were leveraged by Nasser to extract better terms from the Soviet Union, his preferred military partner. Pressure on Israel did not impress Nasser, who wanted a permanent crisis he could exploit to mobilize Arab opinion behind him. Forcing Britain out of the canal zone in the mid-50s enabled Nasser to grab the canal itself in 1956. Rather than use his radio network to warn Arabs against Communism, Nasser employed it to inflame Arab opinion against the West’s most reliable regional allies, the Hashemite monarchies, helping to topple Iraq’s regime in 1958 and very nearly finishing off Jordan’s.
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  • “The Middle East is in the throes of an historical crisis, a prolonged period of instability. American policy can exacerbate or ameliorate the major conflicts, but . . . in the Middle East, it is prudent to assume that the solution to every problem will inevitably generate new problems. Like Sisyphus, the United States has no choice but to push the boulder up a hill whose pinnacle remains forever out of reach.”
  • the deepest drivers of the Arab and Muslim states, namely their rivalries with each other for power and authority
  • Eisenhower’s humiliation of Britain and France in the Suez crisis of November 1956 weakened two allies — without gaining an iota of good will from Arab nationalists. Rather than cooperate with the United States against the Soviet Union, the Arab world’s new nationalist strongmen were transfixed by their rivalries with one another
  • The grand conspiracy was doomed to fail. The canal was blocked for months, causing a crippling oil shortage in Europe. The Arab-Israeli conflict worsened, and the Muslim world was inflamed against its old overlords in the West with lasting consequences. The botched invasion occurred just as the Soviet Union was crushing a rebellion in Hungary, its Eastern bloc satellite. When the Kremlin, seeing the opportunity to divert international attention from its own outrages, issued a letter widely interpreted as a threat to attack London and Paris with nuclear weapons, the great powers seemed for an instant to be lurching toward World War III.

    The turmoil and danger created by the Suez crisis and the Hungarian rebellion have largely faded from popular memory.

  • he was not well. “His flashes of temper and fragile nerves led some to wonder about his genetic inheritance,” von Tunzelmann writes. “His baronet father had been such an extreme eccentric — complete with episodes of ‘uncontrolled rages,’ falling to the floor, biting carpets and hurling flowerpots through plate-glass windows — that even the Wodehousian society of early-20th-century upper-class England had noticed something was up.”

    As prime minister, Sir Anthony took to calling ministers in the middle of the night to ask if they had read a particular newspaper article. “My nerves are already at breaking point,” he told his civil servants. In October 1956, he collapsed physically for a few days. According to one of his closest aides, he used amphetamines as well as heavy painkillers, and a Whitehall official said he was “practically living on Benzedrine.”

  • About two-thirds of Europe’s oil was transported through the canal; Nasser had his “thumb on our windpipe,” Eden fumed. Eden made Nasser “a scapegoat for all his problems: the sinking empire, the sluggish economy, the collapse of his reputation within his party and his dwindling popularity in the country at large,”
  • Eisenhower was not always well served by the rhetoric of Secretary of State John Foster Dulles or the machinations of his brother, Allen Dulles, the director of central intelligence. And Eisenhower had a temper. “Bombs, by God,” he shouted when the British began striking Egyptian air fields. “What does Anthony think he’s doing? Why is he doing this to me?” But Eisenhower was shrewd and he could be coldly calculating. Understanding that the British would need to buy American oil, he quietly put Britain into a financial squeeze, forcing Eden to back off the invasion.
  • the take-away from von Tunzelmann’s book is obvious: When it comes to national leadership in chaotic times, temperament matters.
Ed Webb

Brexit reinforces Britain's imperial amnesia - 0 views

  • leading Brexiters and advocates of “Global Britain” misunderstand the past — with dangerous consequences for the future. They speak warmly of returning to Britain’s historical vocation as a “great trading nation”, when it was actually a great imperial nation. That important distinction leads to overconfidence about the ease of re-creating a global trading destiny, in a world in which Britannia no longer rules the waves.
  • For a Martian historian, the most interesting thing about modern British history would surely be that the country built a massive global empire. But for the Brits themselves, shaping a national story that centres around the war against the Nazis — rather than the empire — makes psychological sense. It has allowed Britain to nurture a national self-image as champions of freedom and plucky underdogs (captured in the eternal popularity of the television programme Dad’s Army) rather than imperialist oppressors.
  • Victory in Europe was a moment of national triumph that cushioned the psychological blow of the loss of empire. All British opinion formers have 1945 stamped on their memory — the year that marked victory in Europe. Few would be able to tell you that 1947 was the year of the independence of India.
Ed Webb

Caribbean Nations to Seek Reparations, Putting Price on Damage of Slavery - NYTimes.com - 0 views

  • In a 2008 biography he wrote of an antislavery campaigner, Britain’s foreign secretary, William Hague, described the trade in human beings as an indefensible barbarity, “brutal, mercenary and inhumane from its beginning to its end.”

    Fourteen Caribbean countries that once sustained that slave economy now want Mr. Hague to put his money where his mouth is.

    Spurred by a sense of injustice that has lingered for two centuries, the countries plan to compile an inventory of the lasting damage they believe they suffered and then demand an apology and reparations from the former colonial powers of Britain, France and the Netherlands.

  • Britain has already paid compensation over the abolition of the slave trade once — but to slave owners, not their victims. Britain transported more than three million Africans across the Atlantic, and the impact of the trade was vast. Historians estimate that, in the Victorian era, between one-fifth and one-sixth of all wealthy Britons derived at least some of their fortunes from the slave economy.
  • Caribbean nations argue that their brutal past continues, to some extent, to enslave them today.

    “Our constant search and struggle for development resources is linked directly to the historical inability of our nations to accumulate wealth from the efforts of our peoples during slavery and colonialism,” said Baldwin Spencer, prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, in July this year. Reparations, he said, must be directed toward repairing the damage inflicted by slavery and racism.

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  • The current French president, François Hollande, conceded last year that France’s treatment of Algeria, its former colony, was “brutal and unfair.” But he did not go so far as to apologize.
  • Some Caribbean nations have already begun assessing the lasting damage they suffered, ranging from stunted educational and economic opportunities to dietary and health problems
  • “Reparation may be awarded only for what was internationally unlawful when it was done,” Dr. O’Keefe said, “and slavery and the slave trade were not internationally unlawful at the time the colonial powers engaged in them.”
Ed Webb

Britain's colonial shame: Slave-owners given huge payouts after abolition - Home News -... - 0 views

  • as many as one-fifth of wealthy Victorian Britons derived all or part of their fortunes from the slave economy
  • Some families used the money to invest in the railways and other aspects of the industrial revolution; others bought or maintained their country houses, and some used the money for philanthropy.
  • The British government paid out £20m to compensate some 3,000 families that owned slaves for the loss of their "property" when slave-ownership was abolished in Britain's colonies in 1833. This figure represented a staggering 40 per cent of the Treasury's annual spending budget and, in today's terms, calculated as wage values, equates to around £16.5bn.

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  • To have two Lord Chancellors in Britain in the 20th century bearing the name of a slave-owner from British Guyana, who went penniless to British Guyana, came back a very wealthy man and contributed to the formation of this political dynasty
  • The database is available from Wednesday at: ucl.ac.uk/lbs.
  • Slavery on an industrial scale was a major source of the wealth of the British empire, being the exploitation upon which the West Indies sugar trade and cotton crop in North America was based. Those who made money from it were not only the slave-owners, but also the investors in those who transported Africans to enslavement. In the century to 1810, British ships carried about three million to a life of forced labour.

    Campaigning against slavery began in the late 18th century as revulsion against the trade spread. This led, first, to the abolition of the trade in slaves, which came into law in 1808, and then, some 26 years later, to the Act of Parliament that would emancipate slaves. This legislation made provision for the staggering levels of compensation for slave-owners, but gave the former slaves not a penny in reparation.

  • in 1838, 700,000 slaves in the West Indies, 40,000 in South Africa and 20,000 in Mauritius were finally liberated
Ed Webb

British have invaded nine out of ten countries - so look out Luxembourg - Telegraph - 0 views

  • "Other countries could write similar books – but they would be much shorter. I don't think anyone could match this, although the Americans had a later start and have been working hard on it in the twentieth century."
  • The only other nation which has achieved anything approaching the British total, Mr Laycock said, is France – which also holds the unfortunate record for having endured the most British invasions.
  • Mr Laycock added: "One one level, for the British, it is quite amazing and quite humbling, that this is all part of our history, but clearly there are parts of our history that we are less proud of. The book is not intended as any kind of moral judgment on our history or our empire. It is meant as a light-hearted bit of fun."

    The countries never invaded by the British:

    Andorra

    Belarus

    Bolivia

    Burundi

    Central African Republic

    Chad

    Congo, Republic of

    Guatemala

    Ivory Coast

    Kyrgyzstan

    Liechtenstein

    Luxembourg

    Mali

    Marshall Islands

    Monaco

    Mongolia

    Paraguay

    Sao Tome and Principe

    Sweden

    Tajikistan

    Uzbekistan

    Vatican City

Ed Webb

Britain destroyed records of colonial crimes | UK news | The Guardian - 0 views

  • The documents show that colonial officials were instructed to separate those papers to be left in place after independence – usually known as "Legacy files" – from those that were to be selected for destruction or removal to the UK. In many colonies, these were described as watch files, and stamped with a red letter W.
  • The documents show that colonial officials were instructed to separate those papers to be left in place after independence – usually known as "Legacy files" – from those that were to be selected for destruction or removal to the UK. In many colonies, these were described as watch files, and stamped with a red letter W.
  • As independence grew closer, large caches of files were removed from colonial ministries to governors' offices, where new safes were installed.

    In Uganda, the process was codenamed Operation Legacy. In Kenya, a vetting process, described as "a thorough purge", was overseen by colonial Special Branch officers.

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  • Clear instructions were issued that no Africans were to be involved: only an individual who was "a servant of the Kenya government who is a British subject of European descent" could participate in the purge.
  • Many of the watch files ended up at Hanslope Park. They came from 37 different former colonies, and filled 200 metres of shelving. But it is becoming clear that much of the most damning material was probably destroyed. Officials in some colonies, such as Kenya, were told that there should be a presumption in favour of disposal of documents rather than removal to the UK – "emphasis is placed upon destruction" – and that no trace of either the documents or their incineration should remain.
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