September 3, 2004, The Halifax Herald Limited

Extreme makeover, Western-style

ONE OF the most insidious legacies that European civilization has saddled the world with through colonization is an unquestionable belief that collective punishment and brute force is the best means to achieve a government's goal.

The less than shining results haunt us today. The brutality used by European empires during their heyday, to spread worldwide their ideas of what civilization should represent, is a stark reminder of the failure of such beliefs. Also, two World Wars and hundreds of European conflicts are more horrors that can be attributed to it.

That legacy has had disastrous post-colonial results for peoples of colour; of this, there is no doubt. For instance, the ongoing upheavals transpiring in modern-day Africa are almost wholly attributable to past European empire expansion. When claiming large swaths of African landscape for their empires, European governments did not pay any heed whatsoever to the borders of traditional African tribal territories. Thus, many traditional enemies, Hutus and Tutsis for instance, were forced into one country. Comparison: One wonders what kind of love affair it would have engendered between the two once mutually hating enemies if some outside force had forced the English and French into one country during those days. A bloodbath, no doubt.

The foolish belief was even - it still may be - embedded in school systems. This was demonstrated to me when I went to pick up my daughter many years ago. When I asked for her, the teacher told me she was being detained. The educator's response when I asked why still irks me: another child had got out of line, therefore, to ensure the other students would not pull the same stunt, all were being punished for what he did. I had a fit and my daughter's detention ended immediately.

To make my point about how collective punishment is still employed on a grand scale, I'll concentrate on the actions of one nation out of the four major English-speaking countries - Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States - that the British Empire begot. Each was founded by the English at the expense of indigenous peoples, who were brutally subjugated and marginalized, suffering everything from genocide to slavery. Most of these unfortunate peoples are still marginalized and impoverished to this day.

Remarkably, while appropriating their lands and rendering them destitute, and imposing a foreign set of values upon them, the conquerors insisted on telling the victims that it was being done for their own good, thus they should be thankful! Festering hate because of it still lingers, especially in the Arab world.

Although all of the aforementioned nations are guilty of this, the one I've singled out for comment is the United States for its current policies. By making over Iraq, President George W. Bush has got his country into a no-win situation - generating mostly hate for him among the "saved."

In fairness, after 9/11, Bush did right by invading Afghanistan and toppling the terrorist- producing Taliban regime. However, from that point forward, everything he did there, as in Iraq, defies logic.

How he figured it would be best to leave intact the warlords and their militias, instead of energetically helping the Afghans rebuild their country and establish security, is mind-boggling. Now, instead of being terrorized by the Taliban, the country's citizens are being terrorized by "democratic" criminals and greedy, power-hungry warlords. Some choice!

You can be forgiven for asking: Isn't this the situation that led to the establishment of a communist regime, followed by the Taliban? In view of modern values, a perfectly logical explanation for permitting the Afghan situation to deteriorate to the point where criminal activity runs rampant is that the country has no oil. Because of Western neglect, Afghanistan is again heading toward becoming a terrorist haven.

The Iraq situation is even more bizarre. The country is loaded with oil, thus it must be made into a democracy at all costs. Tens of billions have been spent to date to establish one and more money is in the pipeline. But, the ungrateful Iraqis aren't jumping up and down in the streets celebrating the effort to buy them.

That Bush and his cohorts were naive beyond belief when they invaded Iraq is no better emphasized than by the fact that they actually expected the Iraqi people to universally welcome them! In fact, they were so confident of being welcomed as saviours that they made no plans for administering a hostile post-war Iraq.

It seems almost unbelievable that they, when making their assumption of meeting only goodwill, ignored the fact that the sanctions imposed on Iraq by their country and its allies had resulted in a great deal of horrendous suffering among the country's population. Because of them, tens of thousands died of hunger, malnutrition, lack of medicine, etc. This was a classic case of using collective punishment. All Iraqis were punished for the sins of Saddam Hussein and the perpetrators expected them to be grateful!

The use of brute force to impose change on others, without regret for being forced to use it, will never be successful. And, countries and individuals that use collective punishment to try to get people to love them should wake up to the fact that such idiocy only generates more resentment and hate.

Daniel N. Paul


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