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The War Nerd / April 14, 2011

A good empire needs torturers, but more than that it needs torturers who keep their mouths shut and tame professors who’ll never, ever mention what they find in the torture archives.

If the history of the last century proves one thing pretty damn clearly, it’s that pure combat power isn’t as important as control of information. And the world champions in that are the British. They have an oath of silence going that makes every organized-crime family seem chatty as Oprah. And that’s why they’ve gotten away with more horrible shit than any other modern empire because: their torturers kept their mouths shut, their home-front audience always shouted down anybody who tried to kill their Imperial buzz, and their history professors were either working full time for the intelligence agencies or just in 24/7 volunteer mode, shooting down anybody who brought up the wet work of empire.

Everything was going fine in the Brit PR Department, with the nice upstanding harmless/cute Brits denouncing the evil Russians and Germans. Then this Harvard professor named Caroline Elkins—looks like a nice lady from her pictures, probably never caused trouble in her life—started going through the archives of the British Empire’s fight against the Kikuyu “rebels,” the Mau-Mau, in the 1950s.

Good PR Keeps It Simple: “Naked Terror!”

The Mau-Mau had this scary rep when I was a kid. People still talked about them going into white people’s houses and doing horrible things to them. Besides, they were “rebels.” I remember my elementary school teacher, Mrs. Long, telling us about the Mau Mau atrocities for like half an hour when we were supposed to be memorizing the whole dull string of California missions, south to north. (Uh…Mision San Diego de Alcal-something…Mision…uh…the one the swallows come back to?”) Nobody particularly wanted to know the names of those 21 crumbling adobe mounds, so we were all for her talking about black monsters “disemboweling women”—didn’t exactly know what it meant but it sounded dirty and racial.

Years later I actually started to read up on Kenya and thought the stats were a little weird. One in particular: every account I could find agreed that the Mau Mau, these crazy bloodthirsty cannibals, had killed 32 British settlers. 32? That’s less than the KIA for a holiday weekend in the UK. That was what all the fuss was about?

It was a lot harder to find out how many of the Mau Mau had been killed. In fact, you got the idea that no blacks died, just those poor white women all alone in their houses.

And it was even harder to get any idea what made the Africans so mad. We all just thought, they were just like that, ready to go off. And frankly, we had echoes of Watts and Detroit in our heads, we were all flat-out scared of black people, which made the Mau Mau horror stories easy to swallow.

When I really learned about Africa, my whole idea of the cute/harmless Brits and violent crazy Africans went away real fast. What blew me away first was the patience of the Kikuyu, the tribe the Brits were trying to wipe out. They stood for it and stood for it and only fought back after the Brits made it real clear that the only good Kikuyu was on his knees or better yet, dead. The Kikuyu were the first Africans I started to see as full-membership human beings—nobody’d ever told me Africans could be anything but sad victims or crazy killers–and when I did, the whole picture changed very, very fast. In fact, I’d say that if you really want to understand irregular warfare, the most important thing you can do is actually think of Africans as people, just frickin’ people with the usual range of crap going on in their heads. But you better be able to handle being in a tiny minority if you do, believe me.

The Mau Mau were an armed group from the Kikuyu, the tribe that was settled on the Kenyan Highlands when the Brits arrived. Unfortunately for the Kikuyu, the Brits liked the Highlands. The altitude kept the weather mild, even cold in the winter, so the coastal swamp fevers didn’t hit Europeans as hard, and the land made for excellent pasture. That meant every Brit who immigrated to Kenya became an instant aristocrat, with land and horses and a plummy accent and lots of black slaves—the people whose land he was squatting on.

If there’s one iron law of history, it’s: Don’t be the tribe occupying a piece of land British people take a liking to. Way back in the 19th century, the local British agent said (people were more honest about this stuff back then): “The only way to improve the Kikuyu is to wipe them out, but unfortunately we depend on them for food supplies.” Yup, it was the old dilemma: exterminate them or use’em as slaves. Laziness won out; they let the Kikuyu live so they could do all the actual work, while the Brits settled into plantation life, a 20th-c. version of the Old South. The settlers turned out to be even more degenerate than the old plantation South—I remember reading that at one plantation in Kenya, the first thing a guest was offered was a tray (carried by a Kikuyu maid) with a hypo full of morphine and a little packet of cocaine, and whichever you picked, they’d keep it coming as long as you were there. Colonial hospitality.

The Kikuyu were being wiped out, to the point that even Churchill, not exactly a bleeding heart, complained that it seemed a bit much to keep killing Kikuyu “on such an enormous scale.” But they had to do it; they wanted the land, and it was infested with these surplus black people. You only need so many maids, herders, sex slaves and so on; everybody else is surplus natives. To push more Kikuyu off the land, the Brits used a whole rule-book of laws designed to kill off local populations, laws they’d been perfecting in other colonies for hundreds of years. Suddenly every Kikuyu mud hut was subject to a “hut tax” that cost as much as most Kikuyu could make in a year. Can’t pay it? Get off my land, darkie. The Kikuyu, who were talented farmers, tried to raise the money by growing cash crops, until it was suddenly illegal for Kikuyu to grow those crops. “Sorry, blackie, against the law.” That “law” thing is a big part of why the Brits were able to get away with so much for so long, in so many parts of the world: they were great at making it look like some big impersonal thing, some rule that was made up in Heaven, was responsible, and the colonial officer who turned you out of your hut in mid-winter was just following orders.

Same thing when they forced the Kikuyu onto “reserves.” Any Kikuyu stepping out of the reserve was a “squatter.” That’s another thing the Brits did better than anybody: mess with the language. How do the people who’ve lived there for hundreds of years turn into “squatters” against the thieves who took it from them last week? Same with “rebel”—how come everybody who fights the Brits is a “rebel,” even if it’s been their land since the Flood and the Brits just marched onshore a month ago? Because it makes a better story, that’s why.

Another innovation in storytelling that the Brits understood way, way better than the Germans, who were amateurs at PR, was this one: never talk about how many of them you killed; only talk about your people that they killed. That policy was why I never heard as a kid how many Kikuyu died when they finally rose up against the Brits. The Brits never tell you how many natives they killed. Instead they pick some martyr from their forces and plaster his face all over every newspaper and tv station for years, literally years, until everybody knows him like their long-lost martyr cousin.

The Germans never got that, with their junior-high deaths’ heads and black uniforms. That crap doesn’t work. What works is making YOURSELF the martyr, the victim, so nobody thinks about what you’ve been doing to the natives.
And it was all going just fine, everybody thinking of Hugh Grant’s little apology-grin when they thought of the Brits…and then this American woman, Caroline Elkins, had to ruin everything by actually looking at the archives from Kenya.

Caroline Elkins: Portrait of A Troublemaker

Seems like they forgot to get her to sign in blood to keep total silence about what went on there. She told it all in a great book called Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag in Kenya.

Elkins estimates the number of Kikuyu killed by British forces at something like 300,000. Quite a little massacre there. Funny you haven’t heard of it, huh? Well, like Elkins said in an article she just wrote after archives were released that totally confirmed her version, that’s because the Brit historians who should have told the story decided not to. They knew, all right. They just didn’t care to tell.

Turns out the Brits basically put the whole Kikuyu population in concentration camps—more than 1.5 million civilians inside the wire, and if they died of every African disease that was going, all the better. Actually the Brits used the same technique against the Boer women and children in the Boer War—purposely killed off 25% of the total civilian population to demoralize the guerrillas they couldn’t beat in a fair fight—so it shouldn’t surprise anyone . But it will, because they’ve sold y’all their Hugh Grant version of themselves.

Now all the really gross stories are coming out. Seems that castration, burning suspects alive, and ass-rape with broken bottles was a favorite counter-insurgency technique for British troops in Kenya:

“Bottles (often broken), gun barrels, knives, snakes, vermin, and hot eggs were thrust up men’s rectums and women’s vaginas. The screening teams whipped, shot, burned, and mutilated Mau Mau suspects, ostensibly to gather intelligence for military operations, and as court evidence.” At the time, the British government sought to circumvent international accords. Forced labour was constantly imposed in the camps. Kenya’s defence minister had said of the use of detainee labour: “We are slave traders and the employment of our slaves are, in this instance, by the Public Works Department.”

Gross as it all is, you can’t help thinking that the Brits understand the importance of silence, as well as active propaganda, in maintaining an Empire. Nobody else has kept their silence as long and hard as they have. All those Brit historians war nerds love, John Keegan and Niall Ferguson—anybody want to bet they didn’t know about all this? Hell, I’ll give odds of 12-1 and no sane man would take me up on it. Of course they fucking knew. And they kept their yaps shut.

And all the while, they’d put on their innocent Hugh Grant mask and lecture the evil Germans and the evil Russians and the evil Chinese on their human rights abuses. I don’t know whether to admire it or laugh or just throw a brick at them.

Jesus, this stuff was happening years after Nuremburg, years after the Brits started their endless self-worshipping for their brave stand against fascism. Anyone for Nuremburg II in Nairobi? A lot of the bottle-rapers are still alive, watchin’ a bi’ o’ futball in South London. Anybody wanna do a Nuremburg on their ass?

Didn’t think so. So lemme get this straight: I can’t enjoy the Wehrmacht, an Army that kicked British ass every time they met on anything like equal terms, because they killed white Europeans. But it’s fine to make little Spitfire models and puff up Dunkirk because THEY killed black Africans. Is that the deal?

I guess so. Well, shoulda known. This is what a healthy empire looks like, folks: it never apologizes, it has no conscience, it doesn’t do Oprah, it never gets Nuremburg’d. There ain’t no karma, or comeuppance, or nuthin’. There’s just bluffing it out til they find the bodies, and the Brits are the world champions at that.

Hey Nerdoids and Nerdettes! Note Gary Brecher’s functioning email: gary dot brecher at gmail dot com

Would you like to know more? Gary Brecher is the author of the War Nerd. Send your comments to gary dot brecher at gmail dot com. Read Gary Brecher’s first ever War Nerd column by clicking here.

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84 Comments

Add your own

  • 1. Eric  |  April 14th, 2011 at 9:30 am

    Ian Henderson – the”butcher of Bahrain” made his name during the mau mau episode. The Africans kicked him out after independence, the Brits gave him medals and shit

  • 2. pat b  |  April 14th, 2011 at 9:41 am

    Well I guess we know what Fox news means when they say “Obama has Mau Mau Sympathy”.

  • 3. pimp of the Balkans  |  April 14th, 2011 at 9:44 am

    “Instead they pick some martyr from their forces and plaster his face all over every newspaper and tv station for years, literally years, until everybody knows him like their long-lost martyr cousin.”

    Sounds a lot like… you know… Bobby Sands.

  • 4. Doug  |  April 14th, 2011 at 9:53 am

    Gary,

    I’d like to hear your take on why the British kept the kid gloves on in the Revolutionary War. Why go to town on Boers and Kikuyu, but when actual outward defiance and treason comes out of Boston and Philadelphia all of a sudden they behave like civilized soldiers, basically completely respecting the rights and property of the rebels?

  • 5. baron ungern von sternberg  |  April 14th, 2011 at 9:59 am

    perfect!

  • 6. Yousif  |  April 14th, 2011 at 10:01 am

    Churchill ordered the gassing of Iraqis during the Brits little misadventure in Mesopotamia

  • 7. Leon  |  April 14th, 2011 at 10:04 am

    They started early check out the 1641 depositions.
    @pimp more like Nairac oink oink

  • 8. ola  |  April 14th, 2011 at 10:05 am

    yet at the same time islam is taking over the uk now due to uber political corectness-ironic

    watch some of pat condell on youtube

  • 9. chris  |  April 14th, 2011 at 10:46 am

    The 300,000 dead was mostly black on black.

  • 10. TrangleC  |  April 14th, 2011 at 10:51 am

    *In before the first British “We gave them civilisation!” comment*
    hehehe

    Great article and so true.

  • 11. Michal  |  April 14th, 2011 at 10:57 am

    Shit this looks like serious PR trouble. Can we say the Mau Mau were, uh, communist islamists?

  • 12. Jesse the Scout  |  April 14th, 2011 at 11:25 am

    It’s easier to get forgiveness than permission. Heck, 50+ years pass before it gets known and no one even cares.

  • 13. Earwig  |  April 14th, 2011 at 11:29 am

    “There’s just bluffing it out til they find the bodies, and the Brits are the world champions at that.”

    ehh. You’ve heard of Cambodia, yes? Argentina? Katyn forest? The Lancet Iraq studies?

    There’s plenty of expertise about in the subject of not counting the corpses WE produce. The other guy’s murders are an atrocity. Ours, we don’t count.

    As an American, the Brits look like pikers to me on this score. Sure, they got there before us, but we are the masters now for some time, thankyouverymuch.

  • 14. God_damned_red  |  April 14th, 2011 at 11:32 am

    I always said if there was any justice in the world Churchill would have been lynched along side the nazies. Instead people think I am a horrible person for hating the fat bastard.

  • 15. Charles  |  April 14th, 2011 at 11:42 am

    There’s no doubt that we did bad things and it was wrong, but the issue is that people are trying to spread the ‘collective guilt’ idea- when the vast majority of us were born after the events of Empire. And people want to open up compensation claims, another wrong path as that is collectively punishing us, including the majority of us who weren’t born at the time.

    What about Iraq anyway- 300,000 killed in 8 years of insurgency compared to a million and a half in Iraq- admittedly the Brits took part but the vast majority of us opposed the war.

  • 16. BlottoBonVismarck  |  April 14th, 2011 at 11:44 am

    Excellent! Great job! The true face of the Brit Empire. Just like the true face of the US Empire.

    And the Monty Python skit? – Murder, genocide and inhuman torture — Someone must have called for Richard Cheney. –

    - ‘Biggus Dickus’ (of Wome on the Potomac) — Big Oil tool and US Torture promoter – brought to Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Aden, Syria, Egypt, Uzbekistan, Poland, Lithuania and many, many more — “You lucky, lucky bastard” – Monty Python – Life of Brian -

    - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2TPQ0DEVaEk#t=0m40s

    John Pilger – Torture is _so_ American — School of the Americas – Archbishop Romero – War on Democracy –

    - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G5L1VdlktOw#t=01m17s

    Witness to summary executions by US forces in Panama – Tell US that this didn’t happen, is not happening today in Iraq, Afghanistan and the recent Swat valley in Pakistan. Because reports say that that was _exactly_ what happened. – The Panama Deception. –

    - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88X_jvPBR5A#t=05m42s

    Tony Blair, Bush and Cheney – ‘Boiling for Britain / US’ – Muzafar Avazov –

    - http://jamblichus.files.wordpress.com/2009/10/boileddude.jpg

    NUREMBERG MK II

    Meanwhile the US (In)Justice Department is deaf, dumb and blind to the crimes of the US Neocon-Nazis’s of the last nine years. Crimes of US torture, murder, death squads, illegal war, crimes against humanity and crimes against the laws of war. US war criminals sleep easy in their beds. No change there, then!

    “The Neo-Con Nazis were careerists who instituted the industrial killing of millions in an effort to please Our Dear Leader, Comrade Cheney, and win promotion.” “You cannot just order the killing of hundreds of thousands of people. No normal person would do such a thing.” –

    - The original clip was utterly damning of the US Neocon Nazis. Ho__rooke? Wo__owitz? Or every d@mn Neocon and his dog??? – Naturally it was memory-holed and replaced by an entirely _newly-edited_ one!!! (Extraordinary attention to what seems to be a minor detail. Big Brother truly!) So supply your own soundtrack! –

    - WW2 – Heydrich –

    - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jF1NXE55LBE#t=01m20s

    Poor US Neo-Con Nazis / Our Tony — Terrified of their date with destiny — A long drop on a short rope. – Nuremberg Mk II. –

    Mk I for comparison – Nuremberg Executions of Nazi Leaders for ‘Crimes Against Humanity’ and ‘Crimes Against the Laws of War.’ – Original –

    - http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=95d_1206462963

    A kick in the nuts for the Brit Empire. And so greatly deserved. More kicks — in more hideous murderous genocidal Empire nuts — please.

    From little acorns great oaks grow? – Exiled Radio: John Dolan Talks Genocide & Monsters with Pol Pot Biographer Philip Short – April 10, 2009, – The Exiled –

    - http://exiledonline.com/exiled-radio-host-john-dolan-talks-genocide-monsters-with-pol-pot-biographer-philip-short/

    Hail Brecher!

  • 17. Jack Boot  |  April 14th, 2011 at 11:51 am

    @ Doug #4:
    The rebellious Yanks were, after all, mostly transplanted Brits.

    Whatever he might do to strangers, the average father is reluctant to kill his own flesh & blood…

  • 18. Zorg  |  April 14th, 2011 at 11:54 am

    In response to #4, the War Nerd already answered this elsewhere. I’m not gonna go rooting through the archives, but basically the US colonials were of the same culture and ethnic group as the Brits, and they spoke the same language. In fact, they probably still thought of themselves as British. It’s harder to slaughter somebody who’s basically the same as you, and the few who do so (like the dude in the Mel Gibson movie) were denounced back home. The Mau Mau, the Kandymen, and even the Irish were all different enough that they could be crushed with an easy conscience.

  • 19. pimp of the Balkans  |  April 14th, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    @4

    Because they saw the rebels as culturally and religiously their own, misguided independence ideas and all. The Irish – or the assorted other victim tribes – were obviously different, and paid the price.

    The English Civil War is not entirely free of civilian massacres, but compared to Cromwell’s scourging of Ireland, never mind the 30 years’ war, it is a model of restraint. The treatment of American rebels follows the same pattern.

    @7 don’t hear anyone whining about Nairac these days, in fact he’s all but forgotten. Not so Bobby Sands, a perfect example of… how did the WN put it? “long lost martyr cousin”?

  • 20. HueyLewis  |  April 14th, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    The use of hot eggs in torture is truly barbaric, quite beyond the pale.

  • 21. Homer Erotic  |  April 14th, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    Color this Irish-American thoroughly unsurprised.

  • 22. SysRq  |  April 14th, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    I’d say Zorg has a point there. After all, the “American values” of freedom (of speech etc.) are actually a British thing that had been going on over there for quite a while before the 1770′s.

    Here’s another example of the British old breed: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reginald_Dyer

    R. E. H. Dyer, EB: “I think it quite possible that I could have dispersed the crowd without firing but they would have come back again and laughed, and I would have made, what I consider, a fool of myself.”

    Sir M. F. O’Dwyer, KCIE: “Your action is correct. Lieutenant Governor approves.”

  • 23. kurt  |  April 14th, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    dudes, leave Doug alone…he is a retard and responding to him is a waste of your energy

  • 24. Jomo Kenyatta  |  April 14th, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    Fuck the Brits. And all the other posters but me. The Mao Mao never got no Toyota Tacomas. All we ever got was a hand-me-down Land Rover, and it didn’t have no wheels. What’re you gonna do?

  • 25. Aaron  |  April 14th, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    Next goddam Brit to lecture me about the Confederacy gets a slap in the fucking face. It’s not that the Confederacy doesn’t deserve to be shit on, because it does — but not as much as the British Empire does.

  • 26. Aaron  |  April 14th, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    “…the issue is that people are trying to spread the ‘collective guilt’ idea- when the vast majority of us were born after the events of Empire. And people want to open up compensation claims, another wrong path as that is collectively punishing us, including the majority of us who weren’t born at the time.”

    Just being born after the end of outright Empire doesn’t buy you a get-out-of-guilt-free card; you get the benefit of your predecessors’ depredations, whether you want to or not, just like us USians and this continent-girdling nation we’ve inherited.

    Granted, I don’t think reparations are much of an option, if only because they’re no less likely to be attractive to both warlords on the receiving end, and thieves on the originating end, than any other large lump of money; not only that, but if monetary aid were all that was needed, I think we wouldn’t even still be talking about this.

    But — and entirely without regard for the question of reparations — spare me the whining about how you don’t deserve to feel bad for what your granddaddy did, because unless you’re in sackcloth and ashes on the street corner disavowing him every day, guess what? You’re getting the benefit, just like me.

  • 27. stewart in London  |  April 14th, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    Where do i start. I hear people complaining that Hollywood films always have baddies with English accents. What they mean, i guess is that the baddies have ‘posh’ accents.

    Thing is, for us ‘subjects’ they do.

    All our leaders, managers , decision makers are chosen from narrow public school (read ‘paid’ school, usually boarding school – you leave home at 4 and never go back) elites.

    These guys occupy a place in society like an invading army. They’ve been on our backs too since the Norman conquest. Look a bit closer at the highland clearances, enclosure acts.

    Mau Mau, mebyon glendwr, IRA…all reacting to the same impersonal imposition of power

  • 28. matt  |  April 14th, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    4, 17, 19

    I’ll sum up

    They were white and spoke the same language.

  • 29. Wild Colonial  |  April 14th, 2011 at 2:22 pm

    Difference being, the atrocities in the European theater of WWII happened to white people. I’m living in England at the moment and you can tell that the new revelations are a truly big deal, but even now the government, along with ol’ faithful Murdoch are doing their best to bury the story and succeeding.

    Gary, are you ever going to do a post (or have you already and i’ve missed it) about Churchill? On the one hand, he gave Britain what it needed to resist German bombardment in WWII – on the other hand, he was arguably the most horrible bastard to ever be elected to a parliament which has had a lot of horrible bastards elected to it and when it came to race relations he was basically as bad as Hitler.

  • 30. pimp of the Balkans  |  April 14th, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    Uh oh, so old Sir Winston did not have racial equality at the top of his list of priorities?

    I can tell he’s heading straight for a compulsory course of diversity awareness counseling.

  • 31. PT Barnum  |  April 14th, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    Gary,

    I’d like to hear your take on why the British kept the kid gloves on in the Revolutionary War. Why go to town on Boers and Kikuyu, but when actual outward defiance and treason comes out of Boston and Philadelphia all of a sudden they behave like civilized soldiers, basically completely respecting the rights and property of the rebels?

    Who says they didn’t?

  • 32. Hanko  |  April 14th, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    I remember getting the same revelation when reading about the conflict in Kongo in 1960. How they really had raped the country before independence and continued after independence. Kongo had about 3 people (yes, I’m talking about Africans, not Europeans) with college degree and roughly 20-30 people with high school degree. With that they were expected to run a government. Nobody mentions that when they talk about the Africans being unable to govern them self.

  • 33. BadtimeDave  |  April 14th, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    Whermacht defeating the British army everytime. Hmmm just factually incorrect. Lamer

  • 34. goat_farmers_of_the_CIA  |  April 14th, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    Some time ago I read a largely positive review of Elkin’s book in the London Review of Books (http://www.lrb.co.uk/v27/n05/bernard-porter/how-did-they-get-away-with-it), which included a letter from that proud apologist of the British empire, Niall Ferguson. He quotes a fragment from one of his own book length pamphlets:

    “The 19th-century [British] empire undeniably pioneered free trade, free capital movements and, with the abolition of slavery, free labour. It invested immense sums in developing a global network of modern communications. It spread and enforced the rule of law over vast areas. Though it fought many small wars, the empire maintained a global peace unmatched before or since. In the 20th century too the empire more than justified its own existence. For the alternatives to British rule represented by the German and Japanese Empires were clearly – and they admitted it themselves – far worse. And without its empire, it is inconceivable that Britain could have withstood them.”

    Brecher would have saved himself more than a couple of paragraphs by quoting this mushy advertising. But, guess what? Turns out the bastard was raised in one of these plantations in Kenya, but surprise, surprise
    he didn’t know anything about the bloody madness going on around him! There’s a reply from the review,’s author that wonders with more than a bit of irony about Ferguson’s ignorance, contrasting it with his nostalgic childhood memories:

    “…but I singled out Ferguson’s Empire because it doesn’t even mention the Emergency. I might not have made so much of this if it hadn’t been for a long passage in his introduction where he describes his own boyhood in Kenya, just a few years after these terrible events, in idyllic terms, including the claim that ‘scarcely anything had changed’ since colonial days. How could he leave that uncorrected later on?”

    I also wonder! But the review’s author makes it obvious (except for the kind of idiots who take Ferguson’s views -if not scholarship – without a ton of salt) what this latest proponent of history as PR
    really had in mind:

    “Even if we accept all this ‘civilising’ stuff for the sake of argument (and there’s a case to be made for some of it), we also need to be aware of the enormous pain that trying to achieve this through imperialism can cause, and the atrocities on all sides (Kenya saw some of the worst) that are almost bound to come in its train. This is especially so when you are urging present-day America to follow Britain’s 19th-century example, which of course is the message of Colossus. Americans have enough myths of their own without having ours foisted on them too.”

    In the same LRB article page there are some more letters by a more passionate, insistent apologist of Britain’s idyll in Kenya, a guy called David Elstein (wonder what his opinions are on Israel’s treatment of Palestinians) that also wrote to the NYRB and the Guardian, with the latter giving many thousands words to his rants (http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardian/2008/apr/07/opendoor), which now, in view of this
    http://allafrica.com/stories/201104100005.html
    will look like the antics of a hairsplitting drama queen (wonder why he so passionately defended his neighbor, a former British imperial goon in Kenya… are their relation much more intimate?).

  • 35. SpaceButler  |  April 14th, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    wah wah wah, haters gonna hate. Get over it.

  • 36. pimp of the Balkans  |  April 14th, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    @32

    Not to mention, as O’Hanlon points out, the dastardly way the French (Belgians, British et al) had kept their factories in France, so that when the Marxist-Leninist revolution happened there were no means of production for a decent communist to seize.

  • 37. Mohamed  |  April 14th, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    Great article Gary.

    In light of this, you should talk about the Italian colonisation of Somalia. If memory serves me correct it was the first time a colonising force had to use aircraft as a weapon against the local population.

    I wonder if Somalias total lack of social structure is the reason why they refused to bow to imperial masters.

  • 38. Ostap Bender  |  April 14th, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    If it’s any consolation, the Limey poofs lived under food rationings all the way into the 50′s while the former Axis countries were rebuilding and listening to Jazz.

  • 39. Stephen  |  April 14th, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    Mohamed – it was the Italians in Libya not Somalia who used aircraft for warfare for the first time – the pilot chucked a few grenades out of his airplane onto a Libyan village. Shame the Libyans didn’t have the odd ZU23-2 mounting “technical” lying around.

    BTW, as a Brit, I’ve never had a problem with Mugabe in Zimbabwe expropriating the land of white settlers as the white settlers ancestors’ stole the land from the Africans in the first place. I just wish he would distribute it on an equitabe basis rather than bunging it to his cronies.

    Finally, we should have got these events out in the open years ago. Now we will have to endure the fucking Zionists whining on about how if it was alright for the Brits to do years ago, it should now be ok for the Zionists to do it to the Palestinians. My response would be:

    “IT WAS NOT FUCKING OK FOR US BRITS TO DO IT THEN, SO IT IS JUST AS WRONG FOR YOU ZIONIST CUNTS TO DO IT NOW!!!!!!!!!!”

  • 40. Dejo  |  April 14th, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    Pat, the Kikuyu are Christian and Obama is from a Muslim family so I doubt it. The only connection he has to the whole ordeal is that his grandfather was tortured by the Brits because he might have passed on information to the Kikuyu. To be entirely honest, I doubt the sincerity of those who proclaim sympathy for the Kikuyu. They’re probably just feigning sympathy to have ammunition when they’re dealing with the Brits, whom they loathe. Nasty business, these academic cat fights.

  • 41. TrangleC  |  April 14th, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    Charles wrote at April 14th, 2011 at 11:42 am

    “There’s no doubt that we did bad things and it was wrong, but the issue is that people are trying to spread the ‘collective guilt’ idea- when the vast majority of us were born after the events of Empire. And people want to open up compensation claims, another wrong path as that is collectively punishing us, including the majority of us who weren’t born at the time.”

    The general collective guilt idea is spread since at least 1967, when Israel suddenly got sexy after winning its first real war. Before that even the Jewish community in the USA didn’t mention the Holocaust much because they were afraid it would harm their rise into the middle- and upper classes.

    When suddenly everybody was their friend and Jewish representatives got invited into the White House, what Norman Finkelstein calls the Holocaust Industry was born.

    I think it is right that victims and survivors got at least an apology and a decent compensation, but the “Industry” wants more than that and it needs to keep up the picture of the collectively guilty German in order to keep up the picture of the collectively victimized Jew.
    This has to be milked as long as possible.

    So the notion that you could be guilty of your grandfather’s crimes is thoroughly embedded into western culture by now.
    But don’t worry too much.

    Most people who don’t think much about it think we live in a world in wich genocide is forbidden and mass murderers get punished, but this world is not that enlightened. They are always shocked and amazed about how all those new atrocities are basically ignored.

    They are not aware of the following:
    You only get shunned and punished if there is someone powerful who profits from it and if enough powerful people profit enough from having you punished, it becomes rather insignificant whether or how guilty you are.

    Germans, no matter whether old or young will get the boot or at least the queer eye for the Holocaust as long as Israel needs to remind the world that everything they do is justified and right because they are not just a victim, but actually THE victim.

    For that they even tried to prevent the other victims of the Holocaust to be remembered. Jewish organisations again and again opposed the idea of remembering non-Jewish victims of the Nazis, like Gypsies, communists, homosexuals or retarded people in all the Holocaust memorials that were build since the late 60s.
    They don’t want to share their Holocaust with anybody.

    It isn’t just the British who want to cover up their crimes, it is also the whole media in the western world who have not much interest in new or rediscovered genocides because they are so used (or in some cases compelled) to holding up the picture of the Holocaust being absolutely and in every way unique.

    The more other genocides get publicity, the less unique the Holocaust looks and the more questionable becomes the idea that Israel should be treated different from other nations.

    So unless those survivors of British atrocities and genocides should somehow suddenly become the next “big thing” / “IT-ethnicity” in Washington, you don’t have much reason to worry.

  • 42. Charles  |  April 14th, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    41
    Well, the total number of victims of the holocaust could easily be said to be 30-40 million, not the 6 million Jews. The Untermensch Slavs for example were treated pretty shit (apart from those Ukrainians who willingly collaborated), although it is hard to differentiate between those killed in battle, those Soviet prisoners who surrendered but were murdered or worked to death because they were not protected by the Geneva conventions. and soviet civilians murdered by Nazi

    It makes no difference if one is killed in a gas chamber or you are rounded up into a Belarusian forest clearing and shot- it’s the same holocaust, and many Slavs and Jews in the east were killed that way because the Nazis were using the overstretched railroads for military purposes. Others were marched in on foot on death marches.

  • 43. Stu  |  April 14th, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    Gary provides a measured response and the commenters all take it as validation of their own resentments. Typical. Empires do fucked up shit when they’re struggling to control the periphery, and they ignore the carnage to protect their own cherished sense of moral supremacy… no shit. It’s horrible, but… no shit. Take the 50-years-too-late moral indignation and gotcha! white guilt, get it red hot, break it off, and rape yourself with it for squatting on my land.

  • 44. Stu  |  April 14th, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    Haha. I’d like to see the list of nations that didn’t commit mass-atrocities at some point in the last century. What makes the British different? That they more effectively pretended theirs didn’t happen? France is in the process of aiding and abetting one right now in Ivory Coast to protect the interest payments of a few banks. If British citizens want to look inward, examine the lifestyle that gave rise to such actions, and make changes, great for them. But very few have any right to claim moral highground… certainly not overfed westerners who drive their Hummer 40 miles to an unproductive job each day and then protest the war in Iraq because it’s for oil. This is exactly why I hate most people.

  • 45. yossarian  |  April 14th, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    Yo Gary, you should read this book, it’s good.

    http://www.amazon.com/Meditations-Violence-Comparison-Martial-Training/dp/1594391181

  • 46. Flatulissimo  |  April 14th, 2011 at 7:40 pm

    How about them Belgians? If anybody thinks about ‘em at all, they think about some generic country that’s neither France nor the Netherlands, that puts mayo on their fries.

    But – 10 million dead! With barely one book written about it, and they can’t even get “official recognition” as a “genocide”!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Congo_Free_State#Lack_of_recognition_and_use_of_the_word_.22genocide.22

    Makes the Brits look compassionate by comparison.

  • 47. Soj  |  April 14th, 2011 at 8:23 pm

    Hey War Nerd, have you never read Mein Kampf? There’s an entire CHAPTER in there where Hitler is bitching about how good the Brit’s propaganda is (and how much the German’s sucks).

    Find it online and read it – clearly he noticed the same thing some 80 years ago.

  • 48. Massena  |  April 14th, 2011 at 8:32 pm

    white mischief!

  • 49. NIB  |  April 14th, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    Nice summary. I still remember my dad talking about the Mau Mau’s ‘atrocities’ (those savages). He wasn’t an unreasonable man, just ill-informed.

  • 50. wengler  |  April 14th, 2011 at 11:35 pm

    There are some pretty gross primary accounts I’ve come across in my research of what the US military did to the natives. You look at wars the US is in, and again and again there are accounts of mutilation of the enemy dead and ‘trophy taking’ of various body parts(fingers and ears are the most popular). Hell, the Brits and French taught the natives how to scalp.

    European culture over the past thousand years has featured theft and violence as a recurring theme. It’s not surprising that when they developed the organization and technology to inflict their particular brand of oppression on the rest of the world, they did.

    American culture carries many of the vestiges of old Colonial Europe. When the people are offered the choice of prosperity for many or god-like wealth for the few, they vote for the latter more than half the time. The frustration of the vast majority is then poured into violence at home and abroad.

  • 51. Another Mitchell  |  April 15th, 2011 at 12:19 am

    #27 mentions the Normans. Mitchell Heisman, author of last year’s underground hit “Suicide Note”, had a complicated psychopolitical thesis about how the Normans are the invisible ruling class of Anglo societies, and Anglo-Saxon liberalism comes from repressed memories of the Norman conquest… Check it out, it’s more fun than postmodernism.

  • 52. Michael  |  April 15th, 2011 at 12:36 am

    “Would you like to know more?”
    That line always cracks me up, reminding me of that old Paul Verhoeven movie Starship Troopers.

  • 53. Adam  |  April 15th, 2011 at 1:33 am

    @34 the LRB article (http://www.lrb.co.uk/v27/n05/bernard-porter/how-did-they-get-away-with-it) you cite certainly deals positively with Elkins’ book but you fail to mention the devastating letter sent in by David Elstein (3rd letter down. Mr Elstein completely destroys Elkins’ statistics and much of her argument comes crashing down with them.

  • 54. bud  |  April 15th, 2011 at 1:42 am

    In Iran they have a saying, “If a husband and wife are arguing in an Iranian home, the British likely caused it.” Even now Iranians, especially the older ones, still don’t view America with half the suspicion that they hold against Britain. Iranian vividly remember two groups that invaded them in the last millenium; The Mongols and the British. And now that I’ve read this article I can see why.

    It is an interesting analysis because I have always wondered myself what it was about the British that made them so adept at spreading out from that little Atlantic island to an empire upon which “the sun never rises”. I chalked it up to the family structure that involved parents and children separating at an early age and the cultural disdain for emotional display. These are great qualities for a country that needs a big army to conquer a lot of other places.

    “Karma is just justice without the satisfaction. I don’t believe in justice.”

  • 55. bud  |  April 15th, 2011 at 1:44 am

    the sun never sets, it was “the sun never sets on the British Empire”

  • 56. debaser  |  April 15th, 2011 at 2:46 am

    @ 16
    Try to structure your rambling a little better. ( unless youre trying to be annoying and incomprehensible)
    Good shit WN.

  • 57. oglaf  |  April 15th, 2011 at 4:12 am

    Once it was ok to kill someone if he was not white, now it is ok if he does not have an iphone.

  • 58. Jon  |  April 15th, 2011 at 4:59 am

    All of human history is a disgraceful saga of conquest, cruelty, enslavement and genocide against groups of humans we happen to be in contest with. Most of the time it goes unrecorded or unpunished, but every so often it actually does get recognized and on even rarer occasions, a few are punished. Really the best we can do is make sure that number is always somewhere above zero and hope that others may be haunted by their victims’ screams long after the incident has passed. I like to think the majority of atrocity perpetrators are more susceptible to PTSD than history would imagine.

  • 59. oglaf  |  April 15th, 2011 at 5:07 am

    More on the topic http://www.amazon.com/Late-Victorian-Holocausts-Famines-Making/dp/1859843824

  • 60. gyges  |  April 15th, 2011 at 6:46 am

    A key player in this was Frank Kitson; his shadow and techniques (eg)cross many countries, including Kenya, Malaya, Northern Ireland etc.

  • 61. Jack Boot  |  April 15th, 2011 at 8:04 am

    Until TV-derived squeamishness came along, it was taken for granted throughout the world that the strong had the right to rule the weak. To name but one example: Would the Aztec Empire have hesitated to conquer & rape Spain, had it the means?

    Given Europe’s technological lead by the late 15th century, its global domination was inevitable.
    Only 3 of its nations had the size, naval skills and location to be serious contenders: Spain, France & England. (Portugal & Holland were too small, and the rest too far East)

    Of course England won the gold medal – are we not communicating in her oddly-spelled lingo? The Seven Years War clinched it: The world’s commanding heights were all in Limey (later Limey-speaking) hands; and not even the best efforts of Napoleon, Wilhelm, Adolf, Hideiki or Josef could wrest them away.

    Would a Spanish-, French-, German-, Japanese-or Russian- dominated world have been any kinder or gentler? Doubt it…

  • 62. lk123  |  April 15th, 2011 at 8:20 am

    I’m disappointed. The War Nerd we know and love would have applauded all of this. He’s always saying how hard it is to fight a guerrilla war, and then says that the Brits killed off 25% of the total civilian population to demoralize the guerrillas. The old War Nerd would have said bravo.

    Then again, I’m a completely illiterate fucking retard, so what do i know?

  • 63. goat_farmers_of_the_CIA  |  April 15th, 2011 at 8:26 am

    @53
    Adam, is it too much too ask that you take the trouble to read my entire post before replying to it? Elstein may or may be not right with his insidious hairsplitting, but the latest revelations, described at length in the last link I include, show that Elkins’ guess, which she defended in the face of attacks from apologists like him (look at his downright dumb defense of capital punishment in Kenya right there in his first LRB letter – the guy obviously thought the natives should be judged according to a different, harsher set of laws than Europeans), has been proven right, without the shadow of a doubt, and by evidence from the same government whose murderous legacy people like Elstein and his goon of a neighbor try to cover up.

  • 64. Nestor  |  April 15th, 2011 at 10:16 am

    They even steal the good catchphrases, the “empire where the sun never sets” was originally crafted to refer to the Spanish empire of Phillip the second.

    And no, the Spanish empire was no better but there were reformers and good intentions from the start, like Bartolome de las Casas, who fought to protect the American natives from slavery. Unfortunately the method he picked was to encourage African slave imports. He eventually figured out that was a moral problem too, to his credit.

  • 65. Luis Felipe  |  April 15th, 2011 at 10:17 am

    @61
    Congratulations, you win an award for the most limpwristed ad hominem.

    Oh, and Niall Ferguson is currently set by Cameron to rewrite the British history school syllabus. As if their crimes could be even more whitewashed.

  • 66. pimp of the Balkans  |  April 15th, 2011 at 10:33 am

    @54

    Those playing fields of Eton chaps were the officers. The armies – and Britain never had a truly massive army – consisted in their entirety of what the good Duke of Wellington called “the very scum of the earth”. English proles didn’t enjoy the dubious pleasures of public schooling.

  • 67. Jack Boot  |  April 15th, 2011 at 11:08 am

    @ Louis Felipe 61 (May I call you Louis?)

    I won the coveted Limpie? Why, thanks just all to pieces!

    Can’t help wondering, though: If Spain had conquered England back in 1588, would the Enlightenment & the Industrial Revolution – not to mention frequent bathing – have come to pass?

  • 68. Thomas  |  April 15th, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    God damn, if you want colonial brutality try the Belgians or French for size. At least we Britons had the decency to be ashamed and quite frankly embarrassed about the whole affair. That’s why what happened in London was a world away from what we did in our far-flung colonies, where the greed and then fears of white settlers led (as they would with any seriously threatened minority, see NI, or the repercussions of your own Manifest Destiny) to ever more deplorable levels of brutality.

    So it goes that while we may have been responsible for genocide in Kenya and the Boer Republics we also banned slavery a helluva long time before some folk got round to it, and opposed fascism when others dared not act. But the actions of a tiny colonial elite and their native allies in an African backwater are what really reveals the true face of a nation, isn’t that right?

  • 69. goat_farmers_of_the_CIA  |  April 15th, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    Take a good look at imperial apologist David Elstein’s dear neighbor:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1375477/The-Putney-pensioner-named-court-papers-Mau-Mau-torturer.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

    I wonder what quantum magic David is going to try this time to turn this goon into some humanitarian war hero (he worked for the UN in Afghanistan before old age started turning his brains into mush, like Reagan’s).

  • 70. Behind the Curtain  |  April 15th, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    @68, Thomas, no one’s saying the French & Belgians weren’t also tossers. Just asking why democracies like them, the UK and the US get to gloss over their “past indiscretions” while the German and Japanese people will be condemned for 7 generations for atrocities that happened while they were ruled by oppressive regimes that stomped hard on any sedition. Have some perspective.

  • 71. pimp of the Balkans  |  April 15th, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    @62

    No need to be disappointed. The WN, much as we love him, is human – and he’s caught fast in the coils of his own tribal narrative. Arrr Brits evil Ireland black & tans ulster blood the sash his father wore dublin post office we’ll rip the feckin knickers off the queen etc etc blah blah

    Just nod and wait.

  • 72. coldequation  |  April 15th, 2011 at 9:41 pm

    War Nerd, I would like to see your take on the American Revolution. In light of the behavior of the British in the Boer War and the Mau Mau uprising, how did a relatively small number of ragtag colonists defeat them?

    (IMO the short answer is that Whigs in the British government went easy on the colonists in a way that they would not if the colonists had been Dutch, Irish, or African, and then the French got involved, but WN may have a different take).

  • 73. C. of V.  |  April 16th, 2011 at 2:27 am

    If you visited a Kenyan plantation as a newcomer, you were automatically offered to shoot up smack or snort coke? For free, and it kept coming your way seven days a week?
    Now that is what I call hospitality!
    Too bad it is over, otherwise I would pack my luggage today.
    I bet if I visited Kenya today, those Mau-Mau folks would not even share their ganja with me!

  • 74. TrangleC  |  April 16th, 2011 at 3:08 am

    @ 61. Jack Boot and many other commenters:

    Nobody is saying others would have ruled better (there were atrocities in pretty much every colonial endeavor), but that is not the point.

    The point of those 4 articles the War Nerd wrote about British atrocities is not about the crimes, but about the cover up and the Brits successfully keeping up an image as one of the good guys and pointing fingers at others.

    It is about hypocrisy.

  • 75. Black Monk  |  April 16th, 2011 at 9:32 am

    @ 61:

    “Would a Spanish-, French-, German-, Japanese-or Russian- dominated world have been any kinder or gentler? Doubt it…”

    Actually historicall-speaking German, Spanish, and (pre-Soviet) Russian colonies were on balance much less brutal than British ones. The Indians in North America were treated most poorly by the Brits and their American heirs, compared to the way the French, Spanish and Russians treated them. And there’s a reason why in Africa during World War I the African troops from the German colonies were so loyal to the Germans when fighting against the Brits.

  • 76. Dominique  |  April 17th, 2011 at 1:31 am

    Flatulissimo | April 14th, 2011 at 7:40 pm

    At Flatulissimo

    Belgians did not commit atrocities in Congo.

    You are probably confusing Congo Freestate, Leopold II, Congo and Belgium.

    The Dutch VOC and the British East India Company were PRIVATE companies. Congo Freestate was also a PRIVATE company.
    You cant blame their atrocities to Dutch, Brits or Belgians. Shareholders on the other hand ……..

    FYI Congo Freestate operated against the will of the Belgian Parliament.

  • 77. Pugnant  |  April 18th, 2011 at 5:30 pm

    Ah Gary, you have now explained this sacred “rule of law” which distinguishes the good guys from the bad guys, and about which we have heard so much in the vague propaganda.

  • 78. John B  |  April 21st, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    From comment 69′s link:-
    “After this for five days Gavaghan made the detainees, including Mr Nyingi, dig trenches to a depth and width of eight feet. They would then be required to fill them up again, rendering the work pointless.”

    Hmm, not quite Auschwitz is it, you strange crypto-voyeuristic Yankie lefties?

    I guess you’re a bit sad, losing your empire before you ever really got to have a proper one? Had you not been mired in your insular gun-toting savagery, no doubt you could have foisted the good-natured humanism upon the world that we see in comments like “One Oscar-Nom Dead in Libya!”.

  • 79. kurt j  |  May 5th, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    The british terror state banned slavery when it was no longer a material source of wealth in the empire – to suggest that it does anything out of some moral consideration is laughable. The other fallacy that has been beat to death is that the british “democracy” stood up to the evil nazis to save the world. The british terror state was following its old balance of power formula (it was more worried about a French hegemony on the continent and mistakenly pursued policies to strengthen Germany). When Western Europe was overrun, it resisted with the assurance that US industrial output would be mobilized. Britain has always in substance remained more of a commercial oligarchy than a democracy anyway.

    “Actually historicall-speaking German, Spanish, and (pre-Soviet) Russian colonies were on balance much less brutal than British ones.” Very true – look at the universities established by the Spanish to educate indigenous populations.

    “what we did in our far-flung colonies, where the greed and then fears of white settlers led (as they would with any seriously threatened minority, see NI, or the repercussions of your own Manifest Destiny) to ever more deplorable levels of brutality.” False at least regarding NI -the squatters were always the aggressors against unarmed non-combatants – pogroms, organized terror by the RUC, institutional bigotry. The british have always been characterized by grotesque supremacism which has been the catalyst for their perpetual violence against unarmed non-combatants.

  • 80. Tim  |  May 9th, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    THE INDEPENDENT: Mau Mau torture files were ‘guilty secret’
    —————————–
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/mau-mau-torture-files-were-guilty-secret-2281456.html
    —————————–

    Highly sensitive documents revealing the torture of Mau Mau Kenyans at the hands of the British authorities were a “sort of guilty secret” for the UK Government, a report has found

    .

    Foreign Secretary William Hague said the documents, which detail how detainees were castrated, beaten and sexually abused while in British camps, should now be made public.

    His announcement comes as a High Court judge is set to decide whether the UK Government, which sanctioned “systematic violence” in the detention camps, is liable for the torture of the Mau Mau people between 1952 and 1961.

    Last month, the High Court heard how Ndiku Mutua, Paulo Nzili, Wambugu Wa Nyingi and Jane Muthoni Mara, who are in their 70s and 80s, were subjected to appalling abuse at the hands of the British authorities.

    Mr Mutua and Mr Nzili were castrated while Mr Nyingi was beaten unconscious during an incident in which 11 men were clubbed to death. Mrs Mara was also subjected to horrendous sexual abuse during her detention.

    All four want the British Government to issue a “statement of regret” and pay around £2 million into a welfare fund for the hundreds of victims still alive.

    The Government’s lawyers claim that it is the Kenyan government which is now responsible, while arguing that there has been such a delay since the atrocities occurred it can no longer be held accountable.

    But the Kenyans’ legal team at Leigh Day say they have only been able to bring the case now because of recent historical research and officials at the FCO finally releasing some of the 1,500 files relating to the abuse of the Mau Mau people and their supporters.

    The Government has also admitted there are some 8,800 files which were transferred to the UK when the British authorities withdrew from the colonies.

    Following the revelation in January, Mr Hague requested former British High Commissioner to Canada Anthony Cary conduct an internal review into what happened to the documents, known as “migrated archives”, when the British left Kenya.

    Mr Cary said he found there was confusion about the status of the files although some officials at the FCO realised their importance but chose to “ignore” their existence following three Freedom of Information requests from the Kenyans’ lawyers in 2005 and 2006.

    Mr Cary said: “Lack of process documentation and misunderstandings about the importance and searchability of the archives explain the failure only up to a point.

    “I think it is fair to say these misapprehensions were only half believed, at least by some of the more thoughtful and knowledgeable staff (at the Foreign Office).

    “It was perhaps convenient to accept the assurances of predecessors that the migrated archives were administrative and/or ephemeral, and did not need to be consulted for the purposes of FOI requests, while also being conscious of the files as a sort of guilty secret, of uncertain status and in the ‘too difficult’ tray.”

    Adding that officials at the Foreign Office need urgently to review all its documents, the former British High Commissioner said: “The migrated archives saga reminds us that we cannot turn a blind eye to any of our holdings.

    “All information held by the FCO should have been retained by choice rather than inertia, and must be effectively managed from a risk perspective.”

    Daniel Leader, counsel for Leigh Day, said the report was significant because if the High Court rules that the British Government is liable it cannot legitimately claim there was a time lag in bringing the case because it withheld crucial documents needed by his team.

    He added the Government’s lawyers should also not worry about setting a precedent by paying compensation because there would be only a handful of people still alive who would have a claim for being tortured while living in a British colony.

    “Firstly, it’s clear that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office knew about these documents for a very long time,” he added.

    “It’s not just a case that they found them behind the sofa, it was their ‘guilty secret’.

    “Following on from that, this could potentially lead to a wholesale change of our understanding of colonial history and that could have ramifications politically.

    “And it also questions how the Government is dealing with FOI requests given that it is clear that the FCO chose to ignore a vast archive of highly sensitive documents when specific requests were made.”

    In a written ministerial statement released last Thursday, Mr Hague said it was now time to make the files relating to the Mau Mau Uprising public “subject only to legal exemptions”.

    He said he was committed to ensuring the “full implementation” of Mr Cary’s report.

    “I believe that is the right thing to do for the information in these files now to be properly examined and recorded and made public through the National Archives,” he added.

    “This will be taken forward rapidly. Given the size of the archive the process may take some time to complete in full.”

  • 81. lst141  |  June 15th, 2011 at 6:03 am

    To all

    Every colonial power at one time or another went along the torture path. It’s the way empires are built. That’s something humans must live and die with it.
    @75
    Germans got their pleasures at the herrero from Namibia and they still remember it (the herrero I mean).
    @76
    don’t mess around, belgians are as guilty as every body else, it’s like the swiss today, they don’t exterminate people, but their way of life is provided by people that murder, raquette, corruption and all other humam bad habits are a way of life. Call it collateral damage…

  • 82. Kinyanjui wa Warì  |  March 5th, 2013 at 7:48 am

    Those who talk about the British stoping slavely are mistaken, to the Kikuyu we never had slavely even arabs comìng to our land.

  • 83. Kinyanjui wa Warì  |  March 5th, 2013 at 8:01 am

    British stoping slavely are mistaken, to the Kikuyu we never had slavely even Arabs comìng to our land. We fought slavely.

  • 84. Muchemi wa Gaituuri  |  July 23rd, 2013 at 10:24 am

    Mundu wa Wari, please differentiate between ‘slavery’ (slavely in your case) and ‘slave trade’ before you embarass yourself real bad. Please read first. Buy some books on maumau & kenyan history. Mundu wa nyumba ndiri na uuru ni mataaro


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