Thursday, February 13, 2014

A warmongering nation

The Guardian has an appalling statistic: after the withdrawal from Afghanistan next year, the UK will be at peace for the first time in a century. And here's the timeline to prove it.

Except its worse than that, because the UK was constantly at war long before 1914. In fact, it has been constantly at war, stealing colonies, enslaving independent nations, suppressing colonial rebellions, and squabbling with other imperial powers over the spoils of its robbery, since 1760:

You need to go back before Britain's foundation as a state and the English civil wars to find a time when government-backed privateers, slavers and settlers weren't involved in armed conflict somewhere in the world.

There are in fact only a handful of countries British troops haven't invaded at some point. What is so striking about the tally of the past 100 years is that only in 1940 were British troops actually defending their own country from the threat of invasion.

[Link added]

Seamus Milne attributes this to a ruling elite which conflates the exercise of military force with prestige and influence (not to mention private profits for the few). I'd add in a "democracy" in name only which has insulated the warmongering policies of that elite from popular opposition. But last year, that insulation finally cracked over Syria, and now the elite are lamenting their inability to get their war on ever again.

The lesson for New Zealand is obvious: if we want to be a peaceful nation - and most kiwis do - then we need to take the power to wage war in anything other than immediate domestic self-defence out of the hands of the executive and make it subject to a Parliamentary vote. That gives both democratic legitimacy and public accountability.

But there's something else we want to consider: is warmongering Britain really a nation we want to celebrate on our flag? I don't think so. The values of Britain's warmongering elite ar enot our values; its time we showed that, by removing the Union Jack from our flag.