Posted by: r.m. | April 18, 2012

Crimes of the British Empire… The Blood Never Dried

The Guardian today reports on undisclosed British crimes in their colonies, in the last days of their ‘Empire.’  …

Thousands of documents detailing some of the most shameful acts and crimes committed during the final years of the British empire were systematically destroyed to prevent them falling into the hands of post-independence governments, an official review has concluded.

… The papers at Hanslope Park include monthly intelligence reports on the “elimination” of the colonial authority’s enemies in 1950s Malaya; records showing ministers in London were aware of the torture and murder of Mau Mau insurgents in Kenya, including a case of aman said to have been “roasted alive”; and papers detailing the lengths to which the UK went to forcibly remove islanders from Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

Among the documents that appear to have been destroyed were: records of the abuse of Mau Mau insurgents detained by British colonial authorities, who were tortured and sometimes murdered; reports that may have detailed the alleged massacre of 24 unarmed villagers in Malaya by soldiers of the Scots Guards in 1948; most of the sensitive documents kept by colonial authorities in Aden, where the army’s Intelligence Corps operated a secret torture centre for several years in the 1960s; and every sensitive document kept by the authorities in British Guiana, a colony whose policies were heavily influenced by successive US governments and whose post-independence leader was toppled in a coup orchestrated by the CIA.

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. …

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.

The governments and the peoples occupied by the British do not need British governmental reports to reveal the ‘shameful acts and crimes’ committed against them. They lived them. They experienced them.  The documents are important for litigation purposes – and for the white British man and woman since all too often the oppressor only recognizes the crimes of their nation when the crimes are documented by themselves and not by others.

There is an excellent book — one that should be mandatory reading for history classes throughout the UK and throughout the UK’s former colonies — that discusses, in vivid details and in powerful images, the multitude of crimes that were committed by the UK against revolutions and freedom fighters in the colonies.  That book is: ‘The Blood Never Dried: A People’s History of the British Empire’ by John Newsinger

 

As this book reviewer writes:

“One of the strengths of Newsinger’s book is his description of the hidden history of anti-imperialist revolts like the revolt in Palestine […]- whether in Jamaica in 1831, or in India in 1857 – as well as his exposite of the bloody hidden crimes of the British in Ireland, China, Egypt, Kenya, Malaya etc etc. It is too easy to forget that while British troops are currently occupying Afghanistan and Iraq – they are only following in the footsteps of other British troops in recent history.”

 


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