Tag Archives: empire

BRITISH EMPIRE WAS A BLESSING

It has been suggested that citizens of the sixteen Commonwealth Realms be given their own “fast lane” at UK Points of Entry.   This will be good news for citizens of Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the smaller realms.   If the idea is approved, it will be a first step toward restoring closer Commonwealth ties that ended when Britain joined the EU.

While Britain has been a member of the European Union, EU citizens were able to go through the fast lane, while the rest of us waited for up to two hours, slowly inching forward in the “Aliens” line.

Post-Brexit, it will certainly be in Britain’s best interests to enter into closer trade and defense ties with the countries that share Britain’s parliamentary system and all have the same Head of State, Queen Elizabeth II.   Other Commonwealth countries have opted for a republican form of government, recognizing the Queen as Head of the Commonwealth but not retaining her services as their own sovereign.

It will also mean that, for the first time, the United Kingdom is reversing five decades of history and turning its attention again to its former Empire.

The word “Empire” has been a pejorative for two generations.   Before World War One, there was a great deal of enthusiasm for the British Empire around the world in territories that constituted the “empire upon which the sun never set.”   Over a quarter of the world’s people lived under the British flag.   Imperialism was in vogue and inspired millions of people to help develop other nations.

Today, people forget what a blessing the Empire was.  Let’s take a look at a few of those blessings.

1.  The Bible and religious freedom.

The fourteenth century philosopher and theologian, John Wycliffe, was the first man to translate all the scriptures into English.   His favorite verse was Philippians 2:12: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”   He struck the first blow for religious freedom and democracy by encouraging people to study for themselves and make up their own minds.

Two centuries later, the English Queen Elizabeth I, secured the Protestant Reformation by bravely sending her smaller fleet against the Spanish Armada.   England defeated the Spaniards, thereby thwarting an attempt by the pope to force the country back into the Catholic Church.

In the nineteenth century, the British and Foreign Bible Society, took the Bible into dozens of different countries.   The Wycliffe Bible Translation Society still exists, sending volunteers into poor and backward countries to develop a written language and then translate the Bible so that all may read it.

The most famous British missionary, David Livingstone, took the Bible with him into central Africa, to “bring light into darkness.”  He was also motivated by a desire to see the end of slavery, perpetrated by Arab slave traders, who were seizing black Africans as slaves.

2.  Britain was the first major country to abolish slavery.

Slavery was universal and had not been questioned until the eighteenth century.   It wasn’t just Africans who were taken as slaves.   One million white people were being held by Muslim slave traders at this time.   (“White Gold”, Giles Milton, 2004.)

In 1772, the Somerset decision by an English court, ruled that British people could not hold slaves, that all people in Britain were free. It took another 35 years before the slave trade was abolished and a further 27 years before slavery itself was ended throughout the British Empire.  (Denmark banned the slave trade in its territories a few years before Britain.)

One year after the abolition of the slave trade, the British government authorized the Royal Navy to stop ships on the high seas and free all the slaves.   Wikipedia has this to say about the West Africa Squadron:

“The Royal Navy established the West Africa Squadron (or Preventative Squadron) at substantial expense in 1808 after Parliament passed the Slave Trade Act of 1807.   The squadron’s task was to suppress the Atlantic slave trade by patrolling the coast of West Africa.   With a home base at Portsmouth, it began with two small ships, the 32-gun fifth-rate frigate HMS Solebay and the Cruizer-class brig-sloop HMS Derwent. At the height of its operations, the squadron employed a sixth of the Royal Navy fleet and marines.

“Between 1808 and 1860 the West Africa Squadron captured 1,600 slave ships and freed 150,000 Africans.[“1]

Because of its role in fighting slavery, Britain was seen as a Liberator around the world.  Many tribes in Africa asked to be annexed into the British Empire, seeking protection from slave traders.  At one point, so many African tribes were asking to join the Empire that the British were overwhelmed. “The Dualla chiefs of the Cameroon repeatedly asked to be annexed, but the British either declined or took no notice at all.”  (Pax Britannica, James Morris, 1968, page 43)

In the last three decades of the nineteenth century, Victorians were caught up in an enthusiastic desire to see slavery ended in Africa, and the Bible, Protestant Christianity, democracy and the rule of law introduced (“Africa and the Victorians,” Robinson and Gallagher, 1961)

Sadly, in the sixty years since the end of the British Empire, slavery is back in every single African country, according to UNESCO.   The former Ghanaian President, John Kufour, condemned slavery in Ghana a few years ago on the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade throughout the British Empire; he also apologized for the role Ghana’s own chiefs had played in promoting slavery by selling their own people and members of other tribes.

3.  British capital developed many nations.

The definitive books on British investment around the world are the two volume “British Imperialism” by Cain and Hopkins.  The books highlight “London’s role as the chief provider of economic services during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries” (back cover, volume one).   London remains the world’s number one financial center (New York has the world’s biggest stock exchange).   Not only did British capital develop every country in the Empire, it was also responsible for developing the United States, Argentina, Brazil,Chile, the Ottoman Empire and China.

Interestingly, one reason that members of the European Union are upset over Brexit, is that Britain has been a net contributor to the EU, helping to finance development in other member nations.  When the UK leaves, where is the money going to come from?

4.   Another blessing of British rule was its governmental system and the administration of its various colonies.

Britain’s democratic parliamentary system and its constitutional monarchy is the most stable political system in the world.   It was successfully exported to all its colonies and dominions.  Sixteen of those countries have retained the same system since independence, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand and a number of majority black countries in the Caribbean.  Queen Elizabeth remains as Head of State in all of these countries.

38 other countries, former colonies of Great Britain, did not retain the Queen as Head of State but still look to her as the Head of the Commonwealth.  Many of these nations have suffered through coups and counter-coups and periods of military rule.  In many, corruption is rife and the people are worse off than they were when colonies.

Interestingly, it was recently suggested that the United States join the Commonwealth, as an Associate member.  The Royal Commonwealth Society is opening a branch in New York City.

5.   The free world’s first line of defense.

For two centuries Great Britain was the “policeman of the world.”  The country brought down Napoleon, after which she was the undisputed leader of the world.  A century later, with her dominions and colonies, she brought down the Kaiser.  In World War Two, the British Empire was the only power that was in the war from beginning to end.   With later help from the Soviet Union and the United States, the Empire defeated Hitler and his monstrous Third Reich that was the most racist regime in modern history.  The Empire’s forces also kept the peace on the North-West frontier of India, in what are now Pakistan and Afghanistan and in other trouble spots around the world.

America’s pre-eminent historian, James Truslow Adams, wrote his history of “The British Empire 1784-1939” in the year that World War Two started, 1939.   This is the final paragraph in his book:   “In this world crisis, we in America have a great stake.  We know that stability is impossible without respect for law and order, for the honesty of the written and spoken word.  Without liberty of thought, speech and press, progress is impossible.  What these things mean to the world of today and tomorrow has been amply demonstrated by the negation of them in certain great nations during the past few years.   Different peoples may have different ideals of government but for those who have been accustomed to freedom of person and of spirit, the possible overthrow of the British Empire would be a catastrophe scarcely thinkable.  Not only would it leave a vacuum over a quarter of the globe into which all the wild winds of anarchy, despotism and spiritual oppression could rush, but the strongest bulwark outside ourselves for our own safety and freedom would have been destroyed.”  (page 358)

The Empire has indeed been replaced by “the wild winds of anarchy, despotism and spiritual oppression.”

It’s no wonder that, at the height of the Empire, during Queen Victoria’s reign and the first few years of the twentieth century, many people in Britain and its overseas territories, believed the Empire was a fulfillment of biblical promises made to Joseph, one of the twelve sons of Israel.  In Genesis, chapter 48, we read of howJoseph’s descendants were to become a great “multitude of nations” and a “great (single) nation,” the British Empire and Commonwealth and the United States.  They were to be a physical blessing to the world (Genesis 12:3).  In the late Victorian period, believers published a weekly newspaper called “The Banner of Israel”  — they enthusiastically tracked the daily growth of the British Empire and the United States at the time.

This belief was widely held in the trenches of World War One.  It’s ironic that those same trenches shattered the religious convictions of many, who witnessed the carnage first-hand.

No empire was perfect.  Britain made mistakes.  Often listed by anti-imperialists is the Amritsar massacre of 1919.  This was not deliberate government policy, but rather the misjudgment of the commanding officer.  The 1943 Bengal famine is also often mentioned; overlooked is the fact that this was in the middle of World War II when other nations also experienced famine. Historical mistakes were made in Ireland, which caused problems to this day.

Imperialism had been in vogue before 1914; after two world wars, there was great disillusionment.   Additionally, the colonial powers had serious financial problems.  Decolonization followed.  It was the end of the European empires.

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QUEEN ELIZABETH LONGEST REIGNING MONARCH

Westminster Abbey's bells will peal, a flotilla will sail down the River Thames and a gun salute will ring out on Wednesday as Queen Elizabeth II becomes the longest-serving monarch in British history.
Westminster Abbey’s bells will peal, a flotilla will sail down the River Thames and a gun salute will ring out on Wednesday as Queen Elizabeth II becomes the longest-serving monarch in British history.

Today at 5.30pm British Summer Time, Queen Elizabeth II became the longest reigning monarch in British history, overtaking the record set by her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria.

She still has some way to go to pass the longest reigning European monarchs,   Austrian Emperor Franz Josef (1848-1916) and France’s Louis XIV (1643-1715).   However, the latter doesn’t really count as he was only five when he became “king,” meaning that his mother and Cardinal Mazarin ruled in his place.

Thailand’s current king was crowned in May 1950 so he’s been around even longer than the British monarch.

A PBS documentary on the queen aired last week.   The one-hour documentary is available on DVD.   It’s part of the “In their own words” occasional series.   There was one mistake in the program when a BBC broadcast announcing that “the king’s life draws peacefully to a close” was applied to her father, King George VI, who died in 1952.   The recording dates to January 1936 when his father, George V, was dying.   The queen’s father was found dead in bed on February 6th, 1952.   He had been out hunting the previous day. Elizabeth and her husband were in Kenya, on a tour of the empire, when he died.

The monarchy goes back over one thousand years.  It has evolved through the centuries into today’s constitutional monarchy.   The system has worked very well, giving Britain and the other Commonwealth realms (which include Canada, Australia and New Zealand) an unparalleled period of political stability, without which economic progress is difficult to achieve.

The very complimentary documentary highlighted Elizabeth’s role as constitutional monarch, using her influence rather than authority in chaperoning the country for over sixty years.   It’s been a time of unprecedented change, as was Victoria’s in the nineteenth century.

The program began with then Princess Elizabeth’s 21st birthday broadcast from Cape Town, South Africa.   In her own words she pledged herself to serve “the great imperial family to which we all belong,” a reference to the Empire and Commonwealth, which included South Africa.

Immediately after these words were shown on the documentary, a royal expert then added a comment about her lifelong service to Britain.

There’s a blind spot here, which obscures Britain’s incredible decline during her reign.   As she is a constitutional monarch, the blame for this decline rests with the politicians, especially the twelve British prime ministers who have served under her.   Her Canadian, Australian and New Zealand prime ministers can also share some of that responsibility.

The fact is that the British Empire has gone and its successor, the Commonwealth (the “British” was dropped 50 years ago) is no more than a shadow of what it was.   It may not even survive the queen’s passing.   The queen remains Head of State of 16 countries and has 138 million subjects.   She is also titular Head of the Commonwealth, an organization of 54 former colonies.   It remains to be seen if Prince Charles will be able to hold it all together after he succeeds his mother.

Sir John Major, her ninth British prime minister, said in the documentary that throughout all the changes of the last six decades, the queen has been the one “constant” in the country, giving a sense of continuity and stability during monumental and significant changes.   This is true, but it hides some painful realities.

The loss of empire saw a rapid decline in global power.   The country’s military capability is about one-twelfth of what it was at the beginning of her reign – and continues to decline even under a Conservative administration.   The queen’s international role remains at the core of British “soft power,” along with the BBC World Service and British aid.   This soft power has replaced the strong military power it used to have.

With the empire gone, Britain entered the European Common Market (now the European Union), which has progressively taken away the UK’s independence.   Under the EU’s freedom of movement rules, millions of people from other European countries have been able to move to Britain, changing the composition of the nation’s population.

Added to this has been mass immigration from Commonwealth countries like India and Pakistan.

The changes are so significant, it’s fair to say that the Great Britain she inherited in 1952 and the Great Britain of today are two very different countries.   It’s amusing to remember that in 1949, when she was Princess Elizabeth, she spoke out against the evils of divorce.   The nation would not take kindly to such comments today and the queen would not be qualified to speak on the subject anyway as her own family has seen a few divorces.

None of this detracts from the great accomplishments of Elizabeth II.   She has set an incredible example of service.   Her sense of duty is unsurpassed by anybody in any field.   In her own personal private life she has set a fine example, never putting a foot wrong.

In many ways, the world was a better place when the Queen ascended the throne on February 6th, 1952 (the Coronation was in June the following year).   At that time, she presided over the greatest empire in history.   As countries were given independence, all too often they were taken over by self-serving bad leaders who destroyed much of what Britain had accomplished, enriching themselves by stealing from their own people.   They were often from the lowest echelons of society, suddenly receiving absolute power, which they abused in every way.

I remember an incident 35 years ago at a time when Ghana, in West Africa, was going through a long period of political instability and economic chaos, I stopped to buy some food at the side of the road. When I opened my wallet, the lady who was selling me the items, saw a British bank note with the portrait of the queen on it.   The lady sighed and said:   “Ah, Queen Elizabeth.   She used to be our queen.   Now we have so many presidents, we cannot count them all. And we are in such a mess.   And England still has the queen.”   Stability is so important.

Two verses in the Book of Ecclesiastes illustrate this so well:

“Woe to you, O land, when your king is a child,
And your princes feast in the morning!
Blessed are you, O land, when your king is the son of nobles,
And your princes feast at the proper time —
For strength and not for drunkenness!”   (Eccl. 10:16-17.)

Britain has been greatly blessed with Elizabeth II as Queen.

As many are saying today:    “Long may she reign!”

BRITAIN DISARMING, GERMANY REARMING: SOUND FAMILIAR?

David Cameron and Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister address a press conference in Berlin on 7 June 2012.  Photograph: Carsten Koall/AFP/Getty Images
David Cameron and Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister address a press conference in Berlin on 7 June 2012. Photograph: Carsten Koall/AFP/Getty Images

Two hundred years ago, on June 18th, 1815, the British won the war against Napoleon.

Or so you thought.   As is generally the case with Europe, it’s not quite that simple.

British troops were only 36% of the allied troops that gained the victory.  Take away the Irishmen fighting in the British army, and the percentage of British troops was well below a third of those on the victorious side.

Other troops that fought in this allied cause, all wanting to end Napoleon’s domination of Europe, came from Prussia (eastern Germany) and what are today Belgium and the Netherlands. The battle took place on Belgian soil.

This is not to diminish the British contribution.   One result of the battle was that the United Kingdom became a global superpower and was unrivaled in Europe for almost one hundred years.

But it’s a classic example of how British relations with Europe are never that simple.   Also, of how the Brits can misread Europe, seeing their country as far more important than it really is.

Which brings us to the promised referendum on British relations with the EU, to take place in 2017.

There are 28 countries in the European Union, with more on the sidelines wanting to join the club. Britain is the third biggest economy in the Union.   It is, right now, the most successful economy, attracting hundreds of thousands of people to its shores every year.  These are mostly from Europe and, it is thought, attracted primarily by Britain’s generous social support system.   People from Eastern Europe can work in the UK and receive benefits for their progeny back home in Poland, Romania and Bulgaria.   These benefits enable them to provide quite comfortably for their families, even if they earn a very small income in London or whatever other city they reside in.

British people get angry at this as they are the ones paying for it in their taxes.   But, as a member of the EU, the British government can do nothing about it.  The EU guarantees the free movement of people within member nations.

London wants to change this.  Most of the other members do not. The Polish leader made it clear to British Prime Minister David Cameron this is something he cannot change.  And that is correct. If the UK stays in Europe, it won’t change.  Mr. Cameron may hope it does, but it won’t – unless Germany is willing to change it, and that’s not likely.

Many (maybe most) British people are fed up with the EU, which they also heavily subsidize in other ways.  They want to withdraw from the organization and go back to the way they were 50 years ago.

What they don’t realize is that they cannot go back to the 1960’s, to the pre-EU days.

It’s not an option.

Prior to entering the European Common Market (as the EU was then called), Britain had an extensive system of trade with nations farther afield.   “Imperial preferences” left over from the days of the Empire, ensured close trade ties with the dominions of the Commonwealth: Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.   These trade agreements were torn up by Britain when they joined Europe. It is unlikely that they can restore them more than 40 years later.

At the same time, in the 60’s, the British still had close trade ties with all their former colonies in Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific, the ACP countries.  These gave Britain cheap food, while the British were able to sell manufactured products to these countries without the hindrance of tariffs.

After Britain joined the European Community, it was a matter of urgency to help these less developed nations. The Lome Convention was signed in 1975, taking effect in April 1976.   It gave preferential access to Europe for member countries’ food and mineral exports.   This treaty, agreed to in the capital of the former French colony of Togo, effectively embraced all former British, French and Dutch colonies.   As this agreement was to help less developed countries, it did not extend to the British dominions, who were on their own.

Effectively, Great Britain, thirty years after World War II, handed over its former Empire to the European Union, now dominated by Germany.  What a supreme irony of history!

There is no turning back.

This is not to say that Britain will be entirely on its own if it separates from the EU.   Norway and Switzerland are two European countries that are not members of the EU.  Both have a per capita income that is higher than the EU average.

But it won’t be easy for Britain, certainly not as easy as the anti-Europeans are making it out to be.

The Treaty of Rome, signed in 1957 by the original six members of the European Community, pledged member countries to form “an ever closer union.”   The EU today is very different from the old European Common Market. It is far more intrusive and controlling than it was at the beginning.   And it is already talking about greater cooperation, with an EU Army not too far ahead.

Bible prophecy shows that another superpower is set to arise, a European power that will be a revival of the Roman Empire.   You can read about this new power in Revelation chapters 13 and 17.   Note the following words from chapter 17:

12 “The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast.  13 These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast.  14 These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.” (Rev 17:12-14)   Clearly, this is not talking about the Roman Empire of two thousand years ago, as this superpower will be in existence when Christ returns.  The good news is that this “beast” power will not last long and will lead directly into the prophesied Kingdom of God.

Is Britain prepared for isolation, facing a German dominated European super-power on its doorstep, without any say in its composition and its purpose?

Interestingly, just four days ago, British defense chiefs warned that the country’s defenses had been so greatly diminished that the nation was now “feeble” on the world stage.   As Britain no longer has a deployable aircraft carrier, only one ship, HMS Ocean, is equipped to host US Marines and their MV 22 Osprey vertical take off aircraft, in the event of military action by Russia.   As Russia is rapidly increasing its military potential, warnings of a coming conflict between the West and Moscow are growing. The UK’s response is to go down the road of disarmament. The similarities with the 1930’s are quite blatant – Britain is once again disarming while Germany is rearming.

Berlin is spending an additional 8 billion euros (US 9 billion) on the new MEADS air defense system and the multi role combat ship 180.  3.9 billion euros ($4.37 billion) has also been set aside for four new battleships.

Germany is also working toward an EU Army, which will add to its military capacity.

Outside of the EU, Britain will have to fend for itself, something it seems ill-prepared for at this time.   Even a Conservative government is clearly more inclined to cut defense over higher health care costs, at a time of growing international tensions.

Individual Britons need to think carefully before the vote in the referendum.   There may be sound reasons to reject the EU, but there could also be serious consequences.   Britain’s relationship with Europe can be compared to a marriage.   It was certainly a mistake to marry in the first place, but divorce is not an easy option and needs to be considered carefully.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE BENGAL LANCERS

IRONY

Robert Osborne knows more about movies than anybody in the United States.   He has been introducing movies on TCM (Turner Classic Movies) for over twenty years.   His introductions to old movies are always very welcome and often fascinating.

But he doesn’t know so much about history.

When introducing a 1951 movie titled “Soldiers Three,” a bit of a comedy based on a Rudyard Kipling story, he commented on how, quite often, in Hollywood’s golden period (the thirties and forties) movies were set in India under the British Raj.   He described this as “a time when there were always some Bengal Lancers ready to jump in to help out a noble cause.”   He spoiled this when he added:  “We now know, of course, what really happened in India under the British, that it wasn’t so noble at all . . . ”

This might not have bothered me too much, except that I had just heard something similar from a doctor at the University of Michigan Hospital.   We shared a very amicable conversation about Diego Garcia, of all places.

Diego Garcia is an island in the Indian Ocean that has been turned into a major military base.  The island has been a British possession for two centuries, having been acquired from France following Napoleon’s defeat in the Napoleonic Wars.   According to the doctor, there are only 55 Brits on the island today, while there are over 2,000 Americans.  The Brits have the unenviable task of policing the island, where the only trouble the Americans can get up to involves alcohol!   There really is nothing else to do.   Even swimming is out as the island lies in shark-infested waters.

Towards the end of the conversation, my doctor made a derogatory remark about the colonial period in Africa and how much better off the Africans are now.

I instinctively came to the defense of the colonial period pointing out that this was not the experience my wife and I had – that Ghana and Zimbabwe, the two countries we lived in, were much better off under British colonial rule than they have been since independence.

Which brings me back to Robert Osborne’s comment.   “We now know, of course, what really happened in India under the British, that it wasn’t so noble after all . . . ’’

This is a loaded statement and very misleading, to put it mildly.

There is nothing we know now about colonial India that we did not know under the Raj.  The same can be said about Africa.

What has changed is the attitude toward empire.

The movies Mr. Osborne was referring to, made prior to “Soldiers Three,” a movie frankly not worth watching, were movies like “The Lives of a Bengal Lancer” made in 1935.  They were all pro-British and showed what the British were doing in India, notably policing the North-West Frontier, where hostile tribes were always causing trouble.   This area was arguably the most violent part of the empire during the two centuries of British rule.   Today, it is a stronghold of the Taliban, al-Qaeda and now, of ISIS.   Neither the Pakistani nor the Afghan government has a handle on the situation there.   Looking back, it would have been better to keep it under British control, thereby avoiding 9-11.  Twelve years after independence, the movie “North-West Frontier” (1959) showed the British role in the region in a positive light.

But in the following decades, attitudes changed toward the empire, just as they changed in the United States toward its own history.   Instead of being proud of past accomplishments, in the 1960’s history was taught with a sense of shame.   This self-loathing on both sides of the Atlantic has led to what African-American writer Shelby Steele calls “White Guilt,” the title of his 2006 book.  Whites now feel guilty about everything in their collective past and constantly fork out billions to try to “put things right.”  Those billions have achieved nothing.   Given to Africa and India, the money is siphoned off by the wealthiest people with little benefit to the poor, while in the US, they have produced an underclass perpetually dependent on welfare.

This change in attitude was partly the fault of Hollywood, which started making movies that made Britain and America look bad.

But it can be largely blamed on academia.  Liberal socialist (even communist) intellectuals got control of western universities and started filling the minds of young people with anti-western propaganda.

When asked what Britain had ever done for India, Indian writer Dinesh D’Souza responded with the following words:

‘Apart from roads, railways, ports, schools, a parliamentary system of government, rights, separation of powers, checks and balances, the rule of law, and the English language . . . nothing!’”

The same gifts were bestowed upon the British colonies in Africa and the Caribbean.   Sadly, since independence, many of these countries have endured dictatorships and debilitating poverty as the dictator keeps all the wealth for himself.

This is why people are fleeing their home countries in the millions, seeking a better life, ironically in the countries that used to rule them.   What a pity the Bengal Lancers aren’t around today to take on the noble cause of ridding the world of some of these evil despots!

 

 

HOMAGE TO AUSTRALIA

 

Australian soldiers at Galipoli
Australian soldiers at Gallipoli

The Woman in Gold is a movie that’s showing in cinemas right now.   It tells the true story of an elderly American Jewish lady who takes the Austrian government to court to reclaim a family painting that was stolen by the Nazis during the 1938 Anschluss, when the vast majority of Austrians welcomed Adolf Hitler’s annexation of his home country.

The movie stars Helen Mirren as the elderly lady and Ryan Reynolds as her lawyer.

In one scene, Reynolds is sending a package to the Austrian government from somewhere in Los Angeles.   The man behind the desk commented on how he had always wanted to go to Austria.   His daughter, he added, loves kangaroos!

He’s not the only person who is ignorant of Australia.   Americans, in particular, have difficulty telling the difference between an Australian and a British accent.   I’ve often had people ask me which part of Australia I come from. Unlike many of my compatriots, this does not upset me – I consider it a great honor to be taken as an Aussie.   If I were 24, instead of 64, I would move there.   Australia has an American lifestyle without the frenetic pace that makes life in the US so stressful.

Tomorrow, April 25th, is Australia’s special day – ANZAC Day, a commemoration of Australia’s losses in the wars of the last century. ANZAC stands for the “Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.”

It’s exactly a hundred years since the great battle that was a defining moment for the new countries.   Australia became a Dominion of the British Empire in 1901; New Zealand in 1905. Dominion status meant they were independent but still a part of the Empire, which was transforming into a Commonwealth, united in a common loyalty to the Crown, fulfilling the biblical prophecy of “a multitude of nations” (Genesis 48:19), descended from the patriarch Joseph’s son, Ephraim.

When the British went to war in August 1914, these two dominions, together with the other dominions and colonies of the Empire, went to war as well.   The Australians quickly took over German territories in the Pacific.   But it’s the Battle of Gallipoli, which is remembered most and commemorated on this day, the day the conflict started.   It was to last over eight months.

Gallipoli is a peninsula in North West Turkey.   It’s sometimes called the Dardenelles.   At the time, Turkey was called the Ottoman Empire. In November, 1914, it made the fatal mistake of allying itself with the two central European empires, Germany and Austria-Hungary, against Great Britain and its allies.   Less than ten years later, the Ottoman Empire collapsed and was replaced by the Turkish Republic.   The founder of the republic was Kemal Ataturk, who was one of the military commanders on the Ottoman side at Gallipoli.

The battle was a military disaster for the Allies. Australians, New Zealanders, the British and French all fought there and lost a great number of men, many on the first day when soldiers were landed on a thin strip of beach, looking up cliffs at Ottoman positions, cannon fodder for the enemy.   They fought valiantly.   Ataturk afterwards talked of their bravery.   Turkey’s president is hosting a commemoration today, a gathering of world leaders including Prince Charles and Prince Harry.   Harry is currently serving with the Australian military.   Commonwealth ties remain, even though they have been weakened in recent decades.   The prime ministers of Australia and New Zealand laid wreaths.   The President of Ireland was also present, a reminder that Ireland was then a part of the United Kingdom and lost many of its native sons in this battle.

74,000 Anzac troops fought at Gallipoli. 10,000 died.   To understand the full impact of that loss, let’s remember these were troops from two new countries, that were thinly populated.   At the time, the United States had just over 100 million people, the UK 40 million. Australia’s population in 1915 was under five million.   New Zealand’s was a little over one million.   To compare the losses to the US, we need to multiply the figures by twenty.   The 10,000 dead was the equivalent of 200,000 American losses, or 80,000 British servicemen.

The British lost 25,000 at Gallipoli, out of a total of 350,000 men.   The French also suffered heavy losses, 10,000 out of 79,000 men.

On the other side, the Turks lost 86,000 out of 400,000 combatants.

The figures are staggering, far greater than losses suffered in recent conflicts.

And the sobering reality is that the war was so unnecessary.   Some wars were unavoidable – World War Two, for instance, when the Western powers had to defeat the evil of fascism.   Ironically, if World War One had not been fought, there would have been no World War Two.

If the Ottoman Empire had not been defeated, its constituent territories would not have been carved up, ultimately creating the modern Middle East.   The ripple effect of that first global conflict of the twentieth century continues to this day.   The wars we are fighting now all originated in World War One.

Australia, it should be noted, is the only country to have fought in all these conflicts from beginning to end.   Gallipoli was just the start (in fact, Australians had been fighting in the Empire’s wars even before independence).   Australia was always ready to fight alongside the British to preserve freedom in a dangerous world. After World War Two, when America became the pre-eminent power, Australians fought alongside Americans in all America’s wars.

The land down under is an under-appreciated country.   It’s time to publicly pay homage to a great nation that has done so much for the western world.

Let’s remember and give thanks for their many sacrifices on this ANZAC day.

FAREWELL TO WINSTON

Churchill

Today marks the 50th anniversary of Sir Winston Churchill’s funeral.   It is, quite correctly, being remembered in Great Britain for without him, the British people would likely still be a distant province of the Third Reich.   Some years ago, the British people voted for him as the greatest Englishman ever.

Churchill's coffin

At his funeral, the Queen’s wreath bore the words:  “From the nation and the Commonwealth, with grateful thanks.   Elizabeth R”

Queen's wreath

At his request, he was buried in the village of Bladon, close to Blenheim Palace, where he was born.

Even now, fifty years later, there are always people there, wanting to pay homage.

The last time I visited, a few years ago, a man in front of me put flowers on the grave, knelt down and cried.  We got to talking.  English was not his native language.  He was from the Netherlands.   Without Churchill, he said, his country would not be free.

The funeral was truly memorable.  His beloved Clemmie (his wife Clementine), after dinner that evening, said to his daughter Mary, “That wasn’t a funeral — that was a triumph.”

And so it was.  110 world leaders were there, plus many old friends and colleagues, including former US President Dwight Eisenhower.

Mindful that his mother was American and that he could just as easily have been a member of Congress as a member of the Commons, Churchill had requested that the Battle Hymn of the Republic be sung at his funeral, an unusual choice for a staunch monarchist.   Churchill believed absolutely that if the English-speaking countries stayed together, the world would be safe.

While people should pause to remember such a great man, they should also stop and think about what he stood for.   For the fact is that, for all the British people’s praise of Churchill, they have rejected all that he stood for!

This was the case immediately after World War II, after the defeat of Nazi Germany but before the defeat of Imperial Japan – Churchill lost the election, rejected by the British people.   It was often said that he was a great wartime leader but not the man for peace-time.  He was certainly not the man for the radical changes that were to come in the post war years.   Yet, time has showed that he was right.  The massive expansion of state ownership and control after 1945 was not something he wanted — in recent decades most of it has been reversed. Nor would he have wanted the welfare state that has been created.

Committed to the Empire and Commonwealth, Churchill would have opposed its dismantling and Britain turning its back on its former colonies to embrace Europe.

As is clear in his book “The River War,” Churchill did not think much of Islam and would not have supported the massive influx of Muslims into the UK that has taken place since his death.   Nor would he have been cowed by political correctness.

If he were alive today, he would have a clear vision of what is needed to defeat the Islamic extremism that now threatens the world.   He fought in the Sudan against the armies of Islamic extremism in what turned out to be the last cavalry charge in British history.

Churchill’s clear vision compared to what we have today, on both sides of the Atlantic, brings to mind these words from the Book of Isaiah.

“The whole head is sick, And the whole heart faints.   From the sole of the foot even to the head, There is no soundness in it.” (Isa 1:5b-6a)

APOLOGY, EMPIRE AND THE QUEEN

Diamond Jubilee - Carriage Procession And Balcony Appearance

A Service of Thanksgiving was held in Britain’s Westminster Abbey on Tuesday, June 4th, in commemoration of the Queen’s coronation, held sixty years earlier on June 2nd, 1953.  That wasn’t when she became queen – she ascended to the throne on the death of her father, King George VI, sixteen months earlier, on February 6th, 1952.

Interestingly, she was in Kenya Colony at the time she received the news of her father’s death.  From that very moment she was Queen over what was still the biggest empire in the world.

Kenya played a role again during the week of the sixtieth anniversary.  The same year that Queen Elizabeth II became the British monarch, the Mau Mau uprising began in the colony.  It was largely suppressed by British and Kenyan troops by 1956 but didn’t fully end until 1960.

The Mau Mau was a Kikuyu rebellion.  In other words, one tribe rebelled.  Even then, not all Kikuyu supported the uprising, as anti-Mau Mau elements amongst the Kikuyu helped the British suppress the revolt, a revolt that failed to gain popular support.

Almost sixty years later, when few people alive remember the events of the 1950’s, the British government has decided to apologize for British actions at the time and is to give 20 million pounds compensation to former Mau Mau fighters.  It’s highly likely that most of this money will be diverted by Kenyan government officials, as is usually the case in Kenya.

So, what next?  Should the British apologize for killing members of the Continental Army in the Revolutionary War?

There’s an American connection in the apology made last week – President Obama’s father was a Kenyan and also a member of the Mau Mau.  Apparently, pressure was applied from the other side of the Atlantic.

It’s amazing how our leaders are so ignorant of history, even fairly recent history.  In case one of them may stumble across this blog, let me make it clear – this was not a popular uprising.  There was no great suppression of freedom and there have been far worse abuses of human rights since independence in 1963.  It should be noted that the new President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, has been charged with human rights abuses by the International Court at The Hague.  This is Africa we’re talking about, not the English Home Counties!

This comes down to white guilt, the never-ending left-wing apologia for empire that goes back to the sixties.  Whereas Britons from previous generations lauded the accomplishments of the British Empire, the opposite has been the case since the advent of political correctness in the 1960’s.

I was thinking about this on Thursday evening, just two days after the Thanksgiving service was held.  My wife and I were watching a British movie on television called “Zarak,” made in 1957.  It was an awful movie, badly made, with a predictable plot.  But it was interesting from an historical perspective.  The movie was about a revolt against British colonial rule in India in the late 1800’s.  The movie was made ten years after India’s independence but it was still pro-British.  The rebels were the bad guys!

So, when did perceptions of Empire change?

At the Queen’s coronation, she was crowned as Queen of each of her dominions, the independent nations within the Empire – Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the Union of South Africa, Ceylon and Pakistan.  She was also given the title “Head of the Commonwealth” which included all the above nations and the Republic of India (India had become a republic three years earlier).  The rest of the empire was still ruled from London.  Her title to cover all those 50+ territories was “her other realms and territories,” almost all of which are now fully independent.

It was in the 1960’s that attitudes to Empire changed, though not amongst the ordinary people.  It became fashionable amongst academics and other intellectuals to bash the Empire, to make fun of it, to equate it with the crueler empires in history, even to boldly state the Empire was a bad thing.  After the death of Sir Winston Churchill, a great Empire loyalist, in 1965, there was no restraint.  Churchill and the Empire both played major roles in winning the Second World War, without which there would be no freedom for these people to even debate these issues.

In a brief televised debate after the decision to apologize to the Mau Mau, Sir Max Hastings, a prominent British military historian, pointed out the pitfalls of trying to determine anything after sixty years.  His Empire-bashing opponent on the program (whose name was unfamiliar) kept on rudely interrupting everything he said but, when asked what other “atrocities” Britain could be charged with, found it difficult to come up with anything specific, mumbling something about Aden and Diego Garcia.

This is not to say that Britain did not make mistakes but, compared to other nations, her record was a very good one.

Remembering the Mau Mau is also a reminder that Britain was once a great military power.  In fact, at the time of the Queen’s ascension, it was more than ten times the military power it is today.  Successive British governments have chosen to cut defense expenditure while increasing spending on public health care.  The present Conservative led coalition cut military expenditure by 8% in its recent austerity plan, while leaving healthcare and foreign aid alone.  This is a continuation of a policy that emphasizes “soft power” over military power.

Apologizing to Kenya and sending 20 million pounds ($30 million) their way is an example of this.  No doubt others will now start demanding apologies for perceived mistakes of the past.

It’s difficult to see how later generations can be held responsible for the supposed mistakes of their ancestors.  Perhaps the British can demand reparations from Rome? After all, they ruled England for almost 400 years, longer than Britain ruled any of her colonies!  But you can’t expect politicians to know that!