Transcript of radio commentary that aired on October 2, 2003, on KUNM public radio 89.9 fm in Albuquerque. Link to audio at end of page.

By Arjun Makhijani

President Bush and Prime Minister Blair are admirers of Winston Churchill. The public in Britain and the United States no doubt reveres Churchill as the man who rallied his people with rousing rhetoric to fight off the Nazis. But Churchill was also a die-hard imperialist. He believed in his gut, literally, that people are unequal. He said he was nauseated to see Mahatma Gandhi negotiating “on equal terms” with the British ruler of India: “the representative of the Emperor-King,” the Viceroy.

That’s a term that’s now coming back the context of the U.S.-British occupation of Iraq. The United States and Britain control the security of Iraq, such as it is. They control its finances and occupy its oil fields. Which brings us back to Mr. Churchill. He was at the center of creating the modern map of the Middle East after World War I, including Iraq. It was centrally about oil then. It seems centrally about oil now.

Britain too had promised freedom to the people of the region from the corrupt rule of the Ottomans. But, Churchill, eager for control, wound up advocating the use of chemical weapons there. As president of the Air Council in 1919, he said: “I do not understand the squeamishness about the use of gas. I am strongly in favour of using poisonous gas against uncivilised tribes.” The British did use poison gas on the Kurds in the mid-1920s and bombed their villages.

The United States was created to refuse the rule of one man, an “Emperor-King.” Sadly, it is now stepping into the very worst British tradition, and in opposition to its own very best: equality, freedom, and the rule of law. The application of the words “all men are created equal” was at first confined to a smallish group of White men. But it was a wonderful idea that has caught on worldwide: universal freedom based on the equality of all.

Tom Paine, who wrote Common Sense and inspired the Declaration of Independence, was a dedicated, even fierce, anti-imperialist. Fierce doesn’t really describe Gandhi, but he too struggled mightily against imperialism and for equality.

No weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq. The people of Iraq may have been promised democracy, but take a look at Kuwait. It was freed from the clutches of Saddam Hussein, but it still has a massive U.S. military presence a dozen years after the Gulf War. Control, and possibly long term occupation, of the oil fields seems to be a principal U.S.-British goal in Iraq.

It is time to free ourselves from slavery to oil. That has caused much of the West to subjugate the people of the Middle East, directly or through appointed rulers, for much of a century. For more on imperialism, freedom, oil, and the British, see the special issue of the Science for Democratic Action at This is Arjun Makhijani.

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