Unpeople: Author’s Introduction

Mark Curtis

This book is an attempt to uncover the reality of British foreign policy since the invasion of Iraq in 2003. It also analyses several major episodes in Britain’s past foreign policy, exploring in detail formerly secret government files which have been ignored by mainstream commentators. They expose the truth behind British governments’ supposed commitment to grand principles such as human rights, democracy, peace and overseas development.

British foreign policy is guided by a tiny elite – not just the handful of ministers in successive governments, but the civil servants, ambassadors, advisers and other unaccountable Whitehall mandarins around them, who set the country’s agenda and priorities, and define its role within the world.

Britain is bogged down in an unpopular occupation in the Middle East, the state has become widely distrusted by the public, accusations of spying on the UN have further undermined its international role, while Britain has effectively been marginalised in the EU. Seen from within the establishment, Tony Blair has become the greatest public liability since Anthony Eden, whose mistake was not his invasion of a foreign country (normal British practice) but his defeat, in the Suez crisis of 1956.

Massive public opposition to the invasion of Iraq has troubled the government and may prove to have deterred it from other ventures. Yet the course of New Labour’s foreign policy since the invasion has been disastrous in terms of human rights, and is continuing to occur outside any meaningful democratic scrutiny.

British foreign policy is guided by a tiny elite – not just the handful of ministers in successive governments, but the civil servants, ambassadors, advisers and other unaccountable Whitehall mandarins around them, who set the country’s agenda and priorities, and define its role within the world.

Since March 2003, these decision-makers have been implementing a series of remarkable steps: first, Britain is deepening its support for state terrorism in a number of countries; second, unprecedented plans are being developed to increase Britain’s ability to intervene militarily around the world; third, the government is increasing its state propaganda operations, directed towards the British public; and fourth, Whitehall planners have in effect announced they are no longer bound by international law.

The principal victims of British policies are Unpeople – those whose lives are deemed worthless, expendable in the pursuit of power and commercial gain. They are the modern equivalent of the ‘savages’ of colonial days, who could be mown down by British guns in virtual secrecy, or else in circumstances where the perpetrators were hailed as the upholders of civilisation.

The concept of Unpeople is central to each of the past and current British policies considered in this book. Through its own intervention, and its support of key allies such as the United States and various repressive regimes, Britain has been, and continues to be, a systematic and serious abuser of human rights. I have calculated that Britain bears significant responsibility for around 10 million deaths since 1945 (see table), including Nigerians, Indonesians, Arabians, Ugandans, Chileans, Vietnamese and many others. Often, the policies responsible are unknown to the public and remain unresearched by journalists and academics.

In this book, I aim to document for the first time the secret record of certain episodes in government planning. The declassified files to which I refer are instructive not only for the light they throw on the past. They are also directly relevant to current British foreign policy surrounding Iraq, military intervention and the ‘war against terror’. British interests and priorities have changed very little over time; essentially, the only variation has been in the tactics used to achieve them.

Of the basic principles that guided the decisions taken in these files, there are three which seem particularly apposite when considering current events.

The culture of lying to and misleading the electorate is deeply embedded in British policy-making.

The first is that British ministers’ lying to the public is systematic and normal. Many people were shocked at the extent to which Tony Blair lied over Iraq; some might still be unable to believe that he did. But in every case I have ever researched on past British foreign policy, the files show that ministers and officials have systematically misled the public. The culture of lying to and misleading the electorate is deeply embedded in British policy-making.

A second, related principle is that policy-makers are usually frank about their real goals in the secret record. This makes declassified files a good basis on which to understand their actual objectives. This gap between private goals and public claims is not usually the result, in my view, of a conscious conspiracy. Certainly, planned state propaganda has been a key element in British foreign policy; yet the underlying strategy of misleading the public springs from a less conscious, endemic contempt for the general population. The foreign-policy decision-making system is so secretive, elitist and unaccountable that policy-makers know they can get away with almost anything, and they will deploy whatever arguments are needed to do this.

The third basic principle is that humanitarian concerns do not figure at all in the rationale behind British foreign policy. In the thousands of government files I have looked through for this and other books, I have barely seen any reference to human rights at all. Where such concerns are invoked, they are only for public-relations purposes.

Currently, many mainstream commentators would have us believe that there is a ‘Blair doctrine’, based on military intervention for humanitarian purposes. This is an act of faith on the part of those commentators, a good example of how the public proclamations of leaders are used unquestioningly to set the framework of analysis within the liberal political culture. If there is a Blair doctrine, it does indeed involve an unprecedented degree of military intervention – but to achieve some very traditional goals. The actual impact of foreign policies on foreign people is as irrelevant now as it ever has been.

Back to: Unpeople: Britain’s Secret Human Rights Abuses


One Response to “Unpeople: Author’s Introduction”

  1. It is axiomatic to say that Biafrans—–the people of the Eastern Region of Nigeria are in fact and indeed one the most endangered human races in the world, whose precarious situation started way back in the early 60’s and continuing unchallenged till date.
    For the purposes of historical relevance, the Biafra/Nigeria civil war of between 1967-1970 did register one of the world’s most atrocious war crimes ever and till date, the international community still relegate it to the basement and routinely appear too busy to listen to the cries and the plight of the Biafran people. The many and varied instances of war crime charges being prosecuted around the world today are in no way comparable to what happened to the Igbos and the other ethnic nationalities that made up the Eastern Region.The Nigerian government with the support of their allies effectively used the instrument of starvation (brocaded the Eastern Region by air, land and sea); massacred children and pregnant women in their large numbers. Over 1.5 million people (including women and children) lost their lives during the remote and the immediate causes of the War. It is worthy to note that while these atrocities were being committed, the international community (Britain, U.S.A, USSR, the commonwealth of Nations and the United Nations) looked the other way, supporting the Nigerian government for both economic and political reasons at the expense of the hapless Biafran people. The death toll on the side of the Biafrans nothwithstanding, the International observer team from Canada, Poland, Sweden and the United Kingdom in their reports exonerated the Nigerian forces from charges of genocide against the Biafran people, but instead accusing the Biafran leadership of deliberately exposing the Biafran population to danger in order to attract international attention. Here, justice was denied the Biafrans by the international community.

    Energised by this over-whelming support from the international community, the successive oppressive Nigerian leaders, both military and civilian (while spending billions of dollars on fixing and embarking on image laundering of Nigeria to the outside) have continued unabated to unleash mayhem on any dissenting voice(s) from the Eastern region for exercising their rights of self-determination.

    Though the people of the Eastern Region were reabsorbed into the Nigerian federation in principle, the Igbos and other ethnic nationalities in thie Eastern Region are still being treated today as second-class citizens. There is the unwritten policy of systemic exclusion, marginalisation, punitive political and economic sanctions against the Biafrans and the overt/covert massacring of the Biafran youths and anybody associated with Biafra Actualisation. This oppressive and vicious attacks on and the occupation of the Biafraland by the Nigerian government without any meaningful development, or the upliftment of the living conditions of the people of the Eastern Region has led to the resurgence of the Biafran consciousness and the need for the Biafrans to demand for their right of self-Determination through non-violent means. The MOVEMENT FOR THE ACTUALISATION OF THE SOVERIGN UNITED STATES OF BIAFRA (MASSOB) came into being in 1999 to demand for these civil and political rights of the Biafran people under the United Nations Civil and Political Rights. Other pro-Biafran organisations (from different parts of the world) working closely with MASSOB have also been demanding for the self-determination of the Biafran people.

    Between 1999 and/till date, many members of this organisation have been massacred or extra judicially murded. Others are buried in mass graves. The leaders of MASSOB have been in detention by the Nigerian government under constant torture and inhuman conditions and without trial and access to proper medical attention. The vicious attacks by the Nigerian government (using armoured tankers, helicopter gun ships and other heavy fire artilleries) against members of MASSOB and the Biafran people have continued unchallenged till date.The incessant but blatant destruction of the environment as result of oil spillages which has posed serious danger to both aquatic and human lives in the Niger Delta of the Eastern Region remains a thorn in the conscience of the International Community.The British and American government has been suppressing exploiting the people of this Region through the multinational oil companies like SHELL and EXXON MOBIL with the assistance of the corrupt Nigerian leaders from the Northerns and Western regions.Since the civil war,they have been supplying the Nigerian government with weapons to suppress further the already suppressed people of the Eastern region.These are issues difficult to narrate, yet too serious and compelling to ignore.

    Consequently, we of the Biafra Liberation League in the Uk (a functional extension of MASSOB in the United Kingdom) hereby make bold to call on you, the international community and all men and women of goodwill:
    Ø To support the upholding of the rights of Self-Determination of the indigenous people of the Eastern Region of Nigeria
    Ø Prevail on the Nigerian government to release the leaders of MASSOB (Chief Raph Uwazurike, Mazi Uchenna Madu); the Leader of NDVF (Alhaji Asari Dokubo) and all other Biafrans and prisoners of conscience languishing in secret cells across the Nigerian federation
    Ø To call on the Nigerian government to engage with the Biafran people without further delays and commence dialogue on the self-determination of people of the Eastern Region
    Ø To Constitute an International Commission of Inquiry into the unlawful killings of the MASSOB members and other Biafrans especially between 1999 till date (2006) by the Obasanjo regime and to push for the stiffest penalties against, and bring to trial all offenders.
    Ø To press for International sanction against the Nigerian government disregards for the rule of law and the encroachment and violation of the civil and political rights of all Biafrans.
    Ø To press for the toughest sanctions possible against the Nigerian government’s non-compliance of any or all the above.
    Ø To demystify and condemn the Nigerian government’s use of the resources and the wealth of the Biafran people to do image laundering and face-lift abroad.

    Alphonsus Uche Okafor-Mefor
    Human Rights Activist
    And the

    Director of Communications
    For:Biafra Liberation League
    07886171427

    Alternatively,contact us via the address below:

    The Biafra Liberation League

    The Biafra Liberation League is a group dedicated to the peaceful achievement of an independent state of Biafra. We are linked to MASSOB (the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra) who are currently taking the lead in the struggle for freedom in Eastern Nigeria, for which they are being killed, persecuted and illegally detained.
    We welcome support from everyone who cares about human life and the prevention of genocide.
    Please contact us by email- biafraliberty@yahoo.co.uk
    Or call- +44 (0)7838 265071 or +44 (0)790 8504052
    Further information on the movement:

    http://www.cwis.org/news/index.php?newsdate=biafra1

    http://www.kwenu.com/index/index_pogrom.htm

    Formal records of the killings:

    http://www.biafraland.com/MASSOB_Casualty_Toll_2000-2006-feb.htm


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