WATCH: Former UK ambassador to Syria on how imperialism is being redefined as a liberal ideal

Peter Ford, former ambassador to Syria (2003-6) speaking at the “Imperialism on Trial” symposium in Derry, Ireland. He describes the weasel words and manipulative language used to redefine old ideas of imperialism as a liberal ideal. “Defending human rights”, he says, is simply a modern construct of the Victorian meme of the “White Man’s Burden” – the mendacious idea that the countries invaded by the British Empire needed and welcomed the invaders as a civilising and educational force.

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Big B
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Big B

Writing a century ago, Lenin exposed the relationship of Finance Capital to imperialism. He wrote that “imperialism is the monopoly stage of capitalism.” Competition creates a financial oligarchy and an over-accumulation of capital that is exported to seek higher returns abroad (as opposed to funding social development and welfare at home?) Wherever the finance capital went: the military followed (to protect assets) …or, in the case of recalcitrant rulers who refuse to become comprador vassals – the military preceded to ‘humanitarianly’ persuade and neoliberally ‘democratise’. There can be no better single illustration of this than L Paul Bremer III’s infamous… Read more »

vexarb
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@BigB. I date the decline of Great Britain to 1899 — the Boer War. Imagine how the Mother Country would have prospered if all that investment capital had stayed at home, instead of being used to build up the A-Z-C financial empire in South Africa. Followed by WW1 where British “blood and treasure” was again flushed abroad to build up the A-Z-C financial empire in the ME. The gentle but perceptive Max Beerbohm drew a memorable cartoon series showing John Bull’s increasingly battered and patched progress up till a little after WW1. But it was Mad Maggie Thatcher’s over-inflated Pound… Read more »

Big B
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Big B

@Vexarb: I would put the decline of the UK from when we first went agrarian! Not that Paleolithic man was particularly special: only they were limited by numbers as to the destruction they could cause! [Not that I proscribe in any way to the Bill Gatesian overpopulation psychopathy.] As for imperialism, you must include the East India Company of London …which was bigger than the contemporaneous state, and had its own private Blackwater-style private army to protect its capital investment? That takes us back to 1600? I would disagree with Peter Ford that the UK is strong militarily. China must… Read more »

Palinurus
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Perhaps not.

Harry Stotle
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Harry Stotle

I have mixed feelings about this. Its great to hear Peter Ford speaking up but all those in the British and US diplomatic service must be well aware that their job requires them to put an acceptable spin on the beligerent imperialism that has gripped the Middle East, and elsewhere? The unreasonable behaviour of the US demands that people take sides – so unfortunately you are either with them, which would appear to include most of those working in the diplomatic core, or against them, which in the case of diplomats only becomes apparent after they have retired. The head… Read more »

intergenerationaltrauma
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Wonderful talk. Thank you so much. A breath of fresh air to hear truth spoken amidst the sea of lies we float about on each day in the West.

Fair dinkum
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Fair dinkum

Lookout Peter.
There may not be any more spare rooms at the Ecuadorean embassy.

Fair dinkum
Reader
Fair dinkum

Lookout Peter.
There may not be anymore spare rooms at the Ecuadorean embassy.

Angela
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He paints a very interesting picture mounting a question of should we or should we have not got involved.
It’s a mess now , it was a mess then and if we hadnt have got involved – maybe it would have been someone else’s mess to sort out.
There are so many sides in all this, it’s almost like a rubix cube of political problems – that will never be solved.

James Graham
Reader

Come on Angela…that is a defeatist cop-out. Who is abusing their military might? Who is abusing their economic power and control? Who are the imperialists? Who puts profit before people? Who enshrined that in law? Who except the British ruling class, originally? Class politics rules. Which side are you on?

bevin
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bevin

Now if Stella Creasy stepped aside this is the sort of person who would ornament Parliament.

tubularsock
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The amazing thing is that people still fall for it ………
“Defending human rights” by bombing their country …… a bit of a disconnect don’t you think?
Tubularsock has always loved the “White Man’s Burden” trope.
It almost makes one feel “Imperialism” is a good thing. And of course it is UNLESS it’s those Russians!

tutisicecream
Reader

“The White Man’s Burden”… “The White Helmets”. All the same trope tubularsock.
That nice Mr Bomb. Please…give it to us in the name of freedom.

tubularsock
Reader

Right on the money, tutisicecream!

summitflyer
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summitflyer

Very good that Peter Ford would open up and tell it like it is , I guess he would have been sacked unceremoniously quickly had he done so while still an ambassador for the UK .
Too bad that we don’t have many more of this caliber to open up to the public.

Geneva Washington
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Geneva Washington

Thanks. He is a very decent and sincere man who has been an insider and walked away from it. Not easy to do. Kudos to him.