Dreaming of an Imperial Christmas
by Kim Petersen

December 27, 2003

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In her annual Christmas message Queen Elizabeth has broken with the very foundation upon which her royalty survives: tradition.


The televised message was broadcast in documentary style and was, foremost, a paean to imperialism, a harkening back to the good, old days of British Empire. The prim and proper monarch strolled boldly about, hatless even, at the Combermere Barracks in Windsor. Blimey, she even did the interviews.


The CBC reports that it is the first such message “recorded entirely on location, instead of in a royal residence. It's also the first time that people can listen to the message over the phone. From Canada, the phone number is 011-44-871-271-3100.”  The well-coiffed Elizabeth is after all Canada’s head-of-state too.


Yet her message represents a de facto rebellion against the Canadian government. That is her royal prerogative obviously. Canada hypocritically maintains that it stayed out of the aggression on Iraq because it undermined multilateral institutions.


The queen’s Christmas message was directed at the many servicemen and women away from home. It certainly wasn’t directed at ordinary Britons, the majority of who opposed the war. It couldn’t have been the hundreds-of-thousands who caused cancellations in the Bush agenda during his unwelcome visit in late November. The self-same visit, according to the Sunday Mirror, left her highness in a tizzy because of the costly damage done to the royal gardens at Buckingham Palace by the Bush entourage. Never mind the dying and downtrodden Iraqis. Those plants were supposedly rare varieties having nomenclatural ties to the monarchy, and some were reputedly planted by the queen and her mother themselves. Now they have been trampled down and to add insult to injury the queen’s flamingoes are “traumatized.”


But the Bush visit was now behind her as she turned her thoughts elsewhere in her Christmas message: “I’m thinking about their wives and children [no mention of husbands] and about their parents and friends. Separation at this time is especially hard to bear.”


Now let’s get things into proper perspective here. The British and Australians serving in Iraq, and the Canadians serving in Afghanistan (which constitutes de facto support for the occupation of Iraq, in that it frees up imperialist resources in Afghanistan to focus on Iraq) are not conscripts, but signed up for military service of their own volition. It is conceded that many of them enlisted for economic reasons but the likelihood is few were coerced into joining.


These fighters were also the aggressors. They fought as part of a coalition against much smaller, militarily weaker, countries that were virtually defenseless against the terrorist bombing campaign of western powers.


The British authorities don’t even care about how many they are killing. The UK minister responsible for war, Adam Ingram, revealed the government’s insouciance thusly: "Through very strict rules of engagement, the use of precision munitions and the tactical methods employed to liberate Iraq's major cities, we are satisfied that the coalition did everything possible to avoid unnecessary casualties. We do not, therefore, propose to undertake a formal review of Iraqi casualties sustained." 


In the case of Iraq this was a self-confessed illegal invasion. "I think in this case international law stood in the way of doing the right thing," was the feeble excuse proffered by chickenhawk Richard Perle. Deputy Secretary responsible for war Paul Wolfowitz was earlier on record as downplaying the absurd notion that the war was about Iraqi possession of weapons of mass destruction. The neoconservatives are blatantly thumbing their noses at the world.


Despite this the queen blathers on, "The men and women of the services continue to face serious risks and dangers as they carry out their duties. They have done this brilliantly.”


British troops left Sierra Leone a while back and few remain now in Afghanistan so one is left to assume that the queen’s comments are directed predominantly at the troops in Iraq. Are we supposed to take pride in the invasion of a nation reeling from 12 years of genocidal UN sanctions that has killed over 10,000 Iraqi civilians so far?


The queen gushes, “I think we all have very good reasons for feeling proud of their achievements, both in the war and as they build a lasting peace...”


Sierra Leone is admittedly more stable for the time being but Afghanistan and Iraq continue to devolve into chaotic spirals of killing and lawlessness. There isn’t a flicker of democracy or “lasting peace” in either of them yet. So what is this poppycock about “good reasons for feeling proud”?


Where is the sympathy for the invaded peoples?


The queen closed her message with a prayer: "Teach us, good Lord, to serve thee as thou deservest: To give and not to count the cost; to fight and not to heed the wounds; to toil and not to seek for rest; to labor and not to ask for any reward, save that of knowing that we do thy will."


They gave all right. They gave the Afghans and Iraqis all kinds of expensive munitions that rained down upon them from afar. Someone is counting the costs of these bombs; the highest cost, namely that of Iraqi lives is not counted and that is not what any good book implores its followers not to do.


To toil without asking for reward is a capitalist’s wildest dream as is to fight without regard for self in the name of imperialist plunder.


Finally, just what kind of Lord’s will is it to annihilate defenseless people?


Kim Petersen lives in Nova Scotia and is a regular contributor to Dissident Voice newsletter. He can be reached at: kimpetersen@gyxi.dk

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