By Gabriele Zamparini
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 1978

The bloody history of ‘civilisation’

This article is over 16 years, 7 months old
Mahatma Gandhi, when asked what he thought of Western civilisation, famously replied, "I think it would be a good idea."
Issue 1978

Mahatma Gandhi, when asked what he thought of Western civilisation, famously replied, “I think it would be a good idea.”

Ann Clwyd, prime minister Tony Blair’s human rights envoy in Iraq, was interviewed by Jeremy Paxman for Newsnight on 15 November.

She said, “We have been trying to train the Iraqis in human rights. We’ve set up conferences for the Iraqis on human rights with all the NGOs. We’ve been trying our very best to get human rights into the Iraqi psyche. We want to help them I think.”

When I first heard Clwyd’s words, I thought I had missed something. So, I went online and watched the programme again. No, I had not missed anything. The words were still there, as clear as they could be.

“And what of human rights?” asked novelist Haifa Zangana, writing in the Guardian, last April. “A recently published Human Rights Watch report documents the torture and ill treatment of members of political and armed groups, the arbitrary arrest and torture of criminal suspects, and the torture of children held in adult facilities.

“There are reports, too, of women being taken as hostages by US soldiers to persuade fugitive male relatives to surrender. Amnesty International has condemned this, reminding governments that ‘it is against international law to take civilians and use them as bargaining chips’.

“Banned weapons have been used in Iraq too, as the US military has been forced to admit, including the MK-77 incendiary bomb, a modern form of napalm.

“Reports have emerged of melted bodies in the city [of Fallujah], a crime that has been met with silence not just by Tony Blair but also by Ann Clwyd, his human rights envoy to Iraq.”

Ann Clwyd’s comments on Newsnight show once again that those with a racist and colonial mentality, responsible for some of the most atrocious crimes against humanity, are still in power.


“I do not understand the squeamishness about the use of gas. I am strongly in favour of using poisonous gas against uncivilised tribes,” said Winston Churchill in 1919.

Similar murderous weapons are still being used on civilians today. And with them more expensive and sophisticated weapons, built with our money and coming from the minds of psychopaths.

More than 500 years ago, Christopher Columbus wrote about the “New” World, “[They] are so naïve and so free with their possessions that no one who has not witnessed them would believe it.

“When you ask for something they have, they never say no. To the contrary, they offer to share with anyone.”

The much celebrated “hero” continues, “They would make fine servants… With 50 men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.”

In 1996, the “liberal” Madeleine Albright — then US ambassador at the United Nations and soon to become Secretary of State under President Clinton — was asked about the 500,000 children murdered by UN sanctions against Iraq.

“I think this is a very hard choice, but the price — we think the price is worth it,” she said.

In 2003, President George Bush said, “We come to Iraq with respect for its citizens, for their great civilization and for the religious faiths they practise. We have no ambition in Iraq, except to remove a threat and restore control of that country to its own people.”

Those leaders now perpetrating war crimes and crimes against humanity are celebrated and honoured.

We see them every day on TV, talking, lecturing, smiling, laughing, and even making jokes on football, right Mr Blair?

Gabriele Zamparini is an independent film-maker and freelance writer living in London. He is the producer and director of the documentaries XXI Century and The Peace! DVD, and author of American Voices of Dissent. A longer version of this article, including references for the quotes, is available on Gabriele’s website

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