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June 23, 2004

I Reserve The Right To Murder You

In October, 2002, British Foreign Minister Jack Straw said this about Iraq:

"We reserve the right to act within international law in respect of the use of force which may or may not be covered by a new resolution. It is entirely appropriate for America, as for us, to reserve their position if the United Nations does not meet its responsibilities. "

Later on, just before the invasion, the British Defense Minister Geoff Hoon said:

"We've always made it clear that we would reserve the right to use our nuclear weapons."

At the time these phrases reminded me of something, but I couldn't figure out what. Now I've finally remembered:

"We insist on reserving the right to bomb niggers."

That was the prominent British politician Lloyd George in 1932. The "niggers" George was referring to were Iraqis, whom England was then bombing with regular munitions as well as poison gas.

It's funny/terrifying the way some tropes are so deep in a culture that they will reappear decade after decade. And this trope is particularly enjoyable, with its bland assertion of the "right" to kill Iraqis.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Britain politicians are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Bombing of Niggers.

UPDATE: This reminds me of a charming quote from a story in the New Yorker. The man speaking is Sayyid Ali Abdul al-Hakim, a Shiite cleric in Najaf:

"What I have said to the British authorities is that we are not Africans. We have scientists and teachers and we can do things for ourselves. We are not people with no history."

Sayyid -- thank you, but we'll handle the appalling racism. We just need you to take care of your job, ie, being the target of appalling racism.

Posted at June 23, 2004 07:20 PM | TrackBack

1922 not 1932

Posted by: factcheck at June 25, 2004 01:02 PM