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[casi] Recolonisation: Timor, Kosovo, Iraq, ...?

Dear all,





13 July 2003

Recolonisation: Timor, Kosovo, Iraq, ...?

The UN protectorate in Timor was the first full recolonisation of former
colonial territory by western powers. 20 years ago that would have been
unthinkable. Ironically, the UN in 1990 declared the 'International Decade
for the Eradication of Colonialism' - yet the decade ended with 'white rule'
restored in Timor. Since 2002 it is nominally independent, although still
100% dependent on international aid. Kosovo is still a protectorate,
although now with an elected parliament, and a new protectorate has been
created in western Macedonia. There were serious proposals for a
post-Taliban UN protectorate in Afghanistan, but the intervening powers
control only Kabul. All these recolonisations were UN-sponsored: in Iraq the
UN ultimately accepted an Anglo-American 'Authority'. The de facto ruler of
Iraq is General John Abizaid (successor to General Tommy Franks), and the
so-called civilian administration under Paul Bremer is a department of the
Pentagon. As in Afghanistan, recolonisation might be accompanied by
fragmentation. Last changes 13 July 2003.


the global context
Why is there now a trend to recolonisation, after a historically unique
decolonisation in the 1950's and 1960's? Developments in the last 15 years
have reversed western attitudes to colonisation, well before the September
11 attacks in 2001. These developments include:

a strong feeling of cultural superiority in the west, and the belief that
liberal values are universal

the renewed western image of non-western countries as 'barbarian', a sea of

the emergence (from the peace movement and Third-World movements) of
intervention lobbies, usually NGO's with good access to the media

the fusion of these lobbies with the traditional foreign-policy elites in
western countries, symbolised by the appointment of Médecins sans Frontières
founder Bernard Kouchner as UN governor of Kosovo

the creation of a western-funded and usually English-speaking NGO elite in
the target states, the so-called 'democratic forces'

the acceptance of interventionist doctrines by the UN, and the abandonment
of the doctrine of sovereignty

the creation of interventionist international military strategy and tactics,
to replace the traditional ceasefire-line presence of UN troops.
In contrast to earlier colonial practice, recolonisation is nominally
international or multi-state - traditional colonies had one colonial power
only. In practice a tendency already apparent in the League of Nations
mandates is repeated: the nearest western power plays a dominant role (in
Timor, that was Australia).

definition of colonialism
There is a strong visual image of colonialism (often from historical films),
but it is surprisingly difficult to define it. In Europe secessionist
movements often claim that their country was "colonised". But is Scotland
really a 'colony' of England? Was Slovakia really 'colonised' by the
Czech-dominated government of Czechoslovakia?
I think a colonial relationship is defined by two things: first, there is an
inequality of power and administration, and secondly this inequality is
along ethnic lines. Colonial territories are sharply distinct from the
nation state, because they reject the classic nationalist principle that
ethnic group, citizenship, state power, and state boundaries, should all

It is this fundamental colonial relationship which was so clearly visible in
Timor during the Australian occupation. White Australian troops patrolled
the streets of Dili, but the inhabitants of Timor were not allowed to send
troops to patrol the streets of Canberra, and search white Australians for
weapons. Timorese can not vote in Australian elections, or sit in the
Australian parliament, or even permanently reside in Australia - but
Australian electors took decisions affecting Timor. There is an asymmetric
exercise of power in such protectorates, and the asymmetry is ethnic.

On this definition of colonialism, the French overseas departments (DOM) are
no longer colonies. Their inhabitants now have French passports and full
citizenship: they vote in French national elections, receive the same social
security payments as in France, and are free to travel to France at any
time. When the territories were true colonies, only Europeans and a tiny
'native elite' had such rights. No DOM status, or anything like it, is
planned for Iraq. (Think of how Tony Blair would react, to the idea of
paying British benefits to the Iraqi unemployed).

The most comprehensive definition of colonialism I could find is from the
Office of Tibet site: ironically this Tibetan government-in-exile implicitly
promotes western intervention in Tibet. This is the summary from the
Introduction, there is more detail in Chapter II: Doctrines on Colonialism

Criteria of colonialism
Establishment of Colonial Rule
Colonial rule is established in one or more of the following three ways:
military conquest and subsequent annexation; the conclusion of a treaty or
contract; the creation of merchant enclaves followed by settlement.

Colonialism always involves the migration of people from a metropolitan
state to a satellite region, but the magnitude of settlement differs from
case to case.

Characteristics of Colonial Administration
The original population of the colonised territory is not, or poorly,
represented in the colonial government. The interests of the original
inhabitants are largely determined by the metropolitan, colonial power.

Colonial rule superimposes national borders. In most cases these borders do
not correspond to the local community structure(s) or to the political
history of the colonised territory. Often the territory in question had not
been organized as a nation state before the advent of the colonial power.

Economic development is planned and imposed by the colonial power and often
benefits the metropolitan state at the expense of the satellite region.
Resources located in the colony are transferred to or used for the benefit
of the metropolitan state and for further processing and marketing by that

Civilising mission: the colonial power undertakes to 'civilise' the original
inhabitants of a colony. The underlying presumption is that the colonial
power possesses a culture/civilisation which is superior in relation to the
culture/civilisation of the colonised population(s). In addition, the
colonial power often claims that the original population of the colonised
territory is unable to rule itself for reasons of political immaturity or
economic backwardness.

Cultural exchange between settlers/representatives from the metropolitan
state and the original inhabitants of the colony is asymmetrical. The latter
adopt more aspects of the culture of the former than vice versa.

Maintenance of Colonial Authority
The reactions of colonial powers to colonial resistance of colonised peoples
are based on strategies to eliminate dissent.

The maintenance of colonial authority involves a permanent military
presence, consisting of soldiers from the metropolitan state or local
soldiers under the command of officers from the metropolitan state.

The maintenance of authority is often strengthened by a policy of population

Colonised people(s) experience colonial rule as alien. Similarly, citizens
from the metropolitan state continue to make a distinction between
themselves and the original inhabitants of the colony.

Outcome of the Colonisation Process
Colonisation may result in one or more of the following situations: 1)
decolonisation, 2) complete take-over of the colony by the metropolitan
settlement community, 3) the continuation of colonial rule over a territory
which retains most of its pre-colonial identity or 4) integration into the
metropolitan state.

None of the aforementioned criteria is essential in establishing that a
certain situation can be described in terms of colonialism . A combination
of a number of these criteria is sufficient for determining that a situation
is at least de-facto colonial.

The Tibet site has an obvious bias: it is trying to avoid the 'salt-water
doctrine', which says colonies are separated from the coloniser, usually by
sea. (Since Tibet borders on China, it can not be a Chinese colony under the
'salt-water' definition). This is also an issue in defining recolonisation:
is Kosovo a 'colony' of Germany and Britain because they station troops
there? I think it would be better to use another term, although the pattern
of administration by the UN and OSCE is clearly colonial. I use the term
recolonisation to apply to territories in Africa, Asia, and Latin America,
but not to interventions by European powers in Central and Eastern Europe.
In historical perspective, European wars among European states are not
unusual, but the high tide of European colonialism lasted at most 200 years.

the recolonisation of Iraq
In any case, the description of colonialism accurately describes the
American-led protectorate in Iraq, even if it later gets some nominal UN
authorisation. The 'protectorate formerly ruled by Saddam' was established
by a military conquest, not 100% complete. The immediate public
administration is the 'Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian
Assistance' (OHRA) - despite the name this is a military organisation. As in
Kosovo, an elite of 'internationals', and some US-trained exiles, will
migrate there to expand the OHRA administration. They will be followed by
aid workers, usually indirectly funded by western governments. Assuming Iraq
does not fragment, there might be several tens of thousands of
'internationals' by 2004.
The original population of Iraq will have no political representation in
this administration, although it will include Iraqi personnel. All political
power rests with General Abizaid - the 'military governor', even if he does
not use that term. The initial administration was formed by the occupying
powers, with some local appointees: this structure was retroactively
authorised by the UN. The second phase - the interim Governing Council which
first met in July 2003 - is also 100% appointed by the occupying powers.
(Depending on political developments, it might be restyled as a UN-mandated
interim government, comparable to that in Kosovo). The United States asked
allies to contribute troops to the 'Stabilisation Force Iraq' - the name
resembles that of UN-mandate forces such as SFOR and KFOR. Some SFIR
contingents control a specific territory in Iraq, but all are under the
command of General Abizaid. Whatever the nominal source of authority, all
decisions will indeed be made in the interests of the western powers. That
applies above all to 'economic development', which will consist entirely of
restarting oil flows to the West. The single exportable resource of Iraq -
oil - will indeed be transferred to the western states, and will indeed be
refined and marketed there.

The interim authority will indeed undertake to civilise the country, or
'democratise' it, as they now say. The underlying presumption is indeed that
the western powers possess a superior system. In fact President Bush and
Prime Minister Blair, and their right-wing advisors and supporters, all
proclaim that their values are superior. The most influential
neoconservative commentator, Ann Coulter, wrote after September 11: "We
should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to
Christianity." No false modesty in the new civilising mission.

So the cultural exchange between the representatives of the western powers
and the Iraqi inhabitants will indeed be asymmetrical, even without forced
conversions. In fact it will be deliberately structured as a one-way street,
with tens or perhaps hundreds of NGO's arriving, to introduce 'democratic
values' and construct an Iraqi 'civil society'. Almost entirely in English,
because only the intelligence services will take the trouble to learn the
local languages.

As in Bosnia and Kosovo and Timor, the authority of the protectorate will
rest entirely on an occupation force controlled by the western powers. It
might encourage some population transfers, to undermine local power bases of
the old regime, Tikrit especially. It will certainly try to prevent others,
such as Kurdish movement out of Kurdish areas, or across the Turkish border.
Most people in Iraq already experience this administration as alien, and the
citizens of the US and Britain will continue to see the Iraqi population as
different, and generally inferior, to themselves.

It is the differential exercise of power which makes the recolonisation
immoral. As in Timor, there is no question of the Iraqi population being
allowed any participation in the political life of their new rulers.
Although their city might be occupied by British troops, and governed by a
British administrator, they will get no vote in British elections. If their
city is controlled by Dutch troops, they will not be allowed any
participation in Dutch elections. They will have no right to demonstrate in
London or Amsterdam, even if they could afford to travel there, In almost
all cases, they will be excluded from entry to western countries anyway, but
western electorates have power over them. If the American electorate, for
instance, want the Iraqi population implanted with tracking chips to prevent
suicide bombings, then they can probably enforce this. In any case, all
fundamental decisions about the Iraqi population will be taken by a
different and remote population - which regards them with contempt. This is
clearly unjust.

It certainly can not be justified on the grounds of 'democracy', Tony Blair
was elected in Britain, and George Bush was elected (fairly or not) in the
United States. Neither of them has any democratic mandate to govern Iraq,
and they will follow no political process of any kind, to acquire this
power. They can rule Iraq purely by the exercise of military force. With
respect to the Iraqi population, they are just as much a dictator as Saddam

At its simplest, the future protectorate in Iraq is simply 'white rule'. The
whites have the military power, they rule the natives, the natives have
nothing to say - it's as simple as that. Unfortunately, this ethnic
inequality is likely to be repeated in the coming years, as more countries
are subjected to recolonisation. The ideology of recolonisation is complex.
Its supporters believe in the absolute truth of their own values, with no
scepticism or relativism. They believe in the geographical universality of
these values, and feel they are part of a morally superior movement. They
have a crusader mentality: they feel justified in imposing these values on
the whole world, by force if necessary. They often see this as an inevitable
historical development (historicism), and they have a contempt for other
values, cultural and moral. At heart, however, the recolonisation movement
is a repeat of the racism, jingoism, and imperialism of the late 19th and
early 20th centuries.

the ideology
Recolonisation is about a future war of global conquest - conquest of
generally poor territories by the richest and most powerful nations. It is
sometimes possible to present these countries as a threat - as with Saddam's
Iraq - but that is not credible for Sierra Leone or the Congo. So
recolonisation needs a positive image, and interventionist theorists try to
provide one. The examples below are from Mary Kaldor's book New and Old
Wars. She starts with the belief that the values of the west European
liberal tradition are absolute, universal and good:
...the project for cosmopolitan governance....derives from a humanist
universalist outlook, and ...crosses the global/local divide [p. 147]
There are other cosmopolitan (or at least global) traditions, such as
universalist Islamism. However Kaldor has appropriated the word
"cosmopolitan" for the liberal political tradition. That tradition was never
universally accepted in Europe - let alone the rest of the world.
Interventionist ideology often claims that wars to impose this political
tradition are justified, partly because they "bring peace". Justifying war
by peace is an old propaganda strategy: however, but using global peace to
justify a global war of recolonisation is relatively new. Kaldor (a peace
theory researcher) presents recolonisation as an alternative to a world of

The optimistic view of the current developments is the obsolescence of
modern war. War, as we have known it for the last two centuries, may, like
slavery, become an anachronism....'Perpetual Peace', as envisaged by
Immanuel Kant, the globalization of civility, the development of
cosmopolitan forms of governance are real possibilities [p. 152]
This last quote also indicates a cultural racism. Western liberal society is
described in terms such as civility, tolerance, or cosmopolitanism.
Non-western populations are presented either as victims, or as war
criminals. However, the 'western virtues' are not moral universals: in fact
they are not morally right. Forced redistribution of wealth by an
egalitarian dictatorship (for instance), is undemocratic, uncivil,
intolerant, and an abuse of internationally recognised property rights.
However, that does not make it wrong. So, even within west European society,
there are great differences of values: in the end terms like "civility" mean
no more than "we are good, you are bad". They only make sense to people with
a particular set of values, and these values are also culturally specific.
Interventionist values are in general those of the west European and north
American, university-educated, middle class.

The most explicit advocacy of recolonisation in Kaldor's book is in the
section on reconstruction. The book appeared before the Kosovo war and, so
it does not cover the sometimes bizarre efforts of the UN and OSCE to
construct a new Kosovo - down to the details of which music must be played
on local radio. However Kaldor explicitly advocates remodelling the entire
political structure, after military intervention:

By reconstruction, I mean the rebuilding of a formal political economy,
based on accepted rules...Reconstruction has to mean, first and foremost,
the rebuilding of political authorities...and the reconstruction of civil
society in the sense both of law and order and of providing the conditions
in which alternative political groupings can mobilize.[p. 132-133]
Such groups are 'alternative' in the sense of being an imposed alternative:
it does not mean that they are oppositional. In Kosovo the UN and associated
agencies created a fake multi-party democracy, with the political parties
all approved and funded by the protectorate authorities. In reality, there
is only one party in Kosovo, the "UN-money party".

Taking the recolonisation ideology in general (not just Kaldor), it includes
these core elements:

a belief in the absolute truth of their own values (no scepticism or

a belief in the universality of these values (no geographic limits, not
limited to one ethnic group)

a crusader attitude: the belief that there is a moral duty to bring these
values to the whole world, by force if necessary

a feeling of being part of a morally superior movement (global civil

a contempt for other values (cultural and moral).
A western media stereotype of interventions was also evident before the
September 11 attacks - a new version of colonial racist attitudes, with the
western countries in the role of coloniser. The media stereotype includes
the following elements:

the world outside the western democracies is presented as a sea of
barbarity, chaos, and atrocities: the area presented in this way includes
most of Africa and Asia

the 'native' population is depicted as either violent and oppressive
(warlords, militiamen, torturers), or as victims (refugees, children,
corpses at mass graves)

the victims are depicted as passive, powerless, and incapable of independent
action: a typical image is of 'native' women weeping at a grave

in contrast, 'white' soldiers and aid-workers are presented as forceful and
active, capable of responding to the situation

the 'white' soldiers and aid-workers are depicted as helpers (for instance
bringing food) : the 'native' population is not shown in this role

the 'native' population is depicted as grateful, usually in a childlike way
(clapping, singing, dancing): a typical image is the native population
cheering as 'white' troops enter a town

in contrast, the western post-intervention reactions are in the form of
measured statements (from leaders and spokesmen).

I put the words "white" and "native" in quotation marks: many of these TV
stereotypes emerged during Balkan intervention, where all the war parties
were white Europeans. All these stereotypes were visible in western media
reports from Iraq, although they were overshadowed by the battle reports -
the intensity of fighting was much greater in Iraq.

the recolonisation lobby
A large number of organisations have contributed to the current trend to
recolonisation. It is possible to speak of a recolonisation lobby, although
there is no central organisation. The most important are the interventionist
support groups, promoting western intervention in a specific territory -
East Timor, Tibet, Kurdistan. Ironically, many of them began as
'anti-imperialist' groups - some more than a generation ago. The right-wing
neoconservatives in the United States are therefore not the only advocates
of wars of conquest. They played no role in, for instance, the British
recolonisation of Sierra Leone.
Closely related to these political campaign groups, are the thousands of
NGO's concerned with the South, the possible targets of recolonisation. It
is difficult to draw a clear line between the political action groups and
the NGO's - membership and activities often overlap. Collectively they see
themselves as a form of global movement, with some shared values: for this
perception, terms like 'global civil society' are used. However, the reality
is that most NGO's are from OECD member states. In fact, many of these
'non-governmental' organisations are indirectly funded by western

Intellectuals, especially academics, are also important in the
recolonisation trend. Some are only concerned with a specific territory,
some campaign occasionally for specific interventions. However the most
influential are those intellectuals, who have directly attacked the concept
of sovereignty. Some of these theorists, such as Richard Falk, have being
doing that for decades: they now see their ideas adopted by the academic

Aid organisations, including the International Red Cross, have formed a
consistent lobby against sovereignty and independence. Almost without
exception, they are western in origin, and committed to western liberal
values. That background applies also to human rights organisations. They
differ from the aid organisations, in their commitment to a specific
political philosophy: rights-based liberalism. There are some similar
organisations promoting more specialised political philosophies, such as
press freedom. The organisations of the billionaire George Soros deserve a a
category of their own: not just because they are very large, well-organised,
and well-funded, but because they promote the political philosophy of one
man, the liberal theorist Karl Popper.

The elite foreign-policy organisations in western countries had shifted to
an interventionist consensus, even before 11 September 2001. Some of these
are private foundations, others are quasi-academic (although access to them
is tightly controlled). These are organisations such as the US Council on
Foreign Relations, the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham
House), or the Instituut Clingendael in the Netherlands. The trend to
recolonisation is also dependent on the western media: especially the large
commercial and national broadcasters, and the commercial press. Although
there are some genuine independent media in western countries, they lack the
resources to provide an alternative to the mainstream media. Inside
organisations like CNN or the BBC, the politics are clear: everyone shares a
consensus, that liberal market democracies are superior to all other forms
of society. Elements of liberal philosophy, such as human rights, are
treated as self-evident and absolute truths. Together with the paternalistic
and openly colonial attitudes, often visible in their coverage, this is a
background for pro-intervention campaigns.



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