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Feature Story April 17, 2003
The Bums Will Always Lose
By John Dolan Browse author Email
Page 2 of 5
Example: the British invasion of Tibet in 1904. Never heard of that, did you? Well, here's what the Brits did to the Tibetans, the very inventors of Karma:

"In July 1903, Britain sent Commander Francis Younghusband and British troops into Tibet. The 13th Dalai Lama was staunch in resisting the invading British. Tibet mobilized troops. In March 1904, the British invaders confronted the Tibetan troops, demanding on-the-spot negotiations. Younghusband told the Tibetans: 'Since we came for peace talks, our troops will remove the bullets from their rifles as a token of our sincerity. But you should put out the fuses of your firearms.' The British troops each removed one bullet from their rifles but immediately loaded another. The Tibetans [who had only 17th-c. muskets] had no idea how modern rifles worked. Thinking the British rifles were empty, the Tibetan troops put out the fuses of their firearms. As soon as the 'negotiations' began, a British officer drew his pistol and killed the senior Tibetan representatives. The British massacred the Tibetan troops, killing more than 500 in just a few minutes. During the 'battle" some 1,000 Tibetans were killed, and only 380 won a narrow escape. The springs at Qoimishango ran red with Tibetan blood."

You can find that story, with minor variations, repeated over and over in the history of any country unlucky enough to have met the British. And yet, Karma never took its revenge on England. The worst the UK suffered was mild downsizing. It remains prosperous and proud -- because though it's committed thousands of bloodthirsty massacres, it's always done them efficiently, taking care not to offend the powerful. We just saw an example of the Brits' cleverness: when the rest of Europe was opting out of a share of the Iraq spoils on moral grounds, the Brits hopped aboard the war bandwagon -- and they'll be rewarded.

9/11 seemed to give a big boost to the Karmic theory. Every Susan-Sarandon bleeding heart wrote a letter to the editor arguing that the planes hit the towers to pay us back for our sins. Which, of course, is nonsense. If the suicide pilots had come from Guatemala or Palestine or Laos, or were the descendants of all the Indians we wiped out, you could argue that 9/11 was Karma. But 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis-rich kids from the most pampered, coddled, indulged client state in the whole US Empire. The US has never done anything evil to Saudi Arabia, making it almost unique in the Arab world. And those are the people who attacked us. We paid for a mistake: encouraging Islamists as a counterweight to Commies in the Middle East. No empire has ever been punished for its sins.

2. The Stupidity Theory

Ronald Reagan

"The Bush people are so stupid they'll fuck up sooner or later." So say the optimists. But if empires fall through stupidity, the US will soon collapse, right? After all, the people running America now are the weakest minds to occupy the White House since Millie the Cocker Spaniel went into retirement. Unfortunately, history demonstrates clearly that successful empires don't need, and actually don't want, smart people at the top.

Once again, the nineteenth-century British empire, the one which most closely resembles the emerging American hegemony, offers many striking examples. The British actually cultivated a special sort of dullness in the men who were raised to run the Empire. The schools they attended violently discouraged any interest in intellectual pursuits. The Empire wasn't interested in producing the sort of nervous, self-doubting intellectual found in most Continental countries. That sort could all too easily begin to doubt the justice of his job, or grow alienated from the state, becoming the sort of dangerous radical produced in great number by the French educational system. It was much more important to develop stolid, unimaginative, self-deprecating men who would show reasonable wit in handling their job without ever feeling the temptation to worry about its fundamental justice. In other words: to make a smarter and more solid empire, see to it that your future servants don't get too many fancy ideas. Loyalty is more important than cleverness.

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