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June 30, 2005

Mau-Mauing America

Max Boot examines the civilized Brits' response to the Mau Mau uprising and notes how different it was from our response to terrorism:

Look at how the United States' closest ally, Britain, handled an insurgency much smaller and much less threatening than the one we face today.

In Kenya during the early 1950s, a movement known as Mau Mau arose to challenge British colonial rule. Though Mau Mau became a byword for savagery, it was actually pretty restrained as far as guerrilla movements go. Its 20,000 adherents killed fewer than 100 Europeans and 2,000 African loyalists β€” fewer than the toll from 9/11 alone. Unlike the Iraqi rebels, the Mau Mau had no outside support and no sophisticated weapons. (They mainly killed with machetes.) Unlike Al Qaeda, they did not target the British homeland.

Yet the British used disturbingly harsh tactics against them, as revealed in two new books β€” "Histories of the Hanged" by David Anderson of Oxford University and "Imperial Reckoning" by Caroline Elkins of Harvard.

The British admitted killing 11,000 Mau Mau, but the real figure, these authors make clear, was much, much higher. Security forces held hundreds of thousands of suspects without trial in a system of penal camps known as the Pipeline. Unlike detainees at Gitmo, who receive three meals a day and all the medical care they need, prisoners in the Pipeline were half-starved, worked to the point of collapse, and sickened by the poor sanitation.

Torture was standard during interrogation, and was not what passes for "torture" in anti-American screeds today (e.g., stepping on a Koran). This was the real thing. According to Elkins, "the screening teams whipped, shot, burned, and mutilated Mau Mau suspects." Some men were forcibly castrated or sodomized. Others were beaten to death or summarily executed.

Little distinction was drawn between guerrillas and civilians. The Mau Mau were primarily Kikuyu, Kenya's largest ethnic group, and the British detained nearly all 1.5 million of them.

Men, women and children were forced off their homesteads at gunpoint. Those not sent to the Pipeline were herded into villages surrounded by barbed wire where they had to endure forced labor while denied adequate food or medical care. Many women were gang-raped by guards. Has anything like this happened in Iraq? Of course not. If it had, you'd hear about it on "60 Minutes."

Mau Mau was defeated by the mid-1950s, but colonial rule did not long survive. In 1963, Kenya achieved independence under Jomo Kenyatta, who had spent eight years in prison after being falsely convicted of being the Mau Mau mastermind.

Those who don't learn the lessons of history are doomed to make jackass and politically disastrous statements on the floor of the Senate.


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posted by Ace at 11:47 AM

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