Saturday, 20 August 2011

The British Council, "cultural Imperialism" and "Soft Power".

On the suicide attack on the British Council carried out by the Taliban yesterday, Kamile Shansie claims,

Given British history, how can the British Council escape the "cultural imperialism" tag? Somehow, it does. Perhaps it's because those involved are aware of the sensitivities and work hard to work around them. Or perhaps it's simply because the institution is such a good thing.

The Taliban is not going to be defeated militarily and yet the British Council has been centrally involved with that process of 'nation building' which is a central objective in Britain having troops to fight and defeat the insurgents who are aiming to thwart that.

BBC reporter Bilal Sarwary, in Kabul, writes that "The work of the British Council in Afghanistan is designed to contribute to development and stabilisation of Afghanistan, and helps to develop and inspire the next generation there" . The BC works with the foreign office and is funded by the British government.

That the British Council's presence in Afghanistan is not merely 'cultural' as was evident when the Director of the BC in Afghanistan Paul Smith made in clearwhen he said April 2011 this,

The skies were quieter above Afghanistan today, courtesy of the British Council.

That's because just about all the pilots of the Afghan Airforce, some 100+ professional military aviators, were gathered at the British Council training centre, at the HQ of the Afghan National Airforce, to receive their English language graduation certificates.

Even the President's helicopter was grounded as its rotary pilots proudly came forward to receive their recognition from Afghan Brigadier General Barakat, Colonel Ken Madura of the US airforce and Colonel Iain Smailes, Defence Attache at the British Embassy in Kabul.

I'm always keen to emphasise the cultural relations significance and liberating power of teaching military cadres English, particularly these soldiers and officers who, by learning the international language, are better able to join the conversation about the rights and values for which they are fighting.

This is aiding the efforts of the government in Kabul to co-ordinate a military struggle. The assumption of the 'rights and values' for which 'they' are fighting are presumed to be those of the Kabul government which are, by extension, those of the Western democracies propping it up.

Which makes it obviously a target as far as the Taliban is concerned in trying to advance its interests in Afghanistan and continuing to derail the attempt to secure the TAPI pipeline which is set to run through Helmland where they are being engaged by British troops.

As repellant and vicious as this appalling Taliban suicide attack is, it is not a "cowardly act" as David Cameron claimed but merely a psychopathological one. proof that the Taliban has members willing to die in order to drive out the military occupation by the West.

What the public is never told when attacks such as this happen is that the war is being fought for a gas pipeline which is the main geopolitical aim of the war, without which Afghanistan will be of little use to the West and which would freeze both it and the West out of the competition for energy in Central asia.

Afghanistan is important to Britain as the pipeline will encourage diversification of Turkmenistan's gas away from Russian control and the prospect of China, Iran and Russia, as well as Iran , Pakistan and India colluding without Afghanistan would mean the West would lose power in the region.

TAPI is essential to NATO's war aims and will be the main source of revenue other than its copious lithium deposits for the new Afghan elites being trained by the West as a 'successor generation'. This is why the Taliban, financed by Western heroin addicts paying high prices for drugs, resist in Helmland.

The real context to the war in Afghanistan needs to be told in the liberal media instead of repeating the notion the BC is doing entirely selfless work for the people of Afghanistan and to educate the masses as a part of some humanitarian project. Most Afghans would not be able to afford studying at the BC.


Paul Smith, of the BC in Afghanistan, also wrote on November 5 2010 about his role in 'nation building' through the BC's role in providing military English,

.....the international crises of our new millennium have clearly proved that culture, in the broadest sense, is central to geopolitics. Surely we must be convinced now that, if we don't do politics and we don't do religion, then we don't really do culture properly. We can be ideologically neutral and still facilitate the crucial talk and action about global issues amongst world faiths and power structures...

How aiding directly the military effort in Afghanistan can be said to be "ideologically neutral" , when it has been lauded as "liberal intervention" by its supporters and when Smith claims that 'culture, in its broadest sense, is central to geopolitics', is somewhat puzzling.

More to the point Smith then wrote,

Communicating and understanding well is a critical need for all who hold power, whether it be the power held by a Ministry official in Tokyo, the power held by a corporate CEO in Chicago, the power held by a blogger in Khartoum or the more metallic power held in the hands of an armed soldier in Kabul.


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