The United States has celebrated the glorious Fourth of July: the nation's independence day, and all the myths going along with it. As with most wars, the elite prospered, the poor shed blood and most shamefully in this case the slaves remained slaves. Dissenters in this war, dubbed 'Royalists,' were killed or fled to Canada, a country later peacefully independent from Britain and none the worse for it.
Back to the revolutionary war: let us not forget the French, their navy, their army without which, well... Having suffered a reverse against the British in India, the French were thirsty for revenge, and America gave them the ideal opportunity.
Oh yes, India. It, too, celebrates independence from Britain a little more than a month hence. However, in the process it managed to shoot itself in the foot and elsewhere, severing itself into three countries and a very painful digit called Kashmir that still has not healed. How did England manage to conquer such a large sub-continent? Well, in actual fact, it didn't.
We have heard of the Rajahs, Maharajahs, Nawabs and so forth. Large sections remained independently run by these rulers under certain restrictions. This included Hyderabad and its Nizam (ruler) who allied himself with the British in the 18th century Deccan peninsula wars against Mysore, which fought the British and its Indian allies until its ruler died fighting.
The British used skillful political manipulation and Indian soldiers in a land divided by language, custom, religion and even race. America, on the contrary, favors force – often brutal force – usually effectively, as in the Philippines. It did not work in Vietnam, but Central and Latin America have been another story. Cuba bucked the trend, Venezuela and Ecuador have tried, and their story continues to unfold.
Just the 21st century list curdles the blood. Afghanistan – its people and its government – had nothing to do with 9/11, so why attack them, when a maverick from Saudi Arabia and Arabs mostly from Saudi Arabia were the perpetrators? Yes, the leader Osama bin Laden, fostered by the CIA, was based in Afghanistan, but then why not attack his base, instead of making new enemies and getting trapped in the United States' longest war?
Why Iraq? Why Libya? And many others, including a coup to remove an elected government in Ukraine? The extremist fundamentals are no longer kept in check by Libya's secular Gadaffi and are mushrooming in Africa, while China might get the oil, and it looks like Iran has become the big winner in Iraq. The answer? Why, of course, another war. This time with the Saudis against Iran, despite the Syria misadventure. Can reason and foresight prevail as bodies pile up and refugees scatter?
So here we are 242 years later... in a land governed by corporate greed and economic malfeasance centered on unsustainable growth; facing rising global temperatures: an Earth already in the sixth mass extinction, with rapidly declining wildlife.
Have you seen many butterflies this year? I notice the milkweed bush outside in the yard is still awaiting its first monarch. But I cannot end a Fourth-of-July piece on a sour note. The robin pair visiting us annually, nesting under the eaves in the crook of a storm drainpipe, has been particularly successful this year, hatching its third brood a few days ago.
Dr Arshad M Khan is a former professor whose comments have appeared in a wide array of print and online media.