Friday, August 9, 2013

Britain and Hinduism 6: Empire of Crime

 In 1916, the third year of Europe's Great War, Grigory Efimovich Rasputin the “mad monk” from Siberia, who had gained access to the Tsar’s family as a faith-healer, was brutally murdered in St. Petersburg, the capital of Tsarist Russia.

A clique at court was blamed for the crime but although its members fed him large amounts of potassium cyanide, bashed in his head with a heavy candlestick, stabbed and shot him, none of them actually did the killing. That was done by a young British Cavalry officer sent from London; he shot Rasputin in the head as the bleeding coatless cleric fled into the freezing night. The British government had anticipated that the Russian amateurs would need help. London wanted Rasputin dead because his pacific influence on Tsar Nicholas II was raising the possibility of a unilateral Russian withdrawal from World War I, and that would have been disastrous for Britain.

Hit-men rarely leave a paper trail but in this case there was the tiniest glimpse of one, a letter dated 21 December 1916 signed by Admiral William Reginald Hall, Director of Naval Intelligence, thanking the officer “for work done during his leave.” The note is in the papers of General Hastings Lionel Ismay (1887-1965), and it was mentioned in an admiring Reader’s Digest article when he became the first Secretary-General of NATO.

I read the article as a boy in Calcutta but could find no trace of it some two decades later in the 42nd Street archives of the NY Public Library. I also discovered that to have Ismay’s autobiography fetched from the stacks in that library required special clearance, which I did not get. A year or so later, a new edition of the book was published, which I assumed had been sanitized for general consumption. None of this was surprising, for those were the days of the Cold War, with cloak and dagger at every unexpected turn; and Ismay, as I discovered, was deserving of the deepest cover.

I was originally interested in Ismay because he was Chief of Staff to Viceroy Luis Mountbatten during the last few weeks of the British Empire in India. Why had Churchill made his appointment to that job the only condition in agreeing to the Labour Government’s plan to quit India?

As I dug into his life the reasons became clear. Ismay had been much more than Mountbatten's aide. His career was tied into the increasing communal violence during the final decades of British rule in India, and he was the hands-on evil genius who pushed India into the great bloodletting of Partition. He was a prime mover in setting up the “Kashmir problem” so that the India-Pakistan rift would not heal. Perhaps more than any other single man, he had been responsible for setting the course that led the West into the Cold War. It is an almost unbelievable story and has never been told before.

“Pug” Ismay was born in the military cantonment of Nainital, his father a member of the Viceroy's Legislative Council and his mother the daughter of an Indian Army colonel. After schooling in Britain (Charterhouse and Sandhurst military college), he returned to India in 1904 as a Second Lieutenant. He was probably recruited by spymaster John Arnold-Wallinger when, in the wake of Madanlal Dhingra’s 1909 murder of Curzon Wyllie in London, the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) was vastly expanded and split into domestic and foreign sections, both primarily focused on protecting imperial interests in India.

During World War I he was posted to the Somaliland Camel Corps but that was probably to cover his more gory duties for he was given a year medical leave in 1920 for depression associated with the carnage in Europe. Four months into that enforced vacation he was recalled to India as the British countered Mahatma Gandhi’s first nation-wide non-cooperation movement and the communal amity of the Khilafat period. The “Maplah Rebellion” was only part of it; in the next few years unprecedented episodes of communal violence roiled northern India and two British proxies entered Indian politics – Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Vinayak Damodar Savarkar – who would help divide the country and create the current situation in South Asia.

After that stint in India Ismay graduated to intelligence work in London where he got to know Winston Churchill; the two formed a lasting alliance. He returned to India in 1931 as Military Attache to the Viceroy (Willingdon) just as the British were making a deeply mischievous effort to divide Hindus on the basis of caste.

Mahatma Gandhi’s “fast unto death” prevented that, and perhaps the caste-war that Ismay’s presence suggests might have been in the works. Significantly, the first attempt on Gandhi’s life occurred in 1934 in Pune, where the gang that finally succeeded in killing him was then being assembled.

World War and After

When Ismay returned to London it was to join the influential Committee on Imperial Defense where, three years before Hitler’s tanks rolled into Poland, he began actively planning for World War II. When it broke out, the Committee was subsumed into the War Cabinet and he became Churchill’s Chief of Staff, the pivotal link between the political and the military establishments in Britain and perhaps more importantly, with the military authorities of the United States.

As WW II drew to an end, the British Empire seemed doomed. The American largesse that had allowed Britain to escape defeat made President Roosevelt’s anti-imperial views a strong imperative. As Japanese forces moved rapidly towards India in 1942, he infuriated Churchill by urging concessions to the Indian nationalists, warning against Gandhi’s custodial death and sending a personal representative to meet with Congress leaders.

Once the tide turned in favour of the Allies, Roosevelt became much less tolerant of Churchill’s imperial pretensions and continually rubbed his nose in Britain’s lack of power. Things came to a head at the 1943 Tehran Conference of the “Big Three,” at which Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin made Churchill a butt of jokes, causing him at one point to storm out of a meeting. (In his rage, Churchill went out of the wrong door and found himself in an ante-room without an exit; he sat there fuming until Stalin cajoled him back.)

However, the last laugh was on Roosevelt, for Ismay was at the conference, and at dinner that night the American President was suddenly stricken. He half rose from his chair, face pale, great beads of sweat beading down his forehead, and collapsed. There was immediate talk of poison as he was rushed to his room, but soon that was replaced by a report that the President had suffered a bout of “stomach flu.”

Transatlantic relations reached a new ebb after that. Roosevelt upon his return to Washington sent Churchill a brutally frank White House discussion note saying that although “British imperialism” had “acquired a new life” from “the infusion into its emaciated form of the blood of … a free nation through lend lease,” the American people were fighting “not to save the imperialisms of other nations, nor to create an imperialism of our own,” but to make the world safe for democracy. “Woodrow Wilson’s policy for America in the First World War was designed … to sustain Britain as a first class world power,” and that had “for many years been the cornerstone of America’s foreign policy.” But that would run counter to the “effort to establish true freedom among the less favored nations, so many of which are under the present shadow of imperialism.” To warrant continued American support, Britain “must accept the principles of liberty and democracy and discard the principles of oppressive imperialism.”

Roosevelt’s vision for the post-war world never had a chance. His health did not recover from the Tehran “stomach flu.” He suffered two similar attacks in subsequent months, one while staying with Wall Street financier Bernard Baruch, a friend of Churchill who had chaired the War Industries Board during World War I. Weeks before his death Roosevelt was diagnosed with congestive heart disease, and after his death, it was alleged that he also had cancer. He died supposedly of a cerebral hemorrhage on 13 April 1945 – as he was having a bowl of broth. None of the various diagnoses of what ailed Roosevelt is verifiable, for his medical file disappeared without trace from a locked safe at Washington’s Bethesda Naval Hospital.

The frisson of suspicion at the fact that Churchill was lunching with Bernard Baruch in London when news of Roosevelt's death arrived becomes a Ghost of Banquo indictment when we consider what happened after Harry Truman moved into the White House.

In February 1946 Churchill (by then reduced to Leader of the Opposition), took a break from a Florida vacation to go to Washington to meet with Admiral William Leahy, who had retained under Truman his wartime role as coordinator of the three military services (making him, sans title, the first Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff). Both Washington and London were then deep in planning the post-war dispensation of their forces, and it is a 2+2=4 guess that Ismay, coordinating that process in Britain, had set up the meeting. Leahy noted in a file that the meeting was to discuss a speech Churchill would make on “the necessity for full military collaboration between Great Britain and the US in order to preserve peace in the world.” Churchill returned to Washington in early March to consult further with Leahy and have him clear the final text.

Churchill’s peroration, delivered at Truman's alma mater, Westminister College in Fulton, Missouri, became instantly famous as the “Iron Curtain speech” that signaled the beginning of the Cold War. “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent” Churchill said. “Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia, all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere.”

He saw the threat “in a great number of countries, far from the Russian frontiers and throughout the world,” where “Communist fifth columns are established and work in complete unity and absolute obedience to the directions they receive from the Communist center.” Everywhere except the British Commonwealth and the United States “where Communism is in its infancy, the Communist parties or fifth columns constitute a growing challenge and peril to Christian civilization.” He pointed to the necessary response: if Britain and the United States stood together “with all that such cooperation implies in the air, on the sea, all over the globe and in science and in industry, and in moral force … there will be an overwhelming assurance of security.”

Churchill pitched his proposal for the “fraternal association of the English-speaking peoples” directly at what President Eisenhower would describe 14 years later as the “military-industrial complex,” the entirely unprecedented “conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry” created by the War. As it turned out, only the military-industrial complex welcomed the speech.

There was a storm of protest from critics ranging from The Wall Street Journal on the right to The Nation on the Left; Walter Lippman called it an “almost catastrophic blunder,” Stalin saw it as a “call to war.” Truman himself claimed that he had not known what Churchill would say. According to his biographer David McCullough, the President got a copy of the speech on the train as he accompanied Churchill to Fulton on 4 March, but evidently did not read it. McCullough did not note how odd it was that Truman received so late, a speech on a critically important issue prepared by his primary military aide in consultation with a foreign leader.

In the period after the speech, McCullough described Truman as seeming “bewildered and equivocating, incapable of a clear or positive policy toward the Russians.” In effect, he had just been subjected to a political coup by a new power nexus in Washington that most Americans were unaware of until the surreal travesties of the House Un-American Activities Committee under Joseph Mccarthy advertised their loss of freedom. An impartial consideration of verifiable historical facts makes it impossible to avoid the conclusion that a military-industrial clique in the United States had struck a deal with Britain to manage the world.

Eisenhower’s very specific warnings in his farewell address to the American people (19 January 1960), did not get much attention. Nor did anyone take seriously the loony egoism of Bernard Baruch who began to appear in the park outside the White House, boasting to tourists of his influence across the street. It was only after John Kennedy’s assassination that the penny dropped.

Indian Fallout

For India, the new “special relationship” between the United States and Britain was an enormous disaster. It meant Britain could do whatever it wanted without check from Washington; and the agenda was set by the newly minted “Lord” Ismay. Shortly after arriving in New Delhi, at a time when Indian leaders were entirely unaware of any such contingency planning, he produced a Partition plan. It was labeled “Plan Balkan” and involved independence for each of British India’s 13 provinces and the 560 allied Princely states.

As Britain would not have benefited from such a dispensation, this was clearly just to scare the Congress. The officially scripted history of the time says Mountbatten showed this plan to Jawaharlal Nehru and upon his strong objections, asked V.P. Menon to prepare an alternative. Menon, so the story goes, got himself a stiff scotch and wrote at one sitting the plan the British eventually implemented. It required the division of Bengal and the Punjab, and gave the Princely states no option but to join either India or Pakistan.

The map showing how Bengal and the Punjab would be sliced up was drawn by the lawyer who had headed Britain’s wartime propaganda effort. Meant to cause maximum dislocation and panic, it was released on 16 August, the day after the British relinquished official responsibility for law and order. None of the Indian leaders anticipated the carnage that followed, and there is ample reason to believe the British actively set off the brutal chaotic civil war that killed over a million people in a few short weeks and drove 14 million from their ancestral homes.

Amidst that holocaust Ismay went on “holiday” to Kashmir and undoubtedly contributed to Maharajah Hari Singh’s prolonged dithering on signing the accession agreement. That provided the time necessary for Pakistan’s “tribal invaders” to get under way.

To allow Indian forces time to mount a counteroffensive, the “tribesmen” – headed by 500 Pakistani soldiers according to a cable sent to Washington by an American diplomat on the scene – then suspended their advance to loot and rape.

Meanwhile, Mountbatten, the supposedly figurehead Governor-General, got Nehru to appoint him chair of the cabinet committee dealing with the crisis, and with Ismay still at his elbow, kept in regular contact with the British officers who were actually running the war on both sides. Mountbatten got the advancing Indian forces to stop when they had the Pakistanis at full run, and then “persuaded” Nehru to refer the matter to the United Nations.

Historians have written about all this in a weirdly dislocated and incoherent way, ignoring causal relationships and leaving strange coincidences unexplained. No one has explored the clear evidence that the British implemented in cold blood a Machiavellian policy that caused mass murder, rapine and destruction. The extraordinary influence Mountbatten had on Nehru has been seriously put down to friendship, not the blackmail to which the new Prime Minister was obviously susceptible because of his close relationship with Edwina Mountbatten.

Once the Kashmir issue was before the UN, the indefatigable Ismay went there in January 1948 as “Principal Advisor” to the British Ambassador Philip Noel-Baker. The initial proposal the Ambassador put confidentially to Washington was that the United States front a complex “solution” of the issue that would have divided Kashmir into three military “zones of occupation” under UN administration.

At a meeting with State Department officials on 10 January 1948, he explained that although the British “wished to exercise the leadership of this question, their initiative might prove a handicap since it might look like the reimposition of the British Raj after only six months of the transfer of power.” If the proposal came from the United States it would be far more acceptable, for American “prestige in India and Pakistan” was “extremely high.”

Washington declined to do that and moved instead to have the Security Council call for the withdrawal of all Pakistani forces from Kashmir so that India could establish law and order in the territory and conduct a plebiscite. However, as the strongly anti-Pakistan Sheikh Abdullah’s National Conference would have won the vote in a landslide, the invaders stayed in place, preventing the resolution from being implemented.

The story of what happened in India at the end of British rule has always been told as if there had been a massive loss of imperial control. In fact, it was the exact opposite; the team of Ismay and Churchill – the senior partner was undoubtedly the discreet professional killer – managed to turn what could have been a disastrous rout into a coldly calculated transition that not only preserved British power but laid the basis for its expansion in subsequent decades.

Churchill returned to power in the 1953 elections and soon Ismay was back too, first to head the Festival of Britain and then to take over the new secretariat of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

It was then, as the world focused on the bitter early conflicts of the Cold War, that Britain began laying the foundation of its current global money laundering system and the international criminal underground it supports. That system is responsible for global terrorism, drug trafficking, gun running, and false flag operations of every kind; it constitutes overall an enormous cancer of corruption invading every aspect of international affairs.

If we are to see a fitting role for India’s growing international power it must be in that context. Just as the Indian struggle for civil rights in South Africa and national liberation at home set off the large transformations of the 20th Century, our actions now can liberate the world from the massive criminal incubus the British Empire has become. Indeed, we have no choice but undertake this task, for much of Britain’s underground power has been committed to subverting India. That will not stop voluntarily.

Part 7 of this essay will look at how we might address Britain’s new empire of crime.

 Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

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