Thursday, December 4, 2008

II Obama's Heritage of Political Activism

Here are comments from the London Times articles on Obama's grandfather's association with the Kenya African Union

link to comments

Emma, Southampton UK You are quite right in arguing that history is never that clear cut as to label good and bad guys. The problem is that a certain influential world leader forcibly defined several nations as all "evil "and others including his own country as all "good".

M.Murakami, Tokyo, Japan

Unfortunate incident however, we shouldn’t lose sight of the brutality of the Mau that brought on that sort of response. And the truth is that Kenya has gained far more from colonialism than it lost, today's Kenya's ministers still regard foreigners as a convenient cash cow.

Andrew , Adelaide, Australia

The British will definitely have committed sins in the colonial era, some government instructed and some through soldiers own behaviour.

I am not sure of the point of dragging this up again. This was quite some time ago. Britain is not the same now and did many good things in its past.

Talese Amer, Londontown,

Mr Woodward in Manchester omits that slavery in the US was, pre-independence - British. It is unfair to call it America's original sin...It was simply another in a long litany of European imperial sins. One of which was Kenya.
Stockton Mick and Dublin Mick: same person? Bit like Ireland and UK...

GB, Berlin, Germany

If you are interviewing Sarah Onyango, why don't you ask her where exactly Obama was born? I thought she was not allowed to speak to reporters.

Mary, Oklahoma, USA

The British never left Kenya. They own huge acres of land in Rift Valley Province; control tourism, tourist resorts hotels everywhere in Kenya. Tribalism and tribal strifes in Kenya are merely divide and conquer British tools unleashed by British trained Africans homeguards posing as leaders!

AKECH, New Brunswick,

It's payback time!

You Brits better watch out ;-)

rachael78, New York, USA

Made "civilised"? Big cities, capitalism and tea parties are not the only definition of civilisation.

Before the Roman Empire tribes of "barbarians" roamed Europe and killed each other and the Romans made them civilised by, erm, killing them. Yes, very logical.

AnneMarie, Cork,

The abundance of cameras makes this very hard to do today. I mean, look at the very benign torture that was exposed at Abu Griab. Even the communist country of China can't hide their atrocities.

I hope Obama isn't hiding a grudge that will destroy many.

Timuchin, Jacksonville, FL, USA

Yes, that sort of thing happens all over, but how much of it is told to tell the TRUTH; for instance, here in America, Palm Beach, Florida where blacks lived on the Island in little shanty shacks that Flagler himself had burned down and proclaimed he was the first to inhibite the Island. Not true.

Ms. Machalle Brown, West Palm Beach, USA

This is not surprising. Britain and Europe in general are notoriously, violently racist societies, far more than the US ever was. The sad part is that you still are, and yet you don't even realize it, that's how much racism is ingrained in your "enlightened" society.

Cherry, Brooklyn, NY, USA

I´ve no doubt that the British tortured in every colony Why are people so defensive about ´´their ´´ancestors..Look at the recent events in Kenya, torture and indiscriminate killings commonplace.Why should Obama hate the Brits,anymore than white Americans for the they treat black Americans in USA.

edward donagher, ajijic, mexico

""Hopefully Obama is sensible and educated enough not judge a nation of 6m people on the actions of a few.""

Isn't this what the rest of the world did to innocent citizens of the U.S. when you assaulted and abused us for one man's policies? So how tight does that shoe feel on the other foot now?

Cherry, Brooklyn, NY, USA

Every country can be held responsible for things like this:
US- slaughter of Native Americans
Spain- slaughter of South Americans
Turkey- Armenian Genocide
Germany- Holocaust
France-slave trade
Rwanda- Genocide
Its everywhere! The Brits upheld law and order for a long period of time and helped many.

George Woodward, Manchester, UK

The problem with this story is the Mau Mau emergency was not declared until 3 years after Obama's father's supposed work.His relatives also claimed Barack Obama was born in Kenya. Elkin's book was a work of "advocacy"- as she admitted..

Peter Gee, Nairobi,

While the treatment of Obama's father does Britain no credit, perhaps his grandson would do well to reflect that had he been born in Afghanistan and acted in a similar fashion, he might now be languishing in Guantanamo Bay.
Hopefully this will enable him to take positive steps to prevent terrorism.

Mike, Eastbourne, UK

By 1953, almost half of all Kikuyus had no land claims at all. The results were worsening poverty, starvation, unemployment and overpopulation. The economic bifurcation of the Kikuyu set the stage for what was essentially a civil war within the Kikuyu during the Mau Mau Revolt.

Winston Montgomery, Cors, Wales

By 1948, 1.25 million Kikuyu were restricted to 2000 square miles (5,200 km²), while 30,000 settlers occupied 12,000 square miles (31,000 km²). The most desirable agricultural land was almost entirely in the hands of European settlers.

Winston Montgomery, Cors, Wales

Christine, USA.

Smallpox infected blankets.....

I presume your ancestors were plains Indians. I'd suggest looking a little closer to home for the big player killer of Plains Indians than here.....

Personally I'll never forgive the Italians for the sacking of Iceni.

Dave St Peters, London,

The wider point was that this happened 60 years ago and Britain's standards have supposedly changed since then. Guantanamo suggests that America's have not. We cannot change history, only the future. The best way we can honour Obama's grandfather and others like him is ensuring it never recurs.

Jonathan, London,

Hopefully Obama is sensible and educated enough not judge a nation of 6m people on the actions of a few. Every nation on this earth - Obama's included - has shameful events in their histories. Hindsight makes it easy to label good and bad guys - in reality history is never that clear cut.

Emma, Southampton, UK

It is so sad to read the comments that the British 'civilized' other societies. You certainly weren't very civilized when you supplied pox infected blankets to my ancestors! Civilized? You take but those you took from were not happy shining your boots or making your tea? Clean your mirror!

Cristine, NC, USA

does mick from dublin want a lollipop? or just a little footnote about ireland and some sympathy? Sounds to me like Obama's great grandfather was nothing more than a traitor and was treated accordingly. This article takes a dangerously sympathetic and casual outlook on the actions of the Mau Mau..

Rob, London,

For matt who thinks Caroline Elkin's work was sensational, you can thank your propaganda machinery. please come to kenya one day and let me introduce me to some survivors of the British Gulag then you can speak with authority. better still you can visit your colonial office and ask to see the record

Wachira, Nakuru, Kenya

I think calling the British Empire "evil" is a display of profound ignorance. Sadly, it's the product of national masochism - rather than see the good and the bad, we choose to only see the bad. Law, order, intolerance, servitude, education, justice, injustice - these were all parts of the Empire.

James David, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

mike, stockton, uk: In my travels when I indicate that I'm Irish not English, people generally launch into an unwanted tirade of abuse about the Brits. I guess they mean people like you. At a time when peace is finally achieved in the North, I find your comments provocative and far from civilised.

Claire, Brussels, Belgium

Of course the Mau Mau never tortured anyone and always respected human rights and treated British soldiers and Kenyan police officers according to the Geneva Convention. They also never organised themselves into gangs butchering loyalist Africans with machetes. Rose tinted history is great isn't it?

John, Manchester, UK

I think if Mick Stockton reads his history books again he will find that it was the Irish missionaries in the Dark ages who civilised not only England but Europe as well.

mick, preston, england

You may want to mention that Caroline Elkins work has been overwhelmingly criticised, with many stating it's purely sensationalist, one stating "'I shudder for those of her students who expect academic rigour: Elkins doesn't let facts stand in the way of a good rant.'" .

matt, nottingham,

There seem to be many notions this article inspires. My take away was that the life of a father effects, but is never the same as the life of the son. That and how amazing opportunities can change in a generation.

Mary, Chicago, USA

Seems fairly likely; we certainly behaved quite badly in Kenya.

David, Maldon, UK

You don't gain and maintain an Empire by being nice to people. Look at all the Empires throughout history. We have to remember the world is a very different place to even 50 years ago. It is very easy to get on our human rights high horse and condemn every Empire throughout history.

Chris, London, UK

What a suprise - the Empire tortured people. It's not an unusal story, it's a well known fact that the British Empire was as brutal and represive as allmost any other - the actions of the Colonial autoritys are directly comparable to those of figures such as Mao, Pinochet or Stalin. It was evil.

James, London, UK

Ah ha, some compensation seems to be called for, I'm sure we can pay for one of our human rights lawyers to represent the family, which will soon number in the thousands.

John, lincoln,

Today the Americans and the British just use African dictators to do that to Africans. Witness all the papa leaders they patron like Museveni. The American's fund and arm Meles of Ethiopia to brutally occupy Somalia. Nothing has changed.

Sam Hudson, London, UK

wish we had done a better job!

Maybe Irish Mick should realise Ireland wouldnt be civilised if it was not for the British!

mike, stockton, uk

Barack Obama must therefore know in his heart that no matter who does it or when it occurs in the historical sense torture is wrong, tends to create destructive attitudes in both the torturer and the victim and has no place in a modern civilised nation. We must hope he puts that lesson into practice

Chris Coles, Medstead, Alton, United Kingdom

Small World. What a turnaround!

rosalie a abbey, Phoenix,

Since William Ayers wrote most of Obama's first book, we should ask Ayers how Obama described this to him. That would tell us how Obama regards the British and the white man in general. That would be an interesting conversation.

Lee Ruth, Athens, USA

They did the same to the Irish...for about 300 years.

Mick, Dublin, Ireland

Given the difference in the stories told, I would say one is probably true and the other a total fiction told for attention.

Nona, New York City, USA

So the Obama's Granfather betrayed those who trusted and provided a living for him, put his British friends lives at risk, became a non-uniformed combatant spy for the rebels, and when caught (in an age when spies would be automatically shot) THEN he realised that the British were the enemy!

Tom Genin, Seymour, CT

What a sad tale of oppression. Present day African leaders treat their own kind just as cruelly as the Brits treated the Africans if not worse. Idi Amin comes to mind, Rwanda's genocide, Sudan, Darfur et al. Humans are the cruellest of all creatures and yet they can also be the noblest. Strange!

Naomi, Lodi, USA

The ways of empire and occupation don't change. Direct link from Kenya to Palestine to Iraq and Afghanistan. Dear professor claims it was white man's burden eh..

rh, la, us

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