Mark F. Proudman works in Ottawa. He holds a doctorate in imperial history from Oxford University.
Related Letters and Responses
It is impossible to reply to all the errors in this review of the American Raj: Liberation or Domination? by Eric Margolis, so a few corrections must suffice. First, Mark Proudman’s claim that Israel’s withdrawal to its 1967 borders would amount to the euthanization of the Jewish state is a view held by Israel’s political far right. Some of Israel’s most respected politicians and thinkers have proposed such a withdrawal.
Additionally, there is nothing “anti-American” about Margolis. He has proudly served in the United States Armed Forces and calls himself an Eisenhower Republican. He criticizes decades of misguided U.S. policy in the Middle East that has led to much of its current violence and suffering.
While the reviewer sneers at Quebecor’s Sun Media chain—Canada’s leader in readership—as “demotic” (i.e., low class), it is noteworthy that Margolis writes for this chain because they have never changed a word of his writing or forced him, as do other major papers, to toe the party line. Margolis’s articles have appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Times of London, the International Herald Tribune and the Gulf Times, among others. Are these the papers the reviewer refers to as tabloids?
Proudman claims India was better off under British imperialism. His neocolonial view would be greeted with deep contempt by Indians. The same holds for his stance that Arabs should yearn for British colonial rule.
Also, Proudman claims oil was not discovered in Kurdistan until 1916. That is incorrect. Oil was known to exist in Kurdistan since biblical times. The Turkish Petroleum Company was formed in 1912 to exploit the oil.
Margolis’s assertion about meeting British technicians in Baghdad in 1990 working on germ weapons wasn’t an exaggeration, or false, as the reviewer—who was probably never in Iraq during that era—asserts. Margolis discovered the British technicians, who were being held hostage with other foreigners. They showed him documents from Britain’s Ministry of Defence and MI6, as well as identification cards, proving they had been seconded by the British government to Iraq, working at the Salman Pak bio-warfare plant. Margolis, who has taught military strategy and covered 14 wars, is not likely to be misled.
Unfortunately, Proudman misses the objective of American Raj, which addresses the tensions and violence between the West and the Muslim world and provides a roadmap for workable peace.
Stephanie Blok Director of Media Relations for Eric Margolis Toronto, Ontario
Not having read Eric Margolis’s American Raj, I’ll leave it to others to respond to Mark Proudman’s rather shrill review.
I feel compelled, however, to comment upon Proudman’s attack on the publisher’s acknowledged funding from the Canada Council and the Ontario Arts Council. What in the name of free expression is Proudman getting at when he writes that the publisher has “some aspirations to intellectual seriousness and national authenticity” and “the taxpayers and the cultural commissars have been shortchanged on both fronts”? Is he proposing litmus tests for each book published before funding support is provided? If so, will he volunteer to serve on an assessment committee? Does he really choose to ignore the implications of this concept? And is it necessary to insult a publisher for producing a book for which the reviewer harbours such disdain?
I expect strong opinions in LRC reviews, although I would hope they are substantially more balanced and less haranguing than Proudman’s. I do not expect a reviewer to extend his or her lashing rebuke onto the publisher’s publishing policy and its acknowledgement of public funding. If he wishes to attack this policy give him space for a feature and, I would hope, permit others to submit an opposing view. As it stands, Proudman’s unbridled rant diminishes the review standards of the LRC.
John Reynolds Burlington, Ontario
I don’t take issue with the thrust of Mark Proudman’s “Rule America,” his review of American Raj: Liberation or Domination?, the new book by Eric Margolis, but I do with Proudman’s statement: “The Raj gave India the most honest government that country has ever known, bringing a century of internal peace and rising incomes.” That is an imperialist view of history. The sad reality is that each decade of British rule after the 1857 Mutiny was “scarred,” to use Simon Schama’s word in A History of Britain: At the Edge of the World?, by devastating famine. From 1860 to 1878 alone, over 10 million Indians starved to death. It was a “hideous record of human suffering and destruction [such as] the world has never seen before” said one famous contemporary, Florence Nightingale.
The periodic famines in India continued into the 20th century. When the British finally left India they left a country poor and divided. As Noam Chomsky has observed in Perilous Power: The Middle East and U.S. Foreign Policy: Dialogues on Terror, Democracy, War and Justice, India hasn’t had a famine since the end of Britain’s rule. As for honest government, throughout the 19th century and into the 20th at least 16% of British revenue from India derived from the production of opium for sale, mostly in China. Otherwise, the British systematically destroyed the Indian economy to support their own. As for internal peace, Britons of the time freely admitted that their rule in India was based on the sword. The India Council was a puppet government run by the British and manned mostly by the British, as were India’s law courts. The law dispensed in India was different for Indians than it was for resident “Europeans” and anything but equal.
Only now is India rising from its British past. British traditions and knowledge of the English language give Indians a leg up, but India has paid the price for those assets in blood and suffering for over 200 years.
Robert A. Konduros Hilborn & Konduros Cambridge, Ontario