In 2003 the US government assembled an international army to invade and occupy Iraq, in order to destabilize the region and thus allow Israel to feel more secure. France refused to join. The Imperial rulers were so offended that for the next three years the menus of the US Congress’s cafeterias sold “freedom fries” instead of “French fries”.
The US’s idiot-fringe has never forgiven the French and their nation. “If it wasn’t for us you’d all be speaking German!” “Our boys saved you last time, yet now you won’t help us!” Never mind that the Iraq venture was illegal, immoral, and based on the deliberate lie that that nation had hidden weapons of mass destruction ready to launch at 45 minutes’ notice.
On one international web-forum I once had occasion to criticise the US military’s routine torture of POWs in Iraq (members of the local resistance). In response, one simple-minded patriot demanded to know why I felt no gratitude to the US military of the 1940s for saving Australia from invasion and occupation by the armies of Japan. Another poster frothed with indignation: “My father was a US Marine, and he was a fine man and a war hero, and how dare you demean his heroism by questioning the Marine Corps?” And so on.
It’s a dangerous path to follow. Is one never to forgive the descendants of an ancestor’s enemies? “Those Afghan bastards! My great-grandpa died invading their country. I will never buy an Afghan rug! The more villagers killed by drone strikes, the better.” “Those Russian bastards! My German grandpa froze to death during the siege of Leningrad. Let’s nuke the whole nation now!”
Is one never to resent atrocities committed by criminal gangs claiming to act in the name of an old political ally?
In October last year I noted a great-uncle’s role in the slaughter of Nigerian natives rebelling against the British invasion of their homeland in 1902. I wondered if that slaughter might be in part responsible for the current atrocities against Christians in the region. [You can find a direct link to my piece by Googling “Uncle Charles and the Boko Haram”.]
In the early 1800s a great-great-great-grandfather of mine made a modest fortune as a trafficker of opium from India to China. A few of his rupees (sadly not many, but a few) have trickled down to me. Do I deserve the wrath of a billion Chinese descendants of his victims? “You bastard! If it wasn’t for your criminal ancestor, our families would be rich today.”
It’s alarming how many people do hold grudges for ridiculously long times. Western newspapers carry resentful accusations of Kurds’ and Arabs’ killing of European invaders a thousand years ago – and even of the Persians for their invasion of Europe two thousand years ago. There are European Jews who have not yet forgiven Egyptians for enslaving the Hebrews three thousand years ago. The descendants of African slaves are claiming trillions of dollars in reparations for their ancestors’ sufferings. And so on.
In light of such nonsense, I suppose re-living atrocities of a mere seventy years ago is not surprising. The government of Israel has a regular blackmail campaign against the current taxpayers of Germany in respect of their forebears’ crimes in the 1940s. In decades to come, lawyers for Palestinian survivors will be seeking redress from Israeli taxpayers in respect of today’s brutalities. Maybe the Palestinian government-in-exile will persuade Germany to pay the blackmail money directly to it, and cut out the middle-man. At least there would be a logic to that.
Interestingly, few conquered peoples ever do allow their languages to be replaced by those of their conquerors. Wholesale ethnic cleansing is effective, and we can expect Arabic to disappear from Palestine when all the natives have been removed from there. But when the local populace is left in place – as it has been in so many places in Europe over the Centuries – its language almost always survives intact.
The French would not all be speaking German if Hitler had won his War – any more than the Germans spoke the languages of any of their conquerors when Hitler’s War was lost. Whatever the current US Empire does and doesn’t do to its conquered peoples, it won’t alter the languages they speak.