“The Great Game” Goes On. Rudyard Kipling set his 1901 novel “Kim” against the background of what he called “The Great Game.”
This was the rivalry between the British Empire and the Russian Empire for control of Afghanistan. The game began in 1830 with Britain’s attempts to seize control of the Emirate of Afghanistan in order to establish new trade routes, protect British sea trade routes and block Russia from gaining a port on the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean. This lead to various imperial entanglements and wars as the rival powers vied for influence and control in the region. The last of these, was the Second Anglo-Afghan War in 1878.
Theoretically the “Game” ended on 10 September 1895 with signing of the Pamir Boundary Commission protocols defining the border between Afghanistan and the Russian empire. However, as the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and subsequent events show this deadly game continues.
It is actually part of a wider conflict of nations and empires. While all this was happening America was extending its bloody influence to control swathes of the Philippines and Central America and Cuba.
Its justification was the spurious claim that the Spanish had sabotaged the American battleship Maine in Havana harbour. The most likely cause was an explosion in the ammunition magazine caused by a fire in its coal bunker but it gave America its excuse to invade.
The game continues in these regions with instability and insurgencies but perhaps the most significant chapter and one Australia became mired in was the Vietnam War.
The Vietnam War didn’t have its beginnings with a Communist insurgency in the 1950’s. The seeds were sown by the post-war colonial ambitions of France in 1919. Ho Chi Minh, the leader of North Vietnam during the Vietnam War came to Versailles where the allied powers were deciding on the carve up of the post-war world, including the Middle East.
Ho’s particular interest was to seek American support for Vietnamese independence from France. However America was again becoming isolationist and his sought after meeting with President Woodrow Wilson did not eventuate.
France returned as a colonial exploiter and the stage was set for further conflict. Roll on to WW2 and Ho Chi Minh was engaged in resistance to Japanese occupation. America promised Vietnamese independence and military equipment in exchange for further harassment of the Japanese.
Again America turned its back on Vietnam allowing France to return as a colonial power. Ho then turned to China and the Soviet Union for support and began an insurgency against the French colonists. The French military weakened by its losses in WW2 eventually withdrew in 1954 and America took over the fighting.
In August 1964 an American ship opened fire on North Vietnamese patrol boats in the Gulf of Tonkin. America falsely claimed it was attacked and used this to give then President Johnson power to bomb North Vietnam and spread the war to adjoining countries.
Australia and New Zealand were dragged into this obscenity by conservative governments who, in Australia’s case have an abominable track record in supporting American misadventures around the world.
At its peak the Vietnam war was called the “million dollar a day war” today it is estimated that America alone now spends $32 million an hour on its various “wars”.
The great game continues in the Middle East, Africa, Kashmir, India, Afghanistan, S E Asia and China along with periodic violence in Central and Southern America. However, it is not a game.
This greed for power and resources costs more than the trillions of dollars it has already wasted. It has divided nations, maimed and killed our servicemen and women and caused the needless death and displacement of millions of human beings.
Today as Trump and others beat the drums of war inventing a case to invade Iran and yet another Australian PM considers joining him, it is time for Australians to deliver a resounding NO to these merchants of death.