Quick question, what nation invented concentration camps?

I'll give you a clue, it used to be a global empire, the most exploitative one the world has ever known in fact.

Any warmer?

I'll give you another clue, England. It was the English who invented concentration camps.

Concentration camps as we now understand them now were first opened by the British in South Africa during the Second Anglo-Boer War from 1900-1902.

The camps were originally set up by the British Army as “refugee camps” to provide shelter for families who had been forced to abandon their homes because of war.

But the overcrowded conditions and poor sanitation, coupled with neglect and privation, quickly lead to major eruptions of typhoid, flu, dysentery and measles, which young children were especially vulnerable to.

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Soon they were dying by the tens of thousands. This was 41 years before the Holocaust.

The Boer War is where the term “concentration camp” was first used to describe the British camps that imprisoned more than 115,000 people. In fact, more men, women, and children died of starvation and disease in these British camps than did soldiers actually fighting the war.

What you have to understand was this was all a desired military result for the British. It started as neglect but it ended up looking like military policy. We no longer hear about it nowadays because, from the British point of view, the camps worked.

Before them, no one had thought to mass imprison men, women, and children non-combatants. After them, it became the go-to way to dispose of a vast number of disposable people.

The British created more than 100 concentration camps across South Africa. It was inevitable in these overcrowded and filthy conditions, where medicine and food were often close to non-existent, that disease would flourish and people would start to die off in droves.

And that's exactly what happened.

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By the end of the Boer War 46,370 civilians were dead, and most of them were children. It was the first time in the 20th century, historians claim, that an entire nation was "systematically rounded up to be imprisoned and exterminated."

There's been a lot of talk in the press lately about whether we accurately can call the immigrant detention centers along the US southern border concentration camps or not. Customs and Border Patrol agents really don't like hearing those two awful words, and neither does the President or Vice President.

But the benchmark for determining whether a facility is a concentration camp or not is to look at the conditions that prevail there.

Last week a carefully censored press tour was conducted through one of Trump's undocumented prison camps along the southern border, where each involuntary inmate costs the US taxpayer over $750 a night, but where the money still cannot seem to fund a hot shower, toothpaste, blankets or soap.

You can stay in a five star New York hotel and have a four-course dinner thrown in for less than $750 a night, so we must conclude that the neglect is intentional. 

Andrea Pitzer, the author of "One Long Night: A Global History of Concentration Camps," is in no doubt.

"We have what I would call a concentration camp system,” Pitzer told the press, “and the definition of that in my book is mass detention of civilians without trial.”

There are different ways of addressing the problem of unwanted civilians, of course. The Nazi's operated death camps to efficiently exterminate them, but the British let filthy conditions, malnutrition and disease do all the heavy lifting, with both approaches resulting in the same desired outcome, the mass removal of unwelcome civilians.

One other signature factor about concentration camps is worth noting this week. In her book, Pitzer, a concentration camp expert, describes concentration camps as “a deliberate choice to inject the framework of war into society.” 

The detainment facilities on the southern border are not concentration camps, Trump's supporters thunder. America is not Nazi Germany, we have never had concentration camps here they say. But the Japanese who were "interned" here against their will and without trial by the tens of thousands in military-run camps during World War II would beg to differ.

Concentration camps are a military pursuit then, inserting them into civil society and using them to house civilians is a handy way “to remove the human rights and civil rights of non-combatants without any legal justification.” 

That's why Trump has used alarming terms like “invasion” and “drug dealers” and “criminals” to prevent refugees on the border from achieving any immigration status. We're being “overrun,” he says, although it's untrue.

Telling the public we are being “invaded” allows the government to create and run these overpopulated human warehouses, where private contractors are reportedly winning lucrative deals to detain the truly desperate.

But is the Trump administration (and these poorly stocked detainment facilities) creating the conditions for a human rights disaster to unfold? And if it does come will they simply shake their heads and say I told you so?

Will they, like the British in 1900-1902, just walk away when it does?

What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments section, below. 

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