'White Man's Burden' and the Iraq War
By Mike Whitney
January 06, 2005 : zmag.org
"I do not agree that the dog in the manger has the final right to the manger, even though he may have lain there for a very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America, or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher grade race, a more worldly-wise race, to put it that way, has come in and taken their place." Winston Churchill; to the Peel Commission of Inquiry 1937, defending the brutal slaughter of Palestinians in the first Intifada of 1936 "on grounds of the racial superiority of the Jews".
One of the important topics that continues to remain off-limits in regards to Iraq is race, and the racist theology that drove the country to war. It's odd, in a country where so much of the history is steeped in the blood of chauvinistic wars, that Americans are still hesitant to examine the reflection in the mirror. Wasn't the nation shaped by a genocidal assault on Native Americans; killing upwards of 10 million indigenous people and decimating their culture? Or was that simply a demonstration "Manifest Destiny"; God's sordid will expressed by dispatching people of color to their immortal reward? The same could also be said of slavery; the odious transformation of people into chattel to augment the wealth of a few plantation owners. That crime was vindicated under the rubric of "states rights", a moniker that justified 200 years of methodical brutality and exploitation. Yes, these crimes always have their attendant rationalization.
How different is Bush's Global Democratic Revolution: the melodious sounding euphemism for racial warfare and subjugation? Don't deny it; the evidence is everywhere. The third world has entered Bush's crosshairs and racist ideology is fueling the hysteria.
American liberals won't investigate the issue of race; the cultural deterrents are far too great. Besides, many of these so-called "progressives" feed from the same trough that energizes the system. The racist component of the war on terror is the elephant in the room; the ultimate taboo that eludes all respectable public discourse. Let's call it what it is for a change.
How many Christians are there in Guantanamo Bay? How many Jews? How many white Christians are there in Abu Ghraib, or in any other of Rumsfeld's numerous gulags stretched out across the planet?
A survey conducted by Cornell University two weeks ago proved what many had already suspected. "Nearly half (44%) of all Americans believe that the US should restrict the civil liberties of Muslim Americans...The survey also found that Republicans and highly religious people were more apt to support curtailing civil liberties of Muslims." (Al Jazeera) No surprises there, but is this change a natural response to the events of 9-11, or are there other factors at work?
"Researchers also found that respondents who paid more attention to television news were more likely to fear terrorist attacks and support limiting the rights of Muslim Americans." (Al Jazeera)
This clearly illustrates the connection between televised media and the increasing prejudice directed at Muslims. We can debate the significance of this observation, but we cannot ignore the fact that the media is the breeding-ground for greater discrimination.
The question is whether or not the media is deliberately complicit.
The media serves as the mouthpiece for corporate America. At present, it's using its national platform to demonize both Arabs and Muslims, a process that involves the subtle manipulation of the facts to discredit its victim. The facts are either emphasized or downplayed according to the overall objectives of ownership. In this case, ownership is foursquare behind the occupation of Iraq, a judgment that applies to all the major networks without exception. This means that the goal of American elites is shaping the news, contributing to the distortions, and creating greater antipathy towards the native people (Muslims). It's part of the information-management strategy to elicit more support for an unpopular conflict.
As the Cornell survey proves, the overall affect of the media campaign is a steady increase of racial and sectarian division. Televised news is a virtual spawning ground for burgeoning prejudice, feeding the imagery of fanatical Muslims being tamed by the benign forces of "white" civilization. The paternalistic themes in the coverage are almost unbearable. American servicemen are invariably depicted as struggling to bring the unruly "dark skinned" locals into the ardent grasp of democracy. It's a dubious portrait of a Father showering love on his errant children. What baloney. Iraqis don't want our smug condescension or our cultural elitism. They just want us to leave.
The roots of racism are not hard to fathom. Both European and American cultures are built on a solid foundation of entitlement and white privilege. (Did anyone notice France backing-away when they were asked to provide troops for Haiti or Ivory Coast?) Even now, Europe's leaders would join the onslaught in Iraq if the division of resources were to their liking. Only now, the plundering of nations and the subsequent destruction of their culture is embraced under the sobriquet of "humanitarian intervention", a general disclaimer for the racist subjugation of third world countries.
History is really nothing more than a faithful chronicle of racist wars. The illusion of "western culture" is only perpetuated by concealing the enormous material wealth that was stolen from vulnerable, people of color. Our "civilization" is grounded on plunder, a dismal fact that neither great music nor inspiring literature can disguise.
When Mahatma Gandhi was asked what he thought of western civilization, he said, "I think it would be a good idea". His response is as apt today as it was 50 years ago.
Churchill's platitudes on race, "a stronger race, a higher grade race, a more worldly-wise race", are familiar to the denizens of the Oval Office, as they are to their constituents in their leather-upholstered boardrooms and their antebellum-style country clubs across the nation. He is only reiterating what they already know. The apologists of the caste system need no reminders of its meaning; it is etched in their consciousness with the indelibility of hot iron. Their sense of entitlement is identical to Churchill's. It's a simple, immutable fact, as certain as the blue-blood coursing through their veins.
We've never veered far from prevailing doctrine of "White Man's Burden"; the dogma that animates the imperial agenda. Iraq is just the latest chapter in this ruinous account of man's inhumanity to man. Racism continues to be the subtext of all American politics, a tragic undercurrent of violence and injustice.