Printer Friendly Version
"The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line - the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men in Asia and Africa, in America and the islands of the sea." - W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk, February, 1903.
A young William Edward Burghardt DuBois wrote those words with some measure of hopefulness, inviting the reader to "behold a century new for the duty and the deed." The duty was to solve the "problem of the color-line" by decisive deeds. One hundred years later, the nation in which DuBois experienced "two-ness - an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body" - is engaged in a global race war. Dubois would immediately recognize the white supremacist character of the Bush men's New American Century. Although only a relatively small group of rich and venal men stand to profit from the present day Pirates' policy of Permanent War, the project requires the assent of an imperial-minded majority of white people, collectively demanding their entitlement: dominion.
So it was in 1898, when the "White Fleet" sailed into the harbors of Manila and Santiago de Cuba. U.S. seizure of Spain's Pacific and Caribbean colonies benefited urban tenement dwellers and the rural majority of Americans not one bit. Yet they cheered President McKinley's aggression, romanticized the murder of a million Filipinos, and gloried vicariously in the subjugation of Cuba. "We" were a world power - and there was no doubt that "we" meant white America, now equal to the whites of Europe. President Teddy Roosevelt, owing his job to a media spectacle on San Juan Hill, sent American warships on a worldwide tour in 1907 designed to "deter" the other major powers, principally Japan. By now, the U.S. flotilla was called "The Great White Fleet." More cheers from a population that was already lagging behind Western Europeans in public sector provisions for the general welfare - yet felt itself far better off, high on white privilege at home and, suddenly, supremacy in colored lands across the seas as well.
McKinley and Roosevelt both initially claimed to be on a mission to "liberate" Filipinos, Cubans and Puerto Ricans from Spanish tyranny. White America pretended to believe it.
Black bucks and Indians of the imagination
DuBois saw clearly that racism among the white masses was the political engine that rich men commandeered for their own greedy purposes. Yet the motives of the rich did not alter the character of the carnage committed by the nation on the rich men's behalf: race war. The economic aspects of the crime took place within the larger context of "the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men in Asia and Africa, in America and the islands of the sea."
Filipinos fought fiercely for their homeland, knowing not enough of the Americans to be jealous of their "way of life" and, on most of the islands, sharing a common Christianity with the invaders. The Americans imagined that they saw "niggers" and "injuns," the people they loved to hate, as evidenced by letters compiled by the Anti-Imperialist League in 1899, edited in 1995 by Jim Zwick.
A private in the Utah Battery wrote that "it is not surprising that the boys should soon adopt 'no quarter' as a motto, and fill the blacks full of lead before finding out whether or not they are friends or enemies."
Another entry from Zwick's files on the Philippine-American War:
"Our fighting blood was up and we all wanted to kill 'niggers.' This shooting human beings is a 'hot game,' and beats rabbit hunting all to pieces." Another wrote that "the boys go for the enemy as if they were chasing jack-rabbits .... I, for one, hope that Uncle Sam will apply the chastening rod, good, hard, and plenty, and lay it on until they come into the reservation and promise to be good 'Injuns.'"
Theodore Conley, of a Kansas Regiment, was overwhelmed at the horrors of "liberation":
"Talk about dead indians! Why, they are lying everywhere. The trenches are full of them .... Those not killed in the trenches were killed when they tried to come out .... No wonder they can't shoot, with that light thrown on them; shells bursting and infantry pouring in lead all the time. Honest to God, I feel sorry for them."
And so it was in 2003, the centennial of DuBois' most famous work. "The Iraqis are sick people and we are the chemotherapy," said Corporal Ryan Dupre, a Marine at the "battle" of Nassiriyah, Iraq. "I am starting to hate this country. Wait till I get hold of a friggin' Iraqi. No, I won't get hold of one. I'll just kill him."
British journalist Mark Franchetti violated the protocols so slavishly followed by his embedded American colleagues - actually, a kind of racist corporate-military conspiracy. In newly "liberated" Iraq, Franchetti reported from Nassiriyah, the natives are called "hajis" - a term used with exactly the same inflection and purpose as "niggers," "injuns" and, in another race war, "gooks."
"Hajis" fell to the same overwhelming firepower as Filipinos, more than a century before. "As the 3rd Infantry quickly advanced north along the Euphrates and west toward the capital," the Christian Science Monitor reported on April 11, "some soldiers began to describe the battles as almost disturbingly unfair. 'At the Karbala Gap the Iraqis put up a good fight, but to no avail because we had the firepower. It was way too easy,' says Staff Sgt. Ira Mack."
Far more importantly, such carnage is easy for Americans at home to countenance. This is, after all, the vantage point from which DuBois saw the color line's global arch, the nation where - now as then - human beings morph instantaneously into niggers and brutes for the convenience, privilege and self-esteem of whites; where incarceration rates, poverty, and early death are inseparable from "the relation of the darker to the lighter races." It is the fully wired country that shrugs when the evening news reports that American soldiers, camped out at a school in Karbala, have killed 15 Iraqis who wanted them to leave, including children and neighbors sitting in their own homes.
A Black "message for the world"
The American people have not profited by the slaughter - rather, they become more debased, insecure and endangered - yet they cheer as if empowered, just as their great grandparents did at word of the sailing of the Great White Fleet.
This is the public that sustains the Pirates in their lunge for global hegemony.
African Americans, endowed by history with the "two-ness" of which DuBois wrote, are thereby fortunate not to be blind in both eyes. We overwhelmingly oppose the Pirates' adventures because we perceive the same reality that most of the rest of humanity sees, including the bulk of Europeans. Most Black Americans know, or at least sense, that "American cowboy" is not a global term of endearment. Our experience is that cowboys and rednecks run together, and lynch people. "Shock and Awe" has converted billions of the world's citizens to that point of view.
At age 34, W.E.B. DuBois was as consumed by turn-of-the-century euphoria as any other American, yet with a clear vision in his "good eye" - the one not warped by the racial delusions that misinformed most of his white countrymen. He saw Black Americans as a grown people, stepping into the new century with a global stride and a unique perspective, learned and earned in the perilous company of an oppressor who was not a stranger. He no doubt saw himself as the very model of a Black man "who would not bleach his Negro soul in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world."
It is the duty of clear-sighted Black Americans to contribute our analysis to the urgent conversation that engages the entire planet - but to which white America is largely deaf: How can the world escape the worst consequences of Washington's mad offensive against order, itself, and move on to complete the great tasks of civilization?
We need not project too far into the future, because the Pirate's are undoing themselves daily, tumbling in a cascade of contradictions that they make more acute with each flail and thrash. It is now certain that they cannot possibly achieve their goal of colonizing the Middle East. In fact, they cannot stay long in Iraq.
Crippled by racism
It is, of course, the Iraqi people themselves who are steadily making the U.S. position untenable. The Americans will be forced to place the entire country on lockdown, or retreat to bastions of remote operations. The farce of "liberation" was doomed from the start, because the Americans are incapable of recognizing and dealing with non-whites as full human beings. Their racist delusions prevent them from undertaking the most basic tasks necessary to construct a minimally effective Iraqi proxy from among the human material at hand. Their returning exiles - in whom the Bush men have invested great treasure and a fatal prestige - were called forth by the American delusion, hustlers who discovered the imperial weakness for fawning behavior and gratulatory information, and sought to profit from it.
The Americans are hobbled by a political culture that renders them unfit for the hegemonic mission, which requires more than mere military superiority, but also some semblance of sanity, a capacity to assess reality as it presents itself. Instead, Bush men and upscale suburbanites alike are equipped only with guns and appetites, both of which are governed by misperceptions so gross, an individual as acutely afflicted would be categorized as clinically incapacitated.
What Americans call "patriotism" is in fact an insatiable appetite for confirmations of white superiority - an ugliness they see clearly in 1930s German propaganda films but cannot recognize in their own mass cultural product, including "news" presentations. They demand that their leaders tell heroic tales of conquest over whoever can be made to stand in for the injuns and niggers of their collective, imagined memories.
The Bush men are, if anything, exaggerated caricatures of this culture, perfectly attuned to their (white) countrymen's self-love and other-hate imperatives, which they share. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld - whose behavior ceaselessly confirms that he believes himself to outrank the Black Secretary of State, by virtue of his whiteness - created an alternative CIA in order to feed himself more pleasing information.
Seymour Hersh's May 5 New Yorker article illuminates the Pentagon's Alice in Wonderland-like Office of Special Plans (OSP), the Rumsfeld creature that "produced a skein of intelligence reviews that have helped to shape public opinion and American policy toward Iraq." The OSP transformed near-lifelong exile Ahmad Chalabi's sales pitch into hard "intelligence" information on which the Bush men based their strategic plans for Iraq. They chose Chalabi as the agent of their collective masturbation, the Playboy magazine they preferred to fantasize with instead of the often-disturbing news from the real Iraq.
Chalabi is merely a hand servant - he gets paid to conjure illusions. The pathology springs from the heads of the Bush men, whose OSP operatives refer to themselves as "the cabal," but are better described as the Office of Delusions Verification.
White America is hooked on its delusions. The Bush men are pushers of fantasies and lies, but they also consume their own product and will come unglued like Al Pacino's dealer-junkie character in the movie Scarface. In the interim, many people will die and fragile structures of international order will be smashed and mangled. What is certain is that the Bush men are too far adrift in a sea of illusions to retool their New American Century machine. Unlike the Great White Fleet, they will not return in triumph from Iraq, but in a profound state of disarray, their fundamental chimera shattered. No one can predict what delusionals will do when they become unmoored, but the world has been forewarned that its antagonist lives in a different reality.
The social mechanisms that keep the Bush men in power are fueled by hate, the great mobilizer of white American opinion, and a central contradiction of the Pirate enterprise. For as the Bush men stoke the domestic fires of racial hatred to encompass all the "sand niggers" of the Middle East, they simultaneously seek to establish an orderly and profitable occupation masked as "liberation." Beyond Iraq, the U.S. undermines or abandons existing malleable regimes in favor of future rulers whose social bases do not exist, among peoples that are fully aware that they are hated by the Americans. The hegemonic project becomes an impossible mission for American society and its military and corporate institutions.
Myths and madness
The Private Jessica myth goes to the heart of the contradiction. As reported by the BBC, the Guardian and many other journals, 3rd Infantry Private Jessica Lynch was coddled by Iraqi hospital personnel after suffering injuries during her capture near Nassiriya. In her last days of tender loving care, including infusions of precious blood from the hospital staff's own supplies, unavailable to Iraqi patients, Lynch's fedayeen captors fled the area. Her wounds, though serious, were not inflicted by bullets or knives, but accidental trauma from the crashing of her vehicle in the ambush. A middle-aged nurse, chosen by the staff because she has daughters around Jessica's age, literally sang the young soldier to sleep at night.
Learning that American forces were just outside town, the staff bundled Private Lynch into an ambulance and drove toward U.S. forces, attempting to give her back. They were fired on, and retreated to the hospital. When U.S. Special Forces arrived with a camera crew, Lynch was smoothly repatriated, with well wishes from the staff. There was no rescue.
The Pentagon put together a five-minute mini-movie depicting heroic derring-do on the part American forces, falsifying every fact, event and injury. (American readers require no details of the scripted tale, since it was presented as fact by the corporate media on an endless loop of lies.) Lynch is now said to have amnesia.
The Pentagon invented the story to fuel (already existing) hatred of Iraqis and Arabs (and Persians), in general. Sand nigger hatred is indispensable to the war that the Bush men have declared on the people of the Middle East. Such hatred, a derivative of Black and Indian hate, comes easy to the white public, which is so predisposed to the emotion that NBC immediately announced plans to base a TV movie on the Pentagon's fiction, with or without the permission of Private Lynch or the U.S. military. NBC knows the tastes of its prime viewer - a thirty-something, white suburban mom from a higher than median income household. These are the same people whose racist passions the Bush men must constantly inflame to keep the momentum of its global offensive going.
No translation, please
So we see that the conversation between the Pirates and their public reinforces delusions of white supremacy and goodness, while thoroughly niggerizing Iraqis. The Bush men, sharing the unworldly view of their audience, then find themselves attempting to organize friendly Iraqi factions to supervise the society on their behalf. Yet they cannot tell Iraqis apart from one another, and make more enemies every day as they stumble through a country that is in no respect the one they imagined. The Americans sit in the middle of Mesopotamia and Kurdistan, armed, dangerous - and lost.
It is no wonder that new American "administrator" L Paul Bremer III cannot say when an interim government will be announced, or who will be in it, or that diplomat Barbara Bodine departed the country huffing, "We didn't know what we were walking into."
(Bodine, a career Foreign Service officer, got into hot water with the Rumsfeld people when she complained that the U.S. had not made sufficient provision for interpreters. The Rumsfeld crowd, however, believe they get all the information they need from their English-speaking exiles.)
Meanwhile, Iraqi society organizes itself. Ten thousand demonstrators gathered at a Sunni Muslim mosque in Baghdad, then marched across the river to a shrine in the Shia section of the city. "We will not sell our country," read a prominent banner.
The Pirates think they own Iraq already - an American delusion that cannot be sustained.
Your comments are welcome. Visit the Contact Us page for E-mail or Feedback.