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The White Mans Burden: The Familiar Psychology of Iraq War Proponents
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by The Wiseman

From the beginning of the war to the current state, the pro-arguments for US occupation of Iraq have slowly shifted from “weapons of mass destruction” and “fighting terrorism” to “overthrowing a brutal dictator for freedom and democracy”. This is far from new in the list of slogans nation-states have propagated in the last few centuries to justify wars for resources and territorial control of weaker nations. Although the excuses of “freedom and democracy” only started becoming popular in the 19th century, “national interest”, “imminent threat” and other vague phrases have been used with equal zeal previously and still to this day. Often during certain periods, a “strategy-of-tension” is used as fighting some form of abstract enemy becomes the dominant purpose of most if not all military or covert adventures/interventions. This article will question not only the authenticity of this claim to “spreading democracy” but the US government’s right to force their form of system upon any weaker nation regardless of the type. A quick overview of historical traditional imperialism, the form used in Iraq as opposed to the more common neocolonialism, will display that the US government’s actions and claims regarding Iraq are far from unique as well as far from honest.

 

                          During classic colonial times the masses of the “democratic” imperial states could not be persuaded to support the conquests of the upper class through the concept of profit gain for the elite as was the purpose. Ideology propagated through media, education, and religion such as nationalism, racism, and Christian superiority was played upon as means to gather popular opinion for imperial exploitation. The idea that the “white Christian way of life” was superior in socio-economic and cultural terms had been accepted by the masses as pretext for enslaving the “savages” in Africa, Asia, North and South America, and Australia. Slavery and imperial expansion in the “New World” were promoted as positive for they would tame the “uncivilized beasts” and “save the pagans from eternal damnation”. The myth that Africans were jungle animals that lived in trees like monkeys had “proven” slavery had advanced their “culture” and given them a better life was widely believed and still a position taken by neo-Nazis as well as other fascist and racist organizations to this day. So held in faith, this idea, by the white, elitist plantation owners that they had been deeply surprised and offended when escaped slaves and the later “newly-freed slaves” migrated north. They sincerely thought the slaves would be and should be grateful for all that their masters had “done for them” that they had closed their eyes to the injustice and oppression of the most extreme form of slavery in history and their ears to the simple tune of humanity.

 

Likewise imperial exploitation was viewed as benefiting to the economies of colonial nations; raising them from tribal life to “civilization”. In current globalization, the system of neoliberalism or neocolonialism is used to enslave the “Third World” population to corporate servitude and provision of cheap resources for “First World” countries as they wallow in extreme poverty; much like classic colonialism but without overt control. The cheerleaders of this system proclaim the same excuse and lie as their predecessors, “We may be paying them extremely low wages but its better than any other job they can get, in fact we’re giving them a higher standard of life”. No different in principle from the arguments for slavery, imperialism, or for that matter, the wars on “Third World” nations such as Iraq.

 

                          Now in the third sentence of the second paragraph, replace “white Christian way of life” with “democracy”, “enslaving” with “going to war with”, “savages” with “barbarians”, and “Africa, Asia, North and South America, and Australia” with “Iraq”, and you practically have a modern day right-wing argument for this war. In actuality, this war is nothing but a fight for strategic and political control in the Middle East, whose overall takeover is for the higher purpose of multinational corporate gain as all imperialism ultimately comes down to. The “white man’s burden” was used to describe nations that the white elite had forcefully underdeveloped for the purpose of vast profit; this was a sort of degradation of these nations’ peoples as lazy, ignorant, beastly, and in need of the “enlightened west” to show them how to prosper or even live a decent life.

 

In Iraq we see a similar argument to maintain occupation for teaching the Iraqis how to maintain a democracy and “train” the Iraqi army in which case Iraq would completely fall apart without our assistance. Even if these nations were the “white man’s burden”, not true as the white man’s insatiable appetite for profit was a burden to them, the white man had created these pockets of underdevelopment which had previously been on an equal or superior scale to Western society and thus the blame of burden would fall upon himself. The term “white man’s burden” was used by supporters of imperialism to try to paint a picture of colonialism as righteous, Christian white men taking the task upon themselves to bring the “pagans” to modernism. While complaining about the “white man’s burden”, they often crushed any break for revolution or attempt as self-dependency, showing that even if this was the “white man’s burden” obviously they did not want to give up this profitable burden.

 

Similar to the occupation in Iraq, it is propagated by the media that it is our “burden” to teach these people democracy; yet a burden they don’t want, didn’t ask for, and don’t need. Still the burden is seen as the fault of the Iraqi civilians as they are “heathen barbarians” with their “inferior god” and brutal shariah laws who need our help if they are to survive in the modern world. Once we get into the facts we will show how the call for democracy was really by the Iraqi people against the whim of the occupant leaders and who the true “savages” are. This “burden” the liberal elite complain about was taken on by choice of the US government and is completely contradictory to the will of the Iraqi people who are attempting self-determination of the face of overt imperialism.

 

Historically occupations have consistently imposed governments subservient to the interests of the invader upon the occupied territory, with no reason to believe otherwise in this occupation, thus negating the possibility of an authentic democracy or even a representative democracy other than one that represents the interests of the imperial elite. A common method of imperialism is to train the army of the colonized nation and establish the “lower” leaders of its government with native countrymen so as to give the impression of sovereignty while the leaders of the imperial center command the decisions in the background. The army is trained first hand by the occupation army so as to maintain loyalty and to send off the “inferior people” of the colony to die suppressing movements for freedom rather than risk the lives of the imperial soldiers which draws public backlash as does the costs of military mobilization.

 

The US government attempts to claim credit for bringing about the elections in Iraq yet the massive protest and popular movement for sovereign democracy in the months previous the elections is ignored as is the initial US/UK resistance to the forming of an election. Though regardless of the switch in professed intentions of the Iraq War and the resistance to popular democracy which switched later as well, supporters of the war can still claim that the occupation had allowed bringing about democracy in which there was no chance of under Saddam. Thus we must penetrate through the idea of enforcing our form of government upon the people of Iraq, whatever form that may be, and the authenticity of this “democracy”.

 

In early 2005, elections in Iraq were championed by the harbingers of war as victory for “freedom” and “democracy”, displaying immense ignorance of historical elections and conditions necessary for voting to take place. As we have said, any election held under occupation is ultimately fraudulent but a country may be held under occupation without continuing violence and resistance as is taking place in Iraq thus increasing their lack of credulity. As the threat of violence remained up until they very day of the election, many candidates on the ballot refused to reveal their name to the public much less campaign and inform the voters of their agendas.

 

If Iraq was truly a democracy than the idea that the occupation would still be a force in the country is laughable as a clear majority of Iraqis would like to see an occupation withdrawal. Several recent situations display the lack of sovereign power the elected officials in Iraq have over the occupation such as the inability of the Iraqi president to stop Iraq from being used as a base for further imperial adventures in Iran and Syria as he would wish. Some have argued that Iraqi “democracy” will establish a theocratic Shiite regime subservient to Iran as a sort of argument against Bush “allowing democracy” in Iraq. Not only is this argument flawed in the assumption that authentic democracy is being established in Iraq but in its elitist-like anti-democratic view of the “fanatical barbarians” who “can’t make decisions for themselves”.

 

We can thus see that a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq will not end the overall occupation in the long run, and would actually be worse for the people in Iraq as in Vietnam when increased bombing of towns began once more troops had been redeployed. If this argument can be seen and understood, the shallowness of the cries of the popular anti-war movement to “bring our troops home” will become evident and a wider frame of debate on the morality and legality of the Iraq War can become public. As the corporate multinational control of Iraq’s oil supplies and geopolitical use of Iraq’s strategic location were the original intentions of this invasion the nationalization of natural resources and sovereignty in decision making must be established in order to defeat the occupation.  So we must understand that an even more radical call of complete military withdrawal will be insufficient in ending colonization without support for the victory of the nationalistic elements of the Iraqi resistance, violent and non-violent.