War and the Color Line

A month before U.S.-led forces attacked Iraq, an opinion poll by the Pew Research Center found that black Americans opposed the war by roughly a 2-1 margin versus whites. Race-ing the Iraqi war, indeed.

Consider this. Since September 2002, the American public had been subjected to what author Noam Chomsky has termed U.S. “government-media propaganda” concerning the twofold Iraqi threat.

First, Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s political leader, was hiding weapons of mass destruction that threatened the U.S.. Second, Iraqis were involved in the horrific terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Yet one group of the American people stood their ground against this war hysteria, even after the U.S. invaded Iraq. A New York Times/CBS News opinion poll in the paper noted that black Americans were more than twice as likely as their white counterparts to oppose the war (March 27).

Then on March 30, an ABC World News Tonight ran a segment featuring an ABC News/Washington Post opinion poll that found black Americans’ support for the war against Iraq was 35 percent on January 20 and March 23. For all Americans, support for the Iraq war was 57 percent on January 20 and 72 percent on March 23.

This trend of anti-war sentiment in the black community is striking. How to explain it?

Can we credit the peace movement for blacks’ opposition to the U.S. invasion of Iraq? This is no doubt a factor, probably a small one, given that the peace movement doesn’t yet reflect America’s racial diversity, though that is changing.

The INTERNATIONAL ANSWER coalition (Act Now To Stop War And End Racism) is proof of that. In my hometown, African/Black United Front for Peace and Social Justice is a new group working with Sacramento/Yolo Peace Action to mobilize and organize against black peace protesters.

What are the factors that have made black people, in general, so resistant to war propaganda? In my view, it is their experience in America as they have gone and now go about daily life.

Historically, black people in America have been shaped by white violence. That violence and resistance to it have become a part of their culture and of American culture generally.

The effects of black people striving to be free from oppression here are widespread. Consider the peaceful protests of some Americans whose ancestors weren’t enslaved yet who sing anti-slavery songs during anti-war rallies.

It’s metaphorical, and more. In 2003, the black culture of resistance from the past provides a bedrock of morality to others who are standing up and speaking out against the war hawks in Washington.

Of course many black Americans no doubt see the absurdity of the White House’s claim that it can liberate Iraqis. After all, there are millions of black people in the U.S. who would like to be liberated from daily oppression.

Opinion polls have reflected this reality. Racist oppression is more American than apple pie, a trend that is alive and well at home and abroad.

Take the 2003 version of the “white man’s burden” in Iraq. Its roots in U.S. history run deep.

WMB was the official excuse for the American government to begin to violently police the world by invading the Philippines. Supposedly, the brown-skinned people there needed to be civilized, according to President McKinley.

But many black people in the U.S. were militantly opposed to that imperial war. They knew a thing or two about police violence in America.

How much have things changed in over a century of U.S. history? Today, violent police remain a credible threat to many black Americans.

Iraqi leader Hussein and the people of Iraq weren’t/aren’t. Nor are they threatening to the U.S. public in all its diversity.

In a bitter twist of fate, the American military is also now waging the “war on terror” in the Philippines against a group supposedly linked to the terrorists involved in the Sept. 11 attacks.

Some black people responding to opinion polls on the Iraqi war undoubtedly “get” what this military action will mean for them on a daily basis. As the first fired and last hired, they will likely take some of the hardest domestic hits from the president’s request for about $80 billion of U.S. taxpayers’ dollars to pay for the invasion/occupation of Iraq through September 30 only.

Congress won’t likely oppose this war spending. And it will cause many Americans to feel real pain in 2003.

The war spending and tax cuts for the wealthy requested by Bush and likely to be approved by Congress will be used an excuse to cut non-military spending. Low-income people, disproportionately black and brown, will get beaten up by these budget and tax cuts.

Federal education, health and welfare spending will be slashed. Millionaires will get fat tax cuts.

There can, of course, be no U.S.-led building of a free society in Iraq when freedom remains a “dream deferred” for millions of black (and Asian, Latino, Native American and white) people here. The advanced political consciousness of black people polled before and after the U.S. attack on Iraq speaks to this truth.

SETH SANDRONSKY is co-editor of Because People Matter. He can be reached at: ssandron@hotmail.com


More articles by:

Seth Sandronsky is a Sacramento journalist and member of the freelancers unit of the Pacific Media Workers Guild. Emailsethsandronsky@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
March 23, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Roberto J. González
The Mind-Benders: How to Harvest Facebook Data, Brainwash Voters, and Swing Elections
Paul Street
Deplorables II: The Dismal Dems in Stormy Times
Nick Pemberton
The Ghost of Hillary
Andrew Levine
Light at the End of the Tunnel?
Paul de Rooij
Amnesty International: Trumpeting for War… Again
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Coming in Hot
Chuck Gerhart
Sessions Exploits a Flaw to Pursue Execution of Meth Addicts
Robert Fantina
Distractions, Thought Control and Palestine
Hiroyuki Hamada
The Eyes of “Others” for Us All
Robert Hunziker
Is the EPA Hazardous to Your Health?
Stephanie Savell
15 Years After the Iraq Invasion, What Are the Costs?
Aidan O'Brien
Europe is Pregnant 
John Eskow
How Can We Live With All of This Rage?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Was Khe Sanh a Win or a Loss?
Dan Corjescu
The Man Who Should Be Dead
Howard Lisnoff
The Bone Spur in Chief
Brian Cloughley
Hitler and the Poisoning of the British Public
Brett Wilkins
Trump Touts $12.5B Saudi Arms Sale as US Support for Yemen War Literally Fuels Atrocities
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraqi Landscapes: the Path of Martyrs
Brian Saady
The War On Drugs Is Far Deadlier Than Most People Realize
Stephen Cooper
Battling the Death Penalty With James Baldwin
CJ Hopkins
Then They Came for the Globalists
Philip Doe
In Colorado, See How They Run After the Fracking Dollars
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Armed Propaganda
Binoy Kampmark
John Brennan’s Trump Problem
Nate Terani
Donald Trump’s America: Already Hell Enough for This Muslim-American
Steve Early
From Jackson to Richmond: Radical Mayors Leave Their Mark
Jill Richardson
To Believe in Science, You Have to Know How It’s Done
Ralph Nader
Ten Million Americans Could Bring H.R. 676 into Reality Land—Relief for Anxiety, Dread and Fear
Sam Pizzigati
Billionaires Won’t Save the World, Just Look at Elon Musk
Sergio Avila
Don’t Make the Border a Wasteland
Daryan Rezazad
Denial of Climate Change is Not the Problem
Ron Jacobs
Flashing for the Refugees on the Unarmed Road of Flight
Missy Comley Beattie
The Age of Absurdities and Atrocities
George Wuerthner
Isle Royale: Manage for Wilderness Not Wolves
George Payne
Pompeo Should Call the Dogs Off of WikiLeaks
Russell Mokhiber
Study Finds Single Payer Viable in 2018 Elections
Franklin Lamb
Despite Claims, Israel-Hezbollah War is Unlikely
Montana Wilderness Association Dishonors Its Past
Elizabeth “Liz” Hawkins, RN
Nurses Are Calling #TimesUp on Domestic Abuse
Paul Buhle
A Caribbean Giant Passes: Wilson Harris, RIP
Mel Gurtov
A Blank Check for Repression? A Saudi Leader Visits Washington
Seth Sandronsky
Hoop schemes: Sacramento’s corporate bid for an NBA All-Star Game
Louis Proyect
The French Malaise, Now and Then
David Yearsley
Bach and the Erotics of Spring