Editors’ Note: CounterPunch is delighted to publish this essay on the Iraq war by ISHMAEL REED, one of our favorite novelists. Reed also edits the excellent online zine, Konch. We encourage you to bookmark the site and read Reed’s novels, poetry and essays. If you haven’t read Mumbo Jumbo you’ve deprived yourself of one the funniest and most biting novels since Twain. He’s a national treasure, but don’t tell the Bush administration–we know how they treat national treasures. JSC / AC.
The reason that a large part of the African-American public–up to 60%–opposed the war in Iraq, where defense contractors displayed their latest electronic weaponry, against an army that was supplied with 1917 Soviet rifles, is because many of the scenes that accompanied the slaughter of hundreds of Iraqi citizens looked familiar to them.
Citizens lying on the ground with M-16s aimed at their heads. Homes broken into and frightened dwellers being threatened with weapons. (On May 18, The Times reported that an elderly black woman died from a heart attack after the NYPD burst into her home. They mistakenly thought that it was a crack operation.)
The culture of those regarded as the enemy disrespected like African-American culture and history are disrespected at home. Even ridiculed by white American intellectuals and writers, who wish to keep white Americans and the rest of us in a cultural and intellectual backwoods.
For example, an enterprising journalist managed to arrange a dialogue between American and Iraqi students. The exchange took place before the war, and was carried on the World Link network, a network that, unlike the inbedwith American media, presents a program called Mosaic, news from Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan so that we get a balanced view of events taking place in the Middle East. The Iraqi students, who were receiving free education, knew more about international events than the American students.
What does this say about our educational system that American students, who come in near the bottom when compared to students in other industrial countries when tested on math, history and geography are less informed than students who were living under a heinous American-sponsored regime? (And were receiving free education.) Perhaps these American students get all of their information about the world from television.
0n April 25th, the President of the B.B.C. was reported to have said that the American media’s reporting of the war was characterized by so much patriotic cheerleading- my nomination for giddy hyper major domo for the war is CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, who was goo goo eyed over the video-game display of “shock- and- awe” weaponry- that it would be hard to take the United States electronic media seriously.
My favorite media moments of no shame occurred when Fox News criticized the former Iraqi minister of information of spreading disinformation and when an American educator, appearing on CNN, accused the Iraqi school curriculum of being driven by ideology. This woman, whose attitude of civilizing the natives, is a holdover from the old missionary impulse, would probably dismiss one as someone afflicted with “p.c.” if one were to suggest that generations of Americans have been rendered ignorant as a result of a school curriculum driven by ideology and plain lies. (See James Lowen’s “Lies My Teacher Told Me.”) There is another pattern that African-Americans can identify as the occupying forces stand by as Iraqi museums are looted and libraries burned. That of imposing unwanted leaders upon a population that either resents them or has never heard of them.
They do that to African-American, Hispanics and Asian-Americans all the time. The white left, right and middle have been doing this for years. All of them have political, cultural and intellectual nominations for H.N.I.C.s. Without the backing of The right wing Manhattan Institute, nobody would ever have heard of John McWhorter. Edward Said becomes annoyed when he sees and reads uninformed white men commenting on issues about the Middle East and writing books about Islam. That happens to African-Americans also. Most of the books about race in this country are written by white men. Some of them are informed. But most of them are trash.
And what happened to the weapons of mass distraction that Neo-confederate leader, George Bush, The lesser, accused the Iraqi of possessing? Maybe former CIA errand boy Saddam Hussein swallowed them.
ISHMAEL REED is the author of Mumbo Jumbo, The Freelance Pallbearers, Yellowback Radio Broke Down, The Last Days of Louisiana Red, The Terrible Threes and Flight to Canada. He is also the editor of Konch, a journal of art and politics, where this essay originally appeared. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org