According to a recent statement by Condoleeza Rice at a convention of black journalists that compared the war on Iraq to the civil rights movement in the United States, I am a racist. Why? Because I don’t believe the war on the people of the middle east is about bringing democracy? Because I, along with most people in the rest of the world believe the US/UK war is about control of oil access and oil profits? Because I don’t accept that the killing of thousands of Iraqis by US firepower is “the moral mission of our time”, like Condoleeza Rice does? Or is it because I find the ethnic cleansing practices of the Sharon regime in Israel–practices which are supported by the Bush administration–to be morally repugnant? Perhaps it even simpler: because I believe that the war on the peoples of the Middle East is about colonialism, plain and simple.
Like the colonialism of past centuries, the drive for power and profit is cloaked in words of morality. The western powers used to go in and Christianize the natives, now we bring them western democracy–a concept that is a figment of someone’s imagination, much like western civilization. Much like the conquerors of old killed the “natives” when they met up with indigenous peoples who didn’t feel like being Christianized, the modern colonizers kill those who don’t want to be “democratized.” Of course, if they kill enough, thereby destroying the opposition, soon the colonizers can realize their dream of democracy.
By making these comments, the Bush administration’s feeble attempts to make the US/UK war on Iraq a moral war have become more than a sad farce. They are an insult to our intelligence. Even more, this most recent utterance is an insult to the legacy of the grassroots movement to destroy legal apartheid in the United States. For Ms. Rice to take the mantle of that movement and attempt to overlay it on her administration’s shabby and immoral assault on the country and people of Iraq is a disgusting and cynical blow to integrity of the people who risked their lives and their freedom in their attempt to make this country a more just place to live and work. If he could, Martin Luther King, Jr. might tell Ms. Rice to read the speech he gave on April 4th, 1967 at the Riverside Church in New York city. It was on that night that Dr. King drew the existing lines between racism in the streets of the United States and the racist war on the people and country of Vietnam.
These lines were not new. They existed long before Vietnam. Indeed, they are part of the white people’s legacy in the settling of this nation. our ancestors came here and tricked, enslaved, lied to, and killed those who were here before them in order to occupy their land. Then, when the indigenous peoples refused to be enslaved, the growers and traders joined in the growing international slave trade, becoming its biggest customers. It was this involvement, more than any other part of our history, that has stained our thinking ever since. To this day, there are reminders of that legacy–whether that be the disproportionate numbers of black men and women in our prisons or the disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of black voters in the state of Florida during the 2000 election. It was this disenfranchisement that gave Mr. Bush (and by default, Ms. Rice) their jobs. It is also this disenfranchisement that represents Ms. Rice’s western democracy. In other words, it is democracy only for those who are allowed in the club.
The Bush administration can call this a war about WMD. THey can call it a war to get rid of Saddam Hussein. They can call it a war to fight terrorism. Heck, they can even call it a war to bring democracy to the country of Iraq. All of these public relations attempts might gain an adherent or two. However, for them to send out Ms. Rice and have her tell the people in this country that their dirty little war is on moral par with the movement to end legalized racism and apartheid in the United States is going way too far. If they had any shame, they would know this and be appropriately ashamed. Since shame is not a part of their thought processes, however, one can only hope that the true spokespeople for the civil rights movement–those anti-racist Americans of all skin tones who are not part of the privileged few who put us in this war–will remind them whenever and wherever they can of Martin Luther King’s words that night in 1967: “Somehow this madness must cease.”
RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground.
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org