Thursday, April 8, 2010
By Hamish Chitts
While the wars of occupation against the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, like most wars, are being fought for big-business profits, they cannot be waged without the assistance of racism. Racism breaks down human solidarity, and there is no greater example of this than when seemingly rational people are able to be convinced that it is acceptable to kill other people simply because they have a different skin colour.
The armed forces of imperialist countries like Australia and the US have a long history of consciously fostering racism to justify their wars against non-white people fighting for their national liberation. The word “gook” for example has been used by US military forces for more than a century. According to dictionary.com, it was used by US forces in the Philippines in 1899. It was then used by US forces that invaded Nicaragua in 1912 and Haiti in 1920. It was revived again by US forces during the 1950-53 Korean War and brought out again in the 1960s to de-humanise the entire Vietnamese people.
When the US military invaded Somalia in the 1992, its great military thinkers came up with the word “Skinnies” for Somalis because they couldn’t make any reference to the colour of their skin with so many black soldiers in the US army. Australian infantry from a Darwin-based battalion training to deploy to East Timor in 1999 were told they had to come up with a de-humanising name for the East Timorese and the Indonesians. The theory was that if soldiers had to shoot a “monkey” (an East Timorese) or a “rice monkey” (an Indonesian), they would not be emotionally affected by it.
Racism and Islamophobia
Since 9/11, state- and corporate-sponsored racism against Muslims — under the cover of a “war on terrorism” — has been ramped up to justify wars to impose governments in Afghanistan and Iraq that would be “friendly” to imperialist political and economic interests, particularly the profit-making interests of the big Western oil corporations. While Muslims are not a racial group, because the vast majority of the world’s Muslims are non-whites the promotion of Islamophobia has taken on a distinctly racist character.
This of course is not the first time that a non-racial group has been “racialised” to justify waging war against them. During the first inter-imperialist war (1914-18) the British rulers sought to dehumanise their German enemy as non-white, referring to all Germans as “the Hun” (the Turkic-speaking nomadic pastoral peoples from Central Asia who invaded the collapsing Roman empire in the 4th century). The German Nazis portrayed all European Jews and all the Slavic-speaking peoples of Europe as biologically inferior races to “Aryans” (non-Jewish northern Europeans), as untermenschen (sub-human).
In today’s world, as Dr Bobby Sayid, director of the Centre for Ethnicity and Racism Studies at the University of Leeds, has observed, Islamophobia is the “racism that takes up the white man’s burden for the New American Century. It’s a humanitarian intervention not a mission civilisatrice, it only wants to spread democracy not to expropriate resources, it does not want to exterminate ignoble savages, only to domesticate unruly Muslims … themes associated with previous expressions of racism can be (and increasingly are) brought back into style. Muslim extremists can join the Black mugger, the Gypsy thief, the Jewish anarchist … as the stars of racism’s narratives. Expertly opined, scientifically classified and institutionally enshrined, Muslims are inserted into a pubic discourse as almost isomorphic replacements for previous arch-villains of racist anxieties and fantasies.”
Rudd’s ‘counter-terrorism’ white paper
The Australian government’s white paper on counter-terrorism, released on February 23, is an exercise in just such demonisation. When he released the paper, PM Kevin Rudd said, “the government’s security intelligence agencies assess that terrorism has become a persistent and permanent feature of Australia’s security environment” and “Another apparent shift has been the increase in the threat from people born or raised in Australia, who have become influenced by the divisive narrative espoused by al-Qaeda”.
The paper provided no evidence of such a threat. The best Rudd could come up with was recent “terror” witch-hunts that have imprisoned Muslims for thought crimes, including five men who were sentenced on February 15 to jail terms of between 23 and 28 years, despite not even the slightest evidence of a plan or target for a terrorist attack. You are tens of thousands of times more likely to be killed by your boss (or someone else’s boss) cutting corners on safety to save money than you are to be killed by a Muslim terrorist. A 2003 Access Economics report for the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission estimated that there are 8168 work-related fatalities every year in Australia.
The Rudd government paints the Australian military’s participation in the US-led occupation of Afghanistan as a form of self defence against terrorist attacks against Australians, but it is the civilians of Afghanistan who are being slaughtered and terrorised by the US-led occupation forces — workers and subsistence farmers who possess neither the capability nor the desire to attack countries like Australia or the US. Meanwhile, Washington’s puppet government in Kabul headed by Afghan President Hamid Karzai provides government positions, business deals and cash to the same people who are supposed to pose a terrorist threat to ordinary Australians.
Last year the US set up and funded an Afghan government department to offer sweeteners to people like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who is on Washington’s “most wanted” terrorist list. Hekmatyar is the leader of Hezb-i-Islami, which has been fighting NATO troops alongside the Taliban. Unlike the majority of Afghan resistance fighters, Hekmatyar has been committing war crimes and acts of terror since the 1970s to advance his personal wealth and power. In the early 1990s, even after being named prime minister, Hekmatyar’s forces subjected Kabul to relentless artillery and rocket bombardment for months, destroying half the city and killing 50,000 people, deliberately targeting civilians.
It is a racist lie that the Western powers are trying to bring “democracy” to the Afghan people. The recent fraudulent elections in Afghanistan cost nearly $300 million, and added to a growing dissatisfaction among the Afghan people. Only 30% of Afghanistan’s 15 million registered voters cast their ballots in the elections, which were simply aimed at presenting a facade of representative government to public opinion in the countries of the occupying armies, while entrenching the rule of pro-US warlords.
If the people of Afghanistan were able to freely express there views, the majority would be in favour of the foreign troops leaving. Even under the heel of the occupation, only 37% of Afghans said they supported the presence of the US-led military forces in their area, according to a public opinion poll released on February 9 last year by the US ABC News, the BBC and ARD German TV networks.
The US-led war in Afghanistan is not about bringing “democracy” to anyone or about combating “terrorism”. It’s about consolidating the political and economic domination of the US and its imperialist allies in the Middle East and Central Asia, two regions extremely rich in oil and natural gas. Cheap access to oil is needed, not only to generate super-profits for owners of the big oil corporations, but also to run the US military. In 2007 the US Department of Defense’s per capita consumption of oil was 10 times more than per capita consumption in China, or 30 times more than in Africa. This has only increased as US President Barack Obama has ramped up the war in Afghanistan.
[Hamish Chitts is a member of the Revolutionary Socialist Party and one of the founders of Stand Fast — a group of veterans and military service people against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. For information about Stand Fast visit the Stand Fast website or phone 0401 586 923.]
From Direct Action, Sydney, Australia