“Egbe Belu, Ugo belu; nke si ibe ya ebena, nku kwaya“
“Ogbon jojo ni so’ni d’iwin: b’oogun ba po lapoju, a so’ni di were”
Given the frightening passions and repression occasioned by the drive to war in Iraq in the United States, I write this essay with great trepidation. It is a moral rather than political take on current events. Should my observations below prove fatal to me in the current American slide into fascism, well, so be it.
I needed to write this essay to express my disgust at the calm manner in which American media contemplates the slaughter of Iraqis in their homes. This new national indulgence in sadistic voyeurism, what an insightful observer has designated “War Porn” is spurred by the United States’ government’s self imposed mandate to expel the Iraqi leader from a position that 12 years of crippling sanctions had been unable to achieve. This impending invasion of Iraq continues a trend in international relations, but one whose danger now is greater than ever. It is a cliche to say that we live in dire times but as a cliche holds, there is no smoke without fire. Cliches come into being when obvious facts are turned banal. That we live in dire times is obvious: what is not so obvious is the reasons for the current state of the world. My ruminations below explore this uncertain terrain. I shape my opinions from evaluating several concurrent issues around the world.
In this new century, we are at the beginning of a return to the imperialist ambitions of the 19th century when powerful European countries used all sorts of dubious excuses to impose their will on non-western spaces and set up colonies. Then, as now, they appealed to the need to protect THEIR interests and provide their citizens with security. Never mind that local resistance of different countries to colonial rule was also born of the need to protect their own citizens. The ensuing conflicts inevitably resulted in the large-scale massacre of the innocent. They also shaped world affairs in a way that undermined non-western resistance to the expropriation of their won natural resources. There are obviously many examples one can give here but I focus on Africa since that continent provides the most egregious examples of this process of foreign domination.
John Reader (“Africa: A Biography of the Continent”) provides a useful general survey of the African continent. His grim narrative reveals the extent that European plunder and chicanery shaped much of Africa’s history. This kind of opinion is not common of late as many African intellectuals and European revisionists battle to shift the blame and burden of Africa’s disastrous political and economic failures onto the shoulders of post-colonial African leaders. They are tired of hearing the “it’s the fault of the colonials” canard. In fact, many African leaders themselves had used the exploitation of Africa in the past as an excuse for their reckless stewardship of African economies. However, Reader’s narrative holds Europe to task for its ruthless exploitation of Africa and the non-western world. I agree that this exploitation sowed seeds of destruction on the African continent. I contend that since the rise of Islam on the continent, Africa’s political and social condition has essentially been one of servitude (slavery, colonization, neo-colonial exploitation) in the international arena. The invading Europeans, beginning with Portugal in the 15th century, perfected this form of exploitation that reduced Africans to slaves and colonized people over a period of 400 years. This was followed by the construction of an international political structure that legitimized Africa’s exploitation by world financial institutions like the World Bank, the IMF and others, mostly controlled from Washington DC and subject to the Bretton Woods consensus of international finance. (click here).
The policies of the IMF has consistently reduced viable African states to crippled economies and forcibly subjected them to the whim of international (read Euro/American) corporate will. In the affected countries, natural resources on which the local economy depends are consistently exported to obtain cash to pay off hefty loans to an IMF whose economic prescriptions undermine social service and leave the people starving and without basic social amenities. As a result of these nefarious policies, Euro/American corporations basically own many African countries caught up in this cycle of poverty. For example, it is rumored that the Nigerian government must have its annual budget approved by the oil companies on whom it depends to extract the natural resource. The support workers of these oil companies live in hermetically sealed environments that replicate American suburban life amidst the crushing poverty of their black neighbors. Africans have come through 350 years of slavery and having its natural resources plundered only to find herself in debt to her oppressors. The irony in that inversion is immense. Consider also the fact that while Americans drive around in $50,000 SUVs that get 10 miles a gallon, and are incensed when fuel costs rise, Nigerians who are the 8th largest source of international oil rarely have enough oil to meet its domestic obligations. African countries don’t get a fair price for their natural resources either since prices are subject to the control of Euro/American capital. Africans thus live in hell so that Euro/Americans can exploit our natural resources to live in heaven.
It is in that sense that I am furious when I see the effort to blame Africa’s problem solely on mismanagement by African leaders. What exactly do these individuals lead when their policies are controlled by nefarious international organizations? Chinweizu defines African leaders as co-participants in the expropriation of African resources. It is no wonder that many of them are kleptocrats who loot their national treasuries and deposit the money in Swiss accounts. They are following the structure of exploitation that they learned from the colonial governments. The conflicts in Africa are similarly manufactured to destabilize whole governments so that their natural resources can be looted. One out of every two diamonds sold in the world (my estimate) is euphemistically called “conflict diamonds” a.k.a. “diamonds obtained by butchering whole African populations”. While few states in Africa actually produce weapons or arms of any sort, the continent is awash in a flood of arms. Major governments like the US and Russia are involved in these arms sales, as are all sorts of shady arms dealers. In exactly the same manner as inner city youths of African descent in America tear the heart out of each other with guns sold to them by police officers among others, the availability of weapons allow Africans to carve each other up while foreigners make away with her wealth. The major leaders in the arms trade defend their ugly business in pretty much the same manner that the American National Rifle Association defends the country’s ubiquitous traffic in guns: “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”. I have challenged several antagonists who assert this to point to any society in which mass marketing of weapons has resulted in peace and tranquility. (Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine is a film everyone should see in this respect. He dissects the arguments used to justify gun ownership and the resultant violence in the United States).
Above all, I am incensed by the ongoing insult to Black African posed by South Africa: how companies like DeBeers used African slave labor in their mines well into the late 20th century and got away with it. At the same time, DeBeers’ control of the international diamond markets makes it impossible for a country like Sierra Leone to sell its diamonds internationally. The price is thus suppressed and enables this cartel and its partners to buy out Sierra Leone’s productions, in essence enslaving the economy. These examples can be multiplied ad nauseum. In this sense, I think Nelson Mandela negotiated the worst terms for the advent of majority rule for any African country in the 20th century. He allowed Apartheid South African companies like DeBeers to get away with the enslavement and murder of Black South Africans by choosing the appearances of independence over human dignity and justice. May the memory of all Africans who have made such choices over the centuries be cursed forever. The effects of their choices on African lives will take a hundred generations to undo.
Many readers will quarrel with my excessively gloomy assessment of Africa’s future but I am not alone in this opinion. Alvin Toffler maps out the hidden agenda of Western Imperialism in his book, The Third Wave, albeit writing as one who finds the process inevitable. The West (and I know this term is reductive but does anyone doubt its existence and power today?) has never respected the rights and claims of non-western peoples to their own bodies or indigenous resources. I predicted in 1996 that in the post-Cold War era, the United States would feel increasingly emboldened to control the resources of important regions by exerting its military might. We see the first test of that assurance in the impending invasion of Iraq purportedly to enforce UN resolutions even when the UN has made clear its unwillingness to entrust the US with the role of “World Policeman”. It is also evidenced in arrogant American statements about how Saddam Hussein is standing in the way of “progress” in the Middle East. When Africans “stood in the way of progress” to protest European colonization in the 19th and 20th century, they were slaughtered by the hundreds of thousands by superior force of arms. No doubt, the god of the Christians legitimizes this kind of imperialist adventure since according to the bible some human beings are created to be hewers of wood and drawers of water for others more powerful.
Thus in the year of their lord 2003, the United States sets out to murder in their homes Iraqi people who have done nothing to deserve such fate except that they are ruled by a dictator that America helped install and propped up for more than a decade. This invasion will complete the decimation of Iraq began in 1991 under the father of the current American president, thus turning the wholesale slaughter of Iraqis into a morbid Bush “family” business. Total number of casualties from the first Gulf War: 210,000 (conservative estimate). Total number of deaths assumed from 12 years of American imposed embargo: 800,000, many of them children. Madeleine Albright, former US Secretary of State, was heard to have commented that these are acceptable collateral damage justified in order to bring Iraq’s government to heel. Several human rights organizations have complained to the UN that the Iraq sanctions essentially constitute a weapon of mass destruction (click here). However, Arab life is cheap, not to be compared for instance to Jewish life in the neighboring state of Israel whose occupation of Palestine has consistently and flagrantly flouted international laws since 1950.
The American war against Iraq is a war of aggression and is totally unjust. While I am not in support of President Hussein’s dictatorship and his iron fisted rule over his people, I don’t buy the idea of any foreign country “liberating” Iraq from its dictator. Liberation should be left to the Iraqi people. A society that gets angry enough to overthrow a dictatorship learns a valuable lesson about democracy and freedom. They learn to live and work together bound by a common interest. Look at what happened to Yugoslavia after it was “liberated:” from Soviet rule. In addition, no dictator survives without international cooperation. The United States propped up Saddam Hussein for more than a decade, providing him with weapons that he used to slaughter Iranians during the Iran-Iraq war in exchange for oil. Surely the US is guilty of being an accomplice to the deaths of these Iranians. There is in fact nothing that Iraq has been accused of that one cannot pin on the United State, sometimes directly but more importantly, through proxies acting on its behalf. Weapons of mass destruction? Witness the irony of America deploying bombs with the explosive power of small nuclear weapons (in other words: weapons of mass destruction) against Iraq supposedly to rid it of any hope of procuring such weapons. Torture? Witness the use of client-state torture on captured prisoners in the current “war” against terrorism. Concentration camps? Witness the massive American prison-industrial complex devoted to undermining black manhood and providing slave labor for industries owned by the most powerful and rich Americans of today. The prison system here is a typical slave plantation style economy and it is time it stop pretending it is anything else. The above systems are shored up by racism, the entrenched belief that white life is more valuable than black life. Would the white American public be so complacent if one in every three white male Americans is in jail or awaiting execution? I think not.
The 1991 Gulf War’s cumulative number of casualties came to over one million Iraqi deaths both in combat and since then due to US enforced sanctions. Compare this to less than 150 American deaths (3500 if we add the 3000 who died in the World Trade Center terrorist attack engendered by US occupation of Saudi Arabia after Gulf War 1). The United States media has largely kept silent about this fact. In this, they are also complicit in these deaths and thus guilty of inaction. This time around though, there is an international public outcry over the impending slaughter of Iraqis by the US. However, although Western countries protest America’s aggressive outlook in the current era, they will ultimately fall in line and try to get back on the good side of the Hegemon in order to protect their economic interests in the future. France is already angling to join in the campaign now that it is obvious that the US will invade Iraq despite furious international opposition. In the 19th and 20th century, this was called “the Great Game” and it pitted Euro/American powers against each other in their race towards Imperialism. These same countries later agreed on rules to structure their invasion and exploitation of non-western colonies. We are seeing a comparable alignment of international relations that cements racist divisions and makes the non-western world totally vulnerable to the whims and power of the United States. There is no doubt that the US will quickly smash Iraq, and then go after Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and other Middle Easter states until American power rules in that region. It might then be bold enough to extend this power to other regions of the world. What the United States seeks here is the imperialist mantle of Rome and England, the ability to impose a Pax-Americana on the entire world. There have been dreams of world domination in the past but no empire has actually achieved such power. If historical trends hold true, the United States will continue to exert its power until it comes under pressure by an international coalition of nations who become compelled to curb its power by waging war against it. I do not see this happening very soon.
What I see is rather the US getting overextended militarily and getting mortally wounded by the strain of keeping a colonized world under control. It may then be compelled to use nuclear weapons on a country in order to put down rebellion and signal to others that those who resist will be destroyed. This nuclear weapons threat is America’s dirty little secret, that it is above all, the threat of first strike use of nuclear weapons that form the backbone of America’s military might, not the superiority of its conventional forces. The United States has been defeated twice in battle by China in both the Korean and Vietnam wars despite the overwhelming superiority of its conventional forces. It has salvaged a retreat from these confrontations by threatening to deploy Nuclear weapons (click here). However, this is not 1945 and the world is not today like Japan of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki era. The first strike use of nuclear weapons anywhere on this planet in this age will have catastrophic consequences for all concerned especially the country that first uses it although this won’t deter the uber-hawks who have gained control of the United States and are busy turning it into a dictatorship. I feel extremely saddened to realize that our generation might actually see the much-touted “end-time” of the Christian fundamentalists. This is not religious fundamentalist speak but actual prognosis based on the infinitely multiplied capacity of humans to cause destruction. However, the bright light and sudden disappearance of large populations that ensues won’t be due to any rapture, it will be due to a rupture in atoms, as a nuclear Armageddon spreads its mushroom cloud over the earth.
There is a Darwinian impulse behind this new United States expression of might makes right. It doesn’t bode well for Africans but then Africa has always been dispensable in the international scheme of things. It also doesn’t bode well for the Islamic world but there are those who fervently wish that this conflict will degenerate into a war of civilizations so that the end-time hallucinations of some starving desert tribal prophets can be invested with a historical reality. America is seen as the avenger of the West, the instrument of biblical prophecies in the Middle East. The conquest of Iraq allows the US to take control of the “cradle of civilization” and remake the Middle East in its own image. This attempt, like all others before it, is bound to fail mainly because it bucks the trend of history. The problem that the United States’ imperialist policy faces is not conquest. That is the easy part. The hard part is maintaining law and order in its newly occupied territories. It is also true that for the local populations, the Iraqis in this instance and others peoples later, freedom from this current Hegemon will come only after much slaughter has occurred. The retreating French occupation forces in Algeria and Vietnam scorched the earth as they fled. The French killed more than one million Algerians before they accepted defeat in their colonial enclave. Britain applied wholesale torture and assassination to deal with the Mau-Mau uprising in Kenya, killing and crippling a whole generation of Kenyan nationalists. The Arab government of Sudan has so far killed over two million people in the ongoing twenty-year war to liberate Black Christian Sudan from its Islamic overlords. British weapons and a crippling blockade supported a war that wiped out over one million Igbo peoples in the Biafra/Nigeria conflict between 1967 and 1970. The United Nations stood by while one million people perished in Rwanda. Apartheid South Africa destroyed black lives at will before surrendering to black “majority rule” in 1994 but not before it wrested from the incoming government an agreement that allowed slave-holding corporations like DeBeers to escape retribution with their wealth intact. In none of these places and historical events have the dead been mourned enough.
This essay is above all a wailing for the endless slaughter of non-western peoples that the West feels compelled to carry out or condone once every decade. How have we come to this point where the life of some people on this earth are worth more than that of others. In what kind of calculation does the death of a million Iraqi people not count as genocide? Why are the UN and the US tolerant of Israeli occupation forces in the West Bank and Gaza that slaughter Palestinians like animals? When one complains about this kind of behavior by an outlaw state like Israel, you are called “anti-Semitic”. Why has everyone forgotten that Arabs ARE SEMITES TOO? Why does the persecution of a whole dispossessed Palestinian population for the sins of a few not count as “anti-Arabism”? Why is the decimation of Africa through AIDS and other stranglehold economic policies tolerated by a so-called civilized world? These things happen because of the value placed on black and brown person life in the current international scheme of things. They will continue to happen until black and brown peoples everywhere rise to fight either to freedom or to death, realizing that the West otherwise condemns them to eternal servitude. Frantz Fanon leads us here, and his indictment of an international system of Euro/American colonial exploitation remains valid today as when he first uttered them. Power responds only to force. The powerful do not want to share this world with anyone, they want to rule everyone and control everything. The American invasion of Iraq signals a return to the era of gunboat diplomacy in international relations. All the oppressed people of the world had better be prepared to fight and to die, or to live in bondage forever.
In this fight, non-western peoples cannot rely on a higher power. There is no god. Neither Yahweh of the Jews or Allah of the Moslems or Jesus of the fundamentalist Christians exists. Even if there were, the Christian God has no credibility for non-western peoples given the things that white men have perpetuated in his name. African gods do not deserve to be worshipped because they failed us at crucial moments in the past and present. Slave raiders made much mention of the pious wailing of captured Africans in their travails while their backs were branded and their women raped. Africans have survived the Christian God but now confront, with all other non-western peoples, a more virulent expression of Christianized imperialist doctrine. There is no place for us in the American New World Order except as servants and slaves. We thus have nothing to lose and everything to gain through resistance.
There is no God and if there is, it should be ashamed for the kind of world it has created. These fragments we have erected to shore up our own spiritual ruins have become justification for the worst excesses of the human spirit. We are ultimately responsible for our own deeds and it is the unbridled greed of the European human that has brought us to this impending demise. I predict that we are seeing the apogee of the European ascendancy that began in 1450 and has in this new American crusade against Arabs, African, Asian, and other non-western peoples, reached its height. This crusade against Iraq and the Islamic world is the beginning of its end. History will remember that its rule was anything but just. May history also remember all of us who were brought up in the carnage of its wars and all those who have been murdered by the West to secure the comfort of its own few and privileged white populations. There may be no stopping the United States in its evil intent but as Publilius Syrus one said: “multos timere debet, quem multi timent”. “He has to fear many who is feared by many”. No Hegemon has survived indefinitely and those who dream of a “thousand year Reich” must always confront the question: where is Rome today?