Col. Writ. 1/1/04
Why U.S. really doesn't want Mid-East democracy
By Mumia Abu-Jamal from death row
"We don't seek empires...
We're not imperialistic.
We never have been."
--Donald Rumsfeld, US Defense Secretary,
28 April 2003 (on al-Jazeera TV)
Such statements as these must have led to deep, throaty laughter in the souks throughout the Middle East, where, in many countries, Arabs (especially their educated elite) know far more about U.S. foreign policy and history, than even most Americans.
Yet, "Rummy" could say such things, for he knows that most Americans, having had a deficient, surface education, know very little about real American history. Indeed, even a neocon thinker such as the Council on Foreign Relations' Max Boot, had to concede it wasn't true. Said he, "The United States has been an empire since at least 1803, when Thomas Jefferson purchased the Louisiana Territory. Throughout the nineteenth century," Boot adds, "what Jefferson called the 'empire of liberty' expanded across the continent." He notes further, "When US power stretched from 'sea to shining sea,' the American empire moved abroad, acquiring colonies ranging
from Puerto Rico and the Philippines to Hawaii and Alaska." (Fr. M. Boot, "Neither New Nor Nefarious: The Liberal
Empire Strikes Back," *Current History* [Nov. '03], p. 361).
From the neocon perspective, these examples, and others are illustrative of what Boot calls a 'liberal imperialism,' a nice, American brand, he suggests.
Yet, to the occupied, to the ruled, this distinction seems to be largely lost. Few would argue that the Iraqi Resistance is weaker today, than it was 7 months ago. It is strengthened by the presence of US foreigners, who alienate more Iraqis daily. Nor is it sufficient for Americans to claim that this 'kinder, gentler' imperialism will win over the Iraqis because it is, after all, for 'democracy.' They know that it is precisely 'democracy' that the US Empire seeks to smother. The last thing they want is a true expression of what the populace feels, for, if it were to be, it would demand, immediately, their unconditional withdrawal. The late Palestinian scholar, Edward Said, wrote recently of this:
Every empire, however, tells itself and the world that it is unlike all other empires, that its mission is not to plunder and control but to educate and liberate. These ideas are by no means shared by the people who inhabit that empire. But that hasn't prevented the U.S. propaganda and policy apparatus from imposing its imperial perspective on Americans, whose sources of information about Arabs and
Islam are woefully inadequate. (E.Said, "Blind Imperial Arrogance," *L.A. Times*, 22 July '03)
Said used two examples from the region to show how the US used puppets to protect American economic interests, yet at the same time created leaders who became unpopular or hated figures in their home countries. First, he argued, was Egypt's Anwar Sadat, who is largely forgotten and unpopular a quarter century after his assassination. The second is the Shah of Iran, whose blind repression ushered in the Islamic Revolution and the rule of the mullahs.
To quote the late Professor Said:
That Sadat and the Shah were followed in power by rulers who are less palatable to the U.S. indicates not that the Arabs are fanatics, but that the distortions of imperialism produce further distortions, inducing extreme forms of resistance and political self-assertion. [id.]
By what measure can we assume that Iraq will not experience a similar response?
In October 2003 the US Advisory Group on Public Diplomacy in the Arab and Muslim World released a report that reflected "shocking...hostility toward America." That was a mere 3 months ago.
They know that the US has aligned itself with and supported a plethora of repressive governments in the region, and that they have no intention of suddenly becoming 'democratic.' They remember the electoral win by Islamicists in Algeria, and how the US turned a blind eye when the post-colonial government unleashed a wave of state repression against those who had the temerity to win parliamentary elections. Algeria reflected what happens, in US eyes, when there is too much democracy!
The last thing they want is a repeat!
Copyright 2004 Mumia Abu-Jamal