“Why the little yellow bastards!”: Imperialism, nationalism and racism By William Bowles

19 March 2004

“It is that out of the shadow of this evil, should emerge lasting good….

This is a moment to seize. The Kaleidoscope has been shaken. The pieces are in flux. Soon they will settle again. Before they do, let us re-order this world around us.”
Tony Blair @ the Labour Party Conference, October 1st 2001

“We have got to be tough with Germany and I mean the German people, not just the Nazis. You either have to castrate [them] or you have got to treat them…so they can’t go reproducing people who want to continue the way they have in the past”
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, August 19, 1944

“This war is not ended. It may only be at the end of its first phase…those countries will stand not just as nations liberated from oppression, but as a lesson to humankind everywhere and a profound antidote to the poison of religious extremism.”
Speech given by the Prime Minister, Sedgefield, March 5, 2004

“[Germans] combine in the most deadly manner the qualities of the warrior and the slave. They do not value freedom themselves and the spectacle of it among others is hateful to them.”
Winston Churchill, speech to the House of Commons 1943

“From September 11th on, I could see the threat plainly. Here were terrorists prepared to bring about Armageddon.”
Tony Blair, March 5 2004

“Why the little yellow bastards!”
Time Magazine 1941, following the attack on Pearl Harbour

“September 11th was for me a revelation. What had seemed inchoate came together. But what galvanised me was that it was a declaration of war by religious fanatics who were prepared to wage that war without limit.”
Tony Blair, Sedgefield, March 5, 2004

It should be pretty clear to most right thinking people that there is a direct link between the imperialist project and the rise of racism and as the excerpts above illustrate, it is neither an accident nor is it a new phenomenon. And whilst Blair’s ‘theatrical’ approach may not be as explicit as those of FDR and Churchill, it nevertheless uses the same formula; the ‘us against them’ strategy, designed to create a gulf between people whether it uses nationality, race, politics or religion. Hence defining people as ‘religious fanatics’ and ‘Islamic fundamentalists’ performs the same function in defending ‘our way of life’ as did ‘little yellow bastards’ for justifying the war with Japan.

Blair of course, could not get away with calling Arabs ‘ragheads’. These days the ruling elite has to be more circumspect in pushing the demogogic button, like using ‘Thug’ Blunkett to whip up the appropriate frenzy whilst at the same time making all the right noises about ‘multi-culturalism’. For Blair, it’s his stock phrases that rely on metaphor especially the medical – “innoculate, disease, isolate, poison, antidote” – that deliver the message.

In fact, it is impossible to link nationalism with imperialism without the use of racism as the way Arabs and Muslims are currently being treated in the US and the UK so amply demonstrates. Home secretary ‘Thug’ Blunkett’s attacks on ‘illegal aliens’ and ‘asylum seekers’ fits into the same propaganda campaign that seeks to link the foreign with attacks on ‘our’ way of life.

And again, as the Time Magazine headline demonstrates, the role of the media in whipping up hysteria around the ‘other’ serves a specific purpose, for on the one hand it seeks to legitimise racism and on the other, it serves to mask the real interests of the ruling elite by heaping blame on a convenient enemy, who by virtue of colour, religion or national origin can be easily identified and singled out for ‘treatment’.

The ‘war on terror’ fits this bill perfectly for like race or religion, it depends less on reality and totally on peoples’ perceptions, perceptions that are inflamed by the media and the politicians into a witch-hunt that becomes ever more indiscriminate as it sweeps up all who don’t ‘fit’ in. Above all else, it relies on ignorance that in turn feeds a fear of the unknown.

“Asked their opinion of Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general, 16 percent of Americans said they had never heard of him. Nearly as many, 13 percent, said they had never heard of General Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani president and chief Muslim ally in the war against terror.

“Given the intense media coverage of the Iraq war and the resulting tensions between the United States and Europe, another surprising finding is that 7 per cent of Americans surveyed have never heard of the European Union. That figure, however, is an improvement since early September 2001, when one-fifth of Americans surveyed, 20 percent said they had never heard of the allied bloc across the Atlantic.”
International Herald Tribune: March 16, 2004.

And just as insidious is the role of the ‘scientific’ community in fanning the flames of racist ideology with dubious assertions about the nature of racism such as the report, released this week which attempts to show that there is some biological basis to racism:

“Racism and xenophobia linked to biological fear of outsiders in Stone Age”

Goes the headline in the Independent (18/03/04). The two scientists purport to show that it’s our “extreme sociality” that is the cause, for it unites small bands of “hunter-gatherers” whose survival depends on keeping “migration between groups…low”. The ‘scientists’ assert that unless migration between groups is kept low, then “competition”, “the driving force of group selection…fails”.

Note that the core of the argument hinges on the idea of ‘competition’, something that Darwin showed applied to competing species, hence implicit in the poisonous ideas of these two, so-called scientists is the racist (and unscientific) notion that humans are composed of separate species – us and them. The ‘outside’ or the ‘other’ once more figures as the central motif only now, it’s masked by a spurious scientific hypothesis that can only serve to reinforce the propaganda onslaught of the state and corporate media and those most susceptible, those most vulnerable, ignorant and insecure.

“From September 11th on, I could see the threat plainly. Here were terrorists prepared to bring about Armageddon.”
Tony Blair, March 5 2004

Armageddon, as I understand the meaning of the word, is the end of the world, but whose world is Blair talking about? When taken in the context of the neo-conservative agenda, Blair’s use of the word Armageddon makes perfect sense, for like Bush, it’s clear that both are driven by a Christian fundamentalist ideology. Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, both fervent supporters of Bush, see the coming ‘clash of civilisations’ as a vindication of their views. Robertson and Falwell (who declared that Mohammed “was the first great terrorist”) are also both virulent supporters of Arial Sharon.

And here the Zionist ideology that justifies the genocidal policies of Israel toward the Palestinians fits the idea of Armageddon and the Second Coming as predicted in the Book of Revelations. Scary stuff, and when seen in the context of a US population, of whom 1/3rd believe in Creationism, then the idea of the inevitability of war in the Middle East as part of God’s will, serves the purpose of the imperialist project to perfection. If there was ever an unholy alliance then it’s the fusion of the Project for the New American Century and Sharon and the Zionist project for a Greater Israel, along with fundamentalist Christianity with its nostalgia for a ‘pure’ (white, male) past, that has been corrupted by homosexuality, drugs, the loss of ‘family values’, the familiar litany

But to make sense of these poisonous ideas they have to be seen in the context of the capitalist order:

“since power is essentially only a means to an end a community based solely on power must decay in the calm of order and stability; its complete security reveals that it is built on sand. Only by acquiring more power can it guarantee the status quo; only by constantly extending its authority and only through process of power accumulation can it remain stable.”
H. Arendt, Imperialism

It is within this context that the role of racism, nationalism and xenophobia makes sense, for it acts to justify the logic of expansion and oppression, whether at home or abroad.

“The evil enemy without became the prime force through which to exorcise or tame the devils lurking within. This relation between the internal and external conditions of political power has played a significant if largely hidden role in the dynamics that have fuelled the conflict with Iraq.”
David Harvey, The New Imperialism

Hence the ‘war on terror’ performs two functions: Military adventures abroad requires military discipline at home, not only to suppress and control dissent but also, in order to prepare the citizens for war, a climate of fear is required that needs racism as the fuel.

It’s explains why in the face of the obvious – that waging war on the planet is bound to breed terrorists (failing any other solution) – the imperium will not address the contradiction even when challenged. Instead, Jack Straw on BBC Radio evaded the issue by saying that ‘terrorism [of the Osama kind] preceded 9/11 by a decade’. An amazing rewrite of history, events and their causes.

But all is not well with the project. The ‘willing’ are now less willing, Spain joins Poland, Brazil and El Salvador in wanting out of the disaster that is Iraq.

“Weakness and retreat will not be tolerated” says Bush and Colin Powell says “Now was not the time to run and hide,” but threats and accusations of cowardice just serve to further isolate the US from world opinion and expose their bankrupt policies.

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