might glean a few insights about the semantics of
the global order and the reality it tries to
mask from the way in which the United States
has framed the moral case against Saddam.
unspeakable crime is that he has tortured his
own people. He has killed his own people.
He has gassed his own people. He has poison-gassed
his own people. In all the accusations, Saddam
stands inseparable from his own people.
do his accusers charge that Saddam tortured
people, gassed people, gassed
Iraqis, or killed Iraqis. A google
search for gassed his own people and Saddam
produced 5980 hits. Another search for gassed
people and Saddam produced only 276 hits.
would appear that the indictment of Saddam gathers
power, conviction, irrefutability, by adding the possessive,
proprietary, emphatic own to the people
tortured, gassed or killed. What does the grammar
of accusations say about the metrics of American values?
is revealing. For a country that claims to speak in
the name of man, abstract man, universal man, the
charge is not that Saddam has killed people, that
he has committed murders, mass murders. Instead, the
prosecution indicts him for killing a people who stand
in a specific relation to the killer: they are his
betrays tribalism. It springs from a perception that
fractures the indivisibility of mankind. It divides
men into tribes. It divides people into us
and them: ours and theirs.
It elevates us above them:
our kind above their kind.
It reveals a sensibility that can feel horror only
over the killing of ones own kind.
is sacred at the Core. In the United States, we have
an inalienable right to life. It is protected by law;
it cannot be taken away without due process. Americans
are proud, sedate, in the illusion that their President
never kills his own people; their history is proof
of this. An American President would never think of
killing his own people.
crimes are most foul because he has tortured his own
people; he has killed his own people; he has gassed
his own people. He has violated the edict of nature.
His actions are un-American.
unnatural crimes trouble us, however, not because
we feel empathy for his victims. His crimes predict
trouble for us. If he can kill his own kind how much
more willingly would he kill us? In Scot McClellans
version: any person that would gas his own people
is a threat to the world (read the United States).
course, Saddam might plead innocence to this charge.
Youve got it all wrong about the people
I kill. The Kurds I killed are not my own people.
They are not even Arabs, and, worse, they wanted to
break up Iraq and create their own independent Kurdistan.
What would you do to your Blacks, Amerindians, Hispanics
or Asians, if they took up arms to carve out independent
states of their own? Were not the Southern whites
your own people? But you killed a half million of
them when they took up arms against you in the 1860s.
More recently, you killed your own kind at Waco.
as the United States prepares to try Saddam for torturing,
gassing and killing his own people, does this absolve
us of killing the same people because they are not
our own? Is the killing of Iraqis a crime only when
the perpetrators are local thugs once in our
pay and not when we take up the killing, and
execute it more efficiently, on our account?
the colonial era, racism inoculated people against
feeling empathy towards those other people in the
Periphery. Those other people were children, barbarians,
savages, if not worse. We had to kill them if they
could not be useful to us, or if they stood in the
way of our progress. There wasnt much squeamishness
about this. It was good policy.
the era of the Cold War, we went easy on the language
of racism, though not always on its substance. When
we sent our men and women to kill hundreds of thousands
of Vietnamese and Koreans, we justified this by claiming
that we were doing it to protect our freedoms. Of
course, it was all right to kill for our freedoms.
in the new era, the US learned to contract the killing
to thugs in the Periphery. This was a win-win for
us. We kept our hands free from bloodstains, so we
could smell like roses. At the same time, we could
point to colored killers (in our pay), and say, Look,
they are still incapable of civilization. What
is more, we could use their savagery as justification
for killing colored peoples on our own account.
recently, the US has gone back to killing on its own
account. Starting in the 1980s, taking advantage of
their indebtedness which we helped create
we began a general economic warfare against the Periphery,
stripping down their economies for takeover by Core
capital. In this new war, the colonial governors and
viceroys have been replaced by two banks the
World Bank and the IMF and a trade enforcer,
the WTO. Like the famines in British India, this war
has produced tens of millions of hidden victims, dead
from hunger and disease.
1990, the US introduced a new, deadlier form of economic
warfare: it placed Iraq under a total siege. This
instrument was chosen because we knew that Iraq was
vulnerable: it imported much of its food, medicines,
medical equipment, machinery and spare parts, nearly
all paid for by oil exports. Imposed to end Iraqi
occupation of Kuwait, the siege ended some thirteen
years later only after the US had occupied Iraq. Only
after the siege had killed more than a million and
a half Iraqis, half of them children.
again, the US is the worlds nerve center of
reactionary ideologies. The post-War restraints on
the use of deadly force now gone, the United States
revels in the use of deadly force. Not that alone,
it wants to be seen using deadly force. It wants to
be feared, even loathed for its magnificent power,
raining death from the skies as never before, like
no other power before. At manufacturing death, we
brook no competition.
militarism and wars create their own rationale. In
time, Islamist enemies were elevated and magnified,
with help from the Zionists. Rogue states stepped
out of the shadows. The swamps began to spawn terrorists.
Weapons of mass destruction proliferated. Sagely Orientalists
suddenly awoke to an Arab democracy deficit.
Islam, they declared, is misogynist, anti-modernist
and anti-democratic. The civilizing mission was Arabized.
The musty odors of jingoism, militarism, racism and
religious bigotry infested the air. Like a godsend,
the attacks of September 11, 2001, galvanized America.
Imperialism and racism rode into town, cheek by jowl,
hand in hand.
new colonization project has now snagged its chief
prize. An Arab Ozymandias brought low. The man who
tortured, killed and gassed his own people is in American
hands. Our civilizing mission displays its trophy.
We are repeatedly invited to peep into the oral orifice
of this bedraggled Saddam. Ladies and gentlemen,
we got him.
images of Saddam the captive, haggard, resigned, defanged,
are images of our raw power. Our power to appoint,
anoint, finance and arm surrogates in the Periphery:
and when they go wrong, our power to wage war against
their people; destroy their civilian infrastructure,
poison their air, water and soil with uranium; lay
siege to their economy; and, finally to invade and
occupy their country. We will go to any lengths to
save the people of the Periphery from our tyrants.
then, wretched denizens of the Periphery, there is
cause to rejoice. Lift your Cokes and offer a toast
to the Boy Emperor even as he launches plans to establish
a thousand years of Pax Americana. He will bring down
all outmoded tyrannies, and root out rogue states,
dictatorships and monarchies. He will extirpate all
fundamentalists, hunt down all terrorists, track down
all drug lords, and scrap all unfriendly WMDs. This
will be the great cleansing of all self-created challenges
to the Empire. In the end nothing will stand between
the Empire and the Periphery, between Capital and
Labor, between Thesis and Anti-Thesis.
the Empire is advancing its day of reckoning with
Shahid Alam is professor of economics at Northeastern
University. His last book, Poverty from the Wealth
of Nations, was published by Palgrave in 2000. He
may be reached at email@example.com.
Visit his webpage at http://msalam.net.
© M. Shahid Alam
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