he Assassination Of Dr. King And The Suppression Of The Anti-War And Peace Perspectives April 14, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Human Rights, Torture, War, Race, Foreign Policy, Racism, History, Civil Liberties.
Tags: Civil Rights, roger hollander, history, war, Vietnam War, martin luther king, imperialism, vietnam, colonialism, mlk, black liberation, neo-colonialism, obama militarism, king assassination, james earl ray, ajamu baraka, us imperilaism, liberal establishment, obama era
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by Ajamu Baraka
This week marks the 45th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. In those years, a King has emerged who bears little in common with the man who lived and struggled and died in the Freedom Movement. Killing the man was the work of an instant. Suppressing and distorting his legacy have been full time projects ever since.
The Assassination Of Dr. King And The Suppression Of The Anti-War And Peace Perspectives
by Ajamu Baraka
“Memory, individual and collective, is clearly a significant site of social struggle.”
(Aurora Levins Morales)
“As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they ask — and rightly so — what about Vietnam? They ask if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government. (Beyond Vietnam – A Time to Break Silence,” Rev. Martin Luther King, Riverside Church, April 4, 1967)
April 4th is an anniversary that I suspect many people in the U.S., including those in government, would prefer that people ignored. On that date 45 years ago, James Earl Ray, supposedly acting alone, murdered Martin Luther King Jr. on a balcony of the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee — silencing one of the great oppositional voices in U.S. politics.
Unlike the celebrations organized around the birthday of Dr. King, with which the U.S. government severs Dr. King from the black movement for social justice that produced him and transforms his oppositional stances into a de-radicalized, liberal, integrationist dream narrative, the anniversary of the murder of Dr. King creates a challenge for the government and its attempt to manage the memory and meaning of Dr. King. The assassination of Dr. King raises uncomfortable questions — not only due to the evidence that his murder was a “hit” carried out by elements of the U.S. government, but also because of what Dr. King was saying before he was killed about issues like poverty and U.S. militarism .
The current purveyors of U.S. violence will find attention to Dr. King’s anti-war and peace position most unwelcome, especially with a black president that has been able to accomplish what U.S. elites could have only dreamed of over the last few decades – the normalization of war-making as a legitimate tool to advance the geo-political interests of the U.S. and its’ colonial allies. So reminding people of Dr. King’s opposition to U.S. warmongering and the collaboration of liberals in that warmongering then and now, produces a strange convergence of political forces from both ends of the narrow U.S. political spectrum that have an interest in suppressing King’s anti-war positions.
The Suppression of the anti-war and peace movement and the pro-war coalition: then and now
When Dr. King finally opposed the war on Vietnam he incurred the wrath of liberals in the Johnson Administration, the liberal philanthropic community, and even a significant number of his colleagues in the clergy. The liberal establishment was scathing in its condemnation of his position and sought to punish him and his organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), in a manner similar to their assaults on the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), when it took an anti-war and anti-imperialist position much earlier than Dr. King and SCLC.
In today’s popular imagination of the anti-war and peace movement in the 1960s and 70s, the culprits have been re-imagined as the radical right, symbolized by President Richard Nixon. But it was the Kennedy Administration that escalated U.S. involvement in Vietnam, despite the liberal mythology around his supposed reluctance to do so, and it was Democrat Lyndon Johnson who dramatically expanded the war. When Johnson pulled out of the 1968 presidential race, Hubert Humphrey, the personification of contemporary liberalism, was slated to be the favorite to win the Democratic nomination. Humphrey, along with the rest of the liberal establishment, was firmly committed to Johnson’s war strategy, even in light of growing public opposition.
It should also be remembered that the Chicago police riot of 1968 against anti-war demonstrators took place at the Democratic National Convention, where the protestors were directing their fury at the Democratic Party — which has controlled the Executive Branch during the escalation of almost every major military experience by the U.S. State from the Second World War onwards. The notion of democratic weaknesses on matters of “national defense” owes itself to the historical amnesia of the U.S. population and the successful propaganda campaigns of the more aggressive foreign interventionist elements of the radical right over the years.
Today the array of forces in support of U.S. military aggression is similar to what we saw from the establishment in 1968, except for one important factor: in 1968 there was an organized, vocal anti-war movement that applied bottom-up pressure on the liberal establishment in power and on the Nixon Administration. Today, however, not only have significant elements of the contemporary anti-war and peace movement voluntarily demobilized during the Obama era, many of those individuals and organizations have entered into what can only be seen as a tactical alliance with the Obama Administration and provided ideological cover for imperialist interventions around the world.
Even mainstream human rights organization have facilitated the cover-up, either by their silence on the question of war; by their tacit acquiescence as demonstrated by their pathetic pleading with the attacking powers (usually the West, under NATO) to adhere to the rules of war; or by the construction and articulation of some of the most noxious but effective white supremacist covers for imperialist dominance that may have ever been produced – “humanitarian intervention” and the “right to protect.” Operating from the assumption that the white West are the “good guys” and have a “natural” right to determine which nations deserve to be sovereign, when regimes should be changed, who the international criminals are and what international laws need to be enforced, the political elites have been able to mobilize majority support for imperialist adventures from Iraq to Libya and now Syria. In a nod to the civilizing assumptions of Western modernity that is at the base of the colonialist project justifying these interventions, progressives and even some radicals have muzzled themselves or have even supported these misadventures that entail the West, under the leadership of the U.S., riding in to save people from their “savage governments.” For these activists, if those humanitarian missions result in Western companies managing to secure water, oil and other natural resources and shifting regional power relations to favor the West, well that is just the price to pay for progress. As Madeline Albright said in response to a question regarding the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children due to U.S. sanctions, “we think the price was worth it.”
It is still about values, consciousness and organization:
“All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts. A British Tory will defend self-determination in Europe and oppose it in India with no feeling of inconsistency. Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage — torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians — which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side . . . The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.” ( George Orwell)
The murder of Dr. King was not just the murder of a man but an assault on an idea, a movement and a vision of a society liberated from what Dr. King called the three “triplets” that had historically characterized and shaped the “American” experience – racism, extreme materialism and militarism. On April 4, 1967 in the Riverside Church in New York, exactly one year to the day before he would be murdered, Dr. King took an unequivocal stand in opposition to the U.S. war on the people of Vietnam, and declared that the only way that racism, materialism and militarism would be defeated was if there was a “radical revolution of values” in U.S. society. Today, 45 years later, with a Black president in the White House, racism in the form of continued white supremacy has solidified itself on a global scale; extreme materialism characterizes the desires and consumption patterns of a debt constructed middle class, even as it feels the weight of a national and global economic crisis; and militarism occupies the center of U.S. engagement with the nations of the Global South.
While the current national and global reality could not have been prefigured by political elites in the U.S., the murder of Dr. King and the disarray within the civil rights movement on direction, goals and programs, allowed the government to e turn its repressive apparatus to the violent suppression of the Black liberation movement. As the leading element for radical social change in the U.S., the assaults on the Black liberation movement meant that the hope for fundamental change in the U.S. would not be realized. The radical revolution of values that King hoped would transform the country was repackaged by the early 1970s into an individualist, pro-capitalist, debt-constructed consumer diversion. The country began a more dramatic rightward move in the late 1960s that saw the emergence of Nixon; Ronald Reagan; New Democrats; a new and even more virulent ideological construction – neoliberalism; and a uni-polar world, where under Bush and now Obama, the U.S. and its Western colonial allies are able to engage in a form of international gangsterism — invading nations, changing governments and stealing resources, in a manner that is similar to the early years of conquest when they first burst out of Europe in 1492.
The challenge is clear. A de-colonial, revolutionary shift in power from the 1% to the people is the only way Dr. King’s “radical revolution of values” can be realized in a national and global context in which the West has demonstrated that it will use all of its military means to maintain its hegemony. Yet, to realize that shift, the “people” are going to have to “see” through the ideological mystifications that still values Eurocentric assumptions as representing settled, objective realities on issues like democracy, freedom, human rights, economic development and cultural integrity in order to confront the new coalitions of privilege. Dr. King and the black anti-racist, anti-colonialist movements for social justice brought clarity to these moral issues by its example of movement building that sparked struggles for social justice in every sector of U.S. society. That is why sidelining black radical organizations and the black social justice movement has been one of the most effective consequences of the Obama phenomenon.
Today the necessity to stand with the oppressed and oppose war and violence of all kinds has never been more urgent. But that stand cannot be just as individuals. Individual commitment is important, but what Dr. King’s life reaffirmed was the power of movement — of organized and determined people moving in a common direction. That is why the government so desperately attempts to disconnect Dr. King from the people and the movement that produced him and to silence any opposition to its colonialist violence. The example of movement building and struggle is an example that has to be brutally suppressed, as witnessed by how the Obama Administration moved on the Occupy Wallstreet Movement once it became clear that they could not co-opt and control it.
Consciousness, vision, an unalterable commitment to privileging principle over pragmatism and a willingness to fight for your beliefs no matter the odds or forces mounted against you – these are the lessons that all of us who believe in the possibility of a new world should recommit to on April the 4th. Internalizing and passing that lesson on through a culture of resistance and struggle ensures that one day all of us will be able to create societies freed from interpersonal and institutional violence and all forms of oppression in our own promised lands.
Ajamu Baraka was the founding Director of the US Human Rights Network until June 2011. A long-time human rights activist and veteran of the Black Liberation, anti-war, anti-apartheid and central American solidarity Movements in the United States, Baraka has been in the forefront of efforts to develop a radical “People-Centered” perspective on human rights and to apply that framework to social justice struggles in the United States and abroad. He is currently a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, where he is editing a book on human rights entitled “The Fight Must be for Human Rights: Voices from the Frontline.” The book is due to be published in 2013. t
Declaration of the Occupation of New York City October 5, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Economic Crisis, Environment, Foreign Policy, Human Rights, Poverty, War.
Tags: colonialism, corporate wealth, corporations, democracy, foreclosures, injustice, labor, labor rights, liberty square, occupy wall street, press freedom, protest, revolution, roger hollander, studets, torture, Wall Street, zuccotti park
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What follows is the first official, collective
statement of the protesters in Zuccotti Park:
As we gather together in solidarity to express a
feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together.
We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the
world can know that we are your allies.
As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality:
that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that
our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up
to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors;
that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but
corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the
Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined
by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place
profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality,
run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let
these facts be known.
- They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite
not having the original mortgage.
- They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give
Executives exorbitant bonuses.
- They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based
on age, the color of one’s skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.
- They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the
farming system through monopolization.
- They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of
countless animals, and actively hide these practices.
- They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate
for better pay and safer working conditions.
- They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on
education, which is itself a human right.
- They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as
leverage to cut workers’ healthcare and pay.
- They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with
none of the culpability or responsibility.
- They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get
them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.
- They have sold our privacy as a commodity.
- They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the
- They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives
in pursuit of profit.
- They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their
policies have produced and continue to produce.
- They have donated large sums of money to politicians, who are responsible
for regulating them.
- They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on
- They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people’s
lives or provide relief in order to protect investments that have already turned
a substantial profit.
- They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping,
and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.
- They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control
of the media.
- They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners even when presented
with serious doubts about their guilt.
- They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad.
- They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians
- They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive
To the people of the world, We, the New York City
General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert
Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy
public space; create a process to address the problems we face, and generate
solutions accessible to everyone.
To all communities that take action and form
groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and
all of the resources at our disposal.
Join us and make your voices heard!
NationofChange has been an unfiltered media
resource for the Occupy Wall Street movement even while the mainstream media has
ignored, censored, and undermined the progress of the people.
Colonizing Iraq: The Obama Doctrine? July 9, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Tags: al-Maliki, colonialism, general odierno, halliburton, imperialism, Iraq, iraq bases, iraq colonialism, iraq combat troops, iraq contractors, iraq economy, iraq embassy, iraq green zone, Iraq mercenaries, iraq military, iraq military bases, Iraq Obama, Iraq occupation, Iraq oil, iraq oil revenues, iraq reconstruction, Iraq sovereignty, Iraq war, Iraq withdrawal, iraqi government, krb, malika, michael schwartz, obama doctrine, roger hollander, saddam hussein, SOFA, U.S. imperialism, U.S. troops in Iraq
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“Much of the complicated work of dismantling and removing millions of dollars of equipment from the combat outposts in the city has been done during the dark of night. Gen. Ray Odierno, the overall American commander in Iraq, has ordered that an increasing number of basic operations — transport and re-supply convoys, for example — take place at night, when fewer Iraqis are likely to see that the American withdrawal is not total.”
Acting in the dark of night, in fact, seems to catch the nature of American plans for Iraq in a particularly striking way. Last week, despite the death of Michael Jackson, Iraq made it back into the TV news as Iraqis celebrated a highly publicized American military withdrawal from their cities. Fireworks went off; some Iraqis gathered to dance and cheer; the first military parade since Saddam Hussein’s day took place (in the fortified Green Zone, the country’s ordinary streets still being too dangerous for such things); the U.S. handed back many small bases and outposts; and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki proclaimed a national holiday — “sovereignty day,” he called it.
All of this fit with a script promisingly laid out by President Barack Obama in his 2008 presidential campaign. More recently, in his much praised speech to the students of Egypt’s Cairo University, he promised that the U.S. would keep no bases in Iraq, and would indeed withdraw its military forces from the country by the end of 2011.
Unfortunately, not just for the Iraqis, but for the American public, it’s what’s happening in “the dark” — beyond the glare of lights and TV cameras — that counts. While many critics of the Iraq War have been willing to cut the Obama administration some slack as its foreign policy team and the U.S. military gear up for that definitive withdrawal, something else — something more unsettling — appears to be going on.
And it wasn’t just the president’s hedging over withdrawing American “combat” troops from Iraq – which, in any case, make up as few as one-third of the 130,000 U.S. forces still in the country — now extended from 16 to 19 months. Nor was it the re-labeling of some of them as “advisors” so they could, in fact, stay in the vacated cities, or the redrawing of the boundary lines of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, to exclude a couple of key bases the Americans weren’t about to give up.
After all, there can be no question that the Obama administration’s policy is indeed to reduce what the Pentagon might call the U.S. military “footprint” in Iraq. To put it another way, Obama’s key officials seem to be opting not for blunt-edged, Bush-style militarism, but for what might be thought of as an administrative push in Iraq, what Vice President Joe Biden has called “a much more aggressive program vis-à-vis the Iraqi government to push it to political reconciliation.”
An anonymous senior State Department official described this new “dark of night” policy recently to Christian Science Monitor reporter Jane Arraf this way: “One of the challenges of that new relationship is how the U.S. can continue to wield influence on key decisions without being seen to do so.”
Without being seen to do so. On this General Odierno and the unnamed official are in agreement. And so, it seems, is Washington. As a result, the crucial thing you can say about the Obama administration’s military and civilian planning so far is this: ignore the headlines, the fireworks, and the briefly cheering crowds of Iraqis on your TV screen. Put all that talk of withdrawal aside for a moment and — if you take a closer look, letting your eyes adjust to the darkness — what is vaguely visible is the silhouette of a new American posture in Iraq. Think of it as the Obama Doctrine. And what it doesn’t look like is the posture of an occupying power preparing to close up shop and head for home.
As your eyes grow accustomed to the darkness, you begin to identify a deepening effort to ensure that Iraq remains a U.S. client state, or, as General Odierno described it to the press on June 30th, “a long-term partner with the United States in the Middle East.” Whether Obama’s national security team can succeed in this is certainly an open question, but, on a first hard look, what seems to be coming into focus shouldn’t be too unfamiliar to students of history. Once upon a time, it used to have a name: colonialism.
Colonialism in Iraq
Traditional colonialism was characterized by three features: ultimate decision-making rested with the occupying power instead of the indigenous client government; the personnel of the colonial administration were governed by different laws and institutions than the colonial population; and the local political economy was shaped to serve the interests of the occupying power. All the features of classic colonialism took shape in the Bush years in Iraq and are now, as far as we can tell, being continued, in some cases even strengthened, in the early months of the Obama era.
The U.S. embassy in Iraq, built by the Bush administration to the tune of $740 million, is by far the largest in the world. It is now populated by more than 1,000 administrators, technicians, and professionals — diplomatic, military, intelligence, and otherwise — though all are regularly, if euphemistically, referred to as “diplomats” in official statements and in the media. This level of staffing — 1,000 administrators for a country of perhaps 30 million — is well above the classic norm for imperial control. Back in the early twentieth century, for instance, Great Britain utilized fewer officials to rule a population of 300 million in its Indian Raj.
Such a concentration of foreign officialdom in such a gigantic regional command center — and no downsizing or withdrawals are yet apparent there — certainly signals Washington’s larger imperial design: to have sufficient administrative labor power on hand to ensure that American advisors remain significantly embedded in Iraqi political decision-making, in its military, and in the key ministries of its (oil-dominated) economy.
From the first moments of the occupation of Iraq, U.S. officials have been sitting in the offices of Iraqi politicians and bureaucrats, providing guidelines, training decision-makers, and brokering domestic disputes. As a consequence, Americans have been involved, directly or indirectly, in virtually all significant government decision-making.
In a recent article, for example, the New York Times reported that U.S. officials are “quietly lobbying” to cancel a mandated nationwide referendum on the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) negotiated between the United States and Iraq — a referendum that, if defeated, would at least theoretically force the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops from the country. In another article, the Times reported that embassy officials have “sometimes stepped in to broker peace between warring blocs” in the Iraqi Parliament. In yet another, the military newspaper Stars and Stripes mentioned in passing that an embassy official “advises Iraqis running the $100 million airport” just completed in Najaf. And so it goes.
Most colonial regimes erect systems in which foreigners involved in occupation duties are served (and disciplined) by an institutional structure separate from the one that governs the indigenous population. In Iraq, the U.S. has been building such a structure since 2003, and the Obama administration shows every sign of extending it.
As in all embassies around the world, U.S. embassy officials are not subject to the laws of the host country. The difference is that, in Iraq, they are not simply stamping visas and the like, but engaged in crucial projects involving them in myriad aspects of daily life and governance, although as an essentially separate caste within Iraqi society. Military personnel are part of this segregated structure: the recently signed SOFA insures that American soldiers will remain virtually untouchable by Iraqi law, even if they kill innocent civilians.
Versions of this immunity extend to everyone associated with the occupation. Private security, construction, and commercial contractors employed by occupation forces are not protected by the SOFA agreement, but are nonetheless shielded from the laws and regulations that apply to normal Iraqi residents. As an Iraq-based FBI official told the New York Times, the obligations of contractors are defined by “new arrangements between Iraq and the United States governing contractors’ legal status.” In a recent case in which five employees of one U.S. contractor were charged with killing another contractor, the case was jointly investigated by Iraqi police and “local representatives of the FBI,” with ultimate jurisdiction negotiated by Iraqi and U.S. embassy officials. The FBI has established a substantial presence in Iraq to carry out these “new arrangements.”
This special handling extends to enterprises servicing the billions of dollars spent every month in Iraq on U.S. contracts. A contractor’s prime responsibility is to follow “guidelines the U.S. military handed down in 2006.” In all this, Iraqi law has a distinctly secondary role. In one apparently typical case, a Kuwaiti contractor hired to feed U.S. soldiers was accused of imprisoning its foreign workers and then, when they protested, sending them home without pay. This case was handled by U.S. officials, not the Iraqi government.
Beyond this legal segregation, the U.S. has also been erecting a segregated infrastructure within Iraq. Most embassies and military bases around the world rely on the host country for food, electricity, water, communications, and daily supplies. Not the U.S. embassy or the five major bases that are at the heart of the American military presence in that country. They all have their own electrical generating and water purification systems, their own dedicated communications, and imported food from outside the country. None, naturally, offer indigenous Iraqi cuisine; the embassy imports ingredients suitable for reasonably upscale American restaurants, and the military bases feature American fast food and chain restaurant fare.
The United States has even created the rudiments of its own transportation system. Iraqis often are delayed when traveling within or between cities, thanks to an occupation-created (and now often Iraqi-manned) maze of checkpoints, cement barriers, and bombed-out streets and roads; on the other hand, U.S. soldiers and officials in certain areas can move around more quickly, thanks to special privileges and segregated facilities.
In the early years of the occupation, large military convoys transporting supplies or soldiers simply took temporary possession of Iraqi highways and streets. Iraqis who didn’t quickly get out of the way were threatened with lethal firepower. To negotiate sometimes hours-long lines at checkpoints, Americans were given special ID cards that “guaranteed swift passage… in a separate lane past waiting Iraqis.” Though the guaranteed “swift passage” was supposed to end with the signing of the SOFA, the system is still operating at many checkpoints, and convoys continue to roar through Iraqi communities with “Iraqi drivers still pulling over en masse.”
Recently, the occupation has also been appropriating various streets and roads for its exclusive use (an idea that may have been borrowed from Israel’s 40-year-old occupation of the West Bank). This innovation has made unconvoyed transportation safer for embassy officials, contractors, and military personnel, while degrading further the Iraqi road system, already in a state of disrepair, by closing useable thoroughfares. Paradoxically, it has also allowed insurgents to plant roadside bombs with the assurance of targeting only foreigners. Such an incident outside Falluja illustrates what have now become Obama-era policies in Iraq:
“The Americans were driving along a road used exclusively by the American military and reconstruction teams when a bomb, which local Iraqi security officials described as an improvised explosive device, went off. No Iraqi vehicles, even those of the army and the police, are allowed to use the road where the attack occurred, according to residents. There is a checkpoint only 200 yards from the site of the attack to prevent unauthorized vehicles, the residents said.”
It is unclear whether this road will be handed back to the Iraqis, if and when the base it services is shuttered. Either way, the larger policy appears to be well established — the designation of segregated roads to accommodate the 1,000 diplomats and tens of thousands of soldiers and contractors who implement their policies. And this is only one aspect of a dedicated infrastructure designed to facilitate ongoing U.S. involvement in developing, implementing, and administering political-economic policies in Iraq.
Whose Military Is It?
One way to “free up” the American military for withdrawal would, of course, be if the Iraqi military could manage the pacification mission alone. But don’t expect that any time soon. According to media reports, if all goes well, this isn’t likely to occur for at least a decade. One telltale sign of this is the pervasive presence of American military advisors still embedded in Iraqi combat units. First Lt. Matthew Liebal, for example, “sits every day beside Lt. Col Mohammed Hadi,” the commander of the Iraqi 43rd Army Brigade that patrols eastern Baghdad.
When it comes to the Iraqi military, this sort of supervision won’t be temporary. After all, the military the U.S. helped create in Iraq still lacks, among other things, significant logistical capability, heavy artillery, and an air force. Consequently, U.S. forces transport and re-supply Iraqi troops, position and fire high-caliber ordnance, and supply air support when needed. Since the U.S. military is unwilling to allow Iraqi officers to command American soldiers, they obviously can’t make decisions about firing artillery, launching and directing U.S. Air Force planes, or sending U.S. logistical personnel into war zones. All major Iraqi missions are, then, fated to be accompanied by U.S. advisors and support personnel for an unknown period to come.
The Iraqi military is not expected to get a wing of modern jet fighters (or have the trained pilots to fly them) until at least 2015. This means that, wherever U.S. air power might be stationed, including the massive air base at Balad north of Baghdad, it will, in effect, be the Iraqi air force for the foreseeable future.
Even the simplest policing functions of the military might prove problematic without the American presence. Typically, when an Iraqi battalion commander was asked by New York Times reporter Steven Lee Myers “whether he needed American backup for a criminal arrest, he replied simply, ‘Of course.’” John Snell, an Australian advisor to the U.S. military, was just as blunt, telling an Agence France Presse reporter that, if the United States withdrew its troops, the Iraqi military “would rapidly disintegrate.”
In a World Policy Journal article last winter, John A. Nagl, a military expert and former advisor to General David Petraeus, expressed a commonly held opinion that an independent Iraqi military is likely to be at least a decade away.
Whose Economy Is It?
Terry Barnich, a victim of the previously discussed Falluja roadside bombing, personified the economic embeddedness of the occupation. As the U.S. State Department’s Deputy Director of the Iraq Transition Assistance Office and the top adviser to Iraq’s Electricity Minister, when he died he was “returning from an inspection of a wastewater treatment plant being built in Falluja.”
His dual role as a high official in the policy-making process and the “top advisor” to one of Iraq’s major infrastructural ministries catches the continuing U.S. posture toward Iraq in the early months of the Obama era. Iraq remains, however reluctantly, a client government; significant aspects of ultimate decision-making power still reside with the occupation forces. Note, by the way, that Barnich was evidently not even traveling with Iraqi officials.
The intrusive presence of the Baghdad embassy extends to the all-important oil industry, which today provides 95% of the government’s funds. When it comes to energy, the occupation has long sought to shape policy and transfer operational responsibility from Iraqi state-owned enterprises of the Saddam Hussein years to major international oil companies. In one of its most successful efforts, in 2004, the U.S. delivered an exclusive $1.2 billion contract to reconstruct Iraq’s decrepit southern oil transport facilities (which handle 80% of its oil flow) to KBR, the notorious former subsidiary of Halliburton. Supervision of that famously mismanaged contract, still uncompleted five years later, was allocated to the U.S. Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.
The Iraqi government, in fact, still exerts remarkably little control over “Iraqi” oil revenues. The Development Fund for Iraq (whose revenues are deposited in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York) was established under U.N. auspices just after the invasion and receives 95% of the proceeds from Iraq’s oil sales. All government withdrawals are then overseen by the U.N.-sanctioned International Advisory and Monitoring Board, a U.S.-appointed panel of experts drawn mainly from the global oil and financial industries. The transfer of this oversight function to an Iraqi-appointed body, which was supposed to take place in this January, has been delayed by the Obama administration, which claims that the Iraqi government is not yet ready to take on such a responsibility.
In the meantime, the campaign to transfer administration of core oil operations to the major oil companies continues. Despite the resistance of Iraqi oil workers, the administrators of the two national oil companies, a majority bloc in parliament, and public opinion, the U.S. has continued to pressure the al-Maliki administration to enact an oil law that would mandate licensing devices called production-sharing agreements (PSAs).
If enacted, these PSAs would, without transferring permanent ownership, grant oil companies effective control over Iraq’s oil fields, giving them full discretion to exploit the country’s oil reserves from exploration to sales. U.S. pressure has ranged from ongoing “advice” delivered by American officials stationed in relevant Iraqi ministries to threats to confiscate some or all of the oil monies deposited in the Development Fund.
At the moment, the Iraqi government is attempting to take a more limited step: auctioning management contracts to international oil companies in an effort to increase production at eight existing oil and natural gas fields. While the winning companies would not gain the full discretion to explore, produce, and sell in some of the world’s potentially richest fields, they would at least gain some administrative control over upgrading equipment and extracting oil, possibly for as long as 20 years.
If the auction proves ultimately successful (not at all a certainty, since the first round produced only one as-yet-unsigned agreement), the Iraqi oil industry would become more deeply embedded in the occupation apparatus, no matter what officially happens to American forces in that country. Among other things, the American embassy would almost certainly be responsible for inspecting and guiding the work of the contract-winners, while the U.S. military and private contractors would become guarantors of their on-the-ground security. Fayed al-Nema, the CEO of the South Oil Company, spoke for most of the opponents of such deals when he told Reuters reporter Ahmed Rasheed that the contracts, if approved, would “put the Iraqi economy in chains and shackle its independence for the next 20 years.”
Who Owns Iraq?
In 2007, Alan Greenspan, former head of the Federal Reserve, told Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward that “taking Saddam out was essential” — a point he made in his book The Age of Turbulence — because the United States could not afford to be “beholden to potentially unfriendly sources of oil and gas” in Iraq. It’s exactly that sort of thinking that’s still operating in U.S. policy circles: the 2008 National Defense Strategy, for example, calls for the use of American military power to maintain “access to and flow of energy resources vital to the world economy.”
After only five months in office, the Obama administration has already provided significant evidence that, like its predecessor, it remains committed to maintaining that “access to and flow of energy resources” in Iraq, even as it places its major military bet on winning the expanding war in Afghanistan and Pakistan. There can be no question that Washington is now engaged in an effort to significantly reduce its military footprint in Iraq, but without, if all goes well for Washington, reducing its influence.
What this looks like is an attempted twenty-first-century version of colonial domination, possibly on the cheap, as resources are transferred to the Eastern wing of the Greater Middle East. There is, of course, no more a guarantee that this new strategy — perhaps best thought of as colonialism lite or the Obama Doctrine — will succeed than there was for the many failed military-first offensives undertaken by the Bush administration. After all, in the unsettled, still violent atmosphere of Iraq, even the major oil companies have hesitated to rush in and the auctioning of oil contracts has begun to look uncertain, even as other “civilian” initiatives remain, at best, incomplete.
As the Obama administration comes face-to-face with the reality of trying fulfill General Odierno’s ambition of making Iraq into “a long-term partner with the United States in the Middle East” while fighting a major counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan, it may also encounter a familiar dilemma faced by nineteenth-century colonial powers: that without the application of overwhelming military force, the intended colony may drift away toward sovereign independence. If so, then the dreary prediction of Pulitzer Prize-winning military correspondent Thomas Ricks — that the United States is only “halfway through this war” — may prove all too accurate.
Copyright 2009 Michael Schwartz
A professor of sociology at Stony Brook State University, Michael Schwartz is the author of War Without End: The Iraq War in Context (Haymarket Books), which explains how the militarized geopolitics of oil led the U.S. to dismantle the Iraqi state and economy while fueling a sectarian civil war. Schwartz’s work on Iraq has appeared in numerous academic and popular outlets. He is a regular at TomDispatch.com. (An audio interview with him on the situation in Iraq is available by clicking here.) His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dubois’s Revenge: Reinterrogating American Democratic Theory … or Why We Need a Revolutionary Black Research Agenda in the 21st Century March 29, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in History, Uncategorized.
Tags: adam clayton powell, afro-american history, american colonies, american history, american negro, black history, black reconstruction, black study, capitalism, civil war, colonialism, democracy, democratic theory, discrimination, dixiecrat, du bois, fawn brodie, indentured servants, indian slave trade, indian slavery, institutional racism, jamestown, jamestown settlement, jamestown virginia, jim crow, john rankin, negro history, powhatan, Race, racism, roger hollander, segregation, slave labor, slave trade, slavery, US constitution, virginia company, w.e.b.dubois, white superiority, william strickland
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William (Bill) Strickland
www.blackcommentator.com, March 26, 2009
In 1899, one year after completing what many consider to be the first real Black Study, his magisterial sociological analysis, The Philadelphia Negro, W.E.B. Du Bois addressed the American Academy in Philadelphia and proposed what might also be considered the first real Black Research Agenda.
To the white scholars gathered in Philadelphia, Du Bois proposed a path-breaking study of the Negro people:
However, persuaded that they were already in possession of ‘the truth’ about race, and perhaps equally unpersuaded that Negroes belonged to ‘a great race of people,’ the Academy declined to participate in Du Bois’s project.
Characteristically then, and largely unaided, Du Bois, for the next twenty years—first from Atlanta and later from New York—pursued the racial research we now know as the famous Atlanta University Studies; constructing virtually single-handedly, to all intents and purposes, what was the first Black Studies program in America. (By celebrating Du Bois in this way, there is no intent to slight George Washington Williams, who Vincent Harding calls “the first substantial scholarly historian of Blacks in America,”  and whose 1883 opus, History Of The Negro Race In America From 1619-1880 V2: Negroes As Slaves, As Soldiers, And As Citizens , still stands as the original foundational text of black history. Nor can one overlook Carter G. Woodson, generally regarded as the Father of Negro History. Rather one wishes simply to call attention to the fact that in regard to Black Studies, Du Bois was, as in so much else, there “at the creation.”)
But Du Bois’s work in pursuit of the truth about the race’s past and present increasingly led him into a collision with America’s self-definition as a “democratic land” which, despite its negligible “negro problem,” still saw and proclaimed itself, in the classical Panglossian sense, “the best of all possible worlds.”
Du Bois vs. the Historical Establishment
Du Bois’s confrontation with the American historiography that had not changed its opinion of the essential unworthiness of the Negro in the three plus decades since Philadelphia, came to a head in 1935 when he published his seminal reinterpretation of the Reconstruction era, Black Reconstruction in America, 1860-1880.
Concluding the volume with a chapter entitled, “The Propaganda of History,” Du Bois charged that “the facts of American history have in the last half century been falsified because the nation was ashamed. The South was ashamed because it fought to perpetuate human slavery, the North was ashamed because it had to call in the black men to save the Union, abolish slavery and establish democracy” (emphasis mine). 
This critique was both revolutionary and heretical since it not only attributed what we now routinely describe as “agency” to black people but it also struck a Joe Louis-like blow against white supremacy by asserting that black people had been the Salvationists of the Civil War Republic! Therefore what Du Bois’s perspective represented and what it called for, implicitly, was a new history of America.
Du Bois made that implication explicit on the global level as well in a 1943 letter to Will Alexander, a special assistant in the office of the War Manpower Commission who had written Du Bois from Washington that “there is a small group of scholars here, men of wide experience in international matters, who feel that there is need of a universal history of racism as it has appeared in various places around the world.” 
Two weeks after receiving Alexander’s November letter, Du Bois responded from Atlanta “that a universal history of racism would be an excellent undertaking but . . . if you are going to take the wide definition of race including nationalism, minorities, status, slavery, etc., it would be attempting a new universal history on a vast scale” (emphasis mine). 
Du Bois’s view that applying a “wide” definition of race to world history would, ipso facto, produce a new historical paradigm, a virtual reformulation of the way that one thought about the past and present world, is what I want to suggest is also both true and necessary for American political history and theory; that the need to reinterrogate the various ways that race and racism have impacted upon and, indeed, shaped the American nation state is also a history that must be reconceptualized “on a vast scale” if we wish to take up Du Bois’s crusade for “scientific truth.”
At bottom, the question that underlies such an enquiry is quite simple: Since public policy and constitutional law in America have sanctioned slavery, segregation, discrimination and institutional racism, how is it possible to reconcile the democratic theory of the state with the black civic experience? For example, the state may be conceptualized as an autonomous actor, a neutral arbiter, a gendarme, or an instrument of race, class and gender oppression. But whichever way the state is conceived, it unquestionably performs a certain role in allocating wealth, status, privilege and resources to some while withholding those perquisites from others. Moreover, although a taboo subject in conventional American appraisals, the chief means employed by the state and society to maintain and perpetuate the racial social order has been the resort to violence.
Slavery was violent and was only overthrown by violence. Reconstruction was dismantled by violence. The system of Jim Crow rested upon the theory and praxis of violence and the resistance to the freedom movement was, at its core, violent. The challenge, therefore, is to look longitudinally at American political history to try and gain a more accurate understanding of how the Republic has related actually, rather than mythically, to the black presence in its midst. Consider this example both of one problem unexamined and the kind of research needed to bring it to light.
The Southern Question
In 1944, Adam Clayton Powell was elected to Congress from Harlem and arrived in Washington in 1945, the last year of World War II’s fight against fascism. 
But what did Adam have to contend with once he had taken his seat? He had to contend with the racist rantings of Southern Congressmen like John Rankin of Mississippi who were still freely indulging the epithet “nigger” on the House floor. (Rankin was an equal opportunity bigot since he also assailed columnist Walter Winchell as “a little kike.”) 
To his credit, and despite the expectation that freshmen Congressmen were to be seen and not heard, Adam rose after another Rankin outburst to say that “the time has arrived to impeach Rankin, or at least expel him from the party.” 
So how do we theorize about this incident? Were Rankin’s fulminations simply an individual expression of racist sentiment or symptomatic of something more organic to American political life? What, for example, did the apparent tolerance of the behavior signify? And how far back did this normative racism go? All the way back to 1790? Or was it only a twentieth century phenomenon? That is, did racial insults abate in Congress during the thirty years, from 1871 to 1901, when black men sat in the Congress? In fine, what is the historical record of racist discourse—and the advancement of racist interests–in the House and Senate of the United States? Researching that question in the Congressional Record, the Congressional Globe, et al., would be a massive undertaking—and aside from William Lee Miller’s Arguing about Slavery: The Great Battle in the United States Congress (Knopf, 1995) which details the 1830’s Congressional fight over petitions against slavery–so far as I know no one has yet done it. But questions such as these need to be answered if we are ever to truly fathom the nature of the American racial state.
Also one might raise many other questions about Dixiecrat power for one’s research agenda, like the political side of the reparations question. For while the subject of reparations for unpaid slave labor has generated heated political discussion for decades, there has been no similar effort to systematically appraise the cost of federal programs and public policy which the South steered to itself on the backs of the expropriated political power of disenfranchised Blacks.
We know, for example, that the Freedmen’s Bank was burgled by government-affiliated speculators after the Civil War. We know that many black veterans of World War I were never given their pensions. We know that the Union army paid its black soldiers only half of what they paid white soldiers until black soldier protest and war exigencies forced the government to relent in the last year of the war. And we know that the funds of the New Deal programs were discriminatorily disbursed during the Depression. But we can’t put a dollar figure on these serial betrayals by the national government nor on the spin-off benefits which the South enjoyed because of its stolen political power. How many public projects and military bases were sited in the former Confederacy, one wonders? And government subsidies? And tax breaks?
The questions are endless but the answers will help us illuminate the suppressed dimension of the American racial state.
So where might we begin? At the beginning, of course, with the sacrosanct foundation myths of American exceptionalism.
II. ON THE POLITICS OF MISREPRESENTATION
The problem of reinterpreting America’s history and politics is only partly a problem of new discovery since much of the actual history is known. It exists in records, documents, oral history and in books, both old and new.
The problem is that non-mainstream history is an embarrassment to the national myths that make up America’s identity so it is banished from the national memory; hidden from national view; concealed behind what Du Bois called The Veil. What we are left with is invented history, abetted by various “masking devices” such as historical patterns that go uncommented upon; euphemistic language such as “landed gentry” instead of slave-owners; “racial riots” instead of pogroms; “violence” instead of murder; “harassment and intimidation” instead of racial terror, ad infinitum. (emphasis mine) Another ploy is the examination of the “thoughts” and “minds” of Great White Men while shying away from their deeds.
But the most persistent disguising tradition has been simply to ignore the messenger. . . the fate of most black critical voices over the ages. Indeed, Manisha Sinha, in the January 2007 issue of the William and Mary Quarterly, points out that “Historians have yet to fully appreciate the alternative and radical nature of black abolitionist ideology. . . [that] not only pointed to the shortcomings of American revolutionary ideals but also exposed their complicity in upholding racial slavery.”  And, if ignoring the messenger did not suffice, then the reaction was to professionally slay the renegade scholar. That was the fate meted out to the late Fawn Brodie whose 1974 volume, Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History, dared to suggest an “intimate relationship between Jefferson and Sally Hemings. . .” Her reward was to be almost unanimously pilloried by the academic establishment. So what, at bottom, are we dealing with?
Is America just another case of national vanity run amok since nearly all societies, like nearly all religions, tend to think of themselves as special and adhere to creation myths which attest to their uniqueness? Or is something more at stake? Something like America’s aspiration to world leadership based on its self-image of being specially favored and specially blessed? It is to answer that question that one turns to the past because it is the past which best contextualizes today’s diabolical policies of preemptive war, international kidnappings, secret prisons, sanctioned torture, the gulag of Guantanamo, the excesses of the FBI and the administration’s scornful disregard of the Constitution, the Geneva Convention, and the right of habeas corpus.
The past conceptualizes these practices because, although chronologically new, they are remarkably akin to deeds which Du Bois deplored some fifty years ago:
The significance of Du Bois’s critique is that he saw America not as most Americans see it but through his own racial lens; utilizing the second sight he had gained as a lifelong racial outsider in the land of his birth:
So Fawn Brodie questioned an icon while Du Bois questioned the “social order.” Both interrogations suggest new interpretative spaces where the meaning of America can be remapped in order to investigate the line of historical continuity from the international slave trade to the multi-national corporation, from the Indian “wars” of yesterday to the Iraqi occupation of today, from America’s oft-invoked democratic claims to its oft-enacted undemocratic actions.
III. ON RACIAL (AND OTHER) CONTRADICTIONS
To review American political history from top to bottom is obviously beyond the scope of this paper. What it seeks to do is reanalyze America’s founding years by piggy-backing on some of the excellent works written both recently and in past years, which have significantly contributed to our understanding of non-mythical American history.
In that connection James Loewen’s pioneering, Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, Revised and Updated Edition (New Press, NY, 1995) must be mentioned as well as THINKING AND RETHINKING U.S. HISTORY , edited by Gerald Horne and published by the Council on Interracial Books for Children in 1988. (In fact, Horne has been exemplary in resurrecting neglected history as in his Black and Brown: African Americans and the Mexican Revolution, 1910-1920 (American History and Culture Series) (NYU Press, 2005).  He has also provided us with a critically new perspective on the role of race in World War II in his Race War!: White Supremacy and the Japanese Attack on the British Empire (NYU, 2004) which “delves into forgotten history to reveal how European racism and colonialism were deftly exploited by the Japanese to create allies among formerly colonized people of color.”  )
The methodology of inquiry will be to carry on a dialogue with these books; outlining what new historical hypotheses they seem to represent and what new questions and issues arising from them might deservedly constitute a research agenda of the future.
IV. THE FOUNDING UNROMATICIZED: COLONIALISM, CAPITALISM, AND CITIZENSHIP BEFORE THE MAYFLOWER
In 1964, Eli Ginsberg and Alfred Eichner published their book Troublesome Presence: American Democracy and the Black-Americans (hereafter G&E) which painted quite a different picture of American settlers from the archetypical image of freedom-seeking Pilgrims landing on Plymouth Rock in 1620. They wrote that. . . “of the several million persons who reached Great Britain’s North American colonies before 1776, it is conservatively estimated that close to 80 percent arrived under some form of servitude.”  (emphasis mine)
Since we are accustomed to think of servitude and/or slavery as being the lot only of Africans and their descendants and also know that, as of the first official census in America in 1790, these persons comprised approximately 20 percent of the American population, we are left to wonder about the status of this majority of unknown white settlers. Who were they, these non-Pilgrims?
A partial answer can be found in G&E and also in Gary Nash’s classic work of colonial history, Red, White, and Black: The Peoples of Early North America (5th Edition). Both direct our attention to the Jamestown Landing of 1607 where the two constituent elements of American exceptionalism first came into being, i.e., the awarding of “free” land to the settlers and their gaining of the right to vote. However, both of these bestowals by the architects of the Jamestown project, the Virginia Company of London, arose out of the financial imperatives of settlement not out of any sentiments of democratic idealism. More importantly these concessions were made by the London businessmen whose desperate hope was to turn Jamestown into a successful profit-making enterprise as the Spaniards had done in Mexico and Peru.
Witness Gary Nash:
Thus America was birthed by capitalism, not by freedom. Indeed the Jamestown Project’s partnership between the corporation and the state was to serve as a useful model later in the century when the Royal African Company was granted a monopoly of the English slave trade with West Africa in 1672 by King Charles II.
Not Colonists But Conquistadors
We have come to think of slavery and the slave trade as the prime incubators and instigators of American racism with the American South as its birthplace. Except. . . the first racial slaves in America were not Africans but Indians and the first state to legally sanction slavery was not Virginia in 1661 but Massachusetts in 1641. 
Moreover Massachusetts’s involvement in the slave trade antedates even their first slave law, e.g., “The first definitely authenticated American-built vessel to carry slaves was the Desire built in Marblehead [Massachusetts] and sailing out of Salem in 1638 [carrying] a cargo, among other things, of seventeen Pequot Indians, whom she sold in the West Indies.”  (emphasis mine) What this neglected history of Indian slavery suggests is that we must see the Indian as well as the African as the original racial “other,” the negation of whose humanity was the dialectical affirmation of white superiority in America; that slavery and the slave trade tie Massachusetts and Virginia together and demonstrate the North-South national pattern of racial exploitation that evolves so seamlessly into racism.
Any new research agenda thus needs to reconceptualize white–Indian along with white-African relations to gain a fuller understanding of the role of race in shaping both the racial and cultural identity of America and in making possible its political and economic development. Volumes such as Almon Lauber’s Indian Slavery in Colonial Times (Amsterdam, NY, 1969 but originally published in 1913), Allan Gallay’s The Indian Slave Trade, 1670-1717 (Yale, New Haven, 2002), and others like Karen Ordahl Kupperman’s Indians and English: Facing Off in Early America (Cornell, NY, 2000) and her most recent book, The Jamestown Project (Harvard, Cambridge, MA, 2007) tell the more inclusive story of how considerations of race dominate early American relations. . . As we can see by returning to the saga of Virginia:
“In the autumn of 1607. . . when food supplies were running perilously low and all but a handful of Jamestown settlers had fallen too ill to work, the colony was saved by Powhatan, whose men brought sufficient food to keep the struggling settlement alive until the sick recovered and the relief ship arrived.”  (emphasis mine) So Powhatan, more famous in the white-washed history as the father of Pocahontas, saves the Jamestown settlers in 1607, years before the Pilgrims landing and years before the holiday we now celebrate as Thanksgiving. But Powhatan’s life-saving graciousness has gone unlearned, unappreciated, unspoken of—even this year, the 400th anniversary of Jamestown’s Founding. Perhaps that is because, as Du Bois wrote about the black contribution to the Civil War, the settlers were ashamed of being indebted to those whom they considered their inferiors. Or maybe it’s the historians who should be held accountable. Whatever…. In the historical scheme of things, this oversight does not seem to have mattered because the new settlers soon re-righted their racial world at the behest of their superiors; to wit:
In 1609, the royal governor of Jamestown was ordered by the Virginia Company “to effect a military occupation of the region . . . to make all tribes tributary to him rather than to Powhatan, to extract corn, furs, dyes, and labor from each tribe and, if possible, to mold the natives into an agricultural labor force as the Spanish had done in their colonies.”  (emphasis mine)
“As the Spanish had done in their colonies” meant, of course, that the settlers, told to emulate the Spanish conquistadors, were to subjugate the Indians to their will, establish racial rule over them, divide and conquer where possible, appropriate anything of value the Indians might possess—from food provisions to trade goods—and, first and foremost, enslave them . . . or as the company delicately put it—“mold them into an agricultural labor force.”
But the 30,000 Indians of the Chesapeake would not be “molded.” They perished from the white man’s diseases. They fought back. So the Company had to try a new business plan of luring settlers to Virginia by promising them free land at the end of seven years labor. But after five years the strategy of trying to turn a profit from these white indentured servants had also not succeeded so the company again raised the inducements for settlement: “This time 100 acres of land was offered outright to anyone in England who would journey to the colony. . . [Thus] Instead of pledging limited servitude for the chance to become sole possessor of the land, an Englishman trapped at the lower rungs of society at home could now become an independent landowner in no more time than it took to reach the Chesapeake.”  (emphasis mine)
It is in this fashion that American exceptionalism is born via the gift of land which in Europe is owned by the monarchy, the church and the aristocracy. But in America it is made available in a transaction of profit-making speculation. Englishmen “trapped at the lower rungs of society” can then rise to become “independent landowners.”
But there was still one more “gift” to come: “In 1619 the resident governor was ordered to allow the election of a representative assembly, which would participate in governing the colony and thus bind the colonists emotionally to the land.”  (emphasis mine)
The pillar of democracy, the right to vote, was conferred upon the settlers not by the Goddess of Liberty but by the Goddess of Capitalism, as was the means of social and economic uplift, the land of the Indian. And all of this occurred, we are reminded once again, by 1619—and before the fantasy-ennobling year of 1620. Two other momentous things, whose significance, historian Lerone Bennett, Jr. reminds us, cannot be overstated, also took place in 1619.
Speaking of the first Africans to arrive in British America whom he calls the Jamestown Twenty, Lerone sums up the contradictions of Jamestown which were to become America’s own:
Or to put it another way, the Jamestown Experiment codified the race, class, gender and political identity of America. It also demolishes the myth of American exceptionalism because it establishes America as simply one of a number of white settler states like the former Rhodesia, South Africa and French Algeria, and those like New Zealand, Australia, et al. who have morphed from those origins to the “civilizations” we see today. Speaking of Australia, we can now answer the question that we posed pages ago about who these non-Pilgrim white colonists were.
Some were servants, and some were indentures and redemptioners as we have seen. Others were slaves like the white women sold at Jamestown, and many were the victims of kidnappings because:
But many of these “settlers” in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were criminals . Between 1718 and 1785 Britain banished 50,000 convicts to America, a fact rarely cited in American textbooks.  In fact, it seems a matter of some historical discomfort to reveal the fact that America was Britain’s first penal colony. Australia only assumed that role after the American Revolution when America’s shores were closed to that traffic. Indeed the whole subject of white servitude and convict labor has received scant historical attention. But the evidence is there. It just is not permitted to confront or alter the tenets of mainstream history.
Again, Gary Nash:
his commentary also appears in Souls.
BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board Member William L. (Bill) Strickland Teaches political science in the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he is also the Director of the Du Bois Papers Collection. The Du Bois Papers are housed at the University of Massachusetts library, which is named in honor of this prominent African American intellectual and Massachusetts native. Professor Strickland is a founding member of the independent black think tank in Atlanta the Institute of the Black World (IBW), headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. Strickland was a consultant to both series of the prize-winning documentary on the civil rights movement, Eyes on the Prize (PBS Mini Series Boxed Set), and the senior consultant on the PBS documentary, The American Experience: Malcolm X: Make It Plain. He also wrote the companion book Malcolm X: Make It Plain. Most recently, Professor Strickland was a consultant on the Louis Massiah film on W.E.B. Du Bois – W.E.B. Du Bois: A Biography in Four Voices. Click here to contact Mr. Strickland.
 Du Bois, W.E.B., Autobiography of W.E.B. Du Bois, International Press, NY, 1988,
 Vincent Harding, “Beyond Chaos: Black History and the Search for New Land,” in Amistad I: Writings on Black History and Culture, ed. John A. Williams and Charles F. Harris (New York: Vintage Books, 1970), p. 271.
 Du Bois, W.E.B. Black Reconstruction in America, 1860-1880. Athenaeum, NY, 1983, p. 711.
 Aptheker, Herbert. Correspondence of the W.E.B. Du Bois, 1934-1944, vol. 2, UMass Press, 1978, p. 369.
 Ibid., p. 370.
 The irony of Amerca’s fighting fascism abroad while segregating Blacks in the military and permitting lynching at home inspired the black community in those war years to launch “the double V” campaign: Victory over the enemies without and within.
 Haygood, Wil. King of the Cats. Houghton Mifflin, NY. 1993, p. 118.
 Sinha, Manisha. “To ‘cast just obloquy’ on oppressors: Black radicalism in the age of revolution,” William and Mary Quarterly, vol. 64, #1, January 2007, p. 153.
 Ibid., p. 160.
 Du Bois, W.E.B. Autobiography of W.E.B. Du Bois, International Press, NY, 1988,
 Ibid., p. 155.
 Horne, Gerald, Race War: White Supremacy and the Japanese Attack on the British Empire, New York University Press, 2004, book jacket.
 Eli Ginsberg and Alfred Eichner, Troublesome Presence: Democracy and Black Americans, New Jersey, p. 11.
 Nash, Gary. Red White and Black: The People of Early North America, Prentice Hall, NJ, 1974, p. 46.
 G&E, p. 16.
 Mannix & Cowley, Black Cargoes, Viking, New York, 1962, p. 6.
 Nash, p. 56.
 Ibid., p. 59.
 Ibid., p. 52.
 Ibid., p.52.
 Johnson, The Shaping of Black America, Chicago, 1975, p. 8.
 Mannix & Cowley, p. 56.
 A. Roger Ekirch, Bound for America: The transportation of British convicts to America, 1718-1785, (Clarendon, Oxford, 1990).
 Nash, ibid., p. 52.
Ecuador accuses US official of taking police files February 14, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Ecuador, Latin America.
Tags: colonialism, Ecuador, Ecuador Government, Ecuador politics, ecuador u.s. relations, maria eugenia tello, Rafael Correa, roger hollander
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Maria Eugenia Tello
GUAYAQUIL, Ecuador, Feb 10 (Reuters) – Ecuador’s leftist president, Rafael Correa, on Tuesday accused a U.S. diplomat he expelled of taking computers and sensitive police files from the country.
Correa threw out the embassy official on Saturday, saying the low-level diplomat had meddled in police affairs by trying to handpick officers involved in a U.S. aid project.
“A foreign embassy official takes computers with him … and information from the national police. We won’t stand for this. We will investigate and make a complaint,” Correa told navy officers in the city of Guayaquil.
“The days of colonialism are behind us,” said Correa, an ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez who faces re-election in April.
Correa, a U.S.-trained economist, has generally had good relations with the United States, but political analysts say he could bolster his poll ratings by taking a tough line on what he deems as foreign interference.
U.S. authorities have downplayed the incident, saying the official, Armando Astorga, had already left the Andean nation in January as part of a normal staff rotation.
Carlos Cordova, a pollster with Cedatos-Gallup said, “This shows you that Correa will use every tool to gain votes for his re-election. He wants to inflate the nationalistic spirit and portray himself as a strong leader.”
Many Ecuadoreans are critical of U.S. policy in Latin America, particularly Washington’s military aid to neighboring Colombia to fight a four-decade guerrilla war that sometimes spills across the border.
The United States is Ecuador’s main trading partner and the destination for much of its oil and banana exports.
What is Hamas? January 4, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
Tags: colonialism, hamas, islamic, islamist, israel, matthew levitt, nationalism, Palestine, palestinian, resistance, roger hollander, sarah roy
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Book Review Hamas: Politics, Charity and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad by Matthew Levitt. Yale University Press, in cooperation with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2006. 324 pages, $26.00, hardcover.
At the beginning of the first Palestinian uprising, I was living in Gaza and spent much time in the refugee camps interviewing families about the political and socioeconomic changes taking place around them. Despite the harsh living situation, Palestinians were filled with a palpable sense of hope and possibility that has since evaporated. Hamas was then struggling to create a popular constituency, despite overwhelming support among Palestinians for secular nationalism. That was 18 years ago, and neither I nor anyone else ever thought that Hamas would one day emerge as a major political actor: democratically winning legislative elections, defeating the majority Fatah party and heading a Palestinian government.
In his recent book, Matthew Levitt, who is deputy assistant secretary for intelligence and analysis at the U.S. Department of the Treasury and an expert in financial counterterrorism, argues that Hamas is strictly a terrorist organization that is not only a domestic threat but a global one, a part of an international jihad network with links to al-Qaeda that must be met with force. He further argues — and this is the core of his book — that despite the existence of differentiated political, social and military sectors within Hamas, they are all part of the same “apparatus of terror.”
Levitt devotes significant attention to attacking the Islamist social sector (dawa) and Hamas’s charitable institutions. It is the principle aim of his book to show how Hamas uses its extensive social-service network-mosques, schools, kindergartens, orphanages, hospitals, clinics, sports clubs, youth clubs-to further its primary political agenda, which he claims is the destruction of Israel. He argues that through its social support structure and services, “Hamas leverages the appreciation (and indebtedness) it earns through social welfare activities to garner support — both political and logistical — for its terrorist activities.” Levitt summarizes his argument as follows: “The general deprivation of the Palestinian people in the Israeli-occupied territories predisposes them to favor the much-needed social support that Hamas provides.” He continues, “In addition to purchasing goodwill, charities also create a built-in logistical support umbrella underneath which terrorist operations are sheltered and operate.” He explains that the dawa network operationally supports terrorism through recruitment, employment and financing and by providing institutional legitimacy.
His evidence, at times interesting, particularly with regard to Hamas’s external sources of financing, is more often than not based on assumption, extrapolation and generalization. For example, as evidence for how religious organizations raise money for Palestinian terrorism, Levitt quotes from a pamphlet produced by a Quranic memorization center that was sponsored by the Ramallah-al Bireh charity committee. The pamphlet listed 30 ways to enter heaven, including “Jihad for the sake of Allah by fighting with one’s soul and money.”
In another example of how hospitals are used to support terrorism, Levitt briefly describes the Dar al-Salam Hospital: “According to information cited by the FBI,” the hospital is considered a Hamas institution because it was founded with “Hamas funds and protection.” But Levitt fails to provide any real evidence of these funds or how and why they are considered “Hamas.” The assumption is that these ties, even if they are shown to exist, are inherently evil and can be nothing else.
In a chapter on how the dawa teaches terror and radicalizes Palestinian society, Levitt writes, “Recipients of Hamas financial aid or social services are less likely to turn down requests from the organization such as allowing their homes to serve as safe houses for Hamas fugitives, ferrying fugitives, couriering funds or weapons, storing and maintaining explosives, and more.” He cites as evidence for this sweeping statement one resident of Jabalya refugee camp in Gaza who fed Hamas militants daily. The possibility that Palestinians receive support from Hamas institutions without preconditions or that popular support requires more than the lure of financial incentives and free social services does not enter Levitt’s argument. Levitt also claims, “When angry, frustrated or humiliated Palestinians regularly listen to sermons in mosques in which Jews, Israelis and even Americans are depicted as enemies of Islam and Palestine, Hamas’s official policy may not restrain individual enthusiasm.” One wonders how Mr. Levitt knows these things, given that he appears never to have stepped inside a Hamas institution in Gaza or the West Bank or to have conducted any fieldwork at all.
While these arguments are oft-repeated in today’s media, Levitt does little to address research that supports a very different conclusion regarding the Hamas dawa. Some of the key findings of this research point to institutional features that demonstrate no preference for religion or politics over other ideologies, particularly in programmatic work; an approach to institutional work that advocates incrementalism, moderation, order and stability; a philosophical and practical desire for productivity and professionalism that shuns radical change and emphasizes community development and civic restoration over political violence; and no evidence of any formal attempt to impose an Islamic model of political, social, legal or religious behavior, or to create an alternative Islamic or Islamist conception of society.
While there can be no doubt that, since its inception, Hamas has engaged in violence and armed struggle and has been the primary force behind the horrific suicide bombings inside Israel, Levitt’s presentation reduces this increasingly complex and sophisticated organization to an insular, one-dimensional and seemingly mindless entity dedicated solely to violence, terrorism and Israel’s destruction. To fully understand the current political stature of Hamas, it is necessary to closely examine the dramatic transitions that have occurred within the organization itself, among Palestinians with respect to their society, and in Palestine’s relationship with Israel.
From the point of view of Hamas, Palestine is an Arab and Islamic land that fell to colonial control with the demise of the Ottoman Empire. The establishment of the State of Israel is viewed as a way to perpetuate colonial authority over the Muslim homeland and is therefore illegitimate. As victims of colonialism, Hamas argues that Palestinians have the right to resist and struggle to regain their homeland and freedom, viewing this as a local and nationalist struggle. Now, almost two decades after its birth, Hamas has grown in size and popularity. While changes have not been made to its frame of reference or objectives, its political discourse has become more refined and streamlined, particularly with regard to its relations with local groups, political factions, other religious communities and other nations.
Unfortunately, Matthew Levitt’s book does not address the critical evolutionary processes — particularly with regard to its organizational structure and political, social and economic role in Palestinian society — that have characterized the Palestinian Islamist movement and Hamas’s rise to power. The ability of Hamas to reinterpret itself over time through processes of radicalization, de-radicalization, de-militarization and re-radicalization is a pronounced and common theme in its historical evolution. Levitt neglects to address the significance behind this commitment to reinterpretation. His analysis aims simply to demonize Hamas, and he discounts the critical connections between changing patterns of protest and structures of society, competing visions of a Palestinian social and political order, and contesting Islamic and secular definitions of meaning and legitimacy. The synergy among these forces has characterized the history and growth of Palestinian Islamism.
Israel’s military occupation, which has long been the defining context for Palestinian life, is almost absent from Levitt’s book. Hamas’s popularity and growing empowerment derive from its role as a resistance organization, fighting against an occupation that is now 40 years old. Israel’s steady expropriation, fragmentation and division of Palestinian lands; settlement construction and expansion; closure restrictions and destruction of the Palestinian economy are not part of Levitt’s discussion, nor is the right of the Palestinians to resist these measures. In those few instances where the occupation is mentioned, it is couched in terms that acknowledge Palestinian hardship — a reality exploited by Hamas — but justified as a response to terrorism. In the absence of any serious examination of Israel’s occupation, Levitt’s portrayal of the rise of Hamas is completely detached from the context within which it was produced and shaped.
Despite evidence to the contrary, the organization is also described as a movement incapable of transformation, ignoring the improvements in Hamas’s political discourse regarding political compromise with the State of Israel and resolution of the conflict. During the period of the Oslo peace process, for example, some dramatic changes occurred within Hamas. The organization was moving away from the extreme and a position of confrontation towards one that was more centrist and moderate. This shift was characterized by a reorientation in policy and strategic emphasis from political/military action to social works and community development. Accompanying this shift was a redefinition of the nature of the Palestinian struggle, which was no longer for political or military power per se but for defining new social arrangements and appropriate cultural and institutional models that would meet social needs without resort to violence. Similarly, the Islamist movement was not advancing a policy of isolation but was calling for greater accommodation and cooperation with both domestic and international actors.
Since Hamas’s victory in the January 2006 legislative elections, there has been a further evolution in its political thinking — as evidenced in some of its key political documents — characterized by a strong emphasis on state-building and programmatic work, greater refinement with regard to its position on a two-state solution and the role of resistance, and a progressive de-emphasis on religion. (See Khaled Hroub, “A ‘New Hamas’ Through Its New Documents,” Journal of Palestine Studies, 34 (4) (Summer 2006)). These are absent from Levitt’s discussion. Levitt also overlooks questions that are vital to any analysis of Hamas, especially at present. To name just a few, what were Hamas’s ideological, philosophical and structural boundaries? How and why were they reset and expanded? What is the role of religion as opposed to politics in Islamist thought and practice, particularly in the public sphere? Are religion and politics truly unified? Can Hamas reconcile faith and ideology with a demand for a place in the political system?
Levitt’s book has many serious flaws and merits a detailed critique that extends well beyond the scope of this review. His is not a work of analysis or scholarship, to say the least, and despite certain points that are interesting and accurate, anyone wishing to gain a substantive, reasoned and critical understanding of Hamas would do well to look elsewhere.