“Save U.S. Lives! Drop U.S. Bombs!” read the banner a woman held at a prowar rally outside the Huskies stadium in Seattle on March 1, 2003. Was the woman not aware that dropping thousands of U.S. bombs—“shock and awe”—would take thousands of Iraqi lives? No. Rather, the underlying sentiment of her statement is that U.S. lives are valuable and worth saving. Iraqi lives are not. The same sentiment is reflected in the response of some students in a course on U.S. imperialism who, when the professor asked in what “moral or ethical universe could the sacrifice of Iraqi civilians be justified … responded as if it were just axiomatic that Iraqi lives were not as valuable as ‘our’ lives.”2
These attitudes are possibly more prevalent among the U.S. ruling classes than on Main Street. Take Secretary of State Colin Powell’s dismissal of Iraqi casualties (while serving as chair of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff during the first war on Iraq). “That is not really a matter I’m terribly interested in”3 he said. Or, former secretary of state Madeleine Albright’s response to the deaths of over 500,000 (at that time) Iraqi children under the age of 5 as a direct result of U.S.-directed U.N. sanctions: “We think the price is worth it.”4
The war against Iraq and the endless socalled war against terror—both of which are garbed in the rhetoric of saving American lives—are less about saving American lives and more about much else.5 As many critics have cautioned, they will only further endanger American lives. Rather, they are essentially about saving the “American Way of Life.” Even though the American Way of Life (AWOL—or as Walden Bello calls it, the American Way of War),6 like the wars that are fought to maintain it, has long been taking lives—the lives of people of color in the Third World, and those of people of color and poor people regardless of race in this country. But that is inconsequential to those in power in the United States, as reflected in Bush the elder’s admonishment, during the first U.S.-led war on Iraq that, “The world must learn that what we say, goes.”7 In a climate of increased assaults on civil liberties and rights within this country since 9/11/01, it is even more obvious that AWOL has always been less about freedom and more about the free market.
Uruguayan author and activist Eduardo Galeano while speaking to tens of thousands of mostly young activists in January 2003 at the Gigantinho stadium in Porto Alegre, Brazil, during the World Social Forum, remarked that the most commonly heard word one finds in most languages around the world is “I,” whereas among indigenous peoples’ communities, such as the Maya (Guatemala/Mexico), the most commonly used word is “We.”8 That might very well be true, but Bush I and II, and others like them, also use “we” more often than not. But the “we” in those assertions is racial code for White, Christian, heterosexual men. Addressing the German Bundestag in Berlin on May 23, 2002, Bush the younger remarked:
“In this war we defend not just America or Europe; we are defending civilization, itself…. America and the nations in Europe are more than military allies, we’re more than trading partners; we are heirs to the same civilization. The pledges of the Magna Carta, the learning of Athens, the creativity of Paris, the unbending conscience of Luther, the gentle faith of St. Francis—all of these are part of the American soul. The New World has succeeded by holding to the values of the Old…. These convictions bind our civilization together and set our enemies against us.”9
The statement clearly demarcates boundaries of who is included in that “we” and who is kept out. “There are broad social and cultural parameters to racism [that] center upon notions of the ‘nation.’ Definitions are constructed about who constitutes the nation and which activities are [American or legal or ours]. The same definitions are used to implicitly exclude those who cannot be part of the nation. Racism, therefore, draws the ideological … boundaries of inclusion and exclusion.”10 No major surprise, then, that most non-Whites in the United States oppose this war, and this is reflected in the opposition to war by the overwhelming majority of the Congressional Black and Hispanic caucuses.11
That many (White) Americans, since the very beginning of U.S. history, have accepted as providential the creation and expansion of the United States, and propagated with missionary fervor its imperialist policies as divinely ordained, is not in doubt. In a recent op-ed in the New York Times, Jackson Lears makes the connections between the “Manifest Destiny” of the 1840s that led to westward expansion and 19th and 20th century imperialism up through the Cold War and beyond.12 William Sloan Coffin draws similar connections, citing among others, former senator Albert J. Beveridge, former president Ronald Reagan, and former secretary of state Madeleine Albright.13Sentiments that are eerily echoed today by George W. Bush and his advisers, and that bear repeating here.
At the turn of the 19th century Beveridge affirmed that, “God has marked the United States to lead in the redemption of the world. This is the divine mission of America.”14 During the Cold War, Reagan, while juxtaposing the United States as the “city on a hill” with the “Evil Empire” of the Soviets,15 gallingly spoke during his second inaugural of how “Peace is our highest aspiration. And our record is clear. Americans resort to force only when they must. We have never been aggressors.”16 And at the end of the Cold War Albright declared on NBC’s Today Show that, “If we have to use force, it is because we are America. We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall. We see further into the future.”17
What is blithely ignored is that like Manifest Destiny, which resulted in the continued genocide of Native Americans and war against Mexicans, the wars of U.S. imperialism have been directed at the non-White peoples of Asia, Latin America, and Africa. Thomas Borstelmann points out that “The growth and consolidation of white power at home and abroad did not seem accidental or unfortunate to most Americans. The legitimacy that white Americans accorded to notions of white supremacy was reflected in the growth of Social Darwinist thought, which proclaimed Europeans and their descendants as fittest to survive among the races … Such a view of racial categorization around the world precisely reflected domestic attitudes.”18
Rac[e]ing Foreign Policy
Howard Winant writes that, “The pundits and sages don’t generally place the racial dimensions of the post-cold war world in the center of the picture; usually race is off to the side somewhere. If it is acknowledged at all, it is subsumed within the ‘ethnicity’ or ‘nationalism’ categories…. Such formulas aren’t exactly wrong; they just fail to take race into account.”19 Additionally, the very term “Cold” war deep freezes our conscience, and the reality of the untold suffering and brutality of the racialized proxy wars fought in the Third World by the two White superpowers. What Winant is arguing in much of his work on race and global politics is that the “new world order”—paradoxically20 advocated by George Bush I during the previous war against Iraq—is in fact “increasingly and complexly a racial order.”21
Race and racism are similarly whitewashed out of any analysis of U.S. foreign policy. Despite the fact that “[t]he foreign relations of the United States…have always involved relations between peoples of different skin colors…. Slavery [mainly impacting Africans/African Americans] and westward expansion [primarily affecting Native Americans/Mexicans/Chicanos] wove together issues of race relations and foreign relations from the very beginning of American history.”22 Yet, it is virtually impossible to find even a mention of racism in/and U.S. foreign policy, let alone an analysis of it from the lens of racism, in any of the major foreign policy and international politics journals or course texts.23 irtheory.com, a website that features an extensive laundry list of classical, cuttingedge, and even some unheard of paradigms, theories, and approaches to studying international relations and foreign policy that are prevalent in the disciplines of international relations and politics, does not include race/racism.24 Racism is similarly absent in much of the popular discourse around U.S. foreign policy, certainly in the mainstream media. Finally, it is in no way acknowledged or addressed by those who actually make foreign policy. Left/progressive groups, especially those of people of color, are often the only ones making the connections between racism at home and racism abroad.25
This article is not about why racism is absent from mainstream foreign policy analysis. Rather, it seeks to foreground race in the discussion of U.S. foreign policy, and to engender further discussion and analysis of U.S. foreign policy from the lens of race/racism.26 The Public Eye (and Political Research Associates) has traditionally analyzed the U.S. political Right. It is far easier to draw distinctions between the Right and liberals in the arena of domestic policy (even though the Democratic Party, the home of liberals in electoral politics in the modern era, has moved dramatically to the right), than it is to draw such distinctions with regard to foreign policy.27 Take for instance the fact that it was the liberal Lyndon B. Johnson, the advocate of the “Great Society” at home, who expanded the U.S. war against the Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laotians in Southeast Asia—a war that liberally used chemical weapons (of mass destruction) such as Napalm and Agent Orange. Or, that 8 of the last 12 years of the most inhumane sanctions against Iraq were under the liberal Clinton. In fact, Borstelmann’s study of U.S. foreign policy-making from F.D.R. to Bush I documents how racism influenced almost every single one of these administrations regardless of party affiliation.28
The racist imprint is even more indelible on U.S. foreign policy before World War II and desegregation. And it is this part of our history that what scholarship on race/racism and U.S. foreign policy there is in the United States, largely addresses.29 Racism is strikingly evident in the debates surrounding the U.S. acquisition of Spain’s colonies in 1898 after the Spanish-American War. As Rubin Weston and Michael Hunt both argue, imperialists and anti-imperialists in the United States were both clearly racist, and made their respective cases for or against U.S. imperialism—the annexation of Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Cuba, and as well its interventions in Haiti and the Dominican Republic—on the basis of racist thinking.30 Those who supported annexation “argued that the United States should extend political control to these areas without extending the Constitution [and thus all the rights that extending it would imply].”31 Their rationale was that “Anglo-Saxon nations had an obligation to civilize ‘inferior’ peoples.”32 This is a case of the classic “White Man’s Burden” syndrome of White men having to save Brown women from Brown men, (or Brown men from themselves)33—which we see today best represented in George W. Bush talking about how the United States would “be fighting not to conquer anybody but to liberate [the Iraqi] people.”34 This was raised to grotesquely absurd levels in code-naming the U.S. invasion “Operation Iraqi Freedom!” Earlier, a similar argument was coined about saving Afghan women from the Taliban regime. An argument explicitly rejected by the group Women Living Under Muslim Laws (that includes Afghan women), which said that, “This was not a war to ‘save Afghan women’ as illustrated by the case of Sima Samar, the Minister of Women’s Affairs of the Afghan Interim Administration. When a case of blasphemy was recently filed against her it was a clear warning that all those who spoke out for a peaceful, just and democratic Afghanistan would be silenced.”35
The point is not that Brown men do not oppress Brown women (and what about White men oppressing Brown women for that matter?) but rather that this was/is used as a pretext for White imperialism (and colonialism historically) and “national” interest. After all, it was the United States that armed Saddam Hussein for years against Iran and looked the other way at his government’s human rights violations in Iraq. It was the United States that supported the Afghan mujahideen/Osama Bin Laden/the Taliban against the Soviet Union and the then Afghan government. And these are just two of innumerable cases worldwide where the United States aided and abetted ideologically aligned human rights violators. “The point, anyway, is that the imperial power’s relentless focus on the way the target culture treats women is a cynical stunt designed to a) justify the imperial mission and b) camouflage the violence that they themselves are inflicting on man, woman and child [sic] in this country as they take it over. Women can now uncover their faces in Kabul. They also have the opportunity to be burnt up and smashed flat in American air raids, or waste away in squalid refugee camps.”36
Again, with regard to U.S. imperialism historically, those who opposed annexation then argued that, “the Republic should not be extended to areas not suitable for Anglo- Saxon settlement or to areas already inhabited by peoples of inferior races.”37 Sentiments echoed today by Paleoconservatives and isolationists like Pat Buchanan that argue against the United States playing a role in foreign affairs (especially when it comes to areas outside of predominantly White western Europe), beyond a very narrowly defined “national” interest.
The racist legacy of U.S. foreign policy was obvious during WWII as well. John Dower, writing about the Pacific theater of WWII, notes that while “World War Two meant many things to many people … To scores of millions of participants, the war was also a race war. It exposed raw prejudices and was fueled by racial pride, arrogance, and rage on many sides. Ultimately, it brought about a revolution in racial consciousness throughout the world that continues to the present day.”38 Further, that “When the struggle in Asia is taken into consideration, it becomes apparent that neither anti-Semitism nor white supremacism in its wider manifestations suffices to illuminate the full impact of racism during World War Two. In the United States and Britain, the Japanese were more hated than the Germans before as well as after Pearl Harbor….They were perceived as a race apart, even a species apart—and an overpoweringly monolithic one at that. There was no Japanese counterpart to the “good German” in the popular consciousness of the Western Allies.”39
Borstelmann argues, in a similar vein that, “World War II was not racial in its origins, but in the Pacific it became for most American soldiers a racially coded conflict. In contrast to most U.S. residents of German and Italian heritage, those of Japanese descent were stripped of their property and incarcerated because of what they looked like— not because of their actions or even beliefs.”40 The disgusted reaction of an African American resident of Harlem to the racial coding of that war is evident: “All these radio announcements talking about yellow this, yellow that. Don’t hear them calling the Nazis white this, pink that.”41
The dissonance between the views (on U.S. foreign policy) of the vast majority of Black Americans and the White establishment in the United States has always been pronounced, and was especially jarring when it came to the anticolonial struggles in Africa. Particularly when it came to the antiracist struggles in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Southwest Africa (now Namibia) and South Africa; and the liberation wars against Portuguese colonialism in Mozambique and Angola. U.S. support, in the first three cases for White settler minority regimes, and in the latter two for colonial Portugal was only partly out of Cold War strategic and economic concerns. This was after all the United States in the era of Jim Crow segregation, and “Delegates [to the United Nations founding meetings] like John Foster Dulles opposed the human rights clause in the charter [that referred to full human equality] out of fears that it could lead to an international investigation of ‘the Negro question in this country.’”42
Borstelmann’s extensive research on the administrations of almost all Cold War presidents from Truman43 down (including well-documented quotes such as Nixon’s mollification of Kissinger, “Henry, let’s leave the ‘n*****s’ to Bill [Rogers—Nixon’s secretary of state] and we’ll take care of the rest of the world”44), show that racism and the pacification of the domestic antiracist civil rights struggle were major factors that determined U.S. relations with the Third World.45 In fact, Mary L. Dudziak has written a series of studies on race/racism and foreign policy that focus on the impact of Cold War foreign relations and the American image abroad on domestic race relations, including the ending of segregation.46 That this still persists in the present era was evidenced in the United States impeding the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Forms of Intolerance (WCAR) in Durban, South Africa, in 2001.47
Structural Racism and U.S. Foreign Policy
Looking at racism in/and U.S. foreign policy—particularly after the end of official segregation—requires an understanding of structural racism. This is important because individual prejudice in the foreign policy making of any one particular U.S. president only takes us so far. After all, not every U.S. president is racist in an individual sense. And, in any case, focusing on individual acts of racism require proof of the actor’s intent to discriminate on the basis of race, which is difficult to establish because presidential decisions are often embedded in overarching policies or cloaked as “national interest.” Further, an emphasis on individuals alone “limits accountability,”48 because even if the individual’s racism is recognized and addressed, the racist nature of the system s/he is part of is not. It is clear to many of us on the Left that to really understand the role of racism in domestic U.S. politics and policy we need to understand structural racism and its role within the United States. U.S. foreign policy and the international role of the United States must similarly be examined within the context of structural racism, especially because it is domestic politics and “national” interest that determines a nation’s foreign policy for the most part. And, because a country that is racist in terms of its internal structure simply cannot have a foreign policy that is not racist.
“Structural racism is understood as the complex ways in which historical oppression, culture, ideology, political economy, public policy and institutional practices interact to produce forms of racial sorting that reproduce and reinforce a hierarchy of color that privileges whiteness and marginalizes [other skin colors].”49As the Transnational Racial Justice Initiative’s report on White privilege and U.S. policy states, it maintains “a system that accrues to whites (or European Americans) greater wealth, resources, more access and higher quality access to justice, services, capital—virtually every form of benefits to be reaped from US society—than other racial groups. Conversely, white privilege has resulted in impoverishment and injustice for the vast majority of those belonging to racial minorities.”50
This is clearly understandable within the domestic U.S. context with regard to the continued oppression of people of color. But how does structural racism and White privilege play out on the international field? Especially given that Whites are a minority globally, and that most countries in the world have non-White majority populations with their own institutional and structural oppressions that subordinate women, ethnic or religious minorities, indigenous peoples, “lower” castes, etc. One way of understanding this is to visualize South African apartheid on a global level.
“Global apartheid, stated briefly, is a system of international white minority rule. Race determines access to basic human rights; wealth and power are accumulated and structured by race and place; structural racism is found in global economic processes, political institutions and cultural assumptions; and international double standards are practiced that assume inferior rights to be appropriate for certain ‘others,’ defined by origin, race, gender, or geography. Global apartheid is more than a metaphor. It is a more accurate moniker for the corporate globalization that is now rightfully protested at every international meeting. Global apartheid has evolved as a consequence of an international economic system built upon the slave trade, slavery and colonialism, and upon centuries of racism and racial discrimination. Global apartheid has national and local consequences throughout the world.”51 While this is similar to South African apartheid, it is not dissimilar to structural racism in the United States.
Global apartheid, however, is more than economic racism. While more people would be willing to accept that the current international economic order systematically impoverishes people of color worldwide, less are likely to understand that the current international political order disenfranchises them. After all, in the current system, all countries are sovereign and have a vote in the United Nations General Assembly. But as is self-evident, sovereignty is situational. It is one thing if you are the United States or China. Quite another if you are Iraq or Afghanistan. Four of the five permanent veto-wielding U.N. Security Council members—and it is the Security Council more than the General Assembly that really matters on many substantial issues such as war—are White majority nations. How that came to be, in the aftermath of WWII with the 5 major victorious Allies being the engines behind the creation of the new international system, is incidental. The fact is, that 4 out of 5 are White majority countries, all of who have been imperial/colonial powers that invaded and colonized non-White majority countries.52
PRA has consistently argued that subsuming all oppressions—not just racism but sexism, homophobia, etc.—under the framework of White supremacy is not sound analytically or strategically. These different oppressions, while certainly linked in the way they work and affect the oppressed, need to be named for what they are and challenged as such. Further, that while they all need to be challenged, overcoming them can only be through building a united front of substantive and sustainable cross-issue coalitions. None of this is in doubt.
However, much as White supremacy/privilege/racism is a reality inside the United States and is linked to structural racism, it is also true globally on a different level. Non-White countries (and thus peoples) are independent and sovereign in the international system just as much as non-White Americans are equal citizens in the United States. In theory, and legally, the latter certainly are. Yet, to argue that they are equal in every respect given structural racism in the United States would be foolish. It is the same in terms of the world as a whole.
Because racism has been mostly whitewashed in both the conduct and analyses of U.S. foreign policy, it needs to be clearly identified. In much the same way that Cynthia Enloe and other feminists have identified the oppression of sexism in U.S. foreign policy and international politics.53 Further, it needs to be unambiguously stated that structural racism at home (within the United States) and internationally (global apartheid) has the same effect on people of color within the United States in one instance and outside it in the other—economic dislocation and political disarticulation.
The AWOL which, as argued earlier, is chiefly about maintaining U.S. economic, political, and military privilege and superiority globally, has the unstated effect of maintaining White American privilege globally. As Tim Wise stated, “White privilege and entitlement are at the root of foreign policy in this country.”54 How is this so? Domestically, maintaining the AWOL translates as perpetuating the current economic and political system within the United States—a system that systematically and disproportionately disadvantages people of color and the poor through economic dislocation and political disenfranchisement.55 Who benefits? Mostly White Americans, and wealthy Americans who are overwhelmingly White. Internationally, defending the AWOL by extension benefits the same mostly White Americans and wealthy Americans who are overwhelmingly White. In both cases, those whom it harms are mainly people of color, and the poor regardless of race. People of color are disproportionately poor whether in the United States or in the larger world. And people with privilege are not about to begin dismantling a system that works for them.
Imperialist Wars: Hot, “Cold,” and “Cool.”
The so-called war against terror, and specifically, the war on Iraq are about securing the AWOL—even though global insecurity has risen dramatically as a result. While the war on Iraq begun in Spring 2003 is certainly “hot,” as in having casualties on all sides—disproportionately on the Iraqi side given that imperialist wars these days are “smart”—a “cool” war has been going on since sanctions were imposed on Iraq after the first Gulf War in 1991, which never really ended. Weapons of Mass Destruction have been found in Iraq—but only in the form of deliberately harsh, comprehensive economic sanctions that have crippled and devastated a whole society. Its casualties are in the hundreds of thousands—because “U.S. policymakers have effectively turned a program of international governance into a legitimized act of mass slaughter.”56 Since the sanctions began, it is estimated by the United Nations that over 500,000 Iraqi children under the age of 5 have died as a direct result of the sanctions.57 This is genocide, yet again.
Based on extensive research, including secret U.N. documents obtained through foreign diplomats, Joy Gordon, has shown how in Iraq the “United States has fought aggressively throughout the last decade to purposefully minimize the humanitarian goods that enter the country. And it has done so in the face of enormous human suffering, including massive increases in child mortality and widespread epidemics. It has sometimes given a reason for its refusal to approve humanitarian goods, and sometimes given no reason at all…”58 In 1991 itself, the U.N. warned of catastrophic consequences if basic human needs were not immediately met. “U.S. intelligence assessments took the same view” according to Gordon because, as she points out, those consequences were intended. One Pentagon official stated in an article in the Washington Post that, “People say, ‘You didn’t recognize that it [bombing Iraq’s electrical grid] was going to have an effect on water or sewage.’ Well, what were we trying to do with sanctions—help out the Iraqi people? No. What we were trying to do with the attacks on infrastructure was to accelerate the effects of the sanctions.”59
Besides blocking or interminably delaying humanitarian goods— the holds on these goods tripled between 2000 and 2002—the United States (and sometimes Britain) has blocked other goods it classifies as dual-use. That is, while they can have civilian uses they could also possibly be diverted for military purposes. These have included at various times: vaccines for infant hepatitis, tetanus, and diphtheria, incubators, cardiac and dialysis equipment, fire-fighting equipment, water tankers, milk and yogurt production equipment, drinking water treatment equipment, water transportation pipes, truck tires, etc.60 The United Nations, because of U.S. insistence, has put in place an elaborate and tight monitoring system that tracks each individual item—in the case of chlorine canisters for water purification for instance—from the time of the contract, through the delivery and installation of the item, to its safe disposal. Yet, U.S blocking of goods has consistently increased.61
When some of this was made public the United States began pushing for what it calls “smart sanctions” which, like “smart bombs,” are designed really to keep those who deliver them out of harm’s way—rather than civilians or non-military targets. The “smart sanctions” while ostensibly aimed at the Iraqi political and military leadership rather than civilians were a detracting ploy to absolve the United States of direct blame for the blocking of goods. “Under the new proposal, all the categories of goods the United States ordinarily challenged would instead be placed in a category that was, in effect, automatically placed on hold. But this would now be in the name of the Security Council.”62 To ensure that other veto-wielding members did not reject the proposal, the United States lifted holds on contracts involving companies from their countries. Russia, however, vetoed it, and this led to the United States immediately blocking “nearly every contract that Iraq had with Russian companies.”63 Later, when Russia approved a newer version of the proposal the United States vacated its holds on Russian contracts, “even though the State Department had earlier insisted that those same holds were necessary to prevent any military imports.”64
No wonder then, that as Arundhati Roy writes, “In most parts of the world, the invasion of Iraq is being seen as a racist war. The real danger of a racist war unleashed by racist regimes is that it engenders racism in everybody— perpetrators, victims, spectators… . There is a tidal wave of hatred for the US rising from the ancient heart of the world. In Africa, Latin America, Asia, Europe, Australia. I encounter it every day. Sometimes it comes from the most unlikely sources. Bankers, businessmen, yuppie students, and they bring to it all the crassness of their conservative, illiberal politics.”65 As Ayeda Naqvi points out, “the Americans have unleashed a force they may not have reckoned for. With each day of fighting, something is changing. There are no Shias or Sunnis anymore, even borders between countries are slowly losing their significance …. Centuries ago in the desert of Kerbala, a sacrifice was made that changed the course of history. Today it is happening again, in the same place. The Americans may or may not realise this but this is not Gulf War II—this is Kerbala II.”66
U.S. imperialist wars, whether cold, cool, hot, or lukewarm, and its foreign policy in general are about a lot of things. This war against Iraq certainly is: It is about the Christian Right’s self-righteous messianic apocalypticism and demonizing of Islam and Muslims and Arabs.67 It is about macho militarism and the burying of the Vietnam Syndrome and the testing of new weapons on non-White peoples. It is about the Neoconservative plan of achieving and maintaining global hegemony. It is about securing and controlling oil and servicing the multinational oil corporations and global capital, and redrawing the map of the Middle East to do it. It is about colonialism with a new face. It is about diverting our attention from the sinking U.S. economy and increasing domestic inequality and repression. And it is essentially aimed at securing and perpetuating the AWOL.
But wars and sanctions are just one element of U.S. foreign policy that need to be analyzed from the perspective of race/racism: U.S. arms sales and transfers to friendly regimes in the Third World, and the overt and covert interventions against governments that were/are opposed to a Pax Americana; the Plan Colombia and War on Drugs; the foot-dragging and/or refusal to sign international treaties, including those banning landmines or greenhouse gases, and the International Criminal Court; the militarization of the globe through the setting up of bases in Third World countries; the pushing of neoliberal economic policies on the Third World and free trade agreements like NAFTA, CAFTA, FTAA, TRIPS, the WTO; immigration and refuge/asylum policies and practices that differ for different countries; and more, all need to be viewed from this lens. And, all of these policies cannot be viewed in isolation from domestic policies that adversely affect working people, especially people of color, in this country: the ever-growing military-industrial complex that holds this country, and particularly regions like the South,68hostage because of its economic clout; the Wars on Drugs and Crime that disproportionately punish and incarcerate people of color, particularly Black and Latino men; the deregulation of industry that imposes harsher working conditions for working people, and the dumping of toxic waste in predominantly people of color neighborhoods and Native American reservations; the crackdown on immigrants of color especially since, but long before 9/11; and so on.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., explicitly drew those connections in speaking out against the war on Vietnam in April 1967,69 connections that progressive people of color in this country are increasingly redrawing now. As Libero Della Piana writes, “After the September 11 terrorist attacks, it became immediately clear that people of color would suffer the consequences of a dramatic shift in foreign and domestic policy. The ‘war on terrorism’ is not just a war in the classical sense, but a set of domestic, foreign, and military policies purportedly aimed at curbing terrorism against the U.S. and its interests worldwide. People of color in the U.S. are likely to bear the brunt of many of these policies.”70 Further, groups like Racial Justice 911 are defining war to include a broad array of acts of aggression beyond bombing and invasions, including economic sanctions, environmental destruction, debt, low-intensity warfare, and increased military spending.71
Howard Winant writes that, “Today in all the advanced countries, the established working classes [largely White] are fearful and resentful. In the US, this is the ‘angry white male’ phenomenon; elsewhere it focuses more particularly on immigration, or on Islam, but these are largely superficial differences. The ‘angry white males,’ the nativists, believed for a long time that their race, their gender, their religion more or less guaranteed them a middle class standard of living, a well-paying job, a secure home in a safe neighborhood, access to quality education and health care, paid vacations, a comfortable retirement. These prospects are slipping away.”72
The Bush/Cheney/Wolfowitz/Rumsfeld/Powell/Libby/Perle/Rice Doctrine hatched by the Neoconservatives, blessed by the Christian Right, and supported by the Neoliberals is fundamentally racist in how it aims to maintain American (and by default White American) privilege and dominance—economic, military, and political—globally. The Neoconservative think-tank Project for the New American Century’s (PNAC) 2000 report, “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century” clearly states: “At present the United States faces no global rival. America’s grand strategy should aim to preserve and extend this advantageous position as far into the future as possible.”73 This is the underlying principle of both the Defense Planning Guidance conceived in the last days of the George H. W. Bush Administration and the 2002 National Security Strategy of the George W. Bush Administration which endorse pre-emptive first strikes against “rogue” states that obtain or seek to obtain weapons of mass destruction that could endanger the United States (and the AWOL).
Tom Barry and Jim Lobe point out that, “The PNAC agenda is at once an ideology and a vision for America. Its core principle is U.S. supremacy—a transcendent superiority with diplomatic, cultural, economic, and military dimensions. It is a messianic belief arising from America’s Puritan roots and sense of God-given mission … Americans have been raised and educated in the belief that the political, moral, religious, and social manifestations of American culture are superior to those of other cultures. More than just superior, U.S. culture—its free market democracy— is said to embody the culmination of Western civilization and as such represents what Francis Fukuyama has labeled the ‘end of history’ … In the 1990s, the mandarins of New Right thought increasingly made the connections between the internal and external threats to U.S. culture and Judeo- Christian values. Paralleling the cultural wars on the domestic front (where fundamentalists face off against secularists, creationists attack evolutionists, etc.) they see a global conflict—a clash of civilizations in which Western society is being undermined, weakened, and attacked by what Samuel P. Huntington called the ‘rest’ in his Clash of Civilizations. For those rightwing ideologues espousing U.S. cultural supremacy, China and the Islamic world are often cited as the main threats to Western culture.”74
Such beliefs, it is vital to remember, are rejected by the overwhelming majority of people around the world and, as yet, hopefully, even in the United States. There is global resistance despite the overwhelming odds and the sheer brute force of those in power. As Winant argues, “The global racial situation, then, is fluid, contradictory, contentious. No longer unabashedly white supremacist, for the most part the world is, so to speak, abashedly white supremacist. The conflicts generated by the powerful movements for racial justice that succeeded WWII have been contained, but not resolved … Racism has been a crucial component of modernity, a key pillar of the global capitalist system, for 500 years. So it remains today. Yet it has been changed, damaged, and forced to reorganize by the massive social movements which have taken place in recent decades. In the past these movements were international in scope and influence.”75
In the present, they are as well, and in fact even more connected than before. Walda Katz-Fishman and Jerome Scott of Project South point out with regard to the western hemisphere that, “The historic reality of brutal US imperialism and militarism throughout the hemisphere and the current moment of economic devastation have created a shared bond among oppressed and exploited peoples within the US and those across our borders. The moral unity of our struggles is rooted in these very real and concrete ties of US empire beyond our borders and of ruling class privilege, white supremacy, patriarchy, heterosexism and other oppressions at home.”76 These bonds transcend not only our borders but also our hemisphere. The antiwar movement is resoundingly global, as is the anti-corporate globalization movement. The human rights movement is international, as is the environmental movement. The women’s movement and the movements of indigenous peoples, ethnic minorities, and oppressed castes are all transnational. While they mobilize to confront their local oppressors they also organize to challenge global domination— whether it is by multinational corporations or by hegemonic rogue states like the United States. Their success will lie in linking their struggles and visions, and in being led by those who are the oppressed.77 At the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre this year, 100,000 people representing almost every single country around the world came together. Fundamentally, they came together to challenge the AWOL.
- The author would like to thank Sarah Finn for research assistance; Abha Sur and Peter Rosenblum for access to books at MIT and Harvard; Aashish Mewada for Joy Gordon’s article; Chip Berlet, Linda Butenhoff, Pam Chamberlain, Kate Cloud, Cynthia Enloe, Richard Falk, Deborah Gerner, Jean Hardisty, Suzanne Pharr, William Robinson, Nikhil Pal Singh, Stephen Van Evera, Howard Winant, and Adriene Wing for suggestions or comments.
- Email from Nikhil Pal Singh, Department of History, University of Washington.
- See Ibish, Hussein. “Orwell would revel in ‘Collateral Damage’.” http://www.commondreams.org/views01/0409-03.htm.
- For a partial list of U.S. invasions and interventions see Grossman, Zoltan. “A Century of U.S. Military Interventions: From Wounded Knee to Afghanistan.” http://www.zmag.org/CrisesCurEvts/interventions.htm.
- I use the acronym AWOL here to also signify an America absent With Out Leave from the global community in terms of its disdain for international law and world forums such as the United Nations as well as multilateral conferences and treaties. Tram Nguyen, editor of Colorlines cites Bello in her editorial in the Spring 2002 issue. See Colorlines. Vol. 5, no. 1, Spring 2002.
- See “A Shining City on a Hill: What Americans Believe.” http://www.bluecorncomics.com/amvalues.htm.
- The original text of Galeano’s comment reads “¿Cuál es la palabra que más se escucha en el mundo, en casi todas las lenguas? La palabra yo. Yo, yo, yo. Sin embargo, un estudioso de las lenguas indígenas, Carlos Lenkersdorf, ha revelado que la palabra más usada por las comunidades mayas, la que está en el centro de sus decires y vivires, es la palabra nosotros.” See http://www.biodiversidadla.org/noticias7/noticias831.htm.
- See “We are Building that House of Freedom.” http://www.zeit.de/reden/Weltpolitik/bush_berlin_200222.html. Emphasis added.
- See Fewster, Darren. “Racist Violence, Structural Racism and the Impact of Legislative Measures to Confront Racism.” http://www.law.ecel.uwa.edu.au/elawjournal/Volume%201/Articles%20Vol_1/….
- See Washington, Wayne. 2003. “Racial division seen in war backing.” Boston Globe, March 20, p. A33.
- Lears, Jackson. 2003. “How a War became a Crusade.” New York Times, March 11. Retrieved March 11, 2003 (http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/11/opinion/11LEAR.html?ex=1048397905&ei=…).
- Coffin, William Sloan. “The Dangers of Self-righteousness.” See http://www.fccb.org/sermons/s99/sr990214.html.
- Cited in ibid.
- Cited in Lears, op. cit. Reagan was of course paraphrasing John Winthrop, whose ship diaries written aboard the Arabella are an important part of the U.S. founding myth, reinforcing it (the United States) as an example for the rest of the world. Winthrop himself was drawing on the New Testament, Matthew 5:14 which reads, “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be laid.”
- Emphasis added. Cited in Coffin, op. cit.
- Cited in ibid.
- Borstelmann, Thomas. 2001.The Cold War and the Colorline: American Race Relations in the Global Arena. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. P. 12. Emphasis added.
- Winant, Howard. 1997. Double Exposure: Poverty and Race in America. Edited by Chester Hartman. Armonk, NY: M.E.Sharpe. This citation from the web at http://www.soc.ucsb.edu/faculty/winant/comprac.html.
- Paradoxical because the term “new world order” was initially coined by non-aligned Third World nations demanding a new world order that was more egalitarian, and a change from the post-WWII IMF/World Bank dominated global system created after the Bretton Woods meetings; and quite the opposite of the Bush I (or II) order. And also, because it set off alarm bells among sectors of the U.S. Right that are suspicious about the “new world order” as a façade for a U.N.-led world government that would supplant U.S. sovereignty.
- Winant, 1997, op. cit. See also, Winant, Howard. 2002. “Durban, Globalization, and the World after 9/11: Toward a New Politics.” “After Durban” Symposium in Poverty & Race. Jan./Feb. 2002. This citation from the web at http://www.soc.ucsb.edu/faculty/winant/WCARWTO_essay.html ; 2002. “The Modern World Racial System.” in Rethinking Anti-racisms: From Theory to Practice. Edited by Floya Anthias and Cathie Lloyd. New York: Routledge. This citation from the web at http://www.soc.ucsb.edu/faculty/winant/World_Racial_System.htm.
- Borstelmann, op. cit., pp. 10-11.
- These journals include Foreign Policy, World Politics, Review of International Studies, International Studies Quarterly, Foreign Affairs, and the Millennium Journal of International Studies. See also, Johnson, Loch K., and Kiki Caruson, 2003. “The Seven Sins of American Foreign Policy.” PS: Political Science & Politics.Vol. XXXVI, no. 1, pp. 5-10. The seven sins comprising ignorance, lack of empathy, isolationism, unilateralism, precipitate military action, presidential imperialism, and arrogance do not include racism. Africa Today and the Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholarswere often lone voices in academia. Winant, op. cit., and Borstelmann, op. cit., along with the following are some of the few exceptions in terms of books. Du Bois, W.E.B. 1996. The Oxford W.E.B. Du Bois Reader. Edited by Eric J. Sundquist. New York: Oxford University Press; 1945. Color and Democracy: Colonies and Peace. NY: Harcourt Brace;  1976. The World and Africa. Millwood, NY: Kraus-Thomson Organization; Weston, Rubin Francis. 1972. Racism in U.S. Imperialism: The Influence of Racial Assumptions on American Foreign Policy, 1893-1946. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press; Kiernan, Victor, G. 1978. America: The New Imperialism: From White Settlement to World Hegemony. London: Zed Press; Hunt, Michael, H. 1987. Ideology and U.S. Foreign Policy. New Haven: Yale University Press; Dower, John W. 1987. War Without Mercy: Race & Power in the Pacific War. New York: Pantheon; Aptheker, Herbert. 1987. Racism, Imperialism, & Peace: Selected Essays by Herbert Aptheker. Edited by Marvin J. Berlowitz and Carol E. Morgan. Minneapolis: Marxist Education Press; Robeson, Paul. 1988. Here I Stand. Boston: Beacon Press; Marable, Manning. 1996. Speaking Truth to Power: Essays on Race, Resistance, and Radicalism. Boulder, CO: Westview Press; Robinson, Randall. 1998. Defending the Spirit: A Black Life in America. New York: Dutton (Penguin). See also Student (Advisory) Committee on International Affairs. 1972. Racism: Implications for U.S. Foreign Policy. Washington, DC: Student (Advisory) Committee on International Affairs. Another angle on race/racism and U.S. foreign policy looks at the impact of foreign relations during the Cold War and the American image abroad on domestic race relations, including the ending of segregation. See for e.g., Dudziak, Mary L. 2000. Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Authors who look at U.S. foreign policy from the perspective of ethics and human rights often do not consider race/racism. See for e.g., Lefever, Ernest, W. 1957. Ethics and United States Foreign Policy. New York: Meridian Books; Rubin, Barry, M. and Elizabeth P. Spiro, eds. 1979. Human Rights and U.S. Foreign Policy. Boulder, CO: Westview; Shue, Henry. 1980. Basic Rights: Subsistence, Affluence, and U.S. Foreign Policy. Princeton: Princeton University Press; Walden, George. 1988. The Shoeblack and the Sovereign: Reflections on Ethics and Foreign Policy. New York: St. Martin’s.
- The following is the list compiled at the website irtheory.com. Balance of Power Theory; Behavioralism; Collective Defense; Collective Security; Complex Adaptive Systems Theory; Complex Interdependence Theory; Complexity Theory; Constitutive Theory; Critical Social Theory; Cultural Internationalism; Defensive Realism; Democratic Peace; Dependency Theory; Deterrence Theory; Empirical Theory; Evolutionary World Politics; Feminism; Fourth World Theory; Functionalism; Game Theory; Globalization; Globalism; Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention; Hegemonic Stability Theory; Incrementalism; International Political Economy; International Regime Theory; Just War Theory; Legal Positivism; Liberalism (Liberal Internationalism); Marxism; Modernization Theory; Neoliberal Institutionalism; Neorealism; Neotraditionalism; New War Theory; Normative Theory; Nuclear Utilization Theory; Offensive Realism; Peripheral Realism; Pluralism; Policy-Relevant Theory; Postinternationalism; Postmodernism; Power Transition Theory; Prisoner’s Dilemma; Rationalism; Realism; Social Constructivism; Traditionalism; Transnational Historical Materialism; Transnationalism; Two-World Order; Virtual Theory; World Capitalist System; World-Systems Analysis. “IR Paradigms, Approaches and Theories” from http://www.irtheory.com/know.htm.
- While Left scholars and authors such as Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, William Robinson, and writers in theNation and elsewhere have been continuously critical of U.S. foreign policy, that analysis has largely been explicitly anti-imperialist. See for e.g., Chomsky, Noam. 2001. 9-11. New York: Seven Stories Press; Zinn, Howard. 2002. Edited by Anthony Arnove. Terrorism and War.New York: Seven Stories Press; Robinson, William I. 1996. Promoting Polyarchy: Globalization, U.S. Intervention, and Hegemony. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; Harrison, Thomas. “Only a Democratic Foreign Policy Can Combat Terrorism.” 2001. New Politics. Vol. 8, no. 4; Falk, Richard. 2002. “The New Bush Doctrine.” Nation. July 15, 2002. http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20020715&s=falk; Klare, Michael T. 2002. “Endless Military Superiority.” Nation. July 15, 2002. http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20020715&s=klare. Some notable exceptions apart from Winant, op. cit., include Barry, Tom and Jim Lobe. 2002. “U.S. Foreign Policy—Attention, Right Face, Forward March,” Foreign Policy in Focus, April 2002 (which uses the language of cultural supremacy rather than racism), see http://www.fpif.org/papers/02right/; and the Colorlines Spring 2003 issue published by the Applied Research Center and Center for Third World Organizing in Oakland, CA. See especially Della Piana, Libero. 2003. “War’s Racial Edge.” Colorlines. Vol. 6, issue 1. (Spring 2003), pp. 20-22. See also, Hanania, Ray. 2002. “Racism drives American Foreign Policy.” http://www.mediamonitors.net/hanania50.html; and Schurr, Kristen. 2002. “Racism in Reporting, Jingoism as Foreign Policy.” http://www.mediamonitors.net/kristenschurr1.html. Also, some of the authors who address the role of the U.S. military in bases abroad like Cynthia Enloe, Aurora Camacho de Schmidt, and Christine Wing address the racism associated with U.S. servicemen treatment of mostly Asian women in Gerson, Joseph, and Bruce Birchard, eds. 1991. The Sun Never Sets…Confronting the Network of Foreign U.S. Military Bases. Boston: South End Press.
- A major impetus for this article was a retreat jointly organized by Political Research Associates and the Highlander Center for Research and Education in November 2002, where the participants drawn from a diverse range of groups from across the United States resolved to put race front and center in their work and analysis. I’m especially thankful to Suzanne Pharr of Highlander for her initiative in this regard.
- The distinctions are hard to draw even within domestic policy in certain areas such as Criminal Justice and Welfare where New Democrats like Bill Clinton moved the party rightwards to be more “tough on crime.”
- Borstelmann, op. cit.
- See particularly Du Bois, Weston, Hunt, and Kiernan, op. cit.
- See Weston and Hunt, op. cit.
- Weston, op. cit., p. 1.
- Gayatri Chakravorti Spivak made this, now famous, statement regarding British colonial/imperial rationales for colonialism/imperialism. See Chakravorti Spivak, Gayatri. 1985. “Can the Subaltern Speak?: Speculations on Widow Sacrifice.” Wedge 7/8: 120-130.
- See “US will liberate Iraq, says Bush.” 2003. BBCNews World Edition January 3. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/2625981.stm
- See Women Living Under Muslim Laws. 2002. “WLUML Statement on the First Anniversary of September 11th.” http://www.wluml.org/english/newarchives/wtc/11-sep-2002-wluml-statemen….
- See “The Plaid Adder’s CRITIQUE OF THE WEEK: This Week’s Target: How American Bombs Are Saving Afghani Women From Afghani Men.” See http://www.plaidder.com/spivak.htm.
- Weston, op. cit., p. 1.
- Dower, op. cit., pp. 3-4.
- Ibid., p. 8.
- Borstelmann, op. cit., p. 30.
- Ibid., p. 41.
- Ibid., p. 48.
- Ibid., p. 234.
- See Dudziak, Weston, and Borstelmann, op. cit.
- See Dudziak, op. cit.
- This was repeated at the Bali PrepComm (preparatory committee) meeting in May-June 2002 for the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in August 2002, where the general feeling was that “the United States government is bound and determined to undermine, overthrow, and sabotage any international treaties, agreements, and conferences that it believes restrict its sovereignty in any way as the world’s rogue superpower … an angry UN official, thinking his microphone had been turned off, was overheard lamenting, ‘What are we going to do about the United States?’” See Mann, Eric. 2002. “Bulletin from Bali: What Are We Going to Do about the United States?” http://www.fpif.org/commentary/2002/0207wssdprep.html.
- Transnational Racial Justice Initiative. 2001. The Persistence of White Privilege and Institutional Racism in US Policy: A Report on US Government Compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. (Oakland, CA: Transnational Racial Justice Initiative), p. 15.
- See Aspen Institute Roundtable on Comprehensive Community Initiatives. “Project on Race and Community Revitalization.” http://www.aspenroundtable.org/ Project_Summary.html.
- Transnational Racial Justice Initiative, op. cit., p. 7.
- See http://www.antiracismnet.org/arn/worldconf/africaaction1.htm. Emphasis added.
- This includes the Russian Republic, successor to the Soviet Union which itself was the successor to prerevolutionary imperial Russia that colonized and settled Central Asia, Siberia, the Caucasus region, etc.
- See for instance, Enloe, Cynthia. 2001 (updated edition). Bananas, Beaches and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics. Berkeley: University of California Press. See also Peterson, V. Spike. 1992. ed., Gendered States: Feminist (Re)Visions of International Relations Theory. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner; Sylvester, Christine. 2002. Feminist International Relations: An Unfinished Journey. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press; Tickner, J. Anne.1992. Gender in International Relations: Feminist Perspectives on Achieving Global Security. New York: Columbia University Press, among others.
- Wise, Tim. 2003. “Little White Lies.” Talk on Affirmative Action and White Privilege given at Northeastern University School of Law, March 31, 2003.
- Some seminal examples of works pertaining to this include, Transnational Racial Justice Initiative, op. cit.; Ehrenreich, Barbara. 2001. Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. New York: Henry Holt and Company; Collins, Chuck and Felice Yeskel with United for a Fair Economy. 2000. Economic Apartheid in America: A Primer on Economic Inequality and Insecurity. (Boston: United for a Fair Economy); West, Cornell. Race Matters. 1993. Boston: Beacon Press; Guinier Lani, and Gerald Torres. 2002. The Miner’s Canary: Enlisting Race, Resisting Power, Transforming Democracy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; Pharr, Suzanne. 1996. IN THE TIME OF THE RIGHT: Reflections on Liberation. Berkeley, California: Chardon Press.
- Gordon, Joy. 2002. “COOL WAR: Economic sanctions as a weapon of mass destruction.” Harper’s Magazine. November 2002. See http://www.harpers.org/online/cool_war/?pg=1.
- Roy, Arundhati. 2003. “Mesopotamia. Babylon. The Tigris and Euphrates.” Guardian. April 2, 2003. See http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,927849,00.html.
- See Naqvi, Ayeda. 2003. “The Killing Fields of Kerbala.” Daily Times, April 4, 2003. See http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=story_4-4-2003_pg3_5.
- See PRA’s website for more articles and links to U.S. foreign policy and war rhetoric as well as Christian Right messianic beliefs that fuel its engagement in Middle East politics.
- In the United States, the South is one of the most militarized regions in terms of being the site of the most bases, numerous defense industries and contractors, and as a supplier of recruits to the armed forces. This has to be seen within the context of the South being one of the most impoverished regions in the country, where working in the defense industry or on the bases, or joining the military, is often a matter of economic survival. See Pharr, Suzanne. 2003. “Opposition to Bush’s War.” Highlander Reports. January-March 2003, pp. 1-3. http://www.highlandercenter.org/pdf-files/HighlanderReports-03-03.pdf.
- See King, Jr., Martin Luther. 1967. “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” April 4, 1967. http://www.hartford- hwp.com/archives/45a/058.html.
- See Della Piana, op. cit., p. 21.
- Ibid., pp. 21-22.
- See Winant, op. cit.
- See, Donnelly, Thomas with Donald Kagan and Gary Schmitt. 2000. “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century.” Project for the New American Century: Washington, DC. http://www.newamericancentury.org/RebuildingAmericasDefenses.pdf
- See Barry and Lobe, op. cit.
- See Winant, Howard. 2002. “The Modern World Racial System.” In Rethinking Anti-racisms: From Theory to Practice, edited by Floya Anthias and Cathie Lloyd. New York: Routledge. This cite from http://www.soc.ucsb.edu/faculty/winant/World_Racial_System.htm.
- Katz-Fishman, Walda, and Jerome Scott. “Building the Peoples’ Hemispheric Movement in the Midst of a Growing Police State.” 2003. As the South Goes. Vol. 11, issue 1. Atlanta: Project South: Institute for the Elimination of Poverty & Genocide, p. 1.
- See the open letter addressed by people of color activists to the largely White leadership of the antiwar movement. Bloom, Steve, et al. 2003. “Open Letter on Movement Building.” February 21, 2003. See http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID= 30&ItemID=3100.