The New Face of Imperialism

Article excerpt

In the age of TV, new insidious disguises are being used to give imperialism a new face--namely the sudden upsurge of black, Arab, and Asian military and civilian spokesmen and women to deliver official statements or decorate photo-opportunities by Western political leaders. But the ultimate aim of imperialism is essentially the same: economic domination.

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"Those whom the Gods want to destroy, they first drive mad". This poetic sentence might never have been true, but it is certainly an apt description of the confusion and official panic that have griped the US and Britain at the start of 2004. "Terrorism" and "terrorists" used to be the words applied to the African liberation fighters by the colonialists of old. It was also first used by besieged Israel for the Palestinian resistance in the intervals between the 1967 and 1973 wars when the moral issues in the Middle East were overshadowed by the Cold War, the Vietnam War and the campaign against apartheid in South Africa. But now, we are faced with a "war on terrorism" which, although obviously concentrated on American, British and Israeli targets, is declared to be "global" and infinite.

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Curiously enough, in so far as the TV "image" of black people is concerned, the change has also been remarkable: there is seldom a photo opportunity of visiting American and British dignitaries to Iraq that is not decorated with the presence of black and Latino soldiers or spokesmen.

All in all, with the official warnings that the military occupation in Iraq might last "for years", the "war on terrorism" is likely to become a "normal" feature of life, at least in the US and Britain. The security industry, by the look of it, is likely to absorb an increasingly bigger share of the revenue made from all the other more peaceful and productive pursuits.

America might still be able to afford it, but Britain's defence budget, already spread over commitments in Bosnia and Afghanistan, is feeling the pinch. The times of jingoism, when the British ruled the waves and people sang in music halls: "we don't want to fight; but by jingo, if we do; we've got the men, we've got the ships; we've got the money too", have long been over.

What appears to be new is that Britain, having lost the empire, instead of joining the EU in its peaceful strategy, is now prepared to go it alone in a role as minor partner in George Bush's imperialist wars. But in everything else, despite the new factors and "anti-terrorist" guises, is the current Second War on Iraq really so new?

Certainly not much, according to Islamic and Arabic perceptions, re-affirmed in Osama Bin Laden's latest broadcast in early January 2004, coming poignantly after the capture of Saddam Hussein. And certainly not according to historians who know enough about Africa to recognise its striking analogies to the Second Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) which consolidated the British conquest of Southern Africa.

The following quote from none other than G. Bernard Shaw, otherwise celebrated at the time as an irreverent and committed socialist writer, is very illuminating:

"Great Powers, consciously or unconsciously, must govern in the interests of civilisation as a whole; and it is not in those interests that such mighty forces as goldfields, and the formidable armaments that can be built upon them, should be wielded irresponsibly by small communities of frontiersmen. Theoretically, they should be internationalised, not British-imperialised, but until the Federation of the World becomes an accomplished fact, we must accept that the most responsible Imperial Federation available is a substitute for it."

The statement is very revealing in many respects. To start with, it shows how even one of the foremost European intellectuals at the time was so casually insensitive to the fact that the First and Second Anglo-Boer Wars were fought between whites, thousands of miles away in a continent where black people moved in the background or were engaged by both sides as if they were just useful animals. …