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[casi] Rice Explains Why You Should Support the Occupation

Rice Explains Why You Should Support the Occupation

by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.

Not too many months after Donald Rumsfeld told us how he and Bush were like
the founding fathers except of Iraq, Condolezza Rice, national security
adviser, has weighed in to further explain how the bloody and destructive
occupation figures into American political history. She says that there is
an analogy between Iraqi politics in 2003 and US race politics in the 1960s.

Let's how this might work. Just as the civil rights protestors resisted the
police, Iraqis are resisting the U.S.? No, that's not it. Just as the
segregationist resorted to violence, including most notoriously blowing up
the church in Birmingham, the US is bombing and killing in Iraq? No. that's
not it. Just as blacks had to fight for voting rights, Iraqis fight for the
right to select leaders in their own country and not have them imposed by a
powerful elite? No, that's not it.

See if you can follow Rice's rationale: "We must never, ever indulge the
condescending voices who allege that some people in Africa or in the Middle
East are just not interested in freedom, they're culturally just not ready
for freedom or they just aren't ready for freedom's responsibilities. That
view was wrong in 1963 in Birmingham, and it is wrong in 2003 in Baghdad and
in the rest of the Middle East."

Precisely who among the war's opponents says that Iraqis are not ready for
freedom? She doesn’t say. If anyone does believe that it is the US war
planners, who have scuttled elections, hampered free expression, censored
the press, and blocked private enterprise. It's hard to say what Rice means
by "freedom." Seven thousand dead civilians and 20,000 wounded? The US
hasn't seen carnage like that on its soil since the Civil War.

The analogy she makes is so preposterous that it hardly needs refutation.
Why would she even attempt it? Because an essential if ridiculous aspect of
American political culture is that all political controversies must
eventually reduce to race and racial history (just as all foreign policy
issues must be discussed by way of Hitler analogies). The goal in this game
is to position your beliefs within the spectrum of conventional race history
by being on the side of the angels, which is to say, the civil-rights

This is what Bill Clinton would do whenever he was hounded. It is what
Clarence Thomas did when his Supreme Court nomination was in trouble. It is
what the Christian Right does all the time in defending their assertion that
they should have a voice in public affairs (no back of the bus for them). A
host of race hustlers have made a living at this. Yes, the rhetorical
strategy grows tedious, but it has never been as less plausible than when
used as a defense of an utterly indefensible military occupation of a
foreign government.

And yet perhaps there is a case for trying to interpret her analogy in a way
that makes some degree of sense. Rice clearly views the US presence in Iraq
as a force for freedom. Let's leave aside the reality and pretend she is
right. Let's just define occupation by the federal government as the
embodiment of "freedom" by just redefining the term itself to mean any
imposition by the US central government.

With that little change of understanding, the analogy begins to work. Unless
we are satisfied with the public high-school version of postwar racial
history, we need to see that the struggle over racial integration and racial
segregation is part of a larger issue that goes back to the founding
generation. That struggle was between decentralization and centralization,
between local control and leviathan control.

The left-liberal habit is to dismiss all historical pleas for states rights
as mere excuses for racist public policies. But this only shows their lack
of appreciation for the essential role that federalism and decentralism have
played in the long struggle for freedom itself. The need for smaller
government doesn't just refer to its functions and the scope of its power.
It also refers to its locus of control. A large state with unified
sovereignty is more likely to violate the rights and liberties of people
than governments of divided sovereignty ruling over smaller territories.

Those who resisted the expansion of federal power in the 1950s and 60s had a
strong case rooted in history. The consolidation of power is always a bad
idea, even when it is done in the name of granting people freedom and
rights. The so-called integrationists, for example, weren't just against
local laws that separated public restrooms, transportation, and schools by
race. For them, it wasn't enough to lobby against these laws at the state
and local level. Above all else, they wanted federal government
intervention, via the Supreme Court and executive edict, to abolish local
control over schools and public services.

Not only that: the so-called integrationists wanted to remove discretion
over these matters from private enterprise and insure that anything
affecting race be handled by the federal government. Ultimately, that part
of the "civil rights struggle" robbed people of their property rights and
saddled commerce with race quotas and federal oversight that war on the
freedom of association. To them, it didn't seem to be an advance of freedom
to put the federal government in charge, but rather a form of despotism.

Just so, most Iraqis do not see the US government as bringing freedom to
Iraq, no matter how many times that Rice and Rumsfeld say that this is what
they are doing. For Iraqis, they exchanged an orderly and workable despotism
of Saddam Hussein for unorderly and unworkable despotism of a foreign power
imposing martial law and raining bullets down on their towns and cities day
after day. Thus only in this sense does Rice's analogy hold up: anything
done by the US government, no matter how dire the consequences, is regarded
as an advance of freedom, while anything done to resist the advance of the
state is seen as reactionary and backward.

There's only one problem: Iraqis don't care and don't believe the mythology
of US racial history, much less are they willing to believe that Rice really
sympathizes with their plight. The Iraqis are resisting their supposed
liberators, and doing so in every way they can. It is they who are singing
"we shall overcome."

August 11, 2003

Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. [send him mail] is president of the Ludwig von
Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama, and editor of

Copyright © 2003

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