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--------- Begin forwarded message ---------- Subject: [NIPGtalk] "‘Casual’ imperialism" Date: Mon, 18 Aug 2003 18:29:02 -0500 ‘Casual’ imperialism By Vijay Prashad This article was reprinted from the August 16, 2003, issue of the *People's Weekly World*. For subscription information see below. All rights reserved - may be used with PWW credits. The U.S. and British governments admit that they have occupied Iraq, but they categorically deny that their pursuit is imperial. They say that they are there to liberate the country and hand it back as quickly as possible to the Iraqis. After the fierce anticolonial movements of the past century, "imperialism" has become an irredeemably bad word. That imperialism has such a soiled name is one of the major achievements of anticolonial nationalism. The U.S.-UK disavowal of imperialism is made in bad faith, however. The governments can do this because most of us do not have a good sense of imperialism, believing perhaps that it was direct rule by European powers. This is not the case. One of the enduring questions of Indian history is this: Why did a handful of British troops gain hegemony over 300 million Indians for over a century? The answer comes in three parts and, as you will see, each of these principles has its reflection in the current Iraq situation. 1. Divide and rule. British colonial officialdom exacerbated religous and racial divides, pushing what may have been sometime problems into intractable ones best managed by the imperial umpire. Claiming that the problem of India was the civil war between Hindus and Muslims allowed the British to gain some legitimacy from sections of the conquered population. In Iraq we hear ceaselessly about the inflexible divide between the Shia, the Sunni, the Kurds, and the several other minorities. However, those who live between Basra and Mosul have taken shelter in the broad identity of Iraqi nationalism as a sub-species of Arab nationalism that predates Saddam Hussein and the Baath. In Afghanistan, too, the U.S. has played the game of divide and rule, favoring one set of people against another, and ignoring those who want to mobilize the population based on a broader, perhaps linguistic-based, nationalism. 2. Manufacturing a bureaucracy. To manage the millions, imperial officials selected members of an emergent middle class for higher education in Britain, where many took law degrees or else studied for the Imperial Civil Service – the bureaucracy that ran the Empire. These people, during their trips to Britain, formed cultural bonds with the center of the Empire and they remained emotionally tied to it, as well as to the money they received for their services (paid from land revenue raised within India, but nonetheless paid out by the British). Such acculturation meant that such people remained beholden to the British rather than to Indian freedom. The U.S. administration builds such loyalties by at least two different strategies: by the funding of a section of the world population to come and study within the U.S., and by the funding of strategically placed non-governmental organizations (NGOs) by private foundations and the U.S. government. On the latter point, when the Internal Revenue Service forbids foundations to finance political groups, it thereby undercuts the ability of activists who enter the NGO sector to do more than "service providing." The NGO, in sum, becomes an arm of the international bureaucracy that ends up, consciously or unconsciously, doing the work of U.S. imperialism. 3. Indirect colonialism. Most of the British Empire was not ruled directly by those from the British Isles, but it was left in the hands of older rulers or else manufactured rulers who did the bidding of their paymasters. In India, almost half the landmass remained in the hands of Native Princes. China and South America remained nominally independent, and the British foisted monarchs on Jordan and Iraq from the Arabian Hashemite family. Just after the British secured Iraq in the 1920s, a Foreign Office memorandum put the case for indirect colonialism squarely: "What we want is some administration with Arab institutions which we can safely leave while pulling the strings ourselves; something that won’t cost very much but under which our economic and political interests will be secure." This is Paul Bremer’s task in Baghdad today and the Governing Council, if Chalabi and others take control of it, will end up as the marionette of the Pentagon. On April 7, 2003, in the Iraqi town of Amara, long-time rebels against the Baath led by Abu Hatem took control of the city. This is the only known instance of liberation without direct U.S. intervention. The CIA gave Abu Hatem and his people 24 hours to withdraw its authority. Such is the game of "liberation." Don’t be fooled by the short-sleeves, by the exaggerated bonhomie for the Iraqis, by the apparent leniency of U.S. imperialism. This is rule without pageantry, empire in shirtsleeves, casualness, but casual imperialism nonetheless. Vijay Prashad is associate professor at Trinity College. His latest book is titled Keeping Up with the Dow Joneses: Debt, Prison, Workfare, South End Press, 2003. Sub info: People's Weekly World 235 W. 23rd St. New York, NY 10011 $20/yr - $1 for 2 month trial sub --------- End forwarded message ---------- ________________________________________________________________ The best thing to hit the internet in years - Juno SpeedBand! Surf the web up to FIVE TIMES FASTER! Only $14.95/ month - visit www.juno.com to sign up today! _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. 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