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Iraq, War and Color Racism by David Graham Du Bois

The deeply embedded color racism of the majority of the American people threatens to drive this country into a devastating conflict in which nuclear warfare cannot be ruled out. In the current debate, and indeed, since the end of the Second World War, there has been little or no discussion of the use of the atom bombs in the war against Japan. Such examinations of that policy have been so restricted, so limited, almost to have been non existent. That is because there is no moral or ethical justification for such action.

At that time the centers of power in this country relied upon the widely held popular belief in "the yellow peril" as sufficient threat to justify to the American public this use of the atomic bomb. It was not prudent nor wise nor necessary to openly assert this belief as government policy. By implication, however, government policy was clear: the mass round-up of tens of thousands of Japanese men, women and children, often U.S. citizens, and their internment; the confiscation of their property and the cruel and inhuman treatment many suffered gave the signal; the under current, the unspoken, the understood: "After all, they are only colored people!"

With the constant references to Iraq's alleged stockpile and its prior use of weapons of mass destruction we should recall the devastation caused by the U.S. use of atomic weapons at the end of world war II, allegedly to force Japan to surrender. That use of weapons of mass destruction was justified by claiming it saved American lives -- never mind how many lives of the Japanese people were lost, military and civilian. To question this use over the years has been called treasonable -- a demonstration of the absence of patriotism, and worse; no concern for the lives of our troops!

When Iraq is attacked and retaliates by hitting Israel with missiles, won't Sharon justify a nuclear strike against Iraq asserting it will save both Israeli and American lives? Today, in the on-going debate, there is no discussion of the access to nuclear weapons by Israel and the likelihood that if attacked Sharon would use them.

Why? Israel has made it clear, contrary to its position during the Gulf War, if attacked it will retaliate. Has the U.S. received assurances from Israel that it will not use nuclear weapons? If so, the world should know. If not, why not?

Recently concluded parliamentary elections in Pakistan, Afghanistan's neighbor and a most important ally of the U.S. in its "war against terrorism", has resulted in a larger than ever, anti-U.S., militant Islamic presence in Pakistan's chief legislative body. Religious parties won 50 seats compared to the 9 seats they won in 1993. Even Pakistan's elite, as reported in some detail in the Sunday Times of October 13, "gravitate toward Islamic religious parties" as many in Pakistan "see the American antiterror effort as anti-Islam." Clearly, in anticipation of this development Pakistan President Musharraf and the military have prepared to rule over the next five years with an iron fist, without an effective use of Parliament. The employment of nuclear weapons against Iraq by staunch friend of the U.S., Israel, with the tacit approval of the U.S., could encourage Musharraf to unleash a nuclear attack against India as a means of maintaining power in the face of a rapidly growing popular resistance to his pro-U.S. policies.

Those who made the decision to drop the bombs at the end of the Second World War knew that the mass of the American people were deeply imbued with the notion that a people of color, particularly blacks, were inherently inferior, potentially dangerous, incapable of a useful intelligence, resentful and envious of what Americans have, purveyors of all the deadly sins, not much removed from the savage beasts. These attitudes compare favorably to much of the rhetoric Americans have been fed by television commentaries, newspaper editorials, movies and reports about the Iraqi and Arab people in general.

They learned all this from what they were told from their pulpits, taught in their schools, colleges and universities, practiced in their clubs, societies and secret klans and the little they observed of the people of color who have lived in their midst since before the creation of the nation. They do not know the truth. The truth has been denied them, and still is in large measure today, in the same way the truth about peoples of color around the globe, but particularly the African and Arab peoples, has been and is being denied them today.

As a result most white Americans, and some few Black Americans, believe the stereotype. They believe that most Blacks are inferior to whites in intellect; that most Blacks are so angry that whites must fear for their lives; that most blacks are thieves and murderers or apologists for black thieves and murderers, that most blacks smell bad; that most blacks hate whites; that most blacks want to be white.

The American people do not know their black history: the horrors of the slave ships of The Middle Passage. They do not know the truth of the daily lives of the slaves on southern plantations. They do not know the harshness of the punishments inflicted on the slave for the smallest infraction. They do not know of breeding pens for slaves to produce more slaves. They do not know of the cruelty of white women toward black women who shared their men. They do not know the heroic story of black struggle to be free, in all its many variations, from suicide to murder.

Is America setting the stage for and initiating that race war some have prophesied over the years? There is a growing resistance among the masses of American people to the how, what, when and where of war with Iraq. Just as there is a growing rejection among the masses of the American people to the idea of the inherent inferiority of peoples of color. That resistance will grow as will the rejection that there are inherently superior and inferior peoples on this globe. My fear is that this may not be that time. My hope and my conviction is that that time will come.

David Graham Du Bois is President & CEO of The W. E. B. Du Bois Foundation, Inc. Mr. Du Bois can be contacted at

David Graham Du Bois

Thursday, October 17, 2002

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