Monday, February 28, 2011

Response to Chloe's Post

Hi Everyone,

This was intended as a comment on Chloe's post but it grew too long. Thus, I'm submitting it as a post instead of a comment.


Chloe, thank you for continuing this very interesting discussion. You make a number of interesting points in your post, but I have to say that I still disagree with you.

I think that you are forgetting that colonies are always established and maintained with military power. Every colonial effort in history has utilized overwhelming military force in order to maintain its essentially unjust system. In every colony there is a large number of soldiers whose "job" is to maintain the status quo and keep the colony running as the mother country likes. Thus, your argument that American soldiers are soldiers and not colonizers is not logically consistent. Granted, being a soldier in a foreign country does not necessarily make you a colonizer, but it certainly does not make you necessarily not a colonizer. There is absolutely nothing about belonging to the classification "soldier" which precludes one from also belonging to the classification "colonizer."

Memmi does indeed define the colony as a place where "one earns more and spends less," and I will grant you that our soldiers do not benefit nearly as much or as unfairly as colonizing militaries have in the past. Unlike most historical colonial militaries, our armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan cannot participate in pillage and rape with impunity (although situations like what occurred at Abu Ghraib certainly happen more than we realize - no military can occupy a foreign country without somehow abusing the population, and to deny this is to naively ignore the inevitable fact of what happens when thousands of armed men and women are thrown into a situation of extreme power, danger, and stress). Nevertheless, we cannot ignore the great financial gains that companies like Halliburton or private military contractors have received because of our wars. And our desire for oil is almost too obvious for me to mention. If we really were after "liberating" and assisting foreign peoples instead of simply furthering our national interests (of which having a secure supply of oil is an integral component), we should have spent those hundreds of billions of dollars on stopping genocide in Sudan and fighting HIV/AIDS throughout Africa. No matter how you look at it, many American corporations are benefiting monetarily from our wars; and, incidentally, Memmi himself points out that it is always the richest members of a society who benefit most from colonization.

Furthermore, you can call it "liberation" if you want - Saddam really was a horrible dictator - but the fact of the matter is that we ARE imposing our political ideology on the Iraqi people. I'm sure many of them hated Saddam and wanted him overthrown, so by deposing Saddam we were indeed fulfilling the wishes of many Iraqis. But that does not at all mean that they want democracy! Overthrowing Saddam and creating a democracy are two entirely different things and are in no way necessarily related. We have mandated that the Iraqi people form a democratic government with democratic social and legal institutions. Do you think that we would ever let them not form a democracy? Granted, I haven't the faintest idea what it is that the Iraqi people "want", and I don't think that I'm a minority in that. We have been told over and over again that they want a democracy, but we have to be skeptical of such a claim because it is an oversimplification of the dynamics of incredibly complicated society and, more importantly, it is the exporters of democracy, i.e. our government, who are the ones telling us this.

You are certainly correct in saying that Iraq and Afghanistan are not colonies as Memmi defines them, because there are a number of large differences. Nevertheless, we should keep in mind that Memmi wrote his book over fifty years ago and since then that breed of colonialism has died. It would be impossible to practice 19th and 20th century colonialism in the 21st century because it would (hopefully) be instantly recognized and stopped. Humans have always invented, and will always continue to invent, new ways of oppressing others for their personal benefit and we are only beginning to see what form this will take in the 21st century. We should remember that in the early nineteen hundreds there were many French who defended their occupation of Tunisia, Algeria, and other African colonies as far different from the backwards and inhumane colonization of the 18th and 19th centuries...

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