Is the United States Army officially teaching anti-Arab racism?
Is the United States Army
officially teaching anti-Arab racism? It
would seem so and the evidence is in black and white.
After everything else, here
is a document issued to American military personnel on how to
"relate" to Arabs in Iraq. While one could reasonably
assume that there would be some inaccuracies as translations of cultural
literacy between societies can be confusing, does it always need to be so
ignorant on the part of European Westerners?
This is an insulting
document on a variety of levels. I feel as if I am reading a copy of a
hand-out to British soldiers post World War One when they created Iraq in 1920 under a
mandate issued by the League of Nations. It is so ethnically biased
and completely unrealistic in terms of Arabic cultural traditions that to
charge racism in such a case only points out what is clearly obvious.
American military personnel were indoctrinated in anti-Arab ethno-cultural monstrosities
at the onset of the invasion for purposes of de-humanising the Iraqi
populace. This goes a long way in understanding
how Abu Ghraib could occur although it should be understood by all that
atrocities transpire by all sides in all conflicts. The premise of the “good war” rationalization
is a canard.
It is a psychologically
proven fact that the chief objective of the use of propaganda is to not only discredit
the targeted subject, but to also bring into question the personal humanity of
the quarry. Bestowing Americans with
authority over a captive population in a colonial situation with literature presenting
Arabs as buffoonish, stubborn and irresponsible before they even come into
contact with the country’s inhabitants is colonial practise by definition. This is no different in tone or tenor from
Kipling’s “The White Man’s Burden,” that classic blueprint for Pax Anglo uber
alles at the time written to morally defend the American war of domination
against the Philippines, a three-year slaughter which liquidated more than one
million persons of the Aboriginal population. (Many Indigenous activists put the number at
half of the native population.)
Possessing diminutive to
zero familiarity with Arabic people or culture is one thing, to supply
blatantly bigoted material to American military personnel is quite the other. It shows that the United States is entirely deceitful in its claims
to racial/ethnic harmony and is actively exporting this uniquely distinguishable
form of chauvinism to its colonial holdings in Western Asia.
One could suppose this is the new Americanisation of Iraq.
But it isn’t. It is a continuation of classical European
expansionist misinformation to programme the ‘Hearts and Minds’ of those called
upon to perform acts rational human beings would find repulsive. War and repression are not universally
embraced ideals. On the whole, those who
possess material means and the reins of socio-political and economic power customarily
strive to retain such status by any means necessary including the use of brute
force. It is the victims of the
insecurities of the privileged that abhor perpetual conflict. Not because they have nothing to fight for,
but because before invasion from those who had nothing, they had all they
needed and shared it uniformly. Mainstream
pedagogical studies today call such cultural ethics, “Proofs of their instinctive
While I personally find this
attitude insulting on a visceral level, I cannot accept such estimations as valid
even objectively on the grounds of the unscientific raison d'être of the document
in question. If this pamphlet was intended
to facilitate cultural understanding between the American colonial force in Iraq and the native population it fails
and miserably so. If my deconstruction
is at all accurate then what we have here is solid confirmation of the sort of
mental indoctrination the U.S. military employs to psychologically
train soldiers serving in occupational circumstances.
They have learned quite a
bit from the Third Reich office of State Propaganda haven’t they? - The Angryindian
A 2003's "Soldier's Guide to the Republic of Iraq," issued by the Army on the eve of the U.S. invasion, tells troops that Arabs see "little virtue in a frank exchange" and are "by American standards... reluctant to accept responsibility."
Those are just a few of the surprising passages found while leafing through the booklet, prepared by the Army's 101st Airborne Division. Here are some excerpts from the "cultural considerations" chapter:
* There is little virtue in a frank exchange. Getting down to business may always occur at a later meeting or a more informal setting such as dinner.
* Arabs, by American standards, are reluctant to accept responsibility... if responsibility is accepted and something goes wrong, the Arab is dishonored.
* Arabs operate by personal relations more than by time constraints.
* Arabs, by American standards, are reluctant to accept responsibility.
* Arabs do not believe in upward mobility or social status; they gain status by being born in the right family.
* Arabs do not shake hands firmly. If an Arab does not touch you, it usually means that he does not like you.
* It is said that the Arab likes to feel your breath in their face. As you back away, the Arab will continue to shuffle forward. This is known as the "diplomatic shuffle."
* An Arab sees friendships with anyone outside the family as meaning, "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours."
(Read pages 8-9, 10-11, and 14-15.)
Parts of the guide were put online -- and greeted with arched eyebrows -- when it first came out in 2003. Four years of ongoing conflict have made the document an even more awkward read, showing just how far policy and perceptions have come since the heady days of "Shock and Awe."
Even odder is comparing the 2003 booklet to 1943's A Short Guide to Iraq for soldiers. In many ways, the two documents, spread sixty years apart, still have a fair amount in common:
NEVER discuss religion or politics or women with Moslems. (1943)
Don't [d]iscuss religion or try to convert an Arab to your faith (2003)
If you see grown men walking hand in hand, ignore it. They are not queer. (1943)
It is common for good friends of the same sex to hold hands while walking in public (2003)
To be fair, the booklet says that it's not meant to be a comprehensive guide. And parts of the publication are extremely useful: information on geography, road signs, wild life and language. There are also some sensible rules for dealing with the media ("don't lie"), and some debatable guidance as well ("Do not provide the enemy with propaganda material by complaining about things").