The Charlie Hebdo White Power Rally in Paris: A Celebration of Western Hypocrisy

image.adapt.960.high“The “civilized” have created the wretched, quite coldly and deliberately, and do not intend to change the status quo; are responsible for their slaughter and enslavement; rain down bombs on defenseless children whenever and wherever they decide that their “vital interests” are menaced, and think nothing of torturing a man to death; these people are not to be taken seriously when they speak of the “sanctity” of human life, or the conscience of civilized world. (James Baldwin)

I have witnessed the spectacle of Eurocentric arrogance many times over my long years of struggle and resistance to colonial/capitalist domination and dehumanization. The grotesque, 21st Century version of the “white man’s burden,” which asserts that the international community (meaning the West) has a moral and legal “responsibility to protect,” is one current example; the generalized acceptance by many in the West that their governments have a right to wage permanent war against the global “others” to maintain international order is another.

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The Day that Black Lives did not matter in Panama

December 20, 1989 is a day of infamy for the people of Panama. On that day, the most powerful military in the world descended on a poor black communities in the middle of Panama City and carried out one of the most brutal war crimes ever committed in the late 20th century. Many in the U.S. have forgotten or never even knew that when George H. Bush ordered U.S. troops into Panama, Panamanians experienced their version of 9/11. By the time the carnage ended a few weeks later, U.S soldiers had murdered more than 3,000 Panamanians – changing the lives of Panamanians forever.

The attack was  a brazen expression of ‘cowboy justice’ by a rogue state that took no heed of international constraints and instead took it upon itself to carry out an “arrest” of General Manuel Antonio Noriega, the De facto head of the sovereign state of Panama.

In the process of this “arrest,” the largely black community of El Chorillo, with a population of more than 25,000, was decimated by the U.S. military. Entire neighborhoods were destroyed in an act that predated and mirrored the destruction of Fallujah that would take place some twenty five years later in Iraq. Reports from human rights organizations indicated that beyond the attack, which in itself constituted a war crime, U.S. troops committed numerous other war crimes, from summary executions to the wanton destruction of civilian property and the failure to distinguish between civilian and military targets.

Buildings known to be inhabited by civilians were fire on by troops and there was the deliberate bombing of apartment buildings by the U.S. Air force. Survivors described how bodies were piled up and “disappeared” by U.S. troops. All of this death and destruction was carried out so that U.S. officials could demonstrate to the world that they were going to enforce their hegemony through force of arms – and to shed President George H.W. Bush’s image as a ‘wimp.’

The black lives taken by the murderous assault on Panama 25 years ago should be a sober reminder that U.S. state violence is not confined to ghettos and barrios of the U.S., but is a central component of the racist, colonial, capitalist project that is the U.S.

That connection is being made by the activists who have entered into political consciousness and taken up the tradition of black internationalism that has always informed radical black resistance and the struggle for our collective human rights. As brother Robin Kelly points out, the young organizers involved in the current resistance against the actions of the police in the U.S.:
“…remind us, not only that Black lives matter – that should be self-evident – but that resistance matters…. The young people of Ferguson continue to struggle with ferocity, not just to get justice for Mike Brown or to end police misconduct but to dismantle racism once and for all, to bring down the Empire, to ultimately end war.”

The invasion of Panama, the torture report, the ongoing occupation of Haiti, mass incarceration in the U.S. – all are linked by the global web of U.S. and Western institutions of domination. The understanding of those links, an understanding that has always characterized the anti-oppression lens of black resistance, recognizes that the call for a demilitarization of Black and Brown communities cannot be made without a demand to demilitarize U.S. foreign policy, to stop supplying arms and logistical support to terrorists in Syria under the guise of supporting a “moderate opposition,” to end support for Israeli colonial repression of Palestinian people, to stop the training and supplying of repressive police and militaries around the world, and to end the military occupation of dozens of countries with U.S. military bases.

The black victims of El Chorillo are still calling for justice and accountability. We stand in solidarity with those calls. We must remember them and keep their terrible experiences close to us. We will not forget them or the countless victims of this mad, rogue state that is only exceptional in its brutality and hypocrisy. Black lives matter when WE make them matter through the positive assertion of our collective humanity in the course of our fight for self-determination, people-centered human rights and the global defeat of a system of white supremacist colonial/capitalist hetero-patriarchy. History requires nothing less of us.

The Torture Report and the End of U.S. Exceptionalism

It could be fortuitous or just another example of the utter contempt for international sensibilities that just a day before International Human Rights Day, the U.S. Senate released, its long suppressed report on the systematic violations of the human rights of hundreds of people it captured and tortured as part of its ‘war on terror’. However, in light of the behavior of the U.S. government since 9/11, I suspect that government officials did not consider the timing of the report. Especially since the limited summary of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) report on the torture methods employed by the Bush Administration did not suggest an end to the impunity of government officials involved in the illegal program, but a continuation of it.

The fact that top officials in the Obama Administration and the leadership of the democratically-controlled Senate were aware of the criminal acts being perpetrated yet chose to prevent the release of the report and not prosecute officials responsible for those acts, demonstrates a bi-partisan cover-up and contempt for the law.

It is important to note that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is not a rogue operation. The actions it took were in response to directives from Bush officials to produce “actionable” intelligence, like the “intelligence” it was under pressure to produce to justify attacking Iraq. That is the role the CIA plays in service of the Executive Branch, the branch of the U.S. Government most responsible for advancing the interests of the capitalist class as a whole.

With that mandate, the Obama Administration was an active collaborator in a bi-partisan effort to cover up these crimes. We know this for this simple reason: although members of Congress and the Justice Department were in possession of evidence that human rights violations and transgressions of U.S. law had taken place, the only government officials who were prosecuted were those who brought information about governmental criminality to the attention of the public.

The bi-partisan claim that national security trumps U.S. and international law and all standards of human decency was the rationale that drove the decision by the Obama Administration to close out investigations into criminal activity during the Bush period.

Waterboarding, anal rape with a feeding tube, beatings, sleep deprivation, mock executions – these acts were all carried out on people who were ‘disappeared’ from their communities, families and nations with no regard for rights and humanity. Yet attempts by victims and their families to secure accountability and reparations for their abuse were systematically blocked by officials in the Obama Administration on the grounds of ”national security.”

That is why the sanctimonious posturing by Democrat members of the Senate Committee who are pretending to be outraged by the findings of the report is particularly galling in light of the fact that the conspiracy to cover up these crimes involved both parties. And the crimes continue. The Obama Administration continues to contract out torture through the program of “extraordinary rendition” that is buttressed with state murder in the form of its drone kill program. The criteria for who lives and dies on Pres. Obama’s ‘Tuesday morning kill list’ remain a mystery – though Attorney General Eric Holder ‘assures’ us that U.S. citizens are given their “due process” before the U.S. Government murders them.

U.S. officials don’t operate from the same set of standards as other states. As Pres. Obama repeats, over and over again, the U.S. is “exceptional.” And indeed it appears so. Successive administrations have engaged in the most egregious human rights abuses imaginable – illegal wars that kill hundreds of thousands, torture, arming of terrorists, overthrowing of governments, incarcerating more of its citizens than any other state on earth – yet still claims to be the world’s leader of human rights.

Today, the entire country – and the world – is being confronted with the glaring evidence of the systematic violation of the human rights of working class and poor black, Latinos and whites by a brutal and militarized police apparatus in the U.S. and the extent of torture perpetrated by agents of the U.S. government, with the approval of its elected ‘leaders’. I hope that on this Human Rights Day, the people of the world finally reject once and for all the lie that is U.S. exceptionalism.