The Paris Attacks and the White Lives Matter Movement

I received a message from one of my friends in Lebanon who asked with feigned curiosity why the U.S. media only gave a passing reference to the bombing in Beirut before turning to non-stop coverage of the attacks in Paris. Of course, like many of us she already knew the answer – that in the consciousness of the White West there is a premium on the value of White life.

Acknowledging this fact is neither new nor should it be particularly controversial. Its obviousness is apparent to anyone who is honest. We saw it in the response to the Charlie Hebdo attacks where the world (meaning the White West) engaged in a gratuitous expression of moral outrage against terrorism. But that outrage against terrorism didn’t extent to the two thousand Nigerians who were murdered by Boko Haram the same weekend that a massive rally in Paris took place to condemn the Charlie Hebdo attack. At that rally not one word of solidarity or condemnation of terrorism in Nigeria was expressed by the speakers or the thousands gathered that day.

What my friend and all of us who have been the victims of the selected morality and oppressive violence of Western civilization over the last five hundred years have come to understand is that non-European life simply does not have equal value.

How else can one explain the complete lack of attention to the humanity of the victims of ISIS attacks in Beirut and in Bagdad the day before or the lack of concern for the lives of the over 7,000 people in Yemen murdered by the Saudi Arabia dictatorship, with U.S. and NATO support?

And is it unfair to suggest that it is the diminished value of life of the lives of people in the global South that allows supporters of Bernie Sanders to dismiss his support for U.S. war-mongering policies in the global South?

The Liberal Roots of White Supremacist Psychopathology:

In the classrooms of Western universities and occasionally in civic courses in high schools, students are introduced to the ideas of liberal humanitarianism that are supposed to characterize the core values of the European enlightenment. The enlightenment is supposed to represent the progressive advancement of all of humanity by the thinkers of Europe who, of course, represented the leading edge of collective humanity.

But what is not sufficiently interrogated in these classes is the fact that while these grand theories of “mankind’s” inherent equality, rationality and even “perfectibility,” were being discussed, those theorists had already arrived at a consensus. This consensus was on the criteria for determining which individuals and groups would be recognized as having equal membership in the human family, what Hannah Arendt referred to as those people who had the “right to have rights.” According to the criteria, women and the non-European world were excluded or assigned to a lower order of humanity.

Eurocentric academicians, still a hegemonic force in the West, don’t historicize the “great” humanitarian theories of Europe and critically juxtapose the rise of those theories with the concrete practices of European powers. Those practices involved the systematic slaughter of millions of Indigenous people throughout the America’s and the African slave trade that made Europe fat and rich and allowed for the creation of a class of intellectuals freed-up from the struggle to earn a living and able to engage in the higher contemplations of life.

However, Eurocentric liberalism was never just confined to the academy. It became the hegemonic ideological force that embedded itself in the culture and collective consciousness of the Western project and with it the de-valuation of non-European life and culture. In other words, the white supremacist ideology and world-view, normalized and thus unrecognized by most, has become a form of psychopathology. It is the cognitive dissonance that Fanon talks about regarding white supremacy as part of the colonial mindset and what James Baldwin refers to as the “lie of white supremacy” that has distorted the personalities, lives and the very ability of many white people to grasp reality.

However, the contradictions in the spheres of ideas and culture are not the real threat. The construction of a Western collective consciousness that is unable to cognitively process information and consider knowledge beyond the assumptions of its own world-views and values is dangerous enough, but the ease with which humanity is stratified with Europeans and their societies representing the apex of human development is the real threat because that belief has resulted in the rationalization for the crimes of colonialism, slavery and genocide, and the politics of permanent war.

The White Lives Matter Movement writ large, played out on the international stage

Despite the spirited defense of the positive aspects of liberalism from John Rawls to radicals like Slavoj Zizek, the racist and sexist contradictions of liberalism was once again confirmed by the obscenely disproportionate response to the attacks in Paris that once again demonstrated that liberalism is no more than a racist ideological construct posing as trans-historical philosophy.

However, let me be clear, my critique of the moral hypocrisy of the West should not be read as a rationalization for the horrific crimes committed in Paris a few days ago.

The intentional murder of non-combatants is a recognizable war crime that can rise to the level of a crime against humanity and should always be condemned with the perpetrators brought to justice. That legal principle is based on the moral principle of the equal value of all life and everyone’s human right to life. The defense and enforcement of those principles requires, however, that all states and groups be subjected to the same legal and ethical standards and that all are held accountable.

But in the context of the existing global power relations, crimes committed by Western states and those states aligned with the West as well as their paramilitary institutions escape accountability for crimes committed in the non-European world. In fact some states -like the United States- proudly claim their “exceptionality,” meaning impunity from international norms, as a self-evident natural right.

And in that sense, while the victims of the violence in Paris may have been innocent, France was not. French crimes against Arabs, Muslims and Africans are ever- present in the historical memory and discourse of many members of those populations living in France. Those memories, the systemic discrimination experienced by many Muslims and the collaboration of French authorities with the U.S. and others that gave aid and logistical support to extremist elements in Syria and turned their backs while their citizens traveled to Syria to topple President Assad, became the toxic mix that resulted in the blowback on November 13.

Although a number of the dead in Paris are young Arabs, Muslims and Africans, in the global popular imagination, France, like the U.S. (even under a Black president), is still white.

So in Iraq the Shia will continue to die in the thousands from ISIS bombs; the Saudis will continue to slaughter Houthi’s with U.S. and NATO assistance; and Palestinian mothers will continue to bury their children, murdered by Zionist thugs in and out of uniform, without any outcry from the West. CNN and others will give non-stop coverage to the attacks in Paris because in the end we all really know that the lives that really matter are white.

War, Repression and International Gangsterism: U.S. State Policy from Benghazi to Baltimore

A mere two months after clashes between black youth and police in Baltimore following the murder of Freddie Gray while in police custody, President Obama’s Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the indictment of twenty-four year old Raymon Carter for his alleged involvement in the torching of a CVS pharmacy. The national government’s intervention into the case had an unmistakable message – if you engage in “unauthorized” forms of resistance – in this case, crimes against property – expect to confront the full power of the national government.

U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein made it even clearer: “Anyone in the future who participates in a ‘riot’ should know that police, prosecutors and citizens will track them down and send them to prison.”

This aggressive and speedy move on the part of the DOJ to criminalize poor, black kids in Baltimore differed sharply from the DOJ approach to high government officials, armed servants of the state at the local level and the big banks and investment firms. For the officials involved in torture under the Bush Administration, the financial gangsters who engineered the 2008 economic crisis, and the killer cops across the country who have yet to experience one indictment from Obama’s DOJ after months of “investigations,” DOJ-granted impunity has been the operative principle in practice.

But Obama’s DOJ has not been the only state institution involved in providing cover and impunity for repression and criminality in the service of the capitalist oligarchy.

Impunity for State Terrorism: The Real Story of Benghazi

What might seem oppositional and important in the game of U.S. politics is usually insignificant and diversionary. Hillary Clinton’s appearance before the House Select Committee, ostensibly established to conduct a bi-partisan investigation into the events that led to the death of Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. citizens on September 11, 2012, was a case in point.

Despite the supposed acrimony between the two ruling class parties in Congress, an ideological consensus exists around the overall strategic commitment to maintain U.S. global dominance. On that ultimate objective both corporate parties share an interest in shifting public attention away from state policies and actions that demonstrate the state’s absolute commitment to the principle of “by any means necessary” for maintaining and advancing the interests of the White supremacist, patriarchal, colonial/capitalist order.

For example, initially the Republican majority’s decision to launch another investigation into the events of 2012 was met with a considerable amount of consternation on the part of some democrats who saw the investigation as just another effort to sabotage Clinton’s run for the Presidency. However, when the republicans settled on the issue of Clinton’s emails the democrats were concerned that Clinton’s use of a private server might cause some embarrassment for her candidacy, but it was also clear that the hearings were going to be rigged and the real questions related to Benghazi would never be raised.

If the House Committee had really been committed to public accountability and surfacing the truth, there were a number of questions that could have been raised such as: 1) what was the role of the facility that was attacked? Was it a U.S. Consulate, a CIA facility or some other entity? 2) Why were those facilities set up so quickly even before a stable government was established in the aftermath of the destruction of the Libyan state? 3 ) Why were there estimated to be more than twenty CIA personnel on the ground in Benghazi just miles from the facility on the night of the attack and what was the mission of those CIA personnel? And 4) Why did the U.S. government contract with an organization to provide security for the facility that had clear ties to Jihadist groups that the U.S. considered as part of the international terrorist networks?

These kinds of questions that would have delved into U.S. involvement in Libya were not raised for two reasons: 1) The Syrian issue – Congress didn’t want the public to focus too much attention on the question of the timeline of U.S. involvement. Although many right-wing republicans were upset that the Obama administration was not more aggressive with more open and direct support for its regime change strategy, everyone in Congress knows that the narrative of reluctant and recent involvement on the part of the Obama administration in the events in Syria is pure fiction. And 2) elements in congress and the Obama administration, with the full collaboration of the corporate press, have suppressed the facts around the mission of the CIA and the role of the State Department in Libya during the period leading to the attack on the two compounds because those activities contravened both U.S. and international law.

Investigative journalist Seymore Hersh revealed that a classified annex to a report prepared by the Senate Intelligence Committee on Benghazi that was not made public, discussed a secret agreement made in early 2012 between the Obama and Erdogan administration in Turkey to run an arms supply line from Libya using arms secured with the overthrow of the Libya state to the so-called rebel forces in Syria. The operation was run by CIA director David Petraeus, and the elements that received support included jihadist groups, including the Al Nusrah Front, al-Qaeda’s official Syrian affiliate.

So even though information on the real role of the U.S. in the war in Syria is getting more coverage, the elites in Congress and the Administration were still not interested in calling too much attention to the fact that the U.S. provided material support to groups that it defined as terrorists which technically under U.S. law should have made that assistance prosecutable.

Vice President Joe Biden even stated publically that governments allied with the U.S. and their nationals were supplying arms to elements that they knew were terrorists and U.S. officials knew it:

“They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad. Except that the people who were being supplied were al-Nusra and al-Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadist coming from other parts of the world. ”

Yet not one of these individuals or government officials, many who travel on a regular basis to the U.S. and other Western nations have been charged or had sanctions applied to them. In fact, in a pathetic and disingenuous comment, Biden claims that even though it was pointed out to those states by U.S. officials that their support was going to extremist jihadists forces – “We could not convince our colleagues to stop supplying them.”

Obviously for the Obama Administration charging them, freezing their bank accounts, slapping sanctions on the government as was done with the governments and individuals in Iran and Russia was out of the question.

This is why for anyone whose vision is not distorted by the myopia of white supremacist, capitalist ideology, the crude class politics of the DOJ’s decision to prosecute the young resisters in Baltimore is so outrageous.

Benghazi is only a symptom of a pattern of criminal activity on the part of U.S. officials from both parties. From the illegal attacks on Iraq and Libya, subversion in Syria and Venezuela, surveillance, police state repression and mass incarceration domestically, coups in Honduras and Haiti, support for genocide in Yemen, and the continued occupation of Palestine, it is clear that what unites the elites of both parties is their unshakable commitment to maintaining the power of the U.S./EU/NATO axis of domination as the institutional expressions of concentrated white power for as long as possible.

In the meantime, Raymon Carter is facing years in prison because the state claims it has a right to hunt down and prosecute who it defines as criminals.
But the social world is not static and the balance of forces is shifting. One day using that same logic but informed by an alternative ethical framework that centers real justice, the people will be in a position to hunt down and bring to justice the international colonial gangsters who destroy our earth, torture, exploit and bring death to countless millions.

The Yemen Tragedy and the Ongoing Crisis of the Left in the United States

“… it is Western propaganda that is capable of mobilizing the masses for whatever ends or goals anywhere in the world. For whatever reasons, it can trigger coups, conflicts, terrible violence, and ‘strive for change.’ It can call the most peaceful large country on earth the most violent; it can describe it as the real threat to world peace; and it can call a bunch of Western nations that have been, for centuries, terrorizing the world, the true upholders of peace and democracy, and almost everybody believes it. Almost all people in the West believe it.” (Chomsky and Vltchek, On Western Terrorism: From Hiroshima to Drone Warfare)

“trenches of ideas are more powerful than weapons. (José Martí)

After months of horrific scenes of migrant deaths in the Mediterranean where literally thousands of human beings were dying at sea, European public opinion was finally mobilized to respond to this movement of people. However, the anguished expressions of concern from the general public and government leaders in Europe was a far cry from the response that met the first wave of migrants that was largely African.

In response to that migration, European authorities openly talked of launching military attacks on the boats in Libya to stop the “flood” of these “illegal” immigrants into Europe, even after experts cautioned them that military attacks would result in even more deaths at sea.

What changed? The racial composition of the majority of the migrants shifting away from Sub-Saharan Africans to refugees from the various conflict zones of Iraq and Syria, captured in the image of the globally disseminated image of Aylan Kurdi, the Kurdish child from the devastated city of Kabani. But even more importantly, European and U.S. propaganda could exploit this flow of humanity from Syria politically.

This example is pertinent to the discussion here because it raises two issues related to Yemen: first, the ease in which public opinion is influenced by Western propagandists (I include both the official state entities responsible for psy-ops directed at the public and the corporate media that largely collaborates with these efforts because of shared ideological positions and worldviews), and secondly, how humanitarian concerns are selectively manipulated to prepare and justify military attacks from the U.S./EU/NATO axis of domination.

In Yemen, six months of relentless and seemingly indiscriminate bombing by the repressive Wahhabaist dictatorship of Saudi Arabia has cost the lives of over four thousands human beings, who according to the United Nations and major human rights organizations have been primarily civilians.

Along with this wanton murder, the Saudi government and its allies from the contemptuous gang of corrupt Arab monarchies known as the Gulf Cooperation Council benefit from the diplomatic cover and military support from the equally contemptuous U.S. state. Together, they have created a humanitarian catastrophe in one of the poorest nations on the planet.

Yet, for the majority of the people in the U.S., the carnage in Yemen simply does not exist because it has not been in the interests of the rulers to draw the attention of the American people to it.

Therefore, the U.S. public is unaware that the U.S. is participating in the naval blockade of a country that imports 80% of its food by sea. They don’t know that the bombing, blockade, and massive displacement has resulted in widespread famine with more than 78% of the population now in need of humanitarian assistance. They never read the report from Peter Maurer, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), who said that “Yemen after five months looks like Syria after five years.”

And while U.S. propagandists are preparing the people for an even more direct intervention into Syria, using the absurd pretext that somehow the imposition of a “no fly zone” is an appropriate response to the humanitarian concerns of refugee flows from Syria to Europe, the humanitarian emergency created by the war in Yemen is largely uncovered and outside the bounds of polite conversation in the U.S.

This conspiracy of silence has translated into impunity for war crimes and crimes against humanity. It has meant that the central role played by the U.S. in this criminal assault occurred without any opposition from mainstream politicians or most radicals and leftists in the U.S.

Do Non-European Lives really Matter to White Leftists?

The political reaction to the killing spree in Yemen that now eclipses the murderous assault on Gaza by Israel, has not only been met with indifference but many leftists and radicals in the U.S. have given their support to Bernie Sanders who said very clearly that under his administration the Saudi’s would be given even more latitude to carry out military operations in the Middle-East. The Sanders’ position is that the Saudi’s needed to get their “hands a little dirty.” For Bernie and his supporters, the mischief that the Saudi government and private individuals have been engaged in across the region financing groups like ISIS wasn’t dirty enough.

After years of drone attacks from the U.S., the end of the agony of the people of Yemen is nowhere in sight. These attacks targeted weddings, funerals, first responders to an initial drone attack and so-called signature strikes where an anonymous person is murdered because he fits the behavior profile of a “terrorist.” After pounding the country into rubble with six months of terror from the sky, the Saudi’s are now involved in ground operations in Yemen that will only increase the death toll and the humanitarian disaster.

This is the world that a President Sanders promises—continued war crimes from the sky with drone strikes and Saudi led terror in support of the Western imperial project.

This is not to suggest that everyone who might find a way to support Sanders is a closet racist and supporter of imperialism. I know plenty of folks of all backgrounds who “feel the Bern.” There is, however, an objective logic to their uncritical support that they cannot escape and which I believe represents the ongoing crisis of radicalism in the U.S. and Europe.

The Sanders’ campaign, like the Obama phenomenon before it, does not offer a program or strategic direction for addressing the current crisis and contradictions of Western capitalist societies. Instead, it is an expression of the moral and political crisis of the Western radicalism.

This crisis – which is reflective of the loss of direction needed to inform, vision, and fashion a creative program for radical change – is even more acute in the U.S. than Western Europe. Yet, what unites both radical experiences is a tacit commitment to Eurocentrism and normalized white supremacy.

In their desperate attempt to defend Sanders and paint his critics as dogmatists and purists, the Sanders supporters have not only fallen into the ideological trap of a form of narrow “left” nativism, but also the white supremacist ethical contradiction that reinforces racist cynicism in which some lives are disposable for the greater good of the West.

And as much as the ‘Sandernistas ’ attempt to disarticulate Sanders “progressive” domestic policies from his documented support for empire (even the Obamaite aphorism “The perfect is the enemy of the good” is unashamedly deployed), it should be obvious that his campaign is an ideological prop – albeit from a center/left position – of the logic and interests of the capitalist-imperialist settler state.

The silence of the left on Yemen is not a trivial matter. The fact that so many white leftist supporters of Sanders can politically and psychologically disconnect his domestic program from his foreign policy positions that objectively support U.S. and Western neoliberal hegemony means that not only have they found a way to be comfortable collaborating with imperialism, but that they have also decided that they can support the implicit hierarchy that determines from an imperial perspective that lives in the White West matter more than others.

What this means for those of us who are internationalists and believe in the equal value of all life is that we have to question the sincerity of individuals who claim that black lives matter while supporting someone who clearly believes that Israeli lives matter more than Palestinian and Yemeni lives. And that the pro-democracy fighters in Bahrain should be subjected to the policing and murderous assault by the gangster regime in Saudi Arabia.

It means that if today leftists in the U.S. can find a way to reconcile the suffering of the people of Yemen and Gaza and all of occupied Palestine for the greater good of electing Sanders, tomorrow my life and the movement that I am a part of that is committed to fighting this corrupt, degenerate, white supremacist monstrosity called the United States, can be labeled as enemies of the state and subjected to brutal repression with the same level of silence from these leftists.

And since tomorrow has already happened in the past with the repression of the Black Liberation Movement, when it happens again we will not be surprised – but this time we will be ready.