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The language of imperialism

Zafar Bangash

Imperialism uses a large number of tools to maintain its hegemony over the rest of the world. None is more powerful than language and the mind of the colonized people. Freedom cannot be achieved without decolonizing the mind.

Imperialism uses a vast array of tools to advance its agenda. None is more sophisticated than the language it uses to project its crimes as humane and beneficial to victim peoples and societies. Even the most brutal wars are presented under the rubric of delivering democracy to people suffering under a brutal dictator. If a country is not governed by a dictator, then the doctrine of “right to protect” is invoked. Who gave these predatory powers the right to interfere in other countries’ internal affairs is never discussed.

If the imperialists and their Zionist allies are such do-gooders, why do they need to hide behind these labels? These lies are peddled to fool and placate their own populations who might not otherwise support their wars of aggression. But even this argument is hardly relevant. After all, the US and its allies have launched numerous wars on a pack of lies and in the face of determined opposition from the people. Iraq, Libya and Syria (ongoing) offer ready examples.

Let us examine the lead-up to America’s war on Iraq in March 2003 to better understand this phenomenon. Months before the attack was launched, completely false information was planted in the New York Times in August 2012. This disinformation was spread by then US Vice President Dick Cheney’s office and funnelled through Judith Miller who eagerly lapped up the propaganda about the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s purchase of “yellow cake” from Niger. This was presented as “evidence” of his plan to make a nuclear bomb. Even though Joseph C. Wilson, a former US ambassador to Niger, had already investigated and exposed it as false several months earlier, this did not deter the warmongers from proceeding with their war plans.

In fact, in his State of the Union address on January 6, 2003 (leading up to the war on Iraq), George Bush said “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” This was a year after Wilson had debunked the story following a personal visit to Niger where he met the US ambassador as well as top officials in Niger.

Wilson’s revelations, both before and after the war, did not deter the warmongers from continuing to drumbeat in support of mindless aggression. National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice talked about the “mushroom cloud” over New York City while then Secretary of State Collin Powell, considered to be a trustworthy official in the Bush regime, was used to make the “case” at the United Nations Security Council together with photographs, allegedly of Iraq’s mobile chemical labs.

This is one dimension of the campaign. The other is the mangling of language itself. Since imperialism is by definition considered superior before which all must bow, its crimes are passed off under various terminologies. Torture has become “enhanced interrogation technique,” kidnapping is described as “extraordinary rendition,” and naked aggression is termed either “bringing democracy” to subject people or the “right to protect.” This is taken for granted because people in the West are conditioned to think they are superior and their values are “universal.” This was most recently demonstrated in the Charlie Hebdo affair when French Prime Minister Manuel Valls declared French values to be “universal.” There are also Western dominated bodies such as the “World” Bank, the “International” Monetary Fund (IMF) and then the “Universal” Declaration of Human Rights. There is nothing global, international or universal about any of them. These institutions or declarations were created to maintain Western hegemony.

The West’s campaign to sustain its aggression based on lies would not be as successful were it not for another factor at work. People in victim societies have been conditioned in such a way as to instinctively accept the West’s version of events. This is referred to as “mental colonization.” The Algerian writer Franz Fanon and Kenyan educationist Ngugi Wa Thiongo both wrote about this phenomenon at length. Colonialism not only physically damaged colonized societies but caused immense mental damage as well. This is why Ngugi called for Decolonizing the Mind, in a book by this title.

The enduring impact of colonialism can also be witnessed in the dress people wear and the language people speak. Thus, societies colonized by Britain, France or Germany speak English, French or German respectively. Local languages and educational systems have been destroyed. Not surprisingly, people in these societies automatically accept whatever is presented to them by the West.

The South African anti-apartheid struggler who was murdered by the white racist police made the perceptive observation that the greatest weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.

It is time to liberate the Muslim mind!

Zafar Bangash is Director of the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought

Article from

Crescent International Vol. 44, No. 1

Jumada' al-Ula' 10, 14362015-03-01

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