White Supremacy is Fundamental To The "WAR ON TERROR"

From the January/February 2016 PNL #848

By Amelia Lefevre and Aly Wane

In the US, the state can murder a child with impunity if that child’s skin is a certain color, as in the tragic case of Tamir Rice. This represents a kind of terrorism, and yet the US government goes abroad to fight a so-called “War on Terror,” rather than fight it here. Some have argued that the government’s war on terror is in fact a war of terror, with its Hellfire missiles raining down on wedding parties and unsuspecting civilians. And, really, is it any surprise that a country that murders brown children within its borders would export that violence and do the same to the brown children of the world?

The US was founded on the murder and exploitation of non-white people (i.e. non-European and non-Christian people), first with the genocide of the indigenous people of this continent and then with the enslavement of peoples from the African continent. Today, domestically people of color are exploited and oppressed by every institution in the US, notably the prison system, the education system, and the police force. This is closely linked to the US’ international threat of violence (epitomized by nuclear weapons) to maintain global control over resources and to prevent any major challenger from coming to power on the global stage.

White Supremacy and the Racial Hierarchy

White supremacy is an invented ideology that says that people of European descent are more valuable, intelligent and civilized than people of color. The concept of “white” as a racial identity did not arise spontaneously, but was created and enforced by those with economic power. In the US, whiteness and the racial hierarchy can be traced back at least as far as the early colonial era and were created to uphold a capitalist framework. For example, the wealthy land-owners who exploited the labor of indentured servants of all skin tones had a clear incentive to break down possible solidarity among the workers. Race was and is used as a wedge; it’s a classic case of divide-and-conquer.

Some people believe that events that happened so long ago are not relevant today. But considering that modern day police forces developed from all-white patrols searching for enslaved blacks, one can see how the nascent white supremacy of the colonial US has matured, morphed, and entwined itself into the fabric of our society.

Other legacies of white supremacy persist across all US institutions. For example, people of color continue to be targeted for enslavement by the set of policies, practices and cultural attitudes making up the school-to-prison-pipeline, which pushes students of color out of the classroom starting as early as kindergarten and funnels them into the correctional system. Many of them lose rights, such as the right to vote and access to public benefits, when they are released from prison, not to mention being virtually unemployable due to the stigma of being a former prisoner.

African Americans, Native Americans, Latino/as, Asians, Arabs and Muslims of all colors experience potent racism in the US, though it looks different for each group. Racism against Arabs and Muslims plays a special role in the so-called “War on Terror.” While on the one hand the CIA trains and funds Islamic extremist groups in Syria and elsewhere, back home the Pentagon’s lap-dog, the mainstream media, is constantly suggesting to the US public that Muslims are a monolithic group that favors violence. The media implies that Muslims in the US are likely to be planning attacks on fellow residents and that the Muslim world resents the so-called “freedoms” of the US.



A Yemeni boy walks past a mural depicting a US drone on December 13, 2013 in the capital Sanaa. Photo: AFP/Getty.

“War on Terror”: A Global Projection of White Supremacy

The ideology of white supremacy can be applied to the apparently permanent pursuit of targets inside and outside of declared war zones that is called the “War on Terror.” The US’ turn to unmanned drone warfare is telling in this regard. With the upsurge of killing by drone, fewer US personnel are entering war zones and risking death, while imprecise technology leads to hundreds of civilian deaths each year of primarily non-white people. To the US eye, all that matters is the reduction of risk and death to US personnel, and little thought is given to the toll on non-US lives. Although many US soldiers are not white, when operating in the military they serve to protect the interests of the power structure, which is controlled and designed primarily for white people.

The “War on Terror” is supported by white supremacy, one of whose functions is to uphold capitalism. It is the war du jour that feeds the ravenous hunger of the weapons producers and other defense industry corporations that comprise the military-industrial complex. It is also cover for the US global agenda which, at its core, aims to maintain monopolistic power over the world’s resources. The US, by itself and in conjunction with European governments, is constantly engaged in multiple proxy wars around the globe, in order to help keep people in power who are sympathetic to the Western powers. In the Middle East and across Africa, the US uses the boogey-man of terrorism to justify funding and training numerous militaries and non-government opposition troops.

(The US and NATO also use the guise of “humanitarian war,” as in Libya, to achieve political goals and regime change. This tactic of control is also a projection of white supremacy because it promotes the myth of the “white savior,” the idea that the US is needed to “save” peoples of color from their struggles and their own leaders.)

Back home in the US, the state not only has the power to murder a child playing in a park, it has the power to exonerate itself for that murder. It has the power to define whose life is human and whose life might be expendable if its existence is inconvenient. This is true on a global scale as well, with the US conducting illegal killings in both declared and undeclared war zones and manipulating the global political scales with billions of dollars in foreign military aid.

It all comes back to material benefits. From its inception, the myth of white supremacy was about the “right” of light-skinned people to exploit land and other people’s labor in order to amass a profit, thereby securing control of material goods, as well as influence over social arrangements. The same is true today, from brutal police repression of black men, women and children to the mass incarceration system to the US global agenda of resource domination. White supremacy is an integral piece of a global capitalist system that values only profit and power for those in control. We cannot separate the struggle against capitalism from the struggle against racism.

Amelia is a Staff Organizer at SPC. Aly is a global citizen.