On the September 13, 2012 installment of Hannity on Fox, Sarah Palin made the following comment concerning the uprisings in the Middle East:
Yes, Sean. We have to ask ourselves, and I sure wish that reporters would ask our president, how much longer can we afford to spill our blood and treasure, trying to quote/unquote, “promote democracy” in places that do not have any values for a civilized society, values like respecting minorities and women’s rights and independent judiciary and rule of law? How much longer do we now support and fund Sharia democracy?
Sarah Palin has spent the last 4 years peddling ignorance and bigotry in order to make herself into a multimillionaire. Given that history, her pitbull-with-lipstick performances ought to be viewed as disrespectful caricature.
Sadly, however, Palin’s views are representative of the views of a significant portion of the American public. Her fans, many of whom also believe the president is Muslim (and that calling someone “Muslim” is a slur) share her feeling that the part of the world I was raised to believe is the cradle of civilization is, in fact, uncivilized. Moreover, they seem to believe that what’s happening in the barbaric lands of their imaginations is all about us, our interests, our needs, our security, and not at all about them.
Some would call this belief ethnocentrism, that worldview based in cultural chauvinism borne of ignorance. But there’s a political dimension to this belief that leads me to call it racism.
What else but racism would lead someone to overlook the context for the violence we are witnessing?
Here’s is just one piece of the context extracted from one relatively small slice of the history of U.S. hostility toward the region in question:
In 2003 we went to war with Iraq. Among the justifications offered was retaliation for the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Attacks in which no Iraqis were involved.
The principle justification, what the U.S. used to build the coalition war effort, was the claim that Iraq was manufacturing weapons of mass destruction. But we all know that this claim was a lie. Not a mistake, but an outright, bald-faced lie.
Based on this lie we invaded Iraq. The language of war among many Americans equated Islam with terrorism. We attacked viciously. During the campaign of “shock and awe” that opened the war, precision was specifically and purposely not among “our” objectives.
The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 151,000 Iraqis died as a direct result of violence related to the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq. This death toll excludes those who died as a result of the damage the war caused to public infrastructure and health care delivery systems. Among the many estimates of Iraqi casualties due to violence, the WHO body count is relatively conservative.
The war also took the lives of 4287 Americans. 30,182 more were wounded. U.S. allies also suffered casualties. All based on a lie.
And many within what commentators refer to as “the Arab world” know as we do that white supremacy has always been at the heart of the project of American empire. And they know that American racism has always been rooted in religious bigotry. This has been true since labels like heathen and uncivilized were put on Native Americans in order to justify genocide.
I sometimes find myself breathless in the face of the human cost of American racism and xenophobia. Racism and xenophobia that blinds us to our shared humanity to the degree that in the name of catharsis and plunder we will commit such atrocities as the one described here. And then in the wake of this atrocity, find ourselves unable to fathom why others might distrust, fear, or even hate us as so many among us distrust, hate and fear them.
If this is civilized behavior, perhaps the people of the Middle East should take Palin’s characterization of them as uncivilized as a compliment.