Colonialism Endures ‘Without Being Seen to Do So’

Michael Schwartz’ (TomDispatch, 7/9/09) quote from a New York Times Baghdad report that “much of the complicated work of dismantling and removing millions of dollars of equipment from the combat outposts in the city has been done during the dark of night” includes the reason for this secrecy having to “take place at night”: “Fewer Iraqis are likely to see that the American withdrawal is not total.”

To Schwartz, “acting in the dark of night, in fact, seems to catch the nature of American plans for Iraq in a particularly striking way”:

Last week, despite the death of Michael Jackson, Iraq made it back into the TV news as Iraqis celebrated a highly publicized American military withdrawal from their cities….

Unfortunately, not just for the Iraqis, but for the American public, it’s what’s happening in “the dark”–beyond the glare of lights and TV cameras–that counts….

An anonymous senior State Department official described this new “dark of night” policy recently to Christian Science Monitor reporter Jane Arraf this way: “One of the challenges of that new relationship is how the U.S. can continue to wield influence on key decisions without being seen to do so.”

Without being seen to do so…. As a result, the crucial thing you can say about the Obama administration’s military and civilian planning so far is this: Ignore the headlines, the fireworks and the briefly cheering crowds of Iraqis on your TV screen. Put all that talk of withdrawal aside for a moment and–if you take a closer look, letting your eyes adjust to the darkness.

Schwartz predicts that, “as your eyes grow accustomed to the darkness, you begin to identify a deepening effort to ensure that Iraq remains a U.S. client state.” In fact, “what seems to be coming into focus shouldn’t be too unfamiliar to students of history. Once upon a time, it used to have a name: colonialism.” Listen to the FAIR radio show CounterSpin: “Catherine Lutz on Iraq Bases” (6/13/08).