Little Black Face

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Little
Black Face (Facietta Nera) is the song emblematic of the Italian
fascist era. Singing it even facetiously at a soiree in Italy today
can get one thrown out of the house mighty fast. The song refers
to the Italian conquest of Ethiopia (Abyssinia) in 1935-36. Yet
many of the sentiments expressed in the song are enjoying new currency
in Washington these days:

If from the
heights, you watch the sea,
O little darky, slave among slaves,
You'll see, dreamlike, many ships approach,
And a flag that billows o'er the waves.

Little black
face, wait and hope,
For the hour nears, beautiful Abyssinian,
Once we have reached you and stand at your side,
A new law you'll have, and a brand-new king.

We are merely
the slaves of love,
And our watchwords are Duty and Freedom!
Our Pillars of Righteousness we shall avenge,
Which falling, have freed you from serfdom.

Little black
face, petite Abyssinian,
We'll bring you, free at last, to Rome;
Then you too shall wear our homeland's garb,
You too shall be kissed by our golden sun.

Little black
face, you'll Roman be,
And our proud flag your own will be.
And proudly together we'll march and sing,
Before the Duce, before the King!

Although
the neocons have characterized the Iraq war as one to bring freedom
and democracy to that country, American singers pushing the war
focus on revenge for the putative Iraqi attack on the World Trade
Center rather than on bringing freedom to the Iraqi people. Darryl
Worley, in his Have You Forgotten?, meditates thus:

I hear people
saying we don’t need this war –
I say there’s some things worth fighting for….
And you say we shouldn’t worry ’bout bin Laden.
Have you forgotten?…
Some say this country’s just out looking for a fight –
After 9/11, man, I’d have to say that’s right.

Clint
Black expresses similar sentiments in his I Raq and Roll:

I pray for
peace, prepare for war
and I never will forget…
This terror isn’t man to man,
they can be no more than cowards…
Now it might be a smart bomb,
they find stupid people too.
If you stand with the likes of Saddam,
well, one might just find you.

These
singers are obviously more sincere than the neocons whose war they
are promoting. Sincere but misinformed. For no plausible evidence
of a link between Saddam Hussein and the attack on the World Trade
Center has ever been produced. But as Joe Sobran explained recently
in his essay What Happened to the War on Terrorism?: “American people
aren't in the mood for yet another war. So the trick was to convert
the shock of 9/11 into war fever, then to redirect it at Iraq by
u2018linking' Saddam Hussein to u2018terrorism.' This required some slippery
semantics and a lot of propaganda – which is mostly sheer repetition
of nonsense until resistance is worn down, and logic surrenders.”

Leaving
aside the differences between the songs pertaining to the two wars,
there are many similarities between America's invasion of Iraq and
Italy's invasion of Ethiopia, as can be seen by reading Denis Mack
Smith's critical biography of Mussolini:

“As [Mussolini's]
military preparations became more obvious, further private messages
were sent from London to warn him that, since Ethiopia was willing
to accept arbitration, Italy's bullying of a much weaker country
would alienate potential friends…

“Mussolini
was not the man to be moved by such arguments and made clear that,
if thwarted, he would leave the League [of Nations] never to return;
he hoped…that in the last resort, most English people except
u2018pacifists and old ladies' would accept if not actively support
Italian imperialism. In any case, he added, the hostility of world
opinion meant nothing to him. He had already spent vast sums in
preparation for this colonial war and u2018intended to give Italy
a return for his investment.'…

“In public
he listed ninety-one examples of Ethiopian u2018aggression' and claimed
that he was just exercising the right to self-defense….

“[But p]ublic
opinion in the world at large was building up against someone
who, by challenging the League and destroying the idea of collective
security, was demolishing the illusions of a whole generation….

“Mussolini,”
however, “u2018was living in isolation, within four walls, seeing
and hearing nothing of reality…surrounded only by flatterers
who told him merely what he wanted to hear.'”

Of
course, the comparison of Mussolini's invasion of Ethiopia and Bush's
invasion of Iraq holds up only to a certain point. Unlike Mussolini,
Bush possesses an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. Given
that Defense Secretary Rumsfeld has refused to rule out the use
of nuclear arms, if conventional weapons are insufficient to defeat
the Iraqi military and irregulars and American casualties reach
a level unacceptable to the American people, low-intensity nuclear
weapons could be used to selectively target objectives in Iraq,
and if necessary, in Syria and Iran.

All
of which recalls the refrain of a song from another war of liberation:

It must
be now the kingdom coming and the year of Jubilo.

April
3, 2003

Kevin
Beary (send him mail)
writes
from his home in Italy.


     

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