Scarce More Than Apes
by Ryan McMaken
by Ryan McMaken
When any group of human beings gets in the way of imperialists, one can always be sure that the group of human beings in question will soon be demoted to some subclass of humanity.
In the nineteenth century, for example, during the period of reckless State expansion politely termed the era of Manifest Destiny, many American dreamers of empire found their plans being inconvenienced by the residents of New Spain living in the west. These Americans quickly found reasons to explain why the Southwest must be taken by force of arms as was eventually done in 1848. New England attorney Thomas Jefferson Farnham reasoned:
Thus much for the Spanish population of the Californias; in every way a poor apology of European extraction; as a general thing, incapable of reading or writing, and knowing nothing of science or literature, nothing of government but its brutal force, nothing of virtue but the sanction of the Church, nothing of religion but ceremonies of the national ritual…In a word, the Californians are an imbecile, pusillanimous race of men, and unfit to control the destinies of the beautiful country.
The Texan Noah Smithwick was more blunt when he declared that "I looked on the Mexicans as scarce more than apes." Yet, no one could have made the point better than one Santa Fe trader who remarked that Mexicans shouldn't even be considered as part of "humanity" but as a separate race to be known as "Mexicanity."
While the roots of Anglo hatred of Spanish culture stretch back to Reformation England, it would be difficult to believe that Americans would have wasted their time even thinking about the question of subhuman Mexicans had their alleged inferiority not served the political purpose of convincing other Americans that the unconstitutional territorial expansion of the United States was essential in "liberating" a land enslaved by tyranny, primitivism, and superstition.
The American State and its servants have always been quite happy to endorse such sentiments, and today we are forced to endure the same rationalizing, lying, and stereotyping about Iraqis in order to save yet another race of men from themselves and to grant them the blessing of American "liberty" at the point of a bayonet. The Mexicans, the Filipinos, the Vietnamese, the Haitians, the Panamanians, and numerous others have all been saved in a similar fashion by the kind hand of American military might
Sadly, the modern conservative movement has been quite susceptible to this sort of wishful thinking about ready-made classifications for human beings that always seem — magically — to buttress government claims for increased power. The bogeyman these days of course is "Islamo-Fascism." Yet, if we were to take some old books about "the international Communist conspiracy" and replace "Communist" with "Islamo-Fascist" while updating some names and dates here and there, we would fine ourselves with a fine variety of timely new books on current events.
Much like Smithwick's Mexicans, the Communists of the Cold War era, as understood by American conservatives like Frank Meyer, were uniquely depraved, barely worthy of the title human. "Against this vision of…Communist man, there is no recourse in compromise, reasonableness, peaceful co-existence…Communist man poses two stark alternative for us: victory or defeat." Worse yet, Communists somehow manage to even aquire superhuman abilities for spreading evil: "they acquire a strength and confidence which like the fearful evil they bring into being, can only be described as Luciferian." Unlike the dissolute Mexicans, the Communists are too disciplined, too committed to an all consuming moral cause to be dismissed as apes, yet the point of the exercise remains to illustrate that the Communists are indeed inhuman in some way and thus unresponsive to the human desires of the rest of us.
Murray Rothbard was not exactly taken with the faux novelty of such lurid tales about Communism as presented by Meyer or the far more hysterical prophet of doom, Whittaker Chambers.Rothbard illustrated that the whole Communist-as-the-devil routine was suspiciously similar to an entire tradition of writing that abounded in 19th century America that produced tracts like "The International Catholic Conspiracy Exposed!" or "The Horrible Secrets of Freemasonry." Such "exposés" may be more or less innocuous in many cases, but when serving the cause of the Cold War or Manifest Destiny or The War on Terrorism, the fact that such propaganda inevitably leads to a great expansion of power for the American State makes it particularly damaging.
Meyer's superhuman Communists care not for the basic human comforts of home, family, or personal desires. They are consumed by devotion to their ideology. Like the Mexicans before them or the Muslims of today, the great foreign menace of Meyer's day were simply not human. With such people there is not hope of peaceful coexistence. The choice is victory or death. Or at least, that is what the promoters of empire would have us believe. Indeed, it is no surprise that the ideological descendants of Meyer and Chambers, the neoconservatives, are at the front of the charge to convince the world that the Muslims of the world are indeed vicious beasts, and that no peace is possible without total domination of the Islamic world. It's victory or death all over again. Only the names and dates have changed.
In case there was any doubt that such adolescent story-telling was not doing its job of addling the minds of Americans everywhere, the recent butchery in Fallujah has brought out some of the most disturbing arguments against the humanity of Iraqis seen yet in this war without end. Kathleen Parker of townhall.com certainly has driven the point home with her recent article in which she refers to the people of Fallujah as "zoo animals" and jokes about nuking the Sunni triangle. It might be funny if it weren't so clear that Parker honestly believes that all the men, women, and children of Fallujah deserve to pay for the crimes of a few. Most (unintentionally) ironic of all was Parker's use of the phrase "These are the times that try Americans' souls." This phrase comes from the pen of Thomas Paine, the libertarian British-American revolutionary who originally penned it as "These are the times that try men's souls." Unlike our latter-day British imperialist wannabes, Paine believed that all men were deserving of self-determination, and no empire, no matter how well intentioned, as the British undoubtedly thought they were, had the right to take that away.
If you're Kathleen Parker, though, only the souls of Americans are being tried by the chaos in Iraq, since the Iraqis, animals that they are, don't even know what's good for them and killed the American mercenaries and soldiers in Fallujah while they were "carrying food supplies to an ungrateful town."
Such sentiments could not have been better expressed by King George III himself upon hearing that more British troops had been tarred and feathered and hanged while trying to provide those barbaric Americans with the blessings of civilization. Those ungrateful brats. Nuke them all.
Such rhetoric is all very exciting, but keep in mind that Parker has long been among those people, who upon hearing that Americans were dropping bombs indiscriminately on children in Afghanistan, blithely declared that such things are the unfortunate results of war. Well, if the killing of children and the bombing of weddings and family gatherings in Iraq and Afghanistan is to be dismissed as nothing more than the side-effects of war, then why all the gasping and fainting over the equally violent rebellion? Parker and all her fellow unrepentant cheerleaders for war know the answer — They're Iraqis and we're Americans. It's as simple as that.
It is amazing that such sentiments can be expressed with a straight face while the attack on armed mercenaries in Iraq is denounced as the "murder of civilians" while tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians slain is a trifle. In other words, the killing of Americans is murder, while the killing of Iraqis is not. This is because, the Iraqis, like the Communists of old, do not kill out of necessity. No, they kill out of blind allegiance to an insidious ideology of Islamo-Fascism or whatever else happens to prove the total absence of human reason in the enemies in the latest war.
The Iraqis lie, murder, steal, cheat, and above all, are not sufficiently appreciative of the many wonderful things that the Americans have brought them. Unlike us, they have no reason to be this way. It is just in their nature. The Americans, on the other hand, are merely acting to defend the national interest. Of course, when terrorists, Communists, Nazis, Islamo-Fascists or anybody else take it upon themselves to kill, lie and maim in the name of their respective States or ideologies, those who wish to prove the inhumanity of their enemies would have us believe that such things are aberrations in a world of just states fighting against the scourge that is Communism or Islam or Spanish Imperialism and so on. But as Rothbard noted in his critique of Meyer's theories on the superhuman abilities of communists, how can we say that any state is any different?
For are we not told, again and again, that the state and its politicians (regardless of what State or party they belong to) cannot be bound by the ordinary rules of individual and social morality? Are we not told, again and again, that overriding "reasons of State" compel them to lie, cheat, kill, for the sake of the "national interest?" Every state, every government, every politician follows such a path; how then does this differ from the Communists?
The answer is that in any reasoned analysis, there is no difference at all. The conclusion for the apologist of the State is always the same. Those who get in the way of the imperial dreamers are, as Farnham said "unfit to control the destinies of the beautiful country." Farnham may have been talking about the Mexicans, but the sentiments remain alive and well for a new place and time. Those Iraqis, unfit to govern themselves, won't even consent to beg for food from their Americans masters.
So are the Islamo-Fascists who, according to Parker, constitute every resident of the Sunni triangle, subhuman apes like the Mexicans of old, or are they the superhuman killers of Communism? Those who wish to flatten Fallujah and its inhabitants have apparently not made up their minds on that one. But we do know that, at least according to Kathleen Parker, it's nothing a "well-placed MOAB" won't fix.
April 8, 2004
Ryan McMaken [send him mail] is a regular columnist for LewRockwell.com.
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