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White Man's Burden

Written by Hadiqa Maryam Abbasi 6:06 pm Opinion, Published Content

The White Man’s Burden – An American Delusion

Hadiqa Maryam Abbasi delves into a deconstruction of Rudyard Kipling’s poem ‘The White Man’s Burden’ which was published in 1899 and elaborates on how the message of the poem is still reflected in the policies and operations of the American Hegemon. She uses the invasions of Libya and Iraq to set the foundation for her argument and provides snippets from speeches and press claims of various US politicians such as Obama, Powell, and Bush, which reiterate the American liberal responsibility and authority over other states and their governments.
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About the Author(s)
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The writer is an undergraduate at International Islamic University Islamabad in the department of
Politics and International relations.

Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem titled, “The White Man’s Burden” in 1899 to justify the colonial authority exuded by America on the Philipines. In a broader lens, it provided a rationale for the colonialism of the Third World by the West, saying that the burden to democratize and civilize the people of underdeveloped countries lies on the shoulders of Whites. Kipling is dead, but his words still resonate within the walls of the White House where interventionist foreign policy is formulated.

What Is The “White Man’s Burden” Mentality?

It’s been almost one and a half centuries since Kipling wrote this poem (a blatant manifestation of the dated, racist, and colonial mindset), but his words and mentality are far from being dead or forgotten. The US still thinks that the people from the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and Latin America are uncivilized and undemocratic. And it is its job to civilize them and dictate to them what kind of government they should have in their countries.

With this mentality, from Asia to Africa, and from the Middle East to Latin America, the US has invaded and successfully conducted various regime-change operations across the globe.

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While acting as the Global policeman, the US toppled many regimes in Latin America, orchestrated the Arab Spring, invaded Iraq, executed Saddam Hussein, bombed Libya, killed Gaddafi, overthrew Morsi, divided Vietnam and Korea, bombed Afghanistan back to the Stone Age, pushed the entire Middle East and Africa into civil war and a whirlpool of economic chaos, killed millions of innocent citizens across the globe and much more.

History Repeats Itself

Let’s have a quick review of the US invasion of Libya and Iraq.

Libya 2011

The US says that it invaded Libya to safeguard human rights and to free the North African State from the clutches of barbarianism. But, today’s Libya is presenting a much more horrific picture than the Libya of the past.

According to reports, Libya’s human rights situation is much worse than it was back in 2011. There has been a civil war going on for the past ten years. Two factions are fighting to get hold of Tripoli. The state still doesn’t have its constitution, all the while security forces and armed militias are continuously committing grave human rights violations against civilians. 

The government of National Unity has held control over Tripoli, and the Libyan Government is in charge of the country’s eastern and southern regions. Some parts of the country are under the brutal control of armed militias, who can and have been doing whatever they want without any restriction or retribution. Abductions for ransom, sexual slavery, torture, and economic chaos are all prevalent in post-Gaddafi Libya. The Mediterranean Sea has become a mass graveyard for Libyans trying to escape the war-torn country.

Iraq 2003

The same goes for Iraq. At the time of the invasion, the Western leaders blatantly made up lies about why US invaded Iraq – this included a fabricated ownership of WMDs (weapons of mass destruction) and false claims.

Let’s look at a few of the white lies uttered by the Western hawks. Twenty years ago, George Bush said in his televised address, “American and Coalition forces are in Iraq to free its people and to defend the world from the grave danger” of nuclear weapons. Neither were the weapons of mass destruction found nor are the people free today.

Similar statements were uttered by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (UK). On September 24, 2002, the then-UK Prime Minister Tony Blair told the British House of Commons that the claims of weapons of mass destruction were true and that action in Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein was imperative, declaring, “Of course, there is no doubt that Iraq, the region, and the whole world would be better off without Saddam.”

The public should question Mr. Blair, Saddam is gone, but the region instead of being better off has been plunged into its deadliest turmoil of the decade; where are the aforementioned weapons of mass destruction?

“My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources … What we’re giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence.”

Colin Powell, then-US Secretary of State, addressing the Security Council

What sort of ‘solid’ intelligence was it, that, after twenty years, you have been forced to accept the truth and deny the fact that Iraq had any weapons? A poignant question is raised as to whether Powell was ill-informed or was deliberately making false claims. But one thing remains plain as day, the decision to invade Iraq with such brutal ferocity was taken impulsively without giving any second thoughts to the consequences of the invasion.

After seven drawn-out years of mindless war and bloodshed, President Obama said in his televised address, “Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country.” To date, nobody knows what kind of freedom Obama was talking about.

Let’s take a look at the awful legacy this brutal war left behind. The US invasion of Iraq destabilized the whole region and pushed Iraq into a civil war, leaving more than 200,000 innocent civilians dead. The economy effectively collapsed and turned the country into a battleground for Iran and Saudi Arabia struggling to gain a foothold in the region. 

President Bush shamelessly dubbed this entire fiasco “Mission Accomplished” and an American victory. That’s what the deadly US-led invasion bequeathed Iraq.

The horrible aftershocks of the war still reverberate throughout the whole region, and today, both Libya and Iraq are grappling with multiple issues including but not limited to acute food insecurity and climbing unemployment. Is this the” liberal democracy” promised by George H.W. Bush? How can a country trampling the sovereignty of nations across the globe claim to be the flag bearer of democracy and peace?

Under the pretext of democratization and human rights, all that the West has done to date is destroy nations, loot their resources, and reduce them down to dilapidated states whom they could easily control through imperialist institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. If it was really about democracy, the Dictator Sisi of Egypt would not have been a golfing buddy of former US president Donald Trump.

It’s high time for the US to shed its “White Man’s Burden” mentality and realize that it is not an American duty to dictate the ins and outs of Government to other sovereign states.


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