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Colonialsm Alive and Kicking Heads in the 21st Century

Updated on January 7, 2009

Colonialism and Imperialism a la USA

Colonialism Alive and Kicking Heads in the 21st Century


When someone mentions the word “colonialism,” this may evoke images of Joseph Conrad’s famous novel “Heart of Darkness.” Or, maybe the movie adaptation of the book, “Apocalypse Now,” which moved the original story from Africa and into the depths of Vietnam, America’s most famous imperialist-colonialist failure.


However one may conceive of colonialism, whether it be more true to life, as with the British domination of India, the Dutch in South Africa, or the United States all over South America (we invaded Panama NINE TIMES in the 20th century, for example), the tale is disheartening. (For more on this, see Smedley Butler’s “War is a Racket” and other such writings.)


Colonialism is theft. It is the takeover of one nation by another, in which the conquered nation need not be defeated by war per se, but simply by seductive political salesmen. A fine example of this is the British Empire’s desire to fill their coffers at the expense of Chinese gold by selling vast quantities of opium to that nation. This resulted in the 2 Opium Wars between China and Britain, and ultimately left China humiliated and resentful of the West’s forced drug addiction on its people.


Of course, by comparison, South America and Asia have been spared the true horrors of colonialism compared to that visited upon Africa. While this began even earlier than Alexander’s famous jaunt through Egypt over 2 millennia ago, the ghosts of more modern European expansionism are still being heard in places like Rwanda, Darfur, and now in Congo. Granted, Colonialism may not be directly the result of such upheavals, though it has left it mark on Africa, and in some cases, as with the genocide of 1994 in the Republic of Rwanda, there are still direct links to post-colonialist and neo-colonialist tampering (with regards to the Rwandan tragedy, consider the Fashoda Syndrome’s effect on that tiny nation due to French involvement).


While criticizing differing governments for their colonialist involvements is always an option, it is the critical analysis of one’s own nation that is the most striking and important. In the case of the United States, this author’s homeland, the tale is historically striking. The U.S. has been a bit of a latecomer in the colonialist tale, yet has made up for this with a great expediency. Beginning prominently during the Spanish-American War, America was able to bring lands around the world into its fold. Granted, these were viewed as the spoils of war in a time when this was considered acceptable booty.


However, today colonialism and imperialism are much more subtle cases. (It can be argued, for instance, that globalism is one such subtle form of economic colonialism in which the western, “first world” nations have commandeered the purchasing power –the money, of poorer nations. However, this article will not delve into that realm.) Today colonial-imperialism has been effected in the name of protecting nations, as Iraq. Iraq, it was said, was being saved from Saddam Hussein, from the Ba’athist Party, and from itself. However, if Iraq is being saved, it looks more like it’s being destroyed. The land is a virtual blood-bath. More importantly, for the purposes here, we must consider the desires of people like George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.


When the war ends, no matter how well or badly for the United States, so long as the government is in control of the oil fields and refineries, and so long as  Washington controls Baghdad, the oil companies will thrive. This will happen even if thousands of bodies are stacked up outside of the oil wells. So long as the pipelines remain intact and the crude flows, all will be hunky-dory.


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