Portrait of Obama as a Kenyan Anti-Colonialist
posted at 5:18 pm on October 7, 2010 by Dafydd ab Hugh
This piece is a collaboration between Dafydd ab Hugh and Sachiko Yamada.
On September 18th, Forbes Magazine published a fascinating and very controversial article by Dinesh D’Souza: “Obama’s Problem With Business.” The subhead is a little more specific: “The President isn’t exactly a socialist. So what’s driving his hostility to private enterprise?”
The thesis — that President Barack H. Obama is not a socialist but an anti-colonialist — is startling; but the more one thinks about it, the more it seems to explain:
From a very young age and through his formative years Obama learned to see America as a force for global domination and destruction. He came to view America’s military as an instrument of neocolonial occupation. He adopted his father’s position that capitalism and free markets are code words for economic plunder. Obama grew to perceive the rich as an oppressive class, a kind of neocolonial power within America. In his worldview, profits are a measure of how effectively you have ripped off the rest of society, and America’s power in the world is a measure of how selfishly it consumes the globe’s resources and how ruthlessly it bullies and dominates the rest of the planet.
For Obama, the solutions are simple. He must work to wring the neocolonialism out of America and the West. And here is where our anticolonial understanding of Obama really takes off, because it provides a vital key to explaining not only his major policy actions but also the little details that no other theory can adequately account for.
The White House tore into the D’Souzan article, but even more so into Forbes itself for daring to publish it, according to Howard Kurtz at the Washington Post (moving soon to the Daily Beast):
Dinesh D’Souza has drawn a torrent of criticism with a Forbes cover story that accuses President Obama of adopting “the cause of anti-colonialism” from his Kenyan father….
“It’s a stunning thing, to see a publication you would see in a dentist’s office, so lacking in truth and fact,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs says in an interview. “I think it represents a new low.”
Gibbs is meeting with Thursday afternoon with Forbes’s Washington bureau chief, Brian Wingfield, to discuss his objections. “Did they not fact-check this at all, or did they fact-check it and just willfully ignore it?” he asks.
To which Forbes had a canny response:
The magazine would not make Editor-in-Chief Steve Forbes, who ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 1996 and 2000, available for comment, or any other editor. The biweekly did issue a statement: “Dinesh D’Souza’s cover story was presented as an analysis of how the president thinks. No facts are in contention. Forbes stands by the story.”
Kurtz turns smuggish by proxy, concluding his hit piece with this:
Columbia Journalism Review this week called the D’Souza article “a fact-twisting, error-laden piece of paranoia” and “the worst kind of smear journalism–a singularly disgusting work.”
But Ryan Chittum’s piece at the CJR, which includes the indictment that D’Souza’s article is “fact-twisting” and “error-laden,” astonishingly cites not a single factual error. Not one! The entire rant (it’s too much an adolescent whine to qualify as analysis or even critique) is pure invective and remarkably fact free. Truly it must be read to be believed, though the reader may come away with a diminished respect for the Columbia Journalism Review, and indeed the entire Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. No, really.
The closest Chittum comes to finding error is this:
The atrociousness isn’t limited to the smears. This, for instance, has to be one of the stupidest paragraphs ever written in Forbes (emphasis [Chittum’s]):
The President’s actions are so bizarre that they mystify his critics and supporters alike. Consider this headline from the Aug. 18, 2009 issue of the Wall Street Journal: “Obama Underwrites Offshore Drilling.” Did you read that correctly? You did. The Administration supports offshore drilling — but drilling off the shores of Brazil. With Obama’s backing, the U.S. Export-Import Bank offered $2 billion in loans and guarantees to Brazil’s state-owned oil company Petrobras to finance exploration in the Santos Basin near Rio de Janeiro — not so the oil ends up in the U.S. He is funding Brazilian exploration so that the oil can stay in Brazil.
Get that? The oil that Petrobras pumps will only go to Brazil because it’s owned by Brazil. So Hugo Chavez will sell us his Citgo gas, but Lula won’t? And even if it somehow did (it should be noted that Petrobras has an American affiliate), that would mean Brazil would need less oil from elsewhere, which means more for us. Supply and demand, dude. Oil is fungible. Gah.
Yes, we “got that”: D’Souza concludes that Barack Obama supports Brazillian oil exploration: It’s wonderfully anti-colonialist if third-world Brazil controls its own vital resources! But he opposes American oil exploration anywhere and everywhere in the United States (say — that’s a fact!): American resource independence would be dreadful… the colonial American empire must be kept in continual check; and one way to do that is to drain our resources buying oil from our rivals (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait) and our enemies (Iran, Venezuela).
One may disagree with the analysis, but the paragraph should be comprehensible.
With admirable economy of rhetoric, D’Souza chose not to belabor the point in Chittum-level words (as we were compelled to do above). Instead, D’Souza clung to the hope that readers would have a comprehension level somewhere north of high school.
In this assumption, D’Souza evidently erred; but then, perhaps his target audience was a skosh more elevated than the staff of the Columbia Journalism Review… say, at least the level of a legal secretary, or a sci-fi fan, or a pajama-clad blogger, any of whom should have had no difficulty parsing “one of the stupidest paragraphs ever written in Forbes.”
Kathleen Parker, also at the Post is beside herself, melding the vitriol of Ann Coulter with the snidery of R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.; she is, if anything, even more fact-free (if one’s factual content can possibly be less than zero):
Of course I knew it all along. President Obama is a Kenyan anti-colonialist and that’s why he doesn’t get us. He’s a ticked-off African.
So goes the latest in Obama-theory, originated by the usually rational conservative thinker Dinesh D’Souza and endorsed by none other than Newt Gingrich, Republican anarchist and onetime speaker of the House of Representatives.
Cue soundtrack to “Twilight Zone.” Or “Psycho.” Or, I dunno, Tarzan summoning an elephant stampede to quash yet another pestilential imperial invasion.
Powerful stuff! Who could argue with any of it?
So, what does D’Souza actually say? He says Obama’s anti-business domestic policy and anti-American foreign policy do not come from Marxism or even European style socialism. D’Souza writes, “The real problem with Obama is worse — much worse.” The president’s anti-Americanism comes from his deep-seated anti-colonialism, which he “inherited” (via “dreams”) from his biological father. And who was Barack Obama, Sr.?
- A man who grew up in Kenya, studied at Harvard, had a family in Hawaii — then abandoned his wife and infant son Barry to return to Kenya.
- A polygamist and habitual drunkard who finally killed himself in a drunk-driving accident.
- A scholar and economist who in 1965 published an article in the East Africa Journal, “Problems Facing Our Socialism,” on colonialism and its supposed continuing legacy.
What exactly is anticolonialism anyway? D’Souza explains:
Anticolonialism is the doctrine that rich countries of the West got rich by invading, occupying and looting poor countries of Asia, Africa and South America….
Anticolonialists hold that even when countries secure political independence they remain economically dependent on their former captors. This dependence is called neocolonialism, a term defined by the African statesman Kwame Nkrumah (1909–72) in his book Neocolonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism. Nkrumah, Ghana’s first president, writes that poor countries may be nominally free, but they continue to be manipulated from abroad by powerful corporate and plutocratic elites. These forces of neocolonialism oppress not only Third World people but also citizens in their own countries. Obviously the solution is to overthrow the oppressors. This was the anticolonial ideology of Barack Obama Sr. and many in his generation, including many of my own relatives in India.
Is this truly what Obama believes? D’Souza lists some of the oddities of Obama; at first blush, they do seem only explicable as examples of anti-colonialism. And let’s begin with Ryan Chittum’s all-time favorite D’Souzan point:
- Obama applauds Brazillian domestic oil exploration but deplores American domestic oil exploration. D’Souza: “Why support oil drilling off the coast of Brazil but not in America? Obama believes that the West uses a disproportionate share of the world’s energy resources, so he wants neocolonial America to have less and the former colonized countries to have more.”
- Obama’s “carbon tax” proposal is the same policy writ larger.
- He doesn’t seek to nationalize the banks but to “decolonize” them — to bring them under government control. “Obama retains the right to refuse bailout paybacks [to] maintain his control.”
- “For Obama, health insurance companies on their own are oppressive racketeers, but once they submitted to federal oversight he was happy to do business with them.”
- Anti-colonialism also explains Obama’s tax and spending policies: He is redistributing income — spreading the wealth around, as Obama himself put it — to return plundered loot to its rightful owners.
- He applauds the “Ground Zero Mosque” because (a) the 9/11 attacks were the catalyst that “unleashed the American bogey and pushed us into Iraq and Afghanistan,” and (b) because he believes that some radical Islamists and terrorists are simply resisting American imperialism. (Oddly, a number of American libertarians suffer from this same delusion, which may explain why so many of them voted for Obama in 2008.)
- And of course, the rest of Barack Obama’s foreign policy and national-security strategy seems tailor-made to deplete American independence and shatter our superpower status in favor of a powerful, international body run primarily by third-world countries — a body that would have actual sovereign power over the United States, Europe, and other colonial oppressors.
None of this makes any sense, D’Souza argues, unless Obama believes as his father believed:
As [Barack Obama, Sr.] put it, “We need to eliminate power structures that have been built through excessive accumulation so that not only a few individuals shall control a vast magnitude of resources as is the case now.”
One might object that Obama couldn’t possibly believe America, of all countries, was a “colonial power”: We’ve never invaded other nations for the purpose of incorporating them into a putative American “empire;” or plundered a native population of their natural resources; or forced them to buy crappy, cheaply manufactured products for exorbitant prices; or inflicted a separate-and-unequal legal system upon a foreign population; or any other hallmark of the colonialism of Spain, Portugal, France, or Belgium, the truly horrific colonialism of the Moslem countries, or even the much more benign English model. (The crimes of the English in India fade to a whiter shade of pale compared to the nightmare of the Belgian Congo or the African nations conquered by Arab Moslems.)
Of course, America certainly did oppress blacks and other racial minorities for nearly 190 years; but racism — which most nations practiced as bad as or worse than the U.S. did — does not constitute “colonialism.” Both are evil, but they are distinct evils.
However, to a glib anti-colonialist, lack of colonial history is no impediment to a charge of neo-colonialism:
Today’s neocolonial leader is not Europe but America. As the late Palestinian scholar Edward Said — who was one of Obama’s teachers at Columbia University — wrote in Culture and Imperialism, “The United States has replaced the earlier great empires and is the dominant outside force.”
From the anticolonial perspective, American imperialism is on a rampage. For a while, U.S. power was checked by the Soviet Union, but since the end of the Cold War America has been the sole superpower. Moreover, 9/11 provided the occasion for America to invade and occupy two countries, Iraq and Afghanistan, and also to seek political and economic domination in the same way the French and the British empires once did. So in the anticolonial view, America is now the rogue elephant that subjugates and tramples the people of the world.
(As Alexander Meiklejohn said, some crimes are so heinous, not even innocence is a defense.)
Reckon you can rationalize anything if you’re clever enough — and if you’ve unfettered yourself from the shackles of fact, drinking deep from the fountains of fancy.
Does “anti-colonialism” explain all the odd behaviors of the One We Unfortunately Have? Hard to say, but we are inclined to believe it explains a great deal. At least we should all agree on one point: Obama does not like the America he knows. He does not believe in traditional American values, American exceptionalism, the Pax Americana, or the unique and wonderful quality of our country. Does this come from his father’s colonial-ectomy? Who can say?
Whatever the reason, President Barack Hussein Obama does not represent the America we love; in fact, he wants to recreate it according to his own dream (or his father’s). That alone is reason enough to say that we the people must terminate his agenda, before he and his acolytes succeed in implementing the dreams from his father.
Cross-posted on Big Lizards.