While watching the movie, we like to think that in real life we’d be cheering for the hero, Wickus van der Mere, and his escape and triumph over the nefarious corporate and government powers. But if we’re going to be honest, real life tells us that that the majority of us would be rooting for the removal of the aliens and the swift and comforting capture of the fugitive Wickus. It’s kind of an uncomfortable realization, but we humans have a way proving it again and again and again.
For Americans, we’re proving it in how we view/treat the people of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Whoa there. Last I checked we’re not moving any Iraqis and Afghans into concentration camps. Even the "gated communities" initiative in Iraq was something a lot of us — Iraqis, liberal Americans — had a huge problem with, owing to their whiff of Vietnam-era strategic hamlets and the damage to the populace they caused. There’s an eliminationist theme to District 9 that gets in the way of responsible comparison here.
That said. This is pretty right on, as discomforting as it is:
Our government’s language is teeming with condescension when discussing Iraqis and Afghans, as if they’re not quite complete humans, child-like, and certainly not really civilized. Their lives are not valued as much as Western life–in economic terms (the families of Iraqis or Afghan who get accidentally killed during get a payout of around $3000; the family of a Westerner, military or civilian, who gets killed will get around $500,000) and in how we process the daily death totals. (Politicians always mention the 4,500 Americans who’ve died in Iraq, but rarely give more than perfunctory acknowledgment to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.)
The very metaphor for our strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan is so casually offensive that it’s somewhat astounding that it passes through our lips without comment. Usually it’s summed up by American officials like so: “The Iraqis are on a bicycle and we’re holding the bicycle seat until they’re ready, so we can let go.” Or: “It’s like we have training wheels on their bicycles, and we can leave once we take the training wheels off.” Imagine describing any other group of adults like that: Blacks, Latinos, the Irish, women, etc. It would create a certain amount of feigned outrage, to be sure.
I mean, there’s definitely something to this. You can add to that the term "Hajji" to describe an Iraqi, which is as offensive as it is frequently used. Hastings is right about to emphasize the casualness of such condescending language. But it’s overblown to say "our policies towards Iraq and Afghanistan are fundamentally racist, xenophobic, and near one hundred percent colonial in attitude" and I deal in more hyperbole than any five bloggers. There are differences between policies and attitudes.