The Annotated White Man’s Burden

In February, 1899, Rudyard Kipling, poet laureate of British imperialism, published in McClure’s Magazine a poem for an American audience.  In it, Kipling hailed the brash new imperialists on the block, congratulated us on our recent conquests, and – even as the sun was setting on Victoria’s Age – let would-be 20th-century colonialists know what was in store for those who chose to meet their racial obligations by lifting the unfortunate brown folk out of the mire.

Well, Ruddy, you’ll be pleased to know that we’ve finally taken your advice and shouldered the burden.  Join me, if you will, in the Cave of the Moonbat, where tonight your resident historiorantologist marks his return from life-duties-related exile with a recitation of this old chestnut – and a hearty round of thanks to Mr. Kipling.  After all, without The White Man’s Burden to guide us, we might never have seen any of this coming…

Take up the White Man’s burden–

“(O)n the whole, U.S. imperialism has been the greatest force for good in the world during the past century.”

— Max Boot, USA Today, 5/5/2003

Send forth the best ye breed —

“…we’re not letting murderers in and we’re not letting in sexual predators.”

— quoted in C. Todd Lopez,, 5/5/2008

Go bind your sons to exile

Longer deployments taking toll on soldiers as combat stress, suicides, depression and family pressures soar

— Kirsten Scharnberg, Chicago Tribune, May 5, 2008

To serve your captives’ need;

Project Rebuild Iraq 2008 is going to be a high-profile event showcasing one of the most ambitious, investment-opportunity-laden reconstruction undertakings of your era. It’s going to be the biggest, most comprehensive Iraq reconstruction event ever held. If you are a construction sector player eyeing the Iraq reconstruction market, looking for a well-timed point of entry, seeking to gain maximum exposure and brand consolidation for your projects, or simply looking for potentially-rewarding business contacts, then Project Rebuild Iraq 2008 is the show for you. And if you’re already active in Iraq’s thriving reconstruction market, then Project Rebuild Iraq 2008 is going to immeasurably polish your profile.

— Project Rebuild Iraq 2008; The 5th International Rebuild Iraq Exhibition


To wait in heavy harness,

On fluttered folk and wild–

Your new-caught, sullen peoples,

Half-devil and half-child.

Merely taking out Saddam Hussein and his winsome sons Uday and Qusay (Hussein family slogan: “We’re the Rape Room People!”) constitutes a greater humanitarian accomplishment than anything Bill Clinton ever did…The Iraqis have a democracy — a miracle on the order of flush toilets in that godforsaken region of the world.

— Ann Coulter, Bush’s America: 100 Percent Al-Qaida Free Since 2001, 6/12/2008

Take up the White Man’s burden–

In patience to abide,

To veil the threat of terror

And check the show of pride;

…there is a feeling, in Iraq, which is, I think, even more important than in purely tribal societies like Saudi Arabia: a feeling of shame, in the sense that you cannot appear to be cooperating with a foreigner, even if you wish to. This is related to a sense of honor, a sense of dignity, especially if someone else is watching.

— Youssef Choueiri, Radio Free Europe, 3/4/2003

By open speech and simple,

An hundred times made plain

MR. SNOW: Well, as you know, if you go and take a look, there’s also an extended conversation about the global war on terror and the fact that there are terrorist elements that the previous government had supported. As you also know, the United Nations Chapter 7 language on this talks about dealing with the security and stability of Iraq, and that the MNFI, the multi-national force in Iraq, is there to secure the stability and security of Iraq. Therefore, it is certainly still operative, not only within the terms of the original resolution, but also in terms of the enabling legislation, if you will, through the United Nations.

— Tony Snow, White House Press Briefing, 2/26/2007

To seek another’s profit,

And work another’s gain.

After the Iraq War of 2003, United States and United Kingdom oil giants are certain to gain privileged access to Iraq’s oil resources. Excluded from control over Iraqi oil since the nationalization of 1972, Exxon, BP, Shell and Chevron will now gain the lion’s share of the world’s most profitable oil fields. Few outside the industry understand the huge stakes in Iraq, which amount to tens of billions of dollars in total potential profits per year.

— James A. Paul, The Iraq Oil Bonanza: Estimating Future Profits, 1/28/2004


Take up the White Man’s burden,

The savage wars of


Fill full the mouth of Famine

And bid the sickness cease;

“As the sewage system has collapsed, all residents are threatened with gastroenteritis, typhoid fever, cholera, diarrhoea and hepatitis. In some of Baghdad’s poor neighbourhoods, people drink water which is mixed with sewage,”

— Dr Abdul-Rahman Adil Ali of the Baghdad Health Directorate, 1/15/2007

And when your goal is nearest

The end for others sought,

“The level of activity that we see today from a military standpoint, I think, will clearly decline. I think they’re in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency.”

— Vice President Dick Cheney,  6/20/2005

Watch sloth and heathen Folly

Bring all your hopes to nought.

Bombers blasted the gilded dome of one of Shiite Islam’s holiest shrines into naked steel and gaping blue sky Wednesday in a provocative assault that roused tens of thousands of Iraqi Shiites into angry protests and deadly clashes.

— Ellen Knickmeyer and K.I. Ibrahim, Washington Post Foreign Service, 2/23/2006


Take up the White Man’s burden–

No tawdry rule of kings,

But toil of serf and sweeper–

The tale of common things.

(Shorja market is) “like a normal outdoor market in Indiana in the summertime,”

— Rep. Mike Pence, 4/2/2007

The ports ye shall not enter,

The roads ye shall not tread,

I do not see how the collective actions that we are now taking will produce the results that we seek. If this continues, our ability to sustain a united international front will weaken as countries grow uncertain over our motives and unwilling to risk open confrontation with Iran, and we are left with fewer and fewer policy options.

— Sen. Chuck Hagel, letter to President Bush, 10/17/2007


Go mark them with your living,

And mark them with

your dead

Take up the White Man’s burden–

And reap his old reward:

The blame of those ye better,

The coming campaign’s foundations are already in place. They rest on three building blocks: an attack on the loyalty of those willing to recognize reality; the construction of an alternative reality in which victory is deemed to be imminent; and, finally, a shifting of blame for a supposedly premature withdrawal to those who refuse to play along.

— Eric Alterman, The Nation, 9/27/2007

The hate of those ye guard–

“the lack of security and safety” remains the largest threat and a majority of Iraqis blame the US military as the main cause of the deteriorated security situation.

— Iraqi Public Opinion Polls and the Occupation, Global Policy Forum, 6/2008

The cry of hosts ye humour

(Ah, slowly!) toward the light:–

Iraq’s parliament has delayed the start of debate on a newly revised oil revenue-sharing law following complaints from Sunni, Kurd and Shi’ite politicians.

Voice of America News, 7/4/2007

“Why brought he us from bondage,

Our loved [Iraqi] night?”

Iraq is a pure failure…Saddam would still have been sitting in office. OK, that is negative and it would not have been joyful for the Iraqi people. But what we have gotten is undoubtedly worse.

— Hans Blix, 10/25/2006

Take up the White Man’s burden–

Ye dare not stoop to less–

These (PNAC) texts spring from the Dominators’ quasi-religious cult of “American exceptionalism,” the belief in the unique and utter goodness of the American soul – embodied chiefly by the nation’s moneyed elite, of course – and the irredeemable, metaphysical evil of all those who would oppose or criticize the elite’s righteous (and conveniently self-serving) policies.

Empire Burlesque, 3/27/2005

Nor call too loud on Freedom

To cloke your weariness;

The terrorists are fighting freedom with all their cunning and cruelty because freedom is their greatest fear — and they should be afraid, because freedom is on the march. (Applause.)

— President Bush, Remarks at the 2004 Republican National Convention, 9/2/2004

By all ye cry or whisper,

By all ye leave or do,

Waterboarding is hardly torture. It does not maim, cause permanent physical damage,or result in death. It merely simulates the sensation of drowning and having no control over your ability to end the encounter for very brief periods of time.

— Matt Margolis,, 11/10/2007


The silent, sullen peoples

Shall weigh your

gods and you.

Take up the White Man’s burden–

Have done with childish days–

Bush’s record is perfectly clear: in every political campaign he has ever waged, he has skillfully evaded “the cocaine question,” probably in much the same way that he avoided appearing for his drug test while serving in the National Guard.

— John Seerey,, 1/4/2007

The lightly proferred laurel,

The easy, ungrudged praise.

Because of this (DC gun ban) ruling, George W. Bush may be remembered as the greatest American president. America was on the verge of boiling over with anger at one liberal decision after another. The fact is that George W. Bush may have prevented a revolution. No Supreme Court in our history has secured our freedoms the way this one has today. Not FDR’s court, not Reagan’s court, none. This gives power to the people in a way that no other president has been responsible for. Bush has many failings, but when it comes to the core issues of our civilization, he does the right thing.

— Beowulf Rochlen and Michael Savage, “Bush’s Legacy: The Greatest American President?,”, 7/5/2008

Comes now to search your manhood

Through all the thankless years

America won’t change in November, even as Congress begins to awaken from its slumber. America will gain her honor and her liberty only when Americans themselves recover their original distrust for oppressive government, their practice of thrift, and their basic good neighborliness.

— Dr. Karen Kwiatkowski, “The Bush Legacy, or the Modern American Standard?”, 10/11/2006

Cold, edged with dear-bought wisdom,

The judgment of your peers!




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  1. ek, my sincerest apologies for dropping off the planet last week – my mom passed away, which necessitated me traveling to a part of the country where answering machines are considered hi-tech.  I wouldn’t have been much good at the blogging thing anyway, but I was a slug for not finding a way of letting you know I was out of commission.  Please accept this bit of OPOL knock-offism (right down to the “Peace!” at the end) as a token of my self-flagellation.

    • RiaD on August 4, 2008 at 05:03

    & so very very sorry ’bout your mom



  2. (Iraq aside, has any invader ever prevailed in Afghanistan?)

    Today at our weekly courthouse square peace vigil, a local yahoo was so distressed by our presence and our signs that he drove around the square a couple times just to engage some of us at different corners.  He young, poor and red neck thinks we are doing great things in Iraq.

    For the first time in years of this vigil, I verbally engaged.  I said “Don’t you know what we’re doing to the Iraqi people?”  He said “Yeah, we’re helping them.”  We answered that we had destroyed their country, that tens of thousands of Iraqis had been killed and millions displaced from their homes.  He said ” Yeah, but how many were killed in 9/11?”  And he drove off before we could respond.

    So ignorant, after almost five and a half years.  A serf to the empire.  

    It looks like we’re bound to continue to repeat past mistakes of the arrogant, in our empire building.

    The quote about Bush’s legacy and the DC gun decision is just too much!

  3. I’m going to leave it up all night.

    Good luck on dK, no <span.

  4. Thanks for this.

    • OPOL on August 4, 2008 at 09:46

    Thank you for your hard work UM.

  5. Of course, the liberal justifications for imperialism remain critical today in terms of facilitating imperialist wars abroad. The so-called ‘cruise-missile liberals’ who promoted “humanitarian intervention” to justify the imperial invasion and subjugation of Iraq were hardly original – the rhetoric they used has a long pedigree, starting with liberal apologists for colonialism who used arguments often along the lines of the “White Man’s Burden” presented above. For example:

    “So far as the underlying spirit of Imperialism is a frank acceptance of national duty exercised beyond the nation’s political frontiers, so far as it is a claim that a righteous nation is by its nature restless to embark upon crusades of righteousness wherever the world appeals for help, the spirit of Imperialism cannot be condemned. Morality is universal … I want to make it clear that however successful designing men may be in prostituting the high purposes of the nations to their own ends, or however imperfectly the nations themselves interpret their ideals in their political policies, the compulsion to expand and to assume world responsibility is worthy at its origin.” (J Ramsay MacDonald, ‘The Propaganda of Civilization’, 1901, quoted in Bernard Porter, Critics of Empire, 1968, pp 185-6)

    Via.  For those interested, Richard Seymour has just published a book discussing these issues entitled ‘The Liberal Defence of Murder‘, which looks to be excellent.

  6. that maybe we would have learned something about empire since 1899, but alas…

  7. Forgive us yet,

    Lest we forget,

    Lest we forget.

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