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Friday, April 04, 2003  
Uncle Mohammed to the rescue?

As some of you know, I monitor neo-Confederate groups because of their involvement in much mischief, particularly in the South, and their considerable political clout. One of the staples of neo-Confederate literature and reportage is the Loyal Negro, often named Thomas. In pre-Civil War accounts, the Loyal Negro, who is flattered to be a slave, thank you, is a source of willing labor and cheeful entertainment, when he isn't busy having the Bible read to him. In Civil War accounts, he risks his life to save that of Ole Miss or Ole Marse, or sometimes their young offspring. Subsequently, the Loyal Negro refuses to leave the plantation or visits regularly to relive the happy days of his life as chattel.

The Loyal Negro of neo-Confederate lore did not disappear with the Old South. The white supremacist, seccessionist movement has recruited contemporary black men (using the word liberally) to serve in that capacity. A Washington Post article making the rounds at Rightwing sites today reminds me of the Loyal Negro phenomenon. Peter Baker, the Post's Moscow bureau chief, has written a dispatch from Iraq in which he extols the virtues of a Loyal (to Americans that is) Iraqi who allegedly risked his life to save that of Pfc. Jessica Lynch, known in conservative circles as 'little Jessie."

Mohammed claims to have seen Lynch being slapped twice by a Darth Vader like Iraqi man in her hospital room. (Someone forgot to brief him that Iraq doesn't have hospital rooms, only torture chambers, I guess.) Mohammed was so moved, despite all the Iraqis he must have seen being killed by U.S. forces, that he took it upon himself to save the Young Miss.

As he recounted the events today, that decision set in motion one of the most dramatic moments in the first two weeks of the war in Iraq. Five days after Mohammed located U.S. Marines and told them what he knew, Black Hawk helicopters swooped in under cover of darkness, touching down next to the six-story hospital, and a team of heavily-armed commandos stormed the building. With hand-scrawled maps from Mohammed and his wife, the commandos quickly found the injured Pfc. Jessica Lynch and spirited her away to safety.

A typical use of the modern Loyal Negro by the neo-Confederates is to have him appear, in a Confederate uniform, at public places carrying the Confederate flag. Mohammed, who was whisked under the protective arm of the military equivalent of Ole Marse, was not yet content. "When Mohammed mentioned that he would love an American flag, the Marines rushed to find one."

There are probably ways in which Mohammed's story does not match that of a Loyal Negro. However, the parallels are striking. Both Mohammed and the Loyal Negro care more about the fate of others who do not have the best interest of groups they belong to at heart than they do about their own people. Both seem blind to the faults of those they put on a pedestal. They even share a gift of friendliness toward their supposed superiors. "He [Mohammed] displays an easy smile and is quick to say "welcome."

Equally striking is the blindness Baker showed in writing and publishing this story, particularly after the article written by Susan Schmidt for the Post about Pfc. Lynch yesterday turned out to be largely hyperbole. There is no verification of the alleged facts. All the information comes from Mohammed himself and the Marines. Some of what is reported does not match what the Post said as recently as yesterday. For example, as I mentioned before, description of Pfc. Lynch's room as a hospital room was dismissed in favor of 'torture chamber' until now. An Iraqi doctor? According to prior accounts, he should be a torturer. And, a couple of slaps is the best they can do for the alleged torturer who is described by Mohammed? Hello?

I am also embarassed for Baker because of his tone deafness in regard to how the story sounds. The notion that a 'good Iraqi' is someone who would sell out his own people in favor of invaders reeks of Rudyard Kipling. I'm almost surprised Baker did not introduce the piece by reciting Gunga Din.

Now in Injia's sunny clime,  

Where I used to spend my time  

A-servin' of 'Er Majesty the Queen,  

Of all them black-faced crew   

The finest man I knew  

Was our regimental bhisti, Gunga Din.

. . .An' for all 'is dirty 'ide,  

'E was white, clear white, inside 

Colonialism is over, isn't it?

My own reading through the lines suggests Mohammed is an opportunist and possibly an Iraqi irregular himself. That would explain how he came to be at the hospital and happened to know the Fedayeen there. However, Mohammed will likely be relocated to the United States as a refugee with no real inquiry into his past.

For now: "Mohammed wants to work with the Americans some more, maybe help them gather information elsewhere in Iraq." After the American victory, maybe he will volunteer to walk across Iraq wearing a U.S. Army uniform and carrying an American flag.

2:06 PM