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No Pride in Imperialism

Susan Banaszewski

16 июл. 2022 г.

On June 1st, the U.S. military industrial complex signaled once again that it welcomes gay and transgender people and that the U.S. State Department promotes LGBTQ+ rights. The U.S. Marines posted an image of a combat helmet with rainbow-colored bullets, an allusion to the iconic poster for Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket, a film depicting the horror of the Vietnam War. In place of “Born to Kill,” the helmet reads, “Proud to Serve.” The ad was the latest disturbing example of pinkwashing: when progressive LGBT acceptance is co-opted as a means of legitimizing imperialism.

The pinkwashing of U.S. foreign policy presents U.S. actions abroad as progressive, just as the "War on Terror" was sold to the American people as a humanitarian intervention to protect democracy. President Biden issued a memorandum claiming that his foreign policy would “advance the human rights of LGBTQI+ people across the world.” Meanwhile, the Biden administration has continued to escalate the NATO proxy war against Russia in Ukraine, increase drone strikes in Somalia, bankroll Saudi Arabia’s genocide in Yemen and Israeli apartheid, and to participate in regime change operations and economic warfare against any country that deviates from the empire's orders or whims.


Western media coverage of Russia’s Special Military Operation has relied on pinkwashing to justify the U.S. and NATO’s imperialist proxy war in Ukraine. Mainstream media publishes articles framing the war as LGBT Ukrainians “fighting for their culture.” This narrative is designed to reinforce its Western audience’s assumption that Ukraine is a “progressive,” democratic country fighting off an oppressive, even fascist, Russian invader. However, the notion that the Kiev regime controlling Ukraine is somehow progressive on issues of gender and sexuality, while Russia is uniquely bigoted, is patently absurd., a crowdsourced index of attitudes and laws on gay and transgender issues around the globe, reports that attitudes toward and legal protections for LGBT people in Russia and Ukraine are in fact comparable. Pew research polls suggest that support for gay marriage is actually higher in Russia than in Ukraine. Even if Ukraine were the epitome of progressivism, the death and displacement caused by NATO’s ongoing proxy war has not spared those who are gay or transgender.


Israel, which receives nearly $4B per year in military aid from the U.S., advertises itself as the only gay-friendly oasis and democracy in the Middle East. But the pictures posted on Israeli social media accounts of beaches with rainbow flags belie the harsh reality of an “open air prison” for Palestinians, who are deprived of freedom of movement; most legal rights; and adequate access to power, water, or healthcare. Israel carries out daily violence against gay Palestinians: their secret police blackmail and threaten gay Palestinians, coercing them to become informants or work undercover for Israeli intelligence. As the Palestinian Queer organization Al-Qaws explains, “the promotion of ‘gay-friendly Israel’ depends on presenting Palestinians (and Arabs more generally) as the polar opposite: sexually regressive and therefore undeserving of solidarity…” LGBT people are simply another prop used to legitimize Israel’s violent apartheid regime for the U.S. taxpayers who bankroll its police and military forces.


Imperialist violence with a pro-LGBT face is also rife in Pakistan, where the U.S. was recently accused of mounting a coup against the popular leader Imran Khan, who drew hundreds of thousands into the streets to support him against an unwanted U.S.-backed regime. Soon after, the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad posted on social media to voice support for LGBTQ+ activism in the country. The post received a large backlash, with Pakistani users accusing the U.S. of flouting their country’s laws and values. Indeed, whenever the U.S. government is rightly perceived abroad as a hostile, destabilizing force, its support for LGBT movements is another tool used to disrupt a country’s sovereignty and stability. The empire can then portray the subsequent backlash as further proof of the country's “backwardness” and to justify its importing progressive values by any means necessary, including the use of force.


When a country is under attack, social movements must be subverted for the sake of unity and in order to direct all resources toward safeguarding its sovereignty. Peace, stability, and national sovereignty facilitate the development of legitimate social movements that truly reflect the culture and will of the people. Fidel Castro admitted before his death that the criminalization of homosexuality after the Cuban Revolution had been a great injustice, but that defending the Revolution from imperialism had totally consumed his attention in those years. By the 1980s– as Cuba began to stabilize after decades warding off U.S. invasion, assassination and infiltration attempts, and fighting the economic warfare in the form of a U.S. blockade– social movements began to flourish once more within the liberated nation. Cuba is expected to legalize gay marriage this year, on its own terms.

Many Americans’ support for a foreign policy that promotes LGBT acceptance may really stem from genuine concern for groups they view as oppressed. But it remains more urgent than ever for Communists and anti-imperialists of any gender or sexuality to make it crystal clear that rainbow bullets are no substitute for national sovereignty. When a nation is prevented from building a society free of imperialist intervention, any “freedoms” or “rights” imposed by military or economic force are simply a smokescreen, obscuring a brutal system that subjugates the vast majority of the world– cis and queer alike– to cling onto its monopoly capitalist hegemony.

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