Subj: league-discuss: Fwd: Tariq Ali: Resistance Is the First Step
Date: 11/4/03 12:23:22 AM Eastern Standard Time
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i recommend Tariq Ali's new book, Bush in Babylon,
mentioned at end of article.
Published on Monday, November 3, 2003 by the Guardian/UK
Resistance is the First Step Towards Iraqi Independence
by Tariq Ali
Some weeks ago, Pentagon inmates were invited to a special in-house
showing of an old movie. It was the Battle of Algiers, Gillo
Pontecorvo's anti-colonial classic, initially banned in France. One
assumes the purpose of the screening was purely educative. The French
won that battle, but lost the war. At least the Pentagon understands
that the resistance in Iraq is following a familiar anti-colonial
pattern. In the movie, they would have seen acts carried out by the
Algerian maquis almost half a century ago, which could have been filmed
in Fallujah or Baghdad last week. Then, as now, the occupying power
described all such activities as "terrorist". Then, as now, prisoners
were taken and tortured, houses that harbored them or their relatives
were destroyed, and repression was multiplied. In the end, the French
had to withdraw.
As American "postwar" casualties now exceed those sustained during the
invasion (which cost the Iraqis at least 15,000 lives), a debate of
sorts has begun in the US. Few can deny that Iraq under US occupation
is in a much worse state than it was under Saddam Hussein. There is no
reconstruction. There is mass unemployment. Daily life is a misery, and
the occupiers and their puppets cannot provide even the basic amenities
of life. The US doesn't even trust the Iraqis to clean their barracks,
and so south Asian and Filipino migrants are being used. This is
colonialism in the epoch of neo-liberal capitalism, and so US and
"friendly" companies are given precedence. Even under the best
circumstances, an occupied Iraq would become an oligarchy of crony
capitalism, the new cosmopolitanism of Bechtel and Halliburton.
It is the combination of all this that fuels the resistance and
encourages many young men to fight. Few are prepared to betray those
who are fighting. This is crucially important, because without the
tacit support of the population, a sustained resistance is virtually
The Iraqi maquis have weakened George Bush's position in the US and
enabled Democrat politicians to criticize the White House, with Howard
Dean daring to suggest a total US withdrawal within two years. Even the
bien pensants who opposed the war but support the occupation and
denounce the resistance know that without it they would have been
confronted with a triumphalist chorus from the warmongers. Most
important, the disaster in Iraq has indefinitely delayed further
adventures in Iran and Syria.
One of the more comical sights in recent months was Paul Wolfowitz on
one of his many visits informing a press conference in Baghdad that the
"main problem was that there were too many foreigners in Iraq". Most
Iraqis see the occupation armies as the real "foreign terrorists". Why?
Because once you occupy a country, you have to behave in colonial
fashion. This happens even where there is no resistance, as in the
protectorates of Bosnia and Kosovo. Where there is resistance, as in
Iraq, the only model on offer is a mixture of Gaza and Guantanamo.
Nor does it behoove western commentators whose countries are occupying
Iraq to lay down conditions for those opposing it. It is an ugly
occupation, and this determines the response. According to Iraqi
opposition sources, there are more than 40 different resistance
organizations. They consist of Ba'athists, dissident communists,
disgusted by the treachery of the Iraqi Communist party in backing the
occupation, nationalists, groups of Iraqi soldiers and officers
disbanded by the occupation, and Sunni and Shia religious groups.
The great poets of Iraq - Saadi Youssef and Mudhaffar al-Nawab - once
brutally persecuted by Saddam, but still in exile, are the consciences
of their nation. Their angry poems denouncing the occupation and
heaping scorn on the jackals - or quislings - help to sustain the
spirit of resistance and renewal.
Youssef writes: I'll spit in the jackals' faces/ I'll spit on their
lists/ I'll declare that we are the people of Iraq/ We are the
ancestral trees of this land.
And Nawwab: And never trust a freedom fighter/ Who turns up with no
arms/ Believe me, I got burnt in that crematorium/ Truth is, you're
only as big as your cannons/ While those who wave knives and forks/
Simply have eyes for their stomachs.
In other words, the resistance is predominantly Iraqi - though I would
not be surprised if other Arabs are crossing the borders to help. If
there are Poles and Ukrainians in Baghdad and Najaf, why should Arabs
not help each other? The key fact of the resistance is that it is
decentralized - the classic first stage of guerrilla warfare against an
occupying army. Yesterday's downing of a US Chinook helicopter follows
that same pattern. Whether these groups will move to the second stage
and establish an Iraqi National Liberation Front remains to be seen.
As for the UN acting as an "honest broker", forget it - especially in
Iraq, where it is part of the problem. Leaving aside its previous
record (as the administrator of the killer sanctions, and the backer of
weekly Anglo-American bombing raids for 12 years), on October 16 the
security council disgraced itself again by welcoming "the positive
response of the international community... to the broadly
representative governing council... [and] supports the governing
council's efforts to mobilize the people of Iraq..." Meanwhile a
beaming fraudster, Ahmed Chalabi, was given the Iraqi seat at the UN.
One can't help recalling how the US and Britain insisted on Pol Pot
retaining his seat for over a decade after being toppled by the
Vietnamese. The only norm recognized by the security council is brute
force, and today there is only one power with the capacity to deploy
it. That is why, for many in the southern hemisphere and elsewhere, the
UN is the US.
The Arab east is today the venue of a dual occupation: the US-Israeli
occupation of Palestine and Iraq. If initially the Palestinians were
demoralized by the fall of Baghdad, the emergence of a resistance
movement has encouraged them. After Baghdad fell, the Israeli war
leader, Ariel Sharon, told the Palestinians to "come to your senses now
that your protector has gone". As if the Palestinian struggle was
dependent on Saddam or any other individual. This old colonial notion
that the Arabs are lost without a headman is being contested in Gaza
and Baghdad. And were Saddam to drop dead tomorrow, the resistance
would increase rather than die down.
Sooner or later, all foreign troops will have to leave Iraq. If they do
not do so voluntarily, they will be driven out. Their continuing
presence is a spur to violence. When Iraq's people regain control of
their own destiny they will decide the internal structures and the
external policies of their country. One can hope that this will combine
democracy and social justice, a formula that has set Latin America
alight but is greatly resented by the Empire. Meanwhile, Iraqis have
one thing of which they can be proud and of which British and US
citizens should be envious: an opposition.
Tariq Ali's new book, ' Bush in Babylon: The Re-Colonisation of Iraq ',
is published this week by Verso
© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003