Friday, July 27, 2007
I wish that the Iraqi resistance was a socialist one, but it ought to be a principle of socialists and liberals that people have a right to defend themselves against a violent occupation regardless of whether their politics are congruent with ours. It is not, of course, true that the resistance can be characterised in the fashion Katha Pollitt describes, and this happens to be relatively easy to find out. Each batch of statistics that emerges from think-tanks, the Department of Defense and the Multi-National Forces confirms that the military insurgency is overwhelmingly a guerilla war against the occupiers, targeting troops, and not civilians. Every sophisticated study describes a decentralised, acephalous, local resistance movement based on nationalism and Islam, animated by an experience of occupation brutality. There are restorationists, and there is a slender takfiri wing, but the bulk of the resistance is - curiously enough - not captured by the impressions conveyed in mainstream media reports. (Scour the dossier). Further, Pollitt doesn't seem to realise that resistance is a political term: as such it embraces precisely the trade unionists and secular feminists who are opposing the occupation, and whom Pollitt is outraged on behalf of, and it excludes those who are undermining the resistance by trying to turn it into a sectarian civil war.
Actually, Pollitt's position is a little worse than this. A little humility would compel her to recognise that the Iraqi resistance is doing far more to frustrate American imperialism than then American left is. The resistance is supporting us. It is their courageous insistence on combatting an enemy with immense death-dealing power, confronting them in the streets despite years of savage murder, despite the prospect of incineration and shredding, that is causing Bush's unpopularity. This is what caused the House to pass a bill opposing permanent bases in Iraq. It is this which is causing the Pentagon to draw up contingency plans for withdrawal. It wouldn't matter what position American liberals took if the resistance could do it alone, but the antiwar movement is - no matter what the President says - the decider. The articulate antiwar liberals in the media have a unique responsibility to combat racist myths and Pentagon propaganda, not collude in it. Instead of energetically accomodating itself to the beheaders, kidnappers, torturers and murderers in the Democratic Party, the antiwar movement must maintain its political independence. It should stolidly insist that the resistance is largely a necessary response to occupation and not some inexplicable excrescence. Then it will not be caught in the trap of calling for an unprincipled withdrawal which will empower people whom they concede are nothing else but psychopaths, tyrants, theocrats and beheaders. It isn't even necessary for the Nation liberals to ra-ra the resistance: they simply have to stop colluding in lies, recognising old-fashioned colonial mystique for what it is, and let people draw their own conclusions.