Sunday, July 29, 2007

Who do you want to win?

My favourite blog at the moment is Lenin's Tomb. Lenin has a great breadth of coverage - I'm always marking his posts saying to myself "I should write about strikes in South Africa" and then I never do.

So I was delighted to see that Lenin's Tomb had responded to Katha Pollitt who was in turn responding to Alexander Cockburn.*

Alexander Cockburn started by quoting Lawrence McGuire:

"I was reading a recent piece by Phyllis Bennis recently. She talked about the 'US military casualties' and the 'Iraqi civilian victims' and it struck me that the grand taboo of the antiwar movement is to show the slightest empathy for the resistance fighters in Iraq. They are never mentioned as people for whom we should show concern, much less admiration.

"But of course, if you are going to sympathize with the US soldiers, who are fighting a war of aggression, than surely you should also sympathize with the soldiers who are fighting for their homeland. Perhaps not until the antiwar movement starts to some degree recognizing that they should include 'the Iraqi resistance fighters' in their pantheon of victims (in addition to US soldiers and Iraqi civilians) will there be the necessary critical mass to have a real movement."
I probably disagree with this argument - but mostly because I think the American anti-war movement has far bigger problems (they rhyme with Pemocratic Darty). But Katha Pollitt almost made me change my mind:
So, okay, call me ignorant: The Iraqi resistance isn't dominated by theocrats, ethnic nationalists, die-hard Baathists, jihadis, kidnappers, beheaders and thugs?
What made me so angry was the way Katha Pollitt dismissed the Iraqi armed resistance out of hand, as if the idea of supporting people fighting in self-defence was too ridiculous to take seriously.**

I wanted to respond, but got distracted in the face of research that would prove that Iraqis who want self-determination aren't just: "theocrats, ethnic nationalists, die-hard Baathists, jihadis, kidnappers, beheaders and thugs?" Luckily Lenin has done it all for me. He's responded to Katha Pollitt, and then put together information about what the armed resistance is actually like.

My position is a little different from Lenin's.*** In order to actively support any sort of resistance group I want to know how they treat their own people, and what sort of world they want to build. But it's an academic question, because I have nothing the Iraqi resistance needs. As Lenin (the blogger) said:
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.
The fact that I'm not prepared to support any particular Iraqi resistance group shouldn't obscure the most basic point - I want the Iraqi resistance to win. I want the US to get the hell out of Iraq, and not to be capable of leaving a puppet government behind us. Any other outcome will give the people who rule America more power and the people who are fighting them less.

* I'll be the first to acknowledge that not all Alexander Cockburn's arguments are worth thinking about seriously - particularly not his climate change arguments, which I haven't paid enough attention to accurately summarise, but have paid enough attention to to know they're stupid.

** I take these discussions so seriously I once started a pool at what the ratio of male/female speakers would be at a meeting on our attitudes towards the Iraqi armed resistance.

*** That's Lenin the blogger, although I'm guessing my position is also different from Lenin the Revolutionary leader.


  1. I must have missed these resistance fighters:

    "...their courageous insistence on combatting an enemy with immense death-dealing power, confronting them in the streets..."

    The only ones I've noticed seem to concentrate on the mass murder of civilian Iraqis, for the simple reason that killing Americans is difficult and dangerous. Apart from the occasional roadside bomb that is, but I wouldn't file that under "confronting them in the streets."

  2. Anonymous2:10 pm


    I'm not making any judgment on the tactics, courage or lack of, or the many various aims of the fighters at the moment, but you are completely misrepresenting the facts of direct engagement by forces resisting the occupation:

    The US military death toll makes for horrifying reading, like any such sparse accounts do, as you try and paint the gaps in your mind of who these people where, where they come from...there is no similar list or even count for the Iraqi resistance that I can find. - BH

  3. The fact that the so called Iraqi resistance (which is an umbrella term for dozens of groups, most of which are against each other too) does have expelling US forces as the first goal, the second goal for the vast majority is establishing an Islamist caliphate that would suppress all dissent and adopt the policies of the Taliban. You might contemplate how women were treated there and how they are still treated in Iran (especially outside Tehran) before siding with dark ages Islamists.

    You might consider that your visceral anti-Americanism is utterly blind to how complex is - the Western forces are only a sideshow compared to the wholesale slaughter of Shi'a as Sunni Islamists.

    The mainstream media is too stupid to communicate the complexities of Iraq and I'm afraid the left is too blinded by anti-Americanism to consider how disastrous it would be if the Western forces abandoned Iraq now.

  4. Anonymous10:16 pm

    'The mainstream media is too stupid to communicate the complexities of Iraq'

    So are you. Are you aware of the socialist groups in the armed resistance? Since when did they become bin Ladenites? How about the leaders of three large groups who gave an interview with the media last week in which they laid out their commitment to democratic elections once the US leaves and condemned AQ. There is a mountain of data at lenin's Tomb which outraged liberals simply never goes near. These are the same people who refused to support the resistance to the US in Nam and to France in Algeria because it was too ideologically impure for them. They claim to sit above the contesting parties, but the net result of their stance is backhanded support for imperialist occupation.

  5. Anonymous10:13 am

    Insurgents form political front to plan for US pullout,,2129675,00.html


  6. Anonymous7:11 pm

    The insurgency in Iraq has by any measure murdered thousands of Iraqis.

    They have actually stopped targeting Americans - did so some months ago. Something to do with shooting back.

    Nice to see you declare open support for mass murders. That's the good thing about this blog, you don't try to hide your hatred for freedom, human rights and democracy.

  7. "Are you aware of the socialist groups in the armed resistance? Since when did they become bin Ladenites? "

    The post wasn't about those, the small numbers that they are, mostly Baathist - you know, the ones that were part of the Hussein regime, that bastion of human rights.

    Keep supporting them and go tell the families murdered by insurgents or the shopkeepers unable to sell music, non-Islamic literature because they get threatened with death by the insurgency.

    Put a label "socialist" on a bunch of gun totting insurgents and suddenly they are morally superior - I guess like during the Spanish Civil War, or the entire Soviet bloc, or in Nicaragua.