The Rise Of Legitimate Resistance Movement
By Ghali Hassan
29 April, 2005
Like many resistance movements, the Iraqi Resistance movement is an anti-occupation, anti-colonial movement. The difference about the Iraqi Resistance to US Occupation was that it was an immediate uprising by the Iraqi people. The Iraqi people did not "welcome" the US invading forces. It was a carefully staged lie. Iraqis are bitterly resent all occupation forces, and resistance to an illegal Occupation is widespread today.
The Iraqi people Resistance groups varied ; some are former soldiers and unemployed, some are professionals and workers and others are religious leaders with local and family influence. They spread throughout the country and led by prominent Iraqis. Although, these groups are not centrally linked, almost all of them shared an enthusiastic devotion to Islam and an enthusiastic rejection of the US Occupation of Iraq. One of the most prominent of the leaders of the Iraqi people Resistance is Sayyid Muqtada Al-Sadr, the son of the Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Sadiq Al-Sadr, a prominent Iraqi religious leader who was assassinated in 1999 along with two of his other sons. The family of Al-Sadr has a history of opposition to oppression and dictatorship.
Unlike the expatriate quislings, who have been promoted (by US forces) to high positions in the "government" and often paraded on Western TV screens to provide local legitimacy to US Occupation, Al-Sadr is an Iraqi national, did not live in exile during the Saddam’s regime and refuses to collaborate with the Occupation forces. His courageous character of denouncing the US Occupation made him the only recognised anti-Occupation voice in Iraq, and raised his popularity. Al-Sadr was against the US invasion and Occupation of Iraq. Al-Sadr announced that the ’Americans and their allies must be expelled by force from Iraq’. He said publicly and rightly that the Americans were in Iraq to stay, rob Iraq of its wealth and oil resources, and advance US imperialist aims because the reasons for this war of aggression were fabricated lies.
Furthermore, The allegation that Al-Sadr is a "religious fanatic" and will created an Iranian-style government in Iraq is misleading falsehood designed to deny the Iraqi people national resistance voice. Al-Sadr said on several occasions that he is not interested in government position, and that he opposes Iran theocracy as a model for Iraq. Al-Sadr’s main aim is a sovereign united Iraq, free from foreign occupation and corruption.
The shameful propaganda perpetuated against the Iraqi Resistance by Western media and pundits is unfounded. The label of "insurgency" used by Western governments and mainstream media to depict the Iraqi Resistance which is fighting for a legitimate cause, as an ’organized rebellion fighting against legitimate government’ is an imperialist labelling to justify a "counterinsurgency" by foreign forces. It is typical smear against those resisting Western colonial aggression.
Right wing American pundits, led by Michael Ignatieff, professor of Human Rights at Harvard University, who supported the war of aggression but found themselves on the wrong side of humanity, recently begun to rationalise and justify the war as a "lesser evil" on the bases that there was a ’bigger evil’ than this murderous crime against the Iraqi people. An illegal war of aggression justified as a "just war" with no moral or ethical basis whatsoever.
This distortion of the truth is designed for domestic consumption by citizens of the occupying forces and not for Iraqis. The propaganda has also contaminated and affected the "anti-war" movement position. Opposing the war before it started has been easy "feel good" activities of the "anti-war" movement, while support for the Iraqi people to liberate their country from violent Occupation is seen ’unpatriotic’ and not worthy of support.
Naomi Klein October 03, 2004 piece "The resistance and the Left", (The Nation), is best analysed by its section on Al-Sadr’s movement. Klein wrote ; "When I heard about the demo, I wanted to go, but there was a problem : I had been visiting state factories all day, and I wasn’t dressed appropriately for a crowd of devout Shiites". Any one who has been in Iraq will reject this naïve and untruthful claim. While she was at "the demo" Klein added ; "I was soon interrupted, however, by a black-clad member of the Mahdi Army : He wanted to talk to my translator about my fashion choices. A friend and I joked that we were going to make up our own protest sign that said, Let Journalists Wear Their Pants. But the situation quickly got serious : Another Mahdi soldier grabbed my translator and shoved him against a concrete blast wall, badly injuring his back. Meanwhile, an Iraqi friend called to say she was trapped inside the ’Green Zone’ and couldn’t leave : She had forgotten to bring a headscarf and was afraid of running into a Mahdi patrol".
Is this journalism ? Is it political analysis ? No, it is racialist load of nonsense and inaccurate understanding of the Iraqi society. Iraq has been a secularist state for hundreds of years. Iraqi society is a mosaic society. Christian, Jews and Muslims have lived together in harmony much longer than ’Canadians’. Iraqi women participation in society is not different from any other advanced societies. Women rights are enshrined in Iraq’s Constitution, which was dissolved by the Occupation forces and replaced by a US-crafted "Interim Constitution" that deprives Iraqi women of their rights. This "colonial feminism" is consistent with Western hypocritical treatment of Muslim women as useful political tool to denigrate Islam and Islamic culture.
Naomi Klein should follow an ’ethic of responsibility’, and would do well to hold her own government accountable not only for its share of the crimes against the Iraqi people, but also against Arab Canadians and Muslim Canadians. It is this Islamophobic trait of imperial North American culture and its anti-Muslim racism that propels the abuse and torture of innocent Iraqi men, women and children in US-controlled prisons in Iraq.
Many of the "anti-war" movement leaders are now refusing not only to support the Iraqi Resistance against the Occupation, but also hesitant to push for full withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. It seems that those who are opposing full withdrawal of US forces, are like those who support the war for the wrong reasons. The anti-war rhetoric is now replaced by anti-troops withdrawal rhetoric. It is an old insurance policy adopted very often by waverers activists and pundits alike because of the absence of serious dissent and lack of moral principles against the US agenda.
The rise up of the Iraqi Resistance took the Western world by surprise, not only because of its effectiveness against a militaristic ’superpower’, but also because of the West distorted and fabricated image of the Iraqi people.
The most obvious reasons of course are : the anti-Arab nature of the West and the US in particular, and the West misperception of Arabic and Islamic cultures. This misunderstanding of societies, which suffered greatly under Western colonialism, is embedded in the West ignorance and imagined superiority. As Bertrand Russell wrote, "It is the nature of imperialism that citizens of the imperial power are always among the last to know and care about circumstances in the colonies" made easy with sufficient propaganda at home.
As stated above, like any resistance movement, the Iraqi Resistance is heterogeneous people’s movement. "I met Shia [sic] and Sunnis fighting together, women and men, young and old. I met people from all economic, social, and educational backgrounds", wrote Molly Bingham, a scholar at Harvard University, who spent sometime with a group of Resistance fighters in Iraq. She rightly added ; "[I]n the absence of a solid government or civil structure it is not surprising that a Muslim community [like any other community] would revert to Koranic law, even if only temporary". It is important to remember that the US Occupation forces dismantled the Iraqi state, destroyed Iraq’s infrastructure and encouraged criminal anarchy. In other words, the country was deliberately made lawless by US forces.
Furthermore, the "anti-war" movement decision to follow the US administration false cliché and associates the Iraqi Resistance with violence and terrorism - as if the 150,000 US forces and their mercenaries are not by far the most violent terrorist groups in the country today - is misguided and plays into the hands of the Bush administration and proponents of the war. There is no gentler, kinder occupation. Occupation is violence, occupation is oppression, occupation is anti-democratic and occupation is theft. Throughout the history of people’s struggle against colonial occupation and aggression there has been no "pristine" resistance movement.
All resistance movements have used armed struggle to force the occupiers to change course. Iraq is not different. Violent resistance arises from violent military occupation. However, Iraqi sources argue that most terrorist acts attributed to the Iraqi Resistance movement were actually carried out by the US-created militias, and secret US and Israeli agents in order to distort the image of the Resistance and stir up sectarian divisions among the population. Iraqi Resistance leaders and the Association of Muslim Scholars have rejected attacks against civilians and blamed the US forces and their allies for orchestrating the violence.
The creation, arming and financing of ’ethnic militia’ and Para-military death squads by US forces designed to create ethnic divisions and provoke civil war, the ultimate goal of the Bush administration in Iraq. Jalal Talabani’s recent call to use the Kurdish Peshmerga militia and the Badr Brigade, the Iranian-trained militia of the SCIRI party, to fight the Iraqi Resistance is a desperate act, which will pave the way for breakdown of Iraqi society. After all, the US and its allies have the most to gain from a divided Iraq embroiled in sectarian violence. The Iraqi civilians are the victims of this US-instigated violence.
From March 2003 to October 2004, US forces have killed more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians, most of them innocent women and children, reported the reputable British journal, The Lancet. The only credible scientific study published so far. The estimate is considered conservative because it excludes the high death tool of the Fallujah atrocities. The US forces self-immunity from prosecution makes it very easier for them to kill Iraqis with institutionalised impunity, as if Iraqis were not human beings.
Fallujah was fire bombed and destroyed by US forces. In violation of International Law and the Geneva Conventions, US forces used modern form of napalm bombs (MK-77 Mod 5), which ignites on impact to attack civilian population there. According to the Red Cross, more than 6,000 innocent civilians (men, women and children) have been killed, and the rest of the population is displaced refugees. A war crime termed "collective punishment" designed to instil fear in the Iraqi population passed with complete silence in Western capitals.
Cluster bombs, and mines have needlessly blown up countless Iraqi men, women and children. Many of the cluster bombs reportedly dropped from the air by US-British forces on civilian areas throughout Iraq were of the banned types BLU97A and CBU-105. In addition to cluster bombs, the use of "depleted" uranium (DU) by US-British forces have contaminated large areas of Iraq with abnormally high levels of radiation. Credible evidence shows that DU is the cause of dramatic increase of cancers and birth defects.
Two years of US Occupation, the situation in Iraq is on the brink of disaster. Malnutrition, hunger and infant mortality among Iraqi infants under the age of five had almost doubled since the invasion - double the number of that before the invasion and during the genocidal sanctions. The health situation have exacerbated due to lack of drinking water and electricity. Poverty has increased and living standards in Iraq declined markedly. Most Iraqis are still living on food rations and aid. Iraqis continue to be humiliated and abused in violent house-to-house searches being conducted by US forces. Tens of thousands of Iraqi men, women and children are imprisoned, abused and tortured in US-built and controlled prisons through out Iraq.
The April 19, 2005 demonstration of more than 300,000 Iraqis in Baghdad alone (the largest in Iraq for many decades) was jointly organised by Al-Sadr movement and the Association of Muslim Scholars, showed that all Iraqis are united against US Occupation and terrorism. This unity contradicts the West perception of Iraqis as a divided society and rejects the occupiers’ imperialist policy of ’divide and rule’. "The fact is that sectarian and ethnic tensions in Iraq are not a product of deep-seated cultural differences. They are the product of a history of imperialism and colonialism in the region and domestic Iraqi politics", wrote Rami El-Amine of Left Turn magazine. El-Amine rightly added that ; "This applies as much to the Arab-Kurd tension as it does to the Sunni-Shias [sic]". This should serve, as the launching pad for the "anti-war" movement demands for the full withdrawal of US troops from Iraq and the liberation of Iraqi people from foreign occupation.
Resistance to foreign occupation is enshrined in people legitimate right to national liberation and sovereignty. "International law grants a people fighting an illegal occupation the right to use ’all necessary means at their disposal’ to end their occupation and the occupied "are entitled to seek and receive support". The Iraqi people have the right to resist colonial aggression.
The success of the Iraqi Resistance to liberate Iraq from US Occupation and achieve national independence and sovereignty is a precursor to thwart US imperial doctrine of dominating the world by force. Had it not been for the Iraqi people Resistance against US Occupation, Syria and Iran would have been attacked by now.
To match its rhetoric with its actions, the "anti-war" movement should use its infinite resources to expose the violent and anti-democratic imperialist nature of the Occupation. The best way to support the Iraqi people and prevent Iraq from descending into more violence and civil war is to end US Occupation of Iraq. The Occupation is the problem not the solution. Iraqis are very capable to work things out between themselves and built their society without interference from foreign forces.
The "anti-war" movement can then organise the setting up of a war crimes tribunal to investigate and prosecute those who committed this murderous war of aggression against the Iraqi people. This will eventually contribute to enhancing democracy and respect for the rules of law at home and elsewhere.