Jose Perez & Iraq Part 2

Ozleft ozleft at
Sun Aug 31 18:00:51 MDT 2003

By Ed Lewis

>>Garry McLennan: This was a magnificent piece.>>

I agree Garry, one of the best examples of frame-up, straw-man polemic,
generously larded with emotive rhetoric, that I've seen for quite a while.

"Foul odours", "social imperialists", "scabs" and three verses of the Harlan
County song. Magnificent indeed, but I usually expect better from Jose
Perez. Abuse is usually the sign of a weak argument.

Perez is on the hunt for social imperialists, and he can't quite nail Bob
Gould on that charge, so he tosses off tirade of abuse to cover that fact.

>>Jose Perez: Bob is too clever to say that in so many big words.>>

Perez gives himself away here. Couldn't Bob Gould be picking his way through
a complicated situation rather carefully, going on the limited evidence, and
probably making some mistakes in the process? No, there's only one way to
view the situation, and that's the way Perez summarises it. Gould must think
this, even though he's too sneaky to say it. Bravo Jose!

>>what the masses deeply desire (which in Bob's view is for Bwana Bremer to
get the lights working)>>

Why is getting the lights working less of a priority in Baghdad than it is
in New York or London? Isn't electricity so important to Iraqis? Could there
be a whiff of racism here? (Low blow, I know, but since we're rising to such
magnificent levels of polemic, why hold back?)

Many more Iraqis have died, and are still dying, because of the collapse of
the country's infrastructure than have died as a direct result of war. Isn't
it rather important to get the infrastructure functioning, and will the
masses really care who does that, as long as the water flows and the lights
work? Will they, perhaps, boycott the imperialist water and electricity?

I agree imperialism is cynically using the UN as part of its political
project, and a genuinely non-political aid effort would seek other
organisations to carry out the distribution, particularly since the UN is so
hopelessly compromised in Iraq by the long blockade and other acts of
aggression against Iraq, carried out in the name of the UN. There are plenty
of non-UN, non-government aid organisations that collectively could do the
same work. Even so, it doesn't seem like great tactics to blow up the people
who are reconnecting the power, getting the water flowing and removing the

>>Stuart Munckton: The DSP shoudn't condemn the bombing for the same reason
Marxists should not make a point of condemning Palestinian suicide bombings,
or for that matter, IRA bombings. We may not agree with the tactic, and
consider it
immoral from a *revolutionary* point of view as opposed to liberal morality
point of view - ie: immoral from the point of view that it holds back the
struggle for liberation rather than the fact that it simply kills civilians,
but we should put the blame for the civilian deaths were it rightly

Stuart, the DSP/SWP has a record of condemning terror bombings. Probably the
most prominent such condemnation was in Direct Action just after the 1972
Munich massacre at the Olympics. Of course, most of that article was devoted
to explaining why people were driven to such extreme measures. Has the DSP
changed its position since then? If so, where did it explain this shift to
the left public? Perhaps I missed it.

Munckton, like Perez, also does a magnificent demolition of a straw man.

As Lueko Willms points out, there's not much moralism in Bob Gould's piece.
It's about tactics: what's likely to win mass support. Is blowing up water
supplies and power pylons, and the experts who've come to make these things
work, the best way of winning mass support, and is winning mass support in
fact the aim of the bombers? If winning mass support is not their aim, what
are they up to?

More recently, was blowing up the Shi'ite cleric and 120 or so worshippers a
good idea? Were the 120 just "collateral damage" to borrow a phrase from
imperialist war reports, or just "a few civilians", to borrow a phrase from
Munckton? Are these tactics calculated to win mass support?

I disagree with some of Bob Gould's contribution. I think the European
analogies are just plain wrong, and I hope he's wrong in his assessment of
the resistance but I don't have much evidence either way. In the latter
point I think I may have something very much in common with Jose Perez.
Unfortunately, wishing don't make it so.

If we're to go looking for parallels, Iraq will probably turn out to be more
like Lebanon than any other event in recent history. Iraq may be heading for
a long and disastrous period of war, not just against imperialism, but
between Iraqi factions, and a large part of the population will be driven
into emigration and exile. Iraq will be ruined, as Lebanon was, while the
various factions fight each other to exhaustion, in the process killing,
traumatising and brutalising a whole generation of young men, not to mention
the con-combatant casualties. The difference in Iraq is that imperialism
will keep busy pumping out Iraqi oil at bargain rates.

I hope I'm wrong.

More information about the Marxism mailing list