Jose Perez & Iraq Part 2

Stuart Munckton stuartmunckton at
Sun Aug 31 21:13:16 MDT 2003

Ed lewis wrote:

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.

I don't agree. Such moralism is definitely a major
feature of Gould's comments on the UN bombing. What
else does he mean when he says that 'civilised'
Marxists would condemn it, not do it...etc. The
obvious implication is that who ever it was who
carried out the bombing was 'uncivilised'. It was this
very obvious implication that provoked Jose Perez to
talk about 'foul stenches'.

It is true that Gould also points out that, in his
opinion, such activities are not useful to winning
mass support, but it is obvious that he also opposes
the bombings which killed civilians for its own sake.

He makes this clear when he says this of Trotsky's
position - of condemning the violence of the oppressor
first and foremost in the aftermath of a terrorist
attack - 

BG - 'As Trotsky so vividly expressed it, despite the
general opposition of Marxists to acts of individual
terrorism, nevertheless,the individual assassination
of a particular hated imperialist figure like the Nazi
Heydrich or the German Ambassador to Paris, or even
Lord Mountbatten, are in a different moral category to
the violence of their oppressors. If, however, you
blow away a large number of civilians along with them,
including particularly the Polly Brennans of this
world, the sheer scale of the act makes the use of
Trotsky's distinction inappropriate.' 

That is, not only should it be condemned by
'civilised' Marxists, but drawing a distinction
between this attack and the monstrous crimes of
imperialism in Iraq alone is 'inappropriate', because
of 'the sheer scale' of the attack which killed a
couple dozen civilians. 

I don't know how much more evidence you want that
Gould opposes the bombing not simply from the
perspective of revolutionary morality (that it holds
back the struggle for liberation as opposed to take it
forward) but liberal morality (the fact that it killed
civilians, in and of itself, is clearly enough for
Gould to oppose it).

Gould says 'It's almost a rule of thumb in evaluating
whether an upheaval is a genuine people's war or
not, that one of the primary tests is the behaviour of
the rebel force towards civilians.' So does the
people's struggle in Palestine or occupied Ireland
cease to be a real people's struggle because armed
attacks take the lives of British or Israeli
civilians? However counter-productive such actions
are, I don't think they change the nature of the

Of course when fighting a 'people's war' the attitude
should be to avoid civilian death as much as is
possible, but I don't think there is any eternal law
that says under no circumstances should you engage in
an action that will lead to civilian deaths. Civilians
will die in wars. 

The specific act of the UN bombing needs to be judged
in its specific context. I think the UN in Iraq is
pretty obviously a legitimate target for those trying
to drive the occupiers out. Whether or not the
specific act of bombing it and killing 20 or 30 people
is a useful tactic is another question, I haven't seen
much evidence that is either a step back or stet
forward for the struggle. 

At the end of the day, we can draw what ever
conclusion we like. It wont make a bit of difference
to what they do on the ground in Iraq. Either we
support the right of the Iraqi people to resist by any
means necessary the occupation or we don't. Once the
bombing has happened, our task is not to join in the
hypocritical outrage, but explain why the Iraqi
resistance targeted the UN and repeat that the
solution to stopping such violence is for the foreign
occupiers to get out.

Gould's moralising about the crime of killing
civilians doesn't't help anything.

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