[Marxism] James Petras commentary on Iraq

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Apr 9 15:10:16 MDT 2004

Third World Resistance and Western Intellectual Solidarity
by James Petras

jpetras at binghamton.edu  April 7, 2004

Falluja, Baghdad, Ramadi, Nasiriya - an entire people has risen to confront 
the colonial occupation army, its mercenaries, clients, and collaborators. 
First in massive peaceful protests, they were massacred by US, British, 
Spanish and Polish troops: Bare hands against tanks and machineguns. The 
armed resistance, in the beginning a minority now indisputably the most 
popular force, backed by millions.

The colonial armies, fearful of every Iraqi, shoot wildly into crowds and 
retreat; they encircle whole cities, fire missiles into crowded working 
class neighborhoods, helicopters pour machinegun fire into homes, 
factories, mosques. In the eyes of the colonial soldiers, the enemy is 
everywhere. For once they are right.

The resistance resists, every block, every house, every store rings out 
with gunfire, the resistance is everywhere. Every house takes hits, the 
resistance fight on. The people aid the wounded fighters, wash their 
wounds. They provide water to the thirsty to quench their parched throats 
and cool their hands - the automatic weapons are hot.

And where are the western mercenaries? The $1,000 dollar a day hired guns 
with their flak vests, dark glasses, --their swagger and insolence have 
disappeared. They too have seen the charred bodies of their ex-partners of 

Hundreds of Iraqis have been killed, thousands have been injured, many more 
will die but after each funeral tens of thousands more, the peaceful, 
apolitical, "wait and see" ones have taken up the gun.

'It's a civil war', brays the bourgeois press. This is wishful thinking. 
Shia and Sunni are in this together, brothers and sisters (yes, women 
street fighters) in arms, each covering their comrades' backs as they 
confront the tanks.

And the resistance is winning. Never mind the "proportions" - five or ten 
or twenty Iraqis for each colonial soldier. The Iraqi Resistance has won 
politically: No appointed official has any future : They exist as long as 
the US military remains but they will flee from the rooftops of their 
bunkers as the US withdraws.

Militarily, the US and the mercenaries are taking thousands of casualties 
-scores of deaths and wounded everyday. In Washington, the civilian 
militarists, the architects of the destruction of Iraq are panicking. "Send 
more troops!" say Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and the would-be president Kerry.

 From his Texas ranch, Bush proclaims the resistance leader Moqtada Sadr a 
"killer". Far from the fire, the mayhem, the massacres, his television 
doesn't show the child with the mangled face. Bush once again is far from 
the killing fields - Vietnam and now Iraq. Now he can claim a draft 
deferment - he is nominally the President who unilaterally declared the end 
of the war in May 2003.

Now, April 2004 there are more than 600 dead US soldiers as the Iraqi 
resistance rose to meet Bush's challenge "Bring them on" and took the 
streets from the colonial army, then they came on and conquered the cities 
and with sheer courage and absolute determination they hold their ground.

The "Arabs" resist, while the overstuffed cabbage Sharon is silent. His 
once loquacious agents, Wolfowitz, Feith, Abrams and their underlings are 
strangely silent. Are they worried that there might be a mass backlash 
against those who cooked the data to get the US into a war in which 
thousands of US soldiers will die and be maimed - in order to "protect" 
Israel's undisputed claim to dominance in the Middle East?

In the early spring of 2004, in April to be exact, the dreams of a new 
colonial empire came crashing down on the masterminds of the New World 
Order, an undisputed, unilateral Empire. The end of the 
Sharon-Wolfowitz-Blair-Chaney "Greater Mid-East Co-Prosperity Sphere". The 
Iraqi resistance has turned the Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz dream of a series of 
wars against Syria, Iran, Cuba, and North Korea into a nightmare of bloody 
street battles on every block in Falluja and Sadr City, Baghdad.

The heroism, the valor, the inspiration, the mass resistance is all the 
more so as the Iraqi people draw on their resources, their own solidarity, 
their own history, their belief that they will be free or take down every 
colonial soldier as they fight to the death.

The phrase "Patria o Muerte" takes on a special and very specific meaning 
in Iraq: It is not a slogan of a leader, a vanguard, to arouse and inspire 
the people - it is the living practice of a whole people. Patria or Muerte 
comes out of the mouths of teenage street fighters as well as street 
venders and widows with black scarves.

The "Iraqi April Days" are a lesson to for the whole Third World and other 
would-be imperial colonialists: Mass armed resistance cannot be politically 
or militarily defeated. The heroism of the Iraqi resistance stands in stark 
contrast to the cowardly self-styled Arab leaders:

The Jordanian and Saudi monarchs, the garrulous corrupt "President for 
Life" Mubarak, the Iranian Ayatollah collaborators. Not one has moved a 
finger to aid the Iraqi national liberation struggle. They fear the example 
of the successful Iraqi resistance will light a fire under their ample 

And the Western intellectuals? Since the resistance began a year ago.not a 
single US intellectual, of the dozens of progressive, critical thinkers 
("Not in My Name") has dared to declare their solidarity with the 
anti-colonial struggle. They have "problems", I hear, "about supporting 
Arab fundamentalists, terrorists, anti-Semites etc."

Echoes of the French intellectuals who also opposed the popular armed 
resistance movements against the Nazis because the "Communists had taken 
over." or later because the 'colons' in Algeria also had a "right to be in 
Algeria" (Albert Camus). In his book "Listen Yankee", C. Wright Mills 
challenged US 'progressives' who balked at supporting the Cuban Revolution 
in the early 1960's. "This is a real blood and guts popular revolution", he 
said. "You can make a difference, you can be part of the solution or part 
of the problem."

The Western intellectuals are a problem. They are not ordering the troops, 
even less are they (or their children or grandchildren) pulling the 
triggers murdering Iraqi school kids. They are sitting on their hands. 
"But", they protest, "we oppose the war" while they scramble to endorse 
candidate Kerry who does support the war and even calls for 40,000 more 
troops to pour missiles into crowded neighborhoods., under U .N auspices to 
be sure.

So where are the Western intellectuals in these days when the Iraqi people 
have risen arms in hand to resist the US military juggernaut? There are two 
sides: An entire nation fighting a colonial occupation army and US 
imperialism. Serious and consequential political intellectuals must make a 

To refuse to take sides is tantamount to complicity, intellectual 
complacency is a luxury for intellectuals in the empire which doesn't exist 
in Iraq. Over 1000 Iraqi intellectuals and professors have been murdered 
during the occupation. The issues are not obscure or complex. One side 
demands free elections, a free press, and self-determination while the 
other, the colonial officials, ban newspapers, appoint puppet rulers and 
murder their opponents.

The paralysis of the US leftist intellectuals, their inability to express 
solidarity with the Iraqi resistance is a disease which afflicts all 
"leftist" intellectuals in the colonial countries. They are fearful of the 
problem (the colonial war) and fearful of the resolution (national liberation).

In the end, the comforts and freedoms they enjoy, the university applause 
and adulation they receive in the colonial motherland weighs more heavily 
than the mental costs of a straightforward declaration of support for the 
revolutionary liberation movements.

They resort to phony "moral equivalences", against the war and against the 
"fundamentalists", the "terrorists", the 'whoever' who is engaged in their 
own self-emancipation and has not paid sufficient attention to the 
self-appointed guardians of Western Democratic Values. It is not difficult 
to understand the absence of solidarity with liberation movements among the 
progressive intellectuals in the imperial countries: they too have been 
colonized, mentally and materially.

Thousands of humble people in Iraq are giving these erudite intellectuals a 
practical lesson in solidarity:on April4,2004 in the midst of hostile tanks 
and helicopter gunships, thousands marched from Baghdad to Fallujah 
carrying food and medicine to the embattled and encircled people in that 
city which will forever be remembered as the cradle of emancipation

Will our intellectuals take note? Can they at least circulate a statement 
"In Our Name" in solidarity with the iraqui resistance?

In the meantime, the mass popular resistance in Iraq takes on the well-fed, 
over-armed armies of occupation in hand to hand warfare. They do no ask if 
their neighbor, friends or comrades are Sunni, secular, Shia, Baathist or 
Communist, they do not stand aside when a mosque, a school or a housing 
project is bombed or machine-gunned.they have made a commitment to engage 
in the struggle, to join in one national movement to oust the invader, the 
oil thieves, the murderers at hand and afar.

It's a pity, more for themselves than for any material contribution they 
could make to the historical struggle that the US progressive intellectuals 
have chosen to abstain and once again demonstrate the irrelevance of the 
Western intellectuals to Third World Liberation.

Louis Proyect
Marxism list: www.marxmail.org 

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