[Marxism] James Petras commentary on Iraq
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
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.
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