[Marxism] Milan Rai on UN occupation of Iraq

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Mar 26 09:25:28 MST 2004


On Znet you can find an article by Milan Rai (author of a worthwhile 
study of Noam Chomsky) that argues that the antiwar movement should not 
call for immediate withdrawal. Why? Because, according to recent polls, 
the Iraqis--no matter how much they are fed up with the occupation--are 
afraid of the anarchy that would ensue if the USA pulled out. He writes:

"But, as we pointed out in JNV Briefing 50, there is a great deal of 
ambivalence in the Iraqi attitude to the US/UK forces. The vast majority 
of the Iraqi people do not want immediate withdrawal. Asked how long the 
occupation forces should stay, Iraqis gave these responses: 'leave now' 
(15.1%); 'a few months' (8.3%); 'six months to a year' (6.1%); 'more 
than one year' (4.3%). 18.3% said 'They should remain until security is 
restored'. The bulk of people, however, said, 'They should remain until 
an Iraqi government is in place' (35.8%). (Only 1.5% said, 'They should 
never leave', and 10.6% didn't know.)"

Although I don't have the statistics at my fingertips, and I am not sure 
whether it is necessary to provide them, I am quite sure that Western 
polltakers found support for the US occupation of Vietnam all through 
the Vietnam war. Since the North Vietnamese and the NLF were not 
permitted to disseminate their views on what a united Vietnam would look 
like, it would naturally skew poll results.

The same situation exists in Iraq. The resistance not ony has absolutely 
no freedom to present its ideas about how Iraq would look after US troop 
                  withdrawal, it is subject to demonization from the 
quisling government and the media it tolerates. Except for sermons in 
the mosques, arguments for removal of US troops cannot be heard. If Iraq 
was a free society, you'd have debates on the evening television between 
opposition politicians and those favoring continuing occupation. This in 
fact is the main complaint that the USA had about Aristide and 
Milosevic, and still has about Chavez and Castro.

Until there is a level playing field in Iraq, it seems rather pointless 
to pay attention to Western pollsters.

Beyond that, there is a *political* problem involved with support of 
occupation, even under UN auspices. I am not quite sure what Rai's 
politics are, but speaking as a socialist it seems obligatory to support 
self-determination. The United Nations is not some kind of neutral body. 
It has acted consistently in the 20th century to deny self-determination 
to the Koreans, the Congolese, the Yugoslavs and others. Even if you 
disregard this principle, you still have to contend with the character 
of the post-USSR UN, which is run by a Security Council that either 
defers to the USA or supports it outright.

Rai says, "Therefore, if the anti-war movement is to pay heed to the 
expressed wishes of the Iraqi people (as determined in several polls), 
we should abandon the demand for 'troops out now' and call instead for 
the rapid replacement of US/UK occupation forces, and the withdrawal of 
US/UK political and economic 'advisers'."

As the Iraq quagmire deepens, the same debate that took place during the 
early days of the Vietnam war will take place again in all likelihood. 
Forces such as SANE/Freeze, AFL-CIO "progressives" and Democratic Party 
"doves" all argued for a phased withdrawal from Vietnam. Slogans and 
perspectives such as "peace now", "let the UN solve the problem", 
"negotiations now", etc. were put forward as slogans for the antiwar 
movement, which consistently chose immediate withdrawal. It is 
singularly depressing to see a website so connected to Noam Chomsky 
putting forward a perspective that he himself rejected back in the 1960s.

-- 

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