[Marxism] A Vietnamese critique of the Iraqi resistance
M. Junaid Alam
alam1 at lefthook.org
Wed Nov 16 02:12:45 MST 2005
I think comrades are operating on the basis of some wishful thinking and
donning ideological blinders when it comes to this question on several
Level 1: The first problem is the temptation to take the Iraq-Vietnam
too seriously. Several surface elements are similar, obviously. But the
comparison is invoked mainly as an insult and a mocking reminder to US
imperialism, as a polemical tool. Beyond that it becomes dangerous to
apply this analogy to specifics.
Level 2: Comrades make the error of assuming the Iraqi resistance is
operating in a similar ideological and political climate as the NLF and
VC. This is to repeat, to replicate, the mistakes of the neo-cons. The
neo-cons see the struggle against Islamism as the new Cold War; Islamism
is the new totalitarianism. It's either Islamo-fascism or World War IV
in their language, but mainly the enemy is depicted as a menace much
along the lines of international communism. Reflexively, then, some here
take the position that the resistance really is the new socialist flavor
of nationalism, or that it at least *ought* to be, as its maximum goal.
Replacing what is with what ought to be in any analysis is a serious
enough mistake, but it is an even more serious mistake when what *ought*
to be is not even achievable given the framework in which what *actually
is* has emerged.
Level 3: So what is the present framework? The nationalism of the
Vietnamese cannot be counterposed to the factionalism of the Iraqi
resistance on a one-to-one basis. The Vietnamese were supposed to be
part of an international communist movement. For the most part, this was
not a reality. Vietnam was mainly left to fend for itself. Che Guevara
pointed this out in barbed prose when delivering his Message to the
Tricontinental, rebuking the feuding of USSR and China and their
standing on the sidelines. So "unity" for the Vietnamese only exists
when the context of international communism is magically forgotten.
The case of the Iraqi resistance is quite the opposite. Within the
framework of Iraq, the resistance is not a united force. Ethnic and
intra-national divisions prevent that. But Iraq is not purely a national
struggle. It is also an Islamist struggle. This is not a fact any
serious thinking person can avoid. Comrades, we are not operating in the
era of socialist-tinged nationalism in the Middle East. That has been
dead in the Arab world for thirty years now. Nor do we get to pick and
choose what flavor anti-imperialism takes in any given epoch in any
given region. The reality today is that the motivating factor of
political radicalism there is Islamism. The invasion of Iraq catalyzed a
layer of Muslims from around the world, including Pakistan, Afghanistan,
Syria, Saudi Arabia, and many other places, to go to Iraq to wage war
against the United States. I am sure a good lot of them do not have
socialist-certified politics. Some of them undoubtedly have very bad
politics, such as the Zarqawi grouping.
But this is no excuse for substituting pleasant fictions for hard
realities. The Iraqi resistance is an international resistance because
it draws upon the sympathies of the radicalized layers of a population
of 1.2 billion Muslims worldwide. It is an openly acknowledged fact
among the war's critics that Bush has filled out the pages of Osama's
script, validating charges of an anti-Muslim agenda. In a classic
Orwellian moment just weeks ago, it was revealed that the CIA considered
a key al-Qaeda source who claimed that al-Qaeda and Hussein were
collaborating to be a liar before the war - but none of the news
accounts took up the rather likely possibility that the source was lying
quite deliberately. Indeed, the fall of Hussein marked not only the
destruction of the last vestiges of Arab nationalism, but also heralded
the expansion of radical Islamism in its wake.
Level 4: What is the result? The Iraqi resistance requires no national
unity to succeed. It is part of an international phenomenon identified
here as the "war on terror." By the very act of making war on Iraq and
continuing the occupation there, the distinction between war in Iraq and
the war on terror no longer really holds - a very useful tool for the
Right to justify the war ex-post-facto, but also a reality. Obviously
there are nationalist fighters in Iraq but they work with, convert to,
and take the lead from foreign and locally spawned Islamist forces as well.
Getting back to the point: the resistance requires no national unity to
succeed, because national unity is not a goal needed to force American
withdrawal. Frustration over the fact that Iraq only fuels enemy
recruitment and intensity in the war on terror more generally is the
real impetus for withdrawal sentiment. That is the mainstream and the
realist objection to the war: fighting in Iraq attacks the terrorist
problem in the wrong way, because it recreates, worsens and heightens
it. Therefore, it is "senseless", to use the phrase often found on
liberal lips these days.
Frankly, this is a good thing, because any hopes of a resistance
movement basing itself on Iraqi nationalism that includes all three
ethnicities and current borders cannot be seriously entertained anyway.
The history of the formation of Iraq, as anyone remotely familiar with
it well knows, precludes the possibility altogether. The Kurds are
totally in the service of US and now Israeli interests. They have quite
a bit of reason for it, but the bottom line is that they are totally
sell-outs, if the situation is to be considered from any "nationalist"
perspective. The Shiites aspire to ambitions far greater than kicking
the Americans out at present. Antagonism with the Sunnis from both
groups has already been written into the script, codified both in the
official military ranks and the official political process, in which the
Sunnis come out as the major losers.
It is no secret and no wonder, then, that the resistance has been very
successful in sowing chaos, confusion, and disarray, in breaking up what
the Americans have tried to cobble together, but weak on forming a
concrete cohesive program: Victory here requires the former, and cannot
achieve the latter, because it is a victory which a a large portion of
the world is hoping for, but which a fair number of Iraqis do not even
want to see happen.
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