[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.

More information about the Marxism mailing list