Monday, November 03, 2003

After the weekend's fearsome deathtoll, one of the most spin-prone questions is of course just WHO is fighting the insurgent war against the US occupation of Iraq. This is Tariq Ali's take from the Guardian:

One of the more comical sights in recent months was Paul Wolfowitz on one of his many visits informing a press conference in Baghdad that the "main problem was that there were too many foreigners in Iraq". Most Iraqis see the occupation armies as the real "foreign terrorists". Why? Because once you occupy a country, you have to behave in colonial fashion. This happens even where there is no resistance, as in the protectorates of Bosnia and Kosovo. Where there is resistance, as in Iraq, the only model on offer is a mixture of Gaza and Guantanamo.

Nor does it behove western commentators whose countries are occupying Iraq to lay down conditions for those opposing it. It is an ugly occupation, and this determines the response. According to Iraqi opposition sources, there are more than 40 different resistance organisations. They consist of Ba'athists, dissident communists, disgusted by the treachery of the Iraqi Communist party in backing the occupation, nationalists, groups of Iraqi soldiers and officers disbanded by the occupation, and Sunni and Shia religious groups.

The great poets of Iraq - Saadi Youssef and Mudhaffar al-Nawab - once brutally persecuted by Saddam, but still in exile, are the consciences of their nation. Their angry poems denouncing the occupation and heaping scorn on the jackals - or quislings - help to sustain the spirit of resistance and renewal.

Youssef writes: I'll spit in the jackals' faces/ I'll spit on their lists/ I'll declare that we are the people of Iraq/ We are the ancestral trees of this land.

And Nawwab: And never trust a freedom fighter/ Who turns up with no arms/ Believe me, I got burnt in that crematorium/ Truth is, you're only as big as your cannons/ While those who wave knives and forks/ Simply have eyes for their stomachs.

In other words, the resistance is predominantly Iraqi - though I would not be surprised if other Arabs are crossing the borders to help. If there are Poles and Ukrainians in Baghdad and Najaf, why should Arabs not help each other? The key fact of the resistance is that it is decentralised - the classic first stage of guerrilla warfare against an occupying army. Yesterday's downing of a US Chinook helicopter follows that same pattern. Whether these groups will move to the second stage and establish an Iraqi National Liberation Front remains to be seen.

As for the UN acting as an "honest broker", forget it - especially in Iraq, where it is part of the problem. Leaving aside its previous record (as the administrator of the killer sanctions, and the backer of weekly Anglo-American bombing raids for 12 years), on October 16 the security council disgraced itself again by welcoming "the positive response of the international community... to the broadly representative governing council... [and] supports the governing council's efforts to mobilise the people of Iraq..." Meanwhile a beaming fraudster, Ahmed Chalabi, was given the Iraqi seat at the UN. One can't help recalling how the US and Britain insisted on Pol Pot retaining his seat for over a decade after being toppled by the Vietnamese. The only norm recognised by the security council is brute force, and today there is only one power with the capacity to deploy it. That is why, for many in the southern hemisphere and elsewhere, the UN is the US.

The Arab east is today the venue of a dual occupation: the US-Israeli occupation of Palestine and Iraq. If initially the Palestinians were demoralised by the fall of Baghdad, the emergence of a resistance movement has encouraged them. After Baghdad fell, the Israeli war leader, Ariel Sharon, told the Palestinians to "come to your senses now that your protector has gone". As if the Palestinian struggle was dependent on Saddam or any other individual. This old colonial notion that the Arabs are lost without a headman is being contested in Gaza and Baghdad. And were Saddam to drop dead tomorrow, the resistance would increase rather than die down.

Sooner or later, all foreign troops will have to leave Iraq. If they do not do so voluntarily, they will be driven out. Their continuing presence is a spur to violence. When Iraq's people regain control of their own destiny they will decide the internal structures and the external policies of their country. One can hope that this will combine democracy and social justice, a formula that has set Latin America alight but is greatly resented by the Empire. Meanwhile, Iraqis have one thing of which they can be proud and of which British and US citizens should be envious: an opposition.


I have a hunch that Tariq Ali's sources are more accurate than Rumsfeld's.

And am moved to note that Iraq still has poets....

I'll spit in the jackals' faces/ I'll spit on their lists/ I'll declare that we are the people of Iraq/ We are the ancestral trees of this land.

.... still in exile.

Yeah... so who are we now "supposed" to believe is fighting the US occupation ?? Al Quaeda? Saddam?? Black Pete???


Meanwhile, American troops battled guerrillas and residents of Abu Ghraib, a suburb of Baghdad, for the second time in three days. Helicopters and tanks patrolled the town, and soldiers fired on a photographer trying to cover the fighting and barred reporters from viewing the scene.

Residents of Abu Ghraib said that at least one American soldier had been killed, and many Iraqis wounded, in the clash. The fight began when guerrillas threw a grenade at an American Humvee, wounding several soldiers and killing at least one, they said. The military said it could not comment on the incident today.

Since Friday morning, when the clashes began, soldiers and Iraqi police have essentially destroyed Abu Ghraib's market, the residents said. Guerrillas have used the market as cover to fire on American patrols in Abu Ghraib for months, American soldiers have said.

"Yesterday, we went to the market and we found that many stores have been looted," Daham Ali said. Mr. Ali accused Iraqi police of stealing from the stores after American soldiers opened them.

Adel Abd, a taxi driver in Abu Ghraib, said residents would continue to attack soldiers"The market is going to be a battlefield for us," Mr. Abd said. "The people are angry they have destroyed the shops, they have destroyed our income."

At least four Iraqis were killed, and dozens more wounded, in the clash on Friday, several residents of Abu Ghraib said today. They said tanks had deliberately run over cars and set fire to several stores. Their reports could not be independently confirmed, because tanks and armored fighting vehicles blocked access to the market


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