the Disillusioned kid: Support the Resistance?
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Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Support the Resistance?

One of the subjects which I return to occasionally is the nature of the Iraqi resistance. My own position in this regard is an ambiguous one. Anyone who reads anything I write about Iraq can hardly have failed to notice that I am opposed to the US-UK occupation (which continues even as we approach the six-month anniversary of the "Handover of Power" and will continue into the next year, regardless of whether elections happen or not). Additionally I do not question the right of those who are oppressed to resist, by violent means if necessary. I have no illusions about the violence of the current system being transcended by good feelings or happy vibes. Nonetheless the politics and actions of many of those who have taken up arms against the occupiers makes me feel more than a little uncomfortable.

Rahul Mahajan has posted some thoughtful comments on this issue which I think merit serious consideration. One piece was a originally radio commentary, the second part of a series entitled "Thinking Beyond the Comfort Zone", which focuses on the politics of the resistance. (One reader posted this on the bulletin board of a Russian site, generating a deluge of comments which are worth reading both for the entertainment value, as Mahajan notes, and as an example of the overly simplistic thinking on this issue of some within the anti-war movement.) A second is a response to an article in the Boston Globe looking at some of the myths about the resistance commonly held in the West.

For what its worth, my own opinion is that the discourse on the subject is fundamentally misleading. Talk of "the resistance" implies a degree of homogeneity and coherence which I do not think is accurate. Instead, it is my perception that the insurrection is being waged by various groups with only limited links. Indeed, some of these groups are actively opposed to each other. Abu-Musab Al-Zarqawi, apparently the leader of the Islamic extremist group Tawhid wal-Jihad (Monotheism and Holy War), who have carried out various suicide bombings, kidnappings and executions, described Moqtada al-Sadr as an infidel at the height of the Sadrist uprising in April, for instance.

This understanding of the conflict makes the question, raised by some in the anti-war movement, of whether we should support the resistance rather meaningless. One might ask whether we should support certain groups who have taken up arms, but to suggest we should or could support them all is nonsense. I think there is a further question which should be asked as well, one which would force the anti-war movement and the more radical sections within it to think seriously about the reality of its own influence: Do we really think al-Sadr or Zarqawi care if a bunch of western lefties "support" them or not? Of course not, our "support" would inevitably amount to nothing more than rhetoric and as such is irrelevant. Instead we should focus our efforts on the actions of our own government, somewhere we can hope to have at least some influence.

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