The greatest moral quandary of our day is whether we, as Americans, support the Iraqi insurgency. It’s an issue that has caused anti-war Leftist’s the same pangs of conscience that many felt 30 years ago in their opposition to the Vietnam War. The specter of disloyalty weighs heavily on all of us, even those who’ve never been inclined to wave flags or champion the notion of American “Exceptionalism”.
For myself, I can say without hesitation, that I support the insurgency, and would do so even if my only 21-year-old son was serving in Iraq. There’s simply no other morally acceptable option.
As Americans we support the idea that violence is an acceptable means of achieving (national) self-determination. This, in fact, is how our nation was formed and it is vindicated in our founding document, The Declaration of Independence:
“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends IT IS THE RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE TO ALTER OR ABOLISH IT, and to institute a new government, having its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness…when a long train of abuses and usurpations pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, IT IS THEIR RIGHT, IT IS THEIR DUTY, TO THROW OFF SUCH GOVERNMENT, AND PROVIDE NEW GUARDS FOR THEIR FUTURE SECURITY.” [Emphasis mine]
The Declaration of Independence is revolutionary in its view that we have a “duty” to overthrow regimes that threaten basic human liberties. We must apply this same standard to the Iraqi people. Violence is not the issue, but the justification for the use of violence. The overwhelming majority of the world’s people know that the war in Iraq was an “illegal” act (Kofi Annan) of unprovoked aggression against a defenseless enemy. A recent poll conducted in the Middle East (released by the Center for Strategic Studies) shows that “for more than 85% of the population in four of the five countries polled (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Syria and Palestine) thought the US war on Iraq was an act of terrorism.” Lebanon polled at 64%. (Pepe Escobar, “It’s Terror When We Way So,” Asia Times, April 23, 2005) Terrorism or not, there’s no doubt that the vast majority of people in the region and in the world, believe that the war was entirely unjustifiable.
The argument most commonly offered by anti-war Americans (who believe we should stay in Iraq) doesn’t defend the legitimacy of the invasion, but provides the rationale for the ongoing occupation. The belief that “We can’t just leave them without security” creates the logic for staying in Iraq until order can be established. Unfortunately, the occupation is just another manifestation of the war itself; replete with daily bombings, arrests, torture and the destruction of personal property. Therefore, support of the occupation is a vindication of the war. The two are inseparable.
At the same time we have to recognize that the disparate elements of Iraqi resistance, belittled in the media as the “insurgency”, are the legitimate expression of Iraqi self-determination.
Independence is not bestowed by a foreign nation; the very nature of that relationship suggests reliance on outside forces. True independence and sovereignty can only be realized when foreign armies are evacuated and indigenous elements assume the reigns of power. (Bush acknowledged this himself when he ordered Syrian troops to leave Lebanon) The character of the future Iraqi government will evolve from the groups who successfully expel the US forces from their country, not the American-approved stooges who rose to power through Washington’s “demonstration elections.” This may not suit the members of the Bush administration, but it’s a first step in the long process of reintegrating and rebuilding the Iraqi state. There’s no indication that the conduct of the occupation will change anytime soon. If anything, conditions have only worsened over the passed two years. The Bush administration hasn’t shown any willingness to loosen its grip on power either by internationalizing the occupation or by handing over real control to the newly elected Iraqi government. This suggests that the only hope for an acceptable solution to the suffering of the Iraqi people is a US defeat and the subsequent withdrawal of troops. Regrettably, we’re nowhere near that period yet.
Who’s Killing Whom?
It’s not the insurgency that’s killing American soldiers. It’s the self-serving strategy to control 12% of the world’s remaining petroleum and to project American military power throughout the region. This is the plan that has put American servicemen into harms way. The insurgency is simply acting as any resistance movement would, trying to rid their country of foreign invaders when all the political channels have been foreclosed. American’s would behave no differently if put in a similar situation and Iraqi troops were deployed in our towns and cities. Ultimately, the Bush administration bears the responsibility for the death of every American killed in Iraq just as if they had lined them up against a wall and shot them one by one. Their blood is on the administration’s hands not those of the Iraqi insurgency.
Expect another dictator or Mullah
We shouldn’t expect that, after a long period of internal struggle, the Iraqi leadership will embrace the values of democratic government. More likely, another Iraqi strongman, like Saddam, will take power. In fact, the rise of another dictator (or Ayatollah) is nearly certain given the catastrophic effects of the American-led war. Regardless, it is not the right of the US to pick-and-choose the leaders of foreign countries or to meddle in their internal politics. (The UN, as imperfect as it may be, is the proper venue for deciding how to affect the behavior of foreign dictators) At this point, we should be able to agree that the people of Iraq were better off under Saddam Hussein in every quantifiable way than they are today. Even on a physical level, the availability of work, clean water, electricity, sewage control, medicine, gas and food were far superior to the present situation. On a deeper level, the insecurity from the sporadic violence, the increasing brutality, and the gross injustice of the occupation has turned Iraq into a prison-state, where the amenities of normal life are nowhere to be found.
Support for the Bush policy is, by necessity, support for the instruments of coercion that are used to perpetuate that occupation. In other words, one must be willing to support the torture at Abu Ghraib, (which continues to this day according to Amnesty International) the neoliberal policies (which have privatized all of Iraq’s publicly owned industries, banks and resources) an American-friendly regime that excludes 20% (Sunnis) of the population and, worst of all, “the return-in full force of Saddam’s Mukhabarat agents, now posing as agents of the new Iraqi security and intelligence services.” (Pepe Escobar, “The Shadow Iraqi Government,” Asia Times, April 21, 2005)
Are Americans prepared to offer their support to the same brutal apparatus of state-terror that was employed by Saddam? (Rumsfeld’s unannounced visit to Baghdad last week was to make sure that the newly elected officials didn’t tamper with his counterinsurgency operatives, most of who were formerly employed in Saddam’s secret police)
We should also ask ourselves what the long-range implications of an American victory in Iraq would be. Those who argue that we cannot leave Iraq in a state of chaos don’t realize that stabilizing the situation on the ground is tantamount to an American victory and a vindication for the policies of aggression. This would be a bigger disaster than the invasion itself. The Bush administration is fully prepared to carry on its campaign of global domination by force unless an unmovable object like the Iraqi insurgency blocks its way. Many suspect that if it weren’t for the resistance the US would be in Tehran and Damascus right now. This, I think, is a rational assumption. For this reason alone, anti-war advocates should carefully consider the implications of so-called “humanitarian” objectives designed to pacify the population. “Normalizing” aggression by ameliorating its symptoms is the greatest dilemma we collectively face.
We should be clear about our feelings about the war and the occupation. The disparate Iraqi resistance is the legitimate manifestation of a national liberation movement. Its success is imperative to the principles of national sovereignty and self-determination, ideals that are revered in the Declaration of Independence. The toppling of foreign regimes and the destruction of entire civilizations cannot be justified in terms of “democracy” or any other cynically conjured-up ideal. The peace and security of the world’s people depends on the compliance of states with the clearly articulated standards of international law and the UN Charter. Both were deliberately violated by the invasion of Iraq. Crushing the insurgency will not absolve that illicit action; it will only increase the magnitude of the crime. Therefore we look for an American defeat in Iraq. Such a defeat would serve as a powerful deterrent to future unprovoked conflicts and would deliver a serious blow to the belief that aggression is a viable expression of foreign policy.
Mike Whitney lives in Washington state, and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other Articles by Mike Whitney
at the Bush News Conference