Many antiwar leaders blamed John Kerry’s defeat on the antiwar movement’s failure to connect with America’s conservative "heartland"–and have since followed Democratic Party liberals as they tack rightward to orient to this target voting base.
Indeed, liberal commentator Geov Parrish leveled harsh criticism at March 19 antiwar protesters in the Seattle Weekly, belittling antiwar rallies as "a pep rally for activists." Parrish argued, "Opposition to this war should be rooted in what is best for this country."
But this reasoning can easily backfire on the antiwar movement, since "this country" is the U.S. Empire. Already, the antiwar Web site MoveOn.org has pandered so far to the "we can’t cut and run" crowd that opposition to the Iraq occupation disappeared from its site.
Outright hostility to the Iraqi resistance now reaches far inside the antiwar movement, undermining the notion that Iraqis have the right to determine their own future, free of U.S. intervention.
This hostility was on display at the Washington, D.C., United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) national teach-in on March 24. During the discussion, audience member Jeff Skinner mildly suggested, "The antiwar movement should take up…Iraqis’ right to resist the occupation." He added that his argument "is definitely not a glorification or a hope that American soldiers continue to die in Iraq," offering the parallel of the alliance between the Vietnamese resistance and U.S. troops as an example of the common interests between the two.
Nevertheless, the panelists responded indignantly to Skinner’s suggestion. Global justice activist Naomi Klein chastised, "We shouldn’t get involved in offering blanket cheerleading for the resistance…There are dueling fundamentalists in Iraq…and [some] are enemies of the Iraqi people."
But shouldn’t Iraqis themselves decide who are "enemies of the Iraqi people?" So far, Iraqis have identified their main enemy only as the U.S. occupation. UFPJ staffer Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou replied to Skinner, "For [supporting the resistance] to be the primary point of unity…would disintegrate us," although Skinner never suggested that as a primary point of unity.
Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) member Patrick Resta asserted angrily: "I really can’t let that come and go about being a cheerleader for the insurgency…" (as if answering Skinner, rather than echoing Klein’s caricature of Skinner’s question). "[T]o advocate that as a way to end this war is really disgusting and morally repugnant…Most of the troops dying are dying from roadside bombs, mortars and rockets that are fired from up to a mile away."
The Bush administration has long reduced support for Iraqis’ right to resist occupation to welcoming the killing of U.S. soldiers. Antiwar leaders should know better.
As author and activist Tariq Ali argued recently, "How could a resistance be pretty when the occupation is so brutal and ugly. The senseless violence inflicted upon the Iraqi people by the occupation results in a violent response." Ali also points out, "The left is weak in Iraq because the Iraqi Communist Party backed the occupation and served in the puppet government."
Ghazwan Al-Mukhtar, a long-time opponent of both Saddam Hussein and U.S. intervention in Iraq, told Kevin Zeese in an upcoming interview for DemocracyRising.us: "It’s not the Mussabu Al Zarqawi and Abu, I don’t know who, or the terrorists coming from the outside of Iraq. It is the indigenous Iraqi resistance. While we were told that Saddam Hussein was torturing us, we are finding after 22 months that the Americans are torturing us…and now we discover that the Iraqi forces, the ING is torturing us."
"Troops out now" is a demand that encompasses the interests of both U.S. troops and of Iraqis fighting to determine their own future. Yet in the heart of U.S. imperialism, Iraqis’ right to resist occupation has unnecessarily divided the antiwar movement. While a broad-based movement must be the goal, this cannot be the excuse for diluting the politics of the antiwar movement so that its principles become indistinguishable from those of the apologists for U.S. occupation.