The mainstream media’s attenuation of information regarding Iraq has now rendered public discourse about US policy in Iraq incoherent and incomprehensible. In spite of rising death and tragedy in Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld claims “progress”. Instead of debating the criminality of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, the New York Times and Washington Post are discussing what Dick Cheney actually meant by “last throes.” And, of course, instead of finding a way to end the destructive campaign that the Bush administration inflicts on the Iraqi people, Americans are being asked for open-ended commitment to war. Completely obliterated in all this is the suppression by the tmainstream media of an entire side of the issue: the opposition. Opposition is always a check on hegemony, and the domination of the Bush administration’s point of view in the mainstream media has induced complacency on the part of American officials-to the point they do not have to make sense or speak the truth.
Clearly, opposition to the occupation of Iraq does not consist only of Iraqis, but many others . But with all due respect to the global moral support that the Iraqi people have in their resistance, we are concerned with here are what actual Iraqi intellectuals, professionals and community leaders who are connected to Iraq have to say of the situation.
What follows is an interview, (in what is hoped to be a series of interviews of individuals and groups,) with someone actually connected to Iraq and those opposed to the American occupation. I should add that while I make no secret of my moral and political support for the Iraqis’ right to defend themselves convincing the reader to adopt the same position is not the intention of the following discussion. It is simply to provide more information regarding one of the most important issues of our time.
Dr. Mohammad al-Obaidi is a member of the People’s Struggle Movement, more information on this group can be found at www.kifah.org in which links are provided to their political communiqué, available in English.
LAITH al-SAUD: Many in the Bush administration argue that the resistance is made up of former regime members who have been marginalized by the current situation and by so-called “foreign fighters.” What is your assessment and how does the resistance view the former regime?
Dr. Mohammad al-Obaidi: The Iraqi people in general and the Iraqi National Resistance, which is its real name and nature, know that this claim is part of the propaganda and psychological warfare being targeted at Iraqis. What is clear on the ground is that the resistance is made of a plurality of groups with a single aim namely to end the occupation of Iraq. The plurality of the resistance is a strength, not a weakness, as it shows that it is a nationalist resistance where being Iraqi trumps any sort of sectarianism religious, ethnic, ideological or otherwise. It is well known in Iraq that the resistance is comprised of all sects and segments of Iraqi society: Islamists, Ba’athists, patriotic nationalists, and above all Arab Sunnis and Shii’s.
The Americans claimed before the last assault on Fallujah that the majority of the freedom fighters are so-called “foreign” Arabs and Muslims. (Though, after the inhumane destruction of Fallujah American officials openly said that [non-Iraqi] Arab fighters represent no more that 2% of the total number of freedom fighters in Iraq.) Most important, however, is the practical and logical conclusion that the Iraqis come to. When the US invaded Iraq she brought with her troops from all around the world. From thousands of miles away , from every quarter, the US employed several nations to occupy our country, so why can’t our brother Arabs come to our country to help us defend our land and kick the occupiers out? This is a very logical question that I would like to ask the American people.
As for the resistance’s view of Saddam’s regime, I think that all resistance factions condemn the regime for what happened in Iraq, but in the meantime we must keep in mind that the regime is gone now and forever and the Americans cannot hold Iraq hostage with the memory of the past.
LS: How should the world distinguish between those groups who belong to the Iraqi National Resistance and those who do not?
MO: By actions. It is known to all Iraqis that any operation carried out by the resistance targets the occupation and the security forces. It must be kept in mind that at this point in time, with the absence of any true sovereignty in Iraq, the security forces are merely an extension of the occupation itself. Those operations that do otherwise and target civilians can be said for certain to not belong to the National Resistance. For example, hundreds upon hundreds of university professors, military pilots, scientists and doctors have been killed in Iraq. What possible benefit would the resistance have in attacking our country’s most talented and educated people? It is clear to all Iraqis that there are foreign fingers pulling the triggers to commit these crimes and murder the human resources of Iraq, all the while attempting to steal the country’s natural resources.
LS: Although many opposition groups in Iraq have repeatedly and explicitly condemned the targeting of innocent civilians in the country, the Bush administration has continually charged that this is part of the resistance’s strategy. What is your response?
MO: Once again, this has always been part of the propaganda of the occupiers. As I have said no resistance groups has ever targeted civilians or condoned it. All groups have clearly said that their targets are not and never will be the Iraqi people. How could it? The National Resistance is made up of the Iraqi people. Yet the question remains why do the occupiers not say anything of the killings being carried out by the militias that have been allowed to operate in our country, such as the peshmerga and the Badr Brigade? We have repeated reports that such militias have targeted clerics, worshippers and other Iraqis who have opposed the occupation and the current puppet government in Iraq. Yet the occupying powers and the international community in general have remained completely silent.
LS: How have Iraqis who you have spoken to in the country described the nature of the occupation and the resistance?
MO: Allow me to answer your question with another question. How would anyone feel if they had lost a loved one to an aggressive invasion and occupation? There are hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who find themselves in such a position and have lost dear ones to the hands of the occupiers. This is not to mention the prisoners, both men and women, who have families in the thousands. The destructiveness of the occupation affects the vast majority of Iraqis in a negative way and thus they are fed up with the presence of occupiers on our land. The resistance is not short on recruits to join them, as it is not difficult to find people sympathetic with the goals of the resistance in the country. Quite simply there are hundred of thousands of people in Iraq who are ready to sacrifice their lives for their country.
Let me add one more thing. How do you think Iraqis would react when they do not have electricity and clean water for many days in the heat of our summer? It has been more than two years of occupation and yet the infrastructure of Iraq remains in shambles. Please do not claim that this is due to sabotage by the armed resistance, as we know where the resources are going and how they are being spent. It is a collective punishment to all Iraqis, particularly in Baghdad and other areas where the resistance is very active.
LS: You suggest that the US military and administration has used methods of collective punishment in Iraq. What evidence can be shared with the world that this is happening in Iraq?
MO: I am not suggesting, Laith. I am confirming that this is what is happening in Iraq. No one can deny what the US military has done in Falluja, Sammarra, Ramadi, Karbala, Heet, Qaim and other towns and cities. People have been denied water, electricity, medical treatment and other services. This has not only been confirmed by Iraqi eyewitnesses on the ground, which should be enough, but by international services such as the Red Crescent and others. Is that not collective punishment? Think of Baghdad for a moment. People in Baghdad never have electricity for three or four continuous days or clean running water for a week’s time. Reuters has published photos of American soldiers swimming in the cool and clean water of a pool in one of Saddam’s palaces; let the world compare this to the many photos of Iraqi children fighting for clean water.
In addition, we also have many reports of American soldiers sabotaging main water stations. Take for example, the main water station in al-Karkh outside of Baghdad, eyewitnesses testify that there was a huge explosion just minutes after US soldiers left the site. Why does the world not raise concern over these accounts? Is it because they are being offered by Iraqis? It is time that the international community started to listen to Iraqis and not the lies of an occupying power that has never been shown to tell the truth.
LS: Donald Rumsfeld recently claimed that the resistance lacks unity and has no vision for the future of the country? In this regard what are the long-term goals of the resistance?
MO: Rumsfeld’s claim is absolutely not true. The resistance factions are first and foremost united in ending the occupation and all traces of it. All resistance groups, which maintain strong ties and communications at all levels, believe they have a responsibility to all Iraqi people and are committed to defending the rights of the Iraqi people. It is very important that Iraq is completely liberated of all traces of the occupation and its effects; including the political, legal and social consequences of the occupation. As for the long-term goals, we seek a unified (non-federal), pluralistic and democratic Iraq where all Iraqis are thought of in terms of citizenship rather than ethnicity or sect. We are not opposed to elections. We are opposed to elections under occupation as they are tainted by the powers and pressures of the occupying forces. If anyone has questions as to the goals of the Iraqi National Resistance all they have to do is listen to the public spokespersons of the opposition in Iraq. The goals of the resistance have always been made clear.
LS: What, then, is the resistance’s position towards the current government in Iraq?
MO: First of all the resistance, which represents the will of the majority of Iraqis is certain that the election was a violation of international law. International charters that regulate the relationship between occupiers and occupied do not give occupying authorities the mandate to instigate a change in the country’s social, economic, and political structure.
The election has changed the political composition of Iraq to suit the interests of the occupation of the authorities. The changes led, as we can now see, to ethnic, sectarian and religious divisions that the Iraqi people have succeeded in avoiding. Historically, Iraqis have always co-existed without any consideration of sectarianism or ethnic division; only after the country was stricken by the US-led occupation did the specter of civil war loom. These division serve the purposes of the occupying power as it is clearly and beyond any doubt an exercise in divide and conquer.
The resistance, both political and martial, see that all steps have been taken to secure full US domination of decision makers in Iraq. A look at the electoral process and the composition of the current national council reveals that the election’s main mission and accomplishment was the installation of some of the country’s most notorious politicians who have often spoken proudly of their links to international intelligence agencies. Take for example Iyad Allawi and Ahmed Chalabi. The election has given power to every politician who has assisted the invaders and collaborated with them to consolidate the occupation; therefore the resistance confidently asserts that the political decision-making process in Iraq is taking place in the US embassy inside Baghdad and that the elected government is not more than a vehicle to carry out Washington’s decisions.
It is difficult for any sensible person to believe that the US would give up its domination of Iraq after spending billions of dollars and sacrificing the lives of hundreds of its soldiers. Iraqis never believed that the US would simply allow free and democratic elections that could, and would, result in a government that would make its first priority ending the occupation. In fact, the main purpose of the election process was to secure a government that will facilitate long-lasting agreements with the US to keep its forces on Iraqi soil and transform the country into an American colony.
The US administration has worked hard to portray the Iraq election as a political achievement to cover over the scar that the war has left on its credibility. Washington has used the election card to pull the wool over the eyes of the international community and prevent it from seeing the tragic consequences that the war has left on the Iraqi people. For all these reasons, the resistance will also fight the current puppet government the same way they are fighting the occupiers.
LAITH al-SAUD is an academic researcher and lecturer in the United States. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org