The gloating in DC over the death of the mystery man al-Zarqawi is certain to continue for awhile. After all, when was the last time the Pentagon and White House had something go their way in Iraq? Even the normally staid New York Times couldn’t contain itself from a bit of braggadocio in its report on the killing, tying the death of al-Zarqawi to a potentially bright future for Kamal al-Maliki, the current prime minister of the Green Zone, chosen by the US Embassy in Iraq. George Bush and Tony Blair were even more ecstatic, praising the US military action that killed the man and telling Iraqis that this death meant that their resistance to the US/UK plans for the region was futile. As al-Maliki put it: “They (those Iraqis waging armed resistance) should stop now,” he said. “They should review their situation and resort to logic while there is still time.” Those are pretty brave words from a man whose life depends on the tens of thousands of foreign troops occupying his country.
What does this death mean for the resistance? While the answer to this question remains to be seen, it hopefully signals a decrease in the sectarian killings al-Zarqawi was blamed for and seemed to encourage. The crusade against the Shia undertaken in his name will hopefully diminish. If so, the possibility of a united movement against the occupation seems to increase. The least likely scenario is the one suggested by Mr. al-Maliki–that the resistance in all its forms will give up and accept the presence of a government that they see as a puppet of Washington and that they have spent years resisting. If the current prime minister continues to issue statements like the one above–statements that sound as if they were written by some Pentagon public relations hack who has watched way too many Star Trek:The Next Generation episodes–the resistance to his regime and the occupation that supports it may even increase.
It will be interesting to see what happens within the resistance in the next few weeks. Those elements that have the expulsion of foreign occupiers as their primary goal may find it easier to organize across sectarian lines now that al-Zarqawi and his ultra-sectarian forces have been dealt this military blow. Muqtada al-Sadr and those nominally Sunni organizations that have provided logistical and perhaps even military support to each other have an opportunity to put forth their message of national sovereignty and a united Iraq. If the US continues its campaign of killing and destruction most graphically represented by the massacre in Haditha and the earlier destruction of Fallujah, these sentiments could move into the legislature in Baghdad, even if it is primarily a showcase body with its allegiances tied to those that sign their paychecks and guard their lives.
On the other hand, the time for such a united front against the occupation and its puppet government may be too late. There is a likelihood that the forces of sectarian hatred have already done so much damage to the fragile nation that was Iraq that those hopes for a united nation without foreign occupation have been destroyed forever. Some folks even suggest that this was part of Washington’s plan all along. Perhaps the greatest counter to this latter possibility is the strong sense of Iraqi national identity and its parallel history of resistance to occupation that continues to shine through in statements from the various elements of the popular movements and the armed resistance.
When I think about the situation in Iraq, the line from a skit by the comedy group The Firesign Theatre often comes to mind. It goes something like this. “We would like to thank the US Army, Navy and Marines, without whom none of this would have been necessary.” For those of us in Britain and the United States, nothing has changed. The task remains the same. The need to continue building an ever larger and determined movement against the occupation of Iraq remains. Our demand for an immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all occupying forces from that country does not change. Bush and Blair can bluster all they want. The reality is that the occupying troops need to come home now.
RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s new collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. He can be reached at: email@example.com