Sympathy for Shia Militias?

Image by أخٌ‌في‌الل.

Quick hypothetical: Let’s say that you are a member of a disenfranchised global minority, and some pompous foreign superpower is building bases all over your ancestral homeland, a homeland which they have spent decades bombing to smithereens. Then let’s say that this same superpower decided to use these bastard bases to annihilate another disenfranchised global minority. Under such extraordinary circumstances don’t you think that the rational and moral response that you and your kin might take is to gather whatever arms you have available and confront these hostile invaders? Don’t you think that under such extreme and extenuating circumstances that you might accept weapons from pretty much anyone willing to provide them? And would doing any of these things make you or your neighbors the “terrorists” in this scenario?

You don’t have to answer all of those questions right now. In fact, all I really want to know is can you relate. Because I can and it’s getting downright infuriating feeling like I’m the only one. I may be a decadent gender bending infidel, but I am also very familiar with the condition of being stepped on and if some pompous foreign army was using an illegal base in Altoona to carpet bomb Queer kids in Jamaica, I would light that motherfucker up with whatever ordinance I could get my hands on. This is what the Shiite militias of Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen are doing right now, and Kali help me, I don’t believe that they deserve to be vilified and annihilated for it.

There are some 3,400 American troops in that region. 900 in Syria and 2,500 in Iraq, and as bad as I may feel for the misfortunate life choices of our brave men and women in uniform, they are not there handing out stickers and bubblegum. They are there to serve as an advance force for America’s various imperial enterprises in the region, and right now that means assisting the American puppet regime of Israel in committing genocide against the people of the Gaza Strip. The Shia militias in the region that have formed over the last two decades to deal with the fallout from our post-9/11 hijinks have decided that they aren’t OK with this, especially considering that the Americans assisting it have long occupied their nations in blatant disregard for every international law and rules-based order in the book.

Over 160 attacks on US bases have been launched by various Shiite militias in Iraq and Syria alone since America’s home base in the Pentagon began supplying Israel with the ordinances they require to flatten hospitals. These rebel forces have mostly used cheap drones and artillery, some of it undeniably supplied by the only truly autonomous Shia republic in the region, and most of these attacks have been little more than pot shots lobbed at the imperial parades of the powerful in order to send them a simple message of anguish from the powerless. Until recently, these attacks have resulted in little more than minor head injuries for a handful of occupying troops. Tragically, that changed recently with the drone strike on Tower 22. But just what the hell is Tower 22 exactly, anyway?

A shadowy collection of trailers just this side of Jordan’s border with Syria, Tower 22 houses some 350 American soldiers allegedly there to fight ISIS. But the last time I checked, what was left of ISIS in that region was in shambles and it was our new enemies in these Shiite militias who put them there. So, what the fuck are all those troops still doing on the Syrian border then and why does Jordan seem downright frightened even to acknowledge their existence?

American troops are at Tower 22 to facilitate the 900 American troops illegally occupying the oil fields of Eastern Syria with some help from our own proxies in the region. Our reason for this illegal occupation, as expressed explicitly by none other than Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, is to prevent the government of Syria from rebuilding its shattered civilian infrastructure after a decade of fighting ISIS, who, let us not forget, began as a loose knit coalition of western and Saudi proxies themselves.

So, let me play that back for you just one more time. The United States is using bases typically reserved for starving out indignant Shiites in Syria to facilitate the wholesale annihilation of Palestinians in Gaza and who are the fucking terrorists here? Why, the scary brown people of course. This is why our liberal progressive president, Joe Biden, has seen it fit to respond to this “terrorism” with more goddamn terrorism, because that method of madness has really worked out smashingly over the last couple of decades. 125 bombs were delivered to 85 targets by nuclear capable B-1B bombers in the opening salvo alone, killing at least 40 people, including civilians, across Iraq and Syria.

But it’s OK everybody, this isn’t a war crime! Those dead bodies don’t belong to real people, just Iranian proxies.

Let me rip the needle off the record right now and call bullshit. The majority of America’s targets belong to an organization known as the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, who have taken credit for most but not all of the recent attacks on US bases (no one has officially taken credit for Tower 22.) The Islamic Resistance is essentially just an alter ego for the extracurricular activities of the Popular Mobilization Front and the PMF is a coalition of various Shia militias that organized with support from the US as well as Iran to confront the Islamic State in 2014 when that American sired Frankenstein menace was actively engaged in committing heinous acts of genocide against Shiite Muslims. Since all but eliminating that contagion, these militias have essentially been integrated into Iraq’s military.

While these organizations have certainly received aid and advice from Iran, they have also become quite notorious for rejecting the latter. American officials have been quoted on numerous occasions observing that, much like the Houthis and Hezbollah, these organizations do pretty much whatever the fuck they want. That’s because Iran is far from the regional powerhouse that its enemies project it to be. Iran is a heavily sanctioned, cash-strapped economic catastrophe, lurching from one financial crisis to the next. They have a bustling industry of well-made and very affordable weapons, and they hand them out like candy, but they lack anything in the way of the institutional gravitas that it would take to manage a puppet army consisting of every Shia with a gun across three continents.

But there is one thing that the Islamic Republic does supply militias across the region with other than drones and rockets and it is the only export that America is truly terrified of. Iran may be a corrupt and crippled mess of a country but much like other American boogeymen like Vietnam and Cuba, they are the product of a successful popular uprising that totally shattered the illusion of western invincibility in the region.

In 1979, a loose-knit coalition of students, clerics, feminists, and communists overthrew the Pahlavi Dynasty and its fascist reigning thug, the Shah, at the height of the Cold War with zero support from any superpower in the Global North. At the time, Iran maintained the fifth largest military on earth and one of the most vicious police states of the twentieth century with America picking up the tab for all of it in exchange for unfettered access to the nation’s oil.

This revolution was humiliating and unforgivable to the west. The Iranian people had taken the tainted gift of an Americanized secular society and shattered it on the floor in favor of something shockingly indigenous. This is what inspires populations of Shiites as diverse as the Zaydis in Yemen and the Alawites in Syria and this is what America is currently at war with, not Iran, but the ghost of the Islamic Revolution and the spirit of anti-imperialist resistance that has defined the Shia sect since they first revolted against the Caliphs who inherited Muhammed’s throne.

You shouldn’t have to be a true believer in anything but radical self-determination to relate and you shouldn’t have to have skin on the sand to feel the pain of any people besieged by tyranny. I guess the only question that I’m really asking here is where is your empathy? Because mine is with the poor and that means having a little sympathy for those dastardly Shia militias.

Nicky Reid is an agoraphobic anarcho-genderqueer gonzo blogger from Central Pennsylvania and assistant editor for Attack the System. You can find her online at Exile in Happy Valley.