Iraqis Defy Both U.S. and Al Qaeda
February 1, 2006
By Shane Brinton
The Bush administration, U.S. military commanders, and the corporate
media have frequently used terms like "terrorists" and "bad guys"
to paint in broad strokes the many diverse groups participating
in any form of armed struggle in Iraq. We have repeatedly been asked
to believe that the mysterious Jordanian-born leader of Al Qaeda
in Mesopotamia, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, is the mastermind behind a
sinister Iraqi insurgency, hell-bent on destroying Iraq, as well
as all of western civilization.
Maybe in Zarqawi's dreams. But recent evidence points to a deep
and violent animosity toward Al Qaeda within major sections of the
Iraqi resistance. The New York Times (Jan 7, 2006) reported
that homegrown Iraqi resistance fighters are not only engaging US
forces in combat, but also taking on Al Qaeda. These clashes between
the resistance and terrorists which have been occurring throughout
the area known as the Sunni Triangle have reportedly seen a significant
spike in recent months.
The Times interviewed Abu Omar, the assumed name of a member
of the Islamic Army, who said that the actions of Al Qaeda "defame
the name of the noble resistance inside Iraq." Most Iraqis seem
to share Omar's sentiments. Many blame Al Qaeda for kidnappings
and brutal attacks on civilians.
Not surprisingly, Washington is hoping to put this situation to
use. Those who used to be "terrorists" are now, in some contexts,
being referred to as "nationalists." Informal negotiations are taking
place between "the coalition" and certain elements of the resistance.
An unnamed Western diplomat articulated the strategy: "If we could
reach an understanding with each other, meaning the resistance,
as they call it, and the coalition, then they will in turn take
care of Zarqawi and the terrorists."
Some former Baathists may decide to use the current situation
as a bargaining chip to buy themselves amnesty or government jobs,
but it is highly unlikely that negotiations will bring about an
end to the resistance. A majority of Iraqis want troops out immediately.
While not all of them support the armed resistance, most aren't
willing to actively appose countrymen who are engaged in a war against
a foreign occupier.
In fact, while some in the West have hoped that a larger turnout
in the recent Iraqi elections would mean a weakening of the resistance,
almost the opposite has happened. Iraqis – even Sunnis who considered
the elections a sham, and have since challenged the results – came
out in droves to vote against the occupation. The resistance did
not attack voters. Some resistance groups even pledged to defend
voters from Al Qaeda attacks. Ultimately, the U.S.-imposed elections
(which were in fact a grossly undemocratic sham) have, ironically,
provided a somewhat more visible political face to the resistance
and the broader movement to end the occupation.
In the mean time, Washington is under pressure from an angry American
public, more than half of whom are ready for an immediate withdrawal
of troops. Bush has been consulting with advisers and lawmakers
– both Republicans and conservative Democrats – to find new ways
to market his agenda for Iraq. According to Britain's Sunday
Times (Dec 31, 2005) air strikes are being stepped up in hopes
of subduing the resistance and lessening the burden on ground troops.
Bush's advisors know that the anti-occupation movements in both
the US and Iraq are primarily driven by self interest. We want our
kids to stop dying and come home. Iraqis want their kids to stop
dying and they want their home back. Air strikes, "bipartisan" strategy
sessions, and negotiations with those close to the resistance are
an attempt to alleviate that political pressure.
Even folks like Congressman John Murtha have it wrong. Moving
troops into other countries in the region is an awful idea that
would likely spread conflict to other parts of the Arab world. Such
efforts by Murtha and fellow Democrats, no matter how admirable
and well intentioned, are ultimately the last ditch proposals of
habitually hawkish party regulars, clinging to dreams of American
dominance in the region.
We saw authentic patriotism after 9/11. Before Bush ever started
spewing superpatriotic venom, Americans from all backgrounds united
in national mourning and solidarity. It was a powerful thing. So
it really shouldn't be so hard for anybody – even Republicans –
to understand what's happening in Iraq. We don't have to like the
idea that America's sons and daughters are being killed, but at
a more objective level, we have to acknowledge the nature of foreign
aggression and what it does to a country and a people.
The Iraqi resistance is gaining ground because it is not a terrorist
front, but rather a growing struggle for national liberation, albeit
an untidy and fractured one. Iraqis are clearly willing to continue
fighting U.S. troops, Al Qaeda, or any other force that seeks to
infringe on their sovereignty.
Shane Brinton, 19, is a college student, writer, community
activist, and local elected official in Humboldt County, CA. His
blog is Revolutionary