Democratic Underground

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 Patriotism.

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