Iraq and its resistance By Stephen Gowans
January 27, 2005
The question of whether Iraqis have a right to resist the occupation of their country by US-led forces is clear: they do. The question of whether they have a right to resist occupation by any means is academic.
The fact of the matter is that occupied people will, and always have, resisted occupations. And since poor people do not have access to helicopter gunships, tanks and bombers — the tools of the occupiers — they resort to the means at their disposal.
Those means are often gruesome. Some say they‚re barbaric and uncivilized. The US government calls them terrorist, as it does any violent or armed challenge to exploitation by US corporations, the US military and its proxies. (Not surprisingly, Washington has a far more relaxed attitude toward armed challenges to exploitation by its rivals, evidenced recently in members of the US foreign policy establishment importuning Russia to hold talks with Chechen guerillas.)
That the methods of the occupiers are equally, if not more, barbaric, is granted, including by those who deplore the methods of the resistance, and wish a pox on both houses. This is a position regularly taken by moralists in the West, whose purpose in washing their hands of both sides, other than to make a show of their piety, is never clear. Uncivilized and barbaric things happen, in a regular, ineluctable, law-like, fashion, and deploring them doesn‚t change the conditions that give rise to them or make them any less likely to happen tomorrow.
It is also ineluctable that the Iraqi government formed after the elections on Sunday will be an agent of US policy.
The electoral arena invariably favors groups with access to substantial resources — in this case, the resources provided by the US-led occupation and such US-funded agencies as USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy, which operate to funnel money to pro-US political parties and organizations. The money is funneled to these groups for one purpose: So they‚ll get elected to implement US policy.
If it happens that the outcome of the election is not entirely favorable to the pursuit of US aims, the victor will be forced to step aside in favor of a reliable pro-US operative. In any election, the outcome ˆ whether in the final vote tally or in subsequent actions to overturn the election, if necessary — is ultimately determined by whomever effectively holds power, and in Iraq, that party is the United States.
Indeed, it is almost axiomatic to say that the only kind of government that could possibly be elected under a US-led military occupation, and allowed to stand, is a pro-US one. To think otherwise is terribly na´ve and ignorant of the regular, historical pattern of the United States and Britain bringing conservative, pro-capitalist, pro-Anglo-American leaders to power in countries they claimed to have “liberated.‰ This happened in Greece, France, Belgium and Korea during World War II, and in Vietnam later.
The purpose of Sunday‚s election is to establish a legitimate basis in law for the transfer of Iraqi assets to US corporations, including the oil majors. Up to now, there has been no legitimate (hence, elected) Iraqi government in place to ratify the sell-off of state-owned enterprises and oil rights to US and British companies, and therefore no legal basis on which to carry out the annexation of the Iraqi economy.
True, Washington had no legal authority to invade the country either, but the question of title to property, and the resolution of conflicting property claims, is only resolvable by the authority of an Iraqi government which is recognized as sovereign in law.
So, with an election furnishing their legal bona fides, the authorities in Baghdad can pose as the legitimate representatives of the Iraqi people, while acting as agents of US investors and shareholders.
Far from restoring de facto sovereignty to Iraqis, this guarantees they will be plunged into an abyss of perpetual dependency. If all goes according to plan, Iraq‚s natural resources and economic infrastructure ˆ its public transportation, electricity, telecommunications, water and oil industries ˆ will be transferred to private American and British hands before the occupation comes to a close.
At that point, the country will be nothing more than an economic colony of the United States, disgorging its resources and wealth for the benefit of US investors and shareholders, while settling into the usual pattern characteristic of exploited, dependent countries. There will be a small, affluent comprador stratum, a teeming surplus population, and a bevy of sweatshops dotting the banks of the Euphrates owned by contractors employed by foreign, mainly US, corporate titans.
The resistance is the only force capable of disrupting this plan.
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