The recent abductions in Iraq of four Christian Peace Team activists produced two reactions within the American antiwar movement. Some forces, exemplified by the * * International Solidarity Movement, assumed the Iraqi Resistance was behind the abduction, and condemned the action. Others like Kurt Nimmo, who publishes frequently on the Uruknet site, speculated that the abduction could have only been the result of occupation ‘black ops.’
We need only remember the October arrest of British soldiers dressed in Arab clothing and loaded with explosives — not to mention the many bombings of Shiite mosques and other civilian venues denounced by the Association of Muslim Scholars as occupation efforts to sow distrust among Iraqis — to see why Nimmo would point the finger at ‘black ops’. Unfortunately, all of our speculation won’t help us determine who was behind this abduction, because the occupation’s efforts to censor the resistance, or drown its message in the cacophony of its ‘black ops’ propaganda, makes it difficult for us to be certain of what is going on sometimes. However, regardless of who is behind it, we need to consider the possibility that there could be instances where resistance organizations would have legitimate reason to oppose the presence of some nonbelligerent entities in their countries, like peace groups from an aggressor country.
A reading of the CPT web site suggests that there very well could be legitimate reasons for Iraqis engaged in armed struggle to find fault with that organization’s role in their country. The CPT not only engages in nonviolent protest, but promotes it to the Iraqis. They do this, not for the purpose of adding to the arsenal of tactics which should be at the disposal of any resistance movement, but for the purpose of replacing that armed resistance altogether. They have stated that their role in Iraq is to “take the initiative from those who would do violence.” That would include the legitimate defensive violence employed by Iraqis against the war criminals and thieves who slaughter and torture them, in order to plunder their country without hindrance.
In addition, the manner in which the CPT goes about seeking relief for Iraqis abused by the American military, takes them from the line of nonviolence and human rights advocacy, directly into the realm of collusion with the occupation.
For instance, the 2004 CPT * report offers us various descriptions of meetings between their activists and occupation forces, where the military is told by them that if it ends its abuses and excesses, their security situation will improve.
This same report describes a January 24, 2004 meeting with Ambassador Richard Jones, (at the time Deputy Administrator and Chief Policy Officer of the Coalition Provisional Authority) and other American occupation personnel.
In this meeting, Ambassador Jones discussed the creation of an executive board to work on the human rights abuses experienced by Iraqis. The CPT suggested that Ambassador Jones’s staff arrange for regular meetings with Iraqi Human Rights lawyers, and “involve them in the planning for the new justice system in Iraq.”
Before the meeting was adjourned, the CPT says: “We left information with them about contacting three such groups that we work with on a regular basis and offered to help make initial connections with them.”
First of all, this may come as a shock to the CPT, but colonial occupiers have no right to security; least of all when their invasion hasn’t been prompted by even the semblance of provocation, and when no war crime has been considered too heinous when it comes to terrorizing those who oppose it. How can people who claim to be against the occupation of Iraq offer advice to occupying troops about what might improve their security, even as a carrot for better treatment of the occupied population? What occupier is going to feel compelled to leave a country where it’s not welcomed, if its soldiers feel safe to trample about at their leisure?
Secondly, that “new justice system for Iraq” which the CPT is so pleased to have Iraqis help design, is the result of an illegal and unprovoked invasion. Its purpose is to legalize that invasion, and the plunder of resources it was meant to secure.
Thirdly, anti-colonial resistance movements require the support of their people, and their commitment to protect their fighters. This support and protection is in part guaranteed by the people’s refusal to dialogue with their enemies, or to settle for anything less than their complete and utter defeat, and ultimate expulsion from their countries. The CPT’s promotion of dialogue between Iraqis and their occupiers, and the stick and carrot approach from the other side that often accompanies such dialogue, compromises the security of the Resistance, because it presents the potential for infiltration.
Fourth, promoting the collaboration of Iraqis in the design of any structure of the occupier is as good as promoting their acceptance and validation of the occupation of their country. Any relief that would result from this kind of collaboration with the occupiers would only serve to make the occupation palatable, thereby facilitating the U.S.’s hold on Iraq and its resources. This would give a resistance movement all the reason in the world to see the CPT agenda as a threat to their struggle for the liberation of their country, and to go after that organization.
Few would find fault with some of the CPT’s actions in support of Iraqis, like their attempts to relieve the suffering caused by U.S. sponsored sanctions, and their willingness to serve as human shields to prevent the invasion of their country. But that does not give their organization the right to collect on their efforts by influencing the Iraqi response to their invaders, so as to make life safer and more manageable for them. For anything that citizens from an aggressor country do on behalf of people attacked by their government is owed to them, by virtue of the fact that it is their government who is pursuing their victimization. If the CPT and other American pacifists are so determined to see the plight of their occupation soldiers as somehow equal to that of the people they invade and brutalize, they could at least be principled about the manner in which they pursue their safety. They could encourage them to desert the occupation of Iraq, instead of trying to tie the hands of people who barely have enough to defend themselves with.
Relief for prisoners and other Iraqis abused by the occupation should not have to wait until the U.S. is forced to withdraw from Iraq. But there’s no reason that Iraqis should have to trade that relief for the security of their movement, or their right to dictate the terms of the U.S.’s withdrawal. Here too the CPT’s advocacy for civilians and prisoners is problematic at best, as they create a distinction between the “innocent” and “unjustly” imprisoned — read those who do not combat the occupiers — and Resistance fighters, which could undermine the support they require. Many of the objectors to the war in Iraq have described said war as criminal, because it was unprovoked, because it violates the sovereignty of the Iraqis, because of the many abominable war crimes the Americans and British have engaged in throughout its course, and because to prosecute it they’ve violated the international law they pay so much lip service to. If we truly believe that, then we have to consider all Iraqis intervened with by U.S./British forces as unjustly targeted, be they combatants, randomly brutalized civilians, or persons mistaken as Resistance fighters.
As war criminals, international rogues and intruders, those occupiers lack the moral and political legitimacy to hold any Iraqi. Anyone wishing to alleviate the suffering of Iraqi civilians and prisoners should therefore pursue that work under the leadership of the Resistance, so that the relief is not obtained at the expense of their struggle for liberation, and doesn’t produce artificial divisions among the population, that would compromise the support that all engaged in that struggle need and deserve.
There are those who would argue that the CPT’s actions in Iraq are well-intentioned. Perhaps they are the product of the paternalism and naiveté that is so prevalent in the American peace movement, rather than outright malice, and investment in their colonial/settler privileges. But the movement here could have sought their release without acting as another mouthpiece of the occupation’s demonization of the Iraqi Resistance, or placing their need for freedom and safety above that of Iraqis. They could have demanded that the occupation secure their release by freeing the prisoners the abductors want liberated. Their failure to do that, demonstrates once again, the self-indulgence, white exceptionalism, colonial arrogance, and anti-Arab bigotry that have driven this movement’s response to people fighting colonial conquest in the Middle East. The International Solidarity Movement showed its unabashed opportunism, when it attempted to bolster its anti Iraqi Resistance stance by distributing a communiqué, apparently redacted by Hamas, demanding the release of the CPT’ers.
The ISM has never supported those in the Palestinian armed resistance, who sacrifice their lives for the liberation of their people. Yet here they are, hiding behind Hamas, in order to take a swipe at another resistance movement, on behalf of citizens of their colonialist regime.
If American peace activists are at all interested in making their work relevant to people fighting colonial occupation, they might want to take a page from Ms. Ruth Reynolds, a U.S. pacifist who worked in Puerto Rico, when the Nationalist Party was leading our struggle for independence. Ms. Reynolds worked closely with the Nationalist Party. Though, as a pacifist, she chose not to partake of the party’s efforts to organize insurrection against the United States, she did not treat the Puerto Rican people to the disrespect and colonial arrogance of attempting to dictate our methods of struggle. Her work to end violence in Puerto Rico was directed to the ones responsible for it — the U.S. government who entered our country at gunpoint, and continues to repress our people in order to secure their stay there. Her work, and the work of the Nationalist Party, did not lead to our independence, as other forces derailed the Nationalists’ efforts with the “nonviolent solution” of the “Commonwealth” status, which to this date keeps our country in the hands of the U.S. government. But the support work Ms. Reynolds did for our movement is greatly valued to this day by independistas throughout our country. This is the kind of support that Iraqis, Palestinians, and all peoples fighting colonial conquest are owed. Anything less is simply useless and irrelevant. Any support work which requires that colonized people wait till their aggressors are good and ready to stop their violence, or that they settle for anything less than full restitution of the lands and resources that have been stolen from them, is no support work at all. It’s betrayal and collusion with colonial aggression, which is no less harmful than the bullets and bombs employed to force the subjugation of the colonized.
* The CPT Report went to U.S. Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III and U.S. Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez