News and opinions on situation in Iraq
23/05/04 Left's failure to support Iraqi resistance by James Petras

Falluja, Baghdad, Ramadi, Nasiriya – an entire people has risen to confront the colonial occupation army, its mercenaries, clients, and collaborators. First in massive peaceful protests, they were massacred by US, British, Spanish and Polish troops: Bare hands against tanks and machineguns. The armed resistance, in the beginning a minority now indisputably the most popular force, backed by millions. The colonial armies, fearful of every Iraqi, shoot wildly into crowds and retreat; they encircle whole cities, fire missiles into crowded working class neighborhoods, helicopters pour machinegun fire into homes, factories, mosques. In the eyes of the colonial soldiers, the enemy is everywhere. For once they are right. The resistance resists, every block, every house, every store rings out with gunfire, the resistance is everywhere. Every house takes hits, the resistance fight on. The people aid the wounded fighters, wash their wounds. They provide water to the thirsty to quench their parched throats and cool their hands – the automatic weapons are hot.

And where are the western mercenaries? The $1,000 dollar a day hired guns with their flak vests, dark glasses, —their swagger and insolence have disappeared. They too have seen the charred bodies of their ex-partners of death.

Hundreds of Iraqis have been killed, thousands have been injured, many more will die but after each funeral tens of thousands more, the peaceful, apolitical, “wait and see” ones have taken up the gun.

'It's a civil war', brays the bourgeois press. This is wishful thinking. Shia and Sunni are in this together, brothers and sisters (yes, women street fighters) in arms, each covering their comrades' backs as they confront the tanks. And the resistance is winning. Never mind the “proportions” – five or ten or twenty Iraqis for each colonial soldier. The Iraqi Resistance has won politically: No appointed official has any future : They exist as long as the US military remains but they will flee from the rooftops of their bunkers as the US withdraws.

US Leftist Intellectuals

And the Western intellectuals? Since the resistance began a year ago not a single US intellectual, of the dozens of progressive, critical thinkers (”Not in My Name”) has dared to declare their solidarity with the anti-colonial struggle. They have “problems”, I hear, “about supporting Arab fundamentalists, terrorists, anti-Semites etc”. Echoes of the French intellectuals who also opposed the popular armed resistance movements against the Nazis because the “Communists had taken over” or later because the 'colons' in Algeria also had a “right to be in Algeria” (Albert Camus). In his book “Listen Yankee”, C. Wright Mills challenged US 'progressives' who balked at supporting the Cuban Revolution in the early 1960's. “This is a real blood and guts popular revolution”, he said. “You can make a difference, you can be part of the solution or part of the problem.”

The Western intellectuals are a problem. They are not ordering the troops, even less are they (or their children or grandchildren) pulling the triggers murdering Iraqi school kids. They are sitting on their hands. “But”, they protest, “we oppose the war” while they scramble to endorse candidate Kerry who does support the war and even calls for 40,000 more troops to pour missiles into crowded neighborhoods., under U.N. auspices to be sure. So where are the Western intellectuals in these days when the Iraqi people have risen arms in hand to resist the US military juggernaut? There are two sides: An entire nation fighting a colonial occupation army and US imperialism. Serious and consequential political intellectuals must make a choice: To refuse to take sides is tantamount to complicity, intellectual complacency is a luxury for intellectuals in the empire which doesn't exist in Iraq. Over 1000 Iraqi intellectuals and professors have been murdered during the occupation. The issues are not obscure or complex. One side demands free elections, a free press, and self- determination while the other, the colonial officials, ban newspapers, appoint puppet rulers and murder their opponents.

The paralysis of the US leftist intellectuals, their inability to express solidarity with the Iraqi resistance is a disease which afflicts all “leftist” intellectuals in the colonial countries. They are fearful of the problem (the colonial war) and fearful of the resolution (national liberation). In the end, the comforts and freedoms they enjoy, the university applause and adulation they receive in the colonial motherland weighs more heavily than the mental costs of a straightforward declaration of support for the revolutionary liberation movements. They resort to phony “moral equivalences”, against the war and against the “fundamentalists”, the “terrorists”, the 'whoever' who is engaged in their own self-emancipation and has not paid sufficient attention to the self-appointed guardians of Western Democratic Values. It is not difficult to understand the absence of solidarity with liberation movements among the progressive intellectuals in the imperial countries: they too have been colonized, mentally and materially.

Thousands of humble people in Iraq are giving these erudite intellectuals a practical lesson in solidarity:on April 4, 2004 in the midst of hostile tanks and helicopter gunships, thousands marched from Baghdad to Fallujah carrying food and medicine to the embattled and encircled people in that city which will forever be remembered as the cradle of emancipation. Will our intellectuals take note? Can they at least circulate a statement “In Our Name” in solidarity with the iraqui resistance?

In the meantime, the mass popular resistance in Iraq takes on the well-fed, over-armed armies of occupation in hand to hand warfare. They do no ask if their neighbor, friends or comrades are Sunni, secular, Shia, Baathist or Communist, they do not stand aside when a mosque, a school or a housing project is bombed or machine-gunned they have made a commitment to engage in the struggle, to join in one national movement to oust the invader, the oil thieves, the murderers at hand and afar. It's a pity, more for themselves than for any material contribution they could make to the historical struggle that the US progressive intellectuals have chosen to abstain and once again demonstrate the irrelevance of the Western intellectuals to Third World Liberation.

-------------- James Petras is a Global Research Contributing Editor. He is Emeritus Professor at the State University of New York at Binghamton and Adjunct Professor at St Mary's University, Halifax. He is the author or coauthor of 63 books, translated in 18 languages. He is adviser to several popular social movements, including the MST in Brazil. He is a regular columnist for La Jornada, Mexico and a frequent contributor to Global Outlook Magazine.

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