‘Support the Resistance’?

Read an interesting piece by Walden Bello on ‘Empire and Resistance’ in Iraq. He believes that “that the crisis of the empire is not o­nly good for the world. It is good for the people of the United States as well, for it opens up the possibility of Americans relating to other peoples as equals and not as masters, really learning from them, and really respecting and appreciating them. Failure of the empire is, moreover, a precondition for the emergence of the truly democratic republic that the United States was intended to be before it was hijacked to be an imperial democracy.” He thanks the Iraqi resistance for this.

Of course, real respect by the people of the US for the peoples of the world would be a very good thing. But there is something problematic about people outside cheering for a people who are being slaughtered en masse. I know this isn’t quite what Walden or any of the people who ‘support the resistance’ are doing. But it does sound like that, somehow. Like the Vietnam analogy, where people say, somewhat smugly, that Iraq is like Vietnam, implying that Vietnam was primarily a defeat for the US, as opposed to a holocaust of Vietnamese.

Where I agree with Walden is here:

“What western progressives forget is that national liberation movements are not asking them mainly for ideological or political support. What they really want from the outside is international pressure for the withdrawal of an illegitimate occupying power so that internal forces can have the space to forge a truly national government based o­n their unique processes. Until they give up this dream of having an ideal liberation movement tailored to their values and discourse, US peace activists will, like the Democrats they often criticize, continue to be trapped within a paradigm of imposing terms for other people.”

This is exactly right. And it cuts both ways. For those who ‘support the resistance’, what do Iraqis — who have uranium and missiles raining down on them, a collapsed infrastructure around them, and depraved torturers rounding them up — care about whether or not people ‘support’ them, rhetorically (given that there’s no other kind of ‘support’ people could offer here)? What would be genuine ‘support’ would be “pressure for the withdrawal of an illegitimate occupying power so that internal forces can have the space to forge a truly national government based o­n their unique processes.” Being able to bring that “pressure” depends not on how well we understand every nuance of what’s going on in Iraq, but how well we understand nuances of what’s going on in our own countries and now how to build a movement and act, where we are.

Many people who have spent time in Iraq and studied Iraq closely end up feeling like antiwar folks here don’t understand Iraq at all. They don’t understand how vile Saddam Hussein was, and how much of the resistance consists of people from that regime, and they end up picking sides in that divided country, and forgetting about the Shia majority and the Kurds. These criticisms are valid; but so is the warning that Iraqis (and the rest of the world, too) are capable of solving their own problems if they are not being starved and bombed and occupied by others, and that is the part that one must never forget. The admonition about not picking sides, like the admonition about ‘supporting’ the Iraqis, cuts both ways.

I’ll be traveling this weekend — not sure how much blogging I’ll be able to do.

Justin Podur

Author: Justin Podur

Author of Siegebreakers. Ecology. Environmental Science. Political Science. Anti-imperialism. Political fiction. Teach at York U's FES. Author. Writer at ZNet, TeleSUR, AlterNet, Ricochet, and the Independent Media Institute.