Resisting the Bush War Machine

Defending the Iraqi people means building a militant anti-war movement in the heartlands of capitalism

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Iraq has a strong secular tradition. During 2004, Iraqi women’s protests stopped attempts to implement sharia law. Photo from

“For these reasons, it is absurd to condemn the resistance to the U.S. occupation in Iraq as being masterminded by terrorists or insurgents or supporters of Saddam Hussein. After all if the United States were invaded and occupied, would everybody who fought to liberate it be a terrorist or an insurgent or a Bushite? The Iraqi resistance is fighting on the frontlines of the battle against Empire. And therefore that battle is our battle.” Arundhati Roy

Much of al-Fallujah, a market town on the Euphrates River in Western Iraq, lies in ruins. A quarter of a million of its people are refugees and thousands are dead. Yet the Iraqi resistance is growing. As the United States military continues to perpetrate the most heinous war crime since the 1945 nuclear bombing of Nagasaki, outrage is white hot throughout Iraq. And the resistance is growing. As the number of dead and injured soldiers grows hourly, the Pentagon is illegally extending the soldiers’ tour of duty. Faced with this defacto conscription, the mounting casualties and the substandard equipment, resistance is growing, even in the U.S. military. And, faced with the never-ending procession of the coffins of the dead and the horrific maiming of the injured, the fog of war is lifting . The huge lies upon which Bush and his gang based their invasion of Iraq are more and more exposed. Slowly but inevitably, the resistance is growing.

Losing the war. The monsters in the White House have lost the war for the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. In fact they could never have won it. Blinded by arrogance, the so-called neoconservatives really did think they would be hailed as liberators. Right from the start, almost all Iraqis saw them for the brutal occupiers they are.

Now Bush’s military is bogged down — fighting a guerrilla war against an enemy indistinguishable from the civilian population. No conventional army has ever prevailed against such an attack. One-sixth of the U.S. forces — just under 25,000 personnel — has been killed or injured in Iraq. That explains why the White House is press-ganging troops whose time is up. It also explains why 5,000 soldiers have deserted and why the National Guard — the army reserve — suddenly can’t find recruits. Iraq is a death trap for its occupiers.

The Iraqi resistance — what it is not… According to the media units of occupying Coalition forces, the resistance is tiny and comprised of “insurgent terrorists.” This propaganda is simply rebroadcast by Western media outlets, but bears little resemblance to the truth. The fact that many civilian bystanders have been killed in the resistance is very unfortunate. However, there is a vast difference between individual terrorism and organised opposition to an occupying army. The occupation is itself an act of terrorism — against the Iraqi people and the peoples of the wider Middle East. In the anti-war movement there is a natural revulsion against violence, but it is important not to equate the violence of the oppressed with that of the oppressor. For the oppressor, violence is a tool used to impose its will against the will of the people. For the oppressed, it’s a means of achieving freedom from enslavement and injustice. The catalyst for all of the atrocities in Iraq is the presence of imperialist troops. From the initial bombing of Iraq’s cities, to the torture at Abu Ghraib prison, to the razing of al-Fallujah, the Pentagon’s strategy has been to terrorise the civilian population. The occupation is an act of war and it is being met with a warlike response, as has happened throughout history. Want to stop terrorism in Iraq? Join the anti-war movement and organise to get imperialist troops out of the Middle East.

It’s also important to remember that the resistance is not just a direct military struggle by a few armed men. Many women are involved, both in armed conflict and in the political struggle. The Iraqi Women’s Rights Coalition has organised protests against both domestic violence and in support of the people of al-Fallujah. Unemployed workers have organised mass demonstrations against the 70% unemployment rate, and workers in jobs are re-establishing the unions, despite frequent attacks by the occupation forces and the puppet interim government. In March, a demonstration in Najaf was fired upon. In November, union activists in Baghdad were kidnapped by U.S. forces on the pretext that their activities constituted “insurgency.” Despite this, workers in many industries are unionising. Strikes were held across Iraq last December as workers fought for better wages and safety standards.

… and why it must be critically supported. According to Iraqi and other Arab sources, the resistance is a network of groups with the common political aim of removing the occupation force and restoring Iraqi sovereignty. There is support from members of Hussein’s Ba’ath Party, but they appear to be mainly limited to bankrolling the struggle.

Obviously, there is participation from members of the former Iraqi army, particularly in terms of arms supply. But it is not a centralised struggle — many of the groups are locally based and have only tenuous contacts.

There are certainly fundamentalists among the resistance, but sections of the Left and the anti-war movement have made a huge mistake by refusing to support the armed resistance because of the participation of conservative Shi-ites. There is no evidence that these elements are in control, or likely to gain hegemony. And in terms of support for the resistance, there is no requirement to support the ideas of every grouping within the resistance. It is only necessary to defend their right to toss out the occupation. This is one aspect of what is meant by critical support. Supporters of self-determination for Iraq must support the resistance, including its armed wing. That does not mean agreement with every point in the program of the resistance, nor the religious beliefs of some of its members, nor even agreement with its tactics. We stand with the Iraqi people against the aggressor Coalition. Anything less is a betrayal.

In fact, the focus on the fundamentalist element of the resistance ignores the diverse, organic nature of the movement. In fact it is becoming more and more difficult to separate the resistance from the majority of the population. The fact that armed fighters can move from place to place with impunity points to broad popular support. Or, to put it another way, most Iraqis are part of the resistance.

So what is the political program of the resistance? According to one of its websites,, the prime aim is to end the occupation and liberate the country. Then, after a transition period of two years it wants democratic, multi-party elections for a united national government under a constitution written by Iraqis.

This is, understandably, short on detail and avoids the question of what sort of Iraq would follow the departure of the imperialist forces. For one thing, democracy has to be secular if Iraqi women are to have access to legal protection against fundamentalism. Democracy will have to be built from the ground up, if Iraqis are to defend themselves against the inevitable, vicious destabilisation by the defeated U.S. Administration. This said, there is nothing objectionable about this program. Once again, it is possible to give critical support, because the key question is the military defeat of the occupation forces and the political defeat of its puppet government.

No UN involvement. Parts of the anti-war movement call for the immediate withdrawal of the Coalition occupiers, to be replaced by UN “peacekeepers.” For thirteen years the UN administered a Washington-sponsored blockade against Iraq, which impoverished the country and led to the deaths of nearly a million Iraqis. The UN is neither friend nor saviour of the Iraqi people. The view that Iraq will collapse into a series of ethnic enclaves, should Washington and Co, leave shows an ignorance of Iraq’s history and a paternalistic, even racist, denial of the ability of Iraqis to manage their own affairs. The UN would simply be a more multinational occupation force, and the fighting and misery would go on. The only way for the people of Iraq to rebuild their devastated country is to control their own destiny.

Join the resistance. Arundhati Roy is correct when she equates the Iraqi struggle with the global struggle against the U.S. Empire. They are fighting our fight. If, as appears increasingly likely, they defeat Washington’s invasion, then that will be an historic victory for the entire planet’s oppressed people, just as the victory of the Vietnamese people was thirty years ago. Yet Vietnam was not just a military victory. It was a political victory as well. All the president’s tanks and planes could not prevail, once the working people of the U.S. decided that they wanted an end to the war. Opposition in the U.S. is much more prevalent than the media portrays. And for good reason. In Australia, there is no prospect of conscription at this time. In the States, it’s certainly possible, unless there is a mass mobilisation to stop the Bush gang drafting young men and women to kill and die, in its quest to dominate the global economy. The polls are showing a clear shift as support for the war declines. According to the most recent opinion polls, 56% of Americans think the war is not worth it. If Bush is to get away with the draft, he’ll have to do it early. Movement leaders in the U.S. know this and the anti-war movement is gearing up for a fight.

In Australia, the huge anti-war movement of February 2003 dissipated quickly, because the leadership was unprepared for the aftermath of “major hostilities.” Yet does anyone seriously believe that the war is over? It is imperative that occupation troops be forced out of Iraq as soon as it can be achieved. With every hour of occupation another two Iraqis will lose their lives, either through combat or disease or, inevitably, starvation. And every day dozens of young soldiers, many of whom joined the military as the only way to get an education and avoid unemployment, are killed or horribly mutilated.

The battle against the New World Order must not be left to poorly armed civilians in Iraq or, for that matter, in Palestine. They are fighting for us in the struggle against neoliberalism. It’s time for the anti-war movement in Australia to stop mourning the invasion. Time to organise the defeat! On the weekend of March 18 – 20, 2005 global mass action is planned to demand an end to the occupation. It’s the second anniversary of the outbreak of war. Let’s aim to win before the third anniversary comes around. Coalition troops out now! No to UN intervention!

In Cuba, the population is armed and organised in local units. This is one reason why the U.S. has not yet invaded the country. It’s also a proven bastion against civil disruption caused by the shortages resulting from the U.S. blockade. It’s a strategy that could well serve a post-occupation Iraq.

For a self-governed, secular, socialist, democratic Iraq, with reconstruction funded by billions in reparations from the greedy corporations who have made billions out of this atrocity. Victory to the Iraqi resistance!

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