Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Enemy of My Enemy...

Anti-war activists seem to think that they have common cause with anyone who opposes Bush (and Tony Blair). Consider former British MP George Galloway. Galloway was expelled from the Labour Party after praising Saddam (and taking oil-for-food money) and for calling on British troops to revolt against their officers. Galloway has created a new party called "Respect". He is running in a largely Moslem district on a pro-Islam/anti-Israel platform. How is this working out for him? Not so well. He has run afoul of Moslem extremists who believe that democracy itself if evil. At one point things got to this point:

"I was meeting people who live in the flats. Hizb-ut-Tahrir suddenly filled the room and blocked the door. I tried speaking calmly. They then said I was parading as a false prophet and served a sentence of death on me. They were claiming I was representing myself as a false deity and for this apostasy I would be sentenced to the gallows," he said. "They said they were setting up the gallows for me. Thank God my daughter was not with me. She was in the car outside. Otherwise there would have been nobody to call the police. The police saved my life."

Then there is Italian reporter Giuliana Sgrena who was certain that she was safe from Iraqi kidnappers because she was against the war. She still insists that she was deliberately targeted by US troops. She has yet to explain why the troops left her alive.

Then there is Liz Sperber from Brown University who recently wrote a piece entitled Put Down Your White Man's Burden, Support Iraqi Resistance. Sperber sees the situation this way:

Rather, if we support the Iraqis right to self-determination, it must be because we identify a common, equal humanity between us; because we recognize that US occupation of Iraqi land and the US-sanctioned torture, rape, murder, and theft are unjust. That, in addition to the plight of our soldiers, which many of them argue is worsening every day, is why we must demand troops out now. For no other reason. Accordingly, since the Iraqi resistance is the force working to regain Iraqi sovereignty, we support them-unconditionally.

We must bring American troops home simply because it is not their place to stop the insurgents. Granted, even the most inspiring national liberation movements had their crimes and their tragedies. Many liberation struggles, fought under the watchful eyes of the Cold War superpowers, even failed, in the end, to achieve their objectives (Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Algeria, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Chile, the list goes on). Yet, suffice it to say here that the limits or failures of a movement do not nullify its purpose, although they may hamper it. Past failures cannot justify the abandonment of our commitment to the right of people everywhere to self-determination.

Funny thing, I thought that huge numbers of Iraqis risking death to vote counted as self-determination. Sperber seems to think that this only comes from a gun carried by locals. The heck with elections, brutal dictators are just fine as long as they are home-grown.

But... do her precious insurgents count as local? The insurgents are made up of two different groups. The first is the remnants of Saddam's Baath party. They are local in that they are all from one part of Iraq. Is it a national liberation when the "liberators" are all part of a geographic and religious minority?

But the people Sperber is really thinking of when she gives her unconditional support are headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and he's from Jordan! According to Sperber, self-determination is everything but she fails to explain how an outsider from Jordan has more legitimacy than the US. In fact, it is clear that she doesn't care. The fact that he is not us is sufficient. Disregarded is the fact that Iraqis have rejected the Iranian/Taliban model of government that Zarqawi represents. This is a very strange form of self-determination.

Sperber cautions against romantisizing the insurgents:

On the other hand, though, this history often tempts us to romanticism anti-imperial struggles, and similarly has lead to the romanticism of Iraqi resistance. Such romanticizing obscures what I believe to be the most essential point of this entire argument. If there is one thing that we take away from 20th century history, it should be this: it is neither your place nor mine to decide who is worthy of what degree of autonomy. Not only do romantic portrayals of resistance rely on self-serving reductionism, they also implicitly pronounce the kind of moral authority and higher-judgment that are part and parcel of maintaining an imperialist way of thinking. Thus, to argue that resistance in Iraq deserves our support "because (insert homogenizing, descriptive reason here)," is to invoke the same paternalist authority, which, in another era argued that "the African (singular) is a savage and must be governed accordingly."

Never the less, Sperber falls into the same trap by assuming that anyone who opposes the US occupation and nation-building deserves support. Do they represent Iraqis in any way? Wh o cares - they want to rule/oppress Iraq independently from the US so they count as supporting Iraqi sovereignty.

She is also pretty forgiving of past excesses of national liberation movements although she conveniently skips over Cambodia, Cuba, Viet Nam, and North Korea. Were these successes? Yes, if your only measure is national sovereignty, but they are dismal failures by any measure of human cost.

And that's where her argument really falls flat. She doesn't care about anyone else in the world as long as they are independent. Civil wars, genocide, invading neighbors, religious suppression - nothing seems to matter. Liberals used to claim that they were the ones who cared about others but the wars with Afghanistan and Iraq have shown that this is no longer the case.

UNCONDITIONALLY-that's the way I support the Iraqi Resistance these days. While I do not offer political support to all groups involved in the anti-imperial struggle in Iraq, I work to support its collective purpose: forcing the troops out now. Forcing because the United States won't leave any other way.
Bush wants the troops out. They are a political liability and a constraint on his ability to threaten any other countries. If the Iraqi government holds and local troops are able to replace American and British troops then we will see a pull-out beginning this year. Supporting the insurgents only slows down the process and prolongs the occupation.

Fortunately for her, Sperber is safe at Brown. If she were to actually fall into the hands of Zarqawi she would quickly find out how little weight her support carries.

No comments: