When George Bush declared war on Iraq in 2003, the Stop the War movement was, de facto, defeated. It was no longer a question of stopping the war from happening; and so, logically, a whole field of new questions were posed.
Unfortunately, since then, the international movements that have coalesced in the stop the war movement have clung to the idea that the War in Iraq has two sides: the Americans, and the insurgents. In this, they have, unconsciously, collaborated with the Americans. Thus, progressives have continually foreclosed on doing what Marx did, surveying the ruins of the revolutionary movements in 1850: creating a side. Instead, they have been all too satisfied with the one they have been given.
Consequently, I have never seen a progressive movement wielding such popular support secure so little power to shape events as has happened with the relation between opponents of the war in Iraq and the war itself. Besides acres of trees and thousands of manhours of downloadable criticism – of which LI has contributed its fair share – the stop the war movement has had no influence whatsoever with the insurgents, nor have they stopped the Americans from commencing a single plan, bombing into ruins a single city, torturing a single prisoner, or selecting a single seedy CIA contracted exile to rubber stamp American made decisions. What has stopped the American juggernaut, so far, has been the harsh fact of armed resistance. In fact, that resistance has been enough to reverse or drastically modify almost every American plan, and looks like they will continue to do that for the foreseeable future.
Looking at this record, one would think that progressive would reconsider their tactics. They might even reconsider their tacit agreement with Americans about the definition of sides in Iraq. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened. Thus the utter sterility of the debate over the elections outside of Iraq, endlessly recycling the two side refrain, with the addition of the worry about the disaffected Sunnis ( a worry completely detached from any consideration of the American Groznyfication of Fallujah). If, as seems likely, Sistani’s coalition and Allawi’s party are the big winners, the progressive community internationally, in spite of the reams of journalism and criticism with which they have gifted Iraq, will not have made a single concrete suggestion or made a single connection. Our virtuousness will be perfectly unpolluted by our power, since we have none.
We imagine that the post election situation in Iraq (in spite of what we will read in the inevitable monthlong orgy of heralding whatever candidates win that will ensue in the U.S. press) is going to be extremely fluid. In a previous post, we called Sistani a good chess player. The post election situation is going to show how good a games player Muqtada al- Sadr is. Sadr has staked out a position that is both anti-exile (meaning Iranian exiles, as well as American ones) and anti-occupation. If, as seems likely, the crew that comes into power after the election is distinguished by the amount of real estate they own in Southern France or the United States, and if those politicians continue to follow a compliant line with the Americans, we expect that Sadr will have a great window of opportunity. What he does with it is the question. The appeal to poor Shi’ites would seem to be the right appeal in a country with a forty to sixty percent unemployment rate.
That window is open for others as well. LI thinks that it is time to think across the frozen surface of appearance and ask; from a progressive perspective, what should be done in Iraq? Obviously, the lacing and inner texture of the answer to that question can only be worked out iby the Iraqis themselves. However, the idea that the Iraqis can work out there politics in isolation from the rest of the world has been tested by reality, and by reality bombed. The world is in Iraq.
Here are some programmatic pointers for another side in Iraq.
1. The government must make a timetable for the departure of foreign troops. It must not be fuzzy. It must also be timely: a matter of months rather than of years. Soldiers of the former army should be called upon by the government to join up.. Soldiers should not be trained by foreign troops, for the most part.
2. The Iraqi government should no longer cooperate with either the U.N. or the U.S.A. in paying either reparations or debt. Last week, the U.N., from its fund, and with American approval, paid Kuwait 143 million dollars as another in the series of reparation payments for the invasion of 1991. There is no justification for this. In the package of payments managed by the U.N., Iraq even paid U.S. companies reparations and/or Saddam era debts, in effect paying the collaborators of Saddam Hussein. Not a dollar more.
3. The government must defend the natural resources of Iraq. The control of Iraq’s oil field production should be left entirely in the hands of the state corporation that has run it, and least until there is a real elected body to make democratic changes.
4. The government should demand the reduction of the personnel structure of the U.S. embassy and all U.S. government agencies working in Iraq.
5. The government should negotiate for a non-aggression pact with all of its neighbors, agreeing not to allow any troops based on its soil of whatever nationality to incurs into any neighboring country.
6. The government should commit to the immediate repair of the infrastructure by, among other things, reviewing the timeliness and efficiency of the work of all contractors, and putting up for renewed bid all those that have unjustified cost overruns or unsatisfactory performance schedules. The government should combine this with a massive employment effort.
The insurgents have no interest in seeing the Americans leave at the moment, and we know that Allawi’s party, already deeply corrupt (as is the way of client parties in colonial states) depends on the Americans too. This means that the goal of getting the foreign troops out of Iraq isn’t going to come easy, after the election. But we think that it would be nice if the progressive punditry started pressing a broader agenda that refuses the static and ultimately sterile categories pressed upon them by the occupation powers.