Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Iraqi Resistance is just and should be supported

Below is an article by Kosta Harlan, a local anti-war activist, on the need to support the Iraqi resistance, in response to a recent debate online.  I know soldiers who have been sent to Iraq and, although I don't know them well, I pay attention to the names of casualties in Iraq and dread seeing someone I know listed.  Despite this, US and allied soldiers who occupy Iraq are in the wrong and the Iraqi people have a right to free their country and determine their form of government themselves, including through armed struggle.  The real enemy of US soldiers and patriotic Iraqis is not the Iraqi resistance, but the US and British governments, who decided to illegally invade and occupy Iraq for profit and strategic advantage against other powers, and, at least in the case of our country, don't even treat their troops that well.  Groups that are trying to fracture Iraq along ethnic and religious lines are aiding imperialism and have gained power because of the occupation.         
Reply to Bennis: The Iraqi Resistance is just and should be supported

In the four years of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, public debate within the U.S. antiwar movement on whether to support the Iraqi resistance has rarely taken place. Consequently the recent polemic between Alexander Cockburn and Phyllis Bennis (a leader in the United for Peace and Justice Coalition) is an extremely positive development and should be welcomed. It is an important debate that needs to take place at all levels within the U.S. antiwar movement.

Some weeks ago Alexander Cockburn wrote of the need for the U.S. antiwar movement to openly support the resistance ( "Support their troops?", CounterPunch). In her reply, "Why the Anti-War Movement Doesn't Embrace the Iraqi Resistance" , Bennis correctly argues that the basis of unity in the movement should not be "Victory to the resistance", but the demand "Troops out now". But Bennis goes further and argues that anti-imperialists have no responsibility to raise support for the Iraqi resistance. Bennis says that the Iraqi resistance is illegitimate (with some arrogance, she refers to the Iraqi resistance in quotation marks) and is therefore undeserving of support. This conclusions rests on a number of erroneous arguments, concentrated here in one paragraph of her article:

"...As a whole, what is understood to be "the Iraqi resistance" against the U.S. occupation is a disaggregated and diverse set of largely unconnected factions, in which the various often-antagonistic armed movements (including some who attack Iraqi civilians as much as they do occupation troops) hold pride of place. There is no unified leadership that can speak for "the resistance," there is no NLF or ANC or FMLN that can claim real leadership and is accountable to the Iraqi population as a whole. There is no unified program, either of what the fight is against or what it is for. We know virtually nothing of what most of the factions stand for beyond opposition to the U.S. occupation - and from my own personal vantage point, of the little beyond that that we do know, I don't like so much."

Essentially, Bennis objects to the alleged lack of unity among the resistance forces. For the sake of argument, let's suppose what Bennis says is true: competing organizations within the Iraqi resistance are incapable of reaching the level of political unity required to form a common resistance front, program, and central political and military command. What does this prove if not the difficult conditions of work that the Iraqi partisans face? Bennis ends up arguing that without a national liberation front there can be no national liberation movement. But this is to ignore the historical development of national liberation movements throughout the 20th century, which in each case formed unified liberation fronts through a protracted process of resolving political, social, and military contradictions among numerous organizations.

It is also an inconsistent argument. Apply the same logic to the U.S. antiwar movement and see what results. Given the numerous political differences within the different coalitions and political organizations that make up the U.S. antiwar movement (not to mention the serious class and racial divisions), one could accurately state, "There is no unified leadership that can speak for [what is called 'the U.S. antiwar movement'], there is no [common front] that can claim real leadership and is accountable to the [American] population as a whole. There is no unified program, either of what the fight is against or what it is for."

Yet it would be absurd to use this as a basis for writing off the importance of the antiwar movement in U.S. society.  The U.S. antiwar movement may lack a single unified command, but it certainly has a large social base, an ability for coordination in action, some political unity, and the ability to impact events in U.S. society. Likewise, the absence of a single liberation front uniting the entire Iraqi resistance in no way precludes the existence of dynamic resistance movement, with a large social base, acting towards a common strategic goal. In fact, such a dynamic, coordinated and popular resistance movement is precisely what exists in Iraq today.

In any case, the facts on the ground are quite different from what Bennis tells us. Over the years the Iraqi resistance has developed from hundreds of smaller organizations to a handful of large, powerful political and military fronts. (According to Abdul Jabbar al-Kubaysi, the secretary general of the Iraqi Patriotic Alliance, there are currently eight resistance fronts that comprise the Iraqi resistance.) This is very much an ongoing process: just last month, the formation of the Patriotic National Islamic Front for the Liberation of Iraq (July 2007) marked yet another major advance in the unification of the Iraqi resistance. It will take some time to form a single, unified political and military command for all of the Iraqi resistance, but its formation is question of when, not if.

The fact that well over 100,000 attacks have been carried out by the Iraqi resistance against the U.S. occupation forces in the past four years (currently about 1100 a week) should be enough to indicate the steadfastness, strength, and popularity of the resistance. The frequency and intensity of these attacks would be inconceivable without a high level of inter-organizational political unity, coordination and cooperation. Further, it would be impossible to fight a guerrilla war of this scope without the broad support and involvement of millions of ordinary Iraqis. Bennis implies that the resistance lacks such popular support, claiming that "some [resistance groups] attack civilians as much as they do occupation troops." (One might might recall that during the Vietnam war the U.S. government told the same lies about the Viet Cong–whom Bennis then supported.) But once again, Bennis' claim is not supported by facts. According to the Department of Defense figures, U.S. troops are subjected to 75% of the resistance attacks, Iraqi puppet security forces to 17%, and civilians, 8%. Clearly the overwhelming majority of resistance attacks are aimed squarely at the U.S. occupation and its puppets in occupied Iraq.

Bennis writes, "We know virtually nothing of what most of the factions stand for beyond opposition to the U.S. occupation - and from my own personal vantage point, of the little beyond that that we do know, I don't like so much." Actually, we don't need to know any more than that. Again, why is Bennis applying double standards? The basis for unity in the U.S. antiwar movement is "troops out now." Why does Bennis demand a higher level of unity for the Iraqi resistance before it would be deemed acceptable to support? In the same article, Bennis says that the future of Iraq is up to Iraqis to decide. This applies to the resistance as well. It is the Iraqi people's resistance. We don't get to pick and choose the cloth it is cut from.

In her article, Bennis points out that it was solidarity with the resistance in Vietnam that raised the level of consciousness among millions of people in the U.S. about the nature of the imperialist war in Vietnam. "That was then, this is now," writes Bennis. On the contrary, just as it did during the Vietnam war, this solidarity must become a key component of our work in the antiwar movement. Grasping the nature of the Iraq war, its causes, consequences, and possibilities for resolution, is a prerequisite to building a consistent and powerful antiwar movement that can strike hard at the foundations of the U.S. war machine. A critical part of this process is raising understanding and support for the resistance in Iraq. It is disappointing that an important leader of one of the largest antiwar coalitions in the U.S. would dismiss the importance of this solidarity work and take an openly hostile view towards the Iraqi people's resistance.

Bennis is wrong to separate the resistance from the people. The Iraqi resistance is the legitimate, just, and heroic expression of an occupied people struggling for liberation. It should be recognized as such and firmly supported by those who oppose U.S. imperialism and stand for an independent, sovereign, and liberated Iraq.

Kosta Harlan
August 11, 2007

The author is an antiwar activist and member of Students for a Democratic Society in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. In March 2007 he attended the first international solidarity conference with the Iraqi resistance in Chianciano, Italy.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

TSF 9/1 Class in the US

What is the reality of class in the USA and what does
it mean for the middle and working classes?  Join a
discussion of class difference, disrespect and risk at
work, unemployment, unions, and other issues Saturday,
September 1st at 2:30 at the Chapel Hill Public
Library conference room.  There will also be a showing of Predatory
Class War, a presentation by a Duke continuing studies
professor originally shown on The Peoples Channel of Chapel Hill.  This is part of the
monthly Triangle Socialist Forum.  
For those on the social networking site www.facebook.com, there is now a Facebook TSF with updates, room for discussion, etc. 

Support impeachment Monday in Chapel Hill

Monday, Aug. 20th at 2:45; Chelsea Theater

Timberlyne Shopping Center; Chapel Hill;

Near the corner of Weaver Dairy Rd and M. L. K. Boulevard. 

Members of GRIM* & guests will meet to prep for an upcoming celebration. Everyone is encouraged to attend and bring friends. 

We plan to celebrate the leadership initiative by Our Representative David Price to respond to the White House's stonewalling against every effort of Congress to get accountability. Because the administration has blocked every other avenue, it has become absolutely necessary to

Impeach Cheney & Bush.

At 3:00 we'll start a short walk across Weaver Dairy Rd. to Vilcom Center Drive for a brief 'Pep Rally' @ 3:15. 

Several members of GRIM, local elected officials, and human rights activists will meet with Representative Price from 3:30 to 4:00. 

After the meeting, we'll all walk back to the shopping center where we will be granted access to the Chelsea Theater to begin the celebration.  


AS YOU CAN (symbol of impeachment)  

*GRIM—Grass Roots Impeachment Movement— www.impeachbushcheney.net

We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.
—Edward R. Murrow

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Upcoming events in August and September

Here are some upcoming meetings on social justice and impeachment events:


The next Durham Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC) meeting will probably be September 8th at 3pm, at a library if free space can be found.   At the August meeting people brought up Price's vote on the bill that would seem to legalize Bush's illegal domestic wiretapping, anti-torture organizing, impeachment efforts, easily tampered with American voting machines and those who support them (at least Durham has machines with paper ballots), the effort to get NC, along with other states, to award their electoral votes to the presidential candidate who gets the most votes nationally, the Durham library fee, etc.   There is lots going on and this was an unusually well-attended meeting, hopefully replicated in September. 


The next Durham Impeach Bush-Cheney meetup (online at impeachbush.meetup.com/349/ ) will be at the Parkwood Library on Thursday, August 16th at 7pm.  There is going to be a viewing of Bill Moyers' recent program on impeachment and a work session to type petitions into Excel on Sunday, the 12th, at 2pm.   


GRIM (impeachbushcheney.net) is meeting with Rep. Price at I think 2pm on Monday August 20 th in Chapel Hill, possibly with a meeting at Cup A Joe beforehand.  We are trying to collect 5000 signatures for a new petition and it is going quickly (one person alone got 200 signatures in 200 minutes holding a sign at a civic event in downtown Raleigh recently), but we need more people to circulate the petition.   I was told 20 people attending a few events would be enough to reach the goal.  We have almost 1000 signatures now, and it is already at 1000 if the earlier petitions, such as www.petitiononline.com/dsmnc/petition.html and its paper version, are included.    


NC Stop Torture Now is having several events soon.  Saturday, August 11th from 1-3pm there will be mobile freeway blogging protests at overpasses in Raleigh.  Signs and banners will be placed at overpasses and entrances/exits.   An anti-torture and anti-war rally or rallies are being organized for the weekend of October 27th near Aero Contractor's hangar at the Johnston County Airport.  There might be an earlier event in Raleigh as well.   The next STN monthly meeting will be August 19th, 2-4pm at the usual Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh location. 


The Duke Human Rights Center and several other groups are hosting a half-day conference on extraordinary rendition and Guantánamo at John Hope Franklin Center room 240 (see map.duk.edu for directions) on Wednesday, September 26th, 12 to 5:30pm.  Stephen Grey, the author of a book on the rendition flights, Ghost Plane , Maher Arar, a Canadian who was sent to Syria by the US, where he was tortured, and Ariel Dorfman, author of the foreword to Poems from Guantánamo:  The Detainees Speak, will be at the conference (Arar will telecommute, because the Bush Administration still bars him from entering the country, without explanation).   Everything will also be streamed live on the Internet and at Duke's Bryan Center, and an audience at the University of Ottawa, in Canada, will also take part.


The Triangle Socialist Forum will discuss rights on the job and fair wages September 1st at 2:30pm in the usual place at the Chapel Hill Public Library.   If there are readings, they will be posted soon, at Durham Spark, but Marx's Value, Price, and Profit, which we looked at last year, is a good work to review, summarizing the theory that monetary value comes from the cost of labor, which is the lowest cost of maintaining a worker and his family.   The UN International Labor Organization's standards are another document to look at, to see how many rights the US violates (which is one basis for Hear Our Public Employees' case against the State, for denying public employees the right to collectively bargain).  


I think a national anti-war demonstration is being organized in Washington, DC for September 29th.