the survivors... a suicide bomber blasted a crowd of police and
national guards recruits on Feb 28, 2005 at Hilla, about 95 km south
of Baghdad. The
attack left at least 115 people dead and 132 injured in the single
deadliest attack since the end of the war
Promotion" and Resistance
States, unlike the Empires of old Europe has always preferred to
exercise its hegemony indirectly. It has relied on local relays--uniformed
despots, corrupt oligarchs, pliant politicians and obedient monarchs--rather
than lengthy occupations and nation-building with carefully-controlled
forms of elite, low-intensity democracy. It was only when rebellions
from below threatened to disrupt this order that the Marines were
dispatched and wars were fought.
changed world that came into existence during the Nineties necessitating
a shift in US priorities and the establishment of the Washington
consensus, the imperial elite is still allergic to long-term occupations.
If, during the Cold War, money was indiscriminately supplied to
all anti-communist forces (including the current leadership of al-Qaeda)
the 21st century recipients are more carefully targeted. The aim
is to slowly replace the traditional elites in the old satrapies
with a new breed of genetically programmed neo-liberal politicians,
who have been trained and educated in the United States. This is
the primary function of the money allocated to ´democracy promotion´
programmes in the US. Loyalty, being a commodity, can be purchased
from politicians, parties and trades unions. And the result, it
is hoped, is to create a new layer of janissary politicians who
is this necessary? Because in the absence of a system whereby the
financial benefits of foreign investment accrue directly to the
US treasury, the costs of maintaining the Empire must be largely
funded by the satrapies. Already the US military budget has reached
astronomical heights. The US spends more money on arms then the
next fifteen nations combined. Iraqi oil is vital to help maintain
the US military bases that now exist in 138 countries all over the
size and scale of the Iraqi resistance
took the world by surprise. The Iraqis were like
lightning, compared to the European resistance
against the Third Reich. In France, the Vichy
regime was popular with a large majority.
Not so in Iraq. In occupied Holland the
resistance was tiny and very dependent
on British support. Not so in Iraq where the
resistance receives nil support from its
This is what
´democracy promotion´ is all about. Its most recent variant
has now been applied in Afghanistan and Iraq and it will hit Haiti
(another occupied country) in November this year. Create a new elite,
give it funds and weaponry to build a new army and let them make
the country safe for the corporations. The Afghan elections of 2004,
even according to some pro-US commentators, were a complete farce
and the much vaunted 73 percent turnout was a fraud. If this were
not the case the US pro-consul would not be engaged in re-building
a new alliance with Taliban factions close to Pakistani military
In Iraq the
turnout (according to DEBKA the totally loyal Israeli intelligence
website) was closer to forty percent and in Basra (subcontracted
to Tony Blair) was no more than 32 percent. Sistani´s followers
voted to please their Ayotallah, but if he is unable to deliver
peace and an end to the occupation, they too might defect. The only
force which can be relied on at the moment are the Kurdish tribes.
The Kurdish 36th command batallion fought alongside the US marines
in Fallujah, but the tribal chiefs want some form of independence
(even as a US-Israeli protectorate) and some oil. If loyal NATO
ally and EU aspirant, Turkey, vetoes any such possibility, then
the Kurds too, might accept money from elsewhere. The battle for
Iraq is far from over. It has merely entered a new stage.
disagreements on the boycott of the elections, the majority of Iraqis
will not willingly hand over their oil or their country to the West.
Politicians, bearded or otherwise, who try and force this through
will lose all support and become totally dependent on the foreign
armies encamped in their country. The popular resistance will continue.
Times have changed. Many in the North find it difficult to support
this resistance. The arguments for and against are old ones. In the
last decades of the 19th century, the English socialist William Morris
celebrated the defeat of General Gordon by the Mahdi: "Khartoum fallen-into
the hands of the people it belongs to". Morris argued that the duty
of English internationalists was to support all those being oppressed
by the British Empire despite one's disagreements with nationalism
chorus of the corporate and state media of the West reflects a single
fact: the Iraqi elections were designed not so much to preserve
the unity of Iraq but to re-establish the unity of the West. Already
after Bush´s re-election the French and Germans were looking
for a bridge back to Washington. The French had collaborated in
the occupation of Haiti without any dissent from the French media.
The Germans can now re-join the pack. Will French and German troops
now join their battered British, American and privatized mercenary
colleagues in the war zones of Iraq to seal this unity? And if they
do will their citizens object or will they accept the propaganda
that sees the illegitimate election (the Carter Centre that monitors
elections worldwide refused to send observers) as justifying the
occupation. And if French and German troops are dispatched will
they be forbidden the use of digital cameras to record the torture
that still goes on in open defiance of the Geneva Convention?
an early stage of the occupation,
US papers reported young kids in Baghdad
shaking hands with the Marines.
What these newspapers did not report
(because the journalists did not speak Arabic)
was what the kids with a smile said to the marines; 'We hate you,
Many smiling children have been shot dead.
of Iraq involved both a military and an economic invasion as envisaged
by Hayek, the father of neo-liberalism. The essential vision of
imperial power was firmly embedded in the original doctrine. It
was Hayek, after all who pioneered the notion of lightning air strikes
against Iran in 1979 and Argentina in 1982. The re-colonisation
of Iraq would have greatly pleased him. He despised pieties. Politicians
masking their true aims with weasel words about ´humanity´
would have greatly irritated him.
in Washington, however, did not predict a resistance in Iraq. Nor
did most of the Western world, where a majority of intellectuals,
TV journalists and web-site afficinados are so disillusioned, bitter
and cynical that they assume the bulk of the world is like them.
They don't like to be reminded of cases to the contrary. They forget
that the graph of history is always twisted. There is never a line
of uninterrupted progress. And so it happened that the occupation
of Iraq produced a resistance. Contrary to the bulk of reports in
the western press, this resistance is NOT dominated by Zarqawwi
or his tiny band. If it were it would have been crushed long ago.
There is a
popular resistance in Iraq, both armed and non-violent. The bulk
of the armed resistance consists of demobilised soldiers and officers,
many of whom were disgusted by Saddam's corruption and cruelty and
his failure to defend the country. To these one must add both secular
nationalist and religious groups who hate the occupation. The left
is weak in Iraq because the Iraqi Communist Party backed the occupation
and served in the puppet government.
blown-up car of the suicide bomber.
The size and
scale of the Iraqi resistance (and, incidentally, it exists also
in the Shia south and resistance cells are numerous in Basra) took
the world by surprise. The Iraqis were like lightning, compared
to the European resistance against the Third Reich. In France, the
Vichy regime was popular with a large majority. Not so in Iraq.
In occupied Holland the resistance was tiny and very dependent on
British support. Not so in Iraq where the resistance receives nil
support from its Arab neighbours. In Vietnam, the nationalist resistance
to the French, Japanese and American Empires was led by the Communist
Party. In Iraq it is completely decentralized. In all the above
cases there were collaborators who worked closely with the occupying
power. Here Iraq is no different.
Is it a perfect
resistance? No. How could a resistance be pretty when the occupation
is so brutal and ugly. The senseless violence inflicted upon the
Iraqi people by the occupation results in a violent response. It
was no different when the Algerians fought the French to a standstill
in the early Sixties of the last century. When a leader of the Algerian
resistance was asked why they often bombed cafes and killed civilians,
he replied: 'Give us planes and helicopters and then we will only
target French troops.'
demonisation of Islam has reached
such heights that dead Muslims don't have
to be counted. And the fount of this
demonisation is the United States,
a country awash with religion...
'Who believes in the Devil', wrote
Thomas Mann in Doctor Faustus,
'already belongs to him.'
During an early
stage of the occupation, US papers reported young kids in Baghdad
shaking hands with the Marines. What these newspapers did not report
(because the journalists did not speak Arabic) was what the kids
with a smile said to the marines; 'We hate you, motherfucker.' These
photographs stopped a long time ago. Many smiling children have
been shot dead.
And what of
the media, the propaganda pillar of the new order? In ´Control
Room´, a Canadian documentary on al-Jazeera, one of the more
telling and disgusting images is that of embedded Western journalists
jumping and whooping with joy as the capture of Baghdad was announced.
The coverage of élections´ in Afghanistan and Iraq is
little more than empty propaganda.
of neo-liberal politics and a neo-liberal media helps to reinforce
the collective memory loss from which the West suffers today. The
insistence that the totality of contemporary politics is encompassed
by the essential categories of ´friend´ and `enemy´
has a long pedigree. It was Carl Schmitt, a gifted legal theorist
of the Third Reich, who first developed this view to justify Hitler´s
preemptive strikes against neighbouring states. Schmitt´s writing
were adapted by local conservatives to the needs of the United States
after the Second World War and are currently the bedrock of neo-con
thinking. Their message is straightforward: if your country does
not serve our needs it is an enemy state. It will be occupied, its
leaders removed and pliant satraps placed on the throne. But when
the troops withdraw the satrapies often crumble. Occupation, rebellion,
withdrawal, occupation, self-emancipation is a pattern in world
the Nuremberg War Crimes trials
the German Foreign Minister, Von Ribbentrop,
was charged with war crimes. Why?
Because he had provided the political and
ideological justification for the
pre-emptive strike against Norway.
If this precedent were to be followed in
an imaginary dock of some future tribunal,
then Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice,
Tony Blair and their big boss
in the White House could face
a similar indictment.
Unlikely, but desirable.
Only in the
North is the death of over 100,000 Iraqi civilians ignored by the
mainstream politico-media complex. Iraqi lives don't matter to the
human rights brigades in the West. It is this that helps fuel an
anger against the West as a whole. The demonisation of Islam has
reached such heights that dead Muslims don't have to be counted.
And the fount of this demonisation is the government of the United
States, a country awash with religion: 95 percent of Americans believe
in God, 70 percent in angels, 67 percent in the devil. 'Who believes
in the Devil', wrote Thomas Mann in Doctor Faustus, 'already belongs
to him.' Against the terrorism of tiny Islamist cells is deployed
the almighty terrorism of the American state and its allies. But
David was always more popular than Goliath. This is what I attempted
to explain in my book, Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads,
Modernity. For most of the 20th century, conservative Islam was,
more often than not, supportive of the British Empire and its American
successor. Islam was seen as a conservative social force, rattling
the chains of superstition and fanaticism to stifle even the most
fragile tremors of social revolution. The West was delighted to
have such an ally. Times change.
I was in Brazil
last week for the World Social Forum. In this time of frustration
and defeats, when social advance appears marooned on the shoals
of the Washington consensus, it was heartening to hear a Latin American
leader--Hugo Chavez of Venezuela--address a large crowd of 15,000
participants and defending the resistance in Iraq. The United States
had made three attempts to topple him. They had failed. "If they
try by force, we will resist just like the Iraqis," he declared.
He called for the establishment of a worldwide Anti-Imperialist
Front. The curtain is still down on the main acts of the drama that
is history, but the breaks and intervals are also full of tension
At the Nuremberg
War Crimes trials the German Foreign Minister, Von Ribbentrop, was
also charged with war crimes. Why? Because he had provided the political
and ideological justification for the pre-emptive strike against
If this precedent
were to be followed in an imaginary dock of some future tribunal,
then Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice, Tony Blair and their big boss
in the White House could face a similar indictment. Unlikely, but
Ali's latest book, Bush in Babylon: The Re-colonisation of Iraq,
is published by Verso.
Note: The above first appeared in CounterPunch
on Feb 7 2005. CounterPunch is one of the top 10 sites for political
journalism on the net. Edited by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey
St Clair, CounterPunch sets out to tell the facts and name the names
whether in battles against the war machine, big business or the
rapers of nature. The aricle is also available at Information
Clearing House. Information Clearing House is an independent
media source and one person's effort to correct the distorted perceptions
provided by commercial media.