Saturday, November 20, 2010

Hitchens, with poppy and rumpled hat

Christopher Hitchens 
I was moved by the portrait by Jamie James Medina of Christopher Hitchens, at home in DC, with red poppy, no hair and rumpled hat, accompanying Andrew Anthony’s Observer interview with the great man. The sad likely possibility of the Hitch’s coming death pushes interviewers towards his so-called “New Athiesm” (a term he rejects in the interview). As a paid-up Old Agnostic, I find this topic the most boring imaginable: while Hitchens is interesting on absolutely everything else (apart, perhaps, from his sex life and his schoolboy japes with his literary pals), he is tedious when talking about God.

Far more interesting when talking about the 1991 Gulf War:
"I said that Bush [senior] may have used the rhetoric of anti-fascism but he didn't mean it. And then I said, yeah, but what if he had meant it? Would I therefore be obliged by my own argument to be in favour? The answer was 'yes'. And then I said, well what do you care how they argue? You should be arguing it yourself. And I found I couldn't get out of that."
And about not criticising Robert Mugabe early on:
"That makes me wince. More than wince. I'd met him a couple of times and I knew that he had in him a terrible capacity for fanaticism, absolutism, and I didn't say as much about that as I could have done. If I asked myself about why I didn't, I'm sure the answer is because I didn't want to give ammunition to the other side."
And about how Chinese capitalism and human rights:
"Darfur, Zimbabwe, Burma, North Korea, anywhere that the concept of human rights doesn't exist, it's always the Chinese at backstop. And always for reasons that you could write down in three words: blood for oil."
And about Hezbollah:
"I was at a Hezbollah rally in Beirut about two and a half years ago," he says. "Very striking. Everyone should go. But of the many things that impressed me about it, having the mushroom cloud as the party flag in an election campaign was the main one. You wouldn't want to look back and think, I wish I'd noticed that being run up. Now I can give you all the reasons that it's bombast on their part. Still, I know which regret I'd rather have."
 ***

I read a copy of the Independent that I found on the train the other day, a day or two after the big HE demo in London. I was interested in the juxtaposition on the same page of two articles. The first, given prominent position, was by Hitchens’ good friend, the journalist Patrick Cockburn, "The United States is facing a decisive political defeat in Iraq over the formation of a new government, as its influence in the country sinks lower than at any time since the invasion of 2003". The second, also by Cockburn, tucked below it, was entitled: "Iraqi Christians living in fear as 11 bombs explode in Baghdad, killing five". Although Cockburn, who in some ways is a fine reporter, does not exactly gloat in the first article, it’s hard not to read it between the lines, as Cockburn has been predicting disaster, hoping for disaster, exaggerating the negatives, since the war began. He seems (as are, I imagine, both the editors and readers of the Indy) unable to see the relationship between the two articles: American failure, in this case, means the genocidal cleansing of Christians from a theocraticised Iraq.

Hitchens again, in the National Post, writes with savage clarity on this issue:
The continuing bloodbath is chiefly the result of an obscene alliance between the goons of the previous dictatorship and the goons of a would-be-future theocratic one. From the very first day after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, without ever issuing so much as a manifesto or a bill of grievances, this criminal gang awarded itself permission to use high explosives, assassination, torture, and rape against a population that was given no moment of breathing space after three decades of war and fascism.
Now, unless you can make yourself believe that the doomed, imploding Saddam regime would somehow have managed a peaceful transition from itself to something else in a society that it had already maimed and ruined and traumatized, you have to consider expressing a bit of gratitude to the coalition soldiers who were able to provide some elements of that breathing space and to prevent the next regime from being worse even than the preceding one. At a time when it seemed to many people that Baghdad had already become worse than Beirut and Rwanda combined, I tentatively wrote of the coalition forces as “the militia for those who have no militia,” a description that I claim the U.S. troop surge partially vindicated.
I am not 100% convinced by that, and welcome Hitchens’ qualifications: partially vindicated, some elements. But I was thinking something similar when reflecting on the higher education march on November 10. I was struck on the march by the number of students with banners condemning the Liberal Democrats for betraying them. “I want my vote back Clegg” was one example. I wished I had a banner saying, “You stupid students, why did you vote Liberal Democrat? What on earth made you think they were ‘progressive’? Thanks for giving us this mess.”  When I mentioned this at home to Babs from Brockley, she agreed, noting that all the people who didn't vote Labour because of The War had to take the blame for the new government’s cuts. She saw this as the reaction of people too comfortable in life, looking for distant victims to get agitated about. I hope those people, many of them of course Independent readers, feel some sense of guilt at cheerleading for American’s withdrawal when they read about the slaughter of Christians in Iraq, but I doubt they will. Martin had a similar response to William Dalrymple, in this superb post.

***

Finally, this National Post article by the Hitch is a superb read, on Barack Obama’s glacial elitism, ethnic pandering and political clumsiness, but mainly on slopping poll and lazy reporting. Here is a sample sentence: “Elitism and populism, as we have painfully learned this fall, are too often found in the same person. The simultaneous aggregating and dividing of people by race and ethnicity turns out to be the cheapest and easiest outcome of supposedly democratic measurement.”

26 comments:

BenSix said...

When I mentioned this at home to Babs from Brockley, she agreed, noting that all the people who didn't vote Labour because of The War had to take the blame for the new government’s cuts.

Of course, Labour also instituted tuition fees and commissioned the Browne report. I doubt the students only held the Iraq war against them.

She saw this as the reaction of people too comfortable in life, looking for distant victims to get agitated about.

Or perhaps it's that, when and if one feels a government has worsened the lives of people overseas, the betterment of Brits shouldn't be the only consideration.

I assume you have similar contempt for people like, say, Oliver Kamm - who I believe voted Tory as his Labour candidate was insufficiently hawkish - or Marko Attila Hoare - who, if I remember correctly, supported McCain because he was more of an interventionist.

I hope those people, many of them of course Independent readers, feel some sense of guilt at cheerleading for American’s withdrawal when they read about the slaughter of Christians in Iraq, but I doubt they will.

Such massacres were taking place even more frequently while the U.S./U.K. troops roamed Iraqi streets. As we've seen, they couldn't - and, heck, didn't seem to want to - stop their own colleagues from enacting atrocities.

bob said...

Thanks for the comment Ben.

Probably my responses were not wholly rational, and I certainly don't want to glorify the New Labour administration, but the idea of giving us a Tory government (always the most likely result of a large Lib Dem vote) to punish them was a bad idea.

Nor do I want to glorify the other Coalition, the liberating/occupying force in Iraq. As I said, I don't 100% buy Hitchens' argument.

But nor do I buy the idea of the Stop The War affect as genuine internationalism or cosmopolitanism. If it was, the tears that fall for Iraq and Palestine would fall for Chechnaya, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Belorus, Uzbekistan or Western Sahara, or any number of places. (I don't mean that no opponents of the Iraq war care about such places, but that the fetishisation of "The War" over all issues does not spring from genuine solidarity.)

On Kamm and Marko, I believe they are genuine cosmopolitans, but that they (at least Kamm) can indeed be blind to domestic injustice. Peter R's great phrase, "Paine abroad, Burke at home" sums it up - have a look at these posts, and especially part II of this one, for more on that.

skidmarx said...

Is it not possible that Cockburn, the editor, and yes even readers of the Indie see a connection between American failure and the persecution of Christians, just a different and obvious to those not so blind that they choose not to see?
[Clue:who has been running Iraq since the occupation began?]

Waterloo Sunset said...

I was struck on the march by the number of students with banners condemning the Liberal Democrats for betraying them. “I want my vote back Clegg” was one example. I wished I had a banner saying, “You stupid students, why did you vote Liberal Democrat? What on earth made you think they were ‘progressive’? Thanks for giving us this mess.”

The problem is that example doesn't really fit with yours (or Babs') analysis. The students in question aren't referring to Iraq. They're talking about the tuition fees pledge. You can criticise them for being to naive to realise that politicians are lying bastards possibly, but it's not a vindication of Labour.

It should also be noted that particular argument is being pushed most heavily by Labour Students (the right to recall campaign etc.) It wasn't a very popular placard among those involved in the direct action...

When I mentioned this at home to Babs from Brockley, she agreed, noting that all the people who didn't vote Labour because of The War had to take the blame for the new government’s cuts.

Oh, are we back to "vote Labour without illusions" again? Yay! That's been awfully successful as a tactic over the years!

Apart from anything else, Labour were also going to implement cuts. As fully signed up members of the neoliberal economic analysis, there is nothing else they could have done.

I'm wholly unconvinced by the idea that not voting for a party makes you responsible for what other parties may do anyway. Actively voting for a party is a different matter.
I hope those people, many of them of course Independent readers, feel some sense of guilt at cheerleading for American’s withdrawal when they read about the slaughter of Christians in Iraq, but I doubt they will.

Correlation is not causation. And the pro war left seem reluctant to take full responsibility for any death in Iraq since the occupation.

They do accept 'responsibility' for the war in general. But as they support it, that's no big deal. But there is a notable lack of the same accepting of responsibility for things like the decline in social mobility under New Labour.

On Kamm and Marko, I believe they are genuine cosmopolitans, but that they (at least Kamm) can indeed be blind to domestic injustice.

I'd see the two as difference cases. Marko has made it very clear he considers the most important dividing line to be between pro and anti west. And that he doesn't consider himself part of the left and considers capitalist representative democracy to be worth fighting for. As such, his position here is entirely understandable.

Kamm voted Tory because Kamm is a fucking Tory. His claim to still be on the left is an obvious lie, used as a rhetorical device. He isn't blind to domestic injustice. At best he doesn't care. At worst he actively supports it.

JM said...

ugh, he looks terrible.

And Chris Floyd decides to be pretty sadistic:
:
http://www.chris-floyd.com/articles/1-latest-news/2050-blind-mans-bluff-hitchens-pays-obeisance-to-his-one-true-god.html#disqus_thread

Duncan said...

He seems (as are, I imagine, both the editors and readers of the Indy) unable to see the relationship between the two articles: American failure, in this case, means the genocidal cleansing of Christians from a theocraticised Iraq.

I think this link depends on whether you believe that the US invaded Iraq to create a stable, liberal democracy where the rights of minorities are protected or whether you think this is a fairy story believed by otherwise seemingly intelligent individuals.

Bob said...

@WS As I said above, probably my response was a little irrational, and, yes, Labour did not give us free higher education and the HE march had nothing to do with The War etc etc. BUT I refuse to accept that there is no difference between this government (given to us partly by Lib Dem voters) and the Labour government. The difference between £3K university fees (bad enough) and £9K university fees, for instance. The young generation saw Labour as the ruling party, in the way my generation saw the Tories as the ruling party, and a turn against them seemed the "progressive" thing to do. The Lib Dems, with their dishonest fees promise, their empty electoral reform rhetoric, and their anti-war position, mopped up that "progressive" vote, but the hollowness of that "progressive" position should be clear to all now.

I can't begin to count the number of people who told me they couldn't vote Labour because of The War. I thought then, and I know now, that was a stupid act of gesture politics.

--

@Duncan: "I think this link depends on whether you believe that the US invaded Iraq to create a stable, liberal democracy where the rights of minorities are protected or whether you think this is a fairy story believed by otherwise seemingly intelligent individuals."

I don't think it is anywhere near this simple. I don't think the most important issue is WHY the US invaded Iraq. Please read Martin's post which I linked to http://martininthemargins.blogspot.com/2010/11/its-all-our-fault-again.html for a more reasoned version of what I wanted to say.

Waterloo Sunset said...

@ Bob

BUT I refuse to accept that there is no difference between this government (given to us partly by Lib Dem voters) and the Labour government.

Possibly. In terms of the utter social authoritarianism of the last government, I'm not currently convinced this government is going to be any worse.

More importantly though, the question is what Labour would be doing now if they were in. And they would undoubtably be implementing widespread cuts. As I said before, this is as much a matter of neoliberal economic logic as ideology. Labour absolutely agree the deficit needs to be reduced, whatever the cost.

The young generation saw Labour as the ruling party, in the way my generation saw the Tories as the ruling party, and a turn against them seemed the "progressive" thing to do.

And until we break from the current quagmire of false opposition, that pattern will repeat itself constantly. The way forward is still to break from the mainstream parties, not to prop them up as "slightly less worse".

I can't begin to count the number of people who told me they couldn't vote Labour because of The War. I thought then, and I know now, that was a stupid act of gesture politics.

People vote on single issues all the time. And how is that different from those like Hitchens and Cohen saw the war as some kind of litmus test for the left? It strikes me as precisely the same argument.

As an aside, I think we should avoid the meme among some decents that we have to be all nice about Hitchens now he's ill. One of the things I like about Hitchens is that he's always rejected that kind of sentimentality. See his (rather splendid) book on Mother Teresa as an example.

I'm oddly reminded of Swells writing on this subject, which I find incredibly touching. http://www.philadelphiaweekly.com/news-and-opinion/in-extremis/Steven-Wells-Says-Goodbye-49054426.html

modernity said...

"that all the people who didn't vote Labour "

a percentage didn't do so cos New Labour were utter shite, so the reality is, New Labour and its desire to kick the working class in the teeth are really to blame for much of Labour's defeat.

An own goal.

Don't get me started on NL....

WS said most of what I wanted to say....

James Bloodworth said...

"More importantly though, the question is what Labour would be doing now if they were in. And they would undoubtably be implementing widespread cuts. As I said before, this is as much a matter of neoliberal economic logic as ideology. Labour absolutely agree the deficit needs to be reduced, whatever the cost."

Agree with this. The idea that the cuts are party political is incorrect. The cuts are both political and ideological, but agreed on by the major parties who merely differ as to *how* to implement them. At the end of the day, the same percentage gets slashed from the budgets of ordinary people so as to make finance capital profitable again and rev-up the speculation economy whoever wins election.

To quote (I've forgotten who), I find the whole debate the intellectual equivalent of playing a game of cricket confined to the square, with the outfield behind the ropes.

'THERE IS NO ALTERNATIVE'.

If you want a picture of the future, imagine Cheryl Cole punching a toilet attendant’s face – forever.

Real opposition in future will come about on the streets.

Regards Bob

James

skidmarx said...

Having checked out your back-up on the Iraqi Christian thing, and the Dalrymple CiF piece he links too, the only fault I really noted in the latter is one of those the former claims to identify: that Bush's use of the word crusade should be made to carry such causative weight.Otherwise Martin, and you if you are the BobB of the first comment set up straw men in imputing to Dalrymple beliefs about agency or other possible futures for Iraq that he does not express.
Arrogating to itself the right to run affairs in Muslim countries when it chooses ( particularly in Iraq when the proposed justification became clear as an obvious falsehood) means the Western ruling classes make it easy for the world to be presented as a Christian v Muslim narrative, while fuelling the anger and the despair of the disenfranchised. When the army of the most powerful state of the world is the ultimate arbiter of power in Iraq, it is up to those who want to blame others for the state the country is in to make their case.

bob said...

BobB is, to quote the Colorblind James Experience, a different Bob.

What is "a Muslim country"? Iraq is of course predominantly Muslim, but even now, despite sustained de facto cleansing of Christians and other non-Muslims over the last decades, it is still not 100% Muslim. Wikipedia says in 1950 Christians numbered 7-10% of the population, in 1980 it was 7% and now it is less than 3%. Christians have been under assault in Iraq under previous regimes, but most heavily since invasion from Islamists of various sorts. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-11669994

I don't want to get into an argument about why there were some 120,000 Jews in Iraq in 1948 but only 100 now. And of course many Kurds are not Muslims but rather Alevi, Arsan, Yazidi, etc - even Jewish. And then there are other religious minorities like Mandaean and Zoroastrian. Why should we accept that Iraq is a Muslim country?

The reasoning that says it is makes me tend to agree with the other Bob B. Leftists (including presumably Skidmarx) reject the normative Christianity of English, American, French and other "Western" societies, but accept the normative Islam of Iraq. This is racist double standards, and essentially complicit in the religious cleansing of non-Muslim minorities in places like Iraq.

This racist double standard also applies to sovereignty. While the SWP and its ilk hold the right to revolution to be sacrosanct in places like Britain, we are asked to accept as sacrosanct the sovereignty of whatever dictatorship, religious or secular, happens to rule over places like Iraq.

And I actually, come to think of it, broadly agree with BobB that it is racist to ascribe agency to "the West" in making it responsible for Islamist violence in Iraq, and thus to deny agency to the Islamists themselves who are, of course (and not the Americans), doing the killing of Christians.

Waterloo Sunset said...

And I actually, come to think of it, broadly agree with BobB that it is racist to ascribe agency to "the West" in making it responsible for Islamist violence in Iraq, and thus to deny agency to the Islamists themselves who are, of course (and not the Americans), doing the killing of Christians.

Um, but didn't you ascribe agency to Independent readers in the OP? Have I misunderstood you? Did you mean Independent reading Iraqi Islamists?

Anonymous said...

Israel's war against the truth pursued by various types of weapons (including Bonnier Media & let criminals as well as civilian-clothed Mo$$ad's eXpo staff & co) continues quite cynical on Swedish soil, too. Jews massacred oppressed classes of society; eliminates honest people all over the world.
Jöns Olof ÅKERLUND (fr. Alunda)
Flashback@Flashback-enterprises.ltd.uk

ModernityBlog said...

"The reasoning that says it is makes me tend to agree with the other Bob B. Leftists (including presumably Skidmarx) reject the normative Christianity of English, American, French and other "Western" societies, but accept the normative Islam of Iraq. This is racist double standards, and essentially complicit in the religious cleansing of non-Muslim minorities in places like Iraq.

This racist double standard also applies to sovereignty. While the SWP and its ilk hold the right to revolution to be sacrosanct in places like Britain, we are asked to accept as sacrosanct the sovereignty of whatever dictatorship, religious or secular, happens to rule over places like Iraq. "


What an excellent way of putting it, but it is not only them.

Think about the Guardian.

There are some 22+ countries in the region with a population of about 300 million, yet the coverage in the Left of centre media is abysmal.

For the volume of population there is comparatively little critical coverage, or even basic news.

That's 300 million people who are not really seen as noteworthy in bits of the Western media.

That's not to say that there is *no* coverage whatsoever, but no where near the level that the 22 countries or the 300 million deserve.

On top of that, where can we see a consistent class analysis of the dictatorships in the region from British/European Left.

There might be the odd article, but nothing of consequence.

The Left of Centre media and the British/European Left are very conservative when it comes to viewing the Middle East, as a totality, there is little, if any, radical coverage.

ModernityBlog said...

So you might conclude that colonialist thinking is not dead in the West, just morphed into something else.

skidmarx said...

"While the SWP and its ilk hold the right to revolution to be sacrosanct in places like Britain, we are asked to accept as sacrosanct the sovereignty of whatever dictatorship, religious or secular, happens to rule over places like Iraq."

What an excellent way of putting it,

Or would be if 'twere true.I don't think now, and I didn't meet anyone when I was in the SWP (though maybe that was before the compulsory Islamophile brainwashing)who believed that any country had a "Get out of social revolution Free" card. Defending them against imperial intervention and taking account of the way national oppression creates cotradictory consciousness is one thing, butfaling to believe that it would be nice if all existing governments were replaced with ones based on popular proletarian participation? Not in my name.

Wozza Muslim country? When I was reading an almanac called "The Book of the World 1972" when I was a young teenager I realised the same thing that Dawkins points out, it's a country with a lot of Muslim parents.

BenSix said...

And I actually, come to think of it, broadly agree with BobB that it is racist to ascribe agency to "the West" in making it responsible for Islamist violence in Iraq, and thus to deny agency to the Islamists themselves who are, of course (and not the Americans), doing the killing of Christians.

It's possible, of course, to impute responsibility to both. (Apologies for link to self.)

bob said...

I think that I in my post and all of us in this thread have been blurring a number of different types of "responsibility".

Those who advocate (however powerlessly, whether they have any influence or not) a particular course of action cannot be said to have had concrete responsibility, in the sense of agency, for that course of action - but they do have a certain moral responsibility for the outcomes if their proposed course of action is effected.

Thus those who supported the American-led invasion of Iraq and overthrowing of Saddam Hussein (that includes Hitchens, but not me) need to take a certain responsibility for what happened in the wake of 2003 (including the Islamist violence and sectarian bloodletting unleashed in the post-Saddam vacuum) and make a reckoning of themselves on that basis. I personally think that Hitchens honestly makes such a reckoning (unlike, say, many New Labour politicians), and I think he is partially but not wholly convincing in that reckoning, in the links from the post.

Similarly, after 2003 happened, some people have argued that once the mess it is not the best policy to simply withdraw and leave the mess to the Iraqis - while others have variously reacted with glee at every setback the occupying forces faced, or even at times acted as cheerleaders for the so-called resistance. Patrick Cockburn and the Independent are cases in point.

(Cockburn, constantly repeating the hyperbolic claim that Iraq if the most dangerous or murderous place in the world, seems to positively pant with excitment at every new piece of horrific news from Iraq, in an extremely disturbing way. Cockburn has never, to my knowledge, glorified the insurgency and does not see them as goodies. Many in Stop the War, however, do actively support the so-called "resistance".)

It seems to me that they have to take a similar moral responsibility for sectarian bloodletting and Jihadist violence that occurs in the space left by the de-escalation of the occupying forces.

And then there is the actual, concrete responsibility for the violence, in the sense of agency. Clearly in Iraq the occupying forces have been concretely responsible for some terrible things. But I believe that the great preponderance of violence has been committed by forces other than the occupying forces, and specifically by the insurgency lauded by some of Cockburn's friends. The insurgents have agency; they kill on a massive scale, for ideological reasons.

BenSix is correct, it seems to me, about responsibility on both sides. But I don't think that Chomsky, say, who he defends in the post in relation to a different situation, or Cockburn, or others of their ilk, actually really morally condemn the insurgents with as much force as they deserve. And, as I said, many in Stop the War go far beyond Cockburn, actively glorifying the so-called "resistance".

Thinking about BenSix's hypothetical scenario, many Stop the War folks, it seems to me, instead take the sort of line of those horrible judges you occassionally read about who let rapists off the hook because they accept that the woman "provoked" them.

modernity said...

"Or would be if 'twere true.I don't think now, and I didn't meet anyone when I was in the SWP (though maybe that was before the compulsory Islamophile brainwashing)who believed that any country had a "Get out of social revolution Free" card. "

surely this is an indication of the futility of arguing with SWPers (or most ex-SWPers), there is no common intellectual ground.

There is no agreement over basic facts.

And if you can't agree basic facts then you can't interpret and if you can't interpret then any discussion is rather sterile or becomes a slanging match.

What we have here is anecdote rather than analysing the question, which would mean to refute it you would need to point out the numerous occasions where the SWP argued for social revolution in these so-called anti-imperialist regimes.

Put more directly, please show where the SWP and co have called for social revolutions in Libya, Gaza or Syria, if you truly wish to refute the point logically.

skidmarx said...

modernity - from the SWP's "Where we Stand":
We live in a world economy dominated by huge corporations. Only by fighting together across national boundaries can we challenge the rich and powerful who dominate the globe. The struggle for socialism can only be successful if it is a worldwide struggle.

bob - you conflate the support of StW and others for the resistance activities against the Americans and their local puppets with support for sectarian murder, the latter may be explicable as a response to the imposition of a sectarian collaborationist regime, but it is still a calumny to impute support for it to opponents of the war withoput some clear documentation that they do so.

modernity said...

skidmarx,

Please, try to provide specifics.

That is specifics not generalised statements.

I am arguing a specific point, therefore *if* you wish to refute it intellectually, of which you are perfectly capable of, then you have to engage with the **specifics** of what I'm saying, not hunt out for generalised excuses from the SWP.

Again:

"please show where the SWP and co have called for social revolutions in Libya, Gaza or Syria, if you truly wish to refute the point logically."

bob said...

OK, I'll provide some "documentation" about StW supporting sectarian violence in the name of resistance, even though you seem reluctant to provide "documentation" of the SWP calling for social revolution in states like Iraq.

Meanwhile, can you tell me which organisations represented "resistance" in Iraq and not sectarian murder, how the SWP distinguished between them, and how it gave support to the former? I can think of groups in the former category - the Iraqi Freedom Congress, the WCPI, the Iraqi feminist movement, the Iraqi trade unions - but I never saw the SWP, Respect or other StW groups supporting them. Rather they used the generic term "the resistance", themselves conflating the two very different forces.

Seamus Milne, for example (a Stopper, not a Swapper) said this: "the war of attrition waged by Iraq's armed resistance - or insurgency as it is usually described in the western media - that has successfully challenged the world's most powerful army", without giving a single example of who he means. But what part of the ARMED insurgency was not guilty of sectarian slaughter of civilians, "explicable" or otherwise?

Jonathan Steele, a voice of StW in the mainstream media, used the word "resistance" to talk about the Ba'athist forces, while pouring scorn on the elections http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2005/oct/21/iraq.comment .

As Gilbert Achcar said, when debating Callinicos: "The so-called Iraqi resistance is a heterogeneous conglomerate of forces, many of them purely local. For a major part, these are people revolted by the heavy-handed occupation of their country, fighting against the occupiers and their armed Iraqi auxiliaries. But another segment of the forces engaged in violent actions in Iraq is composed of utterly reactionary fanatics, mainly of the Islamic Fundamentalist kind, who make no distinction between civilians, Iraqis included, and armed personnel, and resort to horrible acts, like the decapitation of Asian migrant workers and the kidnapping and/or assassination of all kinds of persons who are in no way hostile or harmful to the Iraqi national cause. These acts are being used in Washington to counterbalance the effect of the legitimate attacks against the US troops: the task of presenting the "enemy" as evil is thus made very easy.

This means, incidentally, that any unqualified support for the "Iraqi resistance" as a whole in Western countries, where the antiwar movement is badly needed, is utterly counter-productive as much as it is deeply wrong (when paved with good political intentions). There should be a clear-cut distinction between anti-occupation acts that are legitimate and acts by so-called "resistance" groups that are to be denounced. One very obvious case in point are the sectarian attacks by Al-Zarqawi group against Shias."
Making this distinction is something the SWP and StW failed to do. If I am wrong, provide documentation.

For another critique, see Joe Lockard here: http://bad.eserver.org/editors/2004/iraqantiromanticism.html

skidmarx said...

modernity - I provided a statement of their general principles in such matters. It would seem rather for you to make a positive case that those principles don't apply to the cases you cite.

bob - this do ya?

bob said...

Skid, yes, I agree that is a good example of a condemnation of sectarian killings by someone from SWP and (then) Stop the War. I also noticed later that Callinicos, in his debate with Achcar, attacked Al-Zarqawi, disassociating his with "the resistance". HOWEVER, I still think that the SWP and its allies in StW (a) muted such criticisms compared to their glorifications of "the resistance" (which, you could argue, although I wouldn't, is fair enough, because their priority was the defeat of America not the defeat of the Al-Zarqawis), (b) failed to provide a clear case for when to support the insurgents and when not to (I may be wrong about this, possible there was some article in International Socialist or such place) and, (c) failed to show concrete solidarity with forces within Iraq who were both opposed to the occupation and to the sectarian killings. There are hundreds of references to "the resistance" in StW materials, and in SWP materials from this period - but almost no examples of who the (genuine) resistance might be.

I note that the wikipedia page for "Iraqi insurgency" fails to list any insurgency/resistant groups that are NOT sectarian, theocratic or terrorist, apart from "Possibly some socialist revolutionaries (such as the Iraqi Armed Revolutionary Resistance, which claimed one attack in 2007)" (a fictitious or at best short-lived tiny entity) and some reference to groups like the National Foundation Congress, which distanced itself from the insurgents, although it supported the principle of armed resistance. I don't believe the SWP particularly supported the NFC, although I think one of its members spoke at a couple of StW events, and I am pretty sure the SWP/StW never mentioned the Iraqi Freedom Congress, surely the most progressive organisation in Iraq.

ModernityBlog said...

"I provided a statement of their general principles in such matters. It would seem rather for you to make a positive case that those principles don't apply to the cases you cite."

Once more skidmarx, you've tried to reframe the terms of the debate.

When you're discussing a specific, as I was then it is incumbent on **you** if you wish to engage with these matters to engage with the *specific*.

Generalised statements such as the one you cite are largely meaningless, as they do not engage with the specific point I'm making.

If you show me where the SWP or their allies have called for social revolution in Gaza, Syria or Libya then you might have a case.

It is not as if the SWP are shy and retiring on the Middle East, or don't comment on issues that are important to them.

So skidmarx, Gaza, Syria, Libya...please focus...