Debating Iraq

At ZNet, Gilbert Achcar of the LCR (France) and Alex Callinicos of the SWP (Britain) are debating Iraq. Achcar makes two important points. First, he analyses some of the forces contending the elections. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani's motivations, Achcar writes,
were no more a "pure," "Jeffersonian" (as they like to say in Washington) attachment to democracy than Bush and Bremer's were. His calculation was simple: the Shia constitute the overwhelming majority of the Iraqi population, almost two-thirds, and yet they have always been downtrodden by various kinds of despotic rulers. Instituting an electoral mechanism would allow the Shia to legitimately dictate the fate of the country. The electoral process is the best channel through which the Shia can exert their majority rights and sort out the balance of forces among them at one and the same time -- since there is no more or less unified Shia political movement in Iraq comparable to what existed in Iran under Khomeini's leadership. Sistani -- who never adhered to Khomeini's doctrine of velayat-e faqih ("leadership of the jurisprudent," a formula pointing to the pyramid-like rule of the Shia quasi-clergy) -- would still see to it that the laws and regulations of the country conform to Islamic rules (the Shariah, his own most rigorist fatwas, etc.). On this issue, too, Sistani is intransigent.
Second, on the nature of the so-called resistance:
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. This being said, it has been clear until now that the most fruitful strategy in opposing the occupation is the one led by Sistani, and that attempts at derailing the elections and de-legitimizing them in advance can only play into the hands of the US occupation.

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