Western news services have taken to characterizing the struggle against the US occupation of Iraq as an insurgency. While insurgency is a relatively neutral word, an innocuous word with little ideological bias, its widespread use represents a victory over the ideologists, the spin-doctors of US imperialism. When the invasion of Iraq began, all forces standing in opposition to the US legionnaires, their mercenaries, and their satellite allies were deemed Saddamites, terrorists, or cutthroat tribal kin of Saddam Hussein.
As the struggle unfolded, these derogatory terms proved embarrassing and untenable. With the capture of Saddam Hussein and his leading cadre, the myth that resistance came only from corrupted, loyal lieutenants of the Iraqi dictator was exploded. If anything, the resistance was consolidated and advanced with their removal from the field of battle.
The military sought other characterizations: the resistance drew from “foreign,” non-Iraqi, volunteers (as though the invaders were not “foreign”), the resistance consisted of criminals and bandits released in the chaos of the invasion who suddenly found the will to organize a guerilla war against the jost powerful imperial force ever assembled; or the resistance sprung from the power hunger and political ambitions of fanatical religious mullahs positioning for post-invasion dominance. All of these explanations proved wrong and crudely self-serving.
The decisive event that reshaped the Western image and the political face of the Iraqi conflict was the battle for Falluja. It is no exaggeration to say that Falluja was Iraq’s Stalingrad. The Imperial Command chose to demonstrate its might and military effectiveness by taming the opposition in this city. They were determined to make an example of Falluga by throwing all of its technologically sophisticated killing devices and its jost ruthless legionnaires at the lightly armed resistance and the unprotected citizenry. The city was isolated while bombs rained down and snipers picked off random citizens — acts of terrorism that strangely escaped the embedded “terrorism-obsessed,” Western press.
Despite this relentless assault, the resistance held and repelled the imperialists. The brutality of this attack inspired countless acts of solidarity and heroism. Assistance came from throughout Iraq and several other cities rose, inspired by Falluja. No event unified and energized the Iraqi cause as has the Iraqi Stalingrad, the defeat of imperialism at Falluja.
Western opinion polls taken since this defeat demonstrate that well over ninety percent of Iraqis oppose the continued US occupation. These rude facts have forced the West to view the resistance, not as obstinate, obstructionist remnants of Saddam’s regime, but as popular and deeply rooted. This reality has caused the imperialist ideologues to dub the formerly vilified fighters “insurgents.”
But this is not merely a conflict over words, because words reflect ideas which reflect, in turn, material realities. Indeed, this editorial change mirrors the beginning of a new stage in the Iraqi conflict. Falluja has pressed the imperialists to pursue a different tactic, sponsoring a puppet government and military to impose the US’s neo-colonial policies on the Iraqi people.
Necessarily, the new US tactic will require a new response from the resistance. The conflict will appear to be more “Iraqi against Iraqi.” As in Algeria, Vietnam, Angola and other struggles for national liberation, liberals and some on the left will decry the violence and tragic destruction that this tactical shift will bring in its wake. But it must be remembered that this is the tactic initiated by a desperate neo-colonial master. It must be remembered that this is a popular struggle for national liberation and not a mere insurgency.
It is not the place for Western pacifists or imperial apologists to lecture the Iraqis on tactics. Nor can the left judge the relation of forces — left, socialist, Communist, fundamentalist, secular — that have aligned on both sides of this struggle for Iraq’s independence. But it is imperative that Marxist-Leninists shed light on the nature of this struggle: It is not enough to advocate peace. We must show our solidarity with the Iraqi people’s struggle against US imperialism and for national independence.
* This article was inspired by James Petras’s article in Global Outlook (Issue number 8, p. 21-22). Petras states: “The Western intellectuals are sitting on their hands. While they state their opposition to the war, they scramble to endorse candidate John Kerry who does, in fact support the war… So where are the Western Intellectuals in these days when the Iraqi people have risen arms in hand to resist the US military juggernaut?”