Why is the anti-war movement so lacklustre when 70% of Americans want to bring the troops home by spring and George W. Bush is the least popular president in history?
Some reasons are obvious: lack of a draft, low casualties, not much TV coverage, perceived futility of big rallies and marches. My fellow columnist Alexander Cockburn has a different idea. In his current Nation column, Alex argues that the anti-war movement is weak because it fails to show "international political solidarity" with "Iraqi resistance fighters."
Where's the love that US leftists felt for the Sandinistas and the Salvadoran FMLN--the sister cities, the links between unions, the love affairs between the "demure sisters in the struggle from Vermont or the Pacific Northwest" and "some valiant son of Sandino or downtrodden Nica sister, liberated by North American inversion from the oppressions of Latin patriarchy"?
True, he acknowledges, the "the contours of the Iraqi resistance are murky and in some aspects unappetizing to secular progressives in the West, or so they virtuously proclaim." ( Note the sarcasm --because nobody who disagrees with Alex could possibly have honorable motives.) But by cutting ourselves off from the Iraqis killling US soldiers, the US left is failing to learn "its internationalist ABCs."
Where to begin? Let's start with those murky contours and secular objections. With whom, exactly, are we supposed to be showing solidarity? Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia? Shiites massacring their Sunni neighbors? Sunnis killing Shiites? Religious reactionaries who have murdered doctors, professors, working women, Christians, students, hand-holding couples? "Ignorance about the Iraqi resistance is somewhat forgivable," Alex concedes, given the lack of first-hand sympathetic reporting--not that he deigns to enlighten the reader.
So, okay, call me ignorant: The Iraqi resistance isn't dominated by theocrats, ethnic nationalists, die-hard Baathists, jihadis, kidnappers, beheaders and thugs? Who haven't tortured and killed trade union leaders, feminists, aid workers, schoolteachers and such? We would like to live--Iraqis would like to live -- in the society they want to create?
The Sandinistas and the FMLN were far from perfect, but they were leftists. They stood for health care, education, land distribution, modernization--not burning down liquor stores and music shops, beating up unveiled women, suicide-bombing ordinary civilians, bringing back sharia law. They had support from all over the left end of the spectrum--labor,churches, feminists, socialists, human rights activists, peace activists--not just because they opposed US imperialism, but because they shared the goals of the American, and global, left.
If the Central American revolutionaries had resisted American intervention in the name of the Spanish Inquisition and spent a lot of time ethnically cleansing their neighborhoods, American leftists probably wouldn't have been so eager to hold potluck suppers for them.
Why Alex thinks embracing the Iraqi resistance would strengthen the US antiwar movement is beyond me. On the contrary, the nature of the resistance is a major reason why the antiwar movement is so weak. No matter how intensely you oppose the war, it is hard to feel good about an Iraq in which the resistance calls the shots. That was not how anti-war Americans saw Central America, or even Vietnam. It's not just that the iraqi insurgents are killing our soldiers--which, let's remember, was not an issue in Central America. It's that they're killing each other.
UPDATE: Alexander Cockburn's column is posted in full at Counterpunch .