Saturday, July 31, 2004

Arabic calligraphy, Iraqi resistance, and the prolonged US quagmire in Iraq:
I have noticed that the Iraq story has changed in US media. Attacks on US troops, and stories of kidnappings have taken on a routine course in media coverage. Arabic media dance to US tunes as well these days, more than ever. AlJazeera has also succumbed to Colin Powell's pressures; AlJazeera's coverage as of late should certainly be more pleasing to US government and to cause of empire. Where does one go to get an accurate picture of the Iraq situation? Certainly, US journalists sequestered in the Green Zone in Baghdad are as out of touch with the story, as a person living in Santa Cruze, California. I, however, can discern certain identifiable trends going on there. Certainly, the sectarian and ethnic fragmentation of the country has intensified. I do believe that US war and policy was predicated on that; not necessarily to encourage sedition in the body of the Iraqi nation, but for purposes of control. The US clearly had made a demographic/political calculation: that with the Kurds on the side of the US war (for reasons that are obvious to most of you), it would be wise to win the Shi`ites over because 1) they have suffered so much under Saddam and cannot but celebrate the collapse of his regime and 2) the Sunnis are harder to win over. It was indubitably a sectarian game that the US played with the gambit of neo-conservative wishful thinking that is now easy to mock and ridicule. I am prompted to write this after recently observing the banners of the new numerous Iraqi (presumably Sunni) groups that are claiming responsibility for a variety of acts of kidnappings and killings in Iraq. When these groups issue videos and pictures they often show the name of the group or gang written over a flag or a banner. In the years of the civil war in Lebanon, we had such imageries. But during the war there, the calligraphy was "natural", i.e. average. It could have been written by any of the men (presumably no women were involved) in the picture. In Iraq today, the calligraphy is professional. I find that very noteworthy. That bode ill for the US colonial project in Iraq. Do you know what that means? That those groups are not as secretive or underground as we may think; or as not as fearful to reveal themselves to the Iraqi public. It means that those groups are operating in quasi-open environment in their neighborhoods and show no reluctance to seek the skills of local Arabic calligraphers. It means that they are being protected and sheltered by the local population. That to me casts doubts on the theory of Abu Mus`ab Az-Zarqawi being behind all the attacks in Iraq. Don't get me wrong. I came back from Lebanon more convinced than ever that there is indeed a fanatical Wahhabi network operating inside Iraq. This network may or may not be independent of indigenous Iraqi groups, although I find it hard to believe that Zarqawi is able to challenge the US so openly without having local support and sympathy. But the picture of the Iraqi resistance is quite complex: it includes inside and outside groups, Sunni and Shi`ite groups, pro- and anti-Saddam groups, etc. These groups are not likely to evaporate. And the ranks of the broad spectrum of Iraqi resistance will increasingly swell as the puppet Iraqi government (under the discredited car bomber/former Saddam's assassin/prisoners' killers/embezzler, Iyad `Allawi) loses credibility as time goes by. Just focus your attention on the Shi`ite organization known as the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. This constituted a linchpin of US war plans in Iraq. The leadership of the group has been either silent as of late or following slowly in the footsteps of Muqtada As-Sadr. We have seen how Ahmad Chalabi is now a cheerleader for Muqtada As-Sadr, articulating an unmistakable Shi`ite sectarian message. He is now a community demagogue, no more. And as the failure of the puppet government seems clearer, and as the prospects of elections look dimmer, the Iraqi political and militia groups will scramble to try to capture whatever political cache from claiming to have participated in the "resistance." You shall see more of that as time goes by. Some members of the resistance are clear in wanting to negotiate for a political bargain with the Americans. Thus was the message of of "Nayif Ad-Dulaymi"--so code-named (one of the "resistance" leaders from Al-Falujah) in his interview with the magazine Ash-Shira` (July 5th, 2004). In the interview he admits receiving money from members of the former regime (while he strongly distances himself and the "residence" from `Izzat Ad-Duri who was close to the Kurdish Sufi tariqah Al-Kistraniyyah which is at odds with the Salafi and Wahhabi trends in the Sunni resistance movement) he openly concedes that his group aims at forcing the US into the "negotiating table." And if you judge the effectiveness of those groups (including those most militant elements related to Wahhabi Tawhid fanaticism)--and regardless of what you or I think of them and their horrific methods--one has to agree that they have been increasingly effective not in forcing a US withdrawal--which they know will not materialize in months--but in stripping the so-called "multinational" force down to its US-British components, and in scaring other countries and corporations from participating in the American colonial adventure in Iraq. The propaganda images of those groups are aimed at public opinion in Iraq (to scare those who wish to cooperate with US forces) and at foreign countries where governments my wish to send troops. This is why the Egyptian government was so quick to deny its intention of sending troops to Iraq after the kidnapping of its diplomat in Baghdad. But with Bush or Kerry in the White House, the US will deal with the situation with characteristic bravado and stubbornness: that victory is around the corner, that only if we send in more troops and if we deploy more firepower, we can bring the enemy to its knees. And if identifying the enemy in Vietnam was difficult, try doing that in Iraq with very few experts there knowing what is going on, and with the lines between hostile and friendly armed groups are very blurred. A person in Lebanon who knows the Iraq situation very well and who is in regular contact with groups and leaders in Iraq told me that much of the weapons of the Sunni and Shi`ite residence is coming from the ranks of US-trained Iraqi police and army forces. Muqtada As-Sadr's army (especially in As-Sadr city) is indebted to US-supplied Iraqi forces for its weaponry. With that, I do not believe that there are any conceivable scenarios of success (for the US) in Iraq; there are only different and increasingly similar scenarios of failure. It is a matter of the duration in which the US will begin to withdraw the troops and to reach resignation. But you can never underestimate the stubbornness of political leaders in a country in the grip of patriotic fever. And the new Saudi intiative (aimed at appeasing American Congress) regarding the formation of an Arab/Muslim force will not see the light of day. Saudi Arabia for one will NOT send one soldier, perhaps relying on the bravery of Macedonian soldiers in Iraq. But the US will continue (under Bush or Kerry) to insist that the mission will be completed, that the rebel will be defeated, that the US is on the right track, that the "enemies of freedom" cannot win, that US military will prevail, that the public needs to suppor the troops, that the media are focusing on the negatives, that "good things are happening in Iraq," that terrorists will be defeated in Iraq to protect US shores, that US wants to spread "freedom" around the world, and that the Iraqis support US efforts. Nobody will believe that except...a majority of the American people.