Falluja, Baghdad, Ramadi, Nasiriya–an entire people has risen to confront the colonial occupation army, its mercenaries, clients and collaborators. First, in massive peaceful protests, they were massacred by U.S., British, Spanish and Polish troops: bare hands against tanks and machine guns. The armed resistance, in the beginning a minority but now indisputably the most popular force, backed by millions. The colonial armies, fearful of every Iraqi, shoot wildly into crowds and retreat; encircle whole cities; fire missiles into crowded working-class neighbourhoods; and helicopters pour machine-gun fire into homes, factories, mosques. In the eyes of the colonial soldiers, the enemy is everywhere. For once, they are correct. The resistance resists; every block, every house, every store rings out with gunfire; the resistance is everywhere. Every house takes hits–the resistance fights on. The people aid the wounded fighters, wash their wounds. They provide water to the thirsty to quench their parched throats and cool their hands–the automatic weapons are hot.
And where are the western mercenaries? The $1,000-dollar-a-day hired guns with their flak vests and dark glasses–their swagger and insolence have disappeared. They, too, have seen the charred bodies of their ex-partners of death.
Hundreds of Iraqis have been killed, thousands have been injured and many more will die, but after each funeral tens of thousands more–the peaceful, apolitical, “wait-and-see” ones–have taken up the gun.
“It’s a civil war,” brays the mainstream media. This is wishful thinking. Shi’a and Sunni are in this together. And the resistance is winning. Never mind the “proportions”–five or ten or twenty Iraqis for each colonial soldier. The Iraqi resistance has won politically. No appointed official has any future: They exist as long as the U.S. military remains, but they will flee from the rooftops of their bunkers as the U.S. withdraws.
Militarily, the U.S. and the mercenaries are taking thousands of casualties, scores of dead and wounded every day. In Washington, the civilian militarists, the architects of the destruction of Iraq, are panicking. “Send more troops!” say Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and the would-be President Kerry. From his Texas ranch, Bush proclaims the resistance leader Moqtada Sadr a “killer.” Far from the fire, the mayhem, the massacres, his television doesn’t show the child with the mangled face. Bush once again is far from the killing fields–first Vietnam and now Iraq. Now he can claim a draft deferment: He is nominally the president who unilaterally declared the end of the war in May, 2003. Now, in April, 2004, more than 600 U.S. soldiers are dead as the Iraqi resistance rose to meet Bush’s challenge–“Bring ’em on!”–and took the streets from the colonial army. Then they came on and conquered the cities and with sheer courage, and with absolute determination they hold their ground.
The mass popular resistance in Iraq takes on the well-fed, overarmed armies of occupation in hand-to-hand warfare. They do not ask if their neighbours, friends, or comrades are Sunni, secular, Shi’a, Baathist, or Communist. They do not stand aside when a mosque, a school, or a housing project is bombed or machinegunned. They have made a commitment to engage in the struggle, to join in one national movement to oust the invader, the oil thieves, the murderers at hand and afar. It’s a pity, more for themselves than for any material contribution they might make to the historical struggle, that U.S. progressive intellectuals have chosen to abstain, once again demonstrating the irrelevance of Western intellectuals to Third World liberation.
The “Arabs” resist, while the overstuffed cabbage Sharon is silent. His once-loquacious agents, Wolfowitz, Feith, Abrams and their underlings are strangely silent. Are they worried that there might be a mass backlash against those who cooked the data to get the U.S. into a war in which thousands of U.S. soldiers will die and be maimed–in order to “protect” Israel’s undisputed claim to dominance in the Middle East?
The heroism, the valour, the inspiration, the mass resistance is all the more so as the Iraqi people draw on their resources, their own solidarity, their own history, their belief that they will either be free, or take down every colonial soldier as they fight to the death. The phrase “Patria o Muerte” takes on a special and very specific meaning in Iraq: It is not a slogan of a leader, a vanguard, to arouse and inspire the people–it is the living practice of a whole people. “Patria o Muerte” comes out of the mouths of teenage street fighters, as well as street vendors and widows with black scarves.
In the early spring of 2004–in April, to be exact–the dreams of a new colonial empire came crashing down upon the masterminds of the New World Order, an undisputed, unilateral Empire; the end of the Sharon-Wolfowitz-Blair-Cheney “Greater Mid-East Co-Prosperity Sphere.” The Iraqi resistance has turned the Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz dream of a series of wars against Syria, Iran, Cuba and North Korea into a nightmare of bloody street battles on every block in Falluja and Sadr City, Baghdad.
The “Iraqi April Days” are a lesson for the whole Third World, as well as for any would-be imperial colonialist: Mass armed resistance cannot be politically or militarily defeated. The heroism of the Iraqi resistance stands in stark contrast to the cowardly, self-styled Arab “leaders”: the Jordanian and Saudi monarchs, Egypt’s garrulous, corrupt president-for-life Mubarak and the Iranian Ayatollah collaborators. Not one has moved a finger to aid the Iraqi national liberation struggle. They fear that the example of the successful Iraqi resistance will light a fire under their ample buttocks.
James Petras is a member of CD’s Editorial Collective.
This article appeared in the May/June 2004 issue of Canadian Dimension .