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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
Choosing Sides in Iraq
Mick Hall • 14.11.03

In many ways, the debates that have been provoked by the invasion and occupation of Iraq amongst people within England and the USA, especially those who consider themselves as being socialists or progressives politically, remind me of those that took place within the US in the latter half of the 1960s over the Vietnam war and in the UK post 1969, after the sending in of British troops to the north of Ireland. The tone set and the political conclusions reached are strikingly familiar to those days. The desire to give the occupying troops the benefit of the doubt, whenever Iraqis are injured or killed at the forces of occupation's hands. An admittance that it would have been best if the invasion thus occupation had never taken place, nevertheless there is a general acceptance amongst many that as it has, the US/UK occupying administrations mean well and whilst mistakes may be made, they have the best interests of the Iraqi people at heart and indeed are the only hope if a new democratic Iraq is to be established. The belief is also common that without the US/UK troops on the ground, the Iraqi people being supposedly pliable puppets in the hands of devious and deadly political forces such as the remnants of Saddams regime and the Islamic fundamentalists will be incapable of rebuilding their nation. Reverting to barbarism at the behest of the aforementioned political forces, who are portrayed in the western media in an almost Satanic manner.

Whilst the majority of the population in the UK/US had no difficulty in accepting the right of European Resistance groups right to take up arms to fight the Nazi occupation of their counties during WW2. Nor since in giving their support in large numbers to Liberation movements the world over, (in the UK barring one exception) or supporting the right of the ANC to bear arms in their struggle for freedom from Apartheid. In Iraq it seems they are met with an insurmountable object that intellectually they are currently unable to overcome and thus they are unable to offer their unconditional support to the Iraqi peoples right to use arms to drive the invader from their land. It is worth considering why this attitude is far more prevalent in the US/UK than else where in the world.

Firstly there is the sheer weight of the years of conditioning by the US/UK media, people simply find it difficult to imagine 'their boys' acting in an oppressive and inhuman way, despite all the weight of history when they have been placed in a similar situation proving other wise.… The self sacrifice and mission of liberation that US/UK troops participated in during WW2 is as fresh in peoples minds today as it was forty years ago. Movies like Saving Private Ryan and TV programmes such as Band of Brothers keep the image of US troops as being noble and on the side of right fresh in peoples minds. Such soldiers are portrayed as never having a low thought let alone acting in such a way. The British have more of a problem because of their legacy of imperialism, but at home the image in the public mind of the average squaddy is much the same as Americans who have their picture book image GI Joe whilst the British have Tommy Aikens. Tough, resilient but honest as the day is long. Of course what the US/UK public often overlook due to being so introverted geographically, is that almost all nations view their soldiery in the same way. Just as the Yanks have GI Joe the Turks have little Mehmet, the battle weary solder who will always fulfil his duty and so it goes on the world over.

There is however an additional reason why, beyond the aforementioned and of course the normal loyalty to ones own that makes it difficult for US/UK citizens to understand the deep hatred that occupation provokes in those suffering under its yoke. This is a historical reason. The fact is in England there is little historical let alone living memory of successful foreign invasion and the dispiriting and hatreds induced within those who are forced to live under the occupation of foreign armies. The English nation has not experienced a successful invasion since the year 1066. The fact that they have inflicted occupation on many countries historically is another reason why they have such difficulty staring into the face of what has been their own inhumanity.

Thus the majority of English born people have difficulty understanding the feeling's that those suffering occupation by invading armies experience. This is less so than in the past due to the increase in ethnic minorities within the population brought about by the decolonisation of the countries that had made up the British Empire. Nevertheless it is still the prevalent train of thought within the population. This goes a long way too explain the indifference to the Irish situation amongst the English. Indeed as I mentioned above the very argument now used over Iraq was used about Ireland during the last 100 odd years, the more so during the recent trouble's centred in the north of Ireland. i.e. without the Brits there the two communities would tear each other to bits. 'Our boys' are only acting as independent arbiters. A Palestinian, Indian, Pakistani, etc. and perhaps their English born off spring would intuitively understand how an Irish Republican thinks and what motivates their behaviour. As indeed would an Irish Republican understand what motivates an Iraqi to take up arms against the US/UK forces within Iraq today. Those living under occupation no matter how benign hate it and rarely think in detail about the future once the accursed foreigners are gone, beyond seeing it in the terms of bright sunny uplands. All they want is the invaders gone.

The same can also be said for the United State, a nation which since it drove the English State from its shores in its Independence Revolution has never felt the humiliation of invasion and occupation. US citizens, especially those who were either not born yet or were children at the time of the Vietnam war will find it particularly difficult to come to terms with opposing the occupation of Iraq by their armed forces, just as their predecessors who opposed the Vietnam war did at first back in the 1960s. But oppose it they must if they are to play a role in ending the deaths of not only innocent Iraqis, but also those of their own troops. For the longer they stay in Iraq undoubtedly the more of them will be killed by the Iraqi resistance. History has taught us that the US and UK governments will not be moved by the deaths of either their own soldiers nor Iraqis. It is only a change in public opinion at home from that what it is today, of supporting the governments policies on Iraq, through to acquiescence, on to overwhelming opposition to this wretched occupation that will force them into implementing a change in their strategy.

The fact is the US strategy in Iraq is one based on a long time occupation of the country. Commentators and opposition politicians have commented on the wilful mistake of the Bush administration of going to war without an exist strategy once Saddam regime fell. This is nonsense the reason Bush and his corporate backers never drew up a plan for an exit strategy prior to the invasion was for the simplest of reasons, they do not and never did intend to withdraw. They intend staying in Iraq for the long haul, generations at least, Iraq is to be their aircraft carrier in the heart of the Arab world. This being so the only thing that can alter this turn to post imperialist policies is a massive opposition movement with in the US and throughout Europe, especially in the UK where the USA's current puppet government resides.

The US/UK media are reporting that attacks on their armed forces are multiplying daily, with over 20 plus a day being reported by the US administration within Iraq. Yet few arrests are made and they seem to have little real idea who is behind them. This tells one that the Iraqi public are not informing on the underground fighters, despite the threats and large rewards being offered to them for information by the occupation administration. Given time these diverse groups may will emerge with a joint political leadership making it a typical war of national liberation. We will then all have to ask our self's whose side are we on, the oppressor or oppressed. For a socialist or indeed anyone who considers themselves a progressive there is but one answer, alongside the oppressed, in the same trench as the wretched of the earth, in this conflict this means the people of Iraq and their armed fighters.






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Index: Current Articles

14 November 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Belfast Agreement Postpones Cure for British Problem
Liam O Comain


Further Problems at Maghaberry Gaol
Martin Mulholland


Luis Eduardo Garcia Interviewed

Anthony McIntyre


Choosing Sides in Iraq
Mick Hall


The Taboo of Racism So Subtle
Davy Carlin


Left Unity Meeting


Thessaloniki Prisoners On Hunger Strike
Anarchist Prisoner Support


Death Fast in 4th Year
DHKP-C Prisoners’ Organisation


10 November 2003


Address to Ard-Fheis 2003
Ruairí Ó Bradaigh


British Anti-Insurgency

Liam O Comain


From A Belfast Granny
Kathleen O Halloran


Planes, Trains and Big Wains!
Eamon Sweeney


The Most Important Election Ever, Again
Anthony McIntyre


What Went Wrong in the New South Africa?
Andrew Nowicki




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