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May 31, 2006

Leftists for Occupation


The neocons' unlikely bedfellows

by Joshua Frank

Even with mainstream reports that American troops are slaughtering Iraqi civilians, there are still plenty of lefties in the United States who cannot unify behind a call for an immediate and unconditional withdraw of occupation forces from Iraq. Fortunately, the majority of Americans understand that the U.S. presence in region is only contributing to the violence, not restraining it.

Chris Toensing, writing for In These Times this month, insists, "The Shi'ite religious parties, in particular, prefer that the U.S. military stay until they consolidate their grip on the security apparatus. But even independent Iraqis, like Isam al-Khafaji, fear the intensified sectarian violence and the multi-sided melee of militias that might follow a U.S. pullout."

One of the more astute observers of the situation in Iraq, Nir Rosen, author of In the Belly of the Green Bird: The Triumph of the Martyrs in Iraq, doesn't seem to agree with Toensing's interpretation that Iraqis want U.S. forces to remain in Iraq. Writing for The Atlantic in December of 2005, Rosen explained:

"At some point whether sooner or later U.S. troops will leave Iraq. I have spent much of the occupation reporting from Baghdad, Kirkuk, Mosul, Fallujah, and elsewhere in the country, and I can tell you that a growing majority of Iraqis would like it to be sooner. Before the January 30 elections this year the Association of Muslim Scholars Iraq's most important Sunni Arab body, and one closely tied to the indigenous majority of the insurgency called for a commitment to a timely U.S. withdrawal as a condition for its participation in the vote. (In exchange the association promised to rein in the resistance.) It's not just Sunnis who have demanded a withdrawal: the Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who is immensely popular among the young and the poor, has made a similar demand. So has the mainstream leader of the Shi'ites' Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, who made his first call for U.S. withdrawal as early as April 23, 2003."

Marc Cooper, contributing editor to The Nation, along with a few other "lefties," has long plucked through the neocon playbook to justify a prolonged occupation of Iraq, and even recently signed the erroneous "Euston Manifesto," which, among other things, calls for a continued occupation of Iraq. According to it:

"We are, however, united in our view about the reactionary, semi-fascist and murderous character of the Ba'athist regime in Iraq, and we recognize its overthrow as a liberation of the Iraqi people. We are also united in the view that, since the day on which this occurred, the proper concern of genuine liberals and members of the Left should have been the battle to put in place in Iraq a democratic political order and to rebuild the country's infrastructure, to create after decades of the most brutal oppression a life for Iraqis which those living in democratic countries take for granted rather than picking through the rubble of the arguments over intervention."

So, like President Bush, the signers of this document believe the Left and others should pressure Iraqis to succumb to the U.S. version of democracy. Sounds pretty imperialistic. Other "Euston Manifesto" supporters include Dissent magazine editors Michael Walzer and Mitchell Cohen, Dissent editorial board member Paul Berman, and Kanan Makiya, a Dissent contributor.

In The Washington Post last week, Nir Rosen continued by writing, "Under the reign of Saddam Hussein, dissidents called Iraq 'the republic of fear' and hoped it would end when Hussein was toppled. But the war, it turns out, has spread the fear democratically. Now the terror is not merely from the regime, or from U.S. troops, but from everybody, everywhere. Today, the Americans are just one more militia lost in the anarchy."

Working to end the occupation of Iraq from within the belly of the beast will not be an easy thing to do, especially with folks like Marc Cooper attempting to hold us up. If the U.S. were to leave tomorrow, violence in the country would not end abruptly. No antiwar activist I have spoken to has ever stated anything to the contrary. But if Nir Rosen is correct, and occupation forces are just one more militia in a country of many, wouldn't removing that militia at once be a step in the right direction?

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  • Joshua Frank is the author of Left Out!: How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush, just published by Common Courage Press. You can order a copy at a discounted through Josh's blog at www.brickburner.org. He can be reached at brickburner@gmail.com.

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