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Analysis Last Updated: Jun 16th, 2006 - 02:25:44

Reflections on the �civil war� in Iraq
By Luciana Bohne
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Jun 16, 2006, 00:30

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I do not believe that Bush invented the policies that drive the insanity and aggression of the attack on the ME. He's infected with a particular virulent strain of aggressive corporatism, but he does not invent its correlated foreign policy. That policy is one of continuity in US foreign affairs since 1945 -- and, to be truthful, before -- which is to seize the prize of the stupendous oil wealth of the region, the motor grease of modern economies.

Bush has been chosen, by his party's backers, for the strategy the members of his cabinet espouse, which is one of extreme economic and military aggression: privatization; cheap, fast, techno-based wars on defenseless people (for resources, markets, and labor); trashing of international law and capitalist "co-operation" from the former vantage point of the "benevolent" strong, and enforcement of economic dominance at the point of the gun.

These policies in Iraq have failed to yield anything more tangible than 14 besieged military bases -- which we are not allowed to call "permanent" even though they consume a good chunk of congressional cash for Iraq. These embarrassing-to-acknowledge bases (because they give the lie to the claim of liberating Iraq) are not enough, however, to appease the real promoters of the war -- bankers, financiers, corporations, military industries -- whose appetite for "stable markets," cheap resources, and human bondage consider these bases an appetizer to the main course -- insuring that the main course, consisting of rate of profit ascendant to the stars, would be routinely devoured through the rapine of Iraq and other similarly annexed places. Though the bases represent a considerable foothold in the region for the future wars, which some other administration will have to wage -- and which in the future as now will have nothing to do with the security of the people, here or abroad, and, therefore, nothing to do with fighting terrorism, a thing, at any rate, triggered and fueled by the industrial powers' neo-colonial occupation of lands that don't belong to them and by the subordination of people who have stolen nothing from them.

I do not believe the canard of "ethnic strife" in Iraq. There certainly is violence and chaos and it is being ascribed to ethnic motives -- a paradigm Americans have been educated to understand, thus the tailoring of the "ethnic strife" theory to their intellectual resources and capacities. What Americans cannot do is bring a political understanding to the Iraqi situation. What they lack is a grasp of political economy -- the filter through which alone they could assess their nation's peril and determine to neutralize it. This is not to say Americans are stupid, but it is to say that they have not been educated to understand the economic imperatives that drive industrial economies. It is for the purposes of undereducating them that the vast network of disinformation has existed and exists -- from the McCarthy congressional witch hunts to Fox News, from Hollywood to the tame academic environment, from the entertainment opiates to those of the most obscurantist religious sects.

That Iraqis live in a state of terror is hard to dispute, but I doubt that astute Iraqis call it a "civil war" -- unless they are in the service of the occupation and training to suppress the people�s call for ending the occupation. Ordinary Iraqis, judging from independent journalistic sources and accounts in the foreign press, complain of murder and abductions, of rapes and disappearances, of massacres and detentions, of bombing raids and chemical weapons -- and they have no doubt that this violence is generated under and because of the occupation. Everything is a struggle: access to employment, electricity, medicines, schools, security. I would like to ask the promoters of the "civil war" theory: who is responsible for this massive humanitarian crime, the American invasion of Iraq or the Iraqi "civil war"?

I say I do not believe in the theory of the civil war in Iraq. For one thing, death-squad militias, chaos, murder and violence in an occupied territory are just that -- chaos, very likely planned chaos, given the vested interests of the occupiers in creating a fragmented, helpless, and eventually exhausted Iraq (which worked to �pacify� El Salvador in the 1980s). For another, you cannot have a civil war where there is no legitimate government. For civil war to occur, you need a central authority and a challenging element that wants to overthrow it. At stake, usually, is the economic direction of the state -- in the American Civil War, for example, the economic direction of the state was polarized between the slave-based economy of the agrarian south and the factory-labor-based economy of the industrial titan in the north. The most economically viable and profit-efficient form of economic development won out: industrialism triumphed over an outdated -- one might say "feudal" -- sort of land-based plantocracy. A civil war is not anarchy -- though the lack of authority produces it. And what you have in occupied Iraq is a kind of anarchy typical of colonial situations -- the absence of consensual rule.

The international right loves the idea of civil war as an excuse to establish a moral balance, useful for propaganda, between their predatory policies and the legitimate armed resistance -- with its inevitable collateral damage of murder and civil chaos -- that rises up against them. What occupiers cannot allow is for the home population to realize that they are not welcome wherever it is they have sent their sons and daughters to die and kill -- for them to realize that they have caused and are suppressing a struggle for self-determination. For, unlike the rulers, ordinary Americans, like people everywhere, tend to be principled and idealistic in national matters, otherwise they wouldn't have to be lied to. Then, too, the very strife that the occupiers foment with their presence, favoritism toward one group and repression of the other, is a necessary condition of control. They cannot call their policy of control "divide et impera" without calling forth visions of Romans setting the Illyrians against the Venetii -- or whatever group happened to be on hand to call for the permanent help of the Roman legions!

To give you an example, the late-departed Italian neo-fascist government had re-interpreted the Italian struggle of WW II resistance against the Nazis and their Italian quislings as a civil war in order to defame the legendary liberation efforts of the anti-fascist left, but it was a struggle between the people and their occupiers and the occupiers' local collaborators. The collaborators were fighting for the survival of Italy within Germany's control. How could that be a civil war? It was murder and chaos, before the resistance organized itself into a disciplined and nationally supported army.

Closer to home, the American war in Vietnam is also falsely portrayed as a civil war, which permits apologists for the war to claim that the US was fighting on the side of South Vietnam under attack by the North. But the South was a puppet of the United States, not a homegrown, independent political entity. The US had set up the government in the South after preventing the national election of 1956, as required by the Geneva Conference convened upon the departure of France from Indochina. They cancelled the elections because they knew that the vote would overwhelmingly have been in favor of a united Vietnam under the leadership of Ho Chi Minh. Thus, far from promoting national unity, the US fomented the war of "self-determination" in the South. It was not a war between two nationalist forces but a war between free Vietnam and occupied Vietnam.

In Iraq, today, we have similarities: we see a struggle for ousting the occupying forces. Today�s struggle in Iraq, however, differs from the struggle in Vietnam in that the resistance is not unified by a progressive vision of the future outside the reach of imperialist control. It seems more of a struggle for power as to who is best suited to rule during and after American rule. The Iraqi resistance lacks a unifying ideology, opposed to the practices of colonial domination. It has not articulated a program for lasting independence. This is the Achilles� heel of the Iraqi resistance and the reason why it has not yet formed a truly national, cohesive front. If the resistance is mainly led by Baathist elements, resentful at being shut out from governing, they do not have a solid commitment to the human factor which inspires every struggle for national liberation: the hope for a more just society and for a more equitable distribution of the national wealth and resources.

To be effective, any struggle for national liberation should have a long view or, once liberation is obtained, things go back to the old ways -- which, for Iraq, would not be a good thing. What are emerging in Iraq are factions, backed by armed militias. It is the militia model of force: parties enforce their power through their own private armies. This is the warlord model of rule -- basically feudal. It is only natural that, lacking the advice and consent of the people, the resistance degenerates into acts of planned and random terror, which plays into the hands of the occupiers.

All this is not to say that the Iraqi resistance is not effective in thwarting American imperialism in Iraq, but it is to say that it is part of its difficulty to prevail. It is thanks to the Iraqi resistance, though, that the US has failed to continue its program of domination of the region. As this benefits the US population both morally and materially, we must regard it as a positive response to the arrogance of Washington�s power.

An administration so desperate for self-justifications as to call the suicides in Guantanamo �acts of war� is an administration with its back to the wall. Is it any wonder that I question their characterization of the deliberate break-up of Iraq as a �civil war�?

Luciana Bohne teaches film and literature at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. She can be reached at

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