Al-Ahram Weekly Online   2 - 8 December 2004
Issue No. 719
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Defining resistance

Is there national resistance in Iraq?

Anything but

by Fouad Zakaria

The term resistance came into wide circulation during World War II when Nazi victories across Europe prompted patriotic groups to resist, basically through sabotage operations against ammunition depots and enemy supply lines. The occupation forces reacted harshly, executing thousands of members of the resistance, especially in Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union.

Resistance is associated with patriotism and sacrifice. In the Arab world this is what is invoked when one thinks of the valiant acts of the Palestinian resistance against Israeli occupation.

With the UK-US occupation of Iraq acts of violence spread across the country. Many assumed these were acts of resistance. I beg to disagree and here are my reasons.

The main targets of the violence are police and national guard servicemen. Fatalities among Iraqi servicemen exceed those among the occupation forces. No group with claims to patriotism could accept that.

Attacks are often mounted against oil pipelines, Iraq's economic lifeline and an asset the country needs to rebuild itself. Again, no patriotic group would take such action. Officials in the new Iraqi authority, which is engaged in rebuilding the country, are also targeted.

Some acts attributed to the resistance are clearly aimed at fuelling sectarian strife, hardly the actions of patriots. Armed groups have also abducted innocent civilians, some of whom had come to help rebuild the country. Such conduct is not only unethical, it alienates those who might otherwise sympathise with the cause of the kidnappers.

Those who carry out these acts are mostly Saddam Hussein loyalists, people implicated in the crimes of the deposed regime. They are fighting the security services because the latter's job is to bring them to justice. They are sabotaging the economy to compromise the stability of a new regime that would otherwise hold them accountable for past crimes. In doing so they furnish the occupation forces with the perfect excuse to stay in the country. They are not patriotic. They are anything but.

* The writer is professor emeritus of philosophy at Ain Shams University.

Of course there is

by Abdel-Azim Anis

Fouad Zakaria is not convinced there is national resistance in Iraq. His main argument is that the Iraqi resistance is not similar to the anti- Nazi resistance in Europe. But every national resistance exhibits particular traits, the bottom line being that it fights foreign occupation. Falluja has been the scene of heroic battles, what were these if not resistance? And what about the brutal crimes the US occupation committed in the mosques of Falluja?

Most those who have examined the composition of the Iraqi resistance reached the conclusion that Saddam Hussein loyalists are an insignificant element of the overall resistance. Religiously-inclined forces, to give one example, are active in the resistance, and no one could accuse them of being loyal to Saddam. Jihad militants from across the Arab world have been outspoken on the subject.

Zakaria appears to have complete faith in the Iraqi government, a government that rode to power atop US tanks. The man heading the government admits to have cooperated with the intelligence services of 13 European countries. No wonder his government hopes to rebuild the country under US occupation.

Given that the Arab world has done so little about the US occupation of Iraq, views such as those opposite are depressing. No responsible person would condone the abduction and execution of foreign hostages. Such incidents are harrowing, and yet they occurred in most resistance movements during World War II, as well as in Vietnam. And we still refer to these movements as "resistance".

* The writer is professor emeritus of mathematics at Ain Shams University.

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