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Friday, August 27, 2004



If so, then why has none other than Ayatollah Sistani (who now outflanks Naomi Klein on the left!) negotiated their disarmament

--yet sistani has negotiated with a person whom you label as a "terrorist". in fact, he negotiated a deal that basically 1) allows Sadr to avoid US charges of murder, 2) keep his militias and arms [ok, the militiamen turned in their arms to Sadr] and 3] allow him a political role in a future Iraq. I thought we weren't supposed to be cutting deals with known terrorists? Interesting.
Nothing – not even the U.S. Army—more threatens the future of a democratic, pluralistic and (dare we wish, secular) Iraq than the political ascendancy of Islamic fascists like Al Sadr.

--again, if true, why negotiate with him? why allow for the possibility of his having influence on the political state of Iraq? Why praise Sistani for negotiating with him?
It’s rather a desire that Iraqis, beyond the likes of Bush and Al Sadr, find a humane future.

--and how exactly can that occur as long as the United States remains there and continues to open new bases, hold the strings to military and economic capacity, etc, attempt to shove privatization down the people's throats,...? I mean, we're not exactly talking Japan 1945 here.

Stephen Cheng

"When the Bolsheviks, if you should pardon the reference, took power in Russia in 1917, you will remember, they did so on a platform of peace. Though they had just overthrown the ancien regime which was at war with the Kaiser’s Germany"

Hi. Not to quibble nor to patronize , but the Bolsheviks actually overthrew the liberal Provisional Government, which had decided to continue on with the Russian war effort that was first expended by the Tsarist regime.

Otherwise, good point about the Bolsheviks.

Marc Cooper

Stephen.. sorry for the confusion. For synthetic purposes I conflate the Provisional Govt and the Tsarist regime as the ancien regime. Point is well taken.

My eyebrows went up at that column also, Marc. Still, as Steve points out above, it's the US govt that is giving Sadr the pass that counts--dropping those murder charges etc. I don't think what the US left wants is very relevant to the scheme of things playing out in Iraq.
But yes, I think we will more and more see the anti-imperialist anti-globalist movement looking on the bright side of Islamic fundamentalism as an indigenous anti-corporate movement bla bla. A big mistake, in my view.


Interesting, I quote directly from Klein:
"And Muqtada al-Sadr and his followers are not just another group of generic terrorists out to kill Americans; their opposition to the occupation represents the overwhelmingly mainstream sentiment in Iraq. Yes, if elected Sadr would try to turn Iraq into a theocracy like Iran, but for now his demands are for direct elections and an end to foreign occupation."

--oh yeah, it sounds like she has a whole lotta naive support for Sadr in that Nation piece. Sure.

Stephen Cheng


Drop the sarcasm. Read the passage again. And try to honestly repeat your latest post.


I did read the quote, in fact I took it directly from Marc's post. I think he's portraying her as a naive supporter of Sadr and that very quote shows the exact opposite. Do you read her as a naive supporter of Sadr as Marc would have it? I think it's entirely reasonable to read her as anything but naive.
She is right that the US presence in Iraq is the main source of the violence in Iraq at the moment and she's right that our troops should withdraw from Iraq. To think otherwise strikes me as naive actually.

Jason Schulman

Marc -- your second quote bloc, starting with "There are other arguments for ignoring the reactionary nature..." is not from the Worker-Communist Party of Iraq. It's from the Alliance for Workers' Liberty, which is a British "Third Camp" Marxist group (think Shachtman, Draper, et al) that supports much of the WCPI's politics.

So, you might want to edit all that.

Stephen Cheng

Yes, the statement was naive, although it's doubtful that Klein would be a terror lackey. Yes, al-Sadr may want direct elections and the Coalition's withdrawal. However, how democratically will al-Sadr act AFTER he gets elected? No doubt dictatorially. What good are his "for now" demands then?

And let me switch the wording:

"And Adolf Hitler and his followers are not just another group of generic terrorists out to kill Jews and other minorities; their opposition to the Peace of Versailles represents the overwhelmingly mainstream sentiment in Germany. Yes, if elected Hitler would try to turn Germany into a one party state, but for now his demands are for direct elections and an end to foreign demands for reparations as mentioned by the Versailles treaty."

It may be a bit of a stretch to draw parallels, but firebrands are firebrands.

Marc Cooper

Mr Cheng:

Or.. " Mr. Mussolini's "fascia di combatti" are composed mostly of embittered working class fighters who are more attracted to Il Duce's nationalist image than to his complicated corporatist manifesto. These ordinary Italians see their country's stature maginfied by Mussolini's call to duty and his dream of empire. They are ready to fight to the last man to expel the foreign U.S/Allied imperialist troops from their soil. Once that goal is achieved they may turn on their current leader. But for now, it is only the battle for national sovereignty that inspires them."


Yes, al-Sadr may want direct elections and the Coalition's withdrawal. However, how democratically will al-Sadr act AFTER he gets elected? No doubt dictatorially. What good are his "for now" demands then?

--apparently good enough for the main good guy Sistani to support negotiating agreements with Sadr. What gives? If it's ok for Sistani to see what Klein says, why is Klein to be condemned as 'naive' for the same?
"And Adolf Hitler and his followers are not just another group of generic terrorists out to kill Jews and other minorities; their opposition to the Peace of Versailles represents the overwhelmingly mainstream sentiment in Germany.

--not a terribly good analogy. we're not talking about a movement that couldn't be easily mimiized if any intelligent policy were carried out with that in mind. thus a withdrawl from Iraq, reparations, real independence, would likely minimize the likelihood of any real constituency for reactionary oriented politics in Iraq.
In fact, here's the irony of it all, which you don't see from your analogy. If the US and allied powers had followed a similar policy toward Germany in the 20's,i.e., supporting policies that would win over the popular sentiment for German development that advanced German welfare, more than likely Hitler could never have come to power. After all, what would have been the base left after support was given to the social democratic aspirations of the German majority instead of the Versailles revenge?
and nota bene, again directly from the 'naive' Klein:

"Before Sadr's supporters began their uprising, they made their demands for elections and an end to occupation through sermons, peaceful protests and newspaper articles. US forces responded by shutting down their newspapers, firing on their demonstrations and bombing their neighborhoods. It was only then that Sadr went to war against the occupation. And every round fired out of Butler's helicopter doesn't make Des Moines and Santa Monica safer, as he claims. It makes the Mahdi Army stronger."


How about "Ho Chi Minh's 'Viet Cong' and their followers are not just another group of generic terrorists out to kill Americans; their opposition to the occupation represents the overwhelmingly mainstream sentiment in Vietnam. Yes, if elected he would try to turn Vietnam into a totalitarian state like North Korea, but for now his demands are for direct elections and an end to foreign occupation."


Note that the *only* point I'm trying to make in the post above is that it is entirely consistent to believe that someone is a totalitarian in the making, that victory for them would be a disaster for the people they claim to represent, but that it would *still* be a good idea for foreign forces who believe themselves to be carrying out a humanitarian intervention to get the hell out.

David Holiday

Not to change the subject, but I'm sure you'll appreciate the fact that Naomi Klein, along with Jesse Jackson, Howard Zinn and Dennis Kucinich, sent a public letter to Chavez in support of him before the referendum won't surprise you:

"It is our hope and expectation that, on August 15, you will once again win an electoral mandate from the Venezuelan people to be their president."


Steve writes: "I did read the quote,"

No Steve, you MISREAD the quote!

--"US presence in Iraq is the main source of the violence in Iraq at the moment"

Why do I suspect that Steve would blame a woman in a short skirt for being raped?

Marc Cooper

To David Holiday: yes, I do know that abotu Chavez. I blogged here somehwere. It's been a busy ten days for Naomi extending her solidarity from Caracas to Najaf!

To Dsquared: Clearly I understand ur point about Hanoi. But my point speaks directly to that i.e. IF you view Iraq merely as either supporting the American occupation or supporting those who oppose it, well, then yes... ipso facto u either support the US or u support Al Sadr (and Saddam's Fedayeen and Al Qaeda and aybody else with an RPG in their had). That overlaps perfectly by the way with a paleo-conservative isolationist view -- let's just pull the hell out and whatever happens, happens.. fuck 'em all. The alternative is to look at the situation and ask youself what is the best real possibility one can extract from this mess. I can give you that answer ON PAPER: Get the U.S. troops as soon as possible, start de-escalating and withdrawing now, and in the meantime give maximum support to the most democratic, most pluralistic, most secular Iraqi forces capable of filling the void. Now, as I said, that's on paper. HOW you actually do that-- I dont purport to know. What I do know, however, is that in pushing for an end to the American occupation I would like to avoid giving succor and solidarity to the most extreme, armed, religio-fascists in the mix-- i.e. Sadr's boys.

As to Vietnam.. well.. I was one of those who opposed the war AND supported the NLF (with plenty of resevations btw as I came out of the anti-authoritian New Left). But I told myself that the NLF was the most legitimate, most popular and most capable force of making the transition out of war. I was sort of right. As it turns out, the NLF got cashed out by the NVA. But there were no other viable players that one could see. That is NOT the case in Iraq and Al Sadr. For starters, we see that the Iranian Mullah, Al Sistani is a better choice and he is no great shakes. That's not to talk about the Sunnis, the Kurds and the other 25 million Iraqis who are not part of the Sadr gang that holds women, children and holy shrines hostage. We ought to give them a chance somehow and not consign them to domination under a new dictatorship.


GM writes:
No Steve, you MISREAD the quote!

==wow! that is really a strong counterargument, no wonder you're so upset when i violate the echo chamber.


That overlaps perfectly by the way with a paleo-conservative isolationist view -- let's just pull the hell out and whatever happens, happens.. fuck 'em all.

--not that one should have to repeat the obvious difference between the paleo-conservative isoloationist perspective and Klein's or mine, but Marc certainly knows that Klein calls for reparations for Iraq and support for a real reconstruction of the country, which is something that paleoconservatives and the prowar gang, be they Bushist or Kerryists do not have the intent of carrying out. Notabene...this is not Japan 1945.

miklos rosza

Doesn't "Bring Najaf to New York" mean "Bring the war home"? As was called for by Weatherman in 1969. And so, isn't Klein precisely echoing the Berkeley professor who called for an "American jihad"?

Louis Proyect

Marc Cooper:
Al Sadr’s group are, indeed, terrorists. Maybe not “generic” ones,. But certainly ultra-fundamentalist gangs. There is, in fact, no evidence whatsoever that they represent the “mainstream sentiment” in Iraq.

I hope that the fact-checkers at the Nation Magazine will be keeping an eagle eye on Cooper's submissions in the future in light of the yawning gulf between his assertion above and the following:

Financial Times (London, England)
May 20, 2004 Thursday

Iraq's rebel cleric sees surge in popularity: Sadr emerges as the most influential Iraqi after Sistani in poll that shows US credibility eroding



An Iraqi poll to be released next week shows a surge in the popularity of Moqtada al-Sadr, the radical young Shia cleric fighting coalition forces, and suggests nearly nine out of 10 Iraqis see US troops as occupiers and not liberators or peacekeepers.

The poll was conducted by the one-year-old Iraq Center for Research and Strategic Studies, which is considered reliable enough for the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority to have submitted questions to be included in the study.

Although the results of any poll in Iraq's traumatised society should be taken with caution, the survey highlights the difficulties facing the US authorities in Baghdad as they confront Mr Sadr, who launched an insurgency against the US-led occupation last month.

Conducted before the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, it also suggests a severe erosion of American credibility even before Iraqis were confronted with images of torture at the hands of US soldiers.

Saadoun Duleimi, head of the centre, said more than half of a representative sample - comprising 1,600 Shia, Sunni Arabs and Kurds polled in all Iraq's main regions - wanted coalition troops to leave Iraq. This compares with about 20 per cent in an October survey. About 88 per cent of respondents said they now regarded coalition forces in Iraq as occupiers.

"Iraqis always contrast American actions with American promises and there's now a wide gap in credibility," said Mr Duleimi, who belongs to one of the country's big Sunni tribes. "In this climate, fighting has given Moqtada credibility because he's the only Iraqi man who stood up against the occupation forces."

The US authorities in Baghdad face an uphill battle to persuade Iraqis that the transfer of sovereignty on June 30 will mark the end of the US occupation. The removal of US troops was cited in the poll as a more urgent issue than the country's formal status.

Respondents saw Mr Sadr as Iraq's second most influential figure after Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the country's most senior Shia cleric. About 32 per cent of respondents said they strongly supported Mr Sadr and another 36 per cent somewhat supported him.

Jon Wiener

"Bring New York to Najaf" is a bad idea -- it's sort of what Bush & Co. say they are trying to do -- make Iraq a capitalist democracy. But apparently the Iraqis, or at least the Shiite majority, are not interested in establishing a liberal capitalist society with democratic rights. They have some different ideas. We don't really like these ideas, because they are fundamentalist. But it is their country, so they get to decide.

My slogan: instead of "Bring New York to Najaf," I suggest "Najaf for the Najafis!"

Michael Turner

"I had several friends call me in disbelief when they read Klein's manifesto. I read it three times to make sure I got it right. And, alas, I can only conclude that the column is a forthright apology for the religio-fascist militias of Muqtada Al Sadr. Indeed, it’s damn near a call for the peace movement to join in solidarity with his Mahdi Army."

Marc, if that's your conclusion, I must have missed something. Maybe I did - I only read it twice.

This isn't the Vietnam era, where you'd have a contingent of college student protesters chanting "Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh" in the protest marches. I don't think there's a significant jihadist radical chic element here.

Klein's "Bring Najaf to New York" may have been ill-considered (Naomi Klein has never impressed me much with her grasp of history and fact and the resonance of certain phrasings), but her main point stands, from what I see: we don't know where we are, just as we didn't know where we were in Vietnam.

However, one thing should be clear to us all by now, and that is that we aren't very welcome in Iraq. In fact we're so unwelcome among some Iraqis that they'll continue sending us our own soldiers home in body bags, even at a considerably greater human toll on themselves if that's what it takes.

As for whose side she's on - well, who's side are WE on? Sistani thanked the Mahdi Army for doing a good job, and sent them on their way. On their way to where? Looks like to Sadr City, where new battles are being joined. You have to wonder about the legitimacy of a government that has little or no control over 2 million people inside its own capital city.

And how did Sistani make it to Najaf in the first place? With a British military escort. So let me get this straight: Sistani doesn't have a serious beef with Moqtada al-Sadr? And the British don't have a serious beef with Sistani if he can deal with al-Sadr? And the Americans don't have a beef with the British if they can deal with Sistani? But we're still fighting the Mahdi Army wherever we can?

Oh, please, look: there's no "getting it straight" in this situation. There's just political muddling along and peering through the fog, trying to avoid massive civilian casualties and pyrrhic victories that only further enrage Iraqis against the Occupation forces and their Quisling government.

I'd say things may be shaping up much as I predicted a year ago. In another year or so, we'll still have a nominally sovereign Iraq, but the reality will be this:

(1) a Shi'ite autonomous zone in the South, strongly influenced and aided by Iran,

(2) a Sunni crypto-Ba'athist zone in the middle feeling the heavy hand of Ba'athist Syria, which is used to managing this sort of situation by virtue of their experience of annexing most of Lebanon,

(3) a Kurdistan whose border and oil fields are guarded mostly by Americans.

That's approximately a three-way split of the oil fields, something that gentlemen might be able to agree on, even as they agree to disagree about other matters of less consequence such as internal squabbles within the zones and between them. And it's a settlement that a war-weary American public might even think was a good deal, compared to continuing, only to get more body bags and more international disgust out of the deal. In that respect, America has an exit strategy that it didn't have in Indochina. It's an immoral exit strategy, but let's face it: it was an immoral war, probably planned with this very exit strategy in the backs of the planners' minds.

miklos rosza

Michael Turner,

Good post. I think you may be prescient and entirely correct. (And I've disagreed with you -- on God knows what ephemera -- in the past.) Is this a "worst case scenario," though, from the viewpoint of the US?

You lose me a little on the "immorality" of it all, however, but... that's nothing new.


Excellent discussion you unleashed, Marc.

I generally tend to agree with Michael’s analysis. In my reading, Klien's column is mostly irritating due to the maddeningly sentimental tone she uses to assess al-Sadr and his motives. After having made the valid point that the American forces--- and those who direct them--- are disastrously dense from a cultural perspective, she proceeds to fall into the trap she derides by an overly simplistic analysis of the situation, albeit from a different perspective.( Instead of demonizing al-Sadr, she romanticize him---both simplistic conclusions that do little to move anyone toward practical and humane solutions in Iraq.)

Also, I think we’re better off discounting the opinion of anyone who writes, “A significant portion of Muqtada al-Sadr’s group was formed from remnants of the Baath party, Saddam’s Fedayeen, as well as other Baathist oppressive apparatus...” as the poster from the Iraqi leftest group wrote.

Um….would that be the same Ba’ath regime that killed Muktada al-Sadr’s father, two of his brothers and his father-in-law?

PS: Loved your opening post over at the Weekly Repub Convention site.

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