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Iraq is a fight for National Liberation - Walden Bello

Walden Bello, the Filipino anti-capitalist writer and activist, outlines why the movement must back the Iraqi resistance and call for an immediate end to the occupation

Issue No. 1923a

Tim cartoon

Tim cartoon

THE QUESTION is no longer whether Washington will eventually be defeated by the Iraqi resistance. It will be defeated.

The question is how long it will hang on to an impossible situation. On the resolution of this issue, our role in the global peace movement has a very important bearing.

Washington hangs on despite the daily attacks on its troops by the resistance.

Given this situation, the victory of the Iraqi people’s resistance will definitely be hastened by one thing—the emergence of a strong global anti-war movement such as that which took to the streets before and after the Tet Offensive in Vietnam in 1968.

Yet at the very time that it is most needed by the people of Iraq, the international peace movement has had trouble getting into gear.

Perhaps a major part of the reason is that a significant part of the international peace movement hesitates to legitimise the Iraqi resistance.

Who are they? Can we really support them? These questions have increasingly been flung at the advocates of an unconditional military and political withdrawal from Iraq.

Let’s face it—the use of suicide as a political weapon continues to bother many activists who were repelled by statements such as that of the Palestinian leaders who proudly asserted that suicide bombers were the oppressed people’s equivalent of the


Let’s face it—the fact that a large part of the resistance in both Iraq and Palestine is Islamic rather than secular in inspiration continues to bother many Western peace activists.

Yet there has never been any pretty movement for national liberation or independence.

Many progressives were also repelled by some of the methods of the “Mau Mau” movement in Kenya, the FLN in Algeria, the NLF in Vietnam.

What progressives forget is that national liberation movements are not asking them mainly for ideological or political support.

What they really want from the outside, from progressives like us, is international pressure for the withdrawal of an illegitimate occupying power so that internal forces can have the space to forge a truly national government based on their unique processes.

We cannot promote conditional solutions—even ones that say US and coalition troops should withdraw only if there is a UN security presence that takes the place of the Americans.

The only principled stand is unconditional withdrawal of US and coalition military and political forces now.

But if the future in Iraq itself continues to hang in the balance, the Iraqi resistance has already helped to transform the global equation.

The US is weaker today than it was before 1 May 2003, when Bush declared victory in Iraq.

The Atlantic alliance that won the Cold War no longer functions, largely because of the divisions over Iraq.

Spain and the Philippines have been forced to withdraw their troops from Iraq, and Thailand has now quietly followed suit, contributing further to US isolation.

The situation in Afghanistan is more unstable now than last year, with the US writ extending only to the outskirts of Kabul.

In Latin America, we have massive popular anti-neoliberal and anti-US movements in Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela and Bolivia that are either in government or are making it difficult for governments to maintain their neoliberal policies.

The US is suffering from that fatal disease of all empires—imperial overstretch.

Our role, to echo that great Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara, is to worsen this crisis of overextension.

It is not only by creating or expanding movements of international solidarity against the US in Iraq, the US-Israel axis in Palestine, and the creeping US intervention in Colombia.

It is also by giving birth to or reinvigorating struggles against the US imperial presence in our own countries and regions.

But let me end by returning to our urgent task, which is to defeat the US in Iraq and Israel in Palestine.

We are all here not to celebrate our strength but, most importantly, to address our weaknesses over the next few days.

One of the challenges that we will be addressing is how we get beyond spontaneous actions, beyond coordination that remains at the level of coordinating international days of protest.

The enemy is extremely well coordinated at a global level, and we have no choice but to match that level of coordination and cooperation.

The other challenge that I would like to highlight is that of closing the political and cultural gap between the global movements for justice and peace and their counterparts in the Arab and Islamic worlds.

This is a gap that imperialism has exploited to the hilt, with its effort to paint most of our Arab and Muslim comrades as terrorists or supporters of terrorism.

We cannot allow this situation to continue.

Unless the global movements and the Arab movements forge tight, organic ties of solidarity, we will not win the struggle against corporate-driven globalisation and imperialism.

* This is an extract from Walden Bello’s speech “Where next for the anti-war and anti-globalisation movements?” given in Lebanon last month. For the full text go to

* Walden Bello is sepaking on Debt, aid, poverty, reparations and the G8 at 2pm tomorrow in Alexandra Palace, Great Hall 4.

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Thu 14 Oct 2004, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1923a
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