Tuesday, February 15, 2005

On Iraqi Nationalism

David Hirsh responds for Labour Friends of Iraq to a letter in today's Grauniad.
Marcia Saunders*writes in a letter in today's Guardian that the current situation in Iraq can be understood as a conflict between a foreign army of occupation fighting a national insurgency. If it were all as simple as this, then of course solidarity with Iraq would simply involve solidarity with the national insurgency.
His response is in two parts: a general and standard Left response to "Nationalism" - that it sees a "nation" as homogeneous instead of heterogeneous and overlooks class and other identity issues; followed by a specific discussion of the Iraqi situation. Fair enough. He goes on to say
the project of progressive movements in Iraq is to fight for a politics that breaks out of simple religious, ethnic and national identifications. The resistance is supported by a small minority of Iraqis. It is not a national liberation movement, but consists of a number of different militias, some based on the politics of Sunni supremacism, some are religious movements that claim that the only way to be a real Muslim is to seek state power for a version of Islam, some are based on a nostalgia for the Saddam regime, some are based on an idea of anti-imperialism most are mixtures of the above.

The world in general, and Iraq in particular, are more complicated than the simple schemas of good (oppressed) nations and bad (oppressor) nations, imperialist and anti-imperialist forces. We have to abandon these simple old formulae and we have to think instead.

What is the best way forward, today, for those fighting for a democratic Iraq, for those fighting for a kind of democracy that transcends the rhetoric of the American Republicans?What is the best way forward for the embryonic Iraqi women's movement? How can Iraqis for whom Sunni, Shia and Kurd do not define their entire political identity have their voices heard? These are real and complex questions, being addressed by people who risk their lives to address them. They need solidarity from people in other countries, not tired old certainties. They do not need the kind of thoughtless and self-satisfied solidarity that gives political support and legitimacy to those who are trying to kill them the resistance.
Go read the piece. Let's have less "thoughtless and self-satisfied solidarity".

* Oops! Guardian online gets it wrong - according to the paper paper it's Neil Faulkner (I may have spelt that wrong) from the Institute of Archaeology at UCL.

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