Sunday, February 25, 2007

A talk with the author of "On Supporting the Iraqi Resistance"

I stumbled upon a Daily Kos Diary-Post by Heathlander, "On Supporting the Iraqi Resistance". I found just the title relatively offensive and the material contained within extremely biased in my viewpoint. I was actually downright furious over the claim that the insurgents were actively supported by more than a tiny fraction of the population. At first I wanted to write an extremely nasty email but then realized that it would be ignored. In the spirit of dialogue, I wrote a polite email, and it was answered.


In regards to your diary-post on Daily Kos, "On Supporting The Iraqi Resistance", I feel that you are mistaken about the “insurgency” in Iraq. Violence only begets violence. During the American Civil Rights movement, great leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. stood up and demanded rights not given to him. In India, Gandhi fought tyranny and won.

I am sure you are familiar with these great men more than I am, and will not presume to lecture you about their great deeds. However, I will say that there is a great commonality with both of these leaders (and many like them), and that is the complete strategy of non-violence. They staged civil disobedience, sit-ins and protest rallies, but above all placed a sanctity on human life above all else. And because of that non-violence they gained legitimacy with a great many people who might not support them, but at least would not condemn them.

In 2005, the Iraqi population provided their own self-government and independence with proudly raised purple fingers. This is the legitimate, democratically elected government in Iraq. Should a group of people in Iraq feel that the Coalition presence there is oppressive (as many do), then those people should petition their democratically elected government to ask the Coalition forces to withdraw. If the government there does ask the Coalition to withdraw and the Coalition refuses, it becomes obvious to the entire world that there is in fact an occupation in Iraq. Until that happens, however, one cannot say that the Coalition is occupying a country that has an independent and democratically elected government.

The "insurgency" in Iraq is not fighting an occupation, they are not fighting to gain any freedoms, they are not fighting to gain independence. They have already have these things. All they have to do to get what they want is to petition their government. Should they fail to get what they desire, there are many forms of redress available to them, first and foremost of these is voting for different people in the next election, followed by civil disobedience. Non-violent protest.

There is no legitimate "Iraqi Resistance". Every person who picks up a rifle or assembles an explosive belt with the intent to kill someone for disagreeing with them is not freedom-fighter, or a resistor, but a terrorist who is trying to change someone's mind by instilling fear.

Albuquerque, New Mexico

I called Heathlander "sir" even after seeing that Heathlander's name was Jamie. Being that Heathlander is British and the name Jamie is a gender-neutral there, I took the chauvinistic route and figured Heathlander to be a man. I wasn't corrected, so maybe my assumption was correct. I received a reply in the morning. I was also surprised at the politeness.


Thank you for your polite and detailed email.

I share your admiration for passive resistance. I personally am not sure that an armed resistance in Iraq is morally justified. But legally, it is legitimate, and when judging it we have to do so from the "reasonable man" perspective. I.e. could a REASONABLE Iraqi feel that they have to resort to violence to stop the destruction of Iraq. I think they could.

The elections in Iraq were not legitimate. No elections held under an unwanted foreign military occupation, in the midst of great violence and on the understanding that any future elected government would continue to operate under the foreign military occupation has ever been considered legitimate.

The Iraqi people overwhelmingly want the troops out. If they are ignored, they entitled to resist.


I was surprised at the argument over the legitimacy of the election. I've never felt that there was much of a challenge or a controversy over the election itself, only over the handling of the invasion, post-invasion security etc, etc. I decided to press the issue.

Thank you for your reply,

I would argue that the destruction in Iraq is a direct result of the violence. Many great minds who could be valuable leaders and ministers have been cowed by terrorism into not participating in government. However that is not a point I think either of us contest.

I would argue your point about the legitimacy of the current government. The UN itself had a hand in the elections, and it was independently (as best able) by outside sources. Though there were problems, such as the Sunni's boycotting it, in my mind it was a legitimate election, however I am sure that view it is not. May I ask what you feel the Coalition should have done to create a legitimate election in your mind?


And the follow up:


I don't think it's possible to have a legitimate election under a military occupation that is not wanted by the majority of the population, and that will continue to be around after the elections.

Of course the destruction in Iraq is the result of violence - but which violence? Firstly, there was the initial, devastating invasion. Then there were the many war crimes and massacres carried out by the occupying forces (Fallujah, for example). Then there is the sectarian conflict, the death squads and the criminal gangs. And then there is the insurgent violence. Certainly, the sum of all this is the mess that is Iraq today.

I think it seems clear what a legitimate resistance movement in Iraq would look like - it would be focused solely against the occupying forces and would not target civilians. Whether that exists in Iraq today, we cannot be sure.


This is the end of the correspondence, and I don't rightly feel that I can continue on with it and remain completely civil. My analysis, if Heathlander is an accurate representation of the current anti-war argument, is that the general sentiments of the anti-war crowd is

  1. There was no legitimate reason to invade in the first place.
  2. They feel that the population never wanted the invasion in the first place.
  3. The coalition is the source of the majority of the violence.
    1. Thus the argument that Bush is currently making, that the World is looking to see us responsibly not leave Iraq, is moot.
  4. An election supervised by a foreign army cannot be considered legitimate.
    1. Which follows that the only recourse for a people under a totalitarian government is self reform, be it a bloody revolution (impossible under Saddam) or a call for a general election (also not possible under Saddam).
At this point, I'm not sure how they feel a mad murdering dictator like Saddam should be removed. On the affairs of nations, I feel that violence is always a last resort, but it seems like the anti-war crowd would have rather left the populace of Iraq in bondage and fear under Saddam than in it's current state of freedom and violence.

This however is an extremely complex issue with many factions all with different goals and interests in causing violence in Iraq. It should be well noted that Heathlander is not equating al-Qaeda with the resistance, only the Sunni segment of the population (the same segment which boycotted the elections). Had Heathlander done otherwise, and said that al-Qaeda was a legitimate "resistor", I never would have started the conversation in the first place.