From A World to Win News Service

Iraq: Held Hostage by America

Revolutionary Worker #1255, October 17, 2004, posted at

The following is from A World to Win News Service:

October 4, 2004. A World to Win News Service.Some things need to be set straight about the question of seizing and killing hostages in Iraq.

Some ways of fighting the resistance advance the people's struggle, and others do not. Kidnapping and killing innocent civilians is more than counterproductive. It is dehumanizing and degrading for all concerned and has nothing to do with the liberation of a people and all humanity. It reflects the politics, ideologies and goals of non-revolutionary forces. A main problem with the hostage-taking is that for a small part--maybe only a handful--of the anti-occupation forces, it is not just a mistaken tactic. It is typical of the way they see fighting this war and their own aims.

It is clear that there are contradictory trends and organizations involved in the anti-U.S. resistance. Even among the forces raising religious banners, for a great many this is simply the closest flag at hand and one they think can unite genuine patriots. For others it is the essence of their political project of religious rule. Anyone who doesn't see the importance of the ideology and politics of the various resistance forces should take a look at Iran, where the ruling fundamentalist clerics executed thousands of revolutionaries after they took power. They have been doing their best to work out a stable, long-term deal not only with the European imperialist powers but the U.S. itself. They cooperated with the U.S. invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and now they are going so low that they enthusiastically promised to take part in the U.S.'s upcoming Cairo conference to help the occupation of Iraq.

The question of killing hostages is not an abstract one of which acts of violence are legitimate. No matter what the Iraqi resistance does, some people will never agree that it is legitimate for the oppressed to resort to any violence to get rid of their oppressors. The point is the political content and aims of such acts. If the aim is really to drive out the most powerful imperialists in world history and not just force the occupiers to make some deals about who gets to be their puppets, then resistance forces need to unite the vast majority of the people of Iraq, of all nationalities and religions, unite as much as possible with the peoples of the region as a whole, and mobilize the support of the people of all countries. All this is possible because it really corresponds to the people's interests.

It must be asked: What were the outlook and interests behind the kidnapping and execution of a dozen Nepali kitchen workers, by far the biggest hostage-killing? Were they killed just because it was easy to kill them since the occupiers don't care what happens to the help? The main benefit of this act went to the king of Nepal, who tried to stir up narrow, religious sentiments and use them against the country's Maoist-led people's war that in many ways is a part of the same anti-U.S. struggle as that of the Iraqi people.

Why were the "two Simonas"--the Italian aid workers--seized and threatened with death? At least one of them is a proven friend of the Iraqi people. Simona Torreta first went to Iraq in 1996 to work in a project to counteract the effects of the U.S.-led economic blockade. She came back in March 2003, in the midst of the U.S.'s "shock and awe" aerial bombardment. The kidnappers went straight to her office and asked the two women to identify themselves, so there seems to have been no mistake about their identity. When released, Torreta told the media, "I distinguish between terrorism and resistance. The guerrilla war is justified, but I am against the kidnapping of civilians."

Whose interests were served by that kidnapping--those of the people or of Berlusconi and the Italian capitalists trying to expand their share of empire in the face of some of the strongest opposition to the war in Europe?

After American captive Nick Berg was beheaded, his parents continued to bravely oppose the war and the U.S. government. British hostage Ken Bigely's brother has also spoken out against the war and Blair, despite a raid on his home in Amsterdam by armed British and Dutch intelligence officers meant to shut his mouth. Doesn't all this show the enormous sympathy for the Iraqi cause even in the invaders' homelands, and the possibility of mobilizing that potential strength and bringing it even more strongly to bear against the war? Hasn't the potential for this been repeatedly glimpsed even (and maybe especially) in the streets of those countries?

At the moment of their country's greatest humiliation at the hands of the new crusaders, many thousands of Iraqi fighters are writing a glorious chapter in its history. This is the main character of the resistance, and no isolated, reactionary acts of blind vengeance--and perhaps also provocations by who-knows-which intelligence services--can change that.

From last April through September, some 30 out of perhaps 130 mostly civilian foreigners taken hostage in Iraq are known to have been executed. By comparison, to cite only a few days out of one month in one city, almost daily U.S. bombing raids on homes in Falluja killed 20 people on September 2, 45 people September 16-17, nine people September 25, and a father, mother and their two children on September 30. American forces closed the month by firing on a car, killing two or three adults and four children. Embarrassed by Falluja hospital news footage on Al Jazeera television showing little kids and other family members whose bodies were blown apart by American rockets and bombs, the U.S. had the reporters kicked out of the country. Now the American military is bragging that they intend to impose their will on the town before the end of the year. They know what that means: "We could take the city... but we would have to kill everyone," the Iraqi general director of national intelligence warned when resistance fighters first drove U.S. troops out. ( New York Times , 8 July 2004)

According to Iraqi Body Count, an academic organization documenting deaths the occupiers don't care enough about to record, between 13,000 and 15,000 people have been killed since the war began. Whatever anyone wants to say about taking and killing hostages, for the scale of crimes and for sheer cruelty there really is no comparison. The hostage takers could never catch up to these "civilized" powers in a million years.

Further, it seems that most Iraqis themselves are very clear on this distinction. Take the example of the car bombing that killed 41 people, including 35 children, in the poor district of southwest Baghdad known as al-Ummal on September 30. According to reporters on the scene from Associated Press and BBC, U.S. trucks with loudspeakers combed neighborhood streets filled with kids as a school holiday neared the end, telling them to come and get free candy. This was billed as a celebration of the so-called reopening of a sewage treatment plant that was already operating. As a large crowd of children seeking their sweets gathered around a convoy of U.S. troops, one or more bombs went off. The soldiers must have considered the situation too dangerous to get out of their vehicles, since none of them were killed. "I blame the Americans for this tragedy. They wanted to make human shields out of our children. They should have kept the children away from the danger. The Americans are the first terrorists, and the people who carried out the attack are the second terrorists," said a father whose son lost his leg.

By all media accounts, friend and foe of the Iraqi people alike, this resolutely anti-American stand despite the contradictoriness of the situation is what characterizes the broad masses of Iraqi people. This is why the U.S. treats all men of military age and in fact all Iraqis as potential enemies, in Falluja, Samarra and throughout most of the country.

Our starting point is this: First, whatever the right and wrong of particular acts committed by anti-U.S. fighters, all this is taking place amid a just war against an invasion and occupation. Second, if the U.S. succeeds in Iraq, it will be free to attack elsewhere across the globe. It could be said that if American tanks have not been rolling across other borders and U.S. gunships have not been blowing up homes and murdering families in other countries, one major thing holding them back so far is that they ran into a lot more resistance in Iraq than they expected.

The Iraqi resistance fighters are in the front lines of resistance to U.S. imperialism in today's world. All this underlines the importance of how the resistance in Iraq is fought. For the Iraqi people and the people of the world, it will make a difference.