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February 28, 2006


Qui Bono?

Imperialism is a monster, but it's not the only creature in the bestiary of class society.

Islamic fundamentalism, including in its sectarian varieties, is all too real.

Dissected by Faisal

This piece has so many basic factual errors, loopy interpretations and utterly wrong-headed attempts at analysis that it is a disservice to it readers. Where to even start? Let's blow out the central premise then pick up a few stray pieces.

The News Service's central assertion is that: "We don’t know who bombed the shrine, but we do know who benefited: the occupiers."

No, the occupation is in deep trouble after this bombing and the resulting chaos, which has upset its plans to form a unity government and "draw down" a few thousand troops for show. Chaos is not the goal for the Bush regime in Iraq, a stable pro-US gov't is. How bad is the present mess? Here's a challenge: check out what the founder of conservatism, William Fuckin' Buckley has to say in the National Review! (Yes, I'm asking you to read the fascist NR)
The Godfather of the Right is totally defeatist and pointing out the mistaken assumptions of the Bush doctrine:

"Our mission has failed because Iraqi animosities have proved uncontainable by an invading army of 130,000 Americans."

Read this then try to explain to yourself again how the Askariya bombing has benefitted the Occupation!

The News Service:

"First of all, American policy has been to ally with and put into power the most backward forces in Iraqi society: Shia, Sunni and Kurdish religious, feudal, tribal and clan leaders, chief among them Ali Sistani, the Shia Grand Ayatollah who went along with Saddam Hussein just as he does now with the Americans."

No, this is second and third of all, not first for US policy. First, the Bush regime was convinced by charlatans like Chalabi, Kanan Makiya, Fouad Ajami and the British hack Bernard Lewis that Iraq would be secular, non-sectarian and LIBERAL. The US was expected a populace that would actually support AHMED CHALABI as a "legitimate" democratic leader. Chalabi has no political base, he got zero seats in the last election and as this dawned on the Bush regime they switched their allegiance to AYAD ALLAWI. He didn't have much more pull.

The Iraqi people, atomized by war, famine and sanctions have retreated to their own constituencies through militias, parties and the voting booth. This is the last thing the US wanted, which did not foment "identity politics", but hoped to build a neo-liberal state on the tattered colonial identity known as "Iraqi". Iraqi national identity was constructed by the British and held together, in its final years, by Ba'ath party brutality. The US isn't eager for a new militant Sunni or Shiite identity and readers should know that. That’s what is left after the US has FAILED.

The News Service reports:

“It is widely recognised that Iraq’s Interior Ministry is run by the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a pro-US Shia party that is central to the alliance of forces the US has put together to form an Iraqi government.”

What? There’s a massive distinction between an uneasy strategic alliance and a pro-US stance. Let me put it this way: after Nixon went to China, did that make Mao pro-US? SCIRI is far more pro-Iranian -- where they were provided refuge for two decades. SCIRI is playing the democracy game because it’s giving them so much -- they aren’t “central” to the US alliance, they’ve captured and hollowed out the Interior Ministry at US expense and its driving US Ambassador Zalmay Khalizad nuts. This is the collapse and Lebanonization of politics not some US plan for stability! If you want to know SCIRI’s real agenda look to their name, they’re a Khomeneist form of theocratic party. They’re absolutely riddled by Iranian intelligence. Is an Iran-Iraq alliance “benefit” the US?

Moqtada al-Sadr has killed over 140 American soldiers during his two uprisings against the Occupation. Now, he commands the largest faction of seats within the Shiite bloc that sits in parliament. Is Moqtada al-Sadr pro-US now too? This article is just too shoddy and wrong for intelligent readers to take seriously.


You seem to do two things, Mr. Faisal:

1) You take the rationales for war offered by Bush's team at face value: that is, their rationales this week.

2) You act like the Islamists have any principles at all.

Osama Bin Laden took literally BILLIONS of dollars from the CIA when he served as the quartermaster to the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan.

Does that mean he is their friend? Just because Maqtada al-Sadr BRIEFLY fought the US, that doesn't mean he isn't game to "play ball."

Same with the rest of them, including the mullahs in Iran, including the Islamic Brotherhood in Egypt.

Who benefits from sectarian strife?

The occupier. (Oh, and Israel.)

Notice the anonymous assassinations rocking Lebanon. Who benefits?

Always, always, always ask: Who benefits?

Of course their are intra-imperialist arguments about what to do, on what terms, etc. Many in the ruling circles think Bush/Cheney is over-reaching and damaging US long-term imperial interests.

But the strategy of "divide and conquer" is not new -- and as the article notes regarding the British agents found dressed in plain clothes in a car full of bombs -- there is certainly shadiness afoot.

Dissected by Faisal

The British SAS were a Monty Python sketch gone "howwibly, howwibly awry", which is why they were captured while wearing Arab black-face and dime store wigs. Is that really a sign to you of the all powerful Empire?

You, curio, seem to buy into the Illuminati theory of history in which the omniscient Empire never fucks up as it implements its exquisitely calibrated and centuries old plans.

You also seem to be playing that classic racist card in which Islamicists or radical Arabs have no agency of their own -- they just sand niggaz shinin' on to Uncle Sam! Bowin' and scrapin' to all his master plans! Get real. Never seen a Hezbollah demonstration up close, have you, Curio? Ever been to Tehran? Ever had a Persian friend explain to you just what Ahmadinejad is actually saying? Yeah, I'm sure it all just benefits Israel.

I'm not accepting the rationales of the Bush admin. "this week" -- I'm showing where they conflict past and present and what that means for their badly damaged project. The declension from Chalabi to a Sadr/SCIRI dominated gov't has been an exceedingly painful one for them, which is why Cheney and Rummy are drifting and Condi Rice is ascendant.

But I'm game, so let's play. Tell me precisely how the Occupation is benefitting from this latest disaster and what their plans are for the future of Iraq. You hint that you have some idea. By your calculation, everything is just going swell for the Occupation in Iraq. That when Sadr call for the US to leave he's just a shill for . . . the US!
- Faisal

PS Could you give me a source on the "BILLIONS" Osama took while on the CIA payroll? I've never seen a CIA balance sheet before and I'd really like to. Did Bush sign the check?

the burningman

"Could you give me a source on the "BILLIONS" Osama took while on the CIA payroll? I've never seen a CIA balance sheet before and I'd really like to. Did Bush sign the check?"

No, his father did. And in the vein of the discussion it's a great example of what Chalmers Johnson called "Blowback." Bin Laden's connections to the CIA in Afghanistan are well-known and undenied. Considering your apparent knowledge of the region, I'm surprised you are so dismissive.

The empire is hardly omnipotent, but it's potent enough.

Fomenting sectarian strife is just fine from ONE occupation perspective -- and it certainly (and obviouslY) benefits Israel, which is deeply involved in the Kurdish regions.

The Iranian triumph in the elections is NOT the US plan. I don't know about anyone else, but this seems to be part of the reason the US is not seeking to intervene directly (and suicidally!) in Iran.

Considering the US also sold arms to Hussein and Khomenei during the Iran/Iraq war, I don't know why King Faisal thinks there's something unheard of in this.

I've seen Hezbollah rally, in Paris. I didn't speak or talk with them, prefering to stick to a contingent in the anti-Bush protest that wasn't run by Islamicists (that is, the other 98% of the march).

The occupation benefits by unleashing the threat of wholesale slaguhter should it withdraw. For those who won't support the occupation on opportunistic grounds, this creates what is hoped to be a compelling argument to justify indefinite occuption by US/UK forces.

I don't think there aren't a multiplicity of actors on this stage -- who will switch and twist their allegiences as befits their interests. Nobody is saying otherwise, least of all AWTW.


"No, his father did. And in the vein of the discussion it's a great example of what Chalmers Johnson called "Blowback." Bin Laden's connections to the CIA in Afghanistan are well-known and undenied. Considering your apparent knowledge of the region, I'm surprised you are so dismissive."

I've read plenty about bin-Laden, Abdullah Azzam, and their bold little project in Afghanistan (whether from Maktab al-Khadamat or later . . .), but from what I can tell they kept their distance from CIA money and influence. Not that some of their allies weren't on the take, like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, but bin-Laden had plenty of his own money, plus Saudi funds to distribute. With that kind of petro-cash the Afghan Arabs didn't need the CIA. I'm willing to listen if you've got a source that says otherwise, and what I'm primarily challenging is curio's "BILLIONS" claim. If the Empire is as omnipotent as curio claims, then how would we ever know? What investigative journalist has uncovered this story, or found the secret CIA budget? This claim is too "well-known" if you get my drift.

I certainly agree with you on the larger point about "blowback" from the Afghani mujahadeen. The difference I make is one between the Muj and the foreign "Afghan Arabs", which most of the locals thought a royal pain in the ass throughout the Soviet conflict. The CIA turned off the taps to the Muj once the Soviets left.

"Fomenting sectarian strife is just fine from ONE occupation perspective -- and it certainly (and obviouslY) benefits Israel, which is deeply involved in the Kurdish regions."

Okay, how. If the US wants to stay, sectarian strife makes the state ungovernable, killing troops, draining resources and crapping on their plans to knock over other regimes to spread neo-liberalism. King Hussein in Jordan is having his "I told you so" moment at Bush's half-wit expense. If sectarian strife causes them to withdraw it's their biggest black eye since Vietnam and a victory for extremists ranging from Sadr to Al-Qaeda. The GOP hasn't ever handed the Republic a losing war . . . yet.

Israel isn't safer with a Shiite crescent stretching from Iran through Baghdad to Southern Lebanon (Ah, Sweet Sour! Naqoura!). Nor is Israel safer with an Iranian nuclear arsenal, and the Bush regime, as you noted, can't intervene in Iran with Iraq such a mess. Qui bono?

"I don't think there aren't a multiplicity of actors on this stage -- who will switch and twist their allegiences as befits their interests. Nobody is saying otherwise, least of all AWTW."

I think curio certainly was. He seems to think all the Islamicists are, in reality, just "playing ball" with the Empire. The News Service report allows more space for agency, but still condenses SCIRI into a "pro-US" caricature that it's not. SCIRI can take power through the ballot box, just like Khomenei did.
- Faisal

Christopher Day

Faisal's criticisms seem to be largely on the money the A World to Win News Service piece really does seem to treat the U.S. as all powerful, thereby minimizing the real agency of other actors. It is certainly possible that U.S. strategists think they have something to gain by stoking sectarian violence as a means of preventing Iraqi unity against the occupation. The incident involving British SAS soldiers suggests that there is at least some use of "pseudo-gangs" as these sorts of operations are referred to in counter-insurgency literature. It is also possible that different wings of the U.S./U.K. military and intelligence apparatuses aren't coordinating very well. One of the weaknesses of the orthodox Marxist view of the state is that it tends to overestimate the unity with which the state operates. But if all or only part of the U.S-led forces are behind this they are playing a very dangerous game. U.S. domestic patience for the war is at a breaking point and the appearance that the whole thing is only getting worse is not going to win popular support for "staying the course." Also sectarian violence doesn't win the U.S. many Iraqi friends either since both sides are prone to blame the occupation directly or indirectly for the situation.

The characterization of SCIRI and other Shia parties as pro-occupation is dogmatic and disregards the material basis of Shia-Sunni antagonism that has produced divergent strategic responses to the occupation. Sistani et. al.'s push for early direct elections and their capture of electoral power may not conform with MLM dogma about peoples war vs. participation in elections, but it doesn't make them U.S. puppets. Trying to shove that square peg into a round hole produces an analysis that flattens out a complex social reality in which U.S. imperialism isn't actually pulling all the strings.

U.S. imperialism is in a very tight spot in Iraq so it is hardly inccconceivable that they would miscalculate in this way. I tend to think however that their solution to the dilemma of a pro-Iranian elected government is to stabilize the political situation as much as possible and to use their huge military and logistical capacities to cultivate dependencies that break up pro-Iranian Shia unity. As long as people are blowing up each others mosques it is going to be very difficult to cultivate a reliable stratum of compradors and collaborators.

The weaknesses in this analysis actually neatly illustrate some of the consequences of reliance on an antiquated theoretical armory. The inability to treat religious belief as anything more than an instrumental smokescreen for reactionary class forces underestimates the real power of sincerely held beliefs in social conflicts of this sort. To leap from the complex history of alliances and betrayals between the CIA and Bin Laden to the sweeping claim that Islamists have no principles is very dangerous. Revolutionaries don't have a monopoly on the capacity to sacrifice immediate interests for long-term ideals. When multi-millionaires decide to live in caves and dodge cruise missiles its a good bet that their beliefs are deeply held. Theocrats are quite capable of putting their politics in command and pretending otherwise in the present situation may seem convenient for underlining that the U.S. is the main danger but it actually sabotages that important point by associating it with a sloppy analysis.

The Big Question

I guess, then again there's good old Thomas Friendman in today's Times talking about "The Big Question."

Friedman's subhead? "Iraqis face a choice: peace or civil war."

In other words, they must accept US hegemony or be destroyed as anonymous forces plant bombs while the main resistance forces disavow these attacks.

Think about that.

Who benefits?

Not Iran. Not the Sunni population. Not Lebanese Christians or the remaining Baathists in Syria.

None of these actors gain.

Who benefits?

In this case, the shady actions custom-tailored to provoke sectarian conflict are not intuited from antiquated theoretical armor as Day has it, nor does it ignore the material force of religion and other, ahem, ancient hatreds.

LENIN'S TOMB, a clever Trot blog from London has an article on Marxism and religion, with some history of how Islamic law was handled in the Soviet Union:

Plus his analysis on this same question "If we pull out now they'll kill each other":

This is some great stuff.

Day's take that there is some kind of mechanical thinking here, well -- Avakian has been writing about the autonomy of the state recently and making roughly that same point.

Day conceeds "some use of false gangs" as per classic counter-insurgency, and I'm like: TO WHAT END?

What is Zarquawi?


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