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On the "Insurgency" Myth in Iraq

by Thomas Pany Saturday, Jun. 04, 2005 at 10:09 AM

The opposite is demonstrated with spectacular and brutal actions when the US media report about successes in the battle against the enemies of freedom in Iraq.


By Thomas Pany

[This article (Loser!..Ich verstehe nicht, warum sie tun, was sie tun”) published in the German-English cyber-journal Telepolis, 5/25. 2005 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,]

According to the latest statistics (1), 60 US soldiers were killed in May 2005 through hostile fire. Far greater losses were suffered on the side of Iraqi security forces… The Iraq Coalition Casualty Report counts 198 (2)… However for American reporters (3) the high losses of US troops are clear evidence of the “end of a trend” (4) that assumed the “insurgents” tactically reoriented themselves after the election, didn’t line up American troops in their sights and concentrated on attacks against Iraqi security forces.

This assumption never agreed with reality. Only the two spectacular attacks in April need to be mentioned in which large regiments of “insurgents” attacked US troop[s in Abu Ghraib (5) and “camp Gannon” (6) at the Syrian border. The Iraqi reality is difficult. Illustrative models are only restrictedly suited to represent success or progress to the American public. The “insurgents” also read this; they are at the cutting edge of info-dramaturgy.

The opposite is demonstrated with spectacular and brutal actions when the US media report about successes in the battle against the enemies of freedom in Iraq. Every time the old question is raised again: Who really are the “insurgents,” how long can they hold out and what do they want?


An article (7) recently appeared in the New York Times that tackled the question why the Iraqi resistance are successful when they are obviously unconcerned about historical lessons of past resistance movements and the battle for the “hearts and minds” of the majority of the Iraqi population. The experts’ answers reveal two things: helplessness and the admission that the region, its culture and inhabitants are hardly understood.

The US troops could be criticized again and again for not having learned their lessons in the Vietnam war and in the conflict with other resistance groups, the article states, but no one has shaken off the historical lessons like the resistors in Iraq.

They obviously don’t want to win the hearts of the majority of the population or strive for international legitimation by drawing up a political program or even a uniform ideology. They have no charismatic leader, no alternative government or political wing and for a long while didn’t intend to conquer territory for governmental power.

“Instead of saying: “Where is the logic here? We don’t see it,” you could speculate that there is no logic. The attacks are wanton violence… There is a name for these poor devils: losers. The insurgents do everything wrong. I don’t understand why they do what they do.”

James Joes, professor of politics in Philadelphia

“There was no political ideology, political speaker or political wing in two years. This is really a nihilist resistance.”

Steven Metz, Army War College Strategic Studies

The interviewed experts only saw the anti-American motif as the single coherent connection. However this message has been undermined by attacks that cost the lives of many Iraqis. What Che Guevara described as an invincible obstacle – a democratically elected government – becomes less important. Only the IRA that has kept Northern Ireland in chaos for more than 30 years is a possible historical forerunner for the author of the article. Similar goals are manifest. Overthrowing the government or expelling the Americans is not central but “locating” and bleeding them white.

This tells us how little we understand the region.


Laith al-Saud, a lecturer for social sciences and member of the People’s Struggle Movement, an organization politically opposed to the occupation, has a very different Iraqi resistance in mind when he explains Iraq to Americans and other westerners (8). The manner and way that the resistance is reported in the US media is misleading, a forgery that plays into the hands of the occupation. The general public is led to believe that the American troops are indispensable for the security and protection of the country although insecurity and chaos were first created through their presence.

With the one-sided reporting, the label “insurgency” has created a completely misleading picture of the Iraqi resistance in the public mind. Actually, al-Saud says, there are clearly defined political limits of the occupation opponents. They have said publically they want to act politically and militarily. However no American journalists are interested in these contacts:

..the methods and goals of the resistance have always been made public. There is no large group of Iraqi resistance that would not condemn the killing of innocent persons in the country.. The political members of the Iraqi resistance control the media as spokespersons for their armed actions but no western news source asked about their feelings or analyses. The media insist on the official American version.

Al-Saud names representatives of the Association of Muslim Scholars and the People’s Struggle Movement as examples for possible contacts. The political framework of Iraqi “resistance” can be read very clearly in the demands of the Higher Committee for National Forces Rejecting the Occupation:


* the right of Iraqis to defend themselves against foreign aggression and imperialism

* the right of Iraqis to a political process not influenced by the occupation that reflects the unrestricted will of the Iraqi population

* pluralist and democratic Iraq


* the continuing occupation of the country and the creation of permanent military bases

* the privatization of the Iraqi economy and the unrestricted access of foreign powers to Iraq’s resources

* a federal constitution for Iraq

According to the dominant view of the “resistance” in Iraq, the federalism would only lead to a further breakdown of the region in “semi-disparate groups” (9) who must arm themselves against their neighbors and demand the protecting power of the US.

The myth of the permanent danger “insurgency” including the civil war danger and its keywords seeks to divert from genuine resistance. Only “Baathists and Wahabites” are seen who fight with all means against freedom and democracy as though there were no other resistance. The acts of destruction connected with the “insurgency” cannot find any resonance within the large groups of resistance.”


A noteworthy analysis (10) of the Project on Defense Alternatives titled “The Dynamics of Occupation and Resistance in Iraq” supports one essential claim of the occupation adversaries that the military activities of the occupiers always generate new resistance. The public discontent is the “water in which the rebels swim.” Surveys have shown that the large majority of Iraqis had only faint trust in the coalition groups and still saw them as occupiers, not liberators. For that reason, there is “significant support” within the Iraqi population for attacks and assaults on foreign troops.

Ten percent of Iraqis have had “very negative encounters” with coalition troops. Traumatic experiences of house searches are most important to them:

Arresting authorities entered houses usually after dark, breaking down doors, waking up residents roughly, yelling orders, forcing family members into one room under military guard while searching the rest of the house and further breaking doors, cabinets, and other property. They arrested suspects, tying their hands in the back with flexi cuffs, hooding them, and taking them away. Sometimes they arrested all adult males in the house, including elderly, handicapped, or such people. Treatment often included pushing people around, insulting, taking aim with rifles, punching and kicking, and striking with rifles. Individuals were often led away in whatever they happened to be wearing at the time of arrest – sometimes pajamas or underwear…In many cases personal belongings were seized during the arrest with no receipt given…In almost all incidents documented by the ICRC, arresting authorities provided no information about who they were, where their base was located, nor did they explain the cause of arrest. Similarly, they rarely informed the arrestee or his family where he was being taken or for how long, resulting in the de facto disappearance of the arrestee for weeks or even months until contact was finally made.

58% of the population said that the coalition groups “behaved badly.” The US troops will find themselves in a dilemma, the report concludes. Their mission will become coercion and include intrusive measures that only further fuel the opposition.

In summary, a correlation exists between the violent experiences of Iraqis, negative appraisals of US troops and support for the attacks and assaults of the rebels. The geographic model of military activities of the coalition groups is reflected in the spreading of these attitudes especially in Sunnite areas and Baghdad. Approximately 80% of US military actions during the occupation concentrated on Baghdad and Sunnite areas.

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