Sunday, October 07, 2007

New spin on an old smear

In the early stages of the armed occupation of Iraq (still being called a "war" for some reason), the US propaganda machine was intent on denying the existence of any legitimate national resistance, referring famously to "Baathist dead-enders" and so on. But where I came in, and for much of the past year, the propaganda machine had shifted focus a little, and was intent on blurring or smearing the distinction between takfiiri crazies some of whom kill for religion, and the nationalist resistance fighters who target the foreign occupation (whose existence was now acknowledged, but whose legitimacy was attacked by the takfiiri smear), all referred to collectively as "Sunni insurgents".

Now that US-armed Sunni groups are fighting AlQaeda, the propaganda effort has had to shift focus again a tiny bit. It is still true that key facts are passed over in propagandistic silence: The need expressed by AMSI for political unity in the resistance to meet the challanges of "US withdrawal"; the rejection of any such political compromise by the "AlQaeda" leadership; the accusation by the leading Saudi authority and others to the effect "AlQaeda" leadership is a catspaw of foreign intelligence agencies. All of this suggests that a lot turns on understanding the relationship of "AlQaeda" to the domestic resistance. But instead of taking up any of these issues, the great portal of informed comment has elected merely to take up the takfiiri-nationalist smear from another angle.

On Friday, AMSI head Harith al-Dhari made remarks in an interview with AlJazeera in which for the first time he directly criticized the "Iraqi Awakening" groups that are using US funding and support to attack AlQaeda. Here's the summary on the AMSI website:
[AlDhari] invited Iraqis to abstain from joining in the forces that are led by the United States of to wage war on AlQaeda, because in doing so they are assisting the occupier against their own countrymen.

[He said] "We do not accept the operations of AlQaeda and we have rejected the operations of AlQaeda, but the fact remains that ninety percent of AlQaeda are Iraqis....It is possible for us to dialogue with them and to bring them around... it is possible that almighty god can restore them to wisdom and common sense."
Al-Quds al-Arabi, recalling that al-Dhari has recently seen one of his brothers killed by AlQaeda in one of their "operations", makes an obvious point: What al-Dhari is trying to do is to distinguish between his critical position with respect to some of their activities, on the one hand, and the idea of Sunni tribes fighting them armed by the Americans and in the service of the Americans' aims and objectives.

So here's the new version of the smear: Al-Dhari's attempt to prevent Iraqis from taking the takfiiri bait and launching another internecine war are being spun as a sellout to the takfiiri crazies. Here's how Juan Cole puts it today:
Al-Dhari's willingness to see the violent, foreign-inspired group as essentially Iraqi and as a group one could dialogue with is startling and, I think, puts him beyond the pale in mainstream Iraqi politics (he is in Amman, Jordan, and I think there is an arrest warrant out for him.)

We saw the same smear from the widely-read Cole the end of last year with respect to the Istanbul Conference, where Dhari was espousing the same cause and the same viewpoint, only in the Shiite-Sunni context. Some speakers at that conference focused on the "Shiite threat", but Dhari fought back:
Harith al-Dari disagreed and said this is "a political struggle plain and simple". He said (according to this summary): "There are both Shiites and Sunnis on the one side under a single banner, and on the other side, arrayed against them, is the Occupation along with its Iraqi agents, aiming at the realization of its colonialist aims. [And this is the case] whether or not those [agents] connive with the Iraqi government and its institutions, or with the death-squads and the militias that are supported from outside".
At that time, there was no English-language coverage of the conference, just as recently there has been no coverage about the key points mentioned above. Then when people did hear, it was from Cole, and it was a smear, implying the whole conference was some kind of a celebration of takfiir.
Americans got their first report about the Istanbul conference this morning [Dec 20 2006], via Juan Cole, who (1) called statements of Dulaimi "incendiary", but failed to mention the more enlightened comments that Harith al-Dhari made in rebuttal; (2) quotes a Shiite website that reported allegations about an arrest-warrant against Dulaimi, without telling readers that this was false; (3) failed to pay any attention to the more balanced Al-Jazeera summary of the Istanbul proceedings (mentioned here in a prior post). Cole presents a one-sided account, followed up with something equally incendiary (and false to boot). It is a case study in how to go about taking a contentious event, and instead of explaining the dynamics in an even-handed way, using it instead in a partisan way to fan the flames higher.
As you can see, he likes that "arrest warrant" touch.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just to re-orient myself, is it true Cole initially supported the war and is married to a Shia? Is it fair also to say Cole's position on leaving Iraq is closer to Clinton's than Kucinich's?

Please expand on the implications of any of this and more, if you feel such is warranted.

2:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where does AMSI sit in relation to al Douri's recently formed Supreme Command of Jihad and Liberation, comprising 22 insurgent groups? And the Hamas in Iraq lengthy denunciation of AlQI?

4:28 PM  
Blogger badger said...

anonymous, the answers to some of that might be interesting, but it's beside the point that I'm trying to make here, namely:

Smearing the national resistance in the ways I indicated, provides a real service to those who want to prolong and continue the Iraq adventure and expand it, because it contributes to the atmosphere where American "progressives" and others who you would expect to be more proactive against this, don't recognize or feel any affinity for the resistance because "gee, aren't those the guys that are trying to kill us?" Cole helps keep the canard alive, and in so doing he is acting as a facilitator for those trying to keep Americans quiet while this adventure continues and develops. That's my point.

4:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's good you are putting Cole
under a microscope; he emphasizes that "al Qaeda" in Iraq is a small fraction of the resistance which is hyped by the neocons,although he says they are mostly foreigners unlike seemingly inferred here.

He seems also to lean to the position our presence increases the chance, rather than decreases it that we'll be hit again and also to point out the absurdity of the claim that the bulk of the native resistance will come to America if we don't clean it out there.

The problem is, even saying all the above, he is still an interventionist, he is still not a proponent of dismantling the Empire,as is Chalmers Johnson on the left and Andrew Bacevich on the right and as Kucinich, Gravel and Paul advocate.

That said, to me the rest is interesting, however,commentary The somber reality is the imperative lies mostly with a stalwart Arab/Moslem resistance, militant and political,not just in Iraq, that ousts America from the Mideast.
Since whoever owns the oil will sell it at market price, America has no real interest there, but the likelihood that the Zionist Lobby can be neutered until the Empire suffers significantly more losses on many fronts, is practically nil. If all this is superfluous to your theme
here by all means don't post it, but take it to heart.

6:13 PM  
Blogger badger said...

Good points, and I take them to heart. However, at risk of harping on this, I want to make sure I've made it clear what I think Cole is doing. It has nothing to do with his "positions", which basically involve making himself popular by scoring the same-old easy points off the neocons after all these years. It isn't his "positions". It is that in trying to discredit al-Dhari, here and in the earlier case, and more generally in blurring and smearing at every opportunity the distinction between the takfiiris and the national resistance, in studiously avoiding the question of who controls the AQ leadership and for what ends, and in many other ways, Cole is helping make sure that the national resistance stays, to use his expression, "beyond the pale" as far as its potential supporters on the left are concerned. And this is a great service to the powers that be in Washington who want to see this adventure expanded.

6:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@ gj (& others):

If interested in AMSI & "Jihad and Liberation" relation do check out our repostings in the near future.

The issue will be sorted out there very soon (starting today with a special report of our own).

NDHF eds

1:24 AM  
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