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Backing Down to Iraqi Nonviolence


It has been compelled to accept elections, to accept the defeat of its chosen favorite, to allow Iraqis to write a constitution. The state of the outrageous and illegal economic conditions imposed by the CPA is uncertain. A leading plank of the winning Shi’ite alliance was a timetable for withdrawal of the US-UK forces. Both Washington and London flatly refuse, and the US has already announced that its forces will stay into 2007. The elected leadership is under plenty of pressure to accept what the Wall St Journal calls “vague promises” of eventual withdrawal. But it’s uncertain whether the US can sustain it’s long-term plan to keep Iraq under US military control, by means of a dependable client state.

The main factor that has caused the US to back down is mass non-violent resistance, including huge demonstrations, Sistani fatwas, etc. It should be regarded as a triumph of non-violence, I think. The “insurgents” are not a major problem for US planners. The US has such overwhelming reserves of violence that in that arena it will never have much trouble. But nonviolent resistance is a different matter.

What can we do here? Anything we like: educational programs, protests, demonstrations,…. — you name it. I don’t know of any situation exactly like this, though there are others that have some similarity, and they have shown that an organized activist public can impose conditions that power simply cannot ignore. The Vietnam war, though a radically different situation, did once again support that conclusion.


During the past year the US has been compelled to back down step by step from its plans for Iraq.

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