Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
May 03, 2008

Resistance Is Not Insurgence

The whole U.S. military counter-insurgency (COIN) fad is based on a false premise. It assumes that it itself is a legitimate force fighting an illegitimate insurgency.

Insurgencies are, by and large, social movements challenging their own government because of some grievance. If the movement is small, it can be fought down through sheer brutality. If it is larger and backed by a significant part of the population, it can only be accommodated by social-political compromise. To achieve the compromise both parties usually fight until everyone is sick of it. The compromise does not necessarily need to be a change of government, but can be participation of the insurgency in the political process or simply a change in social-economic issues.

A resistance is also a social movement, but it is fighting primarily against an invading and occupying force. Its grievance is the fact of occupation, not some local social problem. If the resistance fights against the local government, then only because the government is seen as illegitimate tool of the occupation.

The difference of a resistance towards an insurgency is motivation and possible accommodation. While an insurgency can be accommodated by letting it participate in the general political process and alleviating its grievance, a resistance can only be satisfied by retraction of the occupation.

The COIN strategy assumes that 'hearts and minds' stuff, better government services and an inclusive political process will, over the long term, reduce the insurgents motivation until the movement frays out and blends away.

But  in Iraq the U.S. is an occupying force against a national, though not yet united, resistance. There is no way a COIN strategy can satisfy their demand. The only way to make the fight stop, is for the U.S. to leave.

The above occurred to me independently a few days ago. Researching on it now, I find that others have made the same point much earlier. In a review of a book by the retired Air Force Colonel Chet Richards, William Lind writes:

Perhaps Richards' sharpest point is that DOD's latest fad, counter-insurgency, is something of a fraud. He notes that whereas states have often been successful in defeating insurgencies on their own soil, invaders and occupiers have almost never won against a guerilla-style war of national liberation. Not even the best counter-insurgency techniques make much difference, because neither a foreign occupier nor any puppet government he installs can gain legitimacy.

Posted by b on May 3, 2008 at 15:28 UTC | Permalink


labels are important b, the technical definition for the non coalition and/or US fighters in Iraq is most likely as you say, resistance. But, the information coming out of Iraq is (at least for us) manufactured, produced, spun, and distributed by countries and companies that are pro-US. The US has installed a government in Iraq which we are told was freely elected by the Iraqi people. remember the purple fingers?

therefore, the opposition can only be labeled as insurgents or terrorists as they are rebelling against their own government. see how easy that is?

this is yet another example of how able the elite are to frame discussions in ways that are always favorable to themselves. Resistance has a nice and noble sound to it, we all read about how the brave French resistance sabotaged the Vichy government and we cheered them on, we cheer the Tibetan monks and students who rebelling against Chinese rule but those two examples of resistance were most likely seen by the Vichy and Chinese governments are horrible acts of terrorism and insurgency.

Just like everybody who is not owned and controlled by the US is either a terrorist or a potential one, so it goes with insurgents and resistance. If they are with us, they are resistance if not then insurgents or usually just terrorists.

in my conversations I always use resistance and speak of the US occupation. for this I am certainly in the database of 8 million potential enemies of the state Uncle $cam referenced earlier. oh well...

Posted by: dan of steele | May 3 2008 16:14 utc | 1

resistance is futile

Posted by: THE BORG | May 3 2008 17:03 utc | 2

I couldn't agree more b and dos.

Constant reference in the corporate media to the war, the Iraq war, drives me crazy. It was an uninvited invasion and occupation, which now entails resistance. And yes, using those referring terms, occupation and resistance, signifies one's stance loud and clear to those who are listening and list-making.

Posted by: Hamburger | May 3 2008 17:15 utc | 3

killing babies is futile

Posted by: Sam | May 3 2008 17:45 utc | 4

@dos - of course it is propaganda. The problem is that the U.S. military is falling for it. They really seem to believe to fight an insurgency and try to beat it with COIN measures. If they would acknowledge a real resitance, not publicly but silently, they would use other methods like thinning out the occupation force to a few 10,000 and see who comes out winning the internal fight...

Posted by: b | May 3 2008 18:08 utc | 5

the empire is finished

it just doesn't know it

the cities & town of iraq are the loci of that defeat, of the empire. i forget what it is called in chess - it is a form of self-mate

paradoxically, the fall of the empire - is & will be times of extreme & seemingly perpetual violence. the crimes of guantanamo, bagram & abu ghraib will ve repeated & repeated - until we too are tired & aching with pain

ironically, the cheney bush junta will create simulacra that are caricatures of caricatures - all over europe we are seeing such caricatures that even bad novels could conceive. & yes again those scum that believe themselves to be journalists will speak of a resurgence of the right & it couldn't be farther from the truth. it is clear & evident that the people are tired & even wounded by the comedy that is parliamentary politics. that their economic necessity & their interior lives are being damaged beyond repair

as in iraq it is the people & the people alone who will construct that resistance & as b has noted - it cannot ever be defeated. & yes it will be fractured because the world we live in is so fractured, so damaged - if the left has been able to organis in times of prosperity - then it is criminal if they cannot be organised during times of need, of very great need

Posted by: remembereringgiap | May 3 2008 18:12 utc | 6

& frankly b - i simply do not believe a word the military of the empire say -& i also believe their military scholarship & their military practice to be uniquely impoverished. it is apparent that they learn nothing. i'd say their understanding of history is televisual & has very little to with historirical understanding, even of contemporary history

military force, in the last analysis represents economic power & in that sense it too represents interests & is in & of itself not an ideological institution but an institution that casually uses ideology as we would our underclothes. they represent all the corruption & incompetence that is endemic in that economic power. ultimately they are the nickels & dimes in some defence contractors's pockets. we should not be surprised that they are not concerned over the death & dismemberment of their own soldiers as they are less than nothing to these elites. they have as the greeks knew - less value than goats

yes, the resistance by the people of iraq is fractured - i think that would be the case where as a sovereign country you are attacked by sanctions & then by open violence but even as a fracture force the resistance in iraq has been capable of telling blows against the empire & that will continue. they can wrench words any way they want in washington or in centcom but they are losing & they are losing with an ignomy that will have profound resonances for the future

Posted by: remembereringgiap | May 3 2008 18:27 utc | 7

I won't pretend to know what the military believes, I do know there are some really smart guys and they really do want to get the job done. Problem is that the job continually changes, first its the Baathists that are the bad guys so they go out and kill a bunch of them and then coopt the others and pacify them. then the shia are the bad guys so they have to go and start killing them. once they get them to toe the line they will probably have to start killing Kurds.

the field commanders know for the most part what must be done but the solution has to be political and that is where it all breaks down. It seems to most here that a political solution is already in place, that is to maintain the status quo.

in spite of all of our shortcomings in the US, the military still remains under civilian control. you really can't say that military likes and wants war, there are of course some who really enjoy the killing and excitement of it all but for the most part it is something that is done because it just needs to be done. But there are scum like Fred Hiatt and William Kristol who masturbate to the image of bombing and killing....they have never faced an armed enemy in their pathetic lives and would surely cry like little girls if so confronted. that does not stop them from urging others on to fulfill their sick sadistic fantasies.

rememberinggiap, your optimism is unshaken. I wish I could share it. I see a completely broken Iraq that will only be able to heal once the fvcking oil is all pumped out from under them.

Posted by: dan of steele | May 3 2008 18:35 utc | 8


i don't know if it is optimism because i ultimately believe if the people of iraq lose then we all do

Posted by: remembereringgiap | May 3 2008 18:43 utc | 9

I think the term insurgency is very deliberately chosen by our masters and reflects their beliefs, not just their propaganda goals. As Stan (Goff) pointed out a while back in>one of his niftier essays (imho), posse comitatus is a hollow shell and US force projection is planned as much for internal repression as for external colonial projects.

The global ruling class or rentiers and corporadoes -- currently HQed in the US -- considers all persons -- inside or outside the US -- who resist its programme of Enclosure and profit-taking to be insurgents. It considers itself to be the destined permanent world government, and hence any resistance or disobedience to its rule is insurgency by definition. So we are all insurgents or potential insurgents. That's why there's an increasing focus in US military planning on occupational tactics for use inside the US as well as outside; why contracts are being let for big detention centres; why "crowd control" is a hot topic at the Pentagon; why US citizens are being trained to present biometric ids on demand and submit to arbitrary detainment and search; and so on. The process of Enclosure is in its endgame, and anyone who resists it is an insurgent...

... unless you're resisting it :-) in which case we're all part of some amorphous, underfunded, disorganised, often bewildered Resistance. I'm not saying that being amorphous and disorganised is a bad thing; it may be the only possible strategy in face of the kind of force and surveillance we're facing (TAZ, anyone?). Anyway, whether it's an insurgency or an uprising, a rebellion or a resistance, imho we need more of it -- abroad and at home.>Some thoughts on our strategic situation and the preconditions for successful, protracted insurgency -- I didn't write this list but I agree with a lot of it.

Posted by: DeAnander | May 3 2008 18:58 utc | 10

struggle - remains for me the most beautiful word in any language. & in a world that tries to drown you in shit, it is the only measure or means to arrive at the truth, your own truth

in my work - it is apparent in a very real sense - that a people who are marginalised are closer to their truths simply because their instincts are refined in a way that middle class people blunto both their experience & conscience with habit. so it is true for nations. those nations who are closest to the edge today are those which are closer to their hearts - therefore more open to a real & functioning resistance. also because they are left with no other option than victory or death

& in a world where the empire is offering so many people that option - whether it is in iraq - or in bolivia today where the same empire is destabilising the delicate dream of a people

Posted by: remembereringgiap | May 3 2008 21:08 utc | 11

Spot the difference

GAZA - The U.S. military fired guided missiles into the heart of Gaza's teeming Sadr City slum on Saturday, leveling a building 55 yards away from a hospital and wounding nearly two dozen people.

The strike, made from a ground launcher, took out a militant "command-control center," the U.S. military said. The center was located in the heart of the eight-square-mile neighborhood that is home to about 2.5 million people. Hamas officials said at least 23 people were wounded, though none of them were patients in the hospital.
The U.S. military blamed the militants for using Hamas civilians as human shields.
"This is a circumstance where these criminal groups are operating directly out of civilian neighborhoods," military spokeswoman Spc. Megan Burmeister told The Associated Press in an e-mail.
She said it presents a "complex and very difficult" challenge for U.S. forces to strike the militants when they are "putting themselves next to municipal buildings."
Dr. Ali Bustan al-Fartusee, director general of Gaza's health directorate, told the AP that 23 civilians were wounded in the strike.
He said no patients in the hospital were hurt, but that some of the wounded included civilians outside on their way to visit patients in the hospital. He also said 17 ambulances were damaged or destroyed.

Posted by: Cloned Poster | May 3 2008 21:43 utc | 12

The logic of this post is not right, b, I'm sorry. What the US is doing now in Sadr City is not COIN or any interpretation of it. It is rather a return to military suppression, as in the case of Falluja. As Sadr City is several times the size of Falluja, we have yet to see how the effort will succeed. There's already a Times of London article giving the Sadr side. Success is yet to to see, but it is not COIN, rather a return to the old methods.

The other point I would like to mention is that Iraq is being increasingly imprisoned within concrete walls, not only>Baghdad , but elsewhere. This is>concentration camp practice, not gaining hearts and minds.

Posted by: Alex | May 3 2008 23:21 utc | 13


i see neither method nor strategy. i see as you & b do, bloody murder.

massive force more in line with the mendacious media's limited imagination of success. every day u s forces are building the movement that will destroy it. & whatever differences exist in that movement - they will coalesce & defeat the beast

the empire can put its mob bosses & friend of pablo escobar, mr uribe in charge of colombia for example & it will last for a moment but finally they will be cast aside & this they will do with greater speed because the old lies of capital that might have comprimesed people for tthe last 50 years are simply not working & are finally proved unworkable

the movements in latin america have as much to do with the fatigue, a physical fatigue at the limit of capital's lies - that the people are then prepared to take risks - to resist

Posted by: remembereringgiap | May 3 2008 23:45 utc | 14

in vallegrande in bolivia - those who rule from the roll of dollars - thought they killed the revolutionary spirit when they killed ernesto che guevara but on the contrary they gave birth to movements that were richer for che's spirit

caputal has been in the business of destruction. of nations, of people, of ideas of dreams

whether it was the dream of a red germany or hungary at the end of the massacre they would call the first world war, whether it was the birth of that great social experiment in russia that was strangled at birth, whether it was the extraordinary dream of the spanish people which were smashed by the german air force & the condor legion & american capital, whether it was the dream of the masses in china, of the dreams of independance of the vietnamese phillipines or the indonesian people. the rule of the roll of dollars reigned when the people of greece wanted nothing of the fascism that had despoiled them who then had to live under the dictatorship directed from washington; whether it was the humble & just dreams of the latin american that was demolished in chile, in nicaragua, in honduras, colombia, el salvador

yes, capital has been in the business of destroying dreams but in its bloodiest moments at the beginning of the 21st century all over the world resistance has formed & has become both concrete & fragmentary. 12 million people marched against the barbarian war in iraq & it has changed people irrevocably because capital has been completely unable or unwilling to hide its naked greed. as their putative president to be mcain knows , it was a a war for oil. & the dumbest of us knew that

what us imperialism took from the french & bettered it was cultural imperialism. today even at this point where the empire is in clear collapse on all fronts - cultural imperialism tries to beatify all the acts of the empire as the desire of all. even when the crudest of us know it is far from that

the desire that us cultural imperialism has created is full of dread. it is full fo dread because it is full of the dead & the tortured & the wounded. it is full of dread simply because the cloak of inevitability that capital created has fallen into the dust & the masses, especially the poor masses are walking & marching over that cloak - as much for their lives as for the destiny of their children & countries

the masses of today have 200 years of tools to choose from to defeat capital. they will

Posted by: remembereringgiap | May 4 2008 0:22 utc | 15

The potential for sabotage has expanded exponentially, faster than the government can proliferate laws to criminalize it. The newest chokepoints are not technological but economic. Every sort of option is a threat and its exercise is an assault. Consumer credit is only the weakest link. This is going to be exciting.

Posted by: ...---... | May 4 2008 1:38 utc | 16

I don't think there ever been any serious effort to use COIN, except perhaps to embellish Petreaus as having a new idea. Otherwise they've simply shoved the Iraq army out in front, escalated air strikes and ghettoized the cities. Theres been no reconstruction in the hold areas (other than the walls) even in Fallujah after 3 1/2 years. We'll never know if a COIN strategy would work because they couldn't actually implement the program even it even if they wanted to. There is neither the means or especially, the will to do so.

Posted by: anna missed | May 4 2008 1:46 utc | 17

& you would think if they have learnt anything about the 20th century - they might have learnt something about walls.

the united states & israel are twins in this particular definition of their derangement

Posted by: remembereringgiap | May 4 2008 2:03 utc | 18

we really can't accurately assess the dynamic or legacy of the situation in Iraq much beyond the basic provision of what it means to GWB's legacy. Its non-negotiable for now, no matter what.

Posted by: jony_b_cool | May 4 2008 2:18 utc | 19

Cloned Poster at 12 has the wrong source... But, this is definitely not gonna win the 'hearts and minds' of the Iraqis...

Hospital guard Alaa Mohamed, 26, was at a side entrance when the bombs exploded. "There were five missiles that exploded outside the parking lot," he said.
An AFP reporter saw three huge craters, each with a diameter of six metres (yards), created by the impact of the explosions. Youngsters climbed on top of the rubble and looked for anyone trapped underneath.

Residents said the shack that appeared to be the main target of the air strike was a transit point for Muslim pilgrims.

The AFP reporter witnessed several US helicopters sweeping above Sadr City amid a steady barrage of gunfire.

I had a word or two to say on the matter...

Posted by: CTuttle | May 4 2008 2:55 utc | 20

The U.S. did bomb hospitals in both Fallujah operations, so I guess it shouldn't be surprising. But it does again make this image in my head yet more vivid - that of a walled off/ghettoized/depopulated Warsaw in the film "The Pianist" - where an emptied out and destroyed hospital was a repeatedly featured set. Now I see why.

Posted by: anna missed | May 4 2008 3:28 utc | 21

Arundhati Roy tells an interesting story how rich Indian elites keep the balance
of political power in plundering local economies and natural resources, by setting
up a 'synthetic insurgency', an NGO think-tank group to co-opt the intelligentsia,
give them meaning and purpose but always with the understanding they are just like
other 'help', on a payroll. While this diverts a middle class who might threaten the elites, at the street level, insurgency is solved the same as it ever was. Hack off
limbs, rape the women, torch the homes, burn the bodies, steal the land, sell it off.

MOA's will live to see our governments bankrupting our economies attempting to first
destabilize, then provide cover for, whatever the multinational corporations covet.
A lot of expensive and useless liberal arts educations doing two-year "sand tours".
AmeriCorps, they'll call it. Or BlackWater, for gung ho's. America's Neo-Kibbutzim.

Forty years from now the New York Ha'aretz will run disparaging articles about how
well-meaning AmeriZionists can't stop UAV bombing, until Iraq insurgencies disarms.
President McCain will announce that only children of American mothers (and Israelis)
can be granted US citizenship, everyone else is stuck without a social safety net.

America's $1T version of Arab-Israeli ying-yang. You think I'm kidding, don't you?

Posted by: Nagus Grand | May 4 2008 4:26 utc | 22


Glad you get it. Germans and NATO are learning the futility of fighting a war of occupation on the cheap. My old battalion is once again trying to protect a valley from itself; this time in some forsaken mountains instead of the tropics. Occupations are resisted simply because they are occupations.

Sy Hersh says it best:

You have to ask yourself what interest we had 40 years ago for going to war in Vietnam. You'd think that in this country with so many smart people, that we can't possibly do the same dumb thing again. I have this theory in life that there is no learning. There is no learning curve. Everything is tabula rasa. Everybody has to discover things for themselves.

Posted by: VietnamVet | May 4 2008 4:48 utc | 23

COIN and suppression go hand in hand. COIN is how they amass collaborators to sign on to the suppression of the people. With the surge drawing to an end the fighting is resuming as predicted. 30,000 troops were added into the theatre then Sadr calls a truce and Al Queda goes on the US payroll. Only one month left for the surge troops and its back to the same old stand off:

Four U.S. Marines were killed by a roadside bomb in the western province of Anbar on Friday, the U.S. military said in a statement.

Remeber when Anbar was Petaeus's success story and they bragged how the surge was working

The government is massing troops for an imminent attack on the northern city of Mosul, the interior minister said.
U.S. troops will assist with aerial bombardment, logistics and artillery. U.S. marines will intervene if necessary.
But the analysts expected a long and difficult ‘street-to-street and house-to-house’ fight as the city is almost completely under the Qaeda and other forces resisting U.S. occupation.

Remeber when Petraeus was Mayor of Mosul and they bragged what a success it was

Maliki launched a crackdown on the Mehdi Army in the southern oil hub of Basra in late March, provoking a furious response by the militia in southern Iraq and Baghdad, including relentless volleys of Iranian-made rockets against the Green Zone government and diplomatic compound in the capital.

Remeber when Iran and the US were successfully taking on Al Sadr

So many stories so many changes but still the same death and destruction. So many hot spots just when Iranian missiles are raining down on the Green Zone. What better way to unite Al Queda, Iraq and Iran than to go after all three?

Posted by: Sam | May 4 2008 8:28 utc | 24

Saddam Hussein maintained a secular nation forged out of three communities. He maintained it, meaning that the Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis who live there also know themselves as Iraqis--citizens of a secular nation.

Now since, in the larger scheme of things, nation-states are recent inventions (maybe two or three centuries old?), it follows that occupied nation-states are more recent still. Do they date, maybe, from WW II (not that the Spanish didn't "resist" Napoleon)?

During WW II, one particular nation, namely France, was able to mount a state-wide para-military movement against the German occupying forces. I'd argue that the French Resistance became, and remains, the great model for citizens of occupied nations who oppose its occupying forces. "Resistance" is what this is.

What was the necessary (if inadequate) condition enabling the French to invent the "Resistance"? Simply that France was already being governed by the people living there (its "citizens"). And so, too, for Iraq: with the country occupied by a foreign power, its people seek, through the paramilitary movement we call as "Resistance," to expel that foreign power.

Did the Germans adopt this word--a term adopted by the leaders of the "Resistance" itself--or did they censor it? Is there an equivalent term in Arabic ("intifada," perhaps?)?, and if so, is it known to any Americans? And if they know it, do they censor it?

Posted by: alabama | May 4 2008 11:41 utc | 25>Badger points to a public statement made by Harith al-Dhari, head of the Association of Muslim Scholars of Iraq (AMSI) and spokesman for the Sunni nationalist movement, regarding the the war on Sadr City. In addition to the usual blame on occupation forces for inflaming sectarian strife, Dhari unusually, directs his statements to the Shiite audience. Badgers take on the speech:

so its repetition here isn't new as far as that goes. What is new is his addressing this message to the Shiite population of Sadr City, in the light of the history of animosity dating from the post-Feb 06 period: In the final analysis, he is saying, this was not one group against another group. Rather this was just another case of instigation of sectarianism directly or indirectly by the American occupation. Now that the current stage of that cycle of instigated sectarianism is upon us, the conclusion should be inescapable: The same (Badr Corp and their American masters, although he doesn't put it that way) who were using Sadrists to attack Sunnis, are now bombing and attacking you. The simple answer is the return to Iraqi solidarity and the expulsion of the occupier.

This is the kind of sign I've been looking for, with regards to a Sunni/Shiite united front, emerging from the war on Sadr.
We'll see how it develops.

Posted by: anna missed | May 4 2008 18:24 utc | 26

alabama: In Arabic it is "muqaawama" (two a's standing for a long a), from the root "qaama" to stand erect, via a form of that root that means to stand up and hold one's own, resist or oppose something. It has that same honorable "standing up" ring to it that "resistance" has. That's why the Americans don't use it. "Intifada" is from a verb that means shaking something off, and it has more of the sense of a paroxysm where you've had enough and you're not going to take it anymore. Yr welcome.

anna missed: You're right, we'll see.

Posted by: | May 4 2008 19:08 utc | 27

that was me

Posted by: Badger | May 4 2008 19:11 utc | 28

Did the Germans adopt this word--a term adopted by the leaders of the "Resistance" itself--or did they censor it?

I tried to find out but google was no help ... there seem sto have been no "one word" designation.

The Germany certainly didn't use "resistance" but many bad words, usually with racial undertone. The racial component developed during the active fighting of the french army when some french troops from senegal were involved. The propaganda machine used those to make up "black bandits" and other soundbits generally from the criminal range, not some "eternal enemy" terrorist.

Posted by: b | May 4 2008 19:44 utc | 29

Check out these 2 articles. First they clear Iran of any interference in the morning:

Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said there was no "hard evidence" of involvement by the neighbouring Shiite government of Iran in backing Shiite militiamen in the embattled country.

Iraq says no hard evidence of Iran support for militia

Then later in the day they accusse Iran of interfering:

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has ordered the formation of a committee to compile evidence of Iranian "interference" in Iraq that will then be presented to Tehran, the government spokesman said on Sunday. ..... "The prime minister has ordered the formation of a committee to document the interference of the Iranians in Iraqi affairs. The Iraqi government will follow up with the Iranians and put (these findings) in front of them," Dabbagh told Reuters.

At an earlier news conference Dabbagh appeared to distance the government from U.S. accusations of Iranian interference in Iraq.

Iraq says to document Iran "interference"

It didn't take long for the leash to come out didn't it? Here's the supposed reasoning for the earlier statement:

But the next day, the Iraqi government appeared to back away from its claims of Iranian meddling inside Iraq, highlighting the complexity and confusion over Iran's exact role in the Iraq war, its relationship with Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia, and the dilemma facing Mr. Maliki as his two chief allies – Washington and Tehran – engage in an ever-increasing war of words.

"We do not want to start a conflict with Iran," says Iraqi spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh. "We need our own government documentation of this interference, not from the Americans, not from the media."
The Iraqi visit to Iran coincided with the release of the annual US terrorism report, which declared Iran, as in years past, to be the "most significant" state sponsor of terrorism.

Iraq increasingly finds itself caught between U.S. and Iran

When it comes down to it it's clear who's side the puppets are on.

Posted by: Sam | May 5 2008 2:04 utc | 30

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