The Legacy of Oppression and The Legitimacy of Resistance
The following remarks by Dr. Wasfi were given at the March and Rally For Peace held in Kennebunkport, Maine on Saturday, August 25th:
I speak to you today on behalf of relatives on my mother's side-Ashkenazi Jews who fled their homeland of Austria during Hitler's Anschluss. It is for them that we say "Never again." I speak to you today on behalf of relatives on my father's side who are not living, but dying, under the occupation of this administration's deadly foray in Iraq. From the lack of security to the lack of basic supplies to the lack of electricity to the lack of potable water to the lack of jobs to the lack of reconstruction to the lack of education to the lack of healthcare to the lack of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, they are much worse off now than before we invaded. "Never again" should apply to them, too.
There has been debate recently within the American peace movement on the issue of support for the Iraqi resistance. The argument has been made by some that we don't support the resistance in Iraq because it's different than it has been for other countries we've invaded. That "what is understood to be 'the Iraqi resistance' is a disaggregated and diverse set of largely unconnected factions...There is no unified leadership that can speak for 'the resistance'...There is no unified program, either of what the fight is against or what it is for...(Bennis, 2007)" Well - judge not lest we be judged, for this is an offensive display of the arrogance of empire.
We sit here 8000 miles away with our luxuries of electricity and water, while Iraqis suffer in the desert heat with no relief, and we tell them they are disorganized. This is fiddling while Iraq burns. People are dying; the question is moot.
We are not fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq; we are slaughtering people's children. We went in to liberate Iraqis from a ruthless dictator we imposed upon them who allegedly killed 300,000 during his 30 year reign of terror. We've accomplished more than triple that in a fraction of the time.
If ever there were legitimate resistance to illegal occupation, it is in Iraq.
If ever there were a people struggling for democracy and independence, there are Iraqis.
If ever there were a people who have known suffering at the hands of bloodthirsty American imperialism, there are Iraqis.
Through the last 400 years, the European immigrants who landed on these shores have raped and pillaged millions in the name of empire. They followed the call to "Go West, young man," slaughtering 95% of the indigenous population along the way. In the late 1800's, sights were set on the Caribbean, and through the last 2 centuries, we have had a hand in creating colonies in Africa, Latin America, and Southeast and Western Asia. After all, what is the Middle East, but the Arab World and America's colonial outpost Israel, according to their geographic position relative to Western powers?
But now there is a wedge in this imperial path, driving the American neo-conservative empire to a screeching halt. The Iraqi people - who are, in fact, the Iraqi resistance - are succeeding where we could not. What's not to love? We cannot start examining history from September 11th, 2001. Since WWI, Arabs have been lied to, manipulated, and used by the U.S., Great Britain, and other colonial powers. Next year will mark the 60th year of Al Nakba in Palestine-the Catastrophe. Iraqis have now seen that illegal occupation extended to include the Fertile Crescent, their land between two rivers, their Mesopotamia. Iraqis see the close to 6 million Palestinian refugees, illegally denied their right of return. Iraqis see the U.S. Army building walls to make impoverished ghettos, like the Nazis did, and like the Israelis are doing with their apartheid wall. Iraqis see the open-air prison that is Gaza, strangled and starving as we speak because of our political agenda. The crime of these prisoners? They were born Palestinian. Iraqis are living under occupation tactics such as daily house raids, uprooting of trees, looting of property, psy-ops death squads and the use of depleted uranium - all of which they know too well by watching our joint actions with Israel in Palestine.
And do you know what Iraqis are saying? I don't speak Arabic, but I can translate for you. They're saying, "Get out!" They're saying, "NO way - you're staying for 60 years." They're saying, "Get your oil the old-fashioned way - pay for it!" And why are they saying this? Because they have a dignity and self-respect rooted in 7000 years of civilization. Iraq is the center of Arab nationalism. Actually, this is what my father says, and I would argue that my father is the center of Arab nationalism. Modern-day Iraqis are the descendents of ancients who devised the first system of writing, the 24-hour day, the bases of mathematics, law, science and medicine. Once corrupt American corporations, the U.S. military, and its death squads, prisons, and bombings are out of the picture, true reconstruction by Iraqis can and will begin.
Perhaps we don't embrace the Iraqi resistance because its fighters are killing American soldiers. What other choice have we given them? From Vietnam to Lebanon to Somalia to Iraq, we have taught our victims around the world that the only way to effect a change in American foreign policy is to spill American blood.
Thousands died in Chile during the CIA led coup on Sept. 11th, 1973. But we only remember 3000 Americans who died on the 28th anniversary of that massacre. Grenadans in 1983 and Panamanians in 1989 were buried in mass graves by the thousands after the U.S. assaults, but the stories of these victims go untold. Between 1,000 and 10,000 Somalis were killed when our humanitarian mission in 1993 turned into military aggression. (We will never know the exact number of our innocent victims, again because of mass graves.) But we left Somalia because 19 Americans fell victim to their system and were dragged through the streets of Mogadishu. Time and again, it doesn't matter how many "others" die. The outrage comes when the victims are American.
Martin Luther King Jr. said "silence is betrayal." In these times, remaining silent on our responsibility to the world and its future is criminal. And in light of our complicity in the supreme crimes against humanity in Iraq and Afghanistan, and ongoing violations of the U.N. Charter and international law, how dare any American criticize the actions of legitimate resistance to illegal occupation? How dare we condemn anyone else as "violent" or "disorganized?" Our so-called "enemies" in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, our other colonies around the world - and our inner cities here at home-are struggling against the oppressive hand of empire, demanding respect for their humanity. They are labeled "insurgents" or "terrorists" for resisting rape and pillage by the white establishment, but they are our brothers and sisters in the struggle for justice.
Last Sunday, my family's luck ran out, and one of my cousins in Iraq was killed in the violence we have brought upon Iraqis and their children. He leaves behind a wife; a 2 year old son who keeps asking "Where's Daddy?"; a heart-broken mother and brother; and an entire family devastated by grief for whom life will never be the same. If there are political differences, then whatever they may be, there's nothing complicated about fighting for Iraqi women and children, who are the majority of the suffering population. And if we respect their humanity, can we not respect their grief as they lose their brothers, fathers, husbands and sons, the same way we mourn with and share the pain of American military families?
I close with the words of a man of peace, El Hajj Malik Al Shabazz, Malcolm X, vilified and ultimately assassinated because he spoke freely. Though condemned as violent, he lived for peace, and for love and brotherhood. I very humbly offer his wisdom.
We declare our right on this earth to be ... a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary.
***Time is on the side of the oppressed today, it's against the oppressor. Truth is on the side of the oppressed today, it's against the oppressor. You don't need anything else...
It's been an honor to share this time with you.
Dr. Dahlia Wasfi is a speaker and activist. Born in the United States to an American Jewish mother and an Iraqi Muslim father, she lived in Iraq as a child, returning to the U.S. at age 5. She graduated from Swarthmore College with a B.A. in Biology in 1993 and earned her medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1997. Dr. Wasfi has made two trips to Iraq since the 2003 "Shock and Awe" invasion to visit her extended family. She returned from a three month stay in Basrah in March 2006. On April 27, 2006, she testified at a Congressional Forum to provide her eyewitness account of life in Iraq. Based on her experiences, Dr. Wasfi is speaking out in support of immediate, unconditional withdrawal of American forces from Iraq and the need to end the occupation "from the Nile to the Euphrates." Her website is www.liberatethis.com.