"The last shall be first, and the first last"

Pratyush Chandra

The Bush-Blair duo’s statements immediately after Zarqawi’s death were very interesting. The adolescent victorious spirit that they generally display was clearly absent. Bush said: “The difficult and necessary mission in Iraq continues. We can expect the terrorists and insurgents to carry on without him. We can expect the sectarian violence to continue.” And Blair echoed: “The death of Zarqawi is a strike against al-Qaeda in Iraq and therefore a strike against al-Qaeda everywhere but we should have no illusions. We know that they will continue to kill, we know that there are many, many obstacles to overcome.” Evidently, the ‘optimism’ that they demonstrated after Taliban’s and Saddam’s defeats was nowhere to be seen.

There is only one reason behind this cautiousness in the imperialist camp, that the duo themselves makes clear, is that the death of all these “evil” symbols will not curb the continuity of insurgency. In fact, as these symbols are rubbed off the media lenses, the anxiety increases with the revelation of the continuous and mass character of the insurgencies in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

The presence of al-Qaeda has been a boon in the post-Cold War era, providing a definite target and rationale for the continued military expansion to cover up the political economic fragility of US-British imperialism. The domestic opinion was easily mobilized by this comic-strip type situation of the two Supermen countering the bearded and hideous aliens. With these aliens dying in their own fire, the Superiority of the “good” men diminishes. And that is dangerous. Thus we find Bush/Blair fumbling for words to characterize the ‘new’ insurgency, and to convince the public of continuing their own ‘noble’ mission. In fact, Blair in his statement on Zarqawi’s death went to the extent of completely shifting the subject to the irrelevant “domestic agenda”, which meant to tell the public that – don’t always stress on our gymnastics, we know we have landed in a thick soup, let’s talk about something else.

And we find them trying hard to convince their international allies, too: “And what I’ve always said about this is whatever people think about the original decision to remove Saddam — I mean, that happened now three years ago — our forces, American forces, other forces have been there with a full U.N. mandate, with the consent of the Iraqi government to do one thing, and that is stand with the Iraqi people in their desire for democracy.” (Blair)

Looming large on all these efforts to recompose the imperialist camp and its ideological campaign, the most formidable danger is the real danger of the increased and coherent insurgency. Al-Qaeda’s elitist character and its sectarian violence, despite its frequent use of pan-Islamic rhetoric to obtain legitimacy, curb every attempt by the colonized people of Afghanistan and Iraq to self-organize, thus helping the occupying forces in divide and rule. Al-Qaeda’s insistence to be the sole-contractor to “save Islam” in this world forces it to target civilians more than the occupants and oppressors, and indulge in sectarian terrorism replicating the same imperialist policy of divide and rule. It was thus that these ‘holy’ soldiers served the global masters during the Cold War, and after the Cold War they continue to serve them. In fact, throughout the Global South the ‘religiosisation’ and sectization of the nationalist and regional politics that we see today have been the immediate results of Post World War II neo-colonization that found post-colonial secular nationalism and regionalism as grave dangers to the imperial powers’ hegemony.

However, as these self-imposing vanguards vanish one by one, who indulge in physically removing the masses from the center-stage of insurgent politics with the help and for the benefit of the occupying forces, the spontaneous and organized nature of mass insurgency will be smoothly nurtured, which until now was always nipped in the bud after sectarian killings, bombings and kidnappings, forcing it to remobilize itself from scratch. The days are not very far when we might see an organized insurgency independent of all clans and sects, which will insist like the Algerians did in the 1950s – “Placing national interest above all petty and erroneous considerations of personality and prestige, in conformity with revolutionary principles, our action is directly solely against colonialism, our only blind and obstinate enemy, which has always refused to grant the least freedom by peaceful means.”

And the Middle East has a great history of anti-colonialist and nationalist uprisings. Even if the officials (both colonials and their local cahoots) have forgotten this, the Middle Eastern people can never forget it. They don’t need to “borrow history” from others. Zarqawi and bin Laden can inspire fear and admiration among those who have forgotten the brilliant struggle for decolonization, but the people throughout the Global South have continued to live this struggle every moment of their lives – against political and economic tyranny, against direct or semi-coloniality. As violence escalates in Iraq and Afghanistan, the natives are not at all afraid. They are not afraid and innocent; they too threw stones at the passing tanks and brigades in the streets of the Afghani towns. As Fanon aptly taught us –

“This atmosphere of violence and menaces, these rockets brandished by both sides, do not frighten nor deflect the colonized peoples. We have seen that all their recent history has prepared them to understand and grasp the situation…. The native and the underdeveloped man are today political animals in the most universal sense of the word.”

Herein lies the danger for imperialism. Afraid of relying on hired locals, as it increases its force and drowns in its own muck, there is a genuine hope for the organized rise in the aspirations of self-determination among the natives. As Sartre would put, all that these hired soldiers can do is to delay the completion of the uncompleted decolonization process that started long back, but ultimately, as Jesus commanded, “So the last shall be first, and the first last” (Mathew 20:16). Amen.

And thus the colonizers are anxious, and the colonized hopeful.

Of Gods and Godmen

One might trace the conception of god and divine beings to the history of religions and beliefs, and view that as a result of habituation – or upbringing – people believe in god and have particular conceptions of divinity or god. But in my opinion, this is one-sided historicism that cannot explain the perpetual reproduction of such conceptions and their varieties (which also entail ruptures in the habituated or “passed on” concepts). In order to explain the existence of particular conceptions we need to trace their genesis or the necessity of their existence in the subject’s being and its relationship with other ‘beings’, i.e., in the process of its own objectification. The history or even story of ideas/conceptions can broadly guide us through the possible markets of variations, but it cannot explain their reproduction and choice.

Within this framework, along with all the commonsensical accusations on components or history of a particular belief system for ‘its’ modern/post-modern character – violent or otherwise, any defense of the ‘belief community’ by drawing alternative components or history is nonsensical. What suffices is to expose the character in terms of the necessities of the conjuncture. This is what Marx did, when he said:

“Religion is, in fact, the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who either has not yet gained himself or has lost himself again. But man is no abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man, the state, society. This state, this society, produce religion, which is an inverted world-consciousness, because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d’honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, its universal basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realisation of the human being because the human being has attained no true actuality. Thus, the struggle against religion is indirectly the struggle against that world of which religion is the spiritual aroma.

“The wretchedness of religion is at once an expression of and a protest against real wretchedness. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.”