The left’s unholy alliance with the Islamist right

Terry Glavin December 2, 2010 – 10:51 am

For some long while, what was once a merely subtle pattern has been a thing so predictable you can set your watch by it. In Afghanistan, the “troops out” and “talk to the Taliban” slogans emerged on the crypto-fascist and Islamist far-right. In Canada, these slogans became the default position of the “left,” up to and including the official position of the New Democratic Party. On the Israel-Palestine question, the politics counselled by Hamas and Hezbollah — the politics of the Islamist far-right — now form the basis of “left-wing” activism (most recently, see “Fascists on Campus”, for example).

The pattern repeats itself in The Guardian, which everyone in the English-speaking world is expected to apprehend as a clarion of proper left-wing analysis. Simon Tisdall writes: “Pakistan was already under the American hammer before the WikiLeaks crisis blew. But leaked US diplomatic cables published by the Guardian show the extraordinary extent to which Pakistan is in danger of becoming a mere satrapy of imperial Washington. The US assault on Pakistani sovereignty, which is how these developments are widely viewed in the country, is multipronged. . .”

Well, no, not unless “widely viewed” is meant as a euphemism for the Guardian view – the “left-wing” view of rich white people, which now precisely echoes and accurately reflects the lumpen view incited by right-wing Pakistani chauvinists.

“There is a deep abyss between the perceptions of the people of Waziristan, the most drone-hit area, and the wider Pakistani society on the other side of the River Indus. For the latter, the US drone attacks on Waziristan are a violation of Pakistani’s sovereignty,” writes Farhat Taj. “I have been discussing the issue of drone attacks with hundreds of people of Waziristan. They see the U.S. drone attacks as their liberators from the clutches of the terrorists into which, they say, their state has wilfully thrown them.”

What do intelligent writers from the Pakistani Left have to say about Tisdall’s “dangerous” Yankee-imperialist incursions on Pakistan’s sovereignty? Azizullah Khan Khetran writes: “We should not heed rightist propaganda and empty slogans. Let the drones hover over the terrorists and terrorise them.” Further: “Civil society in Pakistan is well aware of the fact that the drones are cleansing us of terrorists but sometimes they fail to resist the temptation to speak out against them. This is caused by the extreme right trumpeting warnings of US encroachments on our sovereignty.”

True, the dainty and fashionable classes of Islamabad and Lahore can give out of themselves about American imperialism and recite lines from Michael Moore documentaries as well as anyone in Toronto’s Danforth or Vancouver’s Kitsilano. But among the masses of Waziristan, FATA and Khyber-Pukhtoonkwa, where it matters, what do the people want?

Farhat Taj, again, provides a glimpse: “In all the areas of FATA where military operations have been conducted, people complain that the army deliberately targeted civilians and let the Taliban flee or avoided firing at the terrorists. This is the key reason why so many people became displaced in the tribal areas where the military operations have been conducted. This is also precisely the reason why the people in FATA favour drone strikes on the militants instead of military operations. . . despite the relentless drone attacks in North Waziristan, there is no mass scale displacement from the area.”

Azizullah Khan and Farhat Taj are just two opinions, you say? Alright then, what about the left-wing political leadership of the NWFP, FATA, including Swat, Malakand, Buner and other Talib-infested districts? What say the Awami National Party, the Pukhtunkhwa Mili Awami Party, the Pakistan Peoples Party, the traditional Pashtun “Red Shirt” secularist movement, several civil society organizations and the Amn Tehrik Peace Coalition?

Here’s what they have to say: “NATO and ISAF are sent to Afghanistan under UN mandate. NATO and ISAF should stay in Afghanistan until terrorism is uprooted, foreign interference in Afghanistan must be stopped and the institutions of army and police are established on solid footings.” In case there is still any misunderstanding, the “Left” in Waziristan and NWFP insists that the ordinary people want to crush the Taliban, but they know they need the Americans to help them do it: “These people do not support any peace deals with the militants. . . it is the [U.S.] drone attacks which they support the most.”

Here’s some empirical evidence backing up the assertion of popular support for drone strikes and a rejection of Talibanism: “Over two-thirds of the people viewed Al-Qaeda and the Taliban as enemy number one, and wanted the Pakistani army to clear the area of the militants. A little under two-thirds want the Americans to continue the drone attack because the Pakistani army is unable or unwilling to retake the territory from the Taliban.”

What to make of the anti-American windbags and soft-palmed pro-appeasement journalists of the sort who enjoy the privilege of writing columns in the Guardian? “They are either intellectually lazy or are insensitive to the trauma of the terrorised people.”

But is that all? Maryam Namayzie of the Worker-communist Party of Iran is a woman for whom I have great respect. While I am not a communist, Namayzie does present a Marxist answer to the question that makes eminent sense of what much of the contemporary Euro- American “anti-war left” really represents: “It is an anti-colonial movement whose perspectives coincide with that of the ruling classes in the so-called Third World. This grouping is on the side of the ‘colonies’ no matter what goes on there. And their understanding of the ‘colonies’ is Eurocentric, patronising and even racist. . . This type of politics denies universalism, sees rights as ‘western,’ justifies the suppression of rights, freedoms and equality under the guise of respect for other ‘cultures’ implying that people want to live the way they are forced to and imputing on innumerable people the most reactionary elements of culture and religion, which is that of the ruling class.”

National Post

Journalist, author and blogger Terry Glavin is an adjunct professor of creative writing at the University of British Columbia and editor of Transmontanus Books. He was awarded the 2009 B.C. Lieutenant-Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence.

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