Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

October 18, 2007

Meeting Resistance

Filed under: Film,Iraq — louisproyect @ 3:56 pm

Opening at theaters around the country starting tomorrow (screening information is here), “Meeting Resistance” is a film that gives a voice to the shadowy Iraqi resistance that has fought the world’s most powerful imperialist country in history to a standstill. With an economy of means, this documentary accomplishes what all great art strives for, namely the humanization of its principals. With so much hatred directed against Sunni insurgents, who lack the socialist credentials of past insurgencies that attracted the solidarity of the Western left, “Meeting Resistance” takes a giant step forward in making the “enemy’s” case. After watching this powerful film, one will have to agree with George Galloway’s assessment in a speech given at the al-Assad Library in Damascus on July 30, 2005:

These poor Iraqis — ragged people, with their sandals, with their Kalashnikovs, with the lightest and most basic of weapons– are writing the names of their cities and towns in the stars, with 145 military operations every day, which has made the country ungovernable by the people who occupy it. We don’t know who they are, we don’t know their names, we never saw their faces, they don’t put up photographs of their martyrs, we don’t know the names of their leaders. They are the base of this society. They are the young men and young women who decided, whatever their feelings about the former regime — some are with, some are against. But they decided, when the foreign invaders came, to defend their country, to defend their honor, to defend their families, their religion, their way of life from a military superpower, which landed amongst them.

Co-directed by Steve Connors and Molly Bingham, “Meeting Resistance” allows a group of insurgents in the Al Adhamiya district in Baghdad to explain why they decided to fight the occupation, how they are organized, and–perhaps of the greatest interest–what kind of backgrounds they have. Among the most interesting revelations is that only a small percentage can be described as Baathist “dead-enders”, the description that was offered by the Bush gang early on and that was accepted by some sectors of the left. A political science professor in Baghdad, the only interviewee who is not actually part of the resistance, estimates that less than 10 percent are Baath Party activists.

If they do have connections, they tend to be like “The Warrior” (his facial features are obscured, as is the case with all other fighters) who was a special forces officer in the Iraqi Army and part of a thousand man suicide squad sent to Kerbala and Najaf in the first Gulf War in 1991 to put down the Shia rebellion. When he returned alive, he was charged with dereliction of duty and sentenced to death. (Saddam was obviously influenced by Stalin’s defense at Stalingrad, but a corrupt Baathist “socialism” was hardly a sufficient motivation to fight until death.) His sentence was reduced to life imprisonment and commuted after 3 ½ years in prison where he suffered torture, including broken legs. After the US invaded Iraq, he joined the resistance immediately. Even though he hated the top brass of the Iraqi government and military, he hated occupation more.

In another interview, we learn that one young man who had almost no interest in politics launched what was in effect a one-man resistance after he was humiliated by American soldiers. While he was sitting in a coffee shop with three other friends late one night, two Humvees pulled up. Soldiers poured into the shop and lined them up against the wall where they were cursed and slapped. The young man was so aggravated that he spent his own money on an RPG the next day and destroyed the Humvees. Not satisfied, he bought a rocket launcher next and attacked a tank all on his own. As the interviewer put it, you cannot suppress the Iraqi’s sense of “gallantry.” One of the enormous pleasures “Meeting Resistance” offers is the discourse of the Iraqi people, who are a race of Dylan Thomases based on the evidence of the film.

Addressing the topic of Sunni-Shia conflict, the film makes it pretty clear that the resistance, at least the contingent based in Al Adhamiya, is totally opposed to attacking Shia pilgrimages and mosques. They surmise that the occupation forces, or even the Israeli Mossad, organize these attacks in order to divide the Iraqi people. They also explain that many Sunnis and Shias in Iraq are married, so that it is impossible to view the conflict as purely tribal. That being said, they are not happy with the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani’s refusal to issue a fatwa against the occupation. If he did, the occupation in their opinion would end in a week.

One of the fighters, whose face is covered by a kefiya, has come to Iraq from Syria out of a sense of duty to Allah and a feeling of Arab nationalism, two themes that unite the resistance above all else. He is a deeply religious young man who explains that if Iraq is defeated, then Syria will be next. This belief appears vindicated by the recent Israeli attack on an alleged nuclear weapons facility in Syria, a preparation perhaps for an attack on Iran. One might hope that the Iranian government would eventually develop a sense of solidarity with all under attack from American imperialism. Indeed, they might follow the example of this Syrian fighter, who is Shia himself.

Molly Bingham, Steve Connors

Directors Steve Connors and Molly Bingham deserve enormous credit for having the courage and the dedication to conduct these interviews. Both had worked as free-lance photographers in Iraq from March to June 2003. After the occupation began, they were struck by the rising level of resistance despite Bush’s claim of “mission accomplished.” They became convinced that there was a “fundamental story to the war that was not being significantly covered,” according to an interview contained in the press notes, and began work on the film in August of 2003.

The project obviously contained great personal risk, as they explain the interview:

To the dismay of our families, the short answer is that we didn’t really have any guarantee of safety while we worked on this story. Like all other journalists working in Baghdad at the time we were the possible victims of random violence, being in the wrong place at the wrong time when an ambush occurs, an IED or a car bomb are detonated, being killed by coalition forces either during combat or like many civilian Iraqis, during the response to an attack, or being kidnapped. But we were also exposed to the specific dangers of this story; that the fighters we were interviewing would turn on us, or that one of the many intelligence services, militaries or militias in the country would find out what we were doing and decide to rough us up or kill us to find out what we knew. We are very lucky that none of the possible things that could have gone wrong did. Not all journalists who have been working in the country have been lucky.

Steve Connors hails from Great Britain and served in the British army in Northern Ireland in the early 1980s, a stint that obviously prepared him for the film project. “Meeting Resistance” is his directorial debut.

Molly Bingham was born in Kentucky and graduated from Harvard in 1990. In March 2003, while working as a freelancer in Iraq, she was detained by the Iraqi security forces and spent eight days in Abu Ghraib. Her father is Barry Bingham Jr., the former publisher of the Louisville Courier-Journal. The Bingham family, a dynasty really, includes many notable characters, including Barry’s sister and Molly’s aunt, Sallie Bingham who had become a radical feminist in the 1970s. There was a monumental feud in the paper in 1989, when Sallie battled Barry over what she regarded as sexism at the paper. The paper was sold when the differences reached the breaking point. Like her aunt Sallie, Molly Bingham clearly has the courage of her convictions and we are all the better for that as demonstrated by the remarkable “Meeting Resistance.”

Official Film Website

11 Comments »

  1. Excellent review, Louis!

    Comment by Julio Huato — October 18, 2007 @ 5:49 pm

  2. Lenin’s Tomb points out and links a 7 minute video op-ed by Connors and Bingham in the 10/18 New York Times (!!) online Video section. Go, watch.

    Comment by CK — October 18, 2007 @ 10:08 pm

  3. Yes. Good. One thing which I wonder about is why the resistance in Iraq has done so little to publicise and promote its cause. Face it, if you’re waiting for Europeans to come and make a movie about your rebellion, you could wait forever.

    Granted, I have no Arabic so maybe there’s a billion things out there which contradict what I’ve just said. But it’s odd that even the people who have Arabic and support the resistance don’t seem to have much clarity on exactly what’s going on.

    Comment by MFB — October 19, 2007 @ 11:41 am

  4. Everything I’m reading about this film get’s me exicted that it could shake up the mainstream discourse on the war.

    I love the absurdity of the “It was a mistake” liberal establishment antiwar position in the U.S. Yes, we tripped our foot, feel down the stairs and accidently invaded another country. Funny it all seemed pretty deliberate to me. Just once I would like to hear an antiwar commentator say “It wasn’t a mistake, It was a crime”.

    I watch Bill maher a lot, and although I think he’s a great voice against the adminstration, I get angry at the outright rascist notion that the Sunni and the Shia were just acking to slaughter each other and the only thing keeping them in line was Saddam.

    I comes from the typical dimwitted mainstream left position of people like Joseph Biden who think Iraq should be split into 3 parts.

    The don’t realize that by supporting this crazy idea there only giving the Bush adminstration justification for staying there because they claim there trying to stop an ethnic war which secretly behind the scenes there fomenting.

    Anyway, great article louis and sense I doubt this will be released in the town I live I guess I get it when it comes out on DVD.

    This is why I love blogs like this because without it I probably would have never heard of this film.

    Comment by Dave — October 19, 2007 @ 12:11 pm

  5. MFB: One thing which I wonder about is why the resistance in Iraq has done so little to publicise and promote its cause.

    Frankly they’re too busy fighting to stay alive to do much propaganda.

    They’re up against 160,000 U.S. troops, god knows how many Blackwater mercs, pro-occupation Shia death squads, and Iraqi government forces. Their electrical grid is almost not functioning, I’m not sure how many have the money for equipment (better an RPG than a camera) and the necessary internet connections to distribute anything.

    People compare the Iraqi resistance to the Vietnamese National Liberation Front, but by the time the Americans invaded in 1965, the NLF had been fighting continuously for almost 30 years and had managed to secure the northern half of the country. The Iraqi resistance is only 4+ years old.

    Comment by Binh — October 19, 2007 @ 1:21 pm

  6. How was it Uncle Karl put it? “People make their own history, but never under the conditions which they would choose”, or something like that. I say god bless ‘em and if they’re really lucky, maybe they’ll have something to build with once this shit is over with, if it ever is. In any event, may they remain an infected thorn in the side of the empire for however long they need to be.

    Comment by Michael Hureaux Perez — October 19, 2007 @ 3:35 pm

  7. This is a tremendous movie and a tremendous review. I learned of this movie through Lenin’s Tomb. I am surprised NY Times published their video op ed. This simply dismantles everything they have been peddling.
    One should be thankful for this courageous duo.

    Comment by Ajit — October 20, 2007 @ 11:54 am

  8. Just once I would like to hear an antiwar commentator say “It wasn’t a mistake, It was a crime”.

    Au contraire, it is worse than a crime, it is a mistake. :-) (Tallyrand)

    [To be sure, Bush et al, have been conducting a war of aggression, and should be tried for that offense in some suitable venue.]

    Comment by Feeder of Felines — October 21, 2007 @ 7:30 am

  9. Apropos of the last few comments: while we are fantasizing about trying Bush for war crimes in an international forum that has real power, we might reflect on the insistence of the Bushies and the puppet government that Saddam Hussein could get a fair trial in occupied Iraq. If there is occasion to have Bush and his buddies tried for war crimes, let us by all means emulate the Nuremberg tradition, and try them where the crimes occurred, with a military-type court of judges representing the nations of the world, and a trial in Iraq after granting extradition by the International Crime Commission, on the same premise as Nuremberg, that your country doesn’t have to sign a treaty for you to be punishable for war crimes.
    Also, by the way, the National Lawyers Guild, which has a website you can google, has a new flyer out pointing out that the war isn’t just a mistake, but is illegal.
    Aaron Frishberg, Esq.

    Comment by Aaron Frishberg — October 21, 2007 @ 3:05 pm

  10. If there is occasion to have Bush and his buddies tried for war crimes, let us by all means emulate the Nuremberg tradition, and try them where the crimes occurred, with a military-type court of judges representing the nations of the world, and a trial in Iraq after granting extradition by the International Crime Commission, on the same premise as Nuremberg, that your country doesn’t have to sign a treaty for you to be punishable for war crimes.

    No thanks. If we get the chance, I say we either hand them to Moqtada Al-Sadr personally or just dump them on the Baghdad street and we’ll see how Iraqis deal with the people responsible from “liberating” them. It would a fitting end, given Bush’s scoff at international law (“I better call my lawyer” he said sarcastically).

    Comment by Binh — October 22, 2007 @ 3:49 pm

  11. [...] sentimental foreign bullshit as opposed to this kind of documentary), and I’ll point to it here.  Here’s a pertinent quote to the filming of Meeting Resistance: To the dismay of our [...]

    Pingback by Insurgencies in the Movies… « The Anatomy Lesson — September 29, 2008 @ 1:47 am


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