Professor As'ad AbuKhalil of California State University - Stanislaus, the man also known as "Angry Arab," addressed a crowd of about 50 student and community activists at UC Berkeley on Thursday night. His short lecture was part of an event organized by Berkeley's Stop the War Coalition. He was followed by a former marine, Sean O'Neill, who started as a freshman at Berkeley after serving two tours of duty in Iraq. The messages delivered by the two could not have been more different.
AbuKhalil spent much of his time criticizing both the anti-war movement at places like Berkeley, as well as the state of campus activism in general. Strangely enough, he began his lecture with an attack on what he called "the new pet cause: Darfur." He then lambasted those devoting their time to stopping the genocide in Sudan:
This is seen as a safe cause. Parents think that this is an issue where kids can be active. They don’t know that the U.S. is an accomplice in Darfur, along with the Janjaweed. I worry about how people like [New York Times columnist Nicholas] Kristof are marketing a tragedy like Darfur as kitsch. It’s used as a substitute for activism that’s needed to prevent crimes occurring at a rate that’s larger than what’s happening at Darfur.What crimes might AbuKhalil have been thinking of? No doubt, the crimes of the American occupiers of Iraq. Throughout his talk, the professor blamed the U.S. for the "654,000 people who have died in Iraq" since the invasion. Of course, a large number of those civilians who have died in Iraq were killed by fellow Iraqis, most of them "insurgents." But in an amazing exercise in obfuscation, AbuKhalil suggested that most of the civilian deaths were not being caused by the "Iraqi resistance." The proof? A 2005 book, Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism by University of Chicago political science professor Robert Pape, according to which only 20% of the acts of violence by anti-American forces in Iraq are aimed at civilians. Of course, AbuKhalil conveniently glossed over the more important statistic: the number of civilian deaths. A car bomb that kills 60 civilians in Baghdad counts as 1 act, while a total of 4 ambushes of Iraqi Security Forces or IED attacks on American soldiers, might kill 5 combatants.
Although AbuKhalil admitted that a small number of the Iraqi insurgents were terrorists, he called the large majority of the "resistance" a legitimate struggle against colonial occupation. The professor chastised the anti-war left in America for accepting the depiction of the Iraqi insurgency as terrorism. From the Western media, he said, you would think that the large majority of acts of violence were perpetrated against civilians. But most are aimed at "American troops and the Iraqi puppet forces." But AbuKhalil did not stop there.
For Angry Arab, the biggest problem of the anti-war movement is that it continues to "worship the troops."
Why should you support the troops when they are on a mission of colonization, destruction of a society. This is the same culture that produced Abu Ghraib, the massacre of Haditha, the rape. Because of the worshipping of troops by liberals and conservatives alike. Even if it will offend many, we have to say no. We oppose the troops, if they’re engaged in a war against a country that is far away and has not hurt us.He called on the anti-war movement to change course:
AbuKhalil also warned that the Democratic Party would be no better than the current administration. They would simply be smarter about pursuing the "Bush Doctrine." This message was well-received by at least half of the audience, members of which spoke disparagingly about "liberals" and the Democrats. For this hard core, all of Iraq's problems would immediately be solved by an American withdrawal. And indeed, for them, it is America which caused the division and strife in the region in the first place. As AbuKhalil said:
We have been way too intimidated on the Left about coming out to support in principle the resistance against the American occupation in
the festering sectarian warfare [in Iraq] is largely the doing of theThe rest of the audience consisted of activists who probably identified more with the anti-war Democrats, including a number of people who were former servicemen, like Sean O'Neill, who spoke after AbuKhalil. Only in a place like Berkeley, would an eminently reasonable person such as O'Neill have been forced onto the defensive, trying desperately to explain that "you have to speak to Americans in their language" if you want to stop the war. Like O'Neill, I support a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq to safer bases in the Gulf. Hence, I hope that the anti-war movement does not listen to AbuKhalil. On the other hand, I do hope that Americans at large do hear what the Angry Arab has to say, for there is nothing more damning to his various causes than his glorification of the "resistance fighters" killing innocent people in Iraq daily, and his derision of the campaign on behalf of the people of Darfur.
government. The U.S. U.S.went to and exploited Sunni-Shi’ite differences. Sectarian warfare began because of deliberate actions of Iraq In U.S. Iraq, people married across sectarian lines, unlike in . Lebanon is now deliberately funding Sunni fighters. I believe that a secular formula is best in a place like Saudi Arabia Lebanonor . But it is not up to me to tell Iraqis what they should do. I believe that no agreement reached by people under occupation is valid. No election under occupation is valid. These are puppet elections. Once the Iraq troops leave, the Iraqis will be more than capable of coming up with their own solutions. U.S.
Unfortunately, "the professor" - as O'Neill deferentially called him several times - left immediately after he finished speaking and answering questions. To be fair, AbuKhalil had a long drive home ahead of him. But to me it only reinforced my impression of him as someone who put more stock in his celebrity status than in sincere discussion. It was also rather disrespectful.
More to follow from Noah K, who also attended the lecture with me.