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Anti-Occupation Violence in Iraq Not Just Al Qaeda

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Cyril Mychalejko       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   1 comment

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On Monday Aug. 8, Radio Times, a very intelligent and entertaining talk show aired on 90.9 WHYY in Philadelphia, had Farhanni Ali on as a guest. Ali, an International Policy Analyst with the Rand Corporation, was invited on to talk about the rise of female suicide bombers in Iraq.

On July 30, Ali published an article in Newsweek,"Dressed to Kill: Why the number of female suicide bombers is rising in Iraq." Ali offers some insightful analysis in both her article and radio interview.

Ali wrote, "Women in Iraq today are either using violence to protest the loss of their society or the loss of their country to an occupation they don't believe in. Recall that the first two female bombers in March 2003, who detonated themselves days after U.S. forces entered Baghdad, declared on television that their primary motive was to protect Iraq from a foreign invader."

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Another reason Ali points to is that many Iraqi women who choose this path do so to avenge the loss of their husbands or sons. A report in 2006 revealed that 90 Iraqi women become widows each day.

On the radio program, Ali even informed listeners that before the occupation, Iraqi women enjoyed more rights than anywhere else in the region--contrary to claims by the Bush Administration who charged that we would be "liberating" the women of Iraq.

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But where Ali strays from both reason and the truth is her attempt to label this spike in violence strictly as an Al Qaeda phenomenon--rather than part of a widespread and popular anti-occupation insurgency.

Ali writes in Newsweek, "...women had carried out more than 20 missions in Iraq this year—the most violent one yet for the women of Al Qaeda...For almost 10 years, we have warned that women would start playing a more aggressive role in groups like Al Qaeda."

On Radio Times she repeatedly referred to female suicide bombers as Al Qaeda and took phone calls from people asking about how Al Qaeda might be "brainwashing" these women--never mind the sound reasoning she offered earlier on what motivates these women to resort to violence.

So what I wanted to know, and was able to ask her, was how did she know that these women were Al Qaeda. Because by suggesting they were, paints anti-occupation resistance into a small box, contrary to the popular, country-wide sentiment that it actually is. Now, this is not to say that some may not be Al Qaeda, but what are the facts that she is basing the use of this label on?

Here is her answer:

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"Because I'm speaking to a largely Western audience I use the term Al Qaeda loosely. When I'm speaking to a Muslim audience I never use the word Al Qaeda and the reason why is...because it is such a vague term and because it is interpreted in so many different ways. I will say that why I use this term is because...I'll just be quite honest with you, the U.S. military uses this term. And so in any kind of feedback that I've gotten from commanders there, and I'm talking about heads of intelligence operations who are working in the Diyala province, this is the term they are most comfortable with because they view, and probably naively, that all these attacks that are being perpetrated fall under the Al Qaeda rubric..."

Ali then goes on to say that when she uses the Al Qaeda label, "in the case of Iraq I am referring to the overall insurgency...But you can't use the same term Al Qaeda in other parts of the world."

So Ali only uses the Al Qaeda label because the military does, whom she admits are naive in doing so (though maybe it's just calculated manipulation). In addition, by using this term only to Western audiences, Ali is keeping the American public naive and misinformed--just in time for our upcoming election.

Regardless, Ali probably should have pointed these facts out in the article, as well as in the beginning of the radio program. And she probably should have known better. Instead, she fell into the trap of being used by the military and the Bush administration to parrot their narrative about Al Qaeda being largely behind the violence in Iraq, thus reinforcing the false notion that Iraq is another battleground in the so-called "War on Terror."


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Cyril Mychalejko is an editor at, an online magazine covering politics and activism in Latin America.

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