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Inside the Resistance: A Review of the Film “Meeting Resistance”

Dave Enders Oct 29, 2007

usgohomeMeeting Resistance
Directed by Steve Connors and
Molly Bingham
Nine Lines Documentary Productions,
2007

Meeting Resistance is the latest addition to a pastiche of films that give a picture of what is happening in Iraq. Filmed in 2003 and 2004, mostly in a single neighborhood in Baghdad, it describes a generation of resistance against the U.S. military and explores how, within some months, civilian killings, torture and roundup operations by the military had created pockets of support for resistance operations.

In extended interviews, 10 members of the Iraqi resistance tell their stories, detailing why Iraqis are fighting the occupation. Some clearly have links to the former government; others have Arabist sympathies. Though none claim allegiance to the Ba’ath Party, some appear to have formerly held rank.

This is the first work created for American consumption to be composed almost entirely of interviews with members of the Iraqi resistance. While material concerning the viewpoint of the Iraqi resistance is available (mostly online), extended footage of fighters and other members is rare. The film importantly includes members of the resistance who have functions besides fighting, including communications and funding. Those hoping for close-up footage of fighters and attacks, however, will be disappointed. Some action sequences have been added, but these scenes speak more to the simplicity of anti-U.S. militants than their ability to blow things up, which, at the time the film was made, was considerably more limited. Civil war and sectarian and ethnic cleansing had yet to begin.

The film gives a sense of the breadth and depth of the resistance: members hold various ranks in Iraqi society and have varying levels of education. Little focus is given to the mostly male interviewees’ lives outside of their roles as fighters. Only one of the 10 interviewed is a woman.

Many of the members use the word “Fedayeen,” a term formerly applied to some of Saddam Hussein’s elite units, and it seems clear that the group Bingham and Connors followed was created by a core of men who had previously fought together. These groups, often supported from Anbar province, formed a nucleus for resistance in 2003 that grew as Saddam Hussein was captured and paraded on television. They had become increasingly widespread by April 2004, when major fighting in Fallujah began and the photos of torture at Abu Ghraib were aired. This was also the time that working around resistance groups became markedly harder for Western journalists.

But before that, as Bingham and Connor’s footage attests, it was possible. Footage of the martyrs’ cemetery at Abu Hanifa mosque, the bombing of the mosque during the war and the streets of Baghdad’s Adhamiya neighborhood offer a window into the months immediately following the invasion. Fighters interviewed in December 2003 speak candidly about torture in Abu Ghraib prison. Most journalists ignored accounts given by Iraqis of the torture taking place until the photos appeared on television and in newspapers months later.

Even in 2003, Adhamiya was a dangerous place. The Iraqis interviewed are identified only by code names, and all the interviews but one are filmed out of focus, to prevent the images being used to identify the resisters.

These days Adhamiya is walled in by a U.S.-military-built partition, to prevent Shiite and Sunni militias from clashing. Residents of the neighborhood complain that the single entrance/exit there makes going out of the barrier dangerous.

“All the police have to do is watch that checkpoint,” one man told me, referring to government forces residents say are made up of Shiite militiamen.

The end of the film meanders a bit, with footage of Sunni militant attacks in Najaf and reference to the fighting in Fallujah and Najaf in 2004. This seems like a poor attempt to connect the group of interviewees to the following three years, in which the resistance grew and splintered. Some engaged with Shiite militias and and a few began working with the U.S. military. But in looking at the initial causes of the resistance, which this film does quite well, it’s not hard to think of a U.S. military exit as an imminent reality — life in Baghdad has become much worse since those Bingham and Connors interviewed formed their first impressions of the occupation.

Along with Meeting Resistance, I suggest viewing Michael Tucker’s Gunner Palace, which captures U.S. troops in the neighborhood at the same time.

David Enders covered Iraq for Free Speech Radio News from 2003-2007 and is the author of Baghdad Bulletin: Dispatches on the American Occupation. Meeting Resistance is currently playing at Cinema Village.

6 Responses

  1. Mitchel Cohen says:

    Thank you for publishing John Ross’ brilliant and extremely scary article on biotechnology and corn in Mexico.

    Twelve years ago I first raised the spectre of GE corn being dumped by the US into Mexico as a means of destroying the indigenous basis for Mexican food production, and consequently the Zapatista rebellion based in those Mayan communities, which had emerged in Southern Mexico the preceding year. (See my 1990s essays “The Politics of World Hunger” and “Biotechnology and the New World Order,” published later as pamphlets by the Red Balloon Collective, and numerous talks I’d given, including one at the Center for Global Justice in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, in 2004.) My analysis at that time was based on scattered references from Zapatista communiques and by reading between the lines of the Clinton/Gore administration, which was ramping up George Bush Sr.’s promulgation of biotech worldwide.

    Indeed, the U.S. government has long held a policy of using food as a weapon to gain its geo-political (imperialist) objectives, including colonization of the world’s food supply. Remember Henry Kissinger’s accurate (if completely immoral) summing up of U.S. objectives in this area: “To give food aid to a country just because the people are starving is a pretty weak reason.” The advent of genetic engineering in the 1980s and its accelerated development under Clinton/Gore is, combined with NAFTA (another Clinton/Gore policy), proving to be a powerful one-two punch being delivered by agribusiness and biotech corporations to Mexico’s control over its own food production and consequently to the revolutionary movements based upon those corn-growing cultures.

    John Ross describes this in some detail in his devastating article. The situation in Mexico with regard to food production is growing desperate, despite attempts to protect the indigenous food supply. Ross follows-up on the work of Dr. Ignacio Chapela (of the University of California at Berkeley), S’ra DeSantis (Biotechnology Project, Institute for Social Ecology), Mexico’s Greenpeace, a multi-series t.v. production surveying Mexican agriculture by Jorge Casteneda (in Spanish; he gave me a complete copy during a visit to San Miguel de Allende in 2005 which I am willing to make available), and the Zapatistas.

    An additional question to keep in mind during this reading is the following: Suddenly, there is being promoted here in the U.S. the not very efficient corn-based ethanol production for automobiles. (Brazil’s use of sugarcane for ethanol is reportedly 8 to 10 times more efficient). This is being marketed (green-washed) as “Green Energy”. Is this actually an attempt to drive up indigenous corn prices worldwide, thus enabling the dumping of huge amounts of cheaper genetically engineered corn grown by U.S. agribusiness corporations and heavily subsidized by the U.S. government into Mexico and other countries under NAFTA, with the additional purpose of flooding away Mexico’s laws against planting of Monsanto’s GMO seeds there?

    – Mitchel Cohen
    Brooklyn Greens / Green Party

  2. Mitchel Cohen says:

    Thank you for publishing John Ross’ brilliant and extremely scary article on biotechnology and corn in Mexico.

    Twelve years ago I first raised the spectre of GE corn being dumped by the US into Mexico as a means of destroying the indigenous basis for Mexican food production, and consequently the Zapatista rebellion based in those Mayan communities, which had emerged in Southern Mexico the preceding year. (See my 1990s essays “The Politics of World Hunger” and “Biotechnology and the New World Order,” published later as pamphlets by the Red Balloon Collective, and numerous talks I’d given, including one at the Center for Global Justice in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, in 2004.) My analysis at that time was based on scattered references from Zapatista communiques and by reading between the lines of the Clinton/Gore administration, which was ramping up George Bush Sr.’s promulgation of biotech worldwide.

    Indeed, the U.S. government has long held a policy of using food as a weapon to gain its geo-political (imperialist) objectives, including colonization of the world’s food supply. Remember Henry Kissinger’s accurate (if completely immoral) summing up of U.S. objectives in this area: “To give food aid to a country just because the people are starving is a pretty weak reason.” The advent of genetic engineering in the 1980s and its accelerated development under Clinton/Gore is, combined with NAFTA (another Clinton/Gore policy), proving to be a powerful one-two punch being delivered by agribusiness and biotech corporations to Mexico’s control over its own food production and consequently to the revolutionary movements based upon those corn-growing cultures.

    John Ross describes this in some detail in his devastating article. The situation in Mexico with regard to food production is growing desperate, despite attempts to protect the indigenous food supply. Ross follows-up on the work of Dr. Ignacio Chapela (of the University of California at Berkeley), S’ra DeSantis (Biotechnology Project, Institute for Social Ecology), Mexico’s Greenpeace, a multi-series t.v. production surveying Mexican agriculture by Jorge Casteneda (in Spanish; he gave me a complete copy during a visit to San Miguel de Allende in 2005 which I am willing to make available), and the Zapatistas.

    An additional question to keep in mind during this reading is the following: Suddenly, there is being promoted here in the U.S. the not very efficient corn-based ethanol production for automobiles. (Brazil’s use of sugarcane for ethanol is reportedly 8 to 10 times more efficient). This is being marketed (green-washed) as “Green Energy”. Is this actually an attempt to drive up indigenous corn prices worldwide, thus enabling the dumping of huge amounts of cheaper genetically engineered corn grown by U.S. agribusiness corporations and heavily subsidized by the U.S. government into Mexico and other countries under NAFTA, with the additional purpose of flooding away Mexico’s laws against planting of Monsanto’s GMO seeds there?

    – Mitchel Cohen
    Brooklyn Greens / Green Party

  3. Virginia Noto says:

    More outrage!..everything for the love of money…

  4. Virginia Noto says:

    More outrage!..everything for the love of money…

  5. trevor says:

    i love corn

  6. trevor says:

    i love corn

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