- Iraq’s Non-Election (Robert Jensen Zmag)
- Would they turn to Falsification?! (Rayatularab editorial)
- The Dollar Campaigns for Allawi (Dahr Jamail)
- In Armored Vehicles, Troops Tell Iraqis to Vote (Reuters)
- "Blueprint for fair elections" - Abdul Ilah Al Bayaty, witness at the BRussells Tribunal (December 1 2004)
- Why Iraqis should boycott the election - Mohammed al-Obaidi (December 5 2004)
- What is wrong with the Iraqi elections to be held NOW? (Bint Al-Iraq)
- Hollow Election Held on Bloody Day (Dahr Jamail)
- Iraqi Elections: Media Disinformation on Voter Turnout? (Michel Chossudovsky)
- The Vietnam turnout was good as well (Sami Ramadani)
- U.S. Encouraged by Vietnam Vote (NYT 1967)
- Train wreck of an election (Boston Globe)
- Reading the Elections (Phyllis Bennis)
- What They’re Not Telling You About the “Election” (Dahr Jamail)
- Iraq elections, democratic practice but ... (Al Jazeera)
- Casualties of Polling (Dahr Jamail)
- Press release in the Iraqi National elections (Turkmen Front)
- Elections’ Aftermath (Ghali Hassan)
- Democracy At Gunpoint (Dahr Jamail)
- "We Have You Surrounded—Come Out With Your Votes Up!" (Larry Everest)
- The Myth of Iraq's 'Liberation' Did the election set Iraq free? Not by a long shot… (Justin Raimondo)
- Danse macabre (Wayne Brown)
- Proper Elections for a Proper Civil War? Tom Friedman: Scribe for New Age Imperialism (Mike Whitney)
- UK: A Gov. Organized Press Trip to Iraqi Elections Descends Into Chaos (Jonathan Steele, The Guardian)
- The Real Story of the Iraqi Elections (Gareth Porter, Foreign Policy In Focus)
- Oil in the election (Salah Al-Mokhtar, Al-Ahram Weekly)
- And Life Goes On... Baghdad Burning, Girl Blog from Iraq... (Riverbend)
- The Election In Iraq: The U.S. Propaganda System Is Still Working In High Gear (Edward S. Herman, ZNet)
- Iraq Elections And The Liberal Elites: A Response To Noam Chomsky (Ghali Hassan)
- Iraq: The Real Election (Mark Danner)
by Robert Jensen and Pat Youngblood; January 28, 2005 http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=7128
Predictably, the U.S. news media are full of discussion and debate
about this weekend’s election in Iraq. Unfortunately, virtually all the commentary misses a simple point:
There will be no “election” on Jan. 30 in Iraq, if that term is meant to suggest an even remotely democratic
Many Iraqis casting votes will be understandably grateful for the opportunity. But the conditions under which those votes will be cast -- as well as the larger context -- bear more similarity to a slowly unfolding hostage tragedy than an exercise in democracy. We refer not to the hostages taken by various armed factions in Iraq, but the way in which U.S. policymakers are holding the entire Iraqi population hostage to U.S. designs for domination of the region.
This is an election that U.S. policymakers were forced to accept and now hope can entrench their power, not displace it. They seek not an election that will lead to a U.S. withdrawal, but one that will bolster their ability to make a case for staying indefinitely.
This is crucial for anti-empire activists to keep in mind as the mainstream media begins to give us pictures of long lines at polling places to show how much Iraqis support this election and to repeat the Bush administration line about bringing freedom to a part of the world starved for democracy. Those media reports also will give some space to those critics who remain comfortably within the permissible ideological limits -- that is, those who agree that the U.S. aim is freedom for Iraq and, therefore, are allowed to quibble with a few minor aspects of administration policy.
The task of activists who step outside those limits is to point out a painfully obvious fact, and therefore one that is unspeakable in the mainstream: A real election cannot go on under foreign occupation in which the electoral process is managed by the occupiers who have clear preferences in the outcome.
That’s why the U.S.-funded programs that “nurture” the voting process have to be implemented “discreetly,” in the words of a Washington Post story, to avoid giving the Iraqis who are “well versed in the region’s widely held perception of U.S. hegemony” further reason to mistrust the assumed benevolent intentions of the United States.
Post reporters Karl Vick and Robin Wright quote an Iraqi-born instructor from one of these training programs: “If you walk into a coffee shop and say, ‘Hi, I’m from an American organization and I’m here to help you,’ that’s not going to help. If you say you’re here to encourage democracy, they say you’re here to control the Middle East.”
Perhaps “they” -- those well-versed Iraqis -- say that because it is an accurate assessment of policy in the Bush administration, as well as every other contemporary U.S. administration. “They” dare to suggest that the U.S. goal is effective control over the region’s oil resources. But “we” in the United States are not supposed to think, let alone say, such things; that same Post story asserts, without a hint of sarcasm, that the groups offering political training in Iraq (the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, International Republican Institute, and International Foundation for Election Systems) are “at the ambitious heart of the American effort to make Iraq a model democracy in the Arab world.”
Be still my heart. To fulfill that ambition, U.S. troop strength in Iraq will remain at the current level of about 120,000 for at least two more years, according to the Army’s top operations officer. For the past two years, journalists have reported about U.S. intentions to establish anywhere from four to 14 “enduring” military bases in Iraq. Given that there are about 890 U.S. military installations around the world to provide the capacity to project power in service of the U.S. political and economic agenda, it’s not hard to imagine that planners might be interested in bases in the heart of the world’s most important energy-producing region.
But in mainstream circles, such speculation relegates one to the same category as those confused Middle Easterners with their “widely held perception of U.S. hegemony.” After all, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has dismissed as “inaccurate and unfortunate” any suggestion that the United States seeks a permanent presence in Iraq. In April 2003, Rumsfeld assured us that there has been “zero discussion” among senior administration officials about permanent bases in Iraq.
But let’s return to reality: Whatever the long-term plans of administration officials, the occupation of Iraq has, to put it mildly, not gone as they had hoped. But rather than abandon their goals, they have adapted tactics and rhetoric. Originally the United States proposed a complex caucus system to try to avoid elections and make it easier to control the selection of a government, but the Iraqis refused to accept that scheme. Eventually U.S. planners had to accept elections and now are attempting to turn the chaotic situation on the ground to their advantage.
Ironically, the instability and violence may boost the chances of the United States’ favored candidate, U.S.-appointed interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. While most electoral slates are unable to campaign or even release their candidates’ names because of the violence, Allawi can present himself as a symbol of strength, running an expensive television campaign while protected by security forces. He has access to firepower and reconstruction funds, which may prove appealing to many ordinary Iraqis who, understandably, want the electricity to flow and the kidnappings and violence to stop.
Of course the United States can’t guarantee the favored candidate will prevail. But whoever is in the leadership slot in Iraq will understand certain unavoidable realities of power. As the New York Times put it -- in the delicate fashion appropriate to the Times -- the recent announcement by Shi’a leaders that any government it forms would not be overtly Islamic was partly in response to Iraqi public opinion. But, as reporter Dexter Filkins reminded readers, U.S. officials “wield vast influence” and “would be troubled by an overtly Islamist government.” And no one wants troubled U.S. officials, even Iraqi nationalists who hate the U.S. occupation but can look around and see who has the guns.
The realities on the ground may eventually mean that even with all those guns, the United States cannot impose a pro-U.S. government in Iraq. It may have to switch strategies again. But, no matter how many times Bush speaks of his fondness for freedom and no matter what games the planners play, we should not waver in an honest analysis of the real motivations of policymakers. To pretend that the United States might, underneath it all, truly want a real democracy in Iraq -- one that actually would be free to follow the will of the people -- is to ignore evidence, logic and history.
As blogger Zeynep Toufe put it: “All these precious words have now become something akin to brand names: “democracy,” “freedom,” “liberty,” “empowerment.” They don’t really mean anything; they’re just the names attached to things we do.” http://www.underthesamesun.org/
Right now, one of the things that U.S. policymakers do is to allow Iraqis to cast ballots under extremely constrained conditions. But whatever the results on Jan. 30, it will not be an election, if by “election” we mean a process through which people have a meaningful opportunity to select representatives who can set public policy free of external constraint. The casting of ballots will not create a legitimate Iraqi government. Such a government is possible only when Iraqis have real control over their own future. And that will come only when the United States is gone.
Robert Jensen is on the board and Pat Youngblood is coordinator of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center in Austin, TX. http://thirdcoastactivist.org/
They can be reached at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
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On Jan 30, the National Assembly election will be held, according to the State Law issued by Bremer, the American ex-governor of Iraq. Since the count down for this election began, after the American administration stubbornly rejected our people's demand of providing the legal and security conditions to hold it, and of giving bigger opportunity for our people's different forces to participate in a real, free and honest election; since then the country's problems are compiling, and crisis are developing in different fields of life.
Life itself became difficult for our people in their different classes and social sections. These daily life problems begin with fuel, electricity, water, and do not end with the outrageous Iraqi government failure to solve them, whether for corruption or insecurity reasons. Baghdad's inhabitants spent the Eid Al-Adha (Sacrifice Feast) without drinking water which was cut for 10 days.
It has been more than 20 months since our beloved country was unjustly occupied. During this period, all the political forces which collaborated with the occupation, or colluded with it, and the occupation provisional authority before, set a record in failure to reconstruct the state institutions or solve the problems. In deed the plans, if there were any, and the means of implementing them, do not only indicate bad judgment and inefficient planning, but rather stupidity and arrogance.
In election, the occupiers sought a way out of their crisis. Despite the fact that election in principal, is one of the important ways to build a modern state, but it can not be held out of its legal and general conditions. Any free and honest election, even under occupation, should be done in safe security conditions at least, under the UN supervision, or any independent body that is not connected to the occupiers and their collaborators.
This election is an essential demand of our people, but the occupiers rejected our demands of providing it with the necessary security and atmosphere, in the same stubborn and arrogant way, with which they dealt with other Iraqi problems; as if they have magic solutions for all our problems as soon as the election is held.
It is our right to wonder and sarcastically find strange that the occupation and the temporal governments failed to provide any stability or solutions to all the chronic problems, and what kind of additional new method the election would provide to enable them solving these problems, crisis, and chaos. It is our right to wonder why the majority of people are unwilling to participate in this election, and why the demands of the political forces are neglected.
In Iraq we have a deep and accumulative experience in the methods of deceiving voters and maneuvering their will. The royal regime, which was a good disciple of the British colonial authority, was an excellent example in this matter. Our people experienced how the last regime's referendums were turned into celebrations without any democratic, objective, or real content. Our people are aware and believe that the occupiers did not come to secure a national regime, they do not care, or that they would not allow Iran or any other regional state to control Iraq, that they are only after strengthening their colonial authority and their control on oil through their collaborators. All this we know and are aware of.
Because the occupiers badly wanted the election, even though they know very well that the majority of people would boycott, and that a limited minority would join this game, that this minority would not give the election any legality, for these reasons, the occupiers will have no other choice except falsification of the people's will, and bringing a group that fits the American model.
In the absence of law and security, with an election commission appointed by the American governor, with the almost complete absence of any real honest international supervision, because of the American rejection of any such supervision, except for symbolic UN existence, in such circumstances it would be very easy to falsify the election. The American administration which occupied Iraq, and destroyed its beautiful land, would do any thing to achieve its aims. It does not care for the International Law, Human Rights, or any other value. The only important thing is that "its men" take power, and that they are provided with the needed legitimacy. Then it can sign with them the security and oil agreements. The American administration behavior after World War I until now, shows that the American interests are above all legal and moral regard.
That is why we say that the election which is imposed on our people will not be a magic stick to solve our problems, neither its falsification would give the occupiers alliance any legitimacy, it would only be another failure. It would strengthen our people's will to continue its struggle for its freedom, to end the occupation and to build its democratic state, and resume its economic and social procession.
Campaigns for Allawi
by Dahr Jamail
January 28, 2005
BAGHDAD - U.S.-appointed interim Iraqi prime minister Iyad Allawi recently handed out $100 bills to journalists at a press conference.
He then gave teachers an unexpected $100 bonus.
Allawi seems to be on his way to winning the election in Iraq, such as it is.
Wa`il Issam, an unemployed translator, has his views about this kind of campaign. "Allawi is bribing people and using money to buy votes
and support from journalists, retired people and teachers," he said. "And I promise you that Allawi is fixing it so 70 percent of the Shias will vote for him, even though it will be a faked election."
Wa`il Issam spoke of other `provisions` that will help Allawi. "Now it is possible for one family member to cast votes for all of the people in his house," he said. "How do you think a man who has worked for six secret service organizations from different countries could lose this election?
Allawi has dollars and clout, but he appears to lack the respect of many Iraqis. "Anybody elected in these so-called elections will be a puppet of Bush," said an 18 year-old biology student at Baghdad University. "Especially Allawi."
Allawi`s CIA connections are never far from people`s minds.
"Allawi was a Ba`athist with Saddam and now he is a dummy of the Americans," says Ali Hammad Adnan, a 42-year-old who sells petrol on the black market to feed his family of four.
Allawi left Iraq in 1971 to study in London, and did not return to Iraq until after the U.S.-led invasion of his country. He has been accused on the other side of providing faulty intelligence to the United States to justify the invasion. He is known to have worked with the CIA in an attempt to overthrow former dictator Saddam Hussein in 1996.
Now Iraqis distrust Allawi. "It`s not a matter of elections," said 23-year-old Suhaid, a computer science engineer in Baghdad. "Those with power will stay in power. This is all a big lie we are facing, and these elections are totally illegitimate."
Allawi is determined to hold elections under any circumstances. Security measures continue to increase, and now Iran has announced the closure of its borders with Iraq until after the elections. Curfew hours within Iraq have already been extended.
The U.S. military faces an average of 80 attacks a day now as Iraqi resistance continues to spread.
U.S. forces are hitting back. U.S. and Iraqi forces raided a mosque in Sadr City in Baghdad Wednesday and detained 25 followers of Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr who is boycotting the elections. At least nine Iraqis have died during a string of car bomb attacks in Kirkuk in the north.
But many Iraqis still say they will vote for Allawi.
"I will vote for Allawi because I think he will bring the
security for us which we so desperately need," said Zuthir Abbas in the Khadamiya district of Baghdad.
Abbas announced his intention even though he said he does not know the number of the electoral list Allawi heads, or where he would go to vote, since the Commission for Elections in Iraq has yet to announce the location of polling stations.
Others say they will vote, whatever the legitimacy of the elections.
"Whether he is legitimately elected or not, he will remain in power," said 28-year-old Shia blacksmith Ahmed Shuhab. "He appears strong and he acts like he knows what he is doing because the American and Iraqi armies are supporting him."
(Inter Press Srvice)
Armored Vehicles, Troops Tell Iraqis to Vote
Fri Jan 28, 2005 10:02 AM ET
By Ibon Villelabeitia http://olympics.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=topNews&storyID=7468060
SAMARRA, Iraq (Reuters) - A rumbling column of U.S. Bradley fighting vehicles grinds to a stop in a rebellious Iraqi neighborhood of scarred houses and mud streets.
Heavily-armed troops jump out and begin searching homes as loudspeakers blast in Arabic: "On Sunday you should go out to out. Vote to give freedom to Iraq. Vote to save Iraq." A soldier hands out fliers to a group of untidy children.
In the heartland of Iraq's insurgency, American soldiers are trying to combine fighting with getting out the vote.
It's tough on both fronts.
Several leading Sunni Arab parties are boycotting the poll and Islamist militants have threatened to kill anybody who casts a ballot. It is too dangerous for election workers to hit the streets.
Suddenly, the whistle of a grenade pierces the air and a loud explosion shakes the ground. The soldiers fire back before returning to their armored vehicles and the convoy speeds away.
No wonder candidates in the Sunni city of Samarra are too afraid to campaign for Sunday's landmark election.
Insurgents have bombed polling centers and attacked candidates in a bid to derail the vote -- Iraq's first multi-party elections in nearly 50 years.
Two days before the vote, Samarra, a city in the violent Sunni region north of Baghdad, looks more like a war zone than a place getting ready for elections.
Apache helicopter gunships thunder over mosques and the city's ancient spiral minaret. Miles of barbed wire seal off garbage-strewn streets. A car bomb on Thursday killed an Iraqi soldier and two civilians near an Iraqi army patrol.
CANDIDATES TOO AFRAID TO CAMPAIGN
There are no campaign posters in this city of 200,000 people, and several election officials have resigned after receiving death threats.
Voters don't know where they have to cast ballots because officials are keeping sites secret until election day.
Only U.S. forces, venturing out of their frequently-mortared bases, make an attempt to get the vote out, putting up posters with general information about the polls, passing out leaflets and broadcasting messages.
"We hang posters around the city telling people how important it is for them to vote but they rip them up as soon as we turn our backs," said Staff Sgt. Russ Spike from Akron, Ohio.
He was among a group of soldiers who recently went on a patrol to encourage Samarra residents to vote.
As 30-tonBradley vehicles pointed their 25 mm cannons down alleyways, Spike cranked up the volume of the loudspeakers on his Humvee. He has a list of taped messages with titles such as "Election news," "Freedom to vote" and "Love and family."
Another message reminds people of a $25 million reward for information leading to the capture of al Qaeda's leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who has declared war on the elections.
The noise drew a handful of nervous Iraqis out of their homes. Children stared in awe at the Americans, many of whom wore wrap-around sunglasses and chewed tobacco.
"If I go and vote, the resistance will kill me. They are watching us," said Habib Daoud, a 70-year-old man wearing a brown robe and a black-and-white headcloth.
"We can't vote in Samarra. Freedom is fine but we need security. If we vote they will kill us," said Walid Ibrahim.
Ibrahim, a 54-year-old teacher, said U.S. forces used heavy-handed tactics to put down the insurgency.
"We suffered with Saddam. Now we suffer with the Americans. They come to our neighborhoods with their Bradleys and they want us to love them. Just for standing here they can kill me."
No sooner had he finished talking than a rocket-propelled grenade, apparently aimed at the Humvee mounted with the loudspeakers, exploded nearby.
"Let's get out of here. This place is no good," Spike said as he jumped back into his vehicle.
What is wrong with the Iraqi elections to be held NOW?
For quite a while there has been heated debate about the Iraqi elections to be held this Sunday. Some are pro, some anti, and others are calling for postponement, especially candidates who are actually participating in the elections.
Iraqis have been dreaming of democracy for decades. It sounds strange that when they get the opportunity they are so divided and hesitant. But is it really strange
For one thing they think elections are not possible now at all for practical reasons e.g. security. With all the killings, assassinations, blasts, security procedures, it is almost impossible to convince people to jeopardize their lives and their families to taste their first experience of democracy. Candidates are threatened and killed, officials, political personalities, journalists, scientists…etc are assassinated. Many civilians are being kidnapped and some times killed for unknown reasons. Interior Ministry says that at least 1300 Iraqi policemen were killed since last June.
Armed violence becomes daily life experience now. In deed the security procedures and plans for the elections are terrifying. Health ministry announced an emergency plan in 190 hospitals, curfew is announced, 90 streets in Baghdad are closed a week ago, balloting centers are secret, and people living in surrounding areas are evacuating, candidates names were not announced until 5 days before the elections. Many officials, e.g. Defense Minister repeated that he wished the elections were postponed. Borders, airport, highways, cities, newspapers are closed. Prices get higher, markets are closed, and even bread is a crisis now.
Weeks before the elections, the Iraqis were going through a very difficult winter. There has been fuel, electricity and clean water crisis that the government showed an exemplary failure to deal with. So why people should think that the same government would be more successful in treating the more difficult issue of security during the elections days? In deed, people are asking why all these crises exploded before the elections.
In this atmosphere, and there are much more details, how could it be possibly believed that people would risk their lives, or even care, to choose "their representatives"?
Who are they anyway?
Who are the Candidates?
It is another problem, even if people do want to participate in the balloting; they do not know who the 7471 candidates are. It is announced that their names are kept secret for security reasons, fair enough, but you can not vote unless you "know" whom you are giving your voice to. Knowing does not mean names only ; that is why it was a joke to announce the candidates' names 5 days before the balloting. These candidates had no proper chance at all to introduce themselves, their political programs, and their attitudes…etc. Big players however had their chance to do some electoral campaign, political parties with big funding, newspapers, posters, satellite and local TV interviews, radios …etc. Others had only the chance to put some banners.
Again, it is a widely debated issue in the sense that it raises suspicions. Are the winners already determined? Why is it so secondary to do any kind of political propaganda for the candidates? Do not we, Iraqis, deserve to know who is going to rule us next? Why are we so neglected? What are the political scenarios ahead?
These are just few examples. In this atmosphere rumors flourish. Candidates are accused of different stories, and loose credibility, if some still have any, in this farcical scene.
More important are the political difficulties. Political critics, even within the candidates, e.g. Dr. Adnan Al-Pachechi, who is heading the Independent Democrats list in the elections, believe that these elections will not be representative of all the Iraqi people and therefore the national assembly and the draft constitution which will come out of it will not be legitimate enough. In a meeting held in his house and included at least 17 political parties and many personalities, Al-Pachechi tried unsuccessfully to postpone the elections for 6 months to give all the political forces in Iraq more time to reach national consensus.
It was made obvious by the American administration, especially by Bush that the elections must not, in any circumstances, be delayed. Many political groups boycotted the elections. It was Al-Pachechi's aim to convince all of them to agree on a broad national unified attitude and to join the political process. He was worried too that instead of elections on January 30, Iraq would have a blood bath. Many political parties shared these worries. In deed the American embassy in Baghdad sent a delegation to meet the Moslem Scholars Association and try to convince them join the elections. They agreed on one condition, that the American administration announces a troop withdrawal schedule from Iraq. The American refused.
The only political groups who are enthusiastic about the elections to be held now are mainly the Unified Iraqi Alliance (Shiite) and the Kurds' coalition.
The general feeling is that it is the American' will alone that is dictating the elections, (many Iraqi officials admitted that) which is making it even more difficult. People ask "why?" whenever a new explosion kills more civilians in connection to the elections; it deepens the feeling that the occupation does not give a dime for their lives or their country. It is the same question repeatedly asked when Falluja was flattened by bombs and thousands were killed and made homeless, just to prepare the ground for the elections. "What kind of democracy is this?" was the sentence on peoples' tongues "are we going to sign in our brothers' blood?"
Iraqis believe that the occupiers are seeking a way out of the Iraqi quagmire by elections, the sooner the better. It is much more than merely political propaganda for the US administration to say," Look, we gave the Iraqis democracy!! There is a wide understanding that the human, material, and political bleeding is becoming too costly for the occupiers, that they want to do these elections as soon as possible so that they can withdraw to the barracks and use the Iraqi security forces as human shields, to turn the fight into Iraqi-Iraqi fight rather than Iraqi-occupiers.
Another reservation is the absence of real international supervision. The 25 UN observers are definitely not enough to cover a country as big as Iraq in the current situation, if the supervision is meant to be real and complete, not symbolic. In East Timor, which is half the size of Baghdad, for example, there were 300 UN observers.
There are many indicators that it would not be “honest” elections. People talk of blackmailing, buying, intimidations, and bribes already being practiced by some political parties. Many people say that they were told that their food ration is going to be cut if they do not vote. Religious symbols are being used, and religious decree was issued telling people that it is their religious duty to vote. Reports of fraud (mistakes!) in registration and documentation are mentioned. In Kerkuk, some political groups withdrew from the elections in the last minute, in protest on what they called a deliberate demographic changes being practiced by the Kurds.
Only 20% of the 1.200.000 Iraqis who live outside Iraq are participating. Their participation not determined as how, where, and how to count their votes…etc .
There was much criticism too to the mechanism of considering Iraq one electoral region, rather than dividing it into administrative electoral districts, as it is usual all over the world. A voter in Basra could give his vote to a candidate in Mosul or Arbil, for example.
Another major political criticism was the fact that elections were based on sectarian and ethnic divisions rather than political approach. It is now part of the media language, especially the international, to talk about the Shiite groups, the Sunni attitude, the Kurdish ambitions…There is fear that such divisions would lead to civil strife no matter what the elections results are, which is the last thing that Iraq needs now.
While the Iraqis’ ambitions of free, honest, democratic, and transparent elections are questioned for the above mentioned reasons, there are many who principally reject any elections held while Iraq is still under the occupation. They believe that such elections would give the occupation legitimacy, would be impossible in the atmosphere of chaos and lack of sovereignty, that there is no executive authority capable of running them, apart from the occupation authority which is only busy protecting itself, let alone the fact that this authority has no legal right to organize the election or supervise them. No freedom or democracy is possible in an occupied country unless the occupation is ended, no future for Iraq in any political process directed by the occupiers.
The elections are being held according to the Bremer's Transitional Administrative Law, which was rejected by many independent political and religious references, including those who are participating in the elections now as candidates.
The elections Higher Commission was appointed by Bremer too, before the authority (handover) last June, so are all the provinces governors, the local councils' members who worked on these elections, it is impossible, given these facts, to talk about sovereign elections. Many fear that the elections outcome would be exactly like the National Conference which was (elected) from the closest list to the government.
A more dangerous aspect of these elections is the dividing-Iraq-project that is much feared. The Kurds have already announced that they have three conditions to remain Iraqis. Federalism, Kerkuk and returning the Kurd immigrants; Alchalabi who is running in this election on the Unified Iraqi Alliance list, threatened on his part to call for federal region in the south. Critics believe that it is in the interest of the occupiers, and Israel, to dismantle Iraq in smaller federal districts, with a week government in the center. It is a strategy to dwarfing Iraq and turning it into a powerless factor in the Middle East region. Such weak government would sign any security and economic agreement that the US needs to control the region and the whole world.
Hollow Election Held on Bloody Day
*Inter Press Service*
Dahr Jamail January 30
An overnight rocket attack on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad that killed two Americans and injured four others set the tone for the election Sunday.
*BAGHDAD, Jan 30 (IPS) - An overnight rocket attack on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad that killed two Americans and injured four others set the tone for the election Sunday.*
By the end of the day at least 29 people had been killed in attacks on polling stations and voters.
An hour after polling stations opened at 7am, mortar blasts began echoing across the capital city, at almost an attack a minute at times.
Most Iraqis stayed home after resistance fighters threatened to ”wash the streets with blood.”
A suicide bomber at a security checkpoint in Monsour district of western Baghdad killed a policeman and wounded two others. A man wearing a belt of explosives detonated himself at a voters queue in Sadr City in Baghdad, killing himself and at least four others.
Many Iraqis who had intended to vote stayed indoors as gunfire echoed around the downtown area of Baghdad. Mortar attacks on polling stations continued through the day.
”Yesterday a bicycle bomb killed someone near my house,” said 32-year-old Ahmed Mohammed. ”I never intended to vote in this illegitimate election anyway, but if I had wanted to I would never go out in these conditions.”
With draconian security measures in place, even some ambulances rushing to victims of bomb attacks were turned back at security checkpoints.
”Baghdad looks like it's having a war, not elections,” said Layla Abdul Rahman, a high school English teacher. ”Our streets are filled with
tanks and soldiers and our bridges are closed. All we are hearing is bombings all around us, and for the last two nights there have been many
clashes that last a long time. We shouldn't have had elections now because it's just not practical with this horrible security.”
The threats by the resistance fighters followed by a string of attacks across Baghdad clearly reduced voter turnout.
”How can we call this democracy when I am too afraid to leave my home,” said Baghdad resident Abdulla Hamid. ”Of course there will be low turnout here with all these bombings.”
A series of bombings have been reported also in Hilla, Mosul, Kirkuk, Basra and Baquba. In Samarra where a roadside bomb struck a U.S. patrol, there was no sign either of voters or of the police on the streets, according to reports from there.
”Nobody will vote in Samarra because of the security situation,” Taha Husain, head of Samarra's local governing council told reporters.
Interim U.S.. appointed prime minister Ayad Allawi announced Saturday that martial law will now be extended for another month. The hope of many Iraqis that the elections will bring security and stability continue to fade.
Voter turnout in the Kurdish controlled north of Iraq and the Shia dominated southern region has been heavy, but most polling stations in
the capital city and central Iraq remained relatively empty.
Aside from security reasons, many Iraqis chose not to vote because they question the legitimacy of these elections.
”They are wrong on principle, the High Commission for Elections was appointed by Bremer (former U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer), so how can we have a legitimate election under these circumstances,” said Sabah Rahwani in the Karrada district of Baghdad. ”This election only serves the interest of the occupier, not Iraqis. This is only propaganda for Bush.”
U.S. President George W. Bush announced in his weekly radio address Saturday that ”as democracy takes hold in Iraq, America's mission there will continue.” His administration has also recently announced that U.S. troops will remain in Iraq at least until 2006.
The parliament elected by the Sunday election will draft a new constitution for the country. A referendum on that is scheduled for Oct.
15, followed by another election Dec. 15.
January 31, 2005
Just Voted for Food
Inter Press Service
*BAGHDAD, Jan 31 (IPS) - Voting in Baghdad was linked with receipt of food rations, several voters said after the Sunday poll.*
Many Iraqis said Monday that their names were marked on a list provided by the government agency that provides monthly food rations before theywere allowed to vote.
”I went to the voting centre and gave my name and district where I lived to a man,” said Wassif Hamsa, a 32-year-old journalist who lives in the predominantly Shia area Janila in Baghdad. ”This man then sent me to the person who distributed my monthly food ration.”
Mohammed Ra'ad, an engineering student who lives in the Baya'a district of the capital city reported a similar experience.
Ra'ad, 23, said he saw the man who distributed monthly food rations in his district at his polling station. ”The food dealer, who I know personally of course, took my name and those of my family who were voting,” he said. ”Only then did I get my ballot and was allowed to vote.”
”Two of the food dealers I know told me personally that our food rations would be withheld if we did not vote,” said Saeed Jodhet, a 21-year-old engineering student who voted in the Hay al-Jihad district of Baghdad.
There has been no official indication that Iraqis who did not vote would not receive their monthly food rations.
Many Iraqis had expressed fears before the election that their monthly food rations would be cut if they did not vote. They said they had to sign voter registration forms in order to pick up their food supplies.
Their experiences on the day of polling have underscored many of their concerns about questionable methods used by the U.S.-backed Iraqi
interim government to increase voter turnout.
Just days before the election, 52 year-old Amin Hajar who owns an auto garage in central Baghdad had said: ”I'll vote because I can't afford to have my food ration cut...if that happened, me and my family would starve to death.”
Hajar told IPS that when he picked up his monthly food ration recently, he was forced to sign a form stating that he had picked up his voter
registration. He had feared that the government would use this information to track those who did not vote.
Calls to the Independent Electoral Commission for Iraq (IECI) and to the Ministry of Trade, which is responsible for the distribution of the
monthly food ration, were not returned.
Other questions have arisen over methods to persuade people to vote. U.S. troops tried to coax voters in Ramadi, capital city of the al-Anbar
province west of Baghdad to come out to vote, AP reported.
IECI officials have meanwhile 'downgraded' their earlier estimate of voter turnout.
IECI spokesman Farid Ayar had declared a 72 percent turnout earlier, a figure given also by the Bush Administration.
But at a press conference Ayar backtracked on his earlier figure, saying the turnout would be nearer 60 percent of registered voters.
The earlier figure of 72 percent, he said, was ”only guessing” and ”just an estimate” that had been based on ”very rough, word of mouth estimates gathered informally from the field.” He added that it will be some time before the IECI can issue accurate figures on the turnout.
”Percentages and numbers come only after counting and will be announced when it's over,” he said. ”It is too soon to say that those were the
Where there was a large turnout, the motivation behind the voting and the processes both appeared questionable. The Kurds up north were voting for autonomy, if not independence. In the south and elsewhere Shias were competing with Kurds for a bigger say in the 275-member national assembly.
In some places like Mosul the turnout was heavier than expected. But many of the voters came from outside, and identity checks on voters
appeared lax. Others spoke of vote-buying bids.
The Bush Administration has lauded the success of the Iraq election, but doubtful voting practices and claims about voter turnout are both mired in controversy.
Election violence too was being seen differently across the political spectrum.
More than 30 Iraqis, a U.S. soldier, and at least 10 British troops died Sunday. Hundreds of Iraqis were also wounded in attacks across Baghdad, in Baquba 50km northeast of the capital as well as in the northern cities Mosul and Kirkuk.
The British troops were on board a C-130 transport plane that crashed near Balad city just northwest of Baghdad. The British military has yet to reveal the cause of the crash.
Despite unprecedented security measures in which 300,000 U.S. and Iraqi security forces were brought in to curb the violence, nine suicide
bombers and frequent mortar attacks took a heavy toll in the capital city, while strings of attacks were reported around the rest of the country.
As U..S. President George W. Bush saw it, ”some Iraqis were killed while exercising their rights as citizens.”
Raed Jarrar, Raed in the Middle
Sunday, January 30, 2005
The cowardly and corrupt bush administration, working along with the dirty allow(ie) government is coercing Iraqis to vote. The allow(ie) puppets are threatening Iraqis who don't vote that they will not get their monthly food rations ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A19160-2005Jan18_3.html )
The bush gang can do anything to reach to their goals.
I mean ANYTHING.
It is well known all over Iraq now that if you didn't go to vote, the government will cut your monthly food rations. EVERYONE is talking about this, and EVERYONE believes it too!!! and this is one of the main reasons of why millions of poor and destroyed Iraqis were dragged out of their homes today and sent to election centers in the middle of explosions and bullets. They don't give a damn about elections, they want food. Millions of Iraqis don't have the possibility of testing whether this rumor is true or false, this is about surviving. They are ready to put their lives in danger to go get their monthly food rations.
Even the orders of sistani are not enough to get them out of their homes to go vote. They don't give a damn for bushy freedom.
"I will go and drop a blank ballot, I just want my family's food rations", a friend of my brother Khalid told him a couple of days ago in Baghdad. I called khalid in Baghdad twice today to see what was happening, and he said the same thing i heard on the BBC, that an explosion was happening every two minutes!!
The bush gang, trying to complete their pathetic play in Iraq are dying to add more lies to their long history of deceit.
The "Iraqi government" is announcing confusing and wrong numbers to the public. Instead of announcing the ratio of Voters to the Eligible Voters, the numbers announced are the ratio of the Voters to the Registered Voters!!!!
For example, the number of Iraqis that registered their names in Jordan are less than 20% of the eligible voters living in Jordan, so when 90% of the registered voters go to vote, it means that less than 18% of the total number voted... 90% is not the real number that should be announced to people!!!!!
liars liars liars!!!!!!!
The numbers announced inside Iraq are all fake. The registered voters in Tikrit governorate for example are a couple of thousands out of hundreds of thousands of residents, if one thousand people went to vote today, it doesn't mean at all that the turnout is more than 50%
liars liars liars!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The fake government in Iraq announced that 72% of Iraqis voted today. Later they announced that 8 million Iraqis voted, which means that around 56% voted because the number of Eligible voters inside Iraq is more than 14.27 million.
There is NO WAY that the primitive weak Iraqi government could know how many people went to vote today this fast, and these numbers are mere exaggerated guesses.
Yet, they are stupid enough to miscalculate numbers.
The number of Iraqis outside is more than 4,000,000. 56% of Iraqis are older than 18 years, which means that around 2.5 million Iraqis are Eligible voters outside Iraq. Less than 250,000 of them voted.
The surprise is that by a simple calculation, the total number of Iraqi Eligible voters inside and outside the country is more than 16.75 millions, and the number of people that actually voted is less than 8.25 million !!!!!!!!!!!!!!
LESS THAN 50% VOTED
These are Illegal elections then!
Voter Turnout Is NOT Enough to Legitimise Elections!!!
Even with all the lies, even with threatening people's means of survival, it doesn't seem that it worked :*)
When ugly-condi announces to all media stations that "Iraqi Voting Exceeds Expectations", ( http://www.guardian.co.uk/uslatest/story/0,1282,-4766530,00.html), when little bush hails the Iraqi vote as a "Resounding Success" ( http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=politicsNews&storyID=7476404 ), the world should see how these two mathematically challenged liars do not know what they are talking about.
Today's elections were another shameful page in the long bush war on Iraq ( http://www.aljazeera.com/me.asp?service_ID=6877 ), these elections were another mistake that bush and the occupying armies will pay for in the near future.
www.globalresearch.ca 31 January 2005
The URL of this article is: http://globalresearch.ca/articles/CHO501F.html
Ongoing preliminary Report, 2.37 EST, 31 January 2004
The media in chorus decided that voter turnout was high.
Western governments and the international community confirmed that the turnout was high, based on contradictory official figures and statements:
"a high turnout in today's election" (BBC, 30 Jan).
"polling stations witnessed an unexpectedly high turnout, demonstrating the Iraqi people's eagerness for liberty and democracy, which is exactly the outcome that the United States wishes for the Iraqis"
"The French government hailed Iraq's first free elections in half a century as a "great success for the international community" and called the surprisingly high voter turnout "good news".
"The initial figures included surprisingly high voter numbers around central Iraq where the rebels have carried out attack after attack."
The turnout figure was first put at 72 percent quoting official sources, at least two hours before the closing of the polls.
"Early figures on the turnout exceeded even the most optimistic forecasts - 72 per cent of voters."
"Correspondent's report from Baghdad says turnout unexpected. Cites Election Commission officials as saying 95 per cent of Baghdadis voted. He says overall percentage is 72 per cent. Heavy security measures in Baghdad. Praises organization of elections and employees attitude."
"Polling places across Iraq have just closed. And despite some terror attacks, an Iraqi election official says 72 percent of eligible voters have gone to the polls, but that has not been confirmed." (Fox New, (9.00 EST, 14.00 GMT)
Where was this 72 percent figure taken? On what was it based? How was it derived?
By the time this figure started circulating in the global news chain, voting booths had not yet closed.
The 72 percent turnout figure, which was on the lips of journalists and network TV talk shows was based on an interview with the Minister of Planning in the interim government, on the 30th at 11.45 GMT, more than two hours before the closing of the polls:
"although a 72 per cent turnout was expected, it appears that the participation level will only reach 50 per cent." (1145 gmt, Al-Iraqiyah live satellite interview with Planning Minister Mahdi al-Hafiz, from the Conference Centre in Baghdad, BBC Monitoring, 30 Jan 2005) .
In fact, the 72 percent figure, quoted by journalists was not based on anything concrete.
An hour later, a senior official of the Independent Electoral Commission in Iraq (IECI), Adil al-Lami, repeated the same 72 percent figure. at a news conference at 12.24 GMT in which Adil al-Lami, and Safwat, another IECI official, provided very precise figures on voter turnout for the 18 governates (see Table below).
At this news conference, overall voter turnout was placed at 72 per cent and in some areas 90 per cent.
After the polls had closed and another news conference was held, the same senior IECI official stated that he expected the voter turnout to be 60 per cent.
How was this last figure arrived at, without the counting of the ballots?
Why was it 72 per cent and then, two hours later it was revised to 60 percent?
With shattered communications systems, how did the information get transmitted so quickly to the IECI for release at a News conference at 14.00 GMT?
When questioned, a senior IECI official was evasive regarding the source and methodology underlying his figures (see complete interview in annex):
"These estimates are what they (the offices) have seen, their observations and their feelings," Lami said. "These estimates are based on human flow at their polling stations."
On what did the percentages that were announced at the news conference depend? Were they based on the flow of people only?
(Ayyar) Yes, on the basis of the flow of people and the expectations in front of the polling centres at many places throughout Iraq and also some contacts with the presiding officers of these centres, whether in the north, the south or the centre. The person who announced these figures did not say that they were final figures. So far, we have no results for the elections. The counting is taking place right now. I heard that Al-Sharqiyah knows some things, which we do not know.(Iraqi Al-Sharqiyah TV, 30 January)
Observations and feelings?
And a few hours later, the news reports start shifting. First its 72 percent, then its 60 percent, then its down to 50 percent.
...this election appears, based on everything that we know right now, to have been a tremendous and even surprising success, particularly if the turnout to be as high as 60 percent, despite the participation or lack of it by the Sunnis.... 8 million Iraqis went to the polls, about 60 percent of the electorate. That turnout, in some areas as high as 95 percent. The mood in Baghdad tonight has been described as exuberant. (CNN, 30 Jan, 6 PM EST)
From 60 percent to 50 percent.
Iraqi officials hope for a turnout of at least 50 per cent to lend legitimacy to the outcome. Even if turnout is lower, the election is expected to receive the international stamp of approval. (Australian 31 Jan)
If the turnout is finally reckoned to be 50 per cent, or anything like it, and the deaths attributable to the insurgency are less than a total bloodbath, that will be considered a step forward. ...
Early reports from polling stations show that the turnout in Iraq's election yesterday could reach or exceed 50 per cent, political party officials said.
"The reports we are receiving indicate that the turnout will hit more than 50 per cent. Iraqis are looking at these elections as an issue of dignity," Hafedh said. (China Daily 31 Jan)
Now the word is that a 30 per cent overall turnout would be satisfactory (New Statesman, 31 Jan )
Related Facts regarding Voter Turnout, which contradict the official figures and statements:
1. In five out of 18 governates, according to a Russian parliamentary observer, the elections were either cancelled due to the lack of security or were marked by a very low turnout. (Novosti, 30 Jan). This statement contradicts the figures presented by the IECI at the Press Conference, which indicate voter turnout of 50 per cent or more in all the governates. (including Sunni regions where there was a boycott, as confirmed by several press reports). (See Table 1 below)
2. According to Xinhua (5 hours before the close of polling stations): "The turnout was very low during the past few hours in Tikrit, Dujail, Balad and Tuz, much lower than expected," a source in the electoral body told Xinhua. "In addition, no voters showed up in Baiji, Samarra and Dour," said the source, who declined to be identified. The cities of Dujail and Balad have mixed population of Shiites and Sunnis, while Tuz has a mosaic of Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen. In Tikrit, some 170 km north of Baghdad, 75 percent of the voting stations have not been visited till now. (Xinhua, 30 Jan 2005, 9 AM GMT)
3. Several cities in Iraq did not receive electoral materials, "In the city of Mosul, the deputy governor said that four towns did not receive the election process materials. How do you justify this? These towns are Bashqa, Bartillah, Al-Hamdaniyah and Jihan. They did not receive the material for the election process." (Iraqi Al-Sharqiyah TV, 30 Jan)
Table 1: Breakdown of Voter Turnout
according to IECI official : 2 hours before closing of voting booths
At the start of the live relay, Al-Lami listed the voter turnout in each governorate as follows: "70 per cent in Al-Sulaymaniyah Governorate (northeastern Iraq), 60 per cent in Salah-al-Din Governorate (north of Baghdad), 60 per cent in Al-Ta'mim Governorate (northern Iraq), 82 per cent in Duhok Governorate (far northern Iraq), 65 per cent in Baghdad Al-Rusafah, 95 per cent in Baghdad Al-Karkh, 90 per cent in Karbala (southeast of Baghdad), 50 per cent in Diyala (Governorate, northeast of Baghdad), 66 per cent in Babil (Governorate, south of Baghdad), 75 per cent in Wasit (Governorate, southeast of Baghdad), 66 per cent in Basra (Governorate, southeastern Iraq), 80 per cent in Dhi-Qar (Governorate, southeastern Iraq), 92 per cent in Maysan (Governorate on Iranian border, southern Iraq), 80 per cent in Al-Muthanna (Governorate, in southern Iraq), 50 per cent in Al-Qadisiyah (Governorate, to south of Baghdad), and 80 per cent in Al-Najaf (Governorate, southern Iraq). Vote turnout in Al-Anbar (western Iraq) and Salah-al-Din governorates is a big surprise; it will be announced in the coming news conference (as heard), God willing. The number of polling centres opened is 5171 in all of Iraq's governorates."
Source IECI Press Conference, Al-Iraqiyah TV, Baghdad, in Arabic 1224 gmt 30 Jan 05
January 30, 2005
IRAQI ELECTORAL COMMISSION SPOKESMAN QUIZZED ON TURNOUT FIGURES, VOTE COUNT
Text of satellite interview with Farid Ayyar, official spokesman of the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, in Baghdad, by Iman Sadiq, broadcast live by Iraqi Al-Sharqiyah TV on 30 January
(Sadiq) First of all, we welcome you. We are happy to have you with us in your capacity as a fellow journalist. You and your staff have performed very well in the Iraqi elections. This is a national effort, for which you should be thanked. This was not really expected. Secondly, we welcome you as the official spokesman of the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq (IECI).
(Ayyar) Thank you very much and you are welcome.
(Sadiq) We have several questions to put to you, since you are the official spokesman of the IECI. But we want you to answer in your capacity as a fellow journalist as well. First of all, Al-Sharqiyah has received many complaints. Two hours before the polls closed, there was a news conference. You explained that the voter turnout had reached 72 per cent and in some areas 90 per cent. After the polls were closed and at a news conference, you told those present that the expected voter turnout was 60 per cent. Why this contradiction, although there was only a difference of two hours between the two statements?
(Ayyar) Thank you very much for your introduction, which was realistic, because the success of these elections does not concern a certain category or group. Rather, it concerns all Iraqis, including those who did not take part in the elections. Iraq is for all and the elections are for all. Therefore, responsibility should also be assumed by all.
(Sadiq) Dr Farid, why this contradiction?
(Ayyar) I will answer you. First of all, about the question that has to do with announcing a certain turnout; well, the percentage that was announced in the afternoon was an estimate and it depended on the flow of people in front of polling centres and not on official statistics produced by counting the ballots.
(Sadiq) On what did the percentages that were announced at the news conference depend? Were they based on the flow of people only?
(Ayyar) Yes, on the basis of the flow of people and the expectations in front of the polling centres at many places throughout Iraq and also some contacts with the presiding officers of these centres, whether in the north, the south or the centre. The person who announced these figures did not say that they were final figures. So far, we have no results for the elections. The counting is taking place right now. I heard that Al-Sharqiyah knows some things, which we do not know.
(Sadiq) In the city of Mosul, the deputy governor said that four towns did not receive the election process materials. How do you justify this? These towns are Bashqa, Bartillah, Al-Hamdaniyah and Jihan. They did not receive the material for the election process. Why is this?
(Ayyar) The deputy governor is not authorized to make a statement on behalf of the IECI, which is impartial. He does not have the right to speak in our name. I am the official spokesman and I can speak about everything related to the IECI and the elections.
(Sadiq) He did not speak in the name of the IECI. He only said that some areas did not receive the election process materials. What is your justification, since you represent the IECI, which is in charge of the elections?
(Ayyar) This did not happen. We have distributed all the supplies, forms and ballot boxes based on a tight plan to all areas. I do not know how he said this. We are certain that our work was good, although there is a possibility of human error. Anyone might make a mistake. However, this did not happen.
(Sadiq) The IECI exerted tremendous efforts and you deserve to be thanked for that. It was a huge effort that nobody expected and nobody denies this. However, ballot counting has started using lamps. Does this negatively affect the results or the ballot counting?
(Ayyar) I would like to say that among the things that were imported to provide polling stations with is these special lamps. These lamps were brought so as to have enough light, in case a power outage takes place, in order to enable those involved in the ballot counting to do their job. This is part of the things we purchased to supply the needs of polling stations in Iraq. Therefore, lamps are available and the ballot counting is currently under way. We will announce results once we have them.
(Sadiq) If the IECI is the only party concerned with this issue, what is the reason for the delay in announcing the results? Two weeks or 10 days are too much. Everybody is waiting eagerly for the results of the elections. Seventy per cent of ballot counting was completed a few hours after closing ballot boxes. Why then is this delay if the IECI is the only party concerned with this issue?
(Ayyar) Thanks for telling me that 70 per cent of ballot counting was completed despite the fact that I, the spokesman for the IECI, do not know this per cent until now! There is no delay. The official and final results will be announced after receiving the results of the out-of-country voting, which will continue for four days according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Afterward, these results will be collected together with local results here and will be announced to the public in an official ceremony. We want to finish this matter as soon as possible. There is nothing hidden (changes thought) - but we will finish the job and announce results most probably in less than 10 days, or even in seven or six days. We will finish our work and announce results in an honest and transparent manner.
(Sadiq) Then you will not give us a specific date for announcing the final or the initial results.
(Ayyar) The initial results will be announced as soon as the IECI receives them. They will be announced day by day during pre-planned news conferences. If any results become available to us by tomorrow, we will definitely announce them. After ballot counting, every polling centre will announce its results. Afterward, these results will be sent to the main centre -
(Sadiq, interrupting) We received many results from Kirkuk, Huwayjah, Mosul and Basra governorates. Results have started to appear and they are being sent to Al-Sharqiyah TV, but we do not want to announce them so as not to cause chaos or discrepancy in figures. We will wait for the IECI's results. We thank you for the tremendous efforts you exerted and we are happy that you are a fellow journalist. Thank you very much.
Source: Al-Sharqiyah, Baghdad, in Arabic 1837 gmt 30 Jan 05. BBC Monitoring, Copyright 2005 Financial Times Information
© Copyright M CHOSSUDOVSKY CRG 2005.
election to anoint an occupation
Had it been held in Zimbabwe, the west would have denounced it
Monday January 31, 2005
The Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,1402277,00.html
Tony Blair and George Bush were quick to characterise yesterday's election as a triumph of democracy over terror. Bush declared it a "resounding success", while Blair asserted that "The force of freedom was felt throughout Iraq". And yet the election fell so completely short of accepted electoral standards that had it been held in, say, Zimbabwe or Syria, Britain and America would have been the first to denounce it.
Draconian security measures left Iraq's cities looking like ghost towns. The ballot papers were so complicated that even Jalal Talabani, the Kurdish leader, needed a briefing on how to use one. Most candidates had been afraid to be seen in public, or to link their names to their faces in the media. The United Iraqi Alliance, identifying only 37 of their 225 candidates, explained: "We offer apologies for not mentioning the names of all the candidates ... We have to keep them alive."
The millions of Iraqis, as well as the UN electoral team and the Iraqi election commission staff, who did participate in the process despite the grave risk, deserve our respect. But it was a risk taken in vain. The election was illegitimate, and cannot resolve the rampant insecurity resulting from the occupation. The only way to stop the destruction of Iraq is to end the occupation and enfranchise the Sunnis, who are leading the resistance because they see the US as systematically excluding them from the role they deserve to play in Iraq.
Indeed, this so-called election, with its national rather than provincial voting rolls, was designed to reduce Sunni representation and to anoint US-supported groups who will allow this occupation to continue. A high turnout does not change the fact that this is an illegitimate, occupier's election.
Early in the occupation, the Bush administration recognised that a democratic Iraq would not countenance the strategic goals the war was fought for: controlling the oil reserves and establishing military bases to enable the political transformation the neocons envisage for the Middle East. Even as the US proclaimed its mission as introducing democracy to Iraq, they worked to make sure that the processes they put in place would produce leaders they had picked. The US obtained a carefully circumscribed UN involvement in order to provide the chosen leaders a measure of legitimacy.
It was clear to those of us in Baghdad right after Saddam's fall that no long-term American project there would succeed. The limited self-governance plan was a non-starter because of the transparent control the US exercised over the process. In any event, virtually no Iraqis, not even those benefiting from the US presence, see the superpower as a promoter of human rights and democracy - even before the atrocities in Abu Ghraib, Najaf and Falluja.
Each US-dictated self-governance milestone therefore backfired just like the current election undoubtably will, generating wider support for and bloodier attacks by the insurgency. The first devastating attacks on the foreign presence in Iraq, for example, came soon after the US selected the Iraqi Governing Council: first the Jordanian mission, then the UN's Baghdad headquarters, were blown up.
In its search for greater legitimacy for its preferred Iraqi leadership, the US has avoided the UN security council, since most of its members abhor what is being done to Iraq. The US has instead chosen to work with individual representatives. The first such UN involvement, when the late Sergio Vieira de Mello headed the UN mission in Iraq, was the most effective. He was able to persuade the then US proconsul, Paul Bremer, that he should appoint an Iraqi Governing Council rather than an advisory body. Even then, the anger about the individuals and groups on this council, and for UN support for it, was palpable in Iraq.
Nearly a year later, in another bid for UN support, Bush assured the world that the interim government would be picked by Lakhdar Brahimi, Kofi Annan's special representative. Brahimi spent weeks in Iraq consulting domestic groups about who they felt should lead the country. But on the day the interim government was to be appointed, a deal was struck by the Americans behind Brahimi's back, to make the CIA-linked Ayad Allawi prime minister.
The US has little popular support in the country. It has, however, won the support of the extremely influential Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who tolerates an occupation most of his followers hate, with the single-minded sectarian goal of having the majority Shia at the helm of power in Iraq. The occupation has destroyed Iraq and is destabilising the world by exacerbating the deep animosity that most Arabs and Muslims feel for the US. The Bush administration is now provoking the Muslim world by threats against Iran. The rest of the world looks on, mostly helplessly.
· Salim Lone was director of communications for Sergio Vieira de Mello, the UN special representative in Iraq, who was killed in August 2003
Since the Iraqi elections are typical
"demonstration elections," however,
the corporate media are duty-bound to ignore such hardball questions as whether the elections were free,
fair, and democratic and to hype "a large turnout (indicating voter support for the election itself and thus
identifying the election with "democracy")" (Frank Brodhead, "Reframing the Iraq Election,"
January 21, 2005).
Greg Mitchell looks skeptically at the press's reports on turnout estimates, which have already been brought down 15% in one day:
The widely-publicized estimates a few hours ago from Iraq election
officials of 72% turnout has already been cut to
about 57% from the same officials. Dexter Filkins of
The New York Times reported at midday:
"The chairman of the Independent Election Commission of Iraq, Fareed Ayar, said as many as 8 million people turned out to vote, or between 55 percent and 60 percent of those registered to cast ballots. If 8 million turns out to be the final figure, that would represent 57 percent of voters."
The question remains: what percentage of the population chose to register? What percentage of adult citizens participated? Iraq has a population of at least 25 million, plus expatriates were allowed to vote overseas. (emphasis added, "Iraq, the Vote: The Press Sizes Up the Election," Editor & Publisher, January 30, 2005)
All good questions. I'd also ask where the Independent [sic] Election
Commission of Iraq got the figure of 8 million
The answer is that's exactly the same number the commission predicted before the elections:
A senior election official estimates that
half of Iraq's 15 million eligible voters ["[t]here are 14
million eligible voters inside Iraq . . . plus 1.2 million abroad allowed to vote in 14 countries including
the United States, Britain, Iran and Syria"] will take part in this month's national election and says that
to encourage a high turnout, those living in insurgency-racked areas will be allowed to vote in safer
Farid Ayar of Iraq's Independent Electoral Commission said he expected 7 to 8 million Iraqis to vote on Jan. 30 in a ballot seen as a major step toward fulfilling U.S. goals of building democracy here after decades of Saddam Hussein's tyranny. (emphasis added, Hamza Hendawi/Associated Press, "Half of Iraq Population Estimated to Vote," January 14, 2005)
What precision! A sign that elections in Iraq have been raised to the level of science, far superior to the 4-billion-dollar election industry in the United States that showed disturbing discrepancies between exit polls and vote tallies? Not! A safer hypothesis is that it's a sign of how scripted Iraqi elections were. If Washington needs about 8 million Iraqi voters to achieve a "respectable" turnout of half the eligible voters (Hendawi, January 14, 2005), the Independent [sic] Election Commission of Iraq has to give that number to Washington before and after the elections. After all, "demonstration elections" are theater -- for the American, rather than Iraqi, audience.
# posted by Yoshie : 1:44 PM :
# posted by Anonymous : 3:25 PM
The vote is a joke. That's obvious enough. What I found fascinating
is the t.v coverage. There seems to have been a change in network policy towards the war since the election
of The Grand Imperial Wizard. During the campaign the networks (except fer Fox snooze) were not nearly as
willing as they are now to push forward the delusions of the Iraq situation in the Neo-Republican style. Now
it seems that the networks have decided that if you can't beat 'em, suck up to 'em. The sheer amount of
blatant propaganda (did ya see NIGHTLINE the other night with the "town meeting"?) in an attempt to make the
public view the Iraq situation through rose coloured glasses, is more of a story here then the election.
The networks have given up opposing the Bush agenda, the democrats have given up more or less as well, and as weird as it may seem the loudest establishment voices in protest to the war are the folks from the CSIS. Brzeznski, Scowcroft, Kissinger etc.
The founding editor of the CSIS magazine Washington Quarterly Micheal Ledeen is called by many the leading ideologue of the Straussian (Machiavellian) Neo-Con agenda.The former major domo of the CSIS who now presides over at the American Enterprise Institute which is the sister organization of the Project for the New American Century would appear on the surface to have a different agenda then the folks at the CSIS. I for one do not believe it.
The CSIS is the traditional bastion of the political military industrial bigwigs. They have been the guys and gals who shape American policy behind the scenes. Ledeen was their middle east expert. And yet know the CSIS head honchos have come out and become critical of the Iraq situation, as the folks at their sister organization the Council on Foreign Affairs.I don't buy into this scenario.
It looks to me like the Good cop/Bad Cop trick. The cops use this trick in order to fool their prey into thinking that the Good cop is sane and rational and out to be a friend. Whereas the Bad cop plays the part of the out of control irrational guy who can do anything crazy at any moment. This is the traditional interrogation method used by police. First the Bad cop threatens violence and acts as if he will explode in rage at any moment. This scares the detainee. Then the Good cop grabs the Bad cop and shoves the Bad cop outside the room and tells him to cool off. Then he acts as if he is the friend of the detainee, he tells the detainee that the Bad cop is unstable, he can do anything at any moment. The Good cop tells the detainee that he is safe with him, he's a friend and wants to keep the Bad cop at bay, but he doesn't know if he can do that for long. In this way the whole gimmick is about psychological manipulation. First you make the detainee fear for his life, and then you have a hero save him. The detainee is then so relieved to be saved that he befriends the Good cop.
This is what I believe is going on between the traditional policy planners and the new kids on the block. The AIE and PNAC are the Bad cops, and the CSIS and CFR are the Good cops. The AIE and PNAC are the crazy guys that the CSIS and CFR are trying to control.
In reality they are all part of the same police force. Michael Ledeen went from the CSIS to the AIE, and he is the guy behind Bush foreign policy.
From the above website about Ledeen:
"William O. Beeman tells us about Michael Ledeen’s influence. Writing for the Pacific News Service he says:
“Ledeen’s ideas are repeated daily by such figures as Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz…He basically believes that violence in the service of the spread of democracy is America’s manifest destiny. Consequently, he has become the philosophical legitimator of the American occupation of Iraq.”
In fact, Ledeen’s influence goes even further. The BBC, the Washington Post and Jim Lobe writing for the Asia Times report that Michael Ledeen is the only full-time international affairs analyst consulted by Karl Rove. Ledeen has regular conversations with Rove. The Washington Post said, "More than once, Ledeen has seen his ideas faxed to Rove, become official policy or rhetoric.
“Ledeen has become the driving philosophical force behind the neoconservative movement and the military actions it has spawned.”
In 1999, Ledeen published his book, Machiavelli on Modern Leadership: Why Machiavelli’s Iron Rules Are as Timely and Important Today as Five Centuries Ago. (Truman Talley Books, St. Martin’s Griffin, N.Y. 1999.)
“In order to achieve the most noble accomplishments, the leader may have to ‘enter into evil.’ This is the chilling insight that has made Machiavelli so feared, admired, and challenging. It is why we are drawn to him still…” (p. 91)
From The Prince by Machiavelli, in the original Oxford University Press translation by Luigi Ricci.
"When those states which have been acquired are accustomed to live at liberty under their own laws, there are three ways of holding them. The first is to despoil them; the second is to go and live there in person; the third is to allow them to live under their own laws, taking tribute of them, and creating within the country a government composed of a few who will keep it friendly to you. Because this government, being created by the prince, knows that it cannot exist without his friendship and protection, and will do all it can to keep them. What is more, a city used to liberty can be more easily held by means of its citizens than in any other way, if you wish to preserve it...in truth there is no sure method of holding them except by despoiling them. And whoever becomes the ruler of a free city and does not destroy it, can expect to be destroyed by it, for it can always find a motive for rebellion in the name of liberty and of its ancient usage..."
This is the agenda in Iraq. Machiavelli and Leo Strauss (who was an avid student of Machiavelli) have been the guiding lights of the colonial ambitions of American foreign policy [World bank, IMF, WTO included] for a long time. Good Cop Bad Cop is how this is done so that the entire establishment is not discredited. They always need a fall guy to do the dirty work.
The Neo-cons are the Bad cops and the CSIS and CFR are the Good cops. They have the same agenda and have always worked together. The reason there is this seeming difference of opinion on Iraq from these folks is that the AIE and PNAC guys are doing the dirty work of being the Bad cops. The CSIS and CFR folks don't want to look like the bad guys. But they want the American policy to be what it is today. So they have their toadies (neocons at the AIE and PNAC) taking the blame and being the fall guys. They all want the same thing. Brzeznski et al had alreaady written out the scenario of American military action throughout the middle east and surrounding areas as being absolutely necessary. But they know that the actual use of force would be extremely unpopular around the world. So they had to put the onus of responsibility on someone else...the "neocons" at the AIE and PNAC.
It's Good cop Bad cop...again.
Vietnam turnout was good as well
No amount of spin can conceal Iraqis' hostility to US occupation
Tuesday February 1, 2005
"On September 4 1967 the New York Times published an upbeat story on presidential elections held by the South Vietnamese puppet regime at the height of the Vietnam war. Under the heading "US encouraged by Vietnam vote: Officials cite 83% turnout despite Vietcong terror", the paper reported that the Americans had been "surprised and heartened" by the size of the turnout "despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting". A successful election, it went on, "has long been seen as the keystone in President Johnson's policy of encouraging the growth of constitutional processes in South Vietnam". The echoes of this weekend's propaganda about Iraq's elections are so close as to be uncanny.
With the past few days' avalanche of spin, you could be forgiven for thinking that on January 30 2005 the US-led occupation of Iraq ended and the people won their freedom and democratic rights. This has been a multi-layered campaign, reminiscent of the pre-war WMD frenzy and fantasies about the flowers Iraqis were collecting to throw at the invasion forces. How you could square the words democracy, free and fair with the brutal reality of occupation, martial law, a US-appointed election commission and secret candidates has rarely been allowed to get in the way of the hype.
If truth is the first casualty of war, reliable numbers must be the first casualty of an occupation-controlled election. The second layer of spin has been designed to convince us that an overwhelming majority of Iraqis participated. The initial claim of 72% having voted was quickly downgraded to 57% of those registered to vote. So what percentage of the adult population is registered to vote? The Iraqi ambassador in London was unable to enlighten me. In fact, as UN sources confirm, there has been no registration or published list of electors - all we are told is that about 14 million people were entitled to vote.
As for Iraqis abroad, the up to 4 million strong exiled community (with perhaps a little over 2 million entitled to vote) produced a 280,000 registration figure. Of those, 265,000 actually voted.
The Iraqi south, more religious than Baghdad, responded positively to Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani's position: to call the bluff of the US and vote for a list that was proclaimed to be hostile to the occupation. Sistani's supporters declared that voting on Sunday was the first step to kicking out the occupiers. The months ahead will put these declarations to a severe test. Meanwhile Moqtada al-Sadr's popular movement, which rejected the elections as a sham, is likely to make a comeback in its open resistance to the occupation.
The big vote in Kurdistan primarily reflects the Kurdish people's demand for national self-determination. The US administration has hitherto clamped down on these pressures. Henry Kissinger's recent proposal to divide Iraq into three states reflects a major shift among influential figures in the US who, led by Kissinger as secretary of state, ditched the Kurds in the 70s and brokered a deal between Saddam and the Shah of Iran.
George Bush and Tony Blair made heroic speeches on Sunday implying that Iraqis had voted to approve the occupation. Those who insist that the US is desperate for an exit strategy are misreading its intentions. The facts on the ground, including the construction of massive military bases in Iraq, indicate that the US is digging in to install and back a long-term puppet regime. For this reason, the US-led presence will continue, with all that entails in terms of bloodshed and destruction.
In the run-up to the poll, much of the western media presented it as a high-noon shootout between the terrorist Zarqawi and the Iraqi people, with the occupation forces doing their best to enable the people to defeat the fiendish, one-legged Jordanian murderer. In reality, Zarqawi-style sectarian violence is not only condemned by Iraqis across the political spectrum, including supporters of the resistance, but is widely seen as having had a blind eye turned to it by the occupation authorities. Such attitudes are dismissed by outsiders, but the record of John Negroponte, the US ambassador in Baghdad, of backing terror gangs in central America in the 80s has fuelled these fears, as has Seymour Hirsh's reports on the Pentagon's assassination squads and enthusiasm for the "Salvador option".
An honest analysis of the social and political map of Iraq reveals
that Iraqis are increasingly united in their determination to end the occupation. Whether they participated
in or boycotted Sunday's exercise, this political bond will soon reassert itself - just as it did in Vietnam
- despite tactical differences, and despite the US-led occupation's attempts to dominate Iraqis by inflaming
sectarian and ethnic divisions.
· Sami Ramadani was a political refugee from Saddam Hussein's regime and is a senior lecturer at London Metropolitan University"
Admissions Tutor (Applied Sociology)
Department of Applied Social Sciences,
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London, E1 7NT
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merged on 1st August 2002 to form London Metropolitan University
by Peter Grose, Special to the New York Times (9/4/1967)
WASHINGTON, Sept. 3-- United States officials were surprised and heartened today at the size of turnout in South Vietnam's presidential election despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting.
According to reports from Saigon, 83 per cent of the 5.85 million registered voters cast their ballots yesterday. Many of them risked reprisals threatened by the Vietcong.
The size of the popular vote and the inability of the Vietcong to destroy the election machinery were the two salient facts in a preliminary assessment of the nation election based on the incomplete returns reaching here.
Pending more detailed reports, neither the State Department nor the White House would comment on the balloting or the victory of the military candidates, Lieut. Gen. Nguyen Van Thieu, who was running for president, and Premier Nguyen Cao Ky, the candidate for vice president.
A successful election has long been seen as the keystone in President Johnson's policy of encouraging the growth of constitutional processes in South Vietnam. The election was the culmination of a constitutional development that began in January, 1966, to which President Johnson gave his personal commitment when he met Premier Ky and General Thieu, the chief of state, in Honolulu in February.
The purpose of the voting was to give legitimacy to the Saigon Government, which has been founded only on coups and power plays since November, 1963, when President Ngo Dinh Deim was overthrown by a military junta.
Few members of that junta are still around, most having been ousted or exiled in subsequent shifts of power.
Significance Not Diminished
The fact that the backing of the electorate has gone to the generals who have been ruling South Vietnam for the last two years does not, in the Administration's view, diminish the significance of the constitutional step that has been taken.
The hope here is that the new government will be able to maneuver with a confidence and legitimacy long lacking in South Vietnamese politics. That hope could have been dashed either by a small turnout, indicating widespread scorn or a lack of interest in constitutional development, or by the Vietcong's disruption of the balloting.
American officials had hoped for an 80 per cent turnout. That was the figure in the election in September for the Constituent Assembly. Seventy-eight per cent of the registered voters went to the polls in elections for local officials last spring.
Before the results of the presidential election started to come in, the American officials warned that the turnout might be less than 80 per cent because the polling place would be open for two or three hours less than in the election a year ago. The turnout of 83 per cent was a welcome surprise. The turnout in the 1964 United States Presidential election was 62 per cent.
Captured documents and interrogations indicated in the last week a serious concern among Vietcong leaders that a major effort would be required to render the election meaningless. This effort has not succeeded, judging from the reports from Saigon.
This post can be found at http://www.tomdispatch.com/index.mhtml?pid=2166
There is something thoroughly inspiring when people, under the threat of death, turn out to vote in a country that has become an armed camp. The urge of a long oppressed people to take back their lives, to act, is always moving and powerful. Certainly, the Iraq vote, as presented in the media here in the U.S., has also provided a boost to the Bush administration at home at a useful moment. "It ought to give heart to the American people that the effort we've made to help the Iraqi people get to this day was well worth it -- that the Iraqi people have justified the faith we put in them," commented National Security Advisor Stephen J. Hadley. (As in Vietnam, though, such boosts in the midst of a disastrous war are unlikely to be long lasting.)
The meaning of the vote in Iraq is another question entirely. It's not just a matter of the actual turnout -- how high in Shiite and Kurdish Iraq, how low in Sunni areas of the country, or what the irregularities were -- but of what exactly Iraqis were turning out for. Were they, for instance, voting not for George Bush's version of freedom, but to end the American occupation itself, as unembedded reporter Dahr Jamail suggests at his blog? Was it to grasp that will o' the wisp, a land that will not be a "republic of fear" in a place where "the only institutions… with real power are the US and UK military," as BBC reporter Rageth Omaar recently suggested in the British Guardian? Was it to end centuries of Sunni dominance and establish Shiite dominance (and so possibly cause a civil war); or, in Kurdish areas of the north, to establish the basis for future independence (and a possible Turkish intervention)?
And then there's that other question: Whatever Iraqis thought they were voting for at polling places where, due to security concerns, most didn't even know the names of the candidates, what exactly are they going to get from this election? Was it even possible, as Brian Whitaker asked in the Guardian, to achieve anything like a genuine democracy when the Bush administration has paid so little "attention to the slow and laborious business of creating the civil institutions that make elections meaningful"? Or was it, as Pepe Escobar suggested in the Asia Times, a means of further embedding American power in the country? ("[O]nly the naïve may believe that an imperial power would voluntarily abandon the dream scenario of a cluster of military bases planted over virtually unlimited reserves of oil.") Or might the Bush administration not even mind a post-election descent into something approaching civil war, as James Carroll of the Boston Globe suggested in a devastating column on the election and George Bush?
And what will be possible for a future Iraqi government in a land still occupied by a foreign army and a foreign power whose "advisers" are now emplaced in every important ministry, whose bases or "enduring camps" are now gargantuan, permanent structures, whose officials control much of the money that will be available to any new administration which will also face a fierce home-grown insurgency not about to go away any time soon? Still, Iraqis at the polls represented at least one modestly hopeful face of Iraq. (Tomdispatch will carry more reports on the election in the near future.)
Over a week ago, President Bush offered an official American face to the world when, in his inaugural speech, he plunked for the messianic global spread of "freedom" (as defined by his administration), essentially by force of (or the threat of) arms. But how different the face of America we see and the faces we turn to the rest of the world.
Two Faces of America
Just the other day, on the front page of the New York Times, reporters David Johnston, Neil A. Lewis, and Douglas Jehl revealed that federal appeals court judge Michael Chertoff, the Bush administration's designee for head of the Homeland Security Department, spent parts of 2002-03 -- he was then the head of the Justice Department's criminal division -- advising the Central Intelligence Agency "on the legality of coercive interrogation methods on terror suspects under the federal anti-torture statute." More specifically, among the techniques he evidently green-lighted because they did not involve "the infliction of pain" (as narrowly defined in pretzled torture memos developed in the office of White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales), he indicated that one technique "C.I.A. officers could use under certain circumstances without fear of prosecution was strapping a subject down and making him experience a feeling of drowning." Water torture is, of course, an ancient interrogation technique and was used by numerous oppressive regimes in the last century. It now goes under the rubric of "waterboarding" (which sounds much like the harmless daredevil sport of surfboarding).
To "experience a feeling of drowning" -- no pain there, of course. If you want to check out what "waterboarding" looks like, rent Gillo Pontocorvo's old film The Battle of Algiers (screened, assumedly for tips, by the Pentagon's special operations chiefs in the fall of 2003). It vividly shows how the French military used torture to break tightly organized urban cells of the Algerian revolutionary movement (but still lost the struggle). Watch Pontocorvo's recreated scenes of an earlier version of "waterboarding" and see whether you think it involves the infliction of "pain," whether it qualifies as torture or not.
What's remarkable here is that so many officials in the Bush administration (including -- Seymour Hersh recently hinted -- the President himself) thought it was more than worth their while to spend significant amounts of time parsing the details of specific torture techniques and their possible uses by our interrogators in our offshore Bermuda Triangle of injustice. There, after all, was Alberto Gonzales, White House Legal Counsel and close buddy of the President, and his men (in conjunction with lawyers from the Justice Department) turning out endless definitional memos on ways in which obvious torture techniques could be reclassified as non-torture techniques, and various ways in which American torturers under orders from the "commander-in-chief" might escape any possible future prosecution for war crimes.
There, after all, was Donald Rumsfeld, approving a memo from William J. Haynes (then Pentagon Legal Counsel, now a Bush judge) on the use of various categories of "counter-resistance techniques to aid in the interrogation of detainees at Guantanamo Bay," but scribbling at the bottom of the page: "However, I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?" In other words, the Don was urging that interrogators use an even fiercer method of interrogation than was being suggested as part of an effort to break prisoners at Guantanamo.
Okay, it's true that off in the imperium, at small holding stations or in foreign jails, CIA interrogators were doing the actual waterboarding, while in Guantanamo, we now know, women interrogators were smearing fake menstrual blood on the faces of humiliated Muslim prisoners, and off in Iraq and Afghanistan prisoners were being shackled, hooded, locked in contorted positions, sleep-deprived, electro-shocked, sexually humiliated, or just plain beaten to death. But all of this began -- or rather was loosed -- by those men at the top so eagerly fiddling with definitions and considering just how extreme extreme acts of pain and humiliation could be.
And now, representing the security face of the second-term Bush administration (assuming Senate approval of two of them) will be Gonzales at Justice, Rumsfeld at Defense, and Chertoff at Homeland Security. In other words, the face with which we face the world will quite literally be the face of torture.
Our Secretary of Defense, for instance, evidently can't tell the difference between working at his "stand-up desk" in the Pentagon at the pinnacle of power, with endless aides at his beck and call, and a humiliated prisoner standing in an interrogation cell, helpless and without hope, sleepless, possibly naked, in an endless twilight of detention, with that board and that tub of water down the hall, with threatening dogs nearby, with the strobe lights going and the music blaring. This is moral obtuseness on a global scale worthy of an ancient Mongol khan.
In this week of election news, it's worth remembering that another American face than that of "freedom" has been on display in Iraq since our invasion of that country began -- just not to Americans. Dahr Jamail, a rare unembedded American reporter in Iraq, who is now a regular at Tomdispatch, writes below on what that "face" looks like from the perspective of Iraqis looking up. I'm talking here about the loosing of our Air Force on Iraq's densely populated cities -- a subject that, to this day, remains almost uncovered by American reporters in Iraq. Not surprisingly then, it has had almost no impact here.
Back in early December I wrote a piece, Icarus (Armed with Vipers) Over Iraq, on the subject. Since then, with the exception of a single, bland report by the Washington Post's Bradley Graham ("At any given time, the skies over Iraq contain, in the words of one senior officer here, ‘a cocktail of weapons' -- from 2,000-pound bombs to 100-pound Hellfire missiles -- waiting to be let loose should the need arise. But the biggest recent advance in the air arsenal came in September, officers said, with the debut of a satellite-guided, 500-pound bomb designated the GBU-38.") -- and despite the destruction of the city of Fallujah, in part from the air -- the subject remains almost untouched.
However, I was glad to see that, in a recent interview Amy Goodman conducted with Seymour Hersh on her Democracy Now! Radio show, Hersh acknowledged this shameful lack of coverage in the strongest way possible. Ranging over many subjects ("Another salvation [from Bush administration depredations] may be the economy. It's going to go very bad, folks. You know, if you have not sold your stocks and bought property in Italy, you better do it quick.") and startlingly blunt, Hersh is well worth reading beginning to end, but on the air war in Iraq he said in part:
"Here's the other horrifying, sort of spectacular fact that we don't really appreciate. Since we installed our puppet government, this man, Allawi, who was a member of the Mukabarat, the secret police of Saddam, long before he became a critic, and is basically Saddam-lite…since we have installed him on June 28, July, August, September, October, November, every month, one thing happened: the number of sorties, bombing raids by one plane, and the number of tonnage dropped has grown exponentially each month. We are systematically bombing that country. There are no embedded journalists at Doha, the Air Force base I think we're operating out of. No embedded journalists at the aircraft carrier, Harry Truman. That's the aircraft carrier that I think is doing many of the operational fights. There's no air defense. It's simply a turkey shoot. They come and hit what they want. We know nothing. We don't ask. We're not told… [E]ssentially Iraq -- some of you remember Vietnam -- Iraq is being turn into a "free-fire zone" right in front of us."
When you read Dahr Jamail's account below and meet the people under the bombs, imagine what sort of an Iraq they might actually be voting for. Tom
By Dahr Jamail
One of the least reported aspects of the U.S. occupation of Iraq is the oftentimes indiscriminate use of air power by the American military. The Western mainstream media has generally failed to attend to the F-16 warplanes dropping their payloads of 500, 1,000, and 2,000-pound bombs on Iraqi cities -– or to the results of these attacks. While some of the bombs and missiles fall on resistance fighters, the majority of the casualties are civilian –- mothers, children, the elderly, and other unarmed civilians.
"Coalition troops and Iraqi security forces may be responsible for up to 60% of conflict-related civilian deaths in Iraq -- far more than are killed by insurgents, confidential records obtained by the BBC's Panorama programme reveal." As the BBC reported recently, these numbers were compiled by Iraq's Ministry of Health, in part because of the refusal of the Bush and Blair administrations to do so. In the case of Fallujah, where the U.S. military estimated 2,000 people were killed during the recent assault on the city, at least 1,200 of the dead are believed to have been non-combatant civilians.
"Some of my friends in Fallujah, their homes were attacked by airplanes so they left, and nobody s found them since," said Mehdi Abdulla in a refugee camp in Baghdad. His own home was bombed to rubble by American warplanes during the assault on Fallujah in November -- and in Iraq today, his experience is far from unique.
All any reporter has to do is cock an ear or look up to catch the planes roaring over Baghdad en route to bombing missions over Mosul, Fallujah and other trouble spots on a weekly – sometimes even a daily basis. It is simply impossible to travel the streets of Baghdad without seeing several Apache or Blackhawk helicopters buzzing the rooftops. Their rumbling blades are so close to the ground and so powerful that they leave wailing car alarms in their wake as they pass over any neighborhood.
With its ground troops stretched thin and growing haggard -- 30% of them, after all, are already on their second tour of duty in the brutal occupation of Iraq – U.S. military commanders appear to be relying more than ever on airpower to give themselves an edge. The November assault on Fallujah did not even begin until warplanes had, on a near-daily basis, dropped 500-1000 pound bombs on suspected resistance targets in the besieged city. During that period, fighter jets ripped through the air over Baghdad for nights on end, heading out on mission after mission to drop their payloads on Fallujah.
"Airpower remains the single greatest asymmetrical advantage the United States has over its foes," writes Thomas Searle, a military defense analyst with the Airpower Research Institute at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. "To make airpower truly effective against guerrillas in that war, we cannot wait for the joint force commander or the ground component commander to tell us what to do. Rather, we must aggressively develop and employ airpower's counterguerrilla capabilities."
"Aggressively employ airpower's capabilities" -- indeed they have.
"Even the Chickens and Sheep Are Frightened"
"The first day of Ramadan we went to the prayers and, just as the Imam said Allahu Akbar ("God is great"), the jets began to arrive." Abu Hammad was remembering the early stages of the November Fallujah campaign. "They came continuously through the night and bombed everywhere in Fallujah. It did not stop even for a moment."
The 35 year-old merchant is now a refugee living in a tent on the campus of the University of Baghdad along with over 900 other homeless Fallujans. "If the American forces did not find a target to bomb," he said, "they used sound bombs just to terrorize the people and children. The city stayed in fear; I cannot give you a picture of how panicked everyone was." As he spoke in a strained voice, his body began to tremble with the memories, "In the morning, I found Fallujah empty, as if nobody lived in it. It felt as though Fallujah had already been bombed to the ground. As if nothing were left."
When Abu Hammad says "nothing," he means it. It is now estimated that 75% of the homes and buildings in the city were destroyed either by warplanes, helicopters, or artillery barrages; most of the remaining 25% sustained at least some damage as well.
"Even the telephone exchange in Fallujah has been flattened," he added between quickening breaths because, as he remembers, as he makes the effort to explain, his rage grows. "Nothing works in Fallujah now!"
Several men standing with us, all of whom are refugees like Hammad, nod in agreement while staring off toward the setting sun to the west, the direction where their city once stood.
Throughout much of urban Iraq, people tell stories of being terrorized by American airpower, often which is often loosed on heavily populated neighborhoods that have, in effect, been declared the bombing equivalents of free-fire zones.
"There is no limit to the American aggression," comments a sheikh from Baquba, a city 30 miles northeast of the capital. He agreed to discuss the subject of air power only on the condition of anonymity, fearing reprisals from the U.S. military.
"The fighter jets regularly fly so low over our city that you can see the pilots sitting in the cockpit," he tells me, using his hand to measure the skyline and indicate just how low he means. "The helicopters fly even lower, so low, and aim their guns at the people and this terrifies everyone. How can humans live like this? Even our animals, the chickens and sheep are frightened by this. We don't know why they do this to us."
"My Whole House Was Shaking"
The terror from the air began on the first day of the invasion in March, 2003.. "On March 19th at two AM, we were sleeping," Abdulla Mohammed, father of four children,, says softly as we sit in his modest home in Baghdad. "I woke up with a start to the enormous blasts of the bombs. All I could do was watch the television and see that everything was being bombed in Baghdad."
Near his home, a pile of concrete blocks and twisted support beams that once was a telephone exchange remains as an ugly reminder of how the war started for Baghdadis. "I was so terrified. My whole house was shaking," he continues, "and the windows were breaking. I was frightened that the ceiling would fall on us because of the bombs."
Nearly two years later, he still becomes visibly upset while describing what it felt like to live through that first horrific "shock and awe" onslaught from the air. "It was unbelievable to see things in my house jump into the air when the bombs landed. They were just so powerful." He pauses and holds his hands up in a gesture of helplessness before he says, "Nowhere felt safe and there was nothing we could do. People were looking for bread and vegetables so they could survive in their homes, but they didn't know where to go because nowhere was safe."
He lives with his wife and sons in central Baghdad, but at a location several miles from where the heaviest bombings in the Bush administration's shock-and-awe campaign hit. Nevertheless, even at that distance in the heavily populated capital, it was a nightmare. "Everyone was so terrified. Even the guards who were on the streets left for their homes because everything was being destroyed," he says. "The roads were closed because there were so many explosions."
"My family was shivering with fear," he adds, staring at the floor. "Everyone was praying for God to keep the Americans from bombing them. There was no water, no electricity, and all we had were the extra supplies that we had bought before."
Like the sheikh from Baquba, he and his family continue to live in fear of what American warplanes and helicopters might at any moment unleash. "Now, there are always helicopters hovering over my neighborhood. They are so loud and fly so close. My sons are afraid of them. I hear the fighter jets so often."
He suddenly raises his hushed voice and you can hear the note of panic deep within it. "Even last night the fighter jets were so low over my home. We never know if they will bomb." After pausing, he concludes modestly, "We can only hope that they won't."
"Even the Mosques Quit Announcing Evening Prayers…"
There is no way to discuss American reliance on air power in a war now largely being fought inside heavily populated cities without coming back to Fallujah. While an estimated 200,000 refugees from that city continue to live in refugee tent camps or crowded into houses (with up to 25 families crammed under a single roof), horrendous tales of what it was like to live under the bombs in the besieged city are only now beginning to emerge.
Ahmed Abdulla, a gaunt 21 year-old Fallujan, accompanied most of his family on their flight from the city, navigating the perilous neighborhoods nearest the cordon the American military had thrown around their besieged city. On November 8, he made it to Baghdad with his mother, his three sisters (aged 26, 20, and 18), and two younger brothers (10 and 12). His father, however, was not permitted to leave Fallujah by the U.S. military because he was of "fighting age." Ahmed was only allowed to exit the besieged city because his mother managed to convince an American soldier that, without him, his sisters and younger brothers would be at great risk traveling alone. Fortunately, the soldier understood her plea and let him through.
Ahmed's father told the family that he would instead stay to watch over their house. "The house is all we have, nothing else," commented Ahmed despondently. "We have no land, no livestock, nothing."
Recounting an odyssey of flight typical of those of many Fallujans, Ahmed told me his father had driven them in the family car across winding, desert roads out the eastern side of the city, considered the quietest area when it came to the fighting. They stopped the car a kilometer before the American checkpoints and walked the rest of the way, holding up white "flags" so the soldiers wouldn't mistake them for insurgents. "We walked with our hands up, expecting them to shoot at us anytime," said Ahmed softly, "It was so bad for us at that time and there were so many families trying to get out."
Those inhabitants still trapped in the city had only two hours each day to emerge and try to find food. Most of the time their electricity was cut and water ran in the faucets only intermittently. "Every night we told each other goodbye because we expected to die," he said. "Every night there was extremely heavy bombing from the jets. My house shook when bombs hit the city, and the women were crying all of the time." In his mind he still couldn't shake the buzzing sound of unmanned surveillance drone aircraft passing overhead, and the constant explosions of the "concussion bombs" (or so he called them) that he claimed the Americans fired just to keep people awake.
"I saw a dead man near our home," he explained, "But I could barely see his face because there were so many flies on him. The flies were so thick and I couldn't bear the smell. All around his body, his blood had turned the ground black. I don't know how he died."
The sighting of such bodies, often shot by American snipers, was a commonplace around the city. They lay unburied in part because many families dared not venture out to one of the two football stadiums that had been converted into "Martyr Cemeteries." Instead, they buried their own dead in their gardens and left the other bodies where they lay.
"So we stayed inside most of the time and prayed. The more the bombs exploded the more we prayed and cried." So Ahmed described life inside Fallujah as it was being destroyed. Each night in the besieged city seemed, as he put it, to oscillate between an eerie quiet and sudden bursts of heavy fighting. "Even the mosques quit announcing evening prayers at times," he said. "And then it would be so quiet -- except for the military drones buzzing overhead and the planes of the Americans which dropped flares."
It was impossible, he claimed, to sleep at night because any sound -- an approaching fighter jet or helicopter -- and immediately everyone would be awake. "We would begin praying together loudly and strongly. For God to protect us and to take the fighting away from our city and our home."
Any semblance of normalcy had, of course, long since left the environs of Fallujah; schools had been closed for weeks; there were dire shortages of medicine and medical equipment; and civilians still trapped in the city had a single job -– somehow to stay alive. When you emerged, however briefly, nothing was recognizable. "You could see areas where all the houses were flattened. There was just nothing left," he explained. "We could get water at times, but there was no electricity, ever."
His family used a small generator that they ran sparingly because they could not get more fuel. "We ran out of food after they Americans started to invade the city, so we ate flour, and then all we had was dirty water…so eventually what choice did we have but to try to get out?"
"Why do the Americans bomb all of us in our homes," asked Ahmed as our interview was ending. And you could feel his puzzlement. "Even those of us who do not fight, we are suffering so much because of the U.S. bombs and tanks. Can't they see this is turning so many people against them?"
"I Saw Cluster Bombs Everywhere"
Fifty-three year-old Mohammad Ali, who is living in a tent city in Baghdad, was one of those willing to address the suffering he experienced as a result of the November bombings. Mohammad is a bear of a man, his kind face belying his deep despair as he leans on a worn, wooden cane. He summed up his experience this way: "We did not feel that there was an Eid [the traditional feasting time which follows Ramadan] after Ramadan this year because our situation was so bad. All we had was more fasting. I asked God to save us but our house was bombed and I lost everything."
Refugees aren't the only people ready to describe what occurred in Fallujah as a result of the loosing of jets, bombers, and helicopters on the city. Burhan Fasa'a, a gaunt 33 year-old journalist is a cameraman for the Lebanese Broadcasting Company. He was inside the city during the first eight days of the November assault. "I saw at least 200 families whose homes had collapsed on them, thanks to American bombs," he said. "I saw a huge number of people killed in the northern part of the city and most of them were civilians."
Like so many others I've talked with who made it out of Fallujah, he described scenes of widespread death and desolation in what had not so long before been a modest-sized city. Most of these resulted from bombings that – despite official announcements emphasizing how "targeted" and "precise" they were – seemed to those on the receiving end unbearably indiscriminate.
"There were so many people wounded, and with no medical supplies, people died from their wounds," he said. He also spoke of cluster bombs, which, he -- and many other Fallujan witnesses -- claim, were used by the military in November as well as during the earlier failed Marine siege of the city in April. The dropping of cluster bombs in areas where civilians live is a direct contravention of the Geneva Conventions.
"I saw cluster bombs everywhere," he said calmly, "and so many bodies that were burned -- dead with no bullets in them."
A doctor, who fled Fallujah after the attacks began and is now working in a hospital in a small village outside the city, spoke in a similar vein (though she requested that her name not be used): "They shot all the sheep. Any animals people owned were shot," she said. "Helicopters shot all the animals and anything that moved in the villages surrounding Fallujah."
"I saw one dead body I remember all too well. My first where there were bubbles on the skin, and abnormal coloring, and burn holes in his clothing." She also described treating patients who, she felt certain, had been struck by chemical and white-phosphorous-type weapons. "And I saw so many bodies with these strange signs, and none of them with bullet holes or obvious injuries, just dead with discoloring and that bubbled skin, dark blue skin with bubbles on it, and burned clothing. I saw this with my own eyes. These bodies were in the center of Fallujah, in old Fallujah."
Like Burhan, while in the city she too witnessed many civilian buildings bombed to the ground. "I saw two schools bombed, and all the houses around them too."
"Why Was Our Family Bombed?"
I was offered another glimpse of what it's like to live in a city under attack from the air by two sisters, Muna and Selma Salim, also refugees from Fallujah and the only survivors of a family of ten, the rest of whom were killed when two rockets fired from a U.S. fighter jet hit their home. Their mother, Hadima, 65 years old, died in the attack along with her son Khalid, an Iraqi police captain, his sister Ka'ahla and her 22 year-old son, their pregnant 45 year-old sister Adhra'a, her husband Samr, who had a doctorate in religious studies, and their four year-old son Amorad.
Muna, still exhausted from her ordeal, wept almost constantly while telling her story. Even her abaya, which fully covers her, could not hide her shaking body as waves of grief rolled through her tiredness. She was speaking of her dead sister Artica. "I can't get the image out of my mind of her fetus being blown out of her body," said Muna. Artica was seven months pregnant when, on November 10, the rockets struck. "My sister Selma and I survived only because we were staying at our neighbor's house that night," she said, sobbing, still unable to reconcile her survival with the death of most of the rest of her family in the fierce pre-assault bombing of the city.
"There were no fighters in our area, so I don't know why they bombed our home," cried Muna. "When this happened there were ongoing full-scale assaults from the air and tanks were attacking our city, so we slipped out of the eastern side of Fallujah and came to Baghdad."
Selma, Muna's 41 year-old sister, recounted scenes of destruction in the city -- houses that had been razed by countless air strikes and the stench of decaying bodies that swirled through the air borne on the area's dry, dusty winds.
"The rubble from the bombed houses covered up the bodies, and nobody could get to them because people were too afraid even to drive a bulldozer!" She held out her hands as she spoke, as if to ask her God how such things could happen. "Even walking out of your house was just about impossible because of the snipers."
Both sisters described their last months in Fallujah as a nightmarish existence. It was a city where fighters controlled the area, medicine and food were often in short supply, and the thumping concussions of U.S. bombs had become a daily reality. Rocket-armed attack helicopters rattled low over the desert as they approached the city only adding to the nightmarish landscape.
"Even when the bombs were far away, glasses would fall off our shelves and break," exclaimed Muna. Going to market, as they had to, in the middle of the day to buy food for their family, both sisters felt constant fear of warplanes roaring over the sprawling city. "The jets flew over so often," said Selma, "but we never knew when they would drop their bombs."
They described a desolate city of closed shops and mostly empty streets on which infrequent terrorized residents could be spotted simply wandering around not knowing what to do. "Fallujah was like a ghost town most of the time," was the way Muna put it. "Most families stayed inside their houses all the time, only going out for food when they had to." Like many others, their family soon found that it needed to ration increasingly scarce food and water, "Usually we were very hungry because we didn't want to eat our food, or drink all of the water." She paused, took a deep breath undoubtedly thinking of her dead parents and siblings, and added, "We never knew if we would be able to get more, so we tried to be careful."
I met the two sisters in the Baghdad home of their uncle. During the interview, both of them often stared at the ground silently until another detail would come to mind to be added to their story. Unlike Muna who was visibly emotional, Selma generally spoke in a flat voice without affect that might indeed have emerged from some dead zone. "Our situation then was like that of so many from Fallujah," she told me. "None of us could leave because we had nowhere to go and no money."
"Why was our family bombed?" pleaded Muna, tears streaming down her cheeks, "There were never any fighters in our area!"
Today fighting continues on nearly a daily basis around Fallujah, as well as in many other cities throughout Iraq; and for reporters as well as residents of Baghdad, the air war is an omnipresent reality. Helicopters buzz the tops of buildings and hover over neighborhoods in the capital all the time, while fighter jets often scorch the skies.
Below them, traumatized civilians await the next onslaught, never knowing when it may occur.
Dahr Jamail is an independent journalist who has been reporting from Iraq since November, 2003. He writes for the Sunday Herald in Scotland, Inter Press Service, The NewStandard internet news site and the Ester Republic among other publications. He is the special correspondent in Iraq for Flashpoints Radio, as well as reporting for Democracy Now!, the BBC, Irish Public Radio, Radio South Africa, Radio Hong Kong, and many other stations throughout the world.
Copyright C2005 Dahr Jamail
IN THINKING about the election in Iraq, my mind keeps jumping back to last week's train wreck in California. A deranged man, intending suicide, drove his Jeep Cherokee onto the railroad tracks, where it got stuck. The onrushing train drew near. The man suddenly left his vehicle and leapt out of the way. He watched as the train crashed into his SUV, derailed, jackknifed, and hit another train. Railroad cars crumbled. Eleven people were killed and nearly 200 were injured, some gravely. The deranged man was arrested. Whatever troubles had made him suicidal in the first place paled in comparison to the trouble he had now.
Iraq is a train wreck. The man who caused it is not in trouble. Tomorrow night he will give his State of the Union speech, and the Washington establishment will applaud him. Tens of thousands of Iraqis are dead. More than 1,400 Americans are dead. An Arab nation is humiliated. Islamic hatred of the West is ignited. The American military is emasculated. Lies define the foreign policy of the United States. On all sides of Operation Iraqi Freedom, there is wreckage. In the center, there are the dead, the maimed, the displaced -- those who will be the ghosts of this war for the rest of their days. All for what?
Tomorrow night, like a boy in a bubble, George W. Bush will tell the world it was for "freedom." He will claim the Iraqi election as a stamp of legitimacy for his policy, and many people will affirm it as such. Even critics of the war will mute their objections in response to the image of millions of Iraqis going to polling places, as if that act undoes the Bush catastrophe.
There is only one way in which the grand claims made by Washington for the weekend voting will be true -- and that is if the elections empower an Iraqi government that moves quickly to repudiate Washington. The only meaning "freedom" can have in Iraq right now is freedom from the US occupation, which is the ground of disorder. But such an outcome of the elections is not likely. The chaos of a destroyed society leaves every new instrument of governance dependent on the American force, even as the American force shows itself incapable of defending against, much less defeating, the suicide legions. The irony is exquisite. The worse the violence gets, the longer the Americans will claim the right to stay. In that way, the ever more emboldened -- and brutal -- "insurgents" do Bush's work for him by making it extremely difficult for an authentic Iraqi source of order to emerge. Likewise the elections, which, as universally predicted, have now ratified the country's deadly factionalism.
Full blown civil war, if it comes to that, will serve Bush's purpose, too. All the better if Syria and Iran leap into the fray. In such extremity, America's occupation of Iraq will be declared legitimate. America's city-smashing tactics, already displayed in Fallujah, will seem necessary. Further "regime change" will follow. America's ad hoc Middle East bases, meanwhile, will have become permanent. Iraq will have become America's client state in the world's great oil preserve. Bush's disastrous and immoral war policy will have "succeeded," even though no war will have been won. The region's war will be eternal, forever justifying America's presence. Bush's callow hubris will be celebrated as genius. Congress will give the military machine everything it needs to roll on to more "elections." These outcomes, of course, presume the ongoing deaths of tens of thousands more men, women, and children. And American soldiers.
Something else about that California train wreck strikes me. As news reports suggested, so many passengers were killed and injured because the locomotive was pushing the train from behind, which put the lightweight passenger coaches vulnerably in front. If, instead, the heavy, track-clearing locomotive had been leading and had hit the Jeep, it could have pushed the vehicle aside. The jack-knifing and derailment would not have occurred. The American war machine is like a train running in "push-mode," with the engineer safely back away from danger. In the train wreck of Iraq, it is passengers who have borne the brunt. The man with his hand on the throttle couldn't be more securely removed from the terrible consequences of his locomotion. Thus, Bush is like the man who caused the wreck, and like the man who was protected from it. Deranged. Detached. Alive and well in the bubble he calls "freedom," receiving applause.
James Carroll's column appears regularly in the Globe.
By Eric Fleischauer
DAILY Staff Writer
email@example.com · 340-2435
Even as Iraqi Muslims proclaimed Sunday's elections a success, the Christians of that country complained that they were prevented from voting both in Iraq and in the United States.
Christian Assyrians, 1 million of whom reside in Iraq, claim that Kurdish officials in North Iraq blocked the delivery of ballot boxes from Assyrian-dominated villages, leaving many Assyrians disenfranchised. They also claim that election officials placed U.S. voting locations in areas that maximized the distance expatriate Assyrians had to travel.
Susan Patto, chief of staff to the secretary general of the Assyrian Democratic Movement in Iraq, said officials failed to deliver ballot boxes to five towns in the Ninevah Plain of Northern Iraq. All are predominantly populated by Christian Assyrians.
"The people of those areas went to vote. When they found there were no boxes, they headed to our centers," Patto said.
Patto said she and others in her organization contacted officials in Mosul, but they said the security situation prevented delivery of the vote boxes. Baghdad officials then instructed election personnel in Arbil to deliver the boxes, but they failed to do so.
After the election hours ended Sunday, Patto said, a U.S. helicopter delivered four boxes, two designated for Bartella and two for Baashiqa. Election officials instructed local officials to permit three hours of voting Monday morning to make up for Sunday's missing ballot boxes.
"The next morning people headed again for the centers, but there were no staff, no ballots and no ink - just the boxes," Patto said.
Give up, demonstrate
The Assyrians who had gathered to vote waited until noon before giving up, Patto said, at which time they began a demonstration.
The demonstration was squelched, Patto said, by the Kurdish militia. She said the Kurds beat an Assyrian city council member from Baghdida during the demonstration by breaking all his teeth.
Other Assyrian-populated towns had ballot boxes, but an inadequate supply of ballots, she said.
All told, Patto estimated voting irregularities prevented 50,000 Assyrians from voting.
Frederick Aprim, who lives in an Assyrian community in California, said the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq chose the five U.S. polling locations with deference to expatriate Kurdish populations, but failed to locate polls close to larger Assyrian communities.
Officials located one poll in Nashville, which has a Kurdish population of about 4,000. About 38,000 Assyrians live in the northern half of California, but the closest polling place was in Southern California.
IECI did not immediately return telephone calls or e-mails Tuesday.
In literature distributed to Iraqi expatriates, the IECI said, "Given that the decision to offer out-of-country voting was taken only a short time before the election it was a choice between an imperfect system, which still allows a great number of Iraqis outside the country to vote, or no voting outside Iraq at all. The IECI made the choice that it was better to offer the opportunity to vote to some rather than none."
Aprim said he had to travel 800 miles, round trip, to the Los Angeles polling site, to register for the election. He had to repeat the trip a few days later to vote.
"Many Assyrians got discouraged from making the long trip," Aprim said. "Many elderly could not make the trip. Many (poor Assyrians) could not make the trip. Assyrians lost so many votes because of this unfair distribution of voting centers."
Aprim said Iraq's interim government includes Assyrians, but because the interim constitution declares Islam to be the official religion, Assyrians fear continued discrimination and oppression.
Aprim said the blocked votes would prevent Assyrian representation from Ninevah Plain in the Iraqi Transitional National Assembly, the political body that will determine if the Iraq constitution adopts Islam as the new Iraq's official religion.
Patto said the blocked votes hurt not just Iraqi Christians, but Iraq as a whole.
"It is not just the number of seats (on the National Assembly). We want to establish a new country that believes in human rights and democracy, and (in which) people are equal and have the same rights," Patto said.
"We want to build it together with all Iraqis."
American journalism sank to a new low in its coverage of the
"demonstration elections" in Iraq,
measured by the number of American journalists who challenged Washington's micro-managing of election
coverage while on air: zero.
Just watching broadcast and cable television in the United States, you had no way of knowing that journalists were "limited to filming at only five polling stations," unless you happened to catch ITN's Julian Manyon on CNN International's program International Correspondents:
MANYON: . . . You know, I have been out in the last couple of days a
couple of times, but one goes out fearfully in the knowledge that one might either be shot at or in the
extreme worst case -- one prays it will never happen -- actually kidnapped.
Beyond that, it must be said, there is also another wide range of factors which are actually preventing journalists from covering this election properly, and one of those factors, for example, is the way in which the American handlers who are actually running the Ministry of Information's affairs here in real terms, have designed the whole thing. I would say that along with the violence, it is just as serious an impediment for journalists.
Why, for example, we've been limited to filming at only five polling stations, and we discovered when the list of the five polling stations was published that four of those five polling stations are actually in Shia areas, and therefore by definition will shed very little light on whether Sunnis vote or not. (emphasis added, "Media Coverage of Iraq," Interantional Correspondents, CNN International, January 29, 2005, 21:00:00 ET)
Few Americans would have heard Manyon's sharp criticism of US
censorship because CNN International (CNNI) is "the branch of CNN the rest of the world sees but which
Americans normally don't" (Brendan Bernhard, "Box Populi: How AMERICAN Is It? Fox News vs. CNN
International," LA Weekly,
May 2 - 8, 2003).
What's the difference between CNN and CNNI? "On CNNI, which reaches 170 million households in over 200 countries, there is no Aaron Brown or Judy Woodruff, and retired generals are as scarce as bleeding hearts on Fox. Instead there are anchors with names like Zain Verjee (a woman, in case you're wondering), Daljit Dhaliwal (ditto), Anand Naidoo (male) and Michael Holmes (Aussie, mate)" (Bernhard, May 2 - 8, 2003). More importantly, CNNI "dwelled at length on civilian casualties" in the Iraq War, from which CNN, as well as other networks, apparently must protect Americans (Bernhard, May 2 - 8, 2003).
The biggest difference, however, is CNNI's freedom of criticism. CNNI, for instance, allowed journalists to discuss the "demonstration elections" staged by Washington in light of "international standards." Manyon's candid assessment of the Iraqi elections is that "it's disturbing quite frankly because it's very difficult to see how these elections can live up to international standards in terms of dispassionate supervision and policing of the polls" (emphasis added, "Media Coverage of Iraq," January 29, 2005, 21:00:00 ET). What makes him say that?
MANYON: . . . I mean, we've got a situation in Mosul, for example, where American troops, we now discover because the Iraqi employees of the election organization have deserted en masse, it's American soldiers who will be transporting the ballot boxes around when they are full of votes. This is really very far from ideal, and if it were happening in any other country -- I mean, one could mention Ukraine, for example -- there would be a wild chorus of international protest (emphasis added, "Media Coverage of Iraq," January 29, 2005, 21:00:00 ET)
The difference between CNN and CNNI is an example that illuminates the US power elite's contempt for, as well as fear of, Americans. On one hand, the power elite, of whom the media elite are part, hold the intelligence of Americans in lower regard than they do that of the rest of the world, as they evidently believe that Americans, unlike all others, are content with the narrowest range of information and political opinion available on the corporate media in the world. On the other hand, the power elite fear how Americans would react were they to see the naked reality of the American empire. As Daniel Ellsberg says in Hearts and Minds, a 1974 documentary film about the Vietnam War directed by Peter Davis, "It is a tribute to the American people that our leaders perceived that they had to lie to us, it is not a tribute to us that we were so easily misled."
Phyllis Bennis, Institute for Policy Studies
2 February 2005
The individual Iraqis who came out to vote clearly were very brave and eager to reclaim control of their country. They were voting for their hopes, for secure streets so children can go to school, for electricity and clean water, for jobs, and mostly for an end to the U.S. occupation. The elections, however, are unlikely to achieve any of those goals; the violence is likely to continue, perhaps even increase. The U.S. occupation is STILL the problem, not the solution, in Iraq, and only bringing the U.S. troops home, not imposing elections under continuing occupation, will lead to an end of violence.
Millions of Iraqis participated in the election, but it is still unclear how many. International journalists were limited to five polling stations in Baghdad , four of which were in Shi'a districts with expected high turnout. The U.S.-backed election commission in Iraq originally announced a 72% participation immediately after the polls closed, then downscaled that to "near 60%" - actually claiming about 57% turn-out. But those figures are all still misleading. The Washington Post reported (two days after the vote, on page 7 of the Style section) that the 60% figure is based on the claim that 8 million out of 14 million eligible Iraqis turned out. But the 14 million figure itself is misleading, because it only includes those registered Iraqis, not the 18 million actually eligible voters. Similarly, the claim of very high voter participation among Iraqi exiles is misleading, since only 280,000 or so Iraqis abroad even registered, out of about 1.2 million qualified to register and vote. The participation of women, both as candidates (imposed by the U.S.-backed electoral law) and as voters, was significant, but key demands of Iraqi women, particularly involving economic and social rights disproportionately denied to women, are unlikely to be met through this electoral process.
At least in the short term, George Bush will emerge as the major winner in this election, through the false propaganda claim that Iraqi participation and enthusiasm for the elections somehow equals legitimacy for his continued occupation and the preventive war that put it in place. This is the latest effort to identify mileposts "on the road to freedom" in Iraq - earlier ones included the " Mission accomplished" claim, the capture of Saddam Hussein, the "transfer of sovereignty," and none of them led to freedom, independence and security for Iraqis. In fact, Bush's false claim of legitimacy continues to hold the Iraqi population and the 150,000 U.S. soldiers hostage to his agenda and occupation.
The Bush administration's goal is to increase the legitimacy of the occupation and the broader Iraq project, including a more vigorous counter-insurgency war, in the eyes of Americans and international public and governmental opinion. This may lead to some European leaders, in particular, eager to rejoin the Bush bandwagon, to use the election's "success" as the basis for challenging their own population's continuing opposition to the U.S. occupation. The president of the European Commission, José Manual Baroso, congratulated the Iraqi people for their courage, and said that the election represented "European values."
It is a huge insult to the people of Iraq to claim that enthusiasm for democracy only emerged when it was "offered" to Iraq in the form of elections imposed under the conditions of military occupation.
The Iraqi election was not legitimate. It was held under conditions of a hostile military foreign occupation. The Hague Convention of 1907, to which the U.S. is a signatory, prohibits the occupying power from creating any permanent changes in the government of the occupied territory. These elections were arranged under an electoral law and by an electoral commission installed and backed by the occupying power. They took place in an environment so violent that voters could not even learn the names of candidates, and the three days surrounding the vote included a complete lock-down of the country, including shoot-to-kill curfews in many areas, closure of the airport and borders, and closure of roads. There were no international monitors in the country - unlike Afghanistan (with 122 monitors) and Palestine (with 800) during difficult elections held under occupation, Iraq was deemed too dangerous for international election monitors. The Canadian-led team of international election "assessors," who made an early claim that the elections met international standards, were in fact based outside the country, in Jordan .
The U.S.-based Carter Center , which has monitored elections around the world for more than a decade, declined to participate in Iraq . But they did identify key criteria for determining the legitimacy of elections, and their spokesman noted the day before the elections that none had been met. Those criteria included the ability of voters to vote in a free and secure environment, the ability of candidates to have access to voters for campaigning, a freely chosen and independent election commission, and voters able to vote without fear or intimidation.
The new Iraqi transitional Assembly, despite a certain majority of Shi'a-dominated parties, will be unlikely to call for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops. Despite claims by many Shi'a leaders that they want an end to the occupation, this "government," whose legitimacy will remain tainted by its ties to the occupying forces, will remain in power only with the backing of the U.S. troops. The Sunni current interim president, Ghazi al-Yawer, one of the most critical voices of the U.S. occupation, announced after the vote that it would be "complete nonsense" to call for an end to the occupation.
Despite the effort to maintain an "Iraqi face" on the troops guarding the voting process, it was clear that, according to Newsweek magazine, "the U.S. army role was pivotal in the election." U.S. embassy officials also told the San Francisco Chronicle that it was important "not to read too much" into the level of security that made the elections possible - guarding polling places is easier than fighting a counter-insurgency, they said. Bush announced after the elections that "as democracy takes hold in Iraq , America 's mission there will continue." Newly installed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice affirmed that, " U.S. troops will stay till Iraqis can do the job."
U.S. domination of Iraq remains unchanged with this election. The U.S.-imposed Transitional Administrative Law, imposed by the U.S. occupation, remains the law of the land even with the new election. Amending that law requires super-majorities of the assembly as well as a unanimous agreement by the presidency council, almost impossible given the range of constituencies that must be satisfied. Chiefs of key control commissions, including Iraq's Inspector General, the Commission on Public Integrity, the Communication and Media Commission and others, were appointed by Bremer with five-year terms, can only be dismissed "for cause." The Council of Judges, as well as individual judges and prosecutors, were selected, vetted and trained by the U.S. occupation, and are dominated by long-time U.S.-backed exiles.
The 40,000+ civilian and military "advisers," including private contractors and U.S. government officials, seconded to Iraq 's ministries and all public institutions will remain powerful; with the new assembly sending new staff to these ministries, the U.S. "advisers" may hold the institutional memory.
The $16 billion of U.S. taxpayer money not spent in the reconstruction effort (the billions paid to Halliburton, Bechtel, and others has come almost entirely out of U.S.-appropriated Iraqi funds) as well as the $50 billion/year military costs will become a potential slush fund for the new assembly's favored projects. The U.S.-backed privatization schemes imposed by former U.S. pro-consul Paul Bremer remain in place. The current interim finance minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, touted by the Los Angeles Times as a potential candidate for deputy president or prime minister, recently announced his support for the complete privatization of Iraq 's oil industry.
A New York Times article of September 4, 1967, is entitled "U.S. Encouraged by Vietnam Vote: Officials Cite 83% Turnout Despite Vietcong Terror." It reads, "United States officials were surprised and heartened today at the size of turnout in South Vietnam's presidential election despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting. According to reports from Saigon, 83 per cent of the 5.85 million registered voters cast their ballots yesterday. Many of them risked reprisals threatened by the Vietcong. A successful election has long been seen as the keystone in President Johnson's policy of encouraging the growth of constitutional processes in South Vietnam... The purpose of the voting was to give legitimacy to the Saigon Government..."
Phyllis Bennis a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington DC, specializing in Middle East and United Nations issues. Formely based at the United Nations, she began working on Palestine, US domination of the UN leading up to the Gulf War, economic sanctions on Iraq, international interventions and US foreign policy in the Middle East. In 1999 she hit international headlines by leading the first US congressional staff delegation to Iraq to investigate the impact of US-led sanctions on the civilian population.
by Michael Gaddy
Although official sources are claiming voter turnout in the Iraqi elections to be in the 60–70 percent range, my sources in parts of Iraq have painted a distinctly different picture. Perhaps when all the votes are counted the high turnout figures may be correct, but the way some votes were obtained may prove to be highly irregular.
With the closing of the polls in Iraq, a source in northern Iraqi indicated the turnout in the town in which he is situated to be less than 10%. Another military source told me he saw only one Iraqi vote at one of the polling places in Fallujah the entire day and that he had heard similar stories from friends in Samarra.
My source in a northern Iraqi town, population 250,000, said he believed there to be 13,000 to 14,000 votes cast there. He did, however, relate that U. S. military authorities in the area had provided a Sheikh who has been totally supportive of the U.S. occupation, 70,000 blank ballots, supposedly to take to those who were too terrified to come to the polls themselves. Although I have only been told of this practice in one area, one wonders if that activity has been an accepted practice all over Iraq. If this practice is widespread, and blank ballots are only given to those who support the U.S., one could only wonder how many of those ballots will be returned that do not support candidates backed by the Bush administration.
The BBC is reporting large voter turnout in other sections of Iraq, especially in the Shiite and Kurdish areas, while the Sunni areas revealed a much lower participation.
President George W. Bush has declared the election a success. In an open election, the outcome is in doubt until all the votes are counted. Would Bush declare this election a success if the outcome favored those who would order us out immediately or those who support the insurgents? Perhaps having foreknowledge of the outcome helps in making such an assessment. Giving out tens of thousands of blank votes to supporters would certainly help with such a prognostication.
February 1, 2005
Michael Gaddy [send him mail], an Army veteran of Vietnam, Grenada, and Beirut, lives in the Four Corners area of the American Southwest.
Copyright 2005 LewRockwell.com
Indymedia - DEBKAfile
Breakdown of Iraq’s First Exercise in Democracy
The day of blood and elections has passed, and the blaring trumpets of corporate media hailing it as a successful show of “democracy” have subsided to a dull roar.
After a day which left 50 people dead in Iraq, both civilians and soldiers, the death toll was hailed as a figure that was “lower than expected.” Thus…acceptable, by Bush Administration/corporate media standards. After all, only of them was an American, the rest were Iraqis civilians and British soldiers.
The gamble of using the polling day in Iraq to justify the ongoing failed occupation of Iraq has apparently paid off, if you watch only mainstream media.
“Higher than expected turnout,” US mainstream television media blared, some citing a figure of 72%, others 60%.
What they didn’t tell you was that this figure was provided by Farid Ayar, the spokesman for the Independent Electoral Commission for Iraq (IECI) before the polls had even closed.
When asked about the accuracy of the estimate of voter turnout during a press conference, Ayar backtracked on his earlier figure, saying that a closer estimate was lower than his initial estimate and would be more like 60% of registered voters.
The IECI spokesman said his previous figure of 72% was “only guessing” and “was just an estimate,” which was based on “very rough, word-of mouth estimates gathered informally from the field. It will take some time for the IECI to issue accurate figures on turnout.”
Referencing both figures, Ayar then added, “Percentages and numbers come only after counting and will be announced when it's over ... It's too soon to say that those were the official numbers.”
But this isn’t the most important misrepresentation the mainstream media committed.
What they also didn’t tell you was that of those who voted, whether they be 35% or even 60% of registered voters, were not voting in support of an ongoing US occupation of their country.
In fact, they were voting for precisely the opposite reason. Every Iraqi I have spoken with who voted explained that they believe the National Assembly which will be formed soon will signal an end to the occupation.
And they expect the call for a withdrawing of foreign forces in their country to come sooner rather than later.
This causes one to view the footage of cheering, jubilant Iraqis in a different light now, doesn’t it?
But then, most folks in the US watching CNN, FOX, or any of the major networks won’t see it that way. Instead, they will hear what Mr. Bush said, “The world is hearing the voice of freedom from the center of the Middle East,” and take it as fact because most of the major media outlets aren’t scratching beneath film clips of joyous Iraqi voters over here in the land of daily chaos and violence, no jobs, no electricity, little running water and no gasoline (for the Iraqis anyhow).
And Bush is portrayed by the media as the bringer of democracy to Iraq by the simple fact that this so-called election took place, botched as it may have been. Appearances suggest that the majority Shia in Iraq now finally get their proportional representation in a “government.” Looks good on paper.
But as you continue reading, the seemingly altruistic reasons for this election as portrayed by the Bush Administration and trumpeted by most mainstream media are anything but.
And Iraqis who voted are hearing other trumpets that are blaring an end to the occupation.
Now the question remains, what happens when the National Assembly is formed and over 100,000 US soldiers remain on the ground in Iraq with the Bush Administration continuing in its refusal to provide a timetable for their removal?
What happens when Iraqis see that while there are already four permanent US military bases in their country, rather than beginning to disassemble them, more bases are being constructed, as they are, by Cheney’s old company Halliburton, right now?
Antonia Juhasz, a Foreign Policy in Focus scholar, authored a piece just before the “election” that sheds light on a topic that has lost attention amidst the recent fanfare concerning the polls in Iraq.
I think it’s worth including much of her story here, as it fits well with today’s topic of things most folks aren’t being told by the bringers of democracy to the heart of the Middle East.
On Dec. 22, 2004, Iraqi Finance Minister Abdel Mahdi told a handful of reporters
and industry insiders at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. that Iraq wants to issue a new oil law
that would open Iraq's national oil company to private foreign investment. As Mahdi explained: "So I think
this is very promising to the American investors and to American enterprise, certainly to oil companies."
In other words, Mahdi is proposing to privatize Iraq's oil and put it into American corporate hands.
According to the finance minister, foreigners would gain access both to "downstream" and "maybe even upstream" oil investment. This means foreigners can sell Iraqi oil and own it under the ground — the very thing for which many argue the U.S. went to war in the first place.
As Vice President Dick Cheney's Defense Policy Guidance report explained back in 1992, "Our overall objective is to remain the predominant outside power in the [Middle East] region and preserve U.S. and Western access to the region's oil."
While few in the American media other than Emad Mckay of Inter Press Service reported on — or even attended — Mahdi’s press conference, the announcement was made with U.S. Undersecretary of State Alan Larson at Mahdi's side. It was intended to send a message — but to whom?
It turns out that Abdel Mahdi is running in the Jan. 30 elections on the ticket of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution (SCIR), the leading Shiite political party. While announcing the selling-off of the resource which provides 95 percent of all Iraqi revenue may not garner Mahdi many Iraqi votes, but it will unquestionably win him tremendous support from the U.S. government and U.S. corporations.
Mahdi's SCIR is far and away the front-runner in the upcoming elections, particularly as it becomes increasingly less possible for Sunnis to vote because the regions where they live are spiraling into deadly chaos. If Bush were to suggest to Iraq’s Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi that elections should be called off, Mahdi and the SCIR's ultimate chances of victory will likely decline.
I’ll add that the list of political parties Mahdi’s SCIR belongs to, The United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), includes the Iraqi National Council, which is led by an old friend of the Bush Administration who provided the faulty information they needed to justify the illegal invasion of Iraq, none other than Ahmed Chalabi.
It should also be noted that interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi also fed the Bush Administration cooked information used to justify the invasion, but he heads a different Shia list which will most likely be getting nearly as many votes as the UIA list.
And The UIA has the blessing of Iranian born revered Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Sistani issued a fatwa which instructed his huge number of followers to vote in the election, or they would risk going to hell.
Thus, one might argue that the Bush administration has made a deal with the SCIR:
Iraq's oil for guaranteed political power. The Americans are able to put forward such a bargain because Bush
still holds the strings in Iraq.
Regardless of what happens in the elections, for at least the next year during which the newly elected National Assembly writes a constitution and Iraqis vote for a new government, the Bush administration is going to control the largest pot of money available in Iraq (the $24 billion in U.S. taxpayer money allocated for the reconstruction), the largest military and the rules governing Iraq's economy. Both the money and the rules will, in turn, be overseen by U.S.-appointed auditors and inspector generals who sit in every Iraqi ministry with five-year terms and sweeping authority over contracts and regulations. However, the one thing which the administration has not been unable to confer upon itself is guaranteed access to Iraqi oil — that is, until now.
And there is so much more they are not telling you. Just like the Iraqis who voted, believing they did so to bring an end to the occupation of their country.
elections, democratic practice but ...
by Ahmed Janabi
Wednesday 02 February 2005 8:38 AM GMT
When Baghdad was occupied on 9 April 2003, the last Iraqi ambassador of Saddam Hussein's government to the UN, Muhammad al-Duri, declared that the game was over.
A journalist, university professor and statesman who served as an Iraqi delegate to the UN from 1999 to 2003, he left Iraq in 1999 to act as Iraq's ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Switzerland before he was moved to New York where he remained until he resigned after the occupation of Iraq.
Aljazeera.net: How do you feel about the elections?
Despite everything that has been said about its incompetence, it is still a democratic practice. It is part
of a well-thought out US plan to implement its strategy in Iraq.
But one must be aware that last Sunday's elections establish sectarianism in Iraq. So many Iraqis entered the electoral process whether as candidates or voters on a sectarian and/or ethnic basis and motives. It is very dangerous and Iraqis should reject sectarianism.
A: But according to many Iraqi voters who talked to reporters on election day, they did so because they wanted to end the state of chaos in their country and restore security and stability. Isn't that the case?
MD: I do not agree with that concept, these elections are not designed to restore security and stability. The US administration has been desperate to legalise its occupation of Iraq, but it has failed so far. This mission has become an obsession for it; especially that the war on Iraq is still protested against by EU and Arab countries.
Therefore the US is
trying to legitimise its existence in Iraq by bringing in an elected parliament and a government which are
fully loyal to it [US], and as such it will be able to conclude long term agreements that secure its
interests and influence in Iraq.
A: As a politician and a professor of politics, do you think that the Iraqi Sunni Arabs boycotting of the elections could put the legitimacy of the process at risk?
MD: It is wrong to say that Sunni Arabs boycotted the elections. It is an attempt to ridicule a national Iraqi position that opposes the division of the country, by labelling it as a sectarian position.
The US occupation has encouraged the virtual division of Iraq into three entities. The first one is in the north, it is ethnically motivated and works to separate itself and establish an independent state (Kurdistan).
The second in the south plans to split and establish a sectarian entity backed by Iran. The third is central Iraq which for some reason carries a national vision for the future of Iraq.
Obviously the US works hard to destroy this entity, which happens to be Sunni and exists in central Iraq. But as a matter of fact, the people of central Iraq are Arab Iraqi Muslims in addition to being Sunnis. This part of the country holds a sense of national identity that rejects the foreign occupation and separation bids.
But boycotting elections would have delayed the formation of a national Iraqi government, parliament and
constitution, don't you agree?
MD: All that you are talking about was approved by the former US administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer.
A: And what is wrong with that if it would benefit the country?
MD: A country's constitution must be national, while Iraq's interim constitution which laid the foundation for Iraq's future constitution was put forward by Noah Feldman, a Jewish American university professor.
All the documents that rule Iraq today
were made in the US, translated to Arabic and forwarded to Iraqis who could not even discuss them properly.
How can a country adopt a constitution imposed by a foreign power?
Even the elections were set by Feldman's document, and thus the elections have no legitimacy because it is based on illegal documents written by an occupying force.
A: The interim Iraqi interior minister has said the US could pull out of Iraq in 18 months. What do you think of this statement?
Initially, I would like to ask why this statement came on the eve of the elections? It was obviously part of
the election campaign.
However, this is part of the US' exit strategy. This notion is being widely discussed in the US, not because the US genuinely wants to pull out from Iraq, but because of unexpected urban fighting.
They are spending hundreds millions of dollars on Iraqi security forces in order to put them face to face with the resistance. Actually, this money is supposed to be for the reconstruction of Iraq, but I can assure you that nothing has been reconstructed, absolutely nothing, not even in the oil sector.
At the end of the day, Iraqi officials do not speak for themselves, they just echo the US' desires and instructions. The real ruler of today's Iraq is not the president of Iraq, nor the interim prime minister; actually it is the US embassy in Baghdad.
It is unlikely that the US would voluntarily withdraw from Iraq; it has spent nearly $300 billion up to now, how is it going to get this money back if it withdraws? The US has captured a goose with golden eggs (Iraq), why would it let it go? That cannot be.
The US did not go to war with Iraq because of WMD, or links with al-Qaida. I am fully convinced that it has an agenda in my country. It also did not come to establish democracy in the country. On the contrary, if we look at what is in today's Iraq we will find nothing but division, hatred, and sectarianism.
If the US were to pull out, it will not do so unless it secures powerful bases in Iraq.
A: US bases exist in Japan and Germany; I think no one can argue that US bases hindered the development of those two countries in the post-second world war era?
MD: It is very strange that some Iraqis accept this idea. US bases in Germany and Japan were set up in different international conditions! It came after a world war involving Germany and Japan who waged an aggressive war and occupied foreign countries, and the US and its allies fought to drive out German forces from occupied Europe.
That was not the case with Iraq. There were no Iraqi forces out of Iraqi soil, and the war took place on its soil with forces which came from overseas to occupy it. How can we compare what has happened in Iraq with Nazi Germany?!
A: Regardless, why don't anti-US Iraqis wait and see?
MD: You have to choose either bread with dignity or bread without dignity. Why should we wait? What does Iraq need from the US?
It is a country rich in resources,
located in a strategic position, and with a highly educated people. If the US really wants to help, there are
dozens of poor and undeveloped countries out there, let it help them instead of helping a country which
possesses the world's second largest oil reserve and which has achieved high rates of development before it
A: When Baghdad fell to US forces on 9 April 2003, you said the "game is over". What did you mean by that?
MD: Many people interpreted my words that what happened was a game between Saddam Hussein and the US; actually I meant that during the 13 years of UN sanctions on Iraq, the UN was acting like a theatre.
All players were not sincere in finding a way to end the sanctions that killed millions of Iraqis. The proof for that is when the US decided to attack Iraq, everyone backed off and the US did what it wanted.
A: But there were protests around the world, and many countries did oppose the war.
MD: That was not enough.
By Ahmed Janabi
February 02, 2005
Casualties of Polling
He writhes in pain, moaning with every other breath. The Iraqi police colonel’s chest is covered in bandages, his legs from the knees down
nearly completely hidden from view due to thick bandageshttp://dahrjamailiraq.com/gallery/view_photo.php?set_albumName=album33&id=legs holding what is left of his shins together.
“We gave him first aid and requested a transfer because we don’t have any specialists left,” Dr. Aisha tells me, her name changed as requested since doctors are now technically forbidden to talk to the media or allow them to take photos in Iraqi hospitals unless granted permission from the Ministry of Health and its US-advisor.
And even then we are only allowed to talk with “spokespeople” at select hospitals.
Yarmouk would certainly not be on the top of their list of hospitals for the press to visit, as being one of Baghdad’s larger and busiest
hospitals and located in the middle of the capital city the majority of casualties are brought here.
The colonel’s face is scrunched up http://dahrjamailiraq.com/gallery/view_photo.php?set_albumName=album33&id=IP_colonel
as his pain is constant. Involuntary whimpers are audible as he squeezes his eyes closed from time to time, dreaming of relief.
“We sent him to a neurological hospital which couldn’t treat him because all of their specialists have left the country,” Dr. Aisha continues.
Her frustration is expressed in her precisely spoken words, hammering out the details like a veteran on the front lines.
So the colonel was returned to Yarmouk untreated. He’d been guarding a polling station when a suicide bomber detonated nearby. The shrapnel turned his legs into hamburger and left his chest split open.
“I asked him not to leave the house, not to obey the Americans,” his wife who is standing nearby with their little boy and girl tells me,
“But he said that he had to go or the Americans would cut his salary. And also because he said it was his duty.”
She looks over to him as another whimper emits from his contorted face, then looks back at me with anger flashing in her weary eyes.
“The Americans told him he should die with his countrymen! God damn them for what they have done to my husband! God damn them for what they have done to Iraq!”
We promptly thank her and hastily leave the room, not wanting to draw more attention to ourselves.
While walking towards the next room down the grimy hallway and broken windows Dr. Aisha waves a fly away from her face, as they constantly buzz around inside the hospital.
“He will probably lose his legs. All we have is rotator doctors and residents since all of our specialists left the country so they wouldn’t
be kidnapped. I’ve been here two days straight without sleep,” she says as a group of nurses approach her to sign several files.
In the next room there is another policeman. His abdomen was blown open by a mortar blast at a polling station…he is holding a blue bandage to his face which caught some shrapnel http://dahrjamailiraq.com/gallery/view_photo.php?set_albumName=album33&id=jahlil_hassan_ip. Tubes run from his stomach off one side of the bed.
His father sees Dr. Aisha as we approach and begins talking to her, “This hospital is so dirty! I want to transfer my son! The care is
She calmly explains to him that they are doing their best; without enough doctors, without enough cleaners, without enough nurses, without enough supplies, without enough medicine.
The angry father’s son is a 28 year-old policeman named Jalil Hassan who shifts uncomfortably in his bed. The room smells of rotten bananas and flies are everywhere. Anytime a nurse walks into the room of eight beds she/he is inundated with angry and stressed family members.
Nearby is a voter, 27 year-old Amir Hassan http://dahrjamailiraq.com/gallery/view_photo.php?set_albumName=album33&id=voter.
His polling station was mortared as well. He caught shrapnel near his waist and is waiting for some pain medication that does not exist.
“We asked the Americans for supplies,” Dr. Aisha tells me later when we exit the room, “But they didn’t help us any. How can we continue like this? When an American private is badly wounded they fly him to Germany or America. Here we have high ranking police officers and Iraqi soldiers who are brought to this dirty hospital with no specialists!”
Abu Talat and I thank her for her time and for taking the risk necessary to bring us inside her hospital.
I notice new windows in her office-last time I was here they had been blown out by a nearby car bomb. This place turns into a field hospital
every time a car bomb generates massive casualties, which is just about every day. I wonder how long her new glass will last.
I also notice the new white paint on a couple of the buildings. Abu Talat notices me looking at it in disbelief and begins laughing and
holding his hands up.
Back out on the streets we head out to find some lunch. We have our usual ritual of his driving and fixing interviews simultaneously. As he
holds the phone as far from his face as possible to find a number, I grab it from him to dial and he steers us back away from the side of the
“Name,” I ask. “Dr. Hamad,” he replies. I find it, dial, hand the phone to him and say, “Calling.”
“Thank you,” he says while we weave down the road a little further. He’s searching his pockets for his lighter as he holds the phone to his ear,
so I light his cigarette and we straighten out again. We have this down to a science.
There are always a pair of his glasses on the dash-sometimes his reading glasses, sometimes his bi-focal specs which he never uses despite my
badgering. I bothered him for a year to get new glasses and applauded him when he proudly showed them to me recently.
Of course now he never wears them.
The streets are filled with traffic once again after the election lockdown, trucks full of Iraqi Police wearing black facemasks battle
their way through throngs of cars, aiming their Kalashnikovs at everyone in futile attempts to make their way forward.
“I feel very much threatened when I see those police or American soldiers aiming their guns at us,” states Abu Talat when a truckload of
Iraqi soldiers rolls past, of course aiming their guns at us as they make their way through an intersection, “I don’t accept this.”
We stop to get some shawarma across the street from the Australian military outpost which was recently car bombed. I scan the building,
chunks of it three floors up blasted off from the explosion.
A few days after the attack the nearby Australian embassy decided to relocate to “Camp Victory,” a large US military base.
Back in my room we watch the news while eating lunch and drinking tea. Storm clouds are billowing around the recent polling, as Mishaan Jiburi, one of the candidates, accused the electoral commission of deliberately failing to supply materials in Sunni areas.
Arab voters in the north who had planned to boycott the elections in Kirkuk decided at the last minute to vote so as not to lose the oil-rich
city to the Kurds. Thus, not enough ballots were supplied, and now the plot thickens.
“I think the decision came from Baghdad,” Jiburi told reporters, “They were concerned with keeping the Sunnis out of the game.”
Just yesterday interim Vice-President Ibrahim al-Jaafari warned of the possibility of civil war if the US military withdrew from Iraq prematurely.
Keep in mind the “elections” were just three days ago.
PRESS RELEASE ON THE IRAQI NATIONAL ELECTIONS
Turkmen Front ( ITF )
Iraqi Turkmen Front ( ITF ) issued an official protest to the High Commission for the Elections in Iraq on 31st January 2005
complaining about widespread irregularities committed by the Kurds in the Turkmen region.
The following is the English translation of ITF's letter of protest.
to the High Commission for the Elections in Iraq.
To the High Commission for the Elections in Iraq C/O The Kerkuk Bureau of the High Commission for the Elections in Iraq.
Ref : Contestation of irregularities during the voting process.
According to the legal rights that were granted to the political parties and organizations in order to contest any irregularity during the election process of 30th January 2005 which began in the morning and ended by closing the voting centers at 5 p.m, and in accordance with our conviction and belief that these elections must be clean and fair in order to establish a true democracy in Iraq, we are sorry and deeply concerned to inform you that too many irregularities have been committed during these elections which no doubt will affect its results.
Despite your declarations to the the press and to the television news networks that the elections have been `almost' clean and fair, we have encountered numerous problems to vote, have observed multiple irregularities in voting centers and have been subjected to illegal behaviour and unfair treatments in polling centers in our region, in the provinces of Kerkuk, Mosul, Salahaddin and Erbil. These voting problems, voting irregularities, illegal behaviour from election officials, and unfair treatment of Turkmen voters in voting centers are intolerable and are contrary to the rules and regulations issued by your Commission, they are also against the basic laws of the country and must be denounced and the perpetrators must be condemned.
We present to you hereunder, a series of irregularities and illegal acts which we have observed and witnessed. They are clearly contrary to the election laws that you have issued and based on them. We contest the results of these elections and convinced that they have been hugely flawded.
Legal reasons for contesting the results of these elections:-
A - Irregularities concerning the eligible electors for voting and frauds of votes
1 - Illegal electorate registration and voting.
A huge number of Kurds from the provinces of Erbil and Sulaymaniyah have been brought to Kerkuk, at the initiative and under the supervision of the local branch of the "PUK" the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party, where they have been given accommodation in the
schools of Rahim Awa district and in numerous private Kurdish family homes in this district. All these people have been allowed to register and vote in Kerkuk where they are irregulars and have no right to vote.
2 - Multiple vote casting by numerous voters.
A great number of voters in Rahim Awa district have voted more than once, some have voted at least five times without inking their
fingers at all. These irregularities have been committed in the open and under the eyes of election supervisors and assessors of the district.
3 - Allowing youths under 18 years of age to vote.
A considerable number of youths under 18 years of age have been accepted to register in electors' lists and admitted to vote in Rahim Awa district at the initiative of the district's Kurdish political leaders with the complicity of election supervisors and assessors in contradiction with the election rules and laws. This kind of illegal and irregular voting took place in the election center at Majouli school situated behind the old Al Karama security building and at the Arafa election center.
4 - Allowing votes of dead people !!!
A number of relatives of deceased people have been allowed to cast votes in the name of their relatives who died more than one year ago.
This kind of illegal and irregular voting took place in the election center at Assiri school situated behind the Andalus police station of Rahim Awa district where a voter called Mr. Hussain Saber voted on behalf of his father called Saber Abu Al Dajaj who passed away a long time ago!
5 - Allowing voting of some people in two different election centers.
About 2000 members of the National Guard of Kurdish origin have been allowed to vote twice, the first time at the election center close to their place of duty and the second time at the election center of their residency.
6 - Unequal and unfair treatment for Turkmen voters in Erbil.
Tens of thousands of Turkmen voters in Erbil province have been forbidden from using marker pens or ballpoint pens to cast their votes they were obliged to use lead pencils only. It is easy to guess the reason behind such unacceptable restrictions! which were imposed to the Turkmen voters of this province in the absence of any international election observers or any other independant observers.
7 - Characterised frauds.
In two villages namely Maftul Al Saghir and Maftul Al Kabir of Tuz Khurmatu region the inhabitants of which are all Arabs, none of them took part in these elections but it has been announced that the inhabitants of these two villages have voted 100% for list (130) which is the list of the Kurdish coalition! It is hard not to believe in miracles after such unbelievable performance!
8 - National Guards of Kurdish origin take control of election centers of Sulayman Bek town.
Sulayman Bek, a town in the Tuz Khurmatu region, where the inhabitants are Turkmen and Arabs. The voting centers of this town have been infested by some Kurdish members of the National Guards, consequently it was found that the inhabitants of this town have voted for the Kurdish coalition list! This is another proof of manipulation of election results.
B - Election centers:-
1 - Eight new and improvised voting centres have been opened in Kerkuk on the day of the elections, 30th of January 2005. National Guard members from Sulaymaniya province were brought to Kerkuk in order to guard these new and improvised voting centers. They have used their power and weapons to prevent Kerkuk police forces from approaching these improvised voting centers which were of course not listed in the official list of voting centers issued by the Election Commission in Kerkuk.
These new voting centres have been installed in the following schools:-
a- Goran School
b- Alaa School
c- Imam Qasim Industrial School
d- Mamusta Rashad martyr School
e- Mahabad school
f- Imam Qasim school
g- Iskan school
h- 11th of April school
2 - Numerous election centers in the Turkmen region have been opened but there were no ballot papers, this has prevented a great number of Turkmen electors from voting, other voting centers have closed earlier, before 5 p.m the normal closing time, because of lack of ballot papers. The only explanation given for the lack of ballot papers was that they had been stolen from these centers by some political group's activists in order to prevent Turkmen voters from voting. This effectively has occurred in the election center installed in `The 1st March' school in Atabagler district of Kerkuk.
3 - Modification of the location of some election centers in Turkmen districts in Kerkuk and their relocation to predominantly Kurdish districts one day only before the elections day! As an example we mention the relocation of election center of the district of Al Wakeel Muhammed Ali Sadiq that was supposed to be installed in Marrakesh school in this district which has been moved to Assiri school located in a predominantly Kurdish area pretexting the over crowding in the original location.
4 - At Rahim Awa district which is a district with majority of Kurdish inhabitants, the election centers have opened at 6 am (one hour earlier than the official opening time) in order to allow voting in quiet for "The Irregular Inhabitants of Kerkuk", for those Kurds who have lately been brought to Kerkuk as `supposedly original inhabitans' while they have never lived in this city.
5 - Two ballot boxes belonging to the election center located at Abi Tammam school have been stolen, most probably by members of the
6 - Intrusion of groups of people affiliated with some Kurdish associations and organizations to several election centers in order to disturb voting process and intimidate Turkmen voters. We can mention as an example the name of one of these Kurdish associations known as "Koma Lei 63 Kerkuk" who's members have participated in the intrusions and acted in the manner mentioned above.
7 - Manipulations of votes counting in the election center of Arafa by some groups as mentionned in detail in the attached report.
8 - In Telafar city with a population of 400.000 inhabitants predominantly Turkmen, only two election centers have been opened! The insufficent and inadequate number of election centers opened in this city has prevented a great number of Turkmen electors from voting because of the long distance to walk between the election centers and their homes and because of the military operations and the bombing of the city that particular day which discouraged and prevented many of its inhabitants from going out for voting.
9 - In the towns of Iyadhiya and Muhallabiyya and the villages surrounding them which are situated in the Telafer region, at least 20.000 Turkmen inhabitants of these towns and villages could not vote because of the absence of ballot boxes in these towns and villages.
It is very strange that not a single ballot box has been allocated or provided to these towns and villages.
10 - More than 3000 Turkmen electors in the town of Mansuriya have been prevented from voting because of theft of the balloting box of
its election center by unknown thiefs.
11 - In the Turkmen village of Bir Ahmed, the polling center has opened at 10 am( two hours later than the official opening time) and was closed earlier at 3.30 pm by the Kurdish Militia who took the balloting boxes with them to a secret location pretending that American forces wanted the boxes. These balloting boxes were only returned to the Election Commission the next day!
12 - Voting in Kurdish regions in Kerkuk province and in Tuz Khurmatu continued for hours after 5 pm the official closing time. Observers from non Kurdish parties who objected to these irregularities have been badly treated and insulted by the members of the National Guards, and have been kicked out of the election centers under machine gun threats.
C - Elections employees and observers
1 - The unfair selection and hiring of the employees and observers for these elections was very clear and very noticable, few Turkmens were selected or were hired for this election of utmost importance and those who were selected as election employees and observers were forced out of the election centers before the official closing time and before the closing and sealing of the ballot boxes.
2 - Collusion of the election employees and observers in most election centers located in the Kurdish region with some political parties which resulted in frauds and irregularities that could be resumed as follows:-
a - In the Rahim Awa election centers, the election employees have opposed voters and
prevented them from voting for other than Kurdish lists, pretending that the law forbids Kurds from voting
for a non Kurdish list!
b - Election employees in several election centers in the Kurdish region have given more than one ballot paper for each Kurdish voter as this was witnessed and noted by some election observers in these centers.
c - Election employees in several election centers in Kurdish region have accepted ballot papers that were not the official ones which were distributed to all voters listed in the food rationing lists which were established by the former regime during UN economic sanctions. In fact, they accepted the use of any piece of paper as ballot paper which they validated by simply putting an stamp on them. As an example for this particular type of election irregularity, we mention the Wasiti election center where such irregular ballot papers have been used extensively.
d - Irregularites of un-observance of rules and regulations issued specifically for these elections.
Despite the total ban which had been declared and imposed by the security authorities to all private cars and other vehicles circulation in Iraq the day of the elections, we have witnessed a great number of private cars and other vehicles forming long columns, exhibiting Kurdish flags, and people using them shouting provocative propaganda slogans circulating in Rahim Awa district, without any objection or intervention from the police forces or from the National Guards!
e - Irregularities concerning the ban to circulate between towns and localities the
day of the elections.
Despite the ban declared by the Iraqi authorities on circulation between towns and localities in Iraq on the election day and the day before it, we have witnessed and seen that this ban was not in application in Kerkuk province where the road between Kerkuk and Erbil as well as the road between Kerkuk and Sulaymaniya have been kept open, which allowed tens of thousands of Kurds to circulate freely and come to Kerkuk without any restrictions or problems, which facilitated their participation to voting in Kerkuk then their returning to their own provinces to vote there one more time!
All these irregularities and law infringements have been organized at the initiative and under the supervision of General Sherko Shakir, the police chief in Kerkuk, and of General Anwar, the Commander of National Guards in this province who are both Kurds.
f - Irregularities in the distribution of badges to election officials and their
It has been decided to distribute 150 badges as well as circulation permits for the vehicles of officials from Election Commission and to elections observers exclusively; unfortunately, most of these badges and permits have been distributed to the wrong individuals who had no official role to play during these elections. These individuals have abusively used these badges to interfere and to intervene in several election centers that they invested irregularily.
We can report from Mr Ibrahim the director of the Election Commission in Kerkuk, who declared that only 50 badges have been handed over to him by Mr Ismail Al Hadidi the Deputy Governor of Kerkuk, and most of the badges and circulation permits have been given to individuals circulating in vehicles belonging to the security department of Sulaymaniya province (known as ASAYISH).
g - Irregularities committed by some members from the police and the National Guards in Kerkuk.
Members from the National Guards of Kurdish origin have intervened in the election process by preventing the Turkmen electors of Laylan town to reach their election centers and vote, contributing to election process failure instead of contributing to its success by accomplishing their duty with professionalism and fairness.
We are terribly disappointed with the behaviour of the National Guards and with that of some members of the police force in Kerkuk who acted in an irresponsible manner during the elections in our region. They have created problems for Turkmen electors instead of solving them during the day of the elections.
h - Irregularities committed by the Kurdish militias "Peshmerga" disguised as National Guards, acting in their name and using their authority.
In the mainly Turkmen towns of Yengija and Bastamli, Kurdish militia members wearing National Guards uniforms arrived at the election centers of these two towns after the end of the voting period and pretended that they were send by the American occupation forces to
collect the ballot boxes which were wanted by the Americans.
They have confiscated all ballot boxes in a hurry and took them to an unknown location following the instructions supposedly given to them by the Americans. There were 18 ballot boxes in Yengija town alone and while they were in a hurry and rush to take them away, they dropped one of these boxes in the street where it broke open and all its ballot papers were dispersed in the street. They abandoned it without any remorse or regret!
These boxes finally were brought back to the Election Commission after many hours during which it is legitimate to think that they manipulated the ballot papers for their own advantage, frauding elections ballots and affecting its results in these two mainly Turkmen towns.
i - Irregularities and last minute nomination of some individuals as officials for the elections
An officer of the security department of Sulaymaniya known as " Kak TARIQ" has been appointed as deputy director of the Election Commission at Tuz Khurmatu the day of the election.
j - Irregularities, physical assault and aggression against election officials, illegal segregation, manipulation of ballot papers, confiscation of ballot boxes etc....!
Mr. Mumtaz AHMAD the director of the election center of Ibn Khaldoon has been attacked by members from the so-called "Asayish", the security department forces of the Iraqi Kurdistan. He has also been arrested and sequestrated in a room in his election center. His attackers have stolen the ballot boxes of his election center, taking them to an unknown location, keeping them all the night that followed the election day and bringing them back the next morning, with one ballot box missing and the ballot papers of others surely manipulated and modified without the shadow of a doubt!
Iraqi Turkmen Front.
I mentioned the fact that there were very strong rumors in Iraq that
were putting people under pressure to go and vote. Khalid, my brother living in Baghdad, told me about this a
week ago, and I found an article on the Washington Post mentioning it too.
The Washington Post published another piece containing a confession from an Iraqi official saying: "Even though we spread a rumor in the city saying anyone who doesn't vote will be deprived of their food ration, only 10 people voted . . . mostly old men." said Khalaf Muhammed, 43, the electoral commission official in charge of a polling station in the city's center -- who acknowledged spreading the false rumor to try to lure voters.
I found the rumor itself mentioned in many news sites and blogs, The Christian Science Monitor mentioned this in a pro-election story, The family has heard a rumor that those who do not vote will not receive a new food ration card, the document held by every Iraqi family that is being used to form the voter lists.
In The Sunday Times, Unlike Suhar, Suheila now lives in penury on a pension equal to about £12 a month. Like many impoverished Iraqis, she says she has been threatened that unless she votes she will not receive her monthly food ration. She said: "We are all due to die [someday]. I am not afraid of being killed by a bomb or a shell, but I would hate to die of hunger. But if I do not go out and vote they will take my ration [book] away.
My friend, Dahr Jamail, said the same too. But some Iraqis still say they will vote. "I'll vote because I can't afford to have my food ration cut," said Amin Hajar, 52, who owns a small auto garage in Baghdad. "There is a rumour that if we don't vote our ration will be stopped. And if that happened, I and my family would starve to death". He said that when he picked up his monthly food ration recently, he was forced to sign a form saying he had picked up his voter registration. He believes that the government may use this to track whether he votes or not. This rumor has circulated broadly around Baghdad even though there appears to be no truth in it.
Riverbend mentioned this a couple of weeks ago too, People in many areas are being told that if they don't vote- Sunnis and Shia alike- the food and supply rations we are supposed to get monthly will be cut off. We've been getting these rations since the beginning of the nineties and for many families, it's their main source of sustenance. What sort of democracy is it when you FORCE people to go vote for someone or another they don't want?
Khalid mentioned this on his blog too, it seems he actually believes the rumor himself.
Here is one new information for you!
Did you know that the "ration" card of year 2005, that allows you to take sugar, flower and few other things too, which have been the main resource for Iraqi families' food since early nineties, will not be given except for those who will vote?
When you go to the voting center they give you a paper that allows you to take the card from the ratio shop in your neighbor!
Freedom… democracy…yahhhhoooooo! cheer up Iraqis and live happy!
many other sources can be found easily on line.
By Ghali Hassan
02/04/05-- It is true that millions of Iraqis have participated in the “elections”, but by international standard, the turnout was very low. On the day of the elections Iraq was in a state of siege, cut off from all directions. Journalists were also limited to areas of higher turnout, and the international monitors stayed in Jordan, 1200 km from Iraq. The elections were designed to provide legitimacy to US Occupation.
Despite the illegitimacy of the elections, which are held under foreign military
occupation, Iraqis who came out for the elections voted to end the occupation, not to endorse its continuity.
About 7 million of the 18 million eligible Iraqi voters in Iraq and about 280,000 of the 4 million Iraqi
voters outside Iraq voted in the elections. They were hoping that their participation would lead to an end of
occupation and violence in their homeland.
Mainstream media and western pundits sold the elections as the ‘road toward democracy’. The opposite is true. The purpose of the elections was to persuade the outside world, particularly the US citizens, to support the occupation and US foreign policy. US interests have very little to do with fair elections and democracy.
According to the US-based Carter Centre, which monitored elections around the world, the US have endorsed illegitimate and fraud elections in Azerbaijan but rejected or disendorsed legitimate and democratic elections in Venezuela. Further, the Centre did not participate in the Iraq’s elections because Iraq’s elections do not met the elections’ criteria, such as free and safe environment, and the ability of candidates to move freely. The candidates, with their identities remain secret, are those who entered Iraq on the back of US tanks, collaborated with the Occupation, and depend on it for survival. All independent voices in Iraq, regardless of ethnicity, have boycotted the elections.
The Bush administration claims that the elections are somehow an endorsement for the war and the Occupation are misleading and untrue. The war is an illegal act of aggression in violations of international law. The occupation is against the wishes of the majority of the Iraqi people. All Iraqis are in favour of free and fair elections as long as the occupation forces withdraw from Iraq. The US brought nothing good to Iraq. It brought destruction and has encouraged the eventual division of Iraq on sectarian lines. Military occupation by force is not freedom or liberty.
Future Iraq submissive to US imperialism put flagrantly by two mainstream media outlets in the US. The Washington Post argued that the elections in Iraq constituted “an answer to the question of whether the mission in Iraq remains a just cause.” The Los Angeles Times ranted, “the world could honestly see American troops making it possible for a long-oppressed people to choose their destiny.” The Iraqi people have voted to end US domination even if they voted in illegitimate elections.
Juan Cole, the American Blogger and textbooks “experts” on Iraq told C-Span Washington Journal on 27 January 2005, that, “Iraq is like South Africa during the Apartheid regime [a major US ally], the US had to invade and change the regime of Saddam and give power to the Shiites majority”. The comment is not only ill informed and misleading; it is foolish. Also, Shiites as a majority is very disputed figure in Iraq itself. Mr Cole also said that he studied Iraq in the US from textbooks because he “couldn’t get visa to do fieldwork in Iraq during Saddam regime”. This is utterly untrue. Iraq has been very frequent destination by Westerners, such as workers, scientists and archaeologists. My 85 years-old father once said: “Our family have lived on this River [the Tigris] for generations, and we have not experienced the kind of division and racism Western, and particularly American pundits and academics are promoting in order to sell themselves and their books”. Only in the West people are ranting about Iraq’s division and Iraq’s ethnicity. The elections were designed to establish sectarianism in Iraq, not democracy.
Iraqis Sunnis, Shiites and Christians have lived together since the rise of Islam. There has never been a civil war, or talk about civil war in Iraq. Suddenly everyone is talking about civil war in Iraq. Civil wars are imperialism useful tools to rule the native peoples and provide fodder for domestic consumption. The more the natives are divided, the easier to rule them and exploit them. Iraq’s problem is not an internal problem; it is a Western-created problem. The US and Britain fabricated lies in order to invade Iraq, remove a nationalist government, and seize control of Iraq’s oil reserves. Saddam was a pretext for an illegal war of aggression in violations of international law.
Saddam and his regime is now the West “moral compass”. The more he is demonised, the brutal the US treatment of the Iraqi people becomes. This is very evident in the passive stand Western and American citizens took in response to the torture, abuse and murder of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib and other prisons throughout Iraq. An experiment in human torture has been validated and accepted in the West, but only if the victims are the “others”.
The recent scientific study in the prestigious British journal The Lancet showing that there were more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians killed as a result of US invasion and occupation, was immediately ignored in the Anglo-Saxon countries, particularly the US. By contrast, the death of 3000 citizens as a result of the 9/11 attacks is repeated daily in order to justify war and occupation of other countries.
According to recent polls reported in the September 26, 2004 of The Seattle Times, 98 per cent of Iraqis want the Americans to leave their country. The majority of the Iraqi people have also boycotted the elections. The elections are a farce. They are rigged and forced on the Iraqi people at gunpoint in order to elect candidates who support the continuing of the US Occupation. For Iraqis, the elections did not change anything on the ground, the deliberate destruction of their country and society will continue.
The Bush administration is increasing its hold on the country, using the pretexts of democracy and fraudulent elections to legitimise the Occupation. Who ever win in these elections will remain in power only with the support of US occupation forces. The elections form part of the foundation for a corrupt colonial dictatorship in Iraq. This is evident in the US refusal to agree to a timetable for troops withdrawal and prevents further escalation in violence, and continues to build military bases there against the wishes of the Iraqi people.
If the US wants to end the violence, an exit strategy to end the US Occupation of Iraq is now available. The elections should provide a first step to free Iraq from US occupation, and allow the Iraqi people to build their society and their country free from foreign domination.
Ghali Hassan lives in Perth Western Australia. He can be reached at e-mail: G.Hassan@exchange.curtin.edu.au
The Guardian Monday February 7, 2005
Out with the old, in with the new
The Iraqi elections were designed not to preserve the unity of Iraq but to re-establish the unity of the west
By Tariq Ali
The US, unlike the empires of old Europe, has always preferred to exercise its hegemony indirectly. It has relied on local relays - uniformed despots, corrupt oligarchs, pliant politicians, obedient monarchs - rather than lengthy occupations. It was only when rebellions from below threatened to disrupt this order that the marines were dispatched and wars fought.
During the cold war, money was supplied indiscriminately to all anti-communist forces (including the current leadership of al-Qaida); the 21st-century recipients are more carefully targeted. The aim is slowly to replace the traditional elites in the old satrapies with a new breed of
neo-liberal politicians who have been trained and educated in the US. This is the primary function of the US money allocated to "democracy promotion". Loyalty can be purchased from politicians, parties and trades unions. And the result, it is hoped, is to create a new layer of janissary politicians who serve Washington.
This most recent variant of "democracy promotion" has now been applied in Afghanistan and Iraq, and it will hit Haiti (another occupied country) in November. Create a new elite, give it funds and weaponry to build a new army and let them make the country safe for the corporations.
The 2004 Afghan elections, even according to some pro-US commentators, were a farce, and the much vaunted 73% turnout was a fraud. In Iraq, the western media were celebrating a 60% turnout within minutes of the polls closing, despite the fact that Iraq lacks a complete register of voters, let alone a network of computerised polling stations. The official figure, when it comes, is likely to be revised downwards (according to Debka, a pro-US Israeli website, turnout was closer to 40%).
The "high" turnout was widely interpreted as a rejection of the Iraqi resistance. But was it? Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani's many followers
voted to please him, but if he is unable to deliver peace and an end to the occupation, they too might defect.
The only force in Iraq the occupiers can rely on are the Kurdish tribes. The Kurdish 36th command battalion fought alongside the US in Falluja, but the tribal chiefs want some form of independence, and some oil. If Turkey, loyal Nato ally and EU aspirant, vetoes any such possibility, then the Kurds too might accept money from elsewhere. The battle for Iraq is far from over. It has merely entered a new stage.
Despite strong disagreements on boycotting the elections, the majority of Iraqis will not willingly hand over their oil or their country to the west. Politicians who try to force this through will lose all support and become totally dependent on the foreign armies in their country.
The popular resistance will continue. Many in the west find it increasingly difficult to support this resistance. The arguments for and against it are old ones. In 1885, the English socialist William Morris celebrated the defeat of General Gordon by the Mahdi: "Khartoum fallen - into the hands of the people it belongs to". Morris argued that the duty of English internationalists was to support all those being oppressed by the British empire despite disagreements with nationalism or fanaticism.
The triumphalist chorus of the western media reflects a single fact: the Iraqi elections were designed not so much to preserve the unity of Iraq but to re-establish the unity of the west. After Bush's re-election the French and Germans were looking for a bridge back to Washington. Will their citizens accept the propaganda that sees the illegitimate election (the Carter Centre, which monitors elections worldwide, refused to send observers) as justifying the occupation?
The occupation involved a military and economic invasion as envisaged by Hayek, the father of neo-liberalism, who pioneered the notion of lightning air strikes against Iran in 1979 and Argentina in 1982. The re-colonisation of Iraq would have greatly pleased him. Politicians masking their true aims with weasel words about "humanity" would have irritated him.
What of the media, the propaganda pillar of the new order? In Control Room, a Canadian documentary on al-Jazeera, one of the more disgusting images is that of embedded western journalists whooping with joy at the capture of Baghdad. The coverage of "elections" in Afghanistan and Iraq has been little more than empty spin. This symbiosis of neo-liberal politics and a neo-liberal media helps reinforce the collective memory loss from which the west suffers today.
Carl Schmitt, a theorist of the Third Reich, developed the view that politics is encompassed by the essential categories of "friend" and "enemy". After the second world war, Schmitt's writings were adapted to the needs of the US and are now the bedrock of neocon thinking. The message is straightforward: if your country does not serve our needs it is an enemy state. It will be occupied, its leaders removed and pliant satraps placed on the throne.
But when troops withdraw, satrapies often crumble. Occupation, rebellion, withdrawal, occupation, self-emancipation is a pattern in world history.
At the Nuremberg trials, Ribbentrop, the German foreign minister, was charged for providing the justification for Hitler's pre-emptive strike
against Norway. Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Jack Straw in a dock of the future? Unlikely, but desirable.
. Tariq Ali's latest book is Bush in Babylon: the Recolonisation of Iraq
DAHR JAMAIL, Outlookindia.com
being made of voter turnout, but was it thanks to the stakes Shias and Kurds have in coming to power?
Vote's In It For Iraq?
* Iraq's voter turnout revised from 72 per cent to 60 per cent. This isn't the final figure, and could change after the counting of votes.
* High voter turnout in the southern Shia and northern Kurd areas
* Nearly 80 per cent of Sunnis boycotted the election. Some polling stations in Sunni areas didn't even open.
* Threats of denying monthly food rations scared many into voting
* At places the turnout was far in excess of registered voters
The Iraq election is over, with a major non-election right at the centre of the country. Up north, Kurds voted for the sake of independence, even if autonomy was the more accepted word for it. Down south, the Shias did it to take what they saw as their long-denied right to power. Sunnis in Baghdad and the region around almost did not vote at all.
And how many did vote? US-appointed spokesman for the Independent Electoral Commission for Iraq (IECI) Farid Ayar initially announced an estimated turnout of 72 per cent. He then backtracked to say 60 per cent—of registered voters—would be a closer estimate. By way of explanation, Ayar said his previous figure was "just an estimate" based on "very rough, word-of-mouth estimates gathered informally from the field". But even 60 per cent was not necessarily the final figure. "Percentages and numbers come only after counting and will be announced when it's over." The counting is expected to end next week.
Worse, the election almost remained unobserved. The United Nations and the European Union formed a panel of about 20 international observers—but based them in Amman in Jordan because Iraq was not considered safe enough for them. Instead, the administration posted about 20,000 Iraqi supporters of the US occupation as 'observers' at poll centres.
Many Iraqis at polling booths said their names were recently 'marked' off on the list of a government agency that provides monthly food rations—this subtle threat, circulating for a while, proved a major goad. "I'll vote as I can't afford to have my food ration cut," said Amin Hajar, 52, owner of a small auto garage in Baghdad. "There's a rumour that if we don't vote, our ration will be stopped. And if that happens, I and my family would starve to death." When he picked up his monthly ration before the election, Hajar said he was forced to sign a form stating he had collected his voter registration. He believed the government would use this to track whether he votes or not. While the connection between the voting list and the ration list may just have been rumour, it clearly got people worried.
In Shia-dominated areas in the south, the ballot papers were distributed at stores that hand out the monthly food ration. Several of these ration stores were attacked by resistance militants opposed to the elections. Some were burnt down, and several people handing out ballot papers were kidnapped or threatened.
But large numbers of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani's followers came out to vote despite threats of violence. Because here it was a contest for a way of being religious or secular. If Shias come to power as expected, inner tensions among them are certain to surface. The secular Shia group headed by US-appointed interim prime minister Iyad Allawi would have to work with the religious Shias of al-Sistani.
The United Iraqi Alliance list backed by al-Sistani is likely to have received the majority of votes from the predominantly southern Shia region of Iraq, which had a relatively strong turnout on election day. But this group's desire to bring the rule of Islamic law to Iraq worries both Sunnis and secular Shias. The large turnout was not in any case a newfound zeal for the democratic principle.
Nor did that seem the case in the Kurdish areas up north, which too saw a massive turnout.
The two main Kurdish parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of Masoud Barzani and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) led by Jalal Talabani, both fought together on a single slate for the National Assembly and contested against one another in simultaneous elections for an autonomous regional government.
The local Kurdish parties plan to hold a referendum on the inclusion of oil-rich Kirkuk under the authority of Iraqi Kurdistan post-poll. This is an explosive move. Most of the current populace of Kirkuk are Iraqis of Arab origin, or Turkomens of Turkish origin. The Arabs were brought in to settle in Kirkuk in what Kurds see as a process of ethnic swamping they now want to reverse with a campaign of their own.
Here the rush to vote seemed driven more by demographic than by democratic zeal. In Pir Dawud village about 40 km from the northern city Arbil, the informal Kurdish police, the Peshmerga, had to fire shots in the air to stop people rushing up to vote. The polling station here was set up to handle 1,500 voters, but more than 9,000 turned up, and they all voted. There was no voter list, because the presence of resistance elements made it too risky to collect names. So anyone with an ID card of any kind could produce a card and cast a vote—or maybe more, because no one was keeping track.
With almost all the votes behind them, the two Kurdish parties will push to establish autonomy that could, at a later date, lead to an independent federalist state. Already reports from the north indicate that autonomy here means independence. Kurd party officials began touring towns after the election with a petition asking Kurds whether they support Kurdish independence. The answer was an overwhelming yes. An independent Kurdistan will have geopolitical ramifications in Iraq—and beyond.
With an estimated 80 per cent of the Sunni population boycotting the election, many Iraqis remain sceptical of the upcoming governmental process. The new National Assembly will produce a constitution that will then be held to a referendum by October 15 this year. By December 15, elections will again be held to select a new government. "You have democracy and then you have an election," said Khalid, an unemployed engineer in central Baghdad. "You cannot hold an election like this and then say this is democracy."
Yet what this forced election has done is reverse decades of political dominance by the Sunni Arabs. Due to their boycotts and the strong Shia and Kurd turnout, the latter will most likely win the most seats in the National Assembly, and to that extent have the power to pursue their separate agendas.
Living amidst a shattered state, untenable unemployment, dismal infrastructure and a security scenario that still reeks of war, many Iraqis have still voted, despite ethnic and sectarian influences, in the hope the election will lead to a better future. Yet the violence continues. On election day itself nine suicide-bombers and frequent mortar attacks left at least 40 Iraqis dead and hundreds wounded by the time polling stations shut down at 5 pm. The election has not provided answers, it has only raised more questions. And none bigger than this: is this the beginning of democracy or the beginning of the end of Iraq as we know it?
Dahr Jamail is an independent American journalist, who's been reporting out of Iraq for eight months of the occupation. He writes regularly for the Inter Press Service.
"Some people talk about sovereignty, but what sovereignty are they talking about when American tanks are roaming Mosul streets?"
An imam in northern Iraq
The January 30 election in Iraq is being hailed by the Bush regime and the mainstream media as a triumph of democracy—and proof of U.S. good intentions in Iraq. Paul Bremer, former head of the U.S. occupation, declared, "The Iraq elections this week were a great victory for Iraqis, for democracy and for President Bush’s clarion call for freedom." Bush claimed that Iraqis "have taken rightful control of their country’s destiny, and they have chosen a future of freedom and peace."
The actual reality, however, is just the opposite. This U.S.-dominated election was staged and orchestrated to legitimize the U.S. invasion and conquest of Iraq and to cobble together a comprador regime, which would enable the U.S. imperialists to exert long-term control of the country and undercut Iraqi resistance. Part and parcel of a larger plan to forcibly strengthen U.S. domination of the globally strategic Middle East, this election also aimed to legitimize future U.S. aggressions—now being openly discussed in relation to Iran and Syria—in the name of "freedom" and "democracy."
These elections no more reflected the will of the Iraqi people than did the 12 elections held between 1925 and 1958 under the pro-British monarchy—a deeply hated tyranny which the Iraqi people overthrew in 1958. These elections will not give the people power over their future or their country, any more than did the elections held under Saddam Hussein’s rule for that matter.
Many Iraqis and political parties opposed these elections because they sharply oppose the U.S. occupation—and they refused to participate in a political process dominated by the U.S. And, at the same time, there were many Iraqis who voted—though the exact number remains unclear. Many of those who voted are also opposed to U.S. occupation of Iraq, but, especially in Shi’a and Kurdish areas, there were clearly people who thought that by turning out they would assert that their long-suppressed groups were now politically organized and could not be overlooked in whatever arrangements emerge to rule Iraq. And some may have hoped that this electoral process might allow them to exert some influence over their country’s destiny.
The notion that these elections put power in the hands of the Iraqi people is exploded by dissecting how they were organized, what Iraqi voters did and didn’t know, and how power will now actually be parceled out.
When Iraqis voted, they chose among over 100 different lists of candidates associated with different political parties or trends. The rules for this election and the lists presented to Iraqis were both approved beforehand by the so- called High Commission for Elections, which had been appointed by U.S. viceroy Bremer (who also appointed a commission in charge of Iraq’s media). This U.S.-picked Commission had authority to disqualify any slate the U.S. disapproved of.
Three slates dominated the election:
The United Iraqi Alliance, an Islamic religious coalition of Shiite parties and individuals, sponsored by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, and comprised mainly of the two largest Shiite parties, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and the Dawa Party;
The Iraqi List, headed by U.S.-appointed interim prime minister and long-time CIA asset Iyad Allawi, which includes prominent Sunnis and Shiites who favor a secular government; and,
The Kurdish Alliance, made up overwhelmingly of members of the two main Kurdish pro-independence parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdish Democratic Party.
While there are certain political and ideological differences between these groups, and tensions with the U.S. occupiers, all are headed by compradors (pro-imperialist class forces) who are beholden to U.S. imperialism for their current status in Iraq and who favor some form of dependence on imperialism—regardless of what the masses of Iraqi people want and need.
In other words, this was an election where the key issues facing Iraq’s people were not and could not be debated, and where the main views of Iraq’s people were not and could not be expressed. And where the main parties running were those who (one way or another) were willing to "play the game" (for now) with the U.S. occupiers.
For instance, recent polls claim that 82% of Sunnis and 69% of Shi’as want U.S. forces to leave Iraq. Yet the people’s views on this most important question could not be expressed in these elections. Before and after the election, U.S. officials, including Bush, had made clear that U.S. forces were not leaving Iraq anytime soon; meanwhile current Iraqi president Ghazi al-Yawer declared it was "complete nonsense" to ask the occupiers to leave—a position seconded by Prime Minister Allawi.
Or take the question of Iraq’s oil. Due in large measure to popular pressure, Iraq’s petroleum industry was nationalized following the 1958 revolution and oil is still closely identified with Iraqi sovereignty. Yet the people’s views on the future of oil could not be expressed in these elections. Meanwhile, top leaders of both the United Iraqi Alliance and the Iraqi List, such as Ahmad Chalabi and Allawi, have been speaking out in favor of opening Iraq’s oil industry up to foreign capital. Antonia Juhasz (AlterNet, January 27) writes that this past December while visiting Washington, DC, Iraq’s current Finance Minister and a top member of the United Iraqi Alliance, stated that such a move would be "very promising to the American investors and to American enterprise, certainly to oil companies."
It seems clear that most Iraqi voters had no idea that such moves were afoot. Bob Herbert of the New York Times (Jan. 31) wrote that half of Iraq’s voters thought they were voting for a new president. Most Iraqis knew neither who they were actually voting for—of 7,700 candidates over 7,000 remained anonymous for fear of being killed—nor the platforms of the various lists. According to Professor As’ad Abukhalil, Allawi’s own newspaper, Al- Sabah, reported that only 7% of Iraqis knew the agendas and programs of the different electoral lists.
Seats in the new National Assembly will be apportioned according to the percentage of votes received by each slate. This Assembly is charged with appointing a presidential council, which will appoint a Prime Minister, who in turn will select the government Cabinet ministers and appoint Federal Supreme Court judges. The Assembly will ostensibly assume the day-to-day governing powers and choose a group to draft a new permanent Iraqi constitution.
However, voting for a slate of candidates does not give Iraqis any voice in this process—which is going to begin with backroom wheeling and dealing between the major Iraqi players, with the U.S. playing the dominant role thanks to its 150,000 occupation troops, its control of billions in aid, and the many ways it is molding the new Iraqi state. Phyllis Bennis of the Institute of Policy Studies writes:
U.S. domination of Iraq remains unchanged with this election. The U.S.-imposed Transitional Administrative Law, imposed by the U.S. occupation, remains the law of the land even with the new election. Amending that law requires super-majorities of the assembly as well as a unanimous agreement by the presidency council, almost impossible given the range of constituencies that must be satisfied. Chiefs of key control commissions, including Iraq’s Inspector General, the Commission on Public Integrity, the Communication and Media Commission and others, were appointed by Bremer with five-year terms, can only be dismissed "for cause." The Council of Judges, as well as individual judges and prosecutors, were selected, vetted and trained by the U.S. occupation, and are dominated by long-time U.S.-backed exiles. The 40,000+ civilian and military "advisers," including private contractors and U.S. government officials, seconded to Iraq`s ministries and all public institutions will remain powerful; with the new assembly sending new staff to these ministries, the U.S. "advisers" may hold the institutional memory.
In a shameless orgy of support for the war, the U.S. media portrayed the election as an outpouring of the Iraqi people, a veritable celebration of the occupation elections. What the media never made clear was that they were restricted to five polling places in Baghdad, four of them in Shia areas expected to turn out heavily (harkening back to toppling of a statue of Saddam Hussein, staged for the media shortly after the capture of Baghdad). Initial estimates of 72% participation quickly shrunk below 60%, and it may be weeks before the actual turnout is known.
No international observers were in Iraq to verify the voting process and turnout; the only electoral observers were hundreds of miles away in Amman, Jordan.
Meanwhile, millions of Iraqis, particularly in the Arab Sunni center of the country, boycotted the vote. It has been reported that in Samarra fewer than 1,400 of the town’s 200,000 people voted; in Mosul, Iraq’s third largest city, the turnout was barely 10%; some 1,700 people voted in Ramadi, a city of nearly 400,000; in Fallujah, a city of 150,000, some 8,000 reportedly voted.
Government and media mouthpieces for the ruling class—including New York Times columnists Michael Ignatieff, Thomas Friedman, and David Brooks—called those opposing the vote "fascists"—this from people who champion the U.S. imperialists’ "right" to wage war on whomever they choose whenever they choose in order to rule the whole world by violence!
Opposition Iraqi voices were overwhelmingly censored in the bourgeois press, but when they managed to break through thanks to alternative media outlets, it was clear they were motivated by deep hatred for the brutal and unjust occupation of their country. For instance, Iraq’s Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars stated the vote "lacks legitimacy because a large portion of these people who represent many spectra have boycotted it."
Ghazwan Al Mukhtar, a retired engineer in Baghdad, told Democracy Now (Jan. 31):
I do not believe that the election is legitimate, the election is held under the occupation. The occupying power has modified the basic rules in Iraq as to who is an Iraqi and who is not. The election was shoved down our throat because all the major parties, including Allawi’s party, requested that the election be postponed...if the Iraqi parties wanted to postpone the election, they should have been able to do so without the interference of the United States government....a lot of people have boycotted it. The Sunnis have boycotted the election. Some of the Shias boycotted it. Muktadar Al Sadr faction boycotted the election. Al Khalaf faction boycotted the election. There is a resistance to the occupation in Iraq. This resistance stems from the fact that our life has been, for the last 22 months, deteriorating day and night and we have not seen any improvement in our condition for the last 22 months, nor that anything has been reconstructed.... The shocking thing is that the conditions after 22 months of occupation is a lot worse in every single aspect of life than with Saddam Hussein, after 12 years of sanction.
One 25-year-old student of Islamic theology in Mosul, told reporters for the Institute for War & Peace Reporting (www.iwpr.net) that he was organizing an election boycott because it would lead to permanent U.S. military bases in his country. "I will celebrate holding elections but only after the withdrawal of the last U.S. tank," he said as he distributed leaflets to people attending Friday prayers. "I can’t accept holding elections under the foreign occupation."
The U.S. still has the upper hand in Iraq, and it’s possible that the election may temporarily strengthen its grip. But it could have the opposite effect, creating new difficulties and roadblocks—potentially very serious ones—for the imperialists. It is worth remembering here that after previous "turning points" declared by the U.S. occupiers—the capture of Saddam Hussein in December 2003, the "handover" of power in June 2004, and the leveling of Fallujah in November 2004—the Iraqi resistance in Iraq has only intensified. A Knight Ridder analysis just prior to the election summed up:
"Iraqi insurgency growing larger, more effective....The United States is steadily losing ground to the Iraqi insurgency, according to every key military yardstick.. `All the trend lines we can identify are all in the wrong direction,’ said Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution... `We are not winning, and the security trend lines could almost lead you to believe that we are losing."
In fact, these elections themselves are an illustration of how things have not gone according to U.S. plans in post-Saddam Iraq. The initial plan had been to put pro-U.S. exiles into power (like the CIA’s one-time instrument Chalabi); when this proved too unpopular, the U.S. then handpicked an Iraqi Governing Council to write a new constitution. This too proved unworkable, leading Bremer to attempt to create a caucuses of handpicked elites to write a constitution. In the spring of 2004, with the Sunni insurgency growing and the Shia leadership threatening to turn against the occupation, the U.S. agreed to the elections Ayatollah Sistani and others were demanding. However, Bremer and company decided the only way elections could be held by January 30, 2005 would be to apportion seats in a new Assembly based on nationwide vote totals, not by districts and provinces. The result of this may well be the near complete disenfranchising of the Sunni Arab center of Iraq in the new neocolonial regime in favor of organized parties and religious forces among the Shia and Kurdish populations (comprising roughly 60% and 20% of Iraq’s total, respectively). And that alienation could well lead to the deepening of the anti-occupation insurgency, which in many places is led by the historically secular Ba’ath Party and rooted among Sunni people..
There are many other cross-cutting fault lines running through the "new" Iraq as well—including future relations with neighboring Iran. Early returns show that 72% of the 1.6 million votes so far counted went to the United Iraqi Alliance, a coalition of Shiite parties dominated by the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and Dawa, religiously based parties supported by Iran, with whom they were allied during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. Allawi’s secular list received only 18%.
This raises two troubling possibilities for the U.S. occupiers. One is the strengthening of Iranian influence in Iraq and the region, which may be one factor prompting the growing threats of a U.S. attack on the Islamic Republic.
The other is that calls for an Islamic constitution and government, now being voiced by prominent Shias, raise the possibility, first, that the new regime would be a giant leap backward in terms of the status of women in Iraq. Some clerics argue that Islam should govern matters as marriage, divorce and family inheritance. (Under Shariah law, for instance, daughters receive half the inheritances of sons.) Others argue that Koranic law should be the foundation for all legislation.
Prof. Juan Cole (Feb. 1) explains that instituting Shariah law even in matters of personal status "would typically deny divorced women any inheritance, give girls half the inheritance received by their brothers, restrict women’s right to initiate divorce, restrict women’s appearance in public, and make the testimony of women in court worth half that of a man."
The other impact such a religious order could have would be to deepen the alienation of large parts of Iraq’s population which tend to be more secular, including especially among the Sunni Arabs and Kurdish people (who include many Sunni Muslims but also believers of other religions).
In fact, the contradiction between the Kurds and Iraq’s Arab populations—both Sunni and Shia—may become the country’s deepest faultline. Since the aftermath of the first Persian Gulf War in 1991, the Kurds—under a U.S. military umbrella—have been basically running an autonomous mini-state in Iraqi Kurdestan. While not widely publicized, during the recent election, in addition to voting on the Kurdish slate for the new National Assembly, the Kurdistan Referendum Movement asked voters if they wanted an individual homeland, free from Iraq. It reportedly passed 11 to 1. This could both serve as leverage in coming negotiations over the form of the new government, and create an out if things didn’t work out for the Kurds. Currently, the interim Iraqi constitution (written under Bremer and company) and three Iraqi provinces (e.g., the Kurdish areas) can veto any provisions of a new constitution. The Shia leadership has been deeply opposed to this veto power.
Adding fuel to all this fire are Kurdish efforts to strengthen their hand in Kirkuk, traditionally the center of Iraqi Kurdish life and home to 40% of Iraq’s oil wealth. Kurdish control of Kirkuk could create the basis for an independent state, and neighboring Turkey—which has a long history of brutally oppressing its Kurdish population, which is the largest in the Middle East—has already condemned the U.S. for not reigning in Kurdish ambitions and warned that it will not tolerate an independent Kurdestan in Iraq. "Some people are looking the other way while mass migration (of Kurds to Kirkuk) takes place," Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyep Erdogan told the Wall Street Journal. "This is going to create major difficulties in the future."
February 7, 2005
by Justin Raimondo
It's a full-time job keeping track of all the lies the Bush administration has told – and is telling – about the reasons we went to war in Iraq. First it was all about "weapons of mass destruction" – but when that didn't pan out, they trotted out Saddam's alleged links to al-Qaeda and 9/11. But that case fell apart pretty quickly, and so it was on to our supposedly burning desire to build "democracy" in Iraq. Our fondest wish, or so the story goes, is that the long-oppressed Iraqis could at last determine their own fate. But, guess what? Yup, that's right: "self-determination" for the Iraqi people apparently means much less than you might expect. Because the Iraqis don't have sovereignty over their own territory where the conduct of U.S. forces is concerned, and won't for the foreseeable future, as the New York Sun (February 3, 2005) reports [warning: link for pay]:
"The basis of an agreement between America and Iraq's newly elected government regarding the status of American troops in Iraq may lie in a year-old memo prepared by a law firm here. The January 14, 2004, memo titled 'Status of Forces Agreement with the United States,' prepared by the law firm of Shea & Gardner for the Iraqi Governing Council, recommends Iraq grant the American military 'broad latitude' for a brief duration with a clause to reassess the terms in light of the future security situation. It also puts forth America's postwar agreement with Japan as a model for the one that will be signed between the U.S. and Iraq. Japanese jurisdiction over American forces that have committed crimes in Okinawa has been a source of strain in America's relationship with Japan in recent years."
That last is a bit of an understatement: as American soldiers regularly raped, robbed, beat, and murdered Japanese –mostly women – the Status of Forces Agreement became a major thorn in the side of Japanese-American relations. Chalmers Johnson opens his seminal work, Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, by examining the ugly spectacle of Imperial America in the miniature model of Okinawa. Johnson paints a vivid portrait of the island's fate as an exploited and thoroughly trashed outpost of empire, where rape, robbery, and traffic accidents involving U.S. military personnel surpass the crime rates of our own inner cities. Apparently the plan is to do a repeat of the same pattern in Iraq. Whether this means the American occupation will continue more than half a century after the war's end, as in Japan's case, is an open question. The document unearthed by the Sun shows that they're certainly making long-range plans.
According to the Sun, the proposed U.S.-Iraqi agreement contains language in which the U.S. government "insists on retaining primary jurisdiction" over crimes committed by the Americans in "carrying out their official duties." This means that the crimes committed at Abu Ghraib and throughout the complex of prisons maintained by the U.S. – as well as everyday acts of wanton murder, such as the drowning of Zaydun al-Samarrai – will go unpunished. Iraqi citizens brutalized by occupation forces cannot sue.
The Iraqis can hold all the elections they want, but it still won't give them what any real government, "democratic" or monarchical, must have: jurisdiction over its own territory and a corresponding ability to protect its own people. Iraq, according to the terms of this agreement, will not be a sovereign state, but a vassal of the United States. In Japan, this question of vassalage is put to the side, just as the American troop presence has been pretty much put to the side in Okinawa, but that isn't going to be possible in Iraq any time soon.
The Iraqis can vote until they're blue in the face – or blue all the way up to their elbows – but there are certain bounds beyond which they will not be allowed to go, and the proposed status agreement maps out some of those constraints. Iraq today is a province of the American Empire, and its status is not changed by any election.
The more honest neoconservatives, like Max Boot and Niall Ferguson, don't deny the charge of imperialism: they embrace it and openly tout the glories of Empire. Others get righteously indignant at the very idea of America as an imperial power. When Donald Rumsfeld was asked by a correspondent from the al-Jazeera television network if the U.S. wasn't "empire-building" in Iraq, the defense secretary went ballistic:
"We don't seek empires. We're not imperialistic. We never have been. I can't imagine why you'd even ask the question."
He can't imagine, but many Iraqis can. And so can some Americans, such as Johnson, who addresses at the outset of Blowback those skeptics who look at the pure white raiment of American "democracy" and can't see the imperial purple:
"Many may, as a start, find it hard to believe that our place in the world even adds up to an empire. But only when we come to see our country as both profiting from and trapped within the structures of an empire of its own making will it be possible for us to explain a great many elements of the world that otherwise perplex us."
A better description of the dilemma we currently face in Iraq would be hard to find. Certainly a few have profited from this war, although the rest of us are paying for it in more ways than one, but it's the insight about being trapped that I find arresting. "A time comes when Empire finds itself a prisoner of history," wrote the Old Right author Garet Garrett some 50 years ago, and this prophecy seems to be coming true as the occupation of Iraq unfolds.
We can't leave until the insurgency is quelled, but our presence is the cause of the insurgency in the first place. We proclaim the advent of "democracy" and "self-determination," yet the American occupation continues. We celebrate the "rule of law," even as we insist American soldiers and military contractors cannot be prosecuted or sued in Iraqi courts – because Americans are above the law.
The longer the occupation lasts, the more glaring the contradictions between the official reality of Iraq's "liberation" and the very real vassalage of the Iraqi people. A piece in Sunday's New York Times touts the new feeling of the Iraqis, postelection, reporting that they no longer feel "humiliated" and seem to have stopped focusing on the all-pervasive presence of the Americans:
"The newfound self-respect that Mr. Rubaie believes the election conferred on ordinary Iraqis seems to have had an immediate impact on their view of the United States. Suddenly empowered with the vote, Iraqis no longer seem to view America as all-powerful, or themselves as unable to affect events. A result has been a suddenly more accepting view of the United States."
This is remarkably short-sighted. Once Iraqis are disabused of the mistaken notion that their sovereignty means anything, and it dawns on even the most optimistic that the Americans aren't going away any time soon, the transition from self-respect to active resistance won't take too long to commence. The United States, in unleashing the genie of "democracy," will find that 150,000 troops won't be anywhere near enough to stuff it back into the bottle. These elections that George W. Bush is trying to take credit for were forced on the U.S. government at the insistence of Iraq's chief Shi'ite ayatollah: rather than face a two-pronged Shi'ite-Sunni insurgency, Washington deferred to the clerics – and merely succeeded in postponing the day of reckoning.
For the day will come when the elected government runs up against the constraints imposed on it by the occupation, and then we'll see the true face of the Empire as it throws off the "democratic" mask and asserts the central organizing principle of its real ideology: the idea that might makes right.
There is only one way to get out of Iraq – and that is by getting out, speedily and with honor. And the only way we're going to hang on to our honor – or as much of it as we retain – is by attaching no conditions and allowing no wiggle room for the interventionists to weasel out of it. Otherwise, in time, the bonds of imperial domination will fasten themselves onto the Iraqi nation: not only will they be saddled with an American troop presence into the indefinite future, like Japan, but they'll be used as a forward base for future military operations in the region. And let there be no doubt: such plans are already in the works. Iraq is just the beginning…
The certainty that Iraq's conquerors have other targets in their sights is the best argument for withdrawing American troops ASAP – and for giving as much as you can, as soon as you can, to the Antiwar.com fund drive, which is starting today. These guys aren't finished with us yet – not by a long shot. For the next four years Antiwar.com is going to be very busy – and we're going to need your support as never before.
Who will sift through the lies, debunking the pro-war mythology as it is generated and reinforced in the "mainstream"media – if not Antiwar.com? Where else can you get the entire range of anti-interventionist analysis and opinion, from the Left to the Right and all places in between? Since 1995 we've been holding the War Party accountable, educating people the world over about the true nature of American foreign policy, and standing up for peace against the hurricane of hysterical militarism and groupthink when even the most vocal critics of this administration stood silent.
The War Party would like nothing better than to see Antiwar.com shut down. The entire Chickenhawk Brigade – Andrew Sullivan, David Horowitz, David Frum, Jonah Goldberg, et al. – would howl with glee if we didn't make our fundraising goals this time around and had to cut back on our activities, or – God forbid – go out of existence entirely. And if that alone isn't reason enough to give all you can, then I don't know what is.
I'll be hectoring you all week. But don't wait for me to hit my stride. Give today – because it really is important. You may not always agree with everything you read in this space, or on this Web site, but I think you'll have to agree that, no matter what, Antiwar.com does provide a much-needed service. As a research tool, this site has no equivalent: it is a treasure trove, no matter what your opinions, and it is free.
But nothing is free in this world. We run a tight ship, but we need fuel: and for that we depend on our readers. So c'mon, you guys (and gals!): as we stand on the brink of Empire, now is the time to stand up for a rational foreign policy. Stand with us – and give today.
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February 06, 2005
It's a truism that imperial wars are fought for loot. The Romans wanted Egyptian grain, the Europeans coveted West Indian sugar, Hitler set out to seize 'living space' to the East for his master race (and Slavic slaves to toil in their service); George Bush and those he represents want control of Middle Eastern oil.
The launching of the US imperial legions into Iraq does however have a strategic dimension. In tandem with the new US bases in Afghanistan and the Caspian, the intention is to starve China of access to the oil it will soon need to match the US industrially and militarily.
Hence the Bush Administration's frustrated sabre-rattling - they were really yelps of dismay, for there's nothing Mr Bush and his neocon visionaries can do about it - when, in the past couple months, first Russia and then Europe announced plans to intensify economic and other ties with the coming Asian superpower of the 21st Century.
The Europeans' arms deal with Beijing drew protests from the White House, which claimed to be concerned it would imperil Taiwan. The Russian moves were even more defiant. In December the Kremlin announced it would be inviting the Chinese to help it develop its vast energy resources (sic!).
Then it announced that, 'for the first time in history', it would be conducting large-scale joint military exercises with China - in China. (That part is called 'showing the flag' - to Washington.)
In the Washington Post of January 21, columnist Charles Krauthammer, discussing these not-so-subtle tectonic rumblings in the geopolitical landscape, sounded the neocon alarm: ''Tomorrow's Threat'.the beginnings of a significant 'anti-hegemonic' bloc - aimed at us.'
But I digress.
Imperial wars may be launched for loot, but an occupied people can be put to other uses as well, and last Sunday Iraqis were sent by their American ringmasters to jump through the elections hoop. What made that particular circus uncommonly cruel is that, voting for the first time, so many of them clearly believed in what they were doing.
The date, January 30, wasn't arbitrary; the moment it was announced, one knew that Rove and Co were planning a pre-State of the Union Address extravaganza. The ultimate goal was to empower Mr Bush to push through his domestic programme - making permanent his tax cuts for the wealthy, dismantling the last remnants of Roosevelt's humanitarian 'New Deal', specifically Social Security - unburdened by domestic American perception of the albatross that's Iraq.
Thus, there was never a chance the elections would be postponed until they could be held with even a semblance of propriety. The date - three days before Mr Bush's State of the Union address - was, after all, half the point.
The other half was that Iraqis had to be enticed to vote. A 'great victory for democracy' had to be manufactured.
So, beginning last November, the spinmeisters in Washington and their functionaries in the compliant American media began spinning every attack by Sunni insurgents as aimed solely at preventing the elections.
The paradigm that should be obvious to anyone - that, from small beginnings, the insurgency has grown, and grown, and grown, until it now appears to have a limitless supply of men prepared to die for it, in suicide bombings - was tacitly shoved under the table.
The insurgency, to hear them tell it, had but one goal: Stop the elections! Like that, Iraq's elections became the fifth 'crucial milestone' (after - in order - killing Saddam's sons, capturing Saddam, installing the Interim Government, and razing Fallujah), each of which - it was implied, when not explicitly avowed - was going to 'break the back of the insurgency'.
Indeed, when by midweek last week the elections' euphoria began wearing off as the reality of the insurgency reasserted itself, an Associated Press editor still couldn't resist relating the ongoing attacks to the elections. 'Vengeful Insurgents Ramp Up Iraq Attacks,' read his unintentionally funny headline last Wednesday.
The fact is, the Sunni insurgency has always had two goals: (1) To drive the American legions out of Iraq. (2) To block the majority Shiites from effectively wielding power over them. Neither goal has been in the least affected by the elections. It goes without saying that the insurgency continues - and continues to grow.
But that, anyway, was the first White House gambit: Make the Iraqi elections a sort of Superbowl, with Terror lining up against Democracy.
The other gambit was to feed the Iraqi electorate a ringing lie: if they voted, their American tormentors would leave.
In the week before the elections, an embedded journalist reported this pitch more or less word for word. 'You vote, we leave,' he overheard a Marine repeatedly telling Iraqi civilians while handing out flyers urging them to vote.
In his own campaign, Allawi, the White House-appointed thug, hinted at the same outcome. And so did that cagey character, the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, 'the most powerful man in Iraq'. Sistani went further and informed his flock it was their religious duty to vote.
The upshot was that many Iraqis went to the poll believing they were voting out the Americans.
That was never on the cards, of course - not as a nomad's tent did Mr Bush and his cohorts conceive their huge command-and-control centre for their war on the Middle East, aka the US's Baghdad Embassy in the Green Zone. Mere days before January 30, Sistani's United Iraqi Alliance dropped its main electoral promise: an explicit timetable for the departure of US forces. (Allawi, needless to say, waited till afterwards.)
Now, unfortunately for everyone except the neocons, whose goal increasingly seems the disintegration of Iraq, the situation is not as simple as that. Mr Bush may have hit on his new casas belli, 'Planting the Flag of Freedom' in the Middle East, but as is the case with most electorates divided along ethnic or other lines (as in Jamaica, for example, with its PNP and JLP tribes) most of the Iraqis who voted last Sunday (and those who didn't vote, as well) were hungry, not for 'freedom', but for power - something else entirely.
Thus, with less than 10 per cent of the votes counted, the Kurds - numerically the smallest of Iraq's tribal groupings - were last week demanding either the presidency or the prime ministership. (If in secession, virtual or literal, the Kurds try to grab Iraq's northern oilfields, they will invite attack by Turkey - and will probably be defended in turn by Israel).
For the rest, Sistani knows his time has come. To the purely titular extent that any party, or party of parties, may be about to 'rule' Iraq, Sistani is about to rule. By last Friday, his party was leading Allawi's in votes counted by three to one.
And Sistani is a close ally of the Iranian mullahs, whom Cheney, Rice, etc are preparing the rhetorical groundwork for the Bush Administration to attack next.
Make sense of that if you can.
As for the Sunnis, 'vengeful' may indeed now describe their mood, after all. Reported the Washington Post solemnly last week: 'Election officials have said full official results and determin[ation of the] turnout might not be ready until [next] Tuesday.
The count appeared to have been delayed somewhat by controversies in Ninevah, a region with a large Sunni Arab population. On Thursday, the electoral commission said it had sent a team to the northern city of Mosul to investigate complaints that some stations never opened or ran out of ballots.
Election official Safwat Rashid said US and Iraqi forces in the area initially allowed authorities in Ninevah, the province surrounding Mosul, to open only 90 out of its 330 polling stations.One prominent Sunni politician, Meshaan al-Jubouri, accused the commission of mismanaging the vote in some Sunni areas because they 'didn't want the Sunnis to vote so that the Shiites could score a fake victory.'
By last Thursday, AP was reporting the reality of Iraq today - as distinct from Mr Bush's State of the Union Address heraldic business. The wire service's report ran in part:
'In the deadliest incident, insurgents stopped a minibus south of Kirkuk, ordered army recruits off the vehicle and gunned down 12 of them. One US Marine was killed Thursday in Babil province south of Baghdad.
Two other Marines were killed in action Wednesday night in Anbar. Elsewhere, rebels attacked Iraqi police Thursday in the Baghdad suburb of Abu Ghraib, killing one policeman and wounding five. Gunmen fired on a vehicle carrying Iraqi contractors Thursday to jobs at a US military base in Baqouba, killing two people, officials said.
A suicide car bomber struck a foreign convoy escorted by military Humvees on Baghdad's dangerous airport road Thursday, destroying several vehicles and damaging a house. Helicopters were seen evacuating some casualties, witnesses said.
The US military had no immediate comment. Insurgents ambushed another convoy in the area, killing five Iraqi policemen and an Iraqi national guard major. An Iraqi soldier was killed by gunmen as he was leaving his Baghdad home.
The bodies of two slain men wearing blood-soaked clothes were found in the western insurgent stronghold of Ramadi. On Wednesday night, insurgent attacks in Tal Afar, near Mosul, and at a police station in the southern city of Samawah killed three Iraqis.
A car bomb exploded at a house used by US military snipers in Qaim, near the Syrian border. US troops opened fire, hitting some civilians, the witnesses said. A US military spokesman had no immediate information.
In a word, what occurred last Sunday - and was wildly celebrated as 'the triumph of democracy' by Mr Bush and his agog Congress, citing ridiculously-inflated voter-turnout percentages, 60 per cent, 72 per cent - was a major acceleration of Iraq towards civil war and partition. That's all.
Cutting through the baloney in a Tom Friedman article is like picking a nickel out of a dog's breakfast; damn near impossible. His knack at jiggering the truth to co-opt his readership puts him light-years beyond his piers. Without a fair grasp of the facts before reading one of his columns, you,ll never know you,re being drawn into a parallel universe of calculated distortions.
His latest ruminations focus on the shabby, murderous occupation of Iraq. Friedman endorsed the war from the get-go with proviso that it should be "done right". Yup, according to Friedman the laser-guided carnage, leveling of Falluja and the subsequent torture of suspects was "okie-dokey" as long as it was "done right". The great error of the war, according to Tom, was that we didn't provide enough troops to stabilize the country. That's it. Not a word about the torture, death and destructionjust practical, "nuts-and-bolts" stuff about how to win the war from our Pulitzer Prize winning prognosticator.
Friedman offers these outrageously callous judgments using his "trademark" affable tenor that oozes familiarity and hauteur. The normal Friedman article assumes the tone of a friendly stranger, plopped on a neighboring barstool, pontificating on the world's many intricacies to a less-knowledgeable companion. Isn't that Friedman?
"Let me explain the world to you in terms that even you can understand."
And is he good at it? You bet. American liberals love Friedman; his folksy lingo, his home-spun humor, his engaging anecdotes. Beneath the surface, of course, is the hard-right ethos that pervades his every thought and word but, "what the heck", no ones perfect.
Lately, Tom has been combing every detail of the Iraqi elections to make his case about "what should be done" to improve US chances for success in democratizing the churlish Arabs. After considerable deliberation, this is what he came up with:
"We have to have a proper election in Iraq so we can have a proper civil war".
Say what? Did he really say that?
"We don't want the kind of civil war we have in Iraq now. That is a war of Sunni and Islamic militants against the United States," Tom avers.
Of course, not! What we want is a Friedman-type of civil war; you know, a war where Iraqis only kill other Iraqis and America's can get on with the "heavy lifting" of looting the country like they planned from the very beginning. Regrettably, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Rumsfeld and the Intelligence services all agree with Friedman. "Let's figure out a way to make them kill each other," they collectively muse. It should be called the Kissinger solution, since dear Henri promoted the same, self-serving strategy during the Iran-Iraq war ("I hope they both kill each other" H.K.)
So, you see that Friedman is not really any further to the left than Don Rumsfeld or Henry K. This may come as a surprise to some of his liberal-leaning groupies.
He's not skittish about giving his opinion about Iran either. He wouldn't be as tactless and corny as Bush, referring to it as "the Axis of Evil. But there's not a hairs-breadth difference between Bush's take on Iran and Friedman,s. As a matter of fact, Friedman refers to Iran as a "Red state" just ready to tip towards democracy after a helpful shove from the Bush claque. Sound provocative? How much difference is there between that astute assessment and the more vulgar appeal for "regime change"? Not much.
Friedman believes that if Europe wants a peaceful resolution to the (American-created) Iran crisis, they should do more than just offering "carrots" to the Mullahs. (as opposed to Bush's "sticks") In other words, the world should EXPECT aggression unless Iran can somehow establish its innocence beyond a doubt. This seems to follow the logic of the Ashcroft Justice dept. that prisoners are guilty until proven innocent. To Friedman, however, this is a just the practical man's way of deciding whether or not Iran should be "whacked". The question of whether the American military should be limited to situations related to national defense is never seriously considered. Friedman, like most Americans, sees US aggression as a sign of divine intercession. God works in strange ways, but more often than not, through his corporeal avatars; the US Marines.
Friedman's shameless praise of the Iraqi elections is worthy of another Pulitzer. He wholeheartedly accepts the George W. Orwell view that martial law and democracy are morally equivalent. This fits into his larger theory that the broad nationalist struggle ("the Iraqi insurgency") is nothing more than a "murderous death cult" (I kid you not) comparable to the genocidal "Khmer Rouge". (No mention, of course, of the "genocidal" murder of 100,000 Iraqis at the hands of their American overlords) His basic premise seems to be, that anyone who defends themselves against American hostility is a terrorist. Where have we heard that before?
Friedman's views on foreign policy are consistent with those of ideological forebears in the Democratic Party. While the Republican's take a "race-based", Manifest Destiny perspective on foreign policy; justifying American conquest in terms of social Darwinism and the inherent right of the US to rule the world. Friedman invokes the "kinder, gentler" tactic of Yankee Paternalism; vindicating occupation and exploitation in terms of a "father's great love for his errant child". This explains why it's so easy for him to shrug off Abu Ghraib and Falluja. He accepts them as an unavoidable part of bringing wayward Iraqis into America's affectionate embrace. After all, "We,re only killing them for their own good."
Friedman's talent ensures that he will remain the unrivaled champion of imperial doctrine for years to come. He's simply the best around. His unctuous prose provides the rationale for warfare and a justification for the criminal violence against the Iraqi people. What else would you expect from the empire's foremost apologist? His columns form the ideological headwaters of new-age imperialism; celebrating the ritual of armed savagery to anyone who will lend an ear.
Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He can be reached
February 7, 2005 - The words of welcome by a senior army officer, delivered to a group of British journalists
who had been brought to his desert base near Basra to cover the historic elections in Iraq, were remarkable
for their honesty. "We are a guard force for this base, so in some ways we are the wrong people for you. I'm
not sure why you were sent here. You won't be seeing any polling stations," Major Howard Long, of the
Princess of Wales' Royal Regiment, told us.
It was the moment of truth after days of mounting suspicion. We were clearly the black sheep in Downing Street's operation to ensure ample coverage of joyful Iraqis going to the polls a week ago. Tony Blair had been disappointed that no roses were showered on the troops who toppled Saddam Hussein in April 2003. The Iraqi election would be a second chance to get liberation-style pictures with huge enthusiastic crowds. Coming shortly before Blair himself went to the polls, it might finally crush public doubts about the war.
So the word went out to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Defence to lay on a trip to help the British press overcome the hazards of working in Iraq. More than 60 journalists were invited, apparently too many for British troops to handle. Chaos and discrimination ensued. The Guardian had initially declined the trip but the FCO promised this was not the classic "embed", where journalists are attached to military units like limpets. "You will be embedded with the military in terms of support, and sleep with a unit in the area. But there will be a programme of events for you to meet Iraqis involved in the election," Nicole Veash of the FCO told me. The tipping point was her promise - "opt-outs for the day are possible."
At a briefing for our group before we set off, Colonel Paul Brooke of the MoD confirmed the point. "It's embed and breakfast", he said, smiling. At our own risk we could do our own reporting and come back to base, provided the local commander agreed.
The first contradiction appeared in a subsequent email from Squadron Leader Steve Rovery of the MoD news directorate. You could only "disembed" once and for all. There was nothing about opt-outs for a day. His email also contained a threat. There was no assured travel back with the RAF if we disembedded. He did not explain why a plane seat would disappear just because a confirmed passenger changed his ground arrangements. It did not sound like the collaboration in a danger zone which the trip was supposed to embody.
On arrival at Basra airport, most of the party was content not to contemplate break-outs. Downing Street mainly wanted TV pictures and the BBC, ITN, Sky, and Channel 4 News were told they would go to the Hotel Shatt al-Arab in a fortified "green zone" in central Basra from which they would make protected daily forays. It was a good deal which was also given to the war-supporting Times. The other broadsheets were told they would go to the Shaiba logistics base in the desert.
The first shadows of concern were appearing. Peter Beaumont of the Observer and James Astill of the Economist decided to test the "embed and breakfast" concept while the rest were taken to get election credentials. Using a trusted driver summoned from Baghdad, they drove into Basra for a day's reporting and were allowed back. Major Joe Carnegie, the Fourth Armoured Brigade's press officer, cleared me to do the same the next day. Working in Basra and sleeping in the safety of a base at night seemed an acceptable way of doing one's job - to which reasonable press officers with their talk of "embed and breakfast" could not object.
Over the next 24 hours the trip went pear-shaped. Major Carnegie reversed the policy, saying short-term "disembeds" were off. Beaumont left for Basra next morning. I decided to test what was on offer at the Shaiba logistics base but Major Long's honest welcome said it all. Repeated phone calls to the FCO were met with apparent sympathy but no change.
To its credit the British consulate invited dozens of candidates, student leaders, women's activists and local politicians to meet the media in its Basra compound over the next few days. But because our group was large, only a few could be helicoptered there each time. In the meantime the menu was desert patrols.
By now the broadsheets were close to mutiny. The FT man wanted to leave, but was told by his London office that it was too risky. Le Monde, Agence France Presse and ARD German Radio got similar instructions from their editors. The Economist reporter was offered the chance to switch to Az Zubair, a mixed Sunni-Shia town, if he stayed on board. The other broadsheets gritted their teeth and remained at Shaiba.
I told the MoD that our relationship was over. They were not letting me do my job. Kathy Ridge, their press officer, understood my dilemma and had the courtesy to withdraw Squadron Leader Rovery's threat. My return flight was guaranteed, she told me.
The next afternoon, after being helicoptered to the consulate for the meeting with Iraqi politicos, I went to a hotel. It was a liberation. A dozen European and American journalists who had never been part of the MoD tour were staying there. The building was well-guarded. We fixed interviews and went around town in our separate cars, and on election day the Iraqs laid on a bus to visit polling stations. In fact we had the best election of any media group. The hacks in the desert gradually fared better. The consulate made sterling efforts to arrange more shuttles to Basra and a polling day tour.
In Baghdad the big US networks were lent villas in the green zone but the print media struggled. Towards the end of the campaign the Americans laid on helicopter rides of varying use. In Tikrit the group never left the US base. On polling day in Baghdad the Iraqi police shot at a press car thinking the driver was a suicide bomber. This persuaded most reporters to walk, reducing the working perimeter to a few hundred yards from their hotels.
For Downing Street that didn't matter. The TV images were enough, and without embedding they might not have appeared on screen at all.
Jonathan Steele writes on foreign affairs.
MediaGuardian.co.uk © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005
Editor: Erik Leaver, Institute for Policy Studies (IPS)
Foreign Policy In Focus www.fpif.org
The U.S. government and most pundits have painted Iraq’s recent elections as a great victory over the Iraqi insurgents, who opposed them, and as a vindication of the Bush administration’s policy of bringing democracy to the Middle East. Amid the orgy of self-congratulation over the bravery of Iraqi voters, officials and commentators have ignored the most important story of the election results: a Sunni electoral boycott that demonstrates a level of support for the insurgency in the Sunni triangle that is far greater than what the administration has admitted.
The image of millions of Iraqis dodging bombs and bullets to vote is highly misleading. In fact, given the geographic concentration of the insurgency in Sunni areas, there was never any possibility that the insurgents could prevent Shiites and Kurds from turning out in great numbers. There were 5,000 polling places in the country, but only 109—2% of the total—came under attack.
The only real uncertainty surrounding the election was whether significant numbers of Sunnis in the Sunni heartland would participate. The administration had considered it a major objective of its policy to weaken the hold of the insurgents on the Sunni strongholds sufficiently to allow the population of those cities to vote. The U.S. command announced in early December that it had decided that it had to establish control over the major strongholds of the insurgency in Baghdad, Mosul, Ramadi and Samarra by the end of the year, so that the Sunnis would be able to vote in the elections. In particular, the command had set its sights on seizing control of Ramadi. Gen. George Casey, the commander of the Multinational Force Iraq, boasted, “We believe a solution in Ramadi is now obtainable.”
In light of the U.S. ambitions for at least temporary control over the major Sunni cities, the fate of the elections in those cities is the clearest indicator available of the political strength of the insurgency. Eyewitness press reports from the Sunni strongholds make it clear that the Sunnis were united in honoring the boycott of the elections called for by Sunni clerics aligned with the insurgency. NBC News reported from Ramadi that only about one percent of the eligible voters in Ramadi went to the polls, including non-Sunni troops and police. In the Sunni sections of Mosul, Steve Fainaru of the Washington Post reported that one polling place visited had not had a single voter all day except for the Iraqi soldiers protecting it and at another only 60 people had voted.
In Samarra, which U.S. forces patrolled in force, the polling places were deserted most of the day. The joint U.S.-Iraqi task force providing security for the election reported that fewer than 1,400 people, including the mostly Shiite soldiers and police, out of a total population of 200,000, had cast ballots. The same scene of deserted polling places was reported by Associated Press in the desolated city of Fallujah, where as many as 140,000 carefully screened people have been allowed to return. And in West Baghdad, Iraqi journalists reported that only about 500 of the tens of thousands of temporarily resettled refugees from Fallujah voted.
Based on these partial eyewitness reports, it appears that only about one percent of the Sunnis at most defied the electoral boycott in the main Sunni strongholds, despite the efforts of the U.S. occupation forces to wrest control of those cities from the insurgents. Threats of retaliation undoubtedly intimidated some middle class Sunnis who would otherwise have voted. But most Sunnis boycotted the election because they considered it the illegitimate result of a deal between occupation authorities and the Shiites. A Wall Street Journal story about a Christian engineer in a Sunni neighborhood of Baghdad who wanted to vote vividly described the Sunni neighborhood in which he lived, which included many displaced Fallujans, as overwhelmingly hostile toward the U.S. occupation and to the election.
The U.S. continues to claim that only a relatively small minority of Sunnis in the country sympathize with the insurgency. The almost complete effectiveness of the election boycott makes it clear, however, that the insurgents now command the loyalty of the vast majority of the Sunni population.
While it is tempting to be carried away with the symbolism of purple Iraqi fingers, the most important message is that there is no possibility of a military solution to the insurgency. Instead the United States must accept the need for a political settlement. Such a settlement requires negotiations between the Shiites who won the election and figures who can speak on behalf the Sunni resistance forces to agree on arrangements for limiting and sharing power in the new political order, a ceasefire and surrender of insurgents, and a timetable for speedy withdrawal of U.S. and other foreign forces.
Gareth Porter is a historian and an analyst for Foreign Policy In Focus (online at www.fpif.org). His latest book, Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam, will be published by University of California Press in May.
10, 2005 - Many have made mistakes in evaluating the ultimate objectives that lie behind the US's insistence
on holding elections in Iraq. One of the most common mistakes is the assumption that holding elections will
help generate a democratic solution to the problem of who should hold the reins of power in Iraq.
A second hypothesis has it that elections will help deflect an Iraqi civil war, while a third claims that holding elections is the only realistic way that Iraqis will be able to rid themselves of the occupation, as occupation forces will be able to withdraw more easily if requested to do so by a legitimate governing authority.
These are political theories, and they deal with the surface appearance of events in Iraq. However rigorous and well researched they initially appear they are designed to obscure the central issue: the hidden strategic objectives behind America's insistence on holding elections. What is called for here is a considered and objective analysis of events in Iraq that deals with the wider strategic picture and avoids the trite over-simplifications traded by those who have an interest either in maintaining the occupation or in realising Iranian interests.
Why Washington's insistence that elections should have gone ahead despite the appalling security situation?
America's true objectives are no longer as mysterious as they once were. Developments over the course of the last 20 months have provided clear indications that the US is working to secure specific strategic goals in Iraq should it be forced by the fierceness of the armed resistance to leave the country.
One of the most important reasons for insisting on holding elections is to set up an Iraqi government that the US is able to describe as legitimate, which could then be presented to the international community as the product of free elections. It would then have the authority to take decisions and sign treaties that would be enforceable under international law. This is exactly what America needs to make happen in order to achieve two fundamental goals: a speedy withdrawal from Iraq to avoid further human and material losses at the hands of a fierce Iraqi armed resistance, and the signing of long-term strategic and economic agreements.
Among the military treaties planned is one that allows American military bases to be established in the country. There will be 14 main bases to secure American control over Iraq's oil-wells and to allow the American military easy access to other areas in the region. Under the economic treaties the Iraqi government will grant American companies long-term concessions to exploit Iraqi oil and will include, in all probability, the privatisation of the country's oil industry.
The duration of these treaties will almost certainly be no shorter than 25 years, since American oil consumption is set to double in the next 10 years even as its traditional suppliers, like Saudi Arabia, reduce production. America will need new, relatively unexploited sources of oil that can be accessed without having to deal with political obstacles. Iraq is one such source.
Another aspect of the problem is that emerging powers such as China and India will also need more and more oil, creating competition over oil stocks on the market, which -- as a CIA report on the problem of energy in the next 15 years pointed out -- falls short of demand.
By setting up American bases in Iraq and controlling its oil through internationally binding treaties the US will have achieved its two primary goals, both of which lay the foundation for the rise of an American empire and the removal of potential rivals.
The real value of such agreements only becomes clear when one remembers treaties such as that concluded between America and the pre- revolutionary Cuban government over Guantanamo Bay. Under the treaty, the area was rented to the Americans for 99 years. Following the revolution the Cubans demanded that America return the bay area, but relying on the treaty they had signed with the previous government the Americans vehemently refused.
How much more dangerous, then, if an "elected" Iraqi government were to sign such treaties, bearing in mind that despite Soviet and international support Cuba was unable to secure the return of Guantanamo Bay in the face of American legal arguments.
Although the American occupation set out to divide Iraq from the very beginning it has always known that re-centralisation and re-unification would be likely once it left. It has been vital, therefore, to weaken Iraq internally by seeking to establish a federal state with a weak centre and strong autonomous regions such as those proposed in the north and south, in addition to a triangle in the middle. Iraq can play the role of an important regional power only if there is a strong, centralised government that can successfully exploit Iraq's human and economic resources, achieve scientific and technological progress in the manner of other third world countries and establish a resilient infrastructure. Washington's strategy has been to break up the Iraqi state.
Not content with toppling its government the occupation has destroyed its infrastructure, wrecked historical sites (such as the National Iraqi Museum) and places of cultural importance and pillaged places of learning.
A tripartite federal state needs to be approved by a legitimate government and constitution. The occupation knows full well that no occupier has the power to authorise such a radical change in the Iraqi state's basic structure, bound as they are by the Geneva Conventions that forbid any change being made in the laws and economic system of the occupied country.
Elections, then, were vital to creating a weakened or, as they might put it, a federal Iraq. The elections give the federal regime internal support from those in the north and south, and external support from what the international community, especially if the UN, or the Security Council, supports the results of the election.
© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly. All rights reserved
News]: WASHINGTON, Feb. 9 : There were between 200 and 300 attacks across Iraq on Election Day, a top U.S.
Central Command general said Wednesday.
The number is higher than the U.S. military previously reported.
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz talked at length about the elections, and said the attacks were limited to just eight suicide bombers wearing explosive vests - seven in Baghdad, and one south of the capital. Fewer than 50 people were killed in election-day violence, according to Wolfowitz.
But the deputy chief of U.S. Central Command, Air Force Lt. Gen. Lance Smith, told reporters at the Pentagon: "It depends on how you count and what period you count, but there was a significant amount of activity on Election Day.
Smith said insurgent activity -- despite decreasing prior to the election because of aggressive offensive operations -- is now back to pre-election levels.
He predicted the insurgency will continue to have success recruiting until the national economy improves in Iraq.
"Until we get the economic engine going in Iraq, we're going to continue having some problems and giving them an obvious recruiting base to recruit from," Smith said.
Copyright 2005 by United Press International
Introduction - At The 'Mainstream' Fringe
In truth it is quite wrong to describe the corporate media as 'mainstream'. We wouldn't describe Flat Earthism as mainstream geology, nor would we describe Mein Kampf as mainstream political philosophy. There isn't a cultural or philosophical tradition on the planet that takes seriously the idea that truth-telling can be reconciled with greed. The idea that it can be reconciled with the unlimited greed of corporate profit-maximising is too ridiculous even to discuss. Or should be.
Of course might makes right. Of course corporate journalists bask in the limelight, with salaries and status to match. But if the influence of profit and power were somehow magically neutralised, their performance would be revealed as a highly marginal, extremist, and in fact weird offshoot of mainstream human culture. If not 'weird', which adjective could we possibly use to describe the following 'free press' nuggets?
On the BBC's main lunchtime news, Clive Myrie reported on George Bush's State of the Union address. To enhance the propaganda impact Bush arranged for an American woman whose son had been killed in Iraq to embrace an Iraqi woman whose husband had been killed by Saddam Hussein. Before a massive national TV audience, Myrie commented:
"A woman who gave up her son so another could be free." (Myrie, BBC1, 13:00 News, February 23, 2005)
Anybody here remember the WMDs that weren't? The ongoing pre-war genocide that wasn't? The al-Qaeda links that weren't? The Iraqis waving flags at "Coalition" troops that didn't? Does anyone remember the vast oil reserves in Iraq?
Someone tell Clive Myrie!
On the BBC's late news, Matt Frei informed us of American plans to leave Iraq as soon as possible. Why? Because US leaders "don't want to outstay the welcome of their troops." (Frei, BBC1, 22:00 News, January 31, 2005)
Is comment even necessary?
Frei immediately realised he had revealed far too much, adding hurriedly, "If there is such a thing."
In the United States, journalist Mark Brown provides an intriguing example of deep unconscious bias - the intellectual equivalent of walking through an unseen plate glass window. Discussing the elections in Iraq, Brown writes:
"In and of itself, the voting did nothing to end the violence. The forces trying to regain the power they have lost - and the outside elements supporting them - will be no less determined to disrupt our efforts and to drive us out." (Brown, 'What if Bush has been right about Iraq all along?', Chicago Sun-Times, February 1, 2005)
In Brown's mind "we" clearly are not "outside elements" but mere neutrals with plans threatened by actual outsiders who have no business interfering in the sovereign politics of Iraq.
The BBC's John Simpson made a related point on Panorama, describing Iraqi insurgents as "opponents to what they see as the foreign occupation of their country". (Panorama, BBC1, Simpson in Iraq, January 30, 2005)
Imagine Simpson referring in 1943 to "what the French resistance see as the foreign occupation of their country". Would we even deem this a sane comment?
In a sane society the extremist 'mainstream' would be considered comical and irrelevant, referenced only for exotic case studies in the human capacity for self-deception in deference to individual and vested self-interest. What is currently considered the alternative media is also misnamed 'the radical media'. In fact it is the rational media rooted in common sense, in genuine rather than merely proclaimed compassion for human suffering, and in a desire to solve problems rather than profit from them.
The Elections - Iraqis "Choose Their Destiny"
On September 3, 1967 the New York Times reported that US officials "were surprised and heartened" at the size of turnout in South Vietnam's presidential election "despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting." (Peter Grose, 'U.S. Encouraged by Vietnam Vote Officials Cite 83% Turnout Despite Vietcong Terror', the New York Times, September 3, 1967)
According to reports from Saigon, 83 per cent of the nearly 6 million registered voters had cast their ballots the previous day. The Times described how hundreds of thousands of villagers were "willing to risk participation" in a heart-warming display of "popular support" for the US-backed election.
In reality, if individuals were found by National Police to be without the election-day stamp on their registration card "it meant prison and in some cases even death", according to one former Saigon official. He added: "The real meaning of the election was not lost on the people. They voted to stay out of jail." (Quoted, Edward Herman and Frank Brodhead, Demonstration Elections, South End Press, 1984, p.75)
About this there was complete silence in the US media, which never described the election as a fraud.
In March 1982 international observers from the United States and Great Britain (delegates from 40 other countries, including all of Western Europe, had refused to be involved) reported that they saw no evidence of government coercion on election day in El Salvador. They also reported a large turnout of people determined to vote, which, they assumed, indicated great public enthusiasm for the US-backed process.
The media reinforced this impression, with top US TV commentator Dan Rather exclaiming: "A triumph! A million people to the polls." (Ibid, p.167) Republican Bob Livingstone called the election the "most inspiring thing I've ever seen"; while Senator Nancy Kassebaum called them an "exceptionally fair election" (Ibid, p.137). Around the United States, observers and media reported free and fair elections; a triumph for democracy.
In their book, Demonstration Elections, Edward Herman and Frank Brodhead fill in a few of the missing details about that election day.
In the eighteen-month period leading up the elections, twenty-six journalists were murdered in El Salvador. The only two Salvadoran newspapers critical of the government, La Cronica and El Independiente, were attacked and forced to close in July 1980 and January 1981 respectively. In December 1981 the Salvadoran Communal Union reported that eighty-three of its members had been murdered by government security forces and death squads. The entire six-person top leadership of the main opposition party, the FDR, was seized by government security forces in 1980, tortured, murdered and mutilated. More generally, any left-wing political leader or organiser who gained any kind of prominence in El Salvador in the years 1980-83 was liable to be murdered. Between October 1979 and March 1982, killings of ordinary citizens occurred at the average rate of over 800 per month, on conservative estimates.
Using almost identical language to 1967 and 1982, US and British journalists have described the January 30 Iraqi elections as "democratic" and "free". The Los Angeles Times declared that "the world could honestly see American troops making it possible for a long-oppressed people to choose their destiny". (Leader, 'Courage under fire,' Los Angeles Times, January 31, 2005) The London Times hailed "the resounding success of Iraq's first democratic elections in half a century" in "the latest astonishing testimony to the power of democracy." (Leader, 'The power of democracy,' The Times, February 1, 2005)
The conformity in proclaiming this propaganda version of events was close to 100% in Britain and the United States. The media was unanimous, for example, in immediately declaring high voter participation. The BBC reported "a high turnout in today's election" which was "exactly the outcome that the United States wishes for the Iraqis". (BBC, January 30, 2005. Quoted, Michel Chossudovsky, 'Iraqi Elections: Media Disinformation on Voter Turnout?' Global Research, 31 January 2005, http://globalresearch.ca/articles/CHO501F.html )
The eagerness to instantly vindicate the election recalls the embarrassing rush to vindicate the original invasion when Baghdad fell on April 9, 2003.
The BBC's Breakfast News presenter, Natasha Kaplinsky, beamed as she described how Blair "has become, again, Teflon Tony". The BBC's Mark Mardell agreed: "It +has+ been a vindication for him." (BBC1, Breakfast News, April 10, 2003) "This war has been a major success", ITN's Tom Bradby said (ITN, Evening News, April 10, 2003). ITN's John Irvine also saw vindication in the arrival of US troops:
"A war of three weeks has brought an end to decades of Iraqi misery." (ITN Evening News, April 9, 2003)
Unlike senior journalists who were deemed to have erred in questioning the war - the BBC's Andrew Gilligan, Gavyn Davies, Greg Dyke, and the Mirror's Piers Morgan - none of these journalists has paid a price for being so hopelessly wrong. The Observer reports that Natasha Kaplinsky, for example, now has her own company:
"Baraka Baraka Ltd seems to be where Kaplinsky's showbiz royalties go, and she's doing well. The firm's turnover was £270,000 last year and Kaplinsky paid herself a £100,000 dividend." (Media diary, 'Stepping out,' The Observer, February 6, 2005)
Mad Maths - Beyond The 'Exit Strategy'
Returning to the election, an initial turnout figure of 72 percent was widely reported as fact across the media based on an interview with the interim government Minister of Planning, Mahdi al-Hafiz, more than two hours before polls closed. This is what al-Hafiz actually said: "Although a 72 percent turnout was expected, it appears that the participation level will only reach 50 per cent." (Quoted, Michel Chossudovsky, op.,cit)
Turnout was then described as "near 60%", a figure based on the claim that 8 million out of 14 million eligible Iraqis voted. But the 14 million figure is also misleading because it refers to registered Iraqi voters, not the 18 million who were eligible to vote. Out of about 1.2 million exiled Iraqis qualified to register and vote only 280,000 registered.
The initial phase of media legitimisation of the election involved a refusal to discuss the extent to which the election was corrupted by the simple fact of the occupation. The impact on voting of the demolition of Fallujah two months earlier, for example, was never discussed. In October, the New York Times reported a Pentagon official as saying of the city:
"If there are civilians dying in connection with these attacks, and with the destruction, the locals at some point have to make a decision. Do they want to harbour the insurgents and suffer the consequences that come with that?" (Quoted, Edward S. Herman, '"They kill reporters, don't they?" Yes - as Part of a System of Information Control That Will Allow the Mass Killing of Civilians,' Z Magazine, December 8, 2004)
Iraqis more generally, of course, had to make a decision between further resistance and devastation of this kind or submission to the occupation and its election - the bombs were, in effect, canvassing for participation. Similarly, every voter in Iraq knew very well that US political support for the flow of aid and reconstruction money - without which the country cannot be reconstructed - is dependent on cooperation with the United States and its interests.
The media's failure to expose these and other massive corrupting factors in the process meant that George Bush was free to describe the election a "resounding success", and Tony Blair to assert that "the force of freedom was felt throughout Iraq" - the public is just not in a position to disagree.
This, in turn, means the insurgency can be presented as a conflict between 'terrorism' and 'democracy', and between 'fascist fundamentalists' and 'ordinary Iraqis'. It was noticeable in the first few days after the election that the BBC did indeed begin referring to insurgents as "terrorists" - something it had previously been careful to avoid.
A key deception has involved linking the election with an alleged US-UK "exit strategy". The BBC's John Simpson wrote in the Sunday Telegraph of how British and American military and diplomats "are committed to an exit strategy which will get their forces out of the country as quickly as possible." (Simpson, '"I am left in misery."', The Sunday Telegraph, January 30, 2005)
Andrew Rawnsley wrote in the Observer: "What both the White House and Downing Street are now looking for is a way to legitimise a military exit strategy." (Rawnsley, 'A day of hope and a vote for a future,' The Observer, January 30, 2005)
We have found a grand total of three mentions in the UK press over the last month of the fact that the Americans are building a chain of permanent bases in Iraq. Julian Borger noted in the Guardian that "the Bush administration shows no signs of preparing for a pullout. The army has said it will need 120,000 troops for the next two years at least, and the Pentagon is building a string of permanent bases at a cost of billions of dollars." (Borger, 'Iraq elections: US debate focuses on plan B - to stay on or to go?,' The Guardian, January 29, 2005)
Writing in the Chicago Tribune last March, Christine Spolar reported:
"From the ashes of abandoned Iraqi army bases, US military engineers are overseeing the building of an enhanced system of American bases designed to last for years." (Spolar, '14 "enduring bases" set in Iraq - Long-term military presence planned', Chicago Tribune, March 23, 2004)
US engineers were constructing 14 "enduring bases, long-term encampments" for thousands of American troops, Spolar wrote.
In reality, the United States plans to transform Iraq into a client state. Control of Iraq's oil is a vital strategic and economic prize that the Bush administration is not about to give up. We know from the testimony of former US treasury secretary Paul O'Neill that the US planned to invade Iraq long before the September 11 attacks. The motive is clear from government memoranda seen by O'Neill dating back to the first days of the administration. One, marked "secret", said: "Plan for Post-Saddam Iraq". Another Pentagon document was entitled "Foreign Suitors For Iraqi Oilfield Contracts". (Borger, 'Bush decided to remove Saddam "on day one"', The Guardian, January 12, 2004)
Frank Brodhead comments:
"The prospect of a network of US military bases in Iraq. would increase many fold the ability of the United States to dominate the Middle East. The privatisation of Iraq's economy, the opening of Iraq to foreign (US) investment, and the political importance of the companies benefiting from the US reconstruction programme in Iraq have already created a strong vested interest in continued US domination." (Brodhead, 'Reframing the Iraq Election,'
nID=15 , January 21, 2005)
These are the true priorities of power that the election was designed to camouflage rather than to contradict.
Saturday, February 12, 2005
The elections have come and gone. The day of elections was a day of eerie silence punctuated by a few strong explosions and the hum of helicopters above. We remained at home and watched the situation on tv. E. left for about an hour to see what was happening at the local polling area, which was a secondary school nearby. He said there were maybe 50 people at the school and a lot of them looked like they were involved with the local electoral committee. The polling station near our house was actually being guarded by SCIRI people (Badir’s Brigade)
It was like an voting marathon for all of the news channels- everywhere you turned there was news of the elections. CNN, Euronews, BBC, Jazeera, Arabia, LBC… everyone was talking elections. The Arab news channels were focusing largely on voting abroad while CNN kept showing footage from the southern provinces and the northern ones.
I literally had chills going up and down my spine as I watched Abdul Aziz Al Hakeem of Iranian-inclined SCIRI dropping his ballot into a box. Behind him, giving moral support and her vote, was what I can only guess to be his wife. She was shrouded literally from head to foot and only her eyes peeped out of the endless sea of black. She stuffed her ballot in the box with black-gloved hands and submissively followed a very confident Hakeem. E. turned to me with a smile and a wink, “That might be you in a couple of years…” I promptly threw a sofa cushion at him.
Most of our acquaintances (Sunni and Shia) didn’t vote. My cousin, who is Shia, didn’t vote because he felt he didn’t really have ‘representation’ on the lists, as he called it. I laughed when he said that, “But you have your pick of at least 40 different Shia parties!” I teased, winking at his wife. I understood what he meant though. He’s a secular, educated, non-occupation Iraqi before he’s Sunni or Shia- he’s more concerned with having someone who wants to end the occupation than someone Shia.
We’re hearing about various strange happenings at different voting areas. They say that several areas in northern Iraq (some Assyrian and other Christian areas) weren’t allowed to vote. They also say that 300 different ballot boxes from all over the country were disqualified (mainly from Mosul) because a large number of the vote ballots had “Saddam” written on them. In other areas there’s talk of Badir’s Brigade people having bought the ballots to vote, and while the people of Falloojeh weren’t allowed to vote, people say that the identities of Falloojans were temporarily ‘borrowed’ for voting purposes. The stories are endless.
In spite of that, we’re all watching for the results carefully. When the ‘elected’ government takes control, will they set a timetable for American withdrawal? That would be a shocker considering none of the current parties would be able to remain in power without being forcefully backed by America with tanks and troops. We hear American politicians repeatedly saying that America will not withdraw until Iraq can secure itself. When will that happen? Our current National Guard or “Haress il Watani” are fondly called “Haress il Wathani” or “Infidel Guard” by people in the streets. On top of it all, to be one of them is considered such a disgrace by the general population that they have to wear masks so that none of them can be identified by neighbors and friends.
The results won’t really matter when so many people boycotted the elections. No matter what the number say, the reality of the situation is that there are millions of Iraqis who will refuse to submit to an occupation government. After almost two years of occupation, and miserable living conditions, we want our country back.
I do have my moments of weakness though, when I wonder who will be allowed to have power. Politicians are talking about a balance that might arise from a Shia, Kurdish alliance and it makes a lot of sense in theory. In theory, the Kurdish leaders are Sunni and secular and the Shia leaders are, well, they’re not exactly secular. If they get along, things should work out evenly. That looks good on blogs and on paper. Reality is quite different. Reality is that the Kurdish leaders are more concerned about their own autonomy and as long as the Kurdish north remains secular, the rest of Iraq can go up in flames.
An example is the situation in Baghdad today. The parties that have power in colleges today are actually the Iranian inclined Shia parties like Da’awa and SCIRI. Student representatives in colleges and universities these days mainly come from the abovementioned parties. They harass Christian and Muslim girls about what they should and shouldn’t wear. They invite students to attend “latmiyas” (mainly Shia religious festivities where the participants cry and beat themselves in sorrow over the killing of the Prophet’s family) and bully the cafeteria or canteen guy into not playing music during Ramadhan and instead showing the aforementioned latmiyas and Shia religious lectures by Ayatollah So-and-So and Sayid Something-or-Another.
Last week my cousin needed to visit the current Ministry of Higher Education. After the ministry building was burned and looted, the employees had to be transferred to a much, much smaller building in another part of the city. My cousin’s wife wanted to have her college degree legalized by the ministry and my cousin wasn’t sure about how to go about doing it. So I volunteered to go along with him because I had some questions of my own.
We headed for the building containing the ministry employees (but hardly ever containing the minister). It was small and cramped. Every 8 employees were stuck in the same room. The air was tense and heavy. We were greeted in the reception area by a bearded man who scanned us disapprovingly. “Da’awachi,” my cousin whispered under his breath, indicating the man was from the Da’awa Party. What could he do for us? Who did we want? We wanted to have some documents legalized by the ministry, I said loudly, trying to cover up my nervousness. He looked at me momentarily and then turned to the cousin pointedly. My cousin repeated why we were there and asked for directions. We were told to go to one of the rooms on the same floor and begin there.
“Please dress appropriately next time you come here.” The man said to me. I looked down at what I was wearing- black pants, a beige high-necked sweater and a knee-length black coat. Huh? I blushed furiously. He meant my head should be covered and I should be wearing a skirt. I don’t like being told what to wear and what not to wear by strange men. “I don’t work here- I don’t have to follow a dress code.” I answered coldly. The cousin didn’t like where the conversation was going, he angrily interceded, “We’re only here for an hour and it really isn’t your business.”
“It is my business.” Came the answer, “She should have some respect for the people who work here.” And the conversation ended. I looked around for the people I should be respecting. There were three or four women who were apparently ministry employees. Two of them were wearing long skirts, loose sweaters and headscarves and the third had gone all out and was wearing a complete “jubba” or robe-like garb topped with a black head scarf. My cousin and I turned to enter the room the receptionist had indicated and my eyes were stinging. No one could talk that way before the war and if they did, you didn’t have to listen. You could answer back. Now, you only answer back and make it an issue if you have some sort of death wish or just really, really like trouble.
Young females have the option of either just giving in to the pressure and dressing and acting ‘safely’- which means making everything longer and looser and preferably covering some of their head or constantly being defiant to what is becoming endemic in Iraq today. The problem with defiance is that it doesn’t just involve you personally, it involves anyone with you at that moment- usually a male relative. It means that there might be an exchange of ugly words or a fight and probably, after that, a detention in Abu Ghraib.
If it’s like this in Baghdad, I shudder to think what the other cities and provinces must be like. The Allawis and Pachichis of Iraq don’t sense it- their families are safely tucked away in Dubai and Amman, and the Hakeems and Jaffaris of Iraq promote it.
At the end of the day, it’s not about having a Sunni or Shia or Kurd or Arab in power. It’s about having someone who has Iraq’s best interests at heart- not America’s, not Iran’s, not Israel’s… It’s about needing someone who wants peace, prosperity, independence and above and beyond all, unity.
- posted by river @ 12:41 AM
12, 2005 - "The elections in Iraq last January 30th can in no way be considered to be a step toward
democracy, as American public opinion, and even some European, has maintained". The 74-year-old world famous
Egyptian economist Samir Amin, but who lives between France and Senegal, relayed this message to MISNA. "It’s
wrong to evaluate the vote as a step in favor of the normalization of Iraq, or even, a prelude of the end of
the military occupation,” added Amin, who is also president of the World Alternative Forum and an icon of the
movement against the globalization of inequalities producing imbalance and misery.
"They told us that a large number of people went to the polls, but the real scandal is that there were no independent observers: the suspicion of massive fraud remains" he noted echoing the criticisms already voiced by Seymour Hersh – the American journalist, who delivered news of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam to the world.
"The result of the Iraqi elections is the product of a political calculation of two forces: the majority Kurdish party and the Islamist Shiite movement" said Amin to MISNA. "Both forces have voted en masse in order to exercise greater power: it is a political method that may or may not be approved of. I disapprove" noted the economist. "We have to stress that at the polls a majority of Iraqis did not adhere to the alleged American…democratization project". Stopping to think for a moment, he specifies: "Actually no, we cannot even speak of a democratic project: the USA is merely looting the oil and that’s all!". Even Europe appears to be ignoring this. "Europeans understand perfectly well what is going on in Iraq but they don’t want to create additional ruptures with Washington," argues Amin, who authored a prophetic critique of free market economics entitled ‘Uneven Development’.
"The results of the vote show that the Iraqi scenario is more complicated now: the true democratic forces in the country are more isolated and are clearly pitted against the military occupation of the country and the theft of its resources, but they did not have the conditions to effectively participate in the elections" insists the Egyptian intellectual. Amin is also keen to criticize – even as he is a member of the jury of the mass media session of the World Court now taking place in Rome – the role played in the Iraq war by a sector of the media. "The media have had a gigantic responsibility and their democratic deficit is sadly on the rise" said Amin to MISNA.
"The United States presents itself as a great democratic country, but I notice that American media themselves are the most scandalously trained to observe the dictatorship of capital, as Noam Chomsky was correct to denounce". Europe is following dangerously close: "Until now there was a greater capacity for independence, which seems to be at risk. Italy is an unfortunate example of this". (interview by Emiliano Bos)
14 February 2005 - The Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq has said the country's elections cannot be
accepted as they were conducted while under occupation.
A spokesman for the influential Iraqi group, Muhammad Bashar al-Faydhi, told Aljazeera on Sunday: "We, from the beginning, have announced our position towards the election as a political process that does not meet the interests of Iraqis since it lacks legitimacy.
"It was carried in the absence of international supervision and under occupation. Only persons with vested interests were supervising the political process, a move that is not logically and scientifically accepted," al-Faydhi added.
Election officials announced the results earlier in the day, saying 47% of eligible voters took part in the 30 January vote.
"It was carried in the absence of international supervision and under occupation. Only persons with vested interests were supervising the political process"
Muhammad Bashar al-Faydhi, AMS spokesman
But many Iraqis, most notably Sunni Arabs, did not vote due to security concerns or after boycotting the elections altogether.
Officials said only 2% of Sunni Arabs from al-Anbar province voted while only 29% from Salah al-Din province voted.
AMS officials said they will establish relations with the new government despite their belief that it lacks the authority to govern.
"For the sake of those people [who voted], we respect their choice, and will deal with the new government. Yet we know it lacks authority, does not diplomatically represent Iraq, and does not have the right or legitimacy to draw up a permanent constitution and enter in or ratify agreements," al-Faydhi said.
February 15, 2005
I keep reading that the Americans suffered an embarrassing defeat in the Iraqi election, with the results now effectively establishing a Shi'ite theocracy controlled by Iran ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?node=admin/registra
tion/login&destination=login&nextstep=gather&application=reg ... ). This is certainly a further blow to American prestige, and demonstrates the hollowness of Bush's talk about 'freedom', but is it really a blow for the neocons? Their interests are definitely not the same as the interests of the United States. The neocons have but two goals, not necessarily in this order:
* gain control of all the Middle Eastern oil fields so that they may use such control to dominate the world (and in particular to blackmail the rest of the world into continuing to fund American profligacy); and
* establish Greater Israel from the Nile to the Euphrates.
The neocons could care less about the type of government in Iraq, as the oil fields will continue to be guarded by a huge contingent of American troops. Actually, they would prefer a dictatorial theocracy, as it would further fuel their arguments that the Arab mind isn't capable of understanding democracy, and thus that the Middle East should continue to be run by 'strong men' compliant with the interests of the American empire. Of course, Greater Israel cannot occur until the country of Iraq is broken up. As Oded Yinon wrote in 1982 (italics in the original):
Iraq, rich in oil on the one hand and internally torn on the other, is guaranteed as a candidate for Israel's targets. Its dissolution is even more important for us than that of Syria. Iraq is stronger than Syria. In the short run it is Iraqi power which constitutes the greatest threat to Israel. An Iraqi-Iranian war will tear Iraq apart and cause its downfall at home even before it is able to organize a struggle on a wide front against us. Every kind of inter-Arab confrontation will assist us in the short run and will shorten the way to the more important aim of breaking up Iraq into denominations as in Syria and in Lebanon. In Iraq, a division into provinces along ethnic/religious lines as in Syria during Ottoman times is possible. So, three (or more) states will exist around the three major cities: Basra, Baghdad and Mosul, and Shi'ite areas in the south will separate from the Sunni and Kurdish north. It is possible that the present Iranian-Iraqi confrontation will deepen this polarization."
As I wrote a while ago ( http://xymphora.blogspot.com/2004/09/dont-forget-yinon.html :
see also here: http://xymphora.blogspot.com/2003_11_01_xymphora_archive.htm
and here: http://xymphora.blogspot.com/2004/03/who-is-behind-violence-
"The Iraqi-Iranian war failed to accomplish the dissolution of Iraq, so the Americans were tricked by the neocons into the attack on Iraq, largely through the efforts of Douglas Feith feeding erroneous Israeli-prepared intelligence into the American political system. Feith will no doubt someday be honored by a statue in Israel. Israeli or American agents provocateurs currently operating in Iraq are finishing the job proposed by Yinon, as part of a similar ongoing operation against all the Arab states, of breaking the country up into small, unthreatening ethnic enclaves. Everything that we see going on in Iraq today has to be seen in the light of the long-standing Zionist plans for the Middle East."
Now we're supposed to believe that this phony election, staged by the neocons and run by the Pentagon, with the votes counted without any effective international monitoring, represents a defeat for the neocons? I don't think so. Those who do the counting get exactly the result they want. With the Sunnis effectively completely powerless, and at the mercy of their historic enemies, the Shi'ites, and the Kurds ( http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6965086/ ) feeling overly powerful due to their relatively strong showing, we have all the elements set up for a complete break-up of the country into three parts, all burdened by ongoing wars and violence. Once the Kurds form their own state Turkey will have to become involved, and the war will ruin relations with Turkey's Kurdish population, thus permanently queering Turkey's chances of getting into the EU (once Turkey is part of Europe, with Turkey's enormous population of consumers and producers, it's game over for the American Hegemon). The Sunnis will never accept Shi'ite rule, and the continuing resistance will eventually lead to civil war. The neocons will be able to use alleged Iranian meddling in Iraq as one of their excuses for the new war on Iran, and the Great Game will again be afoot. The big danger that we're hearing about, that there will be an Iranian-dominated Shi'ite empire from Iran across central Iraq and into Lebanon, won't be a problem for the neocons once Iran is smoldering under American and Israeli nukes. Who won the Iraqi elections? The neocons!
The Earlier Demonstration Elections
In our 1984 book Demonstration Elections: U.S.-Staged Elections In The Dominican Republic, Vietnam, and El Salvador, Frank Brodhead and I stressed that such elections were mainly designed to placate (and mislead) the home population of the United States rather than to decide anything important in the countries in which the election was held. In each of the earlier cases the election did help consolidate the power of the U.S.-chosen leaders, but its most important function was to demonstrate to the U.S. public that we were on the right track in the occupied countries, helping them on the road to democracy. The fact that the peoples there came out and voted was interpreted as proof that they approved our occupation and wanted us to stay and finish the job. And in Vietnam and El Salvador the United States stayed on and managed a great deal more destruction and killings.
We also called attention to the fact that there was a sharp difference between what the voters allegedly wanted out of the election and what they got. In both Vietnam and El Salvador the public was reportedly eager for peace, according to U.S. news reports. However, the point of those elections was to strengthen the authority of political elements that were completely geared to further war, in accord with U.S. official demands, and further war is what ensued. Thus the elections yielded a result in contradiction to the apparent goals of the voters.
Another theme of the book was the failure of those demonstration elections to meet accepted standards that make elections truly free, including: freedom of assembly, speech, and press; the right to organize intermediate bodies like unions and political associations; the ability of candidates of all political complexion to enter their slates and compete; and the absence of state terror that might coerce voters into voting or voting for particular candidates. None of these conditions were met in the earlier demonstration elections.
A further theme was the calculated use of voter turnout as a measure of approval of the election and occupation itself, with the opposition of rebels serving as the dramatic counterpart of the contest. If people voted despite that rebel opposition it supposedly demonstrated the populace’s support of the official candidates--and of the occupation--and rejection of any opposition. We noted that this formula was not used in the case of the Polish election of 1947 sponsored by the Soviet Union; there the high turnout was cited as proof of coercion. There, the 170,000 Soviet-trained security police on hand was in itself considered to rule out the possibility of a free election. The Nicaraguan election of 1984 yielded a fine turnout for the Sandinistas, but here too, despite the contra opposition to the election, the turnout was not interpreted as demonstrating popular support of the Sandinista government, which was undergoing attack and destabilization by the Reagan administration.
The U.S. media’s treatment of those earlier demonstration elections was perfect as service to the election’s U.S. organizers, and the perfection of this service was further exhibited in the media’s refusal to apply the same criteria of evaluation to the Nicaraguan election of 1984 (see Herman and Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent, pp. 116-137, for details on this amusing but gross double standard) . For each of their own government’s demonstration elections the media featured turnout as proving something important. In the case of Vietnam, the standard formula employed throughout the media ran: “Despite attempts by the Vietcong to intimidate them, South Vietnamese voters turned out in large numbers” (NYT, Sept. 11, 1967), which “surprised and heartened” U.S. officials (NYT, Sept. 4, 1967); and another article featured officials saying “U.S. Aides Foresee Saigon Peace Step as a Result of Vote” (NYT, Sept. 6, 1967). The New York Times and media in general never allowed awkward facts, such as a brutal military occupation, the absence of freedoms of speech, assembly, or organization, and that virtually all authorities agreed that the “Vietcong,” which was not on the ballot, had more indigenous support than the U.S.-appointed leaders, to cause them to call the election a farce and a “sham” (as the New York Times called the vastly superior Nicaraguan election of 1984). And while the media reported the public’s desire for peace, they uniformly failed to point out before, during or after the election that it was clearing the ground for war, and of course they never suggested that this might be its very purpose.
This model of apologetics was closely followed in the Salvadoran elections of 1982 and 1984, where turnout was featured and made a triumph, the failure to meet any of the conditions of a free election considered not worth mentioning, and the purpose—preparing the ground for further warfare—was misrepresented, and the resultant escalation of violence never related to the election triumph. As for dealing with military rule and ongoing state terror, the New York Times was satisfied that the murderous Salvadoran army, which had been killing an average of 800 civilians a month in the year before the 1982 election, “has pledged to protect voters from violence and to respect the outcome of the contest” (Warren Hoge, NYT, March 27, 1982). The paper editorialized that “despite the guerilla death threats…an impressive majority of eligible voters…went to the polls” in El Salvador’s “freest election in 50 years….The Salvadoran turnout marks a significant achievement,” never mentioning that voting was obligatory and the failure to vote dangerous. (“Democracy’s Hope in Central America,” NYT, March 30, 1982). The editors referred to “a boycott by left-wing parties,” when in fact all the leaders of those parties were on an army death list. The editorial statement that “American support for the outgoing right-centrist junta was always contingent on political pluralism and land reform” was a blatant lie; neither of these were on the U.S. or junta agenda. The only requirement for support was an agreement to fight on, as in Vietnam, a point never acknowledged by the editorialists.
The Iraq Demonstration Election
The similarities of the media treatment of those earlier demonstration election to their performance on the January 30, 2005 Iraq election have been close, with only minor differences reflecting altered circumstances. Once again the media have played the turnout card, in line with the official public relations agenda, with the Iraqi public defying the insurgents and the U.S. military playing a pro-democracy role in protecting the election, just as the Salvadoran army did in the Salvadoran elections of 1982 and 1984. This makes the election a success and a vindication of U.S. policy, as the election was organized by the United States and opposed by the insurgents; and for the media elections are inherently good if carried out under proper auspices (that is, by the current Bush administration, or in El Salvador by the Reagan administration, or in Russia in 1996 when Boris Yeltsin was favored, by Yeltsin with the support of the Clinton administration--as opposed to the election under Sandinista auspices in Nicaragua in 1984).
Once again the media do not discuss whether the conditions of a free election have been met, and whether a genuine free election can be held under a military occupation and in the midst of violent warfare. They were sure that the Soviet occupation of Poland in 1947 precluded a free election and they were doubtful it could be free under Sandinista rule in 1984 with that government’s “pugnacity” and “awesome monopoly of force” (Time). But the U.S. army in Iraq is seen only as protecting the election, not in any way influencing its outcome, which is the official and patriotic view and reflects a durable double standard (e.g., Ken Dilanian, “U.S. troops: after laying groundwork, a cautious step back,” Philadelphia Inquirer, Jan. 31, 2005).
The media did not discuss the fact that Al-Jazeera had been barred from Baghdad, that other independent media were regularly harassed, and that the U.S.-appointed interim government completely dominates television, although the media were very upset at the Sandinistas’ restrictions on the newspaper La Prensa in 1984 and implied that this badly compromised the election held there. The freedom of speech and assembly in Iraq, and the ability of candidates to campaign, were very much limited by the U.S.-insurgents war, and a large fraction of the candidates never campaigned and never even had their names listed. These disabilities were felt least by the U.S.-appointed leadership and bureaucracy, who had media access and protection by the security forces. The freedom to organize and build intermediate groups was also limited by the violence, and by the occupation authority’s hostility to labor organizations. Thus the “civil institutions that make an election meaningful” were in short supply (Brian Whitaker, “Fig-leaf freedom,” Guardian, Jan. 31, 2005). The media focused on the Iraqi insurgents pressures against voting, but they failed to mention the pressures to vote, including (as in Fallujah) the setting up of polling stations at centers that distribute food, water and money to refugees, and the reported tie-in of voter registration and voting itself with the receipt of monthly food rations (see Dahr Jamail, “Some Just Voted for Food,” Inter Press Service: http://www.uruknet.info/?p=9332
; also, Michel Chossudovsky, “Iraqi Elections: Media Disinformation on Voter Turnout?”: http://globalresearch.ca/articles/CHO501F.html) According to veteran journalist and Mexico specialist, John Ross, “making food giveaway programs contingent on delivering votes is a pillar of Mexico’s corrupted electoral system,” and he notes that two Mexican Federal Electoral Institute commissioners had been dispatched to Baghdad to give expert advice there (“Hecho en Mexico: the Iraqi Election: Fox Helps Bush Craft Bloody Electoral Farce,” Feb. 9, 2005). Perhaps most important, the media have not discussed how a military occupation (and war of pacification) shapes an election’s meaning and process. The occupation is the dominant military force in Iraq, with 150,000 service personnel, 20,000 private “security” contractors, a massive budget (some $50 billion a year in military costs), and with four permanent military bases already in place and ten more planned (see Christine Spolar, “14 ‘enduring bases’ set in Iraq,” Chicago Tribune, March 23, 2004). The U.S. Embassy is the most powerful political institution in Iraq, shaping the Iraqi official structures and bureaucracy by orders, personnel choices among Iraqis and those seconded from the U.S. government and elsewhere, and controlling the national budget—both the oil sales revenues and reconstruction and other funds allocated to it by the U.S. administration. As Phyllis Bennis has pointed out, the $16 billion in U.S. taxpayer’s money not spent on the reconstruction effort, and the U.S. military budget, “will become a potential slush fund for the new assembly’s favored projects” (“UFPJ Talking Points #29: Reading the Election in Iraq,” Feb. 1, 2005)
U.S. pro-consul Paul Bremer handed down 100 or more rules with the force of law that have affected the economy by imposing low tax rates, opening the door to trade and investment, and privatizing segments of state-owned property, in violation of international law, but creating a new structure of vested interests in continued U.S. domination. The occupation has reorganized the Iraqi government and bureaucracy, chosen judges, installed 24 ministers, and placed advisers with multi-year contracts in these ministries, again giving the occupation and its political agents economic power and leverage. It has issued Transitional Administrative Laws that will control Iraq governance while the transitional National Assembly operates and into the period following a presidential election. These laws severely limit the decision capability of the National Assembly, thus making the occupation’s rules and chosen officials the government, not the newly elected assembly, and along with the financial resources and unified direction of the occupation the occupation authorities will have an edge in any bargaining over future major appointments and legislation in the fragmented Assembly.
This military, political and financial power held by the invader must surely have affected the election at many levels, including election issues, effective candidacy, the positions taken by candidates, and the consequent limits in the policy outcomes of the election. This might not be so if the United States was truly neutral, with no stake in the outcome, no policies it wished implemented, and no differential treatment of candidates. In a remarkable illustration of internalized acceptance of the premises of a propaganda system, the U.S. mainstream media do take the United States as neutral, essentially ignoring the U.S. power position and goals in Iraq as factors that might shape the election and cause its results to accord with U.S. interests. As with the media of a well-managed totalitarian system, the U.S. media take as a premise the benevolent intent of their leadership, and as its alleged goals have shifted--in this case from “security” and eliminating Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction to liberation--so has the media’s premise regarding U.S. goals.
Honest, objective, and non-ideological analysis of the Iraq election would have featured heavily the Bush administration’s aims in Iraq, how it strove to realize those aims, and how the election fits into Bush plans. It would have discussed in detail how the occupation and its policies might make it possible for Bush aims to be realized through an electoral process that seems—like the earlier grant of “sovereignty” seemed—to relinquish final authority to Iraqis. The Bush administration’s leaders made it clear in published documents that their aim in attacking Iraq would be to project power in the Middle East, which would include the establishment of military bases there and gaining assured “access” to Iraqi oil, goals that called for a client, not a democratic, regime. This is why the administration pushed for Chalabi rule and fought against one-person one-vote elections for many months, and used the interlude till the January 30th election to work around the election threat to U.S. domination.
You will look in vain for a media analysis of the pre-invasion Bush objectives, which should have been a prelude to any discussion of the election itself as essential context. You will look in vain for any analysis of possible hidden motives behind the Bush support of the election, and how we might reconcile the apparent contradiction between support of a supposedly democratic election and the Bush administration’s oil and base control objectives. Michael Wines writes that threats to a “functioning Iraqi democracy” are “legion,” and he names them: “insurgency; a once-dominant Sunni minority that resisted the election; a now-powerful Shiite majority that remembers oppression; neighbors like Syria and Iran with reasons to sabotage democracy, and more” (“Democracy Has to Start Somewhere,” NYT, Feb. 6, 2005). But the United States is not included, despite its known pre-election goals, the character of the Bush administration, the oft-mentioned fear of Shiite majority rule producing an Islamic state allied with Iran, and the numerous U.S. actions in Iraq incompatible with self-rule. The propaganda premise and ideology are fully internalized by Michael Wines.
As to the meaning of the Iraq election turnout and vote, the media do not discuss how issues are distorted in a military occupation by the fact that the occupation itself becomes a major bone of contention. Some won’t vote because it would seem to approve the occupation, and non-voters outnumbered those who did vote. Others vote because while they oppose the occupation they hope a successful election will get the invader out faster than otherwise; still others vote in the hope that getting the election out of the way will somehow bring with it more security and stability. Some voted because of fears of loss of ration cards; still others voted because their religious leaders instructed them to vote.
The invasion-occupation may be the prime cause of insecurity and instability, but the occupation authorities and their agents, and the media, present the occupiers as the solution to occupation-generated violence. And since the occupiers dominate the flow of information as well as the means of violence their claim strikes many as plausible. As James Carroll notes, “The irony is exquisite. The worse the violence gets, the longer the Americans will claim the right to stay…. Full blown civil war, if it comes to that, will serve Bush’s purpose too” (“Train Wreck of an Election,” Boston Globe, Feb. 1, 2005). In short, the occupation itself profoundly influences the election both directly as a result of occupation authority’s actions and power, and by its indirect affect of making the occupation itself a crucial but confusing election issue l Polls show that a clear majority of Iraqis oppose the occupation and want the United States to leave quickly—a Coalition Provisional Authority-sponsored poll in May 2004 showed that 92 percent of Iraqis viewed the invaders as “occupiers” rather than “liberators”; 85 percent wanted them to leave as soon as possible, 41 percent immediately--but no candidate ran on an end-the-occupation ticket or put that goal on his or her priority agenda. (Both the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) , the dominant Shiite party grouping, and Allawi’s party, at first included a demand for ending the occupation as part of their platform, but withdrew it, presumably under U.S. pressure.) What the individual candidates and even the various groupings on the ballot stood for was not very clear, as the names of many candidates were not even disclosed (the UIA named only 37 of their 225 candidates), and there was hardly any serious campaigning and debate over the issues. But many of the candidates are beholden to the occupation and may be prepared to give it a lengthy stay. Voters may be in for some unpleasant surprises, especially the large number who voted in the belief that the National Assembly will end the occupation.
A special feature of the Iraq election has been the support given it by top Shia leaders, who hope to be able to use it to convert their numerical majority into political authority. This gave the election an element of democratic authenticity or democratic potential which may or may not be realized. It should be recognized that the Bush administration strove desperately to avoid this situation, rejecting a one-person one-vote election from the start in favor of a U.S.-appointed Governing Council, then an interim government of U.S. choice and long-lagged popular election only under the pressures of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani and the major Shiite parties--and a failing policy. As Juan Cole points out, “if it had been up to Bush, Iraq would have been a soft dictatorship under Chalabi, or would have had stage-managed elections with an electorate consisting of a handful of pro-America notables” (“A Mixed Story,” Informed Comment, Jan. 30, 2005: http://www.juancole.com/2005/01/mixed-story-im-just-appalled
But in belatedly giving way and agreeing to the January 30th election in the midst of a growing Sunni-based insurgency, the Bush administration effectively shifted the character of the conflict from a fight against the occupation to a civil war between Sunni and Shiites with the occupation aligned with the Shiites. This splintering tactic and the entire electoral process may have strengthened the administration’s position in Iraq, not only by giving it that seeming democratic imprimatur, but also by bringing together the occupation and Shiites in a pragmatic alliance that enhances the prospect of the achievement of Bush administration goals.
The New York Times writes that in the election, “in an open expression of popular will—Iraqis have expressed their clear preference that these battles be fought exclusively in the peaceful, constitutional arena” (editorial, “Message From Iraq,” NYT, Jan. 31, 2005). This alleged clear preference is not at all clear: as noted earlier a majority failed to vote at all, and many may have voted in the hopes that this would expedite the exit of the invaders, while still believing that the invaders might have to be thrown out. Many voted on the instruction of Sistani that voting was a religious duty; and some may even have voted hoping that the occupation and killing would continue as their jobs depended on this.
But the deeper dishonesty of this editorial statement is this: it ignores the fact that the “battles” have occurred because the Bush administration invaded Iraq in violation of international law and has committed massive crimes there, stoking a resistance. The invaders, having taken over the state and in command of military power and the machinery of state by illegal force and violence, are now prepared to rule mainly through “peaceful, constitutional” means, defined, organized and protected by themselves. So the insurgents should stop fighting and let the invader run the show, by means of his forcibly imposed rules, bureaucrats, judges, and money (a good part of it stolen from the proceeds of Iraq oil sales), with the U.S. army as “protector” of this “constitutional” regime. Would Pravda have had the nerve to write something this brazen about Czechoslovakia in 1968 or Afghanistan under Soviet proxy rule?
As the media have portrayed the election as a triumph for the Bush administration, and therefore a partial vindication of the aggression-occupation, as in the case of the earlier Vietnamese and Salvadoran elections this will give the administration a freer hand. Given the administration’s initial objectives it seems reasonable to expect that it will do two things: First it will intensify the pacification-by-violence program to marginalize the insurgency and clear the ground for rule by groups chosen by or deeply indebted to the invader-occupier. As Seymour Hersh has pointed out, the administration has already steadily escalated its bombing raids month by month, making all of Iraq into a “free fire zone”—“It’s simply a turkey shoot…Hit everything, kill everything”--virtually unreported in the media; and we may surely anticipate more of the same (“We’ve Been Taken Over By a Cult,” CounterPunch, Jan. 27, 2005: http://www.counterpunch.org/hersh01272005.html ).
Second, the administration will try to bolster the political position of its chosen and preferred agents and neutralize any Shia threat (a possible Islamic state; insistence on a U.S. withdrawal) by deals, bribes, and threats. The Shia are already indebted to the administration for removing Saddam, currently trying to crush a Sunni-based resistance, and agreeing to an election in which Shia voting power will give them nominal power. They may be willing to strike a deal—and a deal may already have been struck-- in which a dollop of substantive power is granted in exchange for concessions that make for limited client state status.
This all seems more likely given the fact that an important member and candidate of a leading Shiite Party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution, and current Iraqi Finance Minister, Abdel Mahdi, announced at a press conference in Washington on December 22, 2004 that “Iraq” wants to open up its oil industry to private investment. Mahdi is a leading candidate for Prime Minister. With a man like this in power the Bush administration would be well on its way to achieving its strategic objectives of controlling Iraq’s oil reserves and maintaining at least some military bases in the country.
So with media assistance the election may have helped enable the Bush administration to fight the insurgency more aggressively for an extended period; and by domination of a technically flawed election built on an unlevel playing field, by taking advantage of the various modes of power available to the occupation (rules, agents within the government, vast sums of money), and by means of deals with Shia influentials, the election may facilitate the establishment of a parent-client relationship that will allow the achievement of major Bush aims. This all requires that the insurgency be brought under control without too great an expenditure of time, money and U.S. casualties, that the election-based deal-making and government are sufficiently accommodating, and that the Iraqi people will accept more pacification and political clienthood without widening and intensifying the resistance.
Some might argue that as the United States committed aggression in Iraq, built on a system of lies, and then proceeded to perform so poorly that a major insurgency ensued, that it ought to get out or be thrown out quickly, just as Saddam was thrown out of Kuwait in 1991. But we are dealing here with a superpower, whose aggression and occupation rights are even given sanction by the UN, IMF, and “international community.” As the officials of these governments and institutions, and others, applaud the election and ignore the occupation’s influence on its results we can hardly expect the media to do otherwise. Here, as in the past, the media provide what is now standard demonstration election apologetics: the media leopard never changes its spots.
For more on this see a related article by Gareth Porter at http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=7241
By Ghali Hassan
10 March, 2005
a recent opinion piece, Naom Chomsky writes, "In Iraq, the January elections were successful and
praiseworthy. However, the main success is being reported only marginally: The United States was compelled to
allow them to take place. That is a real triumph, not of the bomb-throwers, but of
non-violent resistance by the people, secular as well as Islamist, for whom Grand Ayatollah Al Sistani is a symbol" (Khaleej Times Online, 4 March 2005). Mr. Chomsky is either completely out of touch with reality in Iraq, or simply ignorant of the legitimate rights of the Iraqi people to self-determination.
Firstly, the elections were a farce. The majority of the 14 million eligible Iraqis to vote have boycotted the elections. Since the invasion and Occupation of Iraq, Iraqis have protested and requested immediate free and fair elections, however, the Bush administration 'stifled, delayed, manipulated and otherwise thwarted the democratic aspiration of the Iraqi people'. The US administration turned down the idea of elections, claiming that technical problems would permit elections in two years at the earliest. Prominent Iraqi politicians and patriots, and UN officials who are familiar with the conditions there immediately refuted this argument. (See note  for detail). According to Joachim Guilliard of German Campaign against the Embargo on Iraq, "Another important element of the US strategy was that the elections took place under the 'Transitional Administrative Law (TAL)'" drawn up by pro-Israel US jurists, such as the 32-year old pro-Israel Noah Feldman of New York University.
The TAL is destined to serve as a
blueprint for a permanent constitution. When asked about the influence of the US administration on the
selection of a government candidates, Kofi Annan's special envoy, Lakthar Brahimi, that examined the
possibilities of elections in Iraq pointed out that Paul
Bremer, US Proconsul in Baghdad, was the ruler in Iraq. "Bremer is the dictator of Iraq", he said. Earlier Bremer insisted that elections should be done "in a way that takes care of our concerns", not the Iraqi people concerns . "If Lebanon cannot have free elections while under [Syrian] occupation, how, asks the rest of the world, does Iraq have free elections when it is under US military occupation?", writes Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration.
Furthermore, to allow the US to continue
the Occupation and violence, Al-Sistani backed down from his position to early elections and handover plan,
and accepted US proposition for late elections (to coincide with Bush inauguration and his tour of Europe) on
US terms and agenda. Al-Sistani is
now part of the Iraqi Interim Government (IIG). Al-Sistani list, the Iraqi United Alliance (IUA), includes Ahmed Chelabi and his gang of criminals. Further, there is evidence that Al-Sistani supported the US attack on and the destruction of the vibrant city of Fallujah. His illness and travel to London (accompanied by Ahmed Chelabi) were timed to coincide with the slaughter of thousands of Iraqis. Al-Sistani is a religious recluse, surrounded by pro-US Occupation expatriates or quislings, and he has no idea what is going on outside his quarter. The Iraqi people have no affinity with these expatriates. They only see them on TV from the fortified privilege of the "green zone".
The few million Iraqis who voted had little choice. People have been paid bribes and trucked by US forces to voting stations to be greeted by waiting mainstream media. In addition to Al-Sistani religious decree to Iraqis that the "elections are a religious duty", voting was linked with receipt of food rations, several voters told Dahr Jamail of The NewStandard after the Sunday poll (www.dahrjamailiraq.com). On the day of voting, people had two choices, lose your card (Saddam's old food-distribution cards) and starve, or go out and vote in these fraudulent elections. 'It was hard to describe the vote as legitimate, when whole portions of the country can't vote and doesn't vote', Democrat Senator John Kerry warned. It is important remembering that Mr. Chomsky encouraged Americans to vote for John Kerry in the last US elections, which Mr. Chomsky himself described as "undemocratic" and not "praiseworthy".
Secondly, to describe the Iraqi people resisting this violent and illegal Occupation of their nation as simply "bomb-throwers" is to ignore the gross atrocities committed against the Iraqi people by US forces. This is like saying that, the Iraqi Resistance is responsible for all the violence and destruction in Iraq, and ignoring the violence of the Occupation and the many criminal elements working with the Occupation against the principle aim of the Iraqi people. The violence is brought by the Occupation, not by the people fighting to end it. Everywhere, violent resistance arises from a violent foreign military occupation. No word about the trigger-happy US soldiers and mercenaries, who not only enjoy immunity from criminal prosecution for their crimes against the Iraqi people, but also the support of the mainstream media, and the protection of the "new Iraqi army". Those who obliged to kill to defend their country and people are called "terrorists"; those who kill en masss, using napalm, chemical and nuclear weapons, to enforce their tyranny of domination are the noble (wo)men of Western "civilisation".
According to UN Charter and numerous UN resolutions, international law guarantees people's right to resist an illegal occupation by "all necessary means at their disposal" to end the occupation of their nation. Resistant groups "are entitled to seek and receive support".
Thirdly, Mr. Chomsky writes; "Hastening a US-UK withdrawal depends not only on Iraqis but also on the willingness of the American and British electorates to compel their governments to accept Iraqi sovereignty". I am not sure if Chomsky really believes in this statement or it is just the norms of liberal elites to have some right in the struggle of oppressed people against Western tyrannies. We have seen the "feel good" demonstration against the war and its outcome. The American electorates have just handed Bush and his gang of warmongers a "mandate" for unending war. Soon we will witness the generosity of British electorates to Mr. Blair and his gang of warmongers.
Chomsky is the darling of the left and
right. He is an icon for many people, and sometime provides useful information on US foreign policy. Mr.
Chomsky has every right to his views, but he does not have the right to distort what the Iraqi people
struggling for. The Iraqi people have legitimate right to
resist the Occupation. The US and its allies will not leave Iraq; they have to be forced to leave. Armed resistance to the occupation of Iraq will continue until the foreign occupiers withdraw their armies.
Ghali Hassan lives in Perth, Western Australia. He can be contacted on:
 Joachim Guilliard, (in German).
"Im Treibsand Iraks: Von 'Auftrag erfüllt' zur
unerfüllbaren Mission"? (In the
quicksand of Iraq: From 'mission accomplished' to mission impossible), IMI-Study 2004/03, August 2004, <http://imi-online.de/download/IMI-Studie-2004-03JGTreibsand.pdf>.
Also available in English, ZNet
October 02, 2004.
 Herbert Docena, "In Iraq, the show must go on", Focus on the Global South, 26.4.2004,