‘I look at the elections as … a historical marker for our Iraq policy.’ George W. Bush
Elections are due on 30 January 2005 in Iraq, after nearly two years of brutal occupation. The elections were designed to consolidate the occupation, ‘legitimise’ those who serve US interests in Iraq, and hence prolong the suffering of the Iraqi people. The purpose of the elections is to deceive the peoples of the world.
The Bush administration is counting on the current US-appointed Iraqi Interim Government (IIG) to form the Iraqi ‘faÃ§ade’ in Baghdad. However, this will not work. It is well documented that the Allawi ‘government’ is far less popular among Iraqis than the regime of Saddam (see http://juancole.com). In an August poll Allawi managed only 2 per cent of Iraqi approval. Furthermore, Iraqis see all members of the IIG as collaborators with the occupation having no loyalty to Iraq.
The core of the IIG are: the Allawi’s group of exiles (INA), the Chalebi’s group of exiles (INC), the Peshmergas of the two Kurdish parties, and the Badir Brigade (Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, SCIRI), mostly of Iranian origins. Their relations with the occupation are fully symbiotic. They co-exist in a mutually beneficial relationship with their US master. They are participating in the upcoming elections because it is in their own interest.
Members of the IIG groups are forming a new block, the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), whose alliance includes a smattering of Shiites and non-Shiite elements. The UIA includes Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani and Ahmed Chalebi and everyone in-between. They have made it very clear that if they gain power in the elections they will not demand the immediate withdrawal of American troops.
Behind the scenes, the Bush administration is grooming its stooge and occupation spokesman, Iyad Allawi. His group and others in the IIG are rigging the elections by enticing Iraqis living abroad to vote for the current IIG members, assassinating members of the Iraqi Muslim Cleric’s Associations, kidnapping and detaining Iraqi politicians, and providing citizenships and election ballots to illegal Iranians enabling them to vote in Iraqi elections. ‘When it comes to fixing elections, the Bush administration has a way of making the lame walk,’ writes Gary Younge of the Guardian. Victory is guaranteed to those who work for the occupation and serve US interests.
It is not possible to hold free and fair elections in a country under foreign occupation and martial law. Those who favour elections under occupation are naÃ¯ve. President Vladimir Putin of Russia, who must know very well how to organise ‘democratic’ elections under occupation said recently: ‘Honestly speaking, I cannot imagine how it is possible to organise elections in a country under conditions of total occupation by foreign forces… It’s absurd. It’s a farce. Everything is upside down,’ he said, condemning European elections monitors’ plans to observe the poll from Jordan as a ‘farce’.
It is important to remember that most Iraqis would accept free and fair elections under UN control, provided that US troops are replaced by UN troops from neutral nations, as rightly put by Joachim Guilliard of Ausdruck IMI Magazine. Six months after the invasion, the US and its ‘coalition of the willing’ would have been able to hold elections. UN officials and Iraqi officials argued at the time that elections were feasible and possible within six months, but they were dismissed by the US. The Bush administration ‘stifled, delayed, manipulated and otherwise thwarted the democratic aspiration of the Iraqi people,’ writes Canadian journalist and author, Naomi Klein. It was Washington who replaced the process of democracy with violence.
American anti-democratic and influential agencies, with long records of manipulating foreign democracies to suit Washington’s interests, have their hands in the election process. The International Republican Institute (IRI) headed by Republican Senator John McCain has received over $80 million to conduct political and electoral activities in Iraq. The National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), headed by Madeleine Albright, is back this time to ‘help’ Iraqis with democracy. The idea is appalling beyond belief, given the despicable behaviour of Ms Albright against the Iraqi children during the genocidal sanctions.
The IRI and the NDI are offshoots of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a quasi-private institution sponsored by Washington. According to Jim Tarbell and Roger Burbach of the Centre for the Study of the Americas (CENSA), ‘democracy at the NED is by no means a popular democracy with broad participation. Instead NED promotes a top-down, controlled democracy in which the Ã©lites govern and the popular classes are only given token participation at election time. Meanwhile private economic power reigns supreme.’ In addition to its role in promoting the invasion of Iraq since 1997, NED was also involved in last year’s coup d’Ã©tat against the democratically elected Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.
Commenting on this new ‘democracy-building’ enterprise, Thomas Carothers, director of the Democracy Project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said recently, ‘Beneath the new interest of the United States in bringing democracy to the Middle East is the central dilemma that the most powerful, popular movements are the ones that we [Americans] are deeply uncomfortable with.’ Free and democratic elections are the last thing the Bush administration needs in Iraq.
In the same way that Israel hopes to legitimise its occupation of Palestine by the use of terror, the US is hoping for similar results in Iraq. Like the Israeli occupation of Palestine, US occupation of Iraq is a violent occupation where innocent women, children and unarmed men have been massacred. The death toll is now more than 100 000 half of them women and children. Thousands of Iraqis are imprisoned and tortured; the lives of millions more have been wrecked. In addition, since the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, acute malnutrition among Iraqi children between the ages of six months and five years has doubled, as revealed by the British-based charity organisation (Medact – http://www.medact.org/).
As James Petras writes, ‘The terror bombing of homes, hospitals and religious buildings by hundreds of airplanes and helicopter gunships is described by the media as “securing the city [of Fallujah]for free elections” ‘ but will continue producing disasters elsewhere that make no headlines in the Western media.
Unlike the death toll from the latest tsunami in South-East Asia, which has morphed into an urge to hear more updates and to see more TV footage, western media systematically ignores the death of innocent Iraqi civilians. The ‘stingy’ outcry over a natural disaster and complete silence over the US-made disaster is moral hypocrisy.
Despite that, those who are responsible for the mass killing of Iraqi civilians have not been indicted with war crimes or been held accountable by prosecutors. Instead, a devastated nation and broken defenceless people are forced to vote for an old-fashion colonial dictatorship, which has its echoes in other foreign countries under the tutelage of the US administration.
The US history of preparing fraudulent elections in foreign countries is widespread. The democratic model the US is sowing in Iraq is that of dependence and subordination. From El Salvador and Nicaragua to the Philippines and Japan, and from Uzbekistan and Afghanistan to Jordan and Egypt, everywhere, the ones that rule are those that serve US interests against the interests of the majority of the native people.
The US is more interested in domination and empire building, than ‘democracy-building’. There are plenty of examples of the US and Britain supposedly spreading democracy. It is worth noting that the US Proconsul in Iraq is Mr John Negroponte. In his previous job as the Proconsul in Honduras, Mr Negroponte was responsible for supervising the elections of colonial dictatorships in Honduras and El Salvador, not democracy.
Iraqis have proved to be more educated in the business of elections and democracy than their American occupiers. They are not putting great hope in these elections because, like the US ‘handover of sovereignty’, they will have no effect on the situation on the ground. Robert Fisk, The Independent, claims that most Iraqis view the upcoming elections as another US trick to consolidate the occupation. The elections are set to divide the Iraqi people, according to the US-installed occupation Transitional Law (TAL). The TAL aims at breaking up of the Iraqi society and weakening the nation. It creates a dependent, sectarian Iraq ruled by US forces and US corporations.
The election process lacks transparency, democratic credentials and legitimacy. According to Dahr Jamail of The NewStandard, who is the only independent reporter in Iraq, Iraqis are saying: ‘The Americans won’t allow a legitimate election in their own country, so why would they have one here’. Like the US-orchestrated elections in Afghanistan, the outcome of the elections in Iraq is a forgone conclusion. For the US, democracy is a ‘necessary illusion’ propagated to deny people the power of participation. In fact, elections are a very minor component of democracy. Democracy is a collection of institutions that govern an entire nation, accountable to ordinary people.
The US should completely withdraw its armed forces from Iraq. All Iraqis are in favour of elections as long as the occupation forces withdraw from Iraq. According to recent polls, 98 per cent of Iraqis want the Americans to leave their country. Meanwhile a poll conducted by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations (CCFR) reveals that more than two-thirds of both the US public and US leaders agree that the US should withdraw from Iraq if a clear majority of Iraqis want it to do so.
Instead of finding an exit strategy to withdraw its forces and end the violence in Iraq, the Bush administration is increasing its hold on the country, using the pretext of democracy. An exit strategy to end the US Occupation of Iraq is not impossible. The UN General Assembly, which is less influenced by the US and Britain, is the body most suitable to take over Iraqi affairs and help the Iraqi people achieve sovereignty and freedom. The UN has an obligation to condemn this act of aggression and illegal occupation of a sovereign member of the world community of nations.
Any elections under occupation must be in the form of a referendum on whether or not to end the US occupation. The small island of East Timor was a good example of ‘UN-supervised’ elections, which ended the foreign occupation of the island and gave the people sovereignty.
‘We are occupied. That is a fact. The occupiers have a team of Iraqis willing to work with them. The coming elections will be completely rigged. We are not making emotional decisions here; we have studied the situation carefully and weighed our options. After extensive meetings with many parties and people we came to the conclusion that contesting the elections would contribute to the process of legitimising the occupation. We reject the occupation and its outcomes and this includes the elections,’ Salah Omar A-Ali, formerly Iraq’s information minister, told Al-Ahram Weekly recently.
The upcoming elections are fraudulent and will not provide legitimate government. Legitimacy must be based on the withdrawal of foreign forces from Iraq and free and democratic elections. If these factors are missing, as is the case, then resistance to the occupation will continue until the US and its influence have disappeared from Iraq’s political system. If the government elected later this month cannot tell the US to withdraw its troops, then it will not be an independent government of a sovereign nation.
The US-sponsored undemocratic elections will not produce democracy and sovereignty for Iraq. The best solution for Iraq is the end of US occupation and the true liberation of the Iraqi people from foreign domination.
Donate To New Matilda
New Matilda is a small, independent media outlet. We survive through reader contributions, and never losing a lawsuit. If you got something from this article, giving something back helps us to continue speaking truth to power. Every little bit counts.