Iraqi Elections: a cynical deception
by : Alan Woods
Saturday January 8, 2005 - 18:37
By Alan Woods
While the whole world mourns the fate of the thousands killed and made homeless by a natural disaster in Asia, a man-made disaster is continuing to spread death, destruction and misery in an ancient country on the banks of the Euphrates and Tigris.
Bush, Blair, Rumsfeld and Powell shed crocodile tears over the victims of the tsunami and wring their hands in public. They send a few millions in “aid” to demonstrate their “humanitarianism”, but are spending tens of billions on their criminal war of occupation in Iraq.
Long after the war in Iraq was supposed to be over, they are still flooding that unhappy country with more troops, guns and weapons of destruction. The number of US troops in Iraq is at least 150,000 and rising. They have levelled whole cities and devastated whole communities. Fallujah lies in a heap of smouldering ruins - a modern Guernica.
At least a hundred thousand people have perished, countless more are maimed, homeless and hungry. And the perpetrators of all this misery pose before the television cameras as great humanitarians, liberators and representatives of civilization.
Every war is characterised by lies and propaganda that seeks to turn the aggressor into the victim and the victim into the aggressor. That is nothing new. But the hypocrisy of the aggressors in this case has acquired a level unsurpassed in the sordid annals of the history of diplomacy.
The imperialists complain loudly of “a bloody campaign to disrupt Iraq’s upcoming parliamentary elections”. But they conveniently forget that these “elections” are being held in a country that is forcibly occupied by foreign armies. The real power in Iraq is neither the present puppet Allawi administration nor any hypothetical government that may emerge out of these so-called elections. It is the US army and its masters in Washington. As long as Iraq remains under the American jackboot, all talk of elections and democracy will remain a fraud and a sham.
The people of Iraq continue to fight to free themselves of this hateful foreign rule. A few days ago the insurgents assassinated the governor of Baghdad. This shows that they have the ability to strike at the heart of the puppet regime even under the noses of the occupying forces. The Economist comments:
“Iraq’s insurgents have once again demonstrated their ability to strike at the heart of the country’s leadership, with the assassination of Ali al-Haidri, the governor of Baghdad province, on Tuesday January 4th. The governor and a bodyguard were killed when gunmen opened fire on his car, in the west of the capital. A statement apparently from a group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, an ally of al-Qaeda, said the governor was killed for being an ‘American agent’. Hours earlier, a suicide bomber killed eight Iraqi policemen and three civilians at a checkpoint near the high-security Green Zone, which houses the interim government and foreign embassies. On Monday, a suicide car-bomber killed two people while trying to crash through a roadblock near the headquarters of the Iraqi National Accord - the party of Iyad Allawi, the interim prime minister - shortly before the party had been due to announce its list of candidates for the parliamentary elections on January 30th.”
All this indicates that despite the extreme violence demonstrated by the US forces in Fallujah and other parts of Iraq, the resistance continues and has intensified. The above mentioned actions were only the latest in a string of audacious attacks aimed at showing that the resistance is still very much alive and disrupt the imperialists’ planned “elections”. This has provoked the imperialists to a new paroxysm of righteous indignation. “The insurgents are against democracy! They want to make the country ungovernable and prevent a return to normality!”
What the Iraqi resistance fighters want to make impossible is the consolidation of a criminal and illegal occupation of their country by means of fraudulent elections. The occupying forces want to bring about a kind of “normality” in which they can enjoy the fruits of their victory over the people of Iraq. The big US oil companies want “normality” to begin to exploit Iraq’s huge oil reserves. The big US construction companies want “normality” to fill their coffers with billions extracted from the Iraqi people for profitable reconstruction projects, and so on and so forth.
In order to have this kind of “normality”, they require a “normal” democratic government, run by obedient Iraqi stooges who will willingly collaborate with the occupiers of their country, handing over the eagerly awaited billions. Washington will democratically dictate its policies over the telephone to its ministers in Baghdad. The latter will hopefully take over at least some of the dirty work of crushing the insurgents currently being performed by the American and British troops. In exchange, they will be allowed to keep part of the loot obtained by plundering Iraq’s oil wealth for themselves.
This is the pleasant scenario that has been prepared for Iraq by its masters across the Atlantic. The script has been drawn up and well rehearsed. Everything is ready. But at the last minute, some of the actors seem to have forgotten their lines. This week, Mr Allawi’s intelligence chief, Mohamed Abdullah Shahwani, told the French News Agency (AFP) he reckoned there were perhaps 200,000 insurgents (including those who provide logistics and shelter to the fighters), easily outnumbering the American troops in Iraq.
This news came at a most inconvenient time for Bush, Rumsfeld and Blair. The Bush propaganda machine attempts to play down the strength of the insurgents, which are presented as a few hundred foreign fanatics and a few thousand diehard Baathists. But Iraq’s intelligence minister confirmed there were indeed now more insurgents than ever - some 200,000, he guessed, of whom he deemed 40,000 “hard core” - operating in Iraq.
These figures, despite their approximate character, have comprehensively demolished the lies of Washington’s propaganda machine. Yet they undoubtedly underestimate the real state of affairs. For every fighter actively involved in the resistance movement, there are ten, twenty or a hundred other Iraqis who sympathise with the insurgents and hate the Americans. This is the reason for the persistence of the insurgency, its ability to operate even in heavily defended areas, and maintain its fighting strength against an army of 150,000 equipped with the most modern weaponry and backed by the world’s greatest superpower.
In their eagerness to play down the level of support for the insurgents, the imperialist propaganda has attempted to exaggerate the religious-sectarian divisions in Iraq. They say the rebel forces are mainly drawn from Iraq’s Sunni Muslim Arabs, who make up only about a fifth of the country’s 26m population but have long been used to ruling the country, during Saddam Hussein’s regime and before. They claim that the Sunnis are opposed to a democratic vote because it would result in a government dominated by the country’s Shia Muslim majority.
One of the most pernicious effects of the imperialists’ rape of Iraq is precisely that it has served to stoke the fires of religious, national and sectarian divisions in Iraq. The imperialists are accustomed to using the ancient tactic of divide and rule in order to weaken the national liberation movements of the oppressed peoples everywhere. Iraq is no exception to the rule.
Right from the beginning the US imperialists cynically used the Kurds and Shiites in Iraq for their own purposes. They played on the national oppression that these peoples had undoubtedly suffered under the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, hypocritically posing as their “liberators”.
This was a blatant lie. From the start, the imperialists showed the most callous indifference to the suffering of the Shiites and Kurds of Iraq. As always they use the fate of oppressed peoples and small nations as the small change in their diplomatic manoeuvres and intrigues. When Saddam Hussein used gas to bomb the Kurds, Washington was silent. They were still selling arms - including chemical weapons - to Saddam Hussein, whom they saw as an ally against Iran at that time.
At the time of the last Gulf War, launched by George Bush’s father, the Americans cynically incited the Shiite population of the South of Iraq to rise up against Saddam Hussein, and then stood back with arms folded and watched them being crushed.
No! American imperialism is no friend of the Kurds and Shiites! It is only using the incipient religious and national divisions in Iraq as a tool to manoeuvre between the different religious and linguistic groups in order to divide the Iraqi people and strengthen their own position. This is a criminal policy and one that can have the most frightful consequences for all the people of Iraq in the future. If there is a danger of Iraq degenerating into ethnic and sectarian conflicts, that is exclusively the responsibility of imperialism.
Marxists are implacably opposed to the dismemberment of Iraq. Such a development would be against the interests of all the Iraqi people. It would seriously weaken the national liberation struggle against imperialism. Fortunately, after generations of struggle against imperialism, an Iraqi national consciousness has been forged, which will not easily be destroyed. Most Iraqis feel themselves to be Iraqis, irrespective of religious, linguistic and cultural differences. This was shown in the long war between Iran and Iraq, where very few Iraqi Shias supported Iran, where their co-religionists constitute the overwhelming majority.
Despite all the efforts of the imperialists to sow division in the ranks of the national liberation movement, both Shias and Sunnis have participated in the uprising against the foreign invader. Both communities have shed their blood and both hate the occupying forces and desire to rid their country of them.
The real reason why the insurgents are opposed to the “elections” is because they are a cynical lie and a deception of the people of Iraq and world opinion. They are not intended to introduce a genuine democracy. How can any people be free with a foreign jackboot on its neck? The real purpose of the so-called elections is quite clear: to legitimise the American-led invasion of Iraq and disguise the cruel reality of foreign occupation under the façade of a puppet administration.
What would the main aim of such a government be? First, to maintain good relations with America and ask its troops to stay. The Iraqi Quislings are not strong enough to survive without the presence of the US army. It would not last a week once the American forces were withdrawn. But by requesting the foreign troops to remain, it would provide an alibi for Bush and Blair. They would say to their critics: “We do not intend to stay in Iraq a moment longer than necessary. But we must respect the wishes of the people of Iraq, expressed through the democratically elected government that is asking us to stay.”
The situation is more or less as follows: a bandit bursts into a house in the middle of the night. He kicks the front door in, shoots the master of the house and intimidates the whole household. He breaks all the furniture, smashes the cups and plates, and eats all the food. Then he makes himself comfortable, puts his muddy boots on the table and announces that he has come to protect the family and that he would really like an invitation to stay for a few weeks - or months. Who is going to disagree with him? The family anxiously agree to his demands and he immediately tells the whole neighbourhood how much he is loved and how the family have begged him to stay as long as he likes - for their own good, naturally.
The excuse of the invaders - like the brigand in our story - is that they have come to “defend” the people of Iraq against terrible enemies, who would inflict appalling suffering on them if they could. But in view of the fact that as many as 100,000 Iraqis have already perished, whole cities razed to the ground and a formerly relatively developed and cultured country reduced to a level close to barbarism, the question may fairly be asked whether the damage inflicted by these other enemies could be any worse.
Washington and its apologists have attempted to draw a link between the Iraqi resistance and Osama bin Laden. But it has been established beyond any doubt that al-Qaeda had no base in Iraq until the US invasion opened the door to it. Osama bin Laden has George W. Bush to thank for giving him that base. Not for the first time terrorism and imperialism feed upon each other.
In any national liberation movement there are all kinds of different and even contradictory tendencies - reactionary as well as progressive. It cannot be denied that there are Islamic fundamentalist reactionaries fighting against the Americans as well as genuine Iraqi freedom fighters. In the same way, in the Resistance against the German occupation in Europe there were reactionary monarchists as well as Communists. This fact can in no way be used to call into question the progressive character of the national liberation movement in either case.
In any case, it is the unalienable right of the people of Iraq to determine what kind of government they want to live under. That decision cannot be made for them by imperialist “democrats” in Washington and London. The Iraqi people will be able to decide their own future only when these foreign “friends” are shown the door.
Allawi heads the “Iraqi List”, a Shia-led alliance that includes the interim prime minister’s party and some “moderate” Sunnis. It promises “law and order”. It is challenged by the United Iraqi Alliance, a Shia coalition whose leaders include Abdelaziz al-Hakim, a cleric close to Mr Sistani, and Ahmed Chalabi, a secular politician who used to be backed by Washington but has fallen out with his former Pentagon pals.
However, there is no agreement on the advisability of calling the January elections even among those individuals and parties who are supposed to be involved in it. The Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is pressing for the elections to go ahead on schedule, but some “moderate” Sunnis, and even some leading Shias, are calling for a delay.
On December 27th the Iraqi Islamic Party, a large and “moderate” Sunni group, became the latest to pull out of the elections and call for their postponement, on the grounds that the continuing violence, which is concentrated in Sunni-majority areas, made it impossible to conduct a fair vote. Other Sunni groups, such as the Muslim Scholars’ Board, have been adamant that they will not take part in an election while American-led forces continue to occupy the country.
The vacillations of the “moderates” (i.e. collaborators) are understandable. If they take part, they face assassination. On the other hand, if they boycott the elections, they will be excluded from any access to “power” (that is, the loot). In short, they are between a rock and a hard place.
The Americans’ plans are appearing ever shakier with each day that passes. The insurgents are stepping up their offensive, candidates are dropping out, there have been calls for a postponement even from among members of Mr Allawi’s interim administration. On Monday, the defence minister, Hazim al-Shaalan - a secular Shia - said while visiting Cairo that he was asking Egypt to try to persuade Iraqi Sunnis to take part in the election but that if they continued to boycott it, then the vote should be put off.
Speaking to Reuters news agency on Tuesday, Iraq’s interim president, Ghazi al-Yawar, a Sunni, called on the United Nations to consider having the election postponed. The next day, as the deadly attacks continued with the killing of at least 15 people at an Iraqi police academy, Mr Allawi insisted, yet again, that there will be no postponement. In this he has America’s and Mr Sistani’s firm backing.
Despite everything, Washington is insisting that the elections must go ahead as planned, even if a great part of the population has no possibility of participating in them. They argue: “imperfect elections are better than no elections.” But the truth is that the elections are only for show, for public relations at home and abroad. They are needed as a rubber stamp for the occupation. Therefore, whether they comply with the most basic democratic criteria or not has not the slightest importance. It therefore seems most likely that the election will take place on January 30th in most parts of the country.
America and its allies are hoping for a repeat of last month’s election in Afghanistan, in which threats of widespread disruption by Islamist militants failed to materialise, and the American-backed interim president, Hamid Karzai, “won” the majority. However, such an outcome is far from guaranteed in Iraq and even in Afghanistan it by no means signifies stability. Karzai’s rule does not extend far beyond the outskirts of Kabul. Just like Allawi, he is sitting precariously on American bayonets. As The Economist moaned:
“In both countries, the militant groups are far from finished and the reformed Iraqi and Afghan security forces are still weak, ill-trained and prone to desertions and infiltration. Afghanistan’s newly elected president and the elected parliament that Iraq is due to gain shortly will remain vulnerable for some time to those hell-bent on attacking both them and the concept of democracy itself.”
The word “democracy” is a proud one. The democratic rights of the working people in Britain, the United States and all other countries was won by the working class over generations of struggle against the rich and powerful, who resisted it. It is not a word that sits easily on the lips of people like George Bush, who was “elected” as President by fraud in the first place.
That other great western “democrat” Tony Blair has repeatedly shown his contempt for democracy when, together with his friend in the White House, he launched the criminal war in Iraq against the wishes of the overwhelming majority of the British people.
There can be no talk of democracy without self-determination. That elementary truth was clear to the people of the United States ever since they forcibly expelled the British army from their soil in the 18th century. If this was good for the people of America then, why is it not good for the people of Iraq now?
The farcical “elections” in occupied Iraq are a cynical deception that must be denounced by the labour movement of all countries. Those who want to defend the freedom and democratic rights of the Iraqi people must call for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all foreign troops from Iraqi soil. Let the Iraqi people decide!
London, January 7, 2005
America says “No” to the war in Iraq
A full 70 percent of US citizens think the war in Iraq has carried an unacceptable casualty cost, a Washington Post-ABC News poll published at the end of December said.
Fifty six percent said that the war was “not worth fighting,” which is an 8-point increase compared to last summer. Significantly, this is the first time a decisive majority of American people have reached that conclusion.
On the question whether Iraq is prepared for elections at the end of this month, 58 percent of respondents believed the country is not ready. Still, 60 percent want elections to go forward as planned, even though 54 percent quite rightly do not expect honest results with a “fair and accurate vote count.”
Bush’s main trump card - public confidence in his leadership in the “war on terror” - is going down the drain too compared to last year’s results. Fifty three percent approve of his record on terrorism, while 43 percent do not. Those numbers were 70 percent and 28 percent a year ago.
Similarly, an AP poll taken at the beginning of January confirms that a majority of American people take a dim view of the handling of Iraq, with 44 percent approving and 54 percent disapproving, according to the poll of 1,001 adults. On Bush’s foreign policy, people were evenly split with 50 percent approving and 48 percent disapproving.
Whatever the figures are, the trend is clear: the hawks in the White House are losing support, and sooner or later the boomerang of public protests will hit their faces.
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