The Coming Elections in Iraq

Since the end of the Second World War, when the US forced the Italian government to discharge its communist cabinet members as a prerequisite for aid, to its support for the coup attempt in Venezuela in 2003, the US has been regularly subverting elections around the globe for the benefit of its own corporate elite.

Ever fearful that foreign governments should respond to the real needs of their people, for instance introducing labour and environmental legislation, instead of the wishes of US investors, Washington has opposed the principle of democracy on every continent on the planet, even helping to overthrow democratically elected governments whenever it felt its interests threatened (i.e. Iran in 1953, Guatemala 1954, The Congo 1960, Ecuador 1961, Bolivia 1964. Greece 1967, Fiji 1987).

Neither has its methods been peaceable. Indeed its agents, in the CIA, have carried out assassination of prominent individuals with as much indifference as its embassies have supported right-wing death squads and bloody coup attempts throughout Central and South America. Across the world, the US has backed dictators of every hue, turning a blind eye to their horrendous affronts to the democratic process.

We are now to believe that the US, presently occupying “sovereign Iraq” (for President Bush has declared Iraq is now “sovereign”), a country with sizeable oil reserves, and which has lost 100,000 of its people since the US-UK invasion, will see free and democratic elections to take place on January 30th. Moreover, President Bush has since informed the people of Iraq—the same Iraq in which the CIA helped Saddam Hussein pull of a military coup: “We will help you build a peaceful and representative government that protects the rights of all citizens. And then our military forces will leave."

John Negroponte, the US Ambassador in Iraq, was adamant that the US would not allow a delay in the Jan. 30 vote, a necessary step toward establishing the first “broadly accepted” government in Iraq since the demise of Saddam Hussein and would honour Bush’s promise.

Speaking to reporters at the Embassy in Iraq he assured them that the elections would go ahead and that the security situation would be improved by then and went so far as to say that conditions in 15 of Iraq's 18 provinces were already safe enough for elections to be held.

He said:” I think once they realize that the elections will go forward as planned, then they [Sunni opponents of the election] are going to have to deal with that reality. Do they want to really opt out of an electoral process that is going to pick a National Assembly that drafts the constitution and shapes the political future of their country?” (Washington Post, 1st December).

Perhaps Negroponte is unaware that the resistance looks set to spiral, his comments coming just after it was reported that US deaths in Iraq matched the post invasion record set in April – 135 troops dead.

In Washington and London, the claim is that the ongoing attacks by insurgents is an all out attempt to disrupt the coming elections, when in truth the overriding fact is that many Iraqis still see the US as an army of occupation whose presence they have a right to oppose. An opinion poll carried out in September by the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority confirmed that opposition to the US presence was widespread. It revealed that just 2 per cent of Iraqi Arabs—minus the Kurdish population—agreed wholeheartedly with the occupation. If anything this shows that in spite of the age-old hostilities between Sunnis and Shiites, one thing that could unite them is their hostility to an occupying army of 138,000 – a figure set to increase in time for the election.

Securing the peace in Iraq in time for the elections has so far meant installing a pliable puppet regime, and implementing Order 39, which The Economist described as “a capitalist dream” and which opened up the Iraqi economy to complete foreign takeover. It has meant the deliberate bombing of homes, hospitals and religious buildings by squadrons of bombers and helicopter gun-ships, turning cities into rubble (Fallujah was napalmed), cutting off water, electricity and medical supplies and spreading hunger and disease.

A comprehensive new study by the British-based charity organisation Medact, that looks at the impact of war on health, reveals that acute malnutrition among Iraqi children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years has increased from 4% prior to the invasion to 7.7% since the invasion and that about 400,000 Iraqi children are suffering from 'wasting' and 'emaciation' ­ conditions of chronic diarrhoea and protein deficiency.

A recently published UNICEF report reveals that, "Before 1990 and the imposition of sanctions, Iraq had one of the highest standards of living in the Middle East". Now "at least 200 children are dying every day. They are dying from malnutrition, a lack of clean water and a lack of medical equipment and drugs to cure easily treatable diseases".

Despite such facts as these, Washington would have it that people in Iraq—who, on the face of it—faired better under Saddam, are being irrational in not supporting US organised elections. And little wonder that various groups of rebels have promised to upset the elections with waves of attacks around the country, including Baghdad, where many insurgents are claimed to have fled as Fallujah fell.

As we go to press, Iraq's delicate political arrangement looks to be on the brink of collapse, with Sunnis, Shias and Kurds at odds over whether elections can take place on January 30th as planned. Iraq's 60 per cent Shia majority, who clearly suffered worst under the reign of Saddam Hussein, are keen for the elections to go ahead on time, knowing they are likely to consolidate the increased power they have enjoyed since the Sunni president's overthrow.

However, as rebels have continued their assaults on other towns since the fall of Fallujah, a campaign led by Sunni politicians has gathered momentum, with Shia leaders claiming that a postponement of the election date would only play into the hands of the insurgents.

The head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, has said he would discard calls to delay the elections to choose a national assembly. He has been backed by 42 mainly Shia and Turkmen parties who have issued a statement to say moves to delay the elections were illegal.

Contemplating the stalling of elections, Al-Hakim said: 'This would mean the terrorists have been able to achieve one of their main objectives; that there be no elections and that a suitable political process does not start…We will insist on the necessity of holding elections and that a delay will not be in the interests of the Iraqi people.' (Observer, 28/11/04)

Conversely, Adnan Pachachi, a former Sunni minister, is heading a group of 17 political parties asking that January 30's vote be delayed by six months because of the violence, fearing the insurgency in Sunni towns will discourage people from voting, thus disenfranchising them. Significantly, the two major Kurdish parties have also signed up to the delay

Pachachi claimed it was “unthinkable that a large and important section of Iraqi society be left out of the political process…Security has to improve to enable people to vote without fear.” (Observer, ibid).

Iyad Allawi, the interim leader appointed by Washington to run Iraq, has said that in centres of resistance like Fallujah elections could be “delayed” until stability existed there, without the vote being invalidated, or in other words Washington-style Democracy would will be available in the first instance only to those who did not resist the occupation by US forces.

Alawi, it seems, has no real control over the situation and though it is said he has the power to cancel the election if he wished, there still exists the US hand-picked seven-member commission set up to run the elections, and which has the power to bar any candidate or party from standing and which will be deciding who is and who is not eligible to stand as a candidate.

Under the rules, the Iraqi electorate will vote for a 275-member Transitional National Assembly. Political parties will submit a list of candidates and every third name has to be a woman's. Those Parties with alleged connections to militias are disqualified from taking part, along with former leading members of the Baath Party.

Only recently has the US taken into consideration the fact that the elections will coincide with the haj (one of the five tenets of Islam), when millions of pilgrims are en route to Mecca via Iraq. Many of these pilgrims will be fundamentalists, aware that numerous mosques across Iraq have been bombed by US forces and with fresh memorises of Fallujah, Najaf and Samarra and other instances of US hard-handedness and with 120 parties allegedly contesting the election, many “foreign” fighters are expected to be smuggled in amidst the mayhem. Shopkeepers who have been asked to take on the job of distributing election registration papers have been threatened with death should they comply

The US hopes to have 150,000 troops in place in time for the election, evidence if ever it was needed that the crisis in Iraq is escalating. It was not so long ago that Bush was boasting how US troops had been greeted as liberators and projected that the country could be policed with 50,000 troops by the end of 2003. Now military analysts are cautioning that the Iraq army and police force will not be in a position to police the country for another ten years. So much, then for Bush’s claim that once a legitimate Iraqi government is up and running the troops will be on their way home

And as for the post-election situation, make no mistake, any government elected in Iraq will be permitted to function only so long as it kowtows to the dictates of Washington and any member of a forthcoming Iraqi parliament will be allowed to breathe only so long as he does not point to US corporate designs on the country, or mention words like “trade unions” or “accountability”. Whatever, government is elected to ‘rule’ Iraq on January 30th it will only be allowed to do so with the endorsement of the White House.

Here in Britain, Bush’s sidekick, Tony Blair, is likewise looking forward to a post-election regime in Iraq that has no real say on foreign investment. Moreover, Blair is desperate for elections to take place in Iraq for the simple reason that he needs something resembling a foreign policy success to present to voters in the run up to the election. Indeed any good news at all at the moment would be welcomed by New Labour.

The essential goal of the Bush regime in the Middle East remains the same as that of preceding administrations going back to WWII, and that is to reinforce control of the region’s oil reserves and the profits that arise from them. Furthermore, Washington is well aware that control of Middle East oil gives the US enormous leverage over its economic rivals, Europe, Japan and China, all of whom are more dependent on Middle Eastern oil than the US, the latter expected to have the same oil demands as the US within 25 years.

That Iraq has huge oils supplies is the sole reason the US cannot allow a government—freely elected by its people and one advocating a US departure—to exist.

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