At the time of the first 'democratic' elections in Iraq, America had already lost 1100 troops and spent $2oo billion on waging war. In the light of such gross expenditure of lives and money (the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who died not having been factored into this analysis, of course: they were merely 'collateral damage') it is unlikely that said occupying force, having overtly and exaggeratedly stated that its real intent in invading and occupying Iraq was to install 'democracy', would permit the population to vote for that which had always passed previously as government. The very obvious fact that a nation under US occupation* is by very nature undemocratic and therefore cannot be considered capable of holding free and unbiased elections and the Blairite propagandist message that the Iraqi people could only choose between 'democracy and terror' aside, one must question just how many were able to participate in the Iraq elections. The refugees bombed out of their homes? The street children? Those held under vague or no pretext in Allied jails?
Given the extraordinary state of daily upheaval in a country that had been systematically obliterated, it is hard to see how many Iraqis could bear witness to the message that the New U-Turning US President, one who condemned the war from outside office and supported it in it, spieled out:
"We kept our troops in Iraq to help establish a sovereign government - and you got the job done. And we will leave the Iraqi people with a hard-earned opportunity to live a better life - that is your achievement; that is the prospect that you have made possible."
We kept our troops in Iraq to help establish a sovereign government: does that sound like democracy to you? Democracy at the end of a bayonet? Or that sovereignty might be established by external forces? In a country which now doesn't even possess basic sanitation? But it gets worse. Before the first Iraqi elections in 2005, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs and the International Republican Institute were given over $80 million to orchestrate political and electoral activities in Iraq. Two of the major players: Madeleine Albright and John McCain. These 'extensions' of the State Department, claimed Prof. William Robinson of the Global and International Studies Programme at the University of California,
"are trying to select individual leaders and organisations that are going to be very amenable to the US transnational project for Iraq... pacifying the country militarily and legitimating the occupation and the formal electoral system...[will ensure that Iraq will be controlled by] economic, political and civic groups that are going to be favourable to Iraq's integration into the global capitalist economy".
Within Iraq, independent news ceased. Al-Jazeera was shut down for the duration of the elections, and newspapers critical to US endeavours were stifled. Any hint that the population protested against the continuing occupation and wished to reinstate the Baath leadership was banned by the US Proconsul, Paul Bremer. Those who did seek to report the news as it was actually happening were threatened by the army, police and insurgent forces: 'we're unable to get access to anybody. We're frightened', said a Baghdad journalist. Cramped in on three sides, what was the response by those Iraqis who sought to challenge a unilaterally US subsidised news force and an interim PM who had formerly been a CIA asset? The truth is that we don't know; there was absolutely no canvassing, panelling or analysis of media freedom or the people's response to it in the six months leading up to the elections, yet British and American newspapers, who incidentally made no mention of either the NDI/IRI involvement or the blanket ban on critical media resolutely reported that the elections were 'democratic' and 'free'. Attention now turned to the 'brave' Iraqis and the 'rebel insurgents' who apparently threatened their ability to vote:
"American and Iraqi officials have warned that rebels determined to expel foreign forces could step up attacks before Iraq's first free election in decades." (Sunday Express, Dec. 19, 2004) This just before another 1000 troops were shipped into Iraq: could there be a better pretext? Or a less legitimate 'free' election?
Unanimously, across the so-called political spectrum, all other newspapers extolled how 'we went to Iraq to make it free'; the point was no longer whether the war and occupation was legitimate or not, but that a 'democratic' election would hasten the USUKA exit strategy formulation. Leaving Iraq suddenly became the cross-party unifier. Even Menzies-Campbell regurgitated the Blair line: "Failure to hold elections on January 30 would be seen as a major triumph for the insurgence... But if these elections are to be credible they must cover the whole country and the whole population. No one should minimise the difficulty of carrying this through." Of course, the 'exit strategy' is pure fabrication: the UKUSA are tied up in Iraq for at least 30 years, having built and continuing to build military bases and outposts; and the multinationals also have moved in and laid claim to Iraq's oil supply for the next forty years too. Should Iraq become too bolshy in the near or even distant future and elect a leadership of which the West disapproves, the military will be there to make sure that the 'Arab facade' toes the line. Given that the country, having been demolished, is already divided by insurgent factions trying to lay claim the biggest piece of the pie, it is likely that Iraq will continue to dominate our headlines for the next ten years; but those who are most affected by sectarian violence, the 'ordinary' Iraqis, will continue to suffer unnoticed.
In the most recent Iraqi elections, voters had to pass through security checks. The President Nour al-Maliki hoped to build a successful election strategy on promising electricity and sewerage processing: civic amenities we take for granted, and which Iraqis took for granted before America bombed their processing plants to smithereens. According to a Baghdad journalist, "Saddam is viewed by most [Arabs] as a heroic and impeccable figure and they believe and understand that everything that has happened in Iraq ever since his oust[ing] has been catastrophic." The US model of democracy hasn't trickled down very far, then. In fact, according to the latest intelligence on the Enduring America wire, al-Maliki's party is prepared to enter into a coalition with the outspoken Allies-hating Moqtada al-Sadr in order to establish an Islamic state - which, if al-Sadr's past rhetoric is anything to go by, will almost certainly mimic Mahmoud Ahmedenijad's Iranian state paradigm. The UKUSA method of 'making an omelette by breaking eggs' doesn't work when it comes to making democracy by breaking the backs of nations, it seems.
Finally, the opinions of Iraq ex-patriots, rarely sought, are illuminating. In 2005 less than 1 in 10 registered to vote which, according to Abu Khaleel, is remarkable: "Anybody who knows even a few Iraqis is aware how passionate they generally are regarding politics. Furthermore, most of these people have had their lives severely disrupted by politics and tyranny. It cannot be that they don't care how Iraq is governed...why didn't they register to vote? Aren't they interested in democracy and elections?
The answer is simple: They are against "these" elections."
*To be discussed in a later post