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Old 01-31-2005, 02:08 PM   #1
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Democracy in Iraq...not (?)

From: http://www.commondreams.org/views05/0131-29.htm

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An Election to Anoint an Occupation
Had it Been Held in Zimbabwe, the West Would Have Denounced it

by Salim Lone

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

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005


A lot of people, including much of the western media, GW and Blair are already touting the Iraq election as a success. I, frankly, find such claims pre-mature. This and the following article are two examples of articles that take another perspective.

What do people here think about it?


Jon
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Old 01-31-2005, 02:09 PM   #2
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Here's another one from: http://www.commondreams.org/views05/0131-33.htm


Quote:
Published on Monday, January 31, 2005 by Laura Flanders
Did Democracy Come to Iraq Today?


There was a lot of talk this past week about cruel and degrading punishment. Not in the context of Alberto Gonzales hearings. The man who okayed torture for some under US jurisdiction, was confirmed as our Attorney General. There was however, reflection on torture and man’s inhumanity to man, in Europe, where Global Notables and a few death camp survivors gathered to commemorate the liberation of Auschwitz by the Red Army.

What made that holocaust possible? A lot of things, but one was this: the world’s willingness to accept that human lives come with different worth. We in the US know it from slavery days – the powerful can persuade themselves pretty easily that those they’re exploiting are different from them. That those others, have a need for happiness and tolerance for pain that’s lesser and greater than our own. Their dreams are different, their aspirations, their needs. Alberto Gonzales clearly accepts that view to some degree. Would he approve of his son or daughter’s torture – I doubt not. Over the ages, those on the receiving end of US supremacist policy have had cause to ask -- Are our lives not worth the same as American lives?

To some extent, we all buy into the notion of difference. None more so, right here, than all those hardcore religious conservatives who condemn humanists as "moral relativists." Morality is absolute, they say, not relative. But they sure don’t act that way.

In all the discussion of Iraq's election this week, we've heard a lot of what you might call "democratic relativism." We know what we mean by democracy – Iraqis don’t have that, exactly, but they have something and they should be grateful for that, we're told.

We know what we consider indispensable in a democracy: convenient access to polls, safe ways to cast a ballot, full counting, fair accounting; candidates who respond to the populace, a population that’s educated enough and interested enough to care.

Genuine democracy has to do not with numbers, but with meaningful popular participation. People can be empowered by casting ballots, but creating an empowered and engaged population requires a lot more besides. Rolled into all the above are certain basics we tend to take for granted. Voters with free will -who are neither too scared nor too hungry, nor too ill educated or angry to vote, and a political system that permits the representatives that are elected to act in what they consider to be the best interests of their constituents.

I suspect that we mean by the term "democracy" isn't so different from what Iraqi men and women have in mind. It’s a process, not a moment and it's measured by the faith of the people involved, not statistics.

Genuine democracy hasn't yet been achieved right here. Did Democracy come to Iraq today? You tell me.

Commentary from Laura Flanders radio show on Sunday, January 30, 2005. Radio, books, articles, appearances -- want to know more? Check out LAURA FLANDERS.COM

2005 Laura Flanders.Com


Any more thoughts?

Jon
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Old 01-31-2005, 04:12 PM   #3
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I'm sure the bad guys are fuming and consider this a huge defeat. After all, there goal was to kill at least 450 Iraqis, not 45. I'll go out on a limb and declare this a victory for the cowboy. But the bad guys still have time to behead people with purple thumbs.
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Old 01-31-2005, 04:23 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally posted by Klink

Any more thoughts?

Jon
As a matter of fact, yes.

I agree with Laura Flanders's article -- the elections in Iraq were not the perfect model of a democratic state. But it's a hell of a lot better than Iraq's previous "elections".

Salim Lone's article, on the other hand, is pure tripe. What exactly is the US doing to "disenfranchise" the Sunnis? So 60% of the country has different ideas about how to run the country than they do. Next thing, we'll be hearing about how South Africa's elections are illegitimate because the Afrikaners didn't participate.

Lone says that "virtually no Iraqis see the US as a promoter of freedom and democracy". That's not what a bunch of Iraqi bloggers say.

Obviously it is of critical importance that the country be kept safe for the government and for the people. Whether this safety is to be enforced in the future by US troops, UN troops, Iraqi troops, or a combination thereof remains to be seen. But Lone's article is pure sour grapes from someone who desperately wanted the elections to be an utter failure.
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Old 01-31-2005, 04:33 PM   #5
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I agree with speedracer. Much more thoughtful and well put than my own comment.
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Old 01-31-2005, 11:51 PM   #6
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I can't buy that "better than" equates to success, because as you mentined, that's not saying much.

I suspect you will find out shortly if Iraq (unlike almost other RECENT similar circumstances) can beat the odds and become a healthy democracy after so many years of pain and bloodshed, rivalry and attrocity. It is an immesely complex country...with lines of division far deeper and quantitatively greater than the media will tell you. I hope for the benefit of IRAQIs that there is a miracle, but the history of Iraq does not suggest this will be the case. Western betrayal has played a key role in Iraq's development and it still remains to be seen whether an unfamiliar western tradition can survive in Iraq. You know what I hope and think are very different here.


Jon
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Old 02-01-2005, 04:11 AM   #7
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Originally posted by Klink
I can't buy that "better than" equates to success, because as you mentined, that's not saying much.

I suspect you will find out shortly if Iraq (unlike almost other RECENT similar circumstances) can beat the odds and become a healthy democracy after so many years of pain and bloodshed, rivalry and attrocity. It is an immesely complex country...with lines of division far deeper and quantitatively greater than the media will tell you. I hope for the benefit of IRAQIs that there is a miracle, but the history of Iraq does not suggest this will be the case. Western betrayal has played a key role in Iraq's development and it still remains to be seen whether an unfamiliar western tradition can survive in Iraq. You know what I hope and think are very different here.


Jon
Yes, I know Iraq has a long and terrible history of colonialism, dictatorship and ethnic strife. But Germany and Japan weren't exactly paradises, either.

I'm just getting tired of hard-left columnists continually pissing on the elections.
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Old 02-01-2005, 04:11 AM   #8
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lousy double post
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Old 02-01-2005, 08:17 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by speedracer


Yes, I know Iraq has a long and terrible history of colonialism, dictatorship and ethnic strife. But Germany and Japan weren't exactly paradises, either.

I'm just getting tired of hard-left columnists continually pissing on the elections.

I know and I understand that. All that aside the real point here is that the success of the elections is not yet so clear.

Jon
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Old 02-02-2005, 03:24 PM   #10
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Post-Election Buzzkill: Why Iraq Is Still A Debacle

By Arianna Huffington

February 02, 2005

Quick, before the conventional wisdom hardens, it needs to be said: The Iraqi elections were not the second coming of the Constitutional Convention.

The media have made it sound like last Sunday was a combination of 1776, the fall of the Berlin Wall, Prague Spring, the Ukraine's Orange Revolution, Filipino "People Power," Tiananmen Square and Super Bowl Sunday — all rolled into one.

It's impossible not to be moved by the stories coming out of Iraq: voters braving bombings and mortar blasts to cast ballots; multiethnic crowds singing and dancing outside polling places; election workers, undeterred by power outages, counting ballots by the glow of oil lamps; teary-eyed women in traditional Islamic garb proudly holding up their purple ink-stained fingers — literally giving the finger to butcher knife-wielding murderers.

It was a great moment. A Kodak moment. And unlike the other Kodak moments from this war — think Saddam's tumbling statue and Jessica Lynch's "rescue" — this one was not created by the image masters at Karl Rove Productions.

But this Kodak moment, however moving, should not be allowed to erase all that came before it, leaving us unprepared for all that may come after it.

I'm sorry to kill the White House's buzz — and the press corps' contact high — but the triumphalist fog rolling across the land has all the makings of another "Mission Accomplished" moment.

Forgive me for trotting out Santayana's shopworn dictum that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it but, for god's sake people, can't we even remember last week?

So amid all the talk of turning points, historic days and defining moments, let us steadfastly refuse to drink from the River Lethe that brought forgetfulness and oblivion to my ancient ancestors.

Let's not forget that for all the president's soaring rhetoric about spreading freedom and democracy, free elections were the administration's fallback position. More Plan D than guiding principle. We were initially going to install Ahmed Chalabi as our man in Baghdad, remember? Then that shifted to the abruptly foreshortened reign of "Bremer of Arabia." The White House only consented to holding open elections after Grand Ayatollah Sistani sent his followers into the streets to demand them — and even then Bush refused to allow the elections until after our presidential campaign was done, just in case more suicide bombers than voters turned up at Iraqi polling places.

And the election doesn't change that.

Let's not forget that despite the hoopla, this was a legitimate democratic election in name only. Actually, not even in name since most of the candidates on Sunday's ballot had less name recognition than your average candidate for dogcatcher. That's because they were too afraid to hold rallies or give speeches. Too terrorized to engage in debates. In fact, many were so anxious about being killed that they fought to keep their names from being made public. Some didn't even know their names had been placed on the ballot. On top of that, this vote was merely to elect a transitional national assembly that will then draft a new constitution that the people of Iraq will then vote to approve or reject, followed by yet another vote — this time to elect a permanent national assembly.

And the election doesn't change that.

Let's not forget that many Iraqi voters turned out to send a defiant message not just to the insurgents but to President Bush as well. Many of those purple fingers were raised in our direction. According to a poll taken by our own government, a jaw-dropping 92 percent of Iraqis view the U.S.-led forces in Iraq as "occupiers" while only 2 percent see them as "liberators."

And the election doesn't change that.

Let's not forget that the war in Iraq has made America far less safe than it was before the invasion. According to an exhaustive report released last month by the CIA's National Intelligence Council, Iraq has become a breeding ground for the next generation of "professionalized" Islamic terrorists. Foreign terrorists are now honing their deadly skills against U.S. troops — skills they will eventually take with them to other countries, including ours. The report also warns that the war in Iraq has deepened solidarity among Muslims worldwide and increased anti-American feelings across the globe. Iraq has also drained tens of billions of dollars in resources that might otherwise have gone to really fighting the war on terror or increasing our preparedness for another terror attack here at home.

And the election doesn't change that.

Let's not forget the woeful lack of progress we've made in the reconstruction of Iraq. The people there still lack such basics as gas and kerosene. Indeed, Iraqis often wait in miles-long lines just to buy gas. The country is producing less electricity than before the war — roughly half of current demand. There are food shortages, the cost of staple items such as rice and bread is soaring, and the number of Iraqi children suffering from malnutrition has nearly doubled. According to UNICEF, nearly 1 in 10 Iraqi children is suffering the effects of chronic diarrhea caused by unsafe water — a situation responsible for 70 percent of children's deaths in Iraq.

And the election doesn't change that.

Let's not forget the blistering new report from the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, which finds that the U.S. occupation government that ruled Iraq before last June's transfer of sovereignty has been unable to account for nearly $9 billion, overseeing a reconstruction process "open to fraud, kickbacks and misappropriation of funds."

And the election doesn't change that.

Let's not forget that we still don't have an exit strategy for Iraq. The closest the president has come is saying that we'll be able to bring our troops home when, as he put it on Sunday, "this rising democracy can eventually take responsibility for its own security" — "eventually" being the operative word. Although the administration claims over 120,000 Iraqi security forces have been trained, other estimates put the number closer to 14,000, with less than 5,000 of them ready for battle. And we keep losing those we've already trained: some 10,000 Iraqi National Guardsmen have quit or been dropped from the rolls in the last six months. Last summer, the White House predicted Iraqi forces would be fully trained by spring 2005; their latest estimate has moved that timetable to summer 2006.

And the election doesn't change that.

And let's never forget this administration's real goal in Iraq, as laid out by Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and their fellow neocon members of the Project for the New American Century back in 1998 when they urged President Clinton and members of Congress to take down Saddam "to protect our vital interests in the Gulf." These vital interests were cloaked in mushroom clouds, WMD that turned into "weapons of mass destruction-related program activities," and a Saddam/al-Qaida link that turned into, well, nothing. Long before the Bushies landed on freedom and democracy as their 2005 buzzwords, they already had their eyes on the Iraqi prize: the second-largest oil reserves in the world, and a permanent home for U.S. bases in the Middle East.
This is still the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time. And the election, as heart-warming as it was, doesn't change any of that.
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Old 02-03-2005, 04:21 PM   #11
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I could almost swear that Arianna's hoping for failure.

She's still stuck on the blood for oil deal. I think her hatred for Bush has made her lose it (if she ever indeed had it)


"""""Let's not forget that many Iraqi voters turned out to send a defiant message not just to the insurgents but to President Bush as well. Many of those purple fingers were raised in our direction. According to a poll taken by our own government, a jaw-dropping 92 percent of Iraqis view the U.S.-led forces in Iraq as "occupiers" while only 2 percent see them as "liberators."""""

Yeah Arianna but how many of them would have us leave today? Bush didn't do this so the Iraqis would love him anyway. Sour grapes.

""""Let's not forget the woeful lack of progress we've made in the reconstruction of Iraq. The people there still lack such basics as gas and kerosene. Indeed, Iraqis often wait in miles-long lines just to buy gas. The country is producing less electricity than before the war — roughly half of current demand. There are food shortages, the cost of staple items such as rice and bread is soaring, and the number of Iraqi children suffering from malnutrition has nearly doubled. According to UNICEF, nearly 1 in 10 Iraqi children is suffering the effects of chronic diarrhea caused by unsafe water — a situation responsible for 70 percent of children's deaths in Iraq."""""

Blah blah blah.... more sour grapes

""""""Let's not forget that the war in Iraq has made America far less safe than it was before the invasion. According to an exhaustive report released last month by the CIA's National Intelligence Council, Iraq has become a breeding ground for the next generation of "professionalized" Islamic terrorists. Foreign terrorists are now honing their deadly skills against U.S. troops — skills they will eventually take with them to other countries, including ours. The report also warns that the war in Iraq has deepened solidarity among Muslims worldwide and increased anti-American feelings across the globe. Iraq has also drained tens of billions of dollars in resources that might otherwise have gone to really fighting the war on terror or increasing our preparedness for another terror attack here at home.""""""

Oh, so now you trust the CIA, ARianna?

OF COURSE IRAQ IS FUCKED UP, WE GET IT! Stop bagging on those who have hope for democracy, for those who believe people want to rule themselves.

This woman is toast. Her ausience is shrinking or non existent.
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Old 02-04-2005, 04:54 PM   #12
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I can't believe drhark really meant his response to statements about Iraqi hardships and deaths of children... Giving drhark the benefit of a doubt...I'll expect him/her to retract those callous remarks following important details about the negative aspects of the war and occupation....I'm sure drhark was just voicing a knee-jerk reaction to a leftist argument without really reading it.... I hope to God, anyway.

Quote:
Originally posted by drhark

""""Let's not forget the woeful lack of progress we've made in the reconstruction of Iraq. The people there still lack such basics as gas and kerosene. Indeed, Iraqis often wait in miles-long lines just to buy gas. The country is producing less electricity than before the war — roughly half of current demand. There are food shortages, the cost of staple items such as rice and bread is soaring, and the number of Iraqi children suffering from malnutrition has nearly doubled. According to UNICEF, nearly 1 in 10 Iraqi children is suffering the effects of chronic diarrhea caused by unsafe water — a situation responsible for 70 percent of children's deaths in Iraq."""""

Blah blah blah.... more sour grapes
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Old 02-04-2005, 06:06 PM   #13
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If you want to get into a contest about who feels more sorrow for the victims of a tragic war, I will say I feel as much sorrow for the loss of innocent life as Arianna or anyone else for that matter.

Now that that's settled, yes, it's a knee jerk reaction to a knee jerk opposition to Bush.

I reject her sarcastic overhyped remarks about the media's portrayal of the elections. Are the elections the second coming of the Constitutional Convention? Truth is, we won't be around in 200 years to observe whether or not Iraq is a bastion of freedom and prosperity.

These elections can be the beginning of a better life for millions. The people of Iraq need our support, not political posturing.
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Old 02-10-2005, 10:12 AM   #14
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Quick note on Arianna Huffington: After the California Gubernatoral Debate, Newsweek referred to her as "My Big Fat Greek Headache." I would agree that she was not a convincing candidate, and she should be embarrassed by her performance. She's not much of an independent, as she claims to be. She leans liberal on nearly every issue, it's amazing if anyone would consider her a true independent.

The reason we are still in Iraq is because we can't just leave it there. We have to establish a peaceful society, and as their elections proved, many want the freedom to elect their leaders, but we have a lot of work to do to help establish a better society. It's great to see so many enthusiastic Iraqis at the voting polls, risking their lives for freedom. It's a tragedy that some of the candidates were killed. I believe that we should be supportive of the establishment in progress, instead of hoping for failure because you don't like our president.
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Old 02-10-2005, 03:07 PM   #15
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It is not the job of the US to win the proverbial peace, that will require the Iraqi's and I think that they will rise to the challenge just like South Vietnam did after Vietnamisation. While the South was defeated it was not toppled by the VC insurgency rather the North Vietnamese Army using weapons given to it by the USSR and to a much lesser extent China, the sucess it had against the insurgency will likely be mirrored in Iraq.
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