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John Simkin

Elections in Iraq

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Paul Bremer’s decision to close down the newspaper that supports the Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr seems a strange one. So also was the arrest of Sadr’s communication officer. Not surprisingly this has led to an armed uprising in the previously fairly calm Shia south.

George Bush has upped the stakes by calling for the arrest of Moqtada al-Sadr. He also has said that the elections will go ahead in 3 months time. But does he mean it? One reporter in Iraq has suggested that Bush’s intention is to create a situation where the elections will have to be postponed. Although Bush will lose some credibility if this happens. The alternative is even worse. It is predicted that the elections will be followed by an all out civil war between the different factions in Iraq. This will be far damaging to his chances of re-election as president than a postponed election.

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I have mentioned before that the USA is bogged down in Iraq because they can neither withdraw (and admit they are not supermen) or stay (and watch the body bags coming home).

They want a puppet government whether by "elections" (and we know how democratic the Bush family are when it comes to "elections") or by appointing a regime. The "withdrawal" is a sham because they will only accept a government which "invites them to stay" (as the Czechs and Austrians "invited" the Nazis to invade...a bit of a fake really)

Meanwhile Mr Blair tells us what a good thing it was that Saddam has gone because Saddam closed down newspapers and shot people who demonstrated against him....unlike the foreign invaders who are doing precisely the same thing.

It is just poss that ppl in Iraq say the same thing about Saddam that ppl in Panama said about Noriega...he may have been a son of a bitch but he was our son of a bitch.

And how long ago was the war officially "over"?

And if anyone from New Labour has the bloody cheek to ask for your vote at the election ask them when they are going to find those weapons of mass destruction. If they can lie about something as basic as going to war why should you believe a word they say?

Derek McMillan

socialist

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This is just another case of the Bush administration’s incompetence. Bush and Blair have now got themselves into a situation they cannot get out of. Bush’s only concern is to negate the impact of the war on the presidential elections in November. This means talking tough and ordering the troops to take offensive action against those resisting the occupation. Blair would obviously prefer a different approach to the problem but he is not making the decisions.

Some commentators are saying this is Bush’s Vietnam. In fact, the situation is far more serious than that. Using different tactics the Americans could have defeated the communists in South Vietnam (by providing economic aid rather than on spending large sums of money on trying to bomb them into submission – see for example American policy in South Korea).

Economic power will not save the Americans in Iraq. All the economic aid in the world will not be able to get the Iraqi people to elect a pro-American government. The only way such a government can be established and maintained is through the barrel of a gun. Once American troops leave Iraq the puppet government will be overthrown and all raw materials will be nationalized. Therefore, Bush has to keep his troops in Iraq. Nor can he hand over the problem to the UN. If that happens the UN will allow free elections and the new Iraqi government will nationalize their oil reserves. What is more, it will be a anti-Western Shia fundamentalist government that will persecute the Sunnies and the Kurds.

I would be very interested in hearing what those forum members who supported the invasion of Iraq think Bush and Blair should do next?

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I would be very interested in hearing what those forum members who supported the invasion of Iraq think Bush and Blair should do next?

Letters to the Editor.

(The Wall Street Journal. Europe. Tuesday, April 6, 2004)

Stay in Iraq Until the Job is Done.

“The April 2 feature “Heart of Darkness” by Christopher Hitchens makes some important points about human nature. Anyone visiting Japan today is likely to wonder how these smiling, bowing, courteous, gentle people could have behaved with such unspeakable brutality as they did during World War II? The Japanese were not inherently cruel and bestial but they were brought up in a culture of brutality during the war.

General Tojo and his officers taught their soldiers the moral code of the Nazis, extolled brutality and called humane behaviour criminal softness. The officers treated their men with extreme cruelty who in turn were indoctrinated to treat those in their charge with the same inhumanity. Oppressed minions always want to kick someone to feel relieved. The Japanese troops were no different. Their most savage behaviour was reserved for prisoners of war who were systematically tortured and murdered.

Similarly, most Iraqis were brought up in an atmosphere of extreme cruelty during Saddam´s reign of terror. Max Vad der Stoel, the former United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human rights in Iraq, told the U.N. that the brutality of the Iraqi regime was”of an exceptionally grave character – so grave that it has few parallels in the years that have passed since the Second World War”. This was a regime that would gouge out the eyes of children to force confession from their parents. This was a regime that would crush all the bones in the feet of a two-year-old girl to force her mother to divulge her father’s whereabouts.

The atrocities in Fallujah show that many ordinary Iraqis, like Japanese soldiers, have been thoroughly dehumanized by Saddam´s odious rule. This is the natural outcome from living long under a brutal regime. The Japanese were cured of their bestiality by democratic institutions imposed by the Americans who stayed long enough to see these institutions take root. The same should be done in Iraq.

Mahmood Elahi

Ottawa

I did not change a word of Mahmood Elahi´s writing. Just underlined what I think is a good answer to your question. I hope he will not be angry with me on ground I quote him without asking for his permission.

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Would that post-invasion Iraq were like post-war Japan, though, Dalibor.

The Japanese weren't shooting the US forces in 1946 in many different parts of the country, and they didn't have leaders who seemed to lack legitimacy, as seems to be the case in Iraq today.

I have a feeling that an occupying power which turns its firepower on a city like Falluja, or a suburb like Sadr City, in the way the Americans have done in the last week or so has made its position in the country untenable under any circumstances.

The WW2 parallel I see most clearly is between the Americans and the German forces occupying France during WW2. Just like the Americans, the Germans saw themselves as bringing enlightenment and a better way of life. Just like the Americans, the Germans characterised any opposition as terrorists who were out of step with the broad mass of the population. Just like the Americans, the Germans created an indigenous leadership (the Vichy government - which had more legitimacy than the Iraqi Governing Council, since Pétain did actually take over from the previous government under legal forms), which was swept aside when it became clear that it wasn't fulfilling the purposes of the German occupation authorities.

There were plenty of idealistic and altruistic German soldiers in France during WW2, whose counterparts I see on TV and in the pages of (especially) US newspapers almost every day. I am sure that those Germans also found themselves being swept along by the tide of events, until shooting the inhabitants of a village to punish them for an attack by the French Resistance seemed like a reasonable and legitimate response - just as the actions of the US Marines in Falluja must seem reasonable and legitimate to many Americans.

Analogies are often misleading, though. So, what's wrong with mine?

Edited by David Richardson

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Analogies are often misleading, though. So, what's wrong with mine?

I do not know what Nazi Germany was trying exactly to impose on France and Frenchmen 1940, besides conquering the old foe; but it was for sure not democracy.

As far as I can see Mahmood Elahi is just plainly talking about how democracy was once installed in the profoundly undemocratic country, Japan. And so are also politicians within "the coalition of willing", waging today war on Saddam’s Iraq, talking.

Don’t you think that democracy is worth fighting for?

After all in the European two last senseless 20th century conflicts the words “saving the world for democracy” was endlessly used by the winning side politicians as the reason to offer lives of millions of young man together with millions of innocent civilians.

Nevertheless as it had been said in one of the previous posting the outcome of the Iraq fighting could, contrary the desire for democracy, be establishment of undemocratic Shia government. These things did happen before. The First World War sowed the seeds of Communism and Nazism, while the Second World War left millions imprisoned in their own countries which switched under the guidance of Soviet Union on the path of building “workers paradise”.

Does all this mean that we should not try to fight for democracy anymore?

Edited by Dalibor Svoboda

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Yes, Dalibor, I think it's very important to fight for democracy … but that fight has to begin at home (that's the nature of democracy for me - and perhaps one of the reasons for its apparent weakness in the face of extremism).

My point was that Germans in the Hitler era didn't all think that their reasons for going to war with France were about fighting an enemy - they were trying to export their dominant ideology, at least in part because they felt that this ideology would make the world better. You can argue that they were under an illusion, or that their leaders were cynical, but how is this different from the archetypal 'naive, optimistic American' or 'US cabinet minister waging war to get better contracts for Halliburton'?

I'm sure that lots of people think that the US is in Iraq to fight for democracy - but the Iraqis don't seem to think that, and, if democracy is to mean "government by the people, for the people and of the people", then their opinions are the only ones that matter.

There is another explanation of the US presence too - colonialism. It may not be that the Americans were seeking to be colonial masters of Iraq, but they have certainly at least had that role thrust upon them. I would say that the reason why so few of us are enthusiastic about what's going on in Iraq is because what we want to do is fight for democracy - not colonialism. The tragedy is that to support the Coalition's current activities in Iraq involves us in the latter, not the former.

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I think it is extremely naive to believe that the United States foreign policy is based on an attempt to bring democracy to the world. This is of course what they said during their occupation of Japan, Germany, Austria, South Korea, Vietnam, etc. This was of course at a time when the Americans were denying large numbers of their own population the vote. As Martin Luther King said on 4th April, 1967:

“Perhaps the more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the (Vietnam) war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them 8,000 miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in Southwest Georgia and East Harlem.”

United States fights wars not for democracy but to protect the rights of its friends to invest in these countries. They are wars to promote and preserve capitalism. As in the case of Iraq this usually means the privatisation of its valuable natural resources (therefore allowing them to be controlled by multinational companies). It is true that this usually means the imposition of some sort of formal elections.

In some countries like Japan and West Germany elections were free because they knew pro-American governments would be elected. However, we now know that the CIA (Black Operations Unit) were active in undermining the democratic process in those countries in Europe where the communists were in danger of being elected to power (Italy and Greece).

In the underdeveloped countries they have attempted to control they have rarely held free elections. For example, Eisenhower later explained why he never allowed free elections to take place in Vietnam "I have never talked or corresponded with a person knowledgeable in Indochinese affairs who did not agree that had elections been held at the time of the fighting, possibly 80 per cent of the population would have voted for the communist Ho Chi Minh."

The same is true of Iraq. Any free elections held in Iraq will result in an anti-American Islamic fundamentalist government. Its first action will be to nationalize its natural resources and to order the American troops to leave Iraq. Do you really think that Bush wants that to happen?

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I think it is extremely naive to believe that the United States foreign policy is based on an attempt to bring democracy to the world.

I would rather to be naive when believing that America is fighting for democracy than comparing the situation after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein to the Nazi Germany´s occupation of France. Wasn’t it a minister in Gerhard Schroeder government who compared Bush to Hitler at the beginning of the Iraq war? What a low level of debate!

When America together with NATO alliance bombed Serbia to force Milosevic from power (despite the Russians opposition which didn’t permit vote casting in Security Council … do we recognize the situation!?) most of the Europeans were satisfied. Finally the democratization process could be started after eight nasty years of suppressions, torture, rapes, humiliation and killings.

Ironically no one bothered that the Serbian infrastructure was flattened with the earth. No one did discuss the lack of a distinct support from the United Nation. No one bothered that the Kosovo Albans are not at all democratically minded. And no one is discussing the return of Milosevic Nationalist into the government of Kostunica today. Quite a few of us are happy that Americans succeeded to bomb the Serbians into democracy. Despite the Serbians unwillingness.

How differently is not the Iraq question dealt with despite similarities? Is it maybe so that as long the USA does serve Europe’s political expectations and preferences Europeans can settle for that?

I think that one of the divisions between debaters about Iraq was along these lines:

1) the current situation, which some accepted and others criticized

2) The United Nations vote for overthrowing Saddam Hussein from power by a coalition resembling the coalition Bush the Elder built up 1990-1991.

3) continuation of the situation as it was during the last decade

The 2) alternative would have a greater legitimacy but obviously lead to the same result as the first alternative. I do not see how a larger coalition could prevent all the nasty future scenarios described by some postings. The cruel bomb attack of the United Nations office killing Sergio Viera de Mello on 19th of August clearly indicates that. So what option was left? Doing nothing? (Despite the pressing needs to deal with many problems in the Middle East at the same time! See my contributions at the thread “Blair Doctrine”)

Both two previous postings describe with impatience and fervour the injustices done by the capitalist America during the last fifty years of the last century.

Gentlemen, wasn’t that a period called the Cold War? Were the Americans playing it alone during this period? What did have the counterpart in this war on its conscience?

I often wonder how selective arguments could be chosen when arguing people try to prove the point.

When talking about Halliburton of today why not also talk about Shell of yesterday?

When Americas Vietnam comes up why not also discuss the French Vietnam (and pssst! Algeria ……not to be forgotten)

When preaching about American “colonialism” why not also talk about Portuguese atrocities in Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau and Angola? And atrocities committed by the rest of Europeans colonisators!

Debaters in Europe are today crying “catch the villain” when European colonial powers have been villains for over two hundred years.

Or how about the “magnificent” invasion of the Suez 1956! What were you after at that time, Brits and Frenchmen? Oil too? I was eight years then so one can’t say that it was a long time ago when it’s still in the living memory of a person.

After all most of the nasty problems the world today deals with in Asia, Middle East and Africa are products of British cruel and greedy colonial policy in these parts of the world. Iraq is no exception of that.

Edited by Dalibor Svoboda

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Dalibor, you're absolutely right! Colonialism is colonialism, whether the flag that covers the face of the tyrant has the swastika, the stars and stripes, the cross of St George or red, white and blue stripes on it.

It seems to me that your analysis is clear and sharp in every direction … except one. My comparison with Nazi Germany wasn't a slur - it was a question. If the US occupation of Iraq is different from the Nazi German occupation of France, in what respect is it different? The only difference I have read in your postings is in terms of the stated intentions of the occupiers (for the sake of argument, I'm prepared to overlook the takeover of the Iraqi economy by US interests, without so much as a by-your-leave).

My point was simply that the Germans in France had plenty of high-sounding intentions too. They even expressed them in 'democratic' terms (the D in NSDAP stood for 'demokratisch', as I'm sure you know). Yet we judge them by their results, not their intentions. Surely, we should do the same with the Americans in Iraq?

Georg Mikes wrote a book about the French (as he wrote one about the British - How to Be an Alien). It's called 'Little Cabbages'. He compares the American relationship with the French as that of a large, heavy man standing on your corns. He assures you of his good will and admiration for your culture - you are only conscious of his weight.

Perhaps it's just because I'm a citizen of a colonial power (yes, the UK still has one or two colonies!) that I'm so allergic to people who have to destroy (Falluja) in order to save it.

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I've just read a very interesting article in today's Guardian by a counsellor at the Iranian Embassy in the UK. Here's the link:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,...1191336,00.html

Now, let's forget the Genetic Fallacy of automatically rejecting what the writer says just because he's from the Iranian Embassy. Here's the last paragraph of his article:

"It is now one year since the start of war in Iraq and we have had more than two years of the war on terror. Unless three conditions at least are met, the future will remain bleak and hopeless. The people of the region have to be taken into account. They have to be listened to and not prescribed a pre-packaged recipe from afar. And governments that draw their legitimacy from the people need to be supported."

I'm sure that the Americans would say that that's what they're trying to do - but why is it that so many people who live in the region itself feel that what they're actually doing is exactly the opposite?

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However, we now know that the CIA (Black Operations Unit) were active in undermining the democratic process in those countries in Europe where the communists were in danger of being elected to power (Italy and Greece).

One of the weaknesses with “democracy” is that undemocratic forces can win democratic election in order to abolish the democracy directly afterwards. This is very frustrating but if democratic forces try to prevent it they are immediately accused of being undemocratic themselves. This situation is basically “Catch 22” moment.

Dictatorial ideologies like Communism and Nazism mastered this situation at the outmost during 20th century.

Should this situation be prevented somehow? I believe that it should. You probably believe that it shouldn´t.

Edited by Dalibor Svoboda

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If the US occupation of Iraq is different from the Nazi German occupation of France, in what respect is it different?

Do you recognize any differences between the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan between 1979 - 1989 and the present situation when USA’s and other nation’s soldiers are staying in this country?

If you do, you have answered the question you asked me to answer.

(I do not think that Iraq is so much different than Afghanistan of today is when viewing the “occupation”.)

Edited by Dalibor Svoboda

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In substance, no. The Soviet Union was possibly marginally better at supporting women's rights, building roads, suppressing the drugs trade, etc. However, even if they had been stars at providing material improvements, it wouldn't have altered the fact that they invaded another country illegally and attempted to impose their will on it by force.

I don't remember Gandhi's quote exactly, but he made the observation during the struggle against the British in India that even if the Indians made a mess of running the country, it would be *their* mess, which was better than a British success. That's the fundamental principle which Bush's clique of right-wingers haven't grasped.

I don't tar all Americans with the same brush, by the way. Part of my day job is to teach US Culture and Society, and the mountain I have to climb with my students is to try to show them all the positive aspects of the US Constitution, and to point out that there are lots and lots of ordinary Americans who are just as appalled by the anti-democratic, colonialist policies of the present US government. However, Americans have the choice between keeping Bush or throwing him out - Iraqis don't, unless they rise up in revolt.

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One possible reason for democracy's taking root in post-war Japan would be that the US wanted a strong ally in the region, therefore enourmous US interest and investment. (The US didn't choose China to be its bastion. Why?:ph34r:) Perhaps the Japanese didn't actively resist the US occupation because they were afraid of more traditional enemies Russia and China. Furthermore, no other countries had enough money to help out any Japanese insurgent movement. Their economies were all destroyed. Moreover, Russia was more interested in consolidating its control over E. Europe and rebuilding its own economy than in offering heavy financial and materiél aid to Japanese communists.

The Iraq of today is very different from the Japan of yesteryear. There is lots of money out there to supply the insurgents with the materiél needed to put up a strong resistence to US occupation.

Which foreign "power(s)" then, can "take control" of Iraq and avoid either a bloody US occupation or an equally bloody US-less civil war? Which country or countries can take over and let the US get out or at least take a less high-profile position, without losing too much face (at home), and be acceptable enough to the Iraqi population to broker a workable deal among the groups vying for power, thereby making elections even possible? (It may end up being acceptable to the US to have the oil nationalized, as long as it is exported.)

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