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John Simkin

Elections in Iraq

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This thread cuts a very broad swath. I'll try to focus on my thoughts about the way to set up (from this disastrous point) an acceptable future stable government in Iraq. And when I mean acceptable, I don't mean in it the ugly American kind of way, but in the acceptable human rights, genocide free type of way.

Iraq is a very difficult situation that may want to split apart if left to its own, but that could trigger a war with Saudi Arabia, Iran, and/or Turkey. The forces committed to violence should be faced with a shock and awe strategy, but the armed presence in iraq is not awesome and the only shock is that it reveals the limits of American power very well.

In the case of the cleric Sadr, he is a force of violence, he is trying to climb the status ladder in Iraq by challenging/executing senior clerics and gaining a reputation as the defiant Iraqi nationalist. I think Bremer should have shut his paper down according to clearly established law and I think Sadr should have been arrested if he defied the American authority. US credibility was on the line. But why announce that you are going to arrest someone and then reveal that you do not have the will or power to do so. Now he is more of a hero of resistance to the Americans and Bremer has increased the problem that his proclamations were supposed to remedy.

GWB should belatedly take advice from GHWB. Daddy cobbled together a true coalition of support for the gulf war, so much so that Yasser Arafat was politically injured when he supprted Hussein.

Where is his call for a regional solution, If it is the right tack for North Korea, why is it not the right direction here. I peace keeping, transition team that is Arab dominated and arab led would have a lot of credibility. Between our closest friends in the area (minus Turkey) the Saudi, Kuwaitis, Egyptians, and throw in Qatar, and even Jordan if possible, Bush could truly grab victory by going hat in hand and asking for help to get Iraq back in a position of stability.

I don't believe democracy can be effective until a society develops and effective industrial middle class anyway. There is no reason to rush Iraq. It is obvious to the neighboring countries, including our allies, that our success in Iraq is intended to reform the govermnets of the whole region.

In the meanwhile the jihadist can make propaganda videos and distribute exaggerated stories above the infidel American army and its evil intentions in the fertile crescent. Terror recruits go up, and defenders of the situation in Iraq even have the audacity to argue that even if the war in IRaq did not reveal the connection between that country and al Qaeda or an active WMD program, that it is a good thing that our military is acting as a magnet so we can fight the terrorists there instead of here. :)

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However, this is not the time to ‘cut and run’ as many people seem to be suggesting. If this were to happen, Iraq would be left at the mercy of radical armed factions and no doubt face years of upheaval and lawlessness. It is time to get behind the efforts to establish a democratic Iraq.

You could justify invading anywhere on that basis. If the US bombed Canada, destroyed the infrastructure and stole the assets of the country, there would be resistance and a breakdown of law and order. They could then claim "sorry chaps but we have to stay...you have no right to rule yourselves!"

Democracy! A fat lot Bush knows about democracy....or are you the only person who believes he was elected president?

And the Americans have no pretence of wanting democracy in Iraq. They will not tolerate any government which wants to take back the assets of the country from the talons of the American Eagle will they?

Have a nice day.

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You could justify invading anywhere on that basis. If the US bombed Canada, destroyed the infrastructure and stole the assets of the country, there would be resistance and a breakdown of law and order. They could then claim "sorry chaps but we have to stay...you have no right to rule yourselves!"

Democracy! A fat lot Bush knows about democracy....or are you the only person who believes he was elected president?

And the Americans have no pretence of wanting democracy in Iraq. They will not tolerate any government which wants to take back the assets of the country from the talons of the American Eagle will they?

Have a nice day.

One major difference: Canada already has a fully functioning democratic political system. Whereas, Iraq under Saddam Hussein was a barbaric and brutal dictatorship. The USA (even under Bush) will not invade Canada. Has the Canadian government been guilty of invading neighbouring countries or using chemical agents against its own people?

Bush was elected President under the vagaries of the US electoral college system and a bit of help from his brother, Jeb! I suspect I was as unsatisfied as you appear to be with the shenanighans surrounding the Presidential election in 2000.

The Americans plan to establish a broad-based Iraqi government on 30 June. Hopefully, proper elections will be held some time in the future when the security situation allows it. Iraq at least has a chance of a better future now Saddam has gone.

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Once again, I understand your aspirations and I share them, but I think you're being a bit naive about how to achieve them.

If there are elections in Iraq any time in the foreseeable future, the most likely outcome is a fairly clean sweep by an Islamisist party, which will probably resemble the parties which rule Iran, the neighbouring Shiite state.

On the other hand, had the Americans *not* invaded illegally, but sought to bring down Saddam Hussein by other means, directed more at the regime than the people, there is a good chance that the secular nature of Iraq could have been saved.

What Bush's invasion has achieved is a situation where to be pro-Western and secular is to be a traitor.

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It depends on what you mean by forseeable. Elections can only be held when the security situation allows it. Security is inextricably bound up with reconstruction. The reconstruction process has been painfully slow, unsurprising given the acts of sabotage perpretated by Saddam loyalists, extremists and foreign insurgents. The Iraqi people deserve to live in a state that will provide them with not only security, but also with running water, electricity and job opportunities. To protect Iraq's future, the Coalition troops must remain in place for the forseeable future. Democracy will only be achievable in Iraq if the economic stability of the country is safeguarded and that means US help.

There is bound to be an upsurge in attacks as we approach the June 30th deadline for the transitional government. Nonetheless, the Coalition must not shirk responsibility now. Yes, I did support the war effort, but that doesn't mean that I automatically think Bush has done a good job in the post-conflict situation. It is on this issue, amongst others, that John Kerry might gain some political capital come November.

Perhaps, I am naive, but I hope not.

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There's been another article in the Guardian that I feel has a lot of relevance to this thread. I'm just pasting the whole thing here, since it's all so interesting! (I promise not to do this too often!) It was not written by journalists, but by 52 British diplomats and former diplomats with experience of the Arab world. I'll just lift one quotation out:

"However much Iraqis may yearn for a democratic society, the belief that one could now be created by the coalition is naive. This is the view of virtually all independent specialists on the region, both in Britain and in America."

But here's the whole thing, so that you can see it in context:

Comment

Doomed to failure in the Middle East

A letter from 52 former senior British diplomats to Tony Blair

Tuesday April 27, 2004

The Guardian

Dear Prime Minister,

We the undersigned former British ambassadors, high commissioners, governors and senior international officials, including some who have long experience of the Middle East and others whose experience is elsewhere, have watched with deepening concern the policies which you have followed on the Arab-Israel problem and Iraq, in close cooperation with the United States. Following the press conference in Washington at which you and President Bush restated these policies, we feel the time has come to make our anxieties public, in the hope that they will be addressed in parliament and will lead to a fundamental reassessment.

The decision by the US, the EU, Russia and the UN to launch a "road map" for the settlement of the Israel/Palestine conflict raised hopes that the major powers would at last make a determined and collective effort to resolve a problem which, more than any other, has for decades poisoned relations between the west and the Islamic and Arab worlds. The legal and political principles on which such a settlement would be based were well established: President Clinton had grappled with the problem during his presidency; the ingredients needed for a settlement were well understood and informal agreements on several of them had already been achieved. But the hopes were ill-founded. Nothing effective has been done either to move the negotiations forward or to curb the violence. Britain and the other sponsors of the road map merely waited on American leadership, but waited in vain.

Worse was to come. After all those wasted months, the international community has now been confronted with the announcement by Ariel Sharon and President Bush of new policies which are one-sided and illegal and which will cost yet more Israeli and Palestinian blood. Our dismay at this backward step is heightened by the fact that you yourself seem to have endorsed it, abandoning the principles which for nearly four decades have guided international efforts to restore peace in the Holy Land and which have been the basis for such successes as those efforts have produced.

This abandonment of principle comes at a time when rightly or wrongly we are portrayed throughout the Arab and Muslim world as partners in an illegal and brutal occupation in Iraq.

The conduct of the war in Iraq has made it clear that there was no effective plan for the post-Saddam settlement. All those with experience of the area predicted that the occupation of Iraq by the coalition forces would meet serious and stubborn resistance, as has proved to be the case. To describe the resistance as led by terrorists, fanatics and foreigners is neither convincing nor helpful. Policy must take account of the nature and history of Iraq, the most complex country in the region. However much Iraqis may yearn for a democratic society, the belief that one could now be created by the coalition is naive. This is the view of virtually all independent specialists on the region, both in Britain and in America. We are glad to note that you and the president have welcomed the proposals outlined by Lakhdar Brahimi. We must be ready to provide what support he requests, and to give authority to the UN to work with the Iraqis themselves, including those who are now actively resisting the occupation, to clear up the mess.

The military actions of the coalition forces must be guided by political objectives and by the requirements of the Iraq theatre itself, not by criteria remote from them. It is not good enough to say that the use of force is a matter for local commanders. Heavy weapons unsuited to the task in hand, inflammatory language, the current confrontations in Najaf and Falluja, all these have built up rather than isolated the opposition. The Iraqis killed by coalition forces probably total 10-15,000 (it is a disgrace that the coalition forces themselves appear to have no estimate), and the number killed in the last month in Falluja alone is apparently several hundred including many civilian men, women and children. Phrases such as "We mourn each loss of life. We salute them, and their families for their bravery and their sacrifice," apparently referring only to those who have died on the coalition side, are not well judged to moderate the passions these killings arouse.

We share your view that the British government has an interest in working as closely as possible with the US on both these related issues, and in exerting real influence as a loyal ally. We believe that the need for such influence is now a matter of the highest urgency. If that is unacceptable or unwelcome there is no case for supporting policies which are doomed to failure.

Yours faithfully,

Sir Graham Boyce (ambassador to Egypt 1999-2001); Sir Terence Clark (ambassador to Iraq 1985-89); Francis Cornish (ambassador to Israel 1998-2001); Sir James Craig (ambassador to Saudi Arabia 1979-84); Ivor Lucas (ambassador to Syria 1982-84); Richard Muir (ambassador to Kuwait 1999-2002); Sir Crispin Tickell (British permanent representative to the UN 1987-90); Sir Harold (Hooky) Walker (ambassador to Iraq 1990-91), and 44 others

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004

--------

I find very little to take issue with here. The coalition's policies are "doomed to failure", in my opinion too, so the "security situation" will never "allow" elections to be held, whilst American troops are in Iraq. When those troops leave (in a very foreseeable future, in my view, since I just don't think that the US political system is designed for a kind of 'Haitian' occupation of Iraq of 50 years or so of constant guerrilla warfare), the pro-Western, secular elements of Iraqi society will find their own position totally compromised by association with the Americans' ideas - even if they themselves had nothing to do with it.

If elections are held without US troops leaving, my best estimate is an Algerian situation, where elections will be annulled to stop an Islamic fundamentalist party winning. When Ayatollah Sistani's supporters come to power, Sharia law will be introduced - won't it?

Edited by David Richardson

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I've been re-reading the inputs in this thread in the light of the events of the last month, and in particular of Bush's speech yesterday and the draft UN resolution.

What struck me about Bush's speech and the UN resolution were a continuing unwillingness to face up to the situation on the ground. The coalition forces are mightily unpopular, as is the Iraqi Governing Council … so why should they become popular after 30th June? At the same time, there seems to be a continuing inability to accept that the US has done anything wrong.

On the other hand, there has been one major shift in US policy at a local level: the handing over of Falluja to Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard. This seems to have resulted in a quiet month … but the US doesn't seem to have achieved any of its stated goals, such as the handing over of arms, the arrest of resistance fighters, or the power to jointly patrol the streets of Falluja.

However, this development has its ominous side too. The Shia and the Kurds are extremely unhappy about the speed with which the US caved in, and it now seems that the 'Falluja solution' is just making it more difficult, rather than less, to identify any pro-American politicians who can take over the whole country after 30th June. At the same time, this ethnic solution will probably make it even more likely that any election in Iraq will result in a split along ethnic lines.

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This is an extract of an essay I wrote in response to a speech by the Alabama State Auditor, Beth Chapman. To see the whole thing, visit my web site and click on "Standing up for America".

"The United States of America is arguably the greatest country in the world at the present time, maybe ever. If that statement is true, it is true because the U.S. was founded on radical ideas advanced by philosophers and poets and artists over 200 years ago. Artists and poets and philosophers continue to preserve those radical ideas, in part by continually questioning them.

Among those radical ideas was the notion that all men are created equal, endowed with equal rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. At the time those words were current, "all men" meant all white, property-owning men. Because that vision was imperfect, and was recognized as imperfect, our country has struggled to transform that phrase into "all people are created equal, endowed with equal rights..." That struggle of transformation is one of the things that attests to the greatness of this country; the fact that we have yet to achieve equality attests to the work still needing to be done. Our willingness to do that work in the future is one of the determinates of whether or not we will continue to aspire to greatness.

In the current war with Iraq, I regard the voices raised in dissent as one of the truest indicators of the value of our country. I am sensitive to the people who argue that voices of dissent demoralize our troops; but I would hope that our troops would recognize that such voices need to be heard. The freedom to question government policy means nothing unless people are actually questioning it.

My unease about the current war stems from the fact that we were unable to convince much of the rest of the world that the forcible removal of Sadaam Huessin was necessary. Like it or not, we do need the rest of the world; and the United Nations, imperfect as it is, is the only game in town. I fear that our unilateral action will make us more subject to acts of terror, not less. What I fear more is that people in other countries will look at the statement with which I opened this essay and answer "No - look at what they did in Iraq!""

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Mike, this is more or less the situation I find myself in when I'm teaching Swedish students about the constitution of the United States. I have to make it very clear that there are underlying strengths in the US system of government, as well as the weaknesses which have manifested themselves since Bush Jr came to power. Part of the problem seems to be that the checks and balances haven't worked very well (since the Supreme Court was too partisan in 2000, Congress failed in its constitutional duty to hold the Executive Branch sufficiently to account, etc). However, this doesn't mean that the whole system is fundamentally and intrinsically flawed - I'm sure that there'll be another period where the balance swings back fairly soon.

BTW, I don't think you'll find any *supporters* of Saddam Hussein in the rest of the world - what we opposed was the headlong rush to war, in defiance of international law (on the same grounds that we opposed Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990). Bear in mind too that this happened at the end of a sequence which included the sudden rejection of the Kyoto Agreement and the extreme pressure the USA put on weaker countries to sign unilateral treaties which were designed to neuter the International Criminal Court. There was a surreal situation a couple of years ago when Serbia was being *simultaneously* pressured to extradite Serbians accused of war crimes to the Hague *and* sign a treaty to prevent any American, ever, on any grounds being sent the same way. No wonder we found the Bushies a bit much to take.

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In the current war with Iraq, I regard the voices raised in dissent as one of the truest indicators of the value of our country. I am sensitive to the people who argue that voices of dissent demoralize our troops; but I would hope that our troops would recognize that such voices need to be heard. The freedom to question government policy means nothing unless people are actually questioning it.

Great posting Mike. The reason that the United States is a great country is because it has always had people who have questioned the policy of its government. I think the proudest moment in its history was when people were willing to risk their lives in order to obtain equal rights for their fellow citizens. Here is a long list of names involved in this struggle.

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAcivilrights.htm

There has also been a long history of people in the United States who have opposed military action. I am thinking of people like Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Eugene Debs, Abraham Muste, Dorothy Day and David Dellinger (who died last week).

However, there are still those who believe that a growth of an American Empire would be good for the world. Niall Ferguson, professor of history at New York University, has just published a new book entitled Colossus: the Rise and Fall of the American Empire.

According to one review: "The United States today is an empire - but a peculiar kind of empire", writes Niall Ferguson in Colossus: the Rise and Fall of the American Empire. Despite overwhelming military, economic and cultural dominance, the US has had a difficult time imposing its will on other nations, mostly because the country is uncomfortable with imperialism and thus unable to use this power most effectively and decisively. The origin of this attitude and its persistence is a principal theme of this thought-provoking book, including how domestic politics affects foreign policy, whether it is politicians worried about the next election or citizens who "like Social Security more than national security".

Ferguson takes the view that American Imperialism is a force of good. He argues: “Many parts of the world would benefit from a period of American rule” (in the same way that many countries benefited from British rule in the 19th century).

Ferguson has recently been very critical of the History National Curriculum in the UK. He is particularly concerned about the way the subject of the British Empire is taught in schools. He feels that history teachers are far too critical of this period in our history.

A good review of Ferguson’s ideas can be found in George Monbiot’s article “An Empire of Denial”.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,12271,1228811,00.html

http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=822

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I've been re-reading McMasters' Dereliction of Duty recently. The book received a lot of praise when it came out in 1997, mostly because McMasters did a great deal of research and used a number of previously classified sources. In brief, the book argues that Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara and the Joint Chiefs of Staff were Derelict in their duty by pursuing policies that they knew were doomed to fail in Vietnam. I have to admit I found the book repetitive; but it certainly convinced me that it would be appropriate to try Robert McNamara as a war criminal, a position I've been unwilling to take. I also saw "The Fog of War", and that probably influenced my reaction. I'm bringing this up in this thread because I think it's relevant to the situation in Iraq.

What crystallized this for me was another re-read: Barbara Tuchman's The March of Folly. Tuchman makes the same points as McMasters, only she did it 10 years earlier and with much more clarity. In the chapters on Vietnam, she points out the folly of "nation building". In the concluding chapter, she notes how inevitable folly is, given the nature of humans and governments.

Downright depressing, but a good read to help understand our current situation. Deja Vu all over again!

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Although Saddam was still a junior figure, it is a matter of record that the CIA station in Baghdad aided the coup which first brought the Ba'athists to power in 1963. But it was Reagan who, two decades later, turned US-Iraqi relations into a decisive wartime alliance. He sent a personal letter to Saddam Hussein in December 1983 offering help against Iran. The letter was hand-carried to Baghdad by Reagan's special envoy, Donald Rumsfeld.

Reagan liked several things about Saddam. A firm anti-communist, he had banned the party and executed or imprisoned thousands of its members. The Iraqi leader was also a bulwark against the mullahs in Tehran and a promising point of pressure against Syria and its Hizbullah clients in Lebanon who had just destroyed the US Marine compound in Beirut, killing over 200 Americans.

It is not surprising that the current international manoeuvring over Iraq is treated with suspicion grounded in that history. Iraqis regard their newly appointed government with scepticism. They see the difficulty France had at the United Nations in trying to persuade the Americans to allow Iraqis a veto over US offensives in places like Falluja. They note that Prime Minister Ayad Allawi did not even ask for a major Iraqi role until the French made it an issue. Iraqis remember that Allawi and his exile organisation, the Iraqi National Accord, were paid by the CIA.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,...1236211,00.html

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However implausibly, President Bush continues to reiterate his commitment to the early introduction of democracy in Iraq. Indeed, the idea of democratic reform in the Arab world has been central to the Anglo-American position on Iraq. There should be nothing surprising in that. Democracy has become the universal calling card of the west, the mantra that is chanted at every country that falls short (when politically convenient, of course), the ubiquitous solution to the problems of countries that are not democratic.

The boast about democracy is largely a product of the last half-century, following the defeat of fascism. Before that, a large slice of Europe remained mired in dictatorship, often of an extremely brutal and distasteful kind. The idea of democracy as a western virtue was blooded during the cold-war struggle against communism, though its use remained highly selective: those many dictatorships that sided with the west were happily awarded membership of the "free world"; "freedom" took precedence over democracy, regimes as inimical to democracy as apartheid South Africa, Diem's South Vietnam and Franco's Spain were welcomed into the fold. Following the collapse of communism, however, "free markets and democracy" became for the first time - at least in principle - the universal prescription for each and every country.

Democracy is viewed by the west in a strangely ahistorical way. It is seen as eternal and unchanging, neither historically nor culturally specific, but a kind of universal truth. But, of course, nothing is eternal. The western model of democracy, like everything else, is a distinct phase in history, which depends upon certain conditions for its existence. Contrary to conventional wisdom, it should not be assumed that it is of universal application, nor that it will always exist.

Russia is a classic test of the western shibboleth. For the west, the simple answer to Russia's ills after the collapse of communism was a combination of the free market and democracy. The free market never happened; worse, the attempt to engineer it under Yeltsin produced, with western blessing, the theft of Russia's most valuable natural resources by its leader's cronies. The country is paying a terrible price for following western advice. Meanwhile, democracy has been shaped and constrained by the personal power of Putin, a reminder of the country's long, despotic past. The lessons? History and culture leave an indelible imprint on the nature of any democracy; the market similarly.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,...1244327,00.html

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Renegade CIA operatives put George W. Bush into office. I have personal knowledge of a secret agreement that Bush made with the operatives to have them facili9tate his career, and Bush committed a felony involving drugs as part of the secret agreement.

The plan in Iraq from the beginning was to set up this puppet government in June 2004, with elections in January 2005. Bush thought the war would go well and that he would be reelected as the great President who had Iraq on the road to democracy.

FAT CHANCE!

Bush is an incompetent jerk.

When the CIA killed JFK so that they could get Goldwater elected in 1964, they pulled the same thing.

On November 22, 1963, the day Kennedy was assassinated “Honduras announced a program that would produce civilian rule in 15 months,” three months after the U.S. Presidential election in 1964.

On November 26, 1963, the Dominican Republic announced a series of elections beginning with elections “for minor local officials between September 1, 1964 and November 30, 1964; municipal elections on January 15, 1965; a constituent assembly election on March 1, 1965; and a presidential election on July 15, 1965.” (At least this announcement of a bizarre series of elections didn’t “coincidentally” take place on November 22, 1963. It took place four days later.)

Goldwater was supposed to be elected as the President who had supported the military coups that ousted democratically elected governments that were allegedly supported by Communists. The right-wing regimes would allegedly be on the road to democracy when Goldwater was elected in November 1964. The problem is that the CIA failed in their effort to kill President Johnson on Saturday, October 31, 1964, three days before the election.

President Johnson sent American troops to end a civil war that broke out in the Dominican Republic when the right-wing civilian junta installed by military leaders refused to yield to democracy. The American troops, however, did not install democracy and elections were not held.

Who does Bush think he is kidding? Democracy will not take hold in Iraq and American soldiers and citizens will continue to die there until we withdraw.

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