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Fwd: [empirenotes] Bush, Iraq, and Demonstration Elections

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  • Greg Cannon
    For those who haven t heard of Rahul Mahajan before, he s a professor at UT Austin (of political science, I think), was the 2002 Green Party candidate for
    Message 1 of 3 , Sep 24, 2004
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      For those who haven't heard of Rahul Mahajan before,
      he's a professor at UT Austin (of political science, I
      think), was the 2002 Green Party candidate for Texas
      governor, and has made several fact-finding trips to
      Iraq. Here's his latest article:

      Hello, all. Thanks to the thousands who have
      subscribed to this list
      since
      my trip to Iraq in April. I haven't posted for quite
      some time, but
      will be
      posting more frequently now.

      This post is about the likelihood that the United
      States is planning a
      sham
      election in Iraq in January 2005. This is an issue
      that it is still
      possible to mobilize on and hope to affect, so it is
      particularly
      important. For more information on all these issues,
      please visit my
      blog
      Empire Notes at http://www.empirenotes.org

      To unsubscribe, send a message (from the subscribed
      address) to
      empirenotes-unsubscribe@....

      Best regards,

      Rahul Mahajan

      Bush, Iraq, and Demonstration Elections

      by Rahul Mahajan

      Last October, when Vladimir Putin engineered the
      election of his
      hand-picked subordinate Ahmad Kadyrov as president of
      Chechnya through
      tactics such as pressuring the leading candidate,
      Malik Saidullayev, to
      withdraw (and then forcing him out with a court
      injunction) and hiring
      another candidate to be on his staff, Western punditry
      was not slow to
      condemn the election as a farce and a sham. It did so
      again when he
      interfered as blatantly in the recent August elections
      in Chechnya.

      Ever since 9/11, however, the Bush administration has
      been treating us
      to a
      series of equally farcical �elections� with minimal or
      no comment from
      the
      same sources. The matter has now come to what should
      be a crisis point
      over
      plans to engineer the upcoming U.N. Security
      Council-mandated elections
      in
      Iraq.

      Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani was once again in the
      news regarding his
      concerns that the main U.S.-affiliated political
      parties (the ones that
      formed the Governing Council and that now dominate the
      transitional
      assembly) are negotiating on a �consensus slate� of
      candidates for the
      elections. While his main reported concern is that the
      Shi�a majority
      of
      Iraq will be underrepresented, based on an estimate
      from the early 90�s
      that 55% of the Iraqi population is Shi�a Arab
      compared to his estimate
      of
      65% today, there is a much more serious question at
      stake � the
      legitimacy
      of the elections.

      In some countries, with a well-established
      parliamentary system and a
      history of active political parties and an inclusive
      public discourse,
      slates like this are not necessarily a problem. In
      systems like
      India�s,
      with numerous parties and a first-past-the-post voting
      system (no
      matter
      how many candidates there are, the candidate with the
      most votes wins,
      with
      no runoffs), such electoral alliances may be necessary
      to get smaller
      parties some degree of parliamentary representation.

      In Iraq, however, this is simply a setup for a sham
      election. Let�s
      look at
      the history of recent U.S. demonstration elections.

      In the June 2002 Afghan loya jirga, roughly 1500
      delegates assembled to
      pick the interim president of the country. Although
      all delegates were
      under a great degree of pressure by U.S.-backed
      warlords (who did
      everything from killing delegates before the assembly
      to controlling
      the
      floor at the assembly), over 800 signed a statement in
      support of Zahir
      Shah, the exiled monarch. According to Omar Zakhilwal
      and Adeena Niazi,
      delegates to the loya jirga, the United States then
      stepped in and �the
      entire loya jirga was postponed for almost two days
      while the former
      king
      was strong-armed into renouncing any meaningful role
      in the
      government.�
      (NYT, 6/21/02) When the assembly resumed, delegates
      were given a choice
      between Hamid Karzai and two unknown candidates
      running for symbolic
      value
      (one of them was a woman) � essentially, as in the
      Chechnya elections,
      they
      were presented with a fait accompli.

      More recently, the Bush administration pushed to have
      Afghan elections
      before the U.S. elections, then switched around and
      pressured the
      Afghan
      Electoral Commission to delay the parliamentary
      elections until next
      April
      (CSM, 7/13/04) while going ahead with presidential
      elections in
      October.
      There has been no time for anyone in the country to
      emerge as a
      national
      rival to Karzai, so this will effectively be a
      one-candidate election
      with
      a veneer of democratic choice; the results of the
      parliamentary
      elections
      would not be nearly so predictable or controllable by
      the United
      States,
      and serendipitously they have been put off.

      In Iraq, the U.S. record is worse. Much propaganda has
      been made of the
      local �elections� instituted by U.S. forces, but to
      believe it calls
      for a
      willing disjunction from reality. In some places, the
      �election� was an
      appointment of mayor and/or city council members by
      the local U.S.
      commander, sometimes disastrously, as when U.S. forces
      appointed a
      Sunni
      from Baghdad to be mayor of the mostly Shi�a Najaf,
      cancelled an
      election
      he would surely have lost, and later had to remove him
      anyway because
      of
      charges of corruption and Ba�athist links (WP,
      6/28/03, and others). In
      Basra, British and U.S. forces appointed local
      officials and then
      removed
      them and decided explicitly that Iraqis would only
      serve in a
      technocratic
      capacity, not a political one (WP, 5/29/03). In other
      places, like
      Kirkuk,
      the �election� was one conducted by 300 delegates all
      hand-picked and
      vetted by U.S. forces, not by the people of Kirkuk.

      In late June, U.S. commanders had ordered a halt to
      all local
      elections,
      because they had determined that in many places people
      and groups they
      didn�t like were too popular and might win (WP,
      6/28/03). That is
      unfortunately one of the problems with democracy. A
      few days later,
      Paul
      Bremer approved resumption of elections (WP, 7/1/03),
      but allowed local
      commanders to choose between appointment, election by
      specially vetted
      caucuses, and actual elections; unstated was the
      conclusion that U.S.
      commanders should choose the form of �election� based
      on the likelihood
      of
      getting the result they wanted.

      All of these experiments in �democracy� were, of
      course, in a context
      where
      U.S. commanders could countermand any city council
      decision and
      dissolve
      any council as they so chose.

      At the national level, things have been worse. Of
      course, elections
      have
      been postponed repeatedly, even though the
      difficulties that exist in
      Afghanistan did not exist in Iraq (for example, the
      ubiquitous ration
      cards
      could have been used as a basis for voter
      identification and
      registration);
      even the January elections are mandated only because
      other countries on
      the
      Security Council insisted on the setting of a date as
      a condition for
      approving Resolution 1546, on the so-called �transfer
      of sovereignty.�

      But numerous other ostensibly national political
      processes have been
      cancelled or manipulated as well. An assembly planned
      for June 2003,
      that
      would have involved mostly the U.S.-designated
      exile-dominated �Iraqi
      opposition� was cancelled by Paul Bremer. He said it
      was because the
      �opposition� was not representative of the country;
      then, a month later
      he
      chose, entirely on his own authority, 25 people, 16 of
      them exiles, to
      form
      the Governing Council.

      In August, as the center of Najaf was ceaselessly
      bombarded, a national
      assembly of roughly 1300 delegates met to select the
      transitional
      national
      assembly, a body of 100 people whose formation was
      mandated by the
      �transfer of sovereignty� process (actually, 81
      delegates were to be
      selected, the other 19 coming from the old Governing
      Council).
      Ostensibly
      picked by democratic processes in their locality, the
      delegates
      certainly
      did represent a wide variety of parties and views,
      although major
      groups
      opposed to the occupation were under-represented
      (Moqtada al-Sadr,
      whose
      organization was under military assault at the time,
      boycotted the
      conference).

      Imagine the surprise of the delegates when they came
      to the conference
      and
      found out that there would be no nomination of
      candidates, campaigning,
      or
      elections. Instead, they were confronted with a
      pre-selected slate of
      81
      candidates, picked by back-room negotiations between
      the major
      U.S.-affiliated (former Governing Council) parties,
      and expected to
      rubber-stamp it. Smaller parties made an attempt to
      come up with an
      opposition slate, but were unable to, and at the end
      the U.S.-backed
      slate
      was not even presented to the delegates for formal
      approval (AP,
      8/18/04).

      This last sham would likely embarrass even Vladimir
      Putin. Apparently,
      the
      Bush administration is happy with elections in places
      it controls, like
      Afghanistan or Iraq, as long as there are no choices
      (when there are,
      as in
      Florida, strange things can happen). There is not a
      shred of a reason
      to
      doubt that this is precisely what is planned for the
      January elections
      in
      Iraq � collusion by the U.S.-backed political parties
      to pick Iraqi
      figures
      who will continue to collaborate with the occupation
      and to shut out
      all
      other Iraqi voices.

      There is a deplorable tendency in this country to use
      words like
      �freedom�
      and �democracy� in a purely talismanic manner, without
      attaching any
      actual
      meaning to them � only thus could the coups in
      Guatemala in 1954 or in
      Haiti in 2004 be hailed as advances for democracy. But
      the current
      administration, the Republican Party, and George W.
      Bush take this to
      heretofore undreamed of extremes, as could be seen
      clearly at the
      Republican National Convention this year. For Bush,
      apparently,
      democracy
      means any kind of election at all � a definition that
      would make Saddam
      Hussein perfectly happy (he won an �election� with an
      unprecedented
      100% of
      the vote in October 2002).

      Or, more pointedly, to Bush, democracy and freedom
      mean �anything the
      United States does� and, even worse, �anything I do.�
      The implications
      for
      the United States and its internal affairs ought to be
      as clear as the
      implications for Iraq. If you mobilize to ensure that
      the elections in
      Iraq
      in January are real elections, the freedom you save
      may be your own.



      Rahul Mahajan is publisher of the blog Empire Notes
      (<http://www.empirenotes.org/>http://www.empirenotes.org)
      and teaches
      at
      New York University. He has been to Iraq twice and
      reported from
      Fallujah
      during the siege in April. His latest book is �Full
      Spectrum Dominance:
      U.S. Power in Iraq and Beyond.�
      (<http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1583225781/empirenotes-20>http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1583225781/empirenotes-20)

      He can be reached at
      <mailto:rahul@...>rahul@...
    • Ram Lau
      Some background info about Professor Mahajan: www.rahulmahajan.com/bio.htm http://matthew.cavalletto.org/conference/conf-4-Pages/Image14.html I ve read one of
      Message 2 of 3 , Sep 24, 2004
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        Some background info about Professor Mahajan:
        www.rahulmahajan.com/bio.htm
        http://matthew.cavalletto.org/conference/conf-4-Pages/Image14.html

        I've read one of his articles on CommonDreams.org and was pretty
        impressed. See below.


        Report from Fallujah -- Destroying a Town in Order to Save it
        by Rahul Mahajan

        FALLUJAH, Iraq -- Fallujah is a bit like southern California. On the
        edge of Iraq's western desert, it is extremely arid but has been
        rendered into an agricultural area by extensive irrigation.
        Surrounded by dirt-poor villages, Fallujah is perhaps marginally
        better off. Much of the population is farmers. The town itself has
        wide streets and squat, sand-colored buildings.

        We were in Fallujah during the "ceasefire." This is what we saw and
        heard.

        When the assault on Fallujah started, the power plant was bombed.
        Electricity is provided by generators and usually reserved for
        places with important functions. There are four hospitals currently
        running in Fallujah. This includes the one where we were, which was
        actually just a minor emergency clinic; another one of them is a car
        repair garage. Things were very frantic at the hopsital where we
        were, so we couldn't get too much translation. We depended for much
        of our information on Makki al-Nazzal, a lifelong Fallujah resident
        who works for the humanitarian NGO Intersos, and had been pressed
        into service as the manager of the clinic, since all doctors were
        busy, working around the clock with minimal sleep.

        A gentle, urbane man who spoke fluent English, Al-Nazzal was beside
        himself with fury at the Americans' actions (when I asked him if it
        was all right to use his full name, he said, "It's ok. It's all ok
        now. Let the bastards do what they want.") With the "ceasefire,"
        large-scale bombing was rare. With a halt in major bombing, the
        Americans were attacking with heavy artillery but primarily with
        snipers.

        Al-Nazzal told us about ambulances being hit by snipers, women and
        children being shot. Describing the horror that the siege of
        Fallujah had become, he said, "I have been a fool for 47 years. I
        used to believe in European and American civilization."

        I had heard these claims at third-hand before coming into Fallujah,
        but was skeptical. It's very difficult to find the real story here.
        But this I saw for myself. An ambulance with two neat, precise
        bullet-holes in the windshield on the driver's side, pointing down
        at an angle that indicated they would have hit the driver's chest
        (the snipers were on rooftops, and are trained to aim for the
        chest). Another ambulance again with a single, neat bullet-hole in
        the windshield. There's no way this was due to panicked spraying of
        fire. These were deliberate shots designed to kill the drivers.

        The ambulances go around with red, blue, or green lights flashing
        and sirens blaring; in the pitch-dark of blacked-out city streets
        there is no way they can be missed or mistaken for something else).
        An ambulance that some of our compatriots were going around in,
        trading on their whiteness to get the snipers to let them through to
        pick up the wounded was also shot at while we were there.

        During the course of the roughly four hours we were at that small
        clinic, we saw perhaps a dozen wounded brought in. Among them was a
        young woman, 18 years old, shot in the head. She was seizing and
        foaming at the mouth when they brought her in; doctors did not
        expect her to survive the night. Another likely terminal case was a
        young boy with massive internal bleeding. I also saw a man with
        extensive burns on his upper body and shredded thighs, with wounds
        that could have been from a cluster bomb; there was no way to verify
        in the madhouse scene of wailing relatives, shouts of "Allahu Akbar"
        (God is great), and anger at the Americans.

        Among the more laughable assertions of the Bush administration is
        that the mujaheddin are a small group of isolated "extremists"
        repudiated by the majority of Fallujah's population. Nothing could
        be further from the truth. Of course, the mujaheddin don't include
        women or very young children (we saw an 11-year-old boy with a
        Kalashnikov), old men, and are not necessarily even a majority of
        fighting-age men. But they are of the community and fully supported
        by it. Many of the wounded were brought in by the muj and they stood
        around openly conversing with doctors and others. They conferred
        together about logistical questions; not once did I see the muj
        threatening people with their ubiquitous Kalashnikovs.

        One of the muj was wearing an Iraqi police flak jacket; on
        questioning others who knew him, we learned that he was in fact a
        member of the Iraqi police.

        One of our translators, Rana al-Aiouby told me, "these are simple
        people." Without wanting to go along with the patronizing air of the
        remark, there is a strong element of truth to it. These are
        agricultural tribesmen with very strong religious beliefs. They are
        insular and don't easily trust strangers. We were safe because of
        the friends we had with us and because we came to help them. They
        are not so far different from the Pashtun of Afghanistan -- good
        friends and terrible enemies.

        The muj are of the people in the same way that the stone-throwing
        shabab in the first Palestinian intifada were and the term, which
        means "youth," is used for them as well. I spoke to a young man,
        Ali, who was among the wounded we transported to Baghdad. He said he
        was not a muj but, when asked his opinion of them, he smiled and
        stuck his thumb up. Any young man who is not one of the muj today
        may the next day wind his aqal around his face and pick up a
        Kalashnikov. After this, many will.

        Al-Nazzal told me that the people of Fallujah refused to resist the
        Americans just because Saddam told them to; indeed, the fighting for
        Fallujah last year was not particularly fierce. He said, "If Saddam
        said work, we would want to take off three days. But the Americans
        had to cast us as Saddam supporters. When he was captured, they said
        the resistance would die down, but even as it has increased, they
        still call us that."

        Nothing could have been easier than gaining the good-will of the
        people of Fallujah had the Americans not been so brutal in their
        dealings. Tribal peoples like these have been the most easily duped
        by imperialists for centuries now. But now a tipping point has been
        reached. To Americans, "Fallujah" may still mean four mercenaries
        killed, with their corpses then mutilated and abused; to
        Iraqis, "Fallujah" means the savage collective punishment for that
        attack, in which over 600 Iraqis have been killed, with an estimated
        200 women and over 100 children (women do not fight among the muj,
        so all of these are noncombatants, as are many of the men killed).

        A Special Forces colonel in the Vietnam War said of the town, Ben
        Tre, "We had to destroy the town in order to save it, encapsulating
        the entire war in a single statement. The same is true in Iraq
        today -- Fallujah cannot be "saved" from its mujaheddin unless it is
        destroyed.


        http://www.commondreams.org/views04/0412-01.htm
      • greg
        Ah, so he s a physics professor, not political science. He would ve been an interesting governor. But unfortunately, he had the curse of Greg: I voted for him,
        Message 3 of 3 , Sep 25, 2004
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          Ah, so he's a physics professor, not political science. He would've been an
          interesting governor. But unfortunately, he had the curse of Greg: I voted for
          him, and only once in my four years of voting have I voted for a candidate that
          won.
          --- In prezveepsenator@yahoogroups.com, "Ram Lau" <ramlau@y...> wrote:
          > Some background info about Professor Mahajan:
          > www.rahulmahajan.com/bio.htm
          > http://matthew.cavalletto.org/conference/conf-4-Pages/Image14.html
          >
          > I've read one of his articles on CommonDreams.org and was pretty
          > impressed. See below.
          >
          >
          > Report from Fallujah -- Destroying a Town in Order to Save it
          > by Rahul Mahajan
          >
          > FALLUJAH, Iraq -- Fallujah is a bit like southern California. On the
          > edge of Iraq's western desert, it is extremely arid but has been
          > rendered into an agricultural area by extensive irrigation.
          > Surrounded by dirt-poor villages, Fallujah is perhaps marginally
          > better off. Much of the population is farmers. The town itself has
          > wide streets and squat, sand-colored buildings.
          >
          > We were in Fallujah during the "ceasefire." This is what we saw and
          > heard.
          >
          > When the assault on Fallujah started, the power plant was bombed.
          > Electricity is provided by generators and usually reserved for
          > places with important functions. There are four hospitals currently
          > running in Fallujah. This includes the one where we were, which was
          > actually just a minor emergency clinic; another one of them is a car
          > repair garage. Things were very frantic at the hopsital where we
          > were, so we couldn't get too much translation. We depended for much
          > of our information on Makki al-Nazzal, a lifelong Fallujah resident
          > who works for the humanitarian NGO Intersos, and had been pressed
          > into service as the manager of the clinic, since all doctors were
          > busy, working around the clock with minimal sleep.
          >
          > A gentle, urbane man who spoke fluent English, Al-Nazzal was beside
          > himself with fury at the Americans' actions (when I asked him if it
          > was all right to use his full name, he said, "It's ok. It's all ok
          > now. Let the bastards do what they want.") With the "ceasefire,"
          > large-scale bombing was rare. With a halt in major bombing, the
          > Americans were attacking with heavy artillery but primarily with
          > snipers.
          >
          > Al-Nazzal told us about ambulances being hit by snipers, women and
          > children being shot. Describing the horror that the siege of
          > Fallujah had become, he said, "I have been a fool for 47 years. I
          > used to believe in European and American civilization."
          >
          > I had heard these claims at third-hand before coming into Fallujah,
          > but was skeptical. It's very difficult to find the real story here.
          > But this I saw for myself. An ambulance with two neat, precise
          > bullet-holes in the windshield on the driver's side, pointing down
          > at an angle that indicated they would have hit the driver's chest
          > (the snipers were on rooftops, and are trained to aim for the
          > chest). Another ambulance again with a single, neat bullet-hole in
          > the windshield. There's no way this was due to panicked spraying of
          > fire. These were deliberate shots designed to kill the drivers.
          >
          > The ambulances go around with red, blue, or green lights flashing
          > and sirens blaring; in the pitch-dark of blacked-out city streets
          > there is no way they can be missed or mistaken for something else).
          > An ambulance that some of our compatriots were going around in,
          > trading on their whiteness to get the snipers to let them through to
          > pick up the wounded was also shot at while we were there.
          >
          > During the course of the roughly four hours we were at that small
          > clinic, we saw perhaps a dozen wounded brought in. Among them was a
          > young woman, 18 years old, shot in the head. She was seizing and
          > foaming at the mouth when they brought her in; doctors did not
          > expect her to survive the night. Another likely terminal case was a
          > young boy with massive internal bleeding. I also saw a man with
          > extensive burns on his upper body and shredded thighs, with wounds
          > that could have been from a cluster bomb; there was no way to verify
          > in the madhouse scene of wailing relatives, shouts of "Allahu Akbar"
          > (God is great), and anger at the Americans.
          >
          > Among the more laughable assertions of the Bush administration is
          > that the mujaheddin are a small group of isolated "extremists"
          > repudiated by the majority of Fallujah's population. Nothing could
          > be further from the truth. Of course, the mujaheddin don't include
          > women or very young children (we saw an 11-year-old boy with a
          > Kalashnikov), old men, and are not necessarily even a majority of
          > fighting-age men. But they are of the community and fully supported
          > by it. Many of the wounded were brought in by the muj and they stood
          > around openly conversing with doctors and others. They conferred
          > together about logistical questions; not once did I see the muj
          > threatening people with their ubiquitous Kalashnikovs.
          >
          > One of the muj was wearing an Iraqi police flak jacket; on
          > questioning others who knew him, we learned that he was in fact a
          > member of the Iraqi police.
          >
          > One of our translators, Rana al-Aiouby told me, "these are simple
          > people." Without wanting to go along with the patronizing air of the
          > remark, there is a strong element of truth to it. These are
          > agricultural tribesmen with very strong religious beliefs. They are
          > insular and don't easily trust strangers. We were safe because of
          > the friends we had with us and because we came to help them. They
          > are not so far different from the Pashtun of Afghanistan -- good
          > friends and terrible enemies.
          >
          > The muj are of the people in the same way that the stone-throwing
          > shabab in the first Palestinian intifada were and the term, which
          > means "youth," is used for them as well. I spoke to a young man,
          > Ali, who was among the wounded we transported to Baghdad. He said he
          > was not a muj but, when asked his opinion of them, he smiled and
          > stuck his thumb up. Any young man who is not one of the muj today
          > may the next day wind his aqal around his face and pick up a
          > Kalashnikov. After this, many will.
          >
          > Al-Nazzal told me that the people of Fallujah refused to resist the
          > Americans just because Saddam told them to; indeed, the fighting for
          > Fallujah last year was not particularly fierce. He said, "If Saddam
          > said work, we would want to take off three days. But the Americans
          > had to cast us as Saddam supporters. When he was captured, they said
          > the resistance would die down, but even as it has increased, they
          > still call us that."
          >
          > Nothing could have been easier than gaining the good-will of the
          > people of Fallujah had the Americans not been so brutal in their
          > dealings. Tribal peoples like these have been the most easily duped
          > by imperialists for centuries now. But now a tipping point has been
          > reached. To Americans, "Fallujah" may still mean four mercenaries
          > killed, with their corpses then mutilated and abused; to
          > Iraqis, "Fallujah" means the savage collective punishment for that
          > attack, in which over 600 Iraqis have been killed, with an estimated
          > 200 women and over 100 children (women do not fight among the muj,
          > so all of these are noncombatants, as are many of the men killed).
          >
          > A Special Forces colonel in the Vietnam War said of the town, Ben
          > Tre, "We had to destroy the town in order to save it, encapsulating
          > the entire war in a single statement. The same is true in Iraq
          > today -- Fallujah cannot be "saved" from its mujaheddin unless it is
          > destroyed.
          >
          >
          > http://www.commondreams.org/views04/0412-01.htm
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