Friday, January 21, 2005

The Lost Elections 2

The Iraqi Election Newswire links to this letter in the Guardian which exactly echoes the analysis of the Nation.

Iraq is being denied free and fair elections, after enduring decades of Saddam's brutal dictatorship. The US and British occupation governments have engineered a process for reproducing the US-appointed Iraqi interim government to prolong the occupation and incite sectarian and ethnic conflicts.

Millions of Iraqis, under siege in many parts of their homeland, will be disenfranchised. While boycotting this undemocratic exercise, we strongly condemn all forms of violence against Iraqis participating in it. We, as exiles, are confident that the vast majority of Iraqis, at home and abroad, shall unite to end the US-led occupation and establish democracy, whatever their stance on participation.

We echo opinions within Iraq stressing the impossibility of holding free and fair elections while under occupation, and being subjected to war crimes by the US-led forces.

However, we support demands for minimal pre-conditions: setting a strict timetable for the withdrawal of all occupation forces; ceasing all attacks, and confining all occupation forces to barracks until withdrawal; ending martial law and releasing all political prisoners; establishing an independent election commission, led by Iraq's senior serving and retired judges, and including all Iraq's political forces. It could be assisted by anti-occupation figures, eg Nelson Mandela, and the UN. Sami Ramadani, Haifa Zangana, Prof Kamal Majid, Tahrir Numan, Dr Imad Khaddur, iMundher Adhami, and 14 others.

The Nation advocated exactly the same thing: that the US give up on the election as a botched job and retreat from Iraq as quickly as possible confident that things will work themselves out.

Therefore, for the sake of Iraq's future and the safety of our young men and women, the United States must begin an orderly withdrawal, coordinated with stepped-up US and international economic assistance. We recognize that further violence and internal fighting among Iraqis may follow, but to believe that a continuing US military presence can prevent this is naïve or disingenuous; it will, rather, contribute to the instability. The best long-term outcome is for Iraqis to regain control of their own country and sort out their own future.

Those who may have hoped that 'insurgents' could somehow prevent the Iraqi elections from taking place have given that up as a botched job and fallen back on Plan B. The belated emergence of the 'elections are rigged' line, only two weeks from the scheduled polls, are virtual admissions that they cannot now be stopped. They can only be discredited. In all probability the new line will be. 'So what if elections were held in Iraq. It's still illegitimate, etc.' That sad thing about that is it will tend to immunize the elected candidates in the eyes of American Conservatives and mask any real shortcomings they may have in the turbulence of ideological conflict. That process has already done much to deodorize 'insurgents' who, properly considered, are by any standard some of the lowest sorts of snakes ever to slither in the dust.

That said, the 'elections are rigged' line is a masterpiece of irony. There is oblique reference to 'millions of Iraqis, under siege' without identifying the besiegers; it disenfranchises voters in Shi'ite and Kurdish Iraq, by making their suffrage contingent upon the pleasure of their former Ba'athist masters. It is in effect, an announcement of electoral results before the first vote has been cast, which in a way, has the force of custom behind it. In October, 2002 CNN reported that Saddam had won 100 percent of votes in a referendum granting him another seven year term. Now that was a peaceful and legitimate election.

Baghdad, Iraq -- Iraq has declared Saddam Hussein the winner with 100 percent of the votes in a referendum granting him another seven-year term, bringing bursts of celebratory gunfire in Baghdad's streets. The statistics-busting result were seen in Baghdad as a message of defiance to U.S. President George W. Bush and his declared desire to end Saddam's 23-year rule."Our leader President Saddam Hussein, may God preserve him and look after him, has won 100 percent of the votes of eligible voters," said Saddam's top deputy Izzat Ibrahim, reading official results at a news conference in Baghdad. Saddam was the only candidate in the referendum ...

Ibrahim, vice-chairman of Iraq's Revolutionary Command Council, said all 11,445,638 Iraqis eligible to vote had done so and every single one of them answered "Yes" to another seven-year term for Saddam, 65, who was appointed president in 1979.