IRAQ: Sham elections in deep trouble

January 19, 2005

John Catalinotto, New York

Former CIA "asset" and current Iraqi "Premier" Iyad Allawi telephoned US President George Bush on January 3 to discuss problems about holding the January 30 national election in Iraq. The big question was whether the upsurge in both armed and popular resistance would force them to postpone the elections.

The official answer was still "no", but it was obvious the elections were headed for at least as big a disaster as the US occupation in general. "Allawi's cabinet is already showing signs of weakening on the question of holding elections in Iraq this month", according to the January 4 New York Times.

Suicide bombers were striking once and sometimes twice a day. Anyone in or around the new Iraqi National Guard and local police were regular targets of bombings and gunfights. Twenty were killed on January 3 alone. The next day, the governor of Baghdad province and six bodyguards were killed.

After the suicide bombing that struck a US military base in Mosul in December, killing 22, the daily killings of one or two GIs by roadside bombs continue to take their toll. Twice as many US troops died in Iraq in 2004 as in 2003.

More than 100 parties or groups are on the ballot. A coalition of 25 groups whose core is composed of eight Shiite parties from southern Iraq is expected to win should the elections go ahead. On the other hand, throughout all of central Iraq, including Baghdad, there is strong opposition to the occupation and the elections. As of early December, 70 groups had announced they would boycott.

These are elections held under a foreign occupation. The occupation forces, basically the US military and civilian authorities, decide how and when they are held.

When the idea of elections was first floated a year ago, some of the parties rooted in Iraq greeted it with enthusiasm. Demonstrations in the south of Iraq - the mostly Shiite areas - demanded immediate elections. But the United States insisted on keeping the "Coalition Authority" led by Paul Bremer in place. The corporations first wanted laws in place allowing US-based corporations to own and exploit 100% of major Iraqi enterprises, including the country's oil.

No patriotic Iraqi recognises these laws or any election carried out under them. "We all believe the Bremer laws have no legal basis, neither here nor anywhere else", Dr Abdul Kareem Hani, who was Iraq's minister of social affairs before the US invasion, was quoted in a November 22 article on the US New Standard website. "According to the Geneva Conventions and The Hague, the occupying force has no authority to change the laws of the occupied country."

The Bush administration's policy from the beginning has been to take all of Iraq's resources, sharing them neither with rival imperialist powers nor with any sector of Iraqi society. This policy has helped accelerate the growth of the resistance.

Only after it appointed a purchased puppet like Allawi to run the interim Iraqi "regime" last June did Washington set up a timetable for elections.

In the meantime, the resistance movement in Iraq had been growing continuously. It established a relatively safe base in Fallujah. Washington's Pentagon strategists targeted that city in November, expecting a quick and thorough military victory. This was supposed to be followed by political advances and a more secure election.

Instead, the Pentagon destroyed Fallujah, killing thousands of civilians and far fewer resistance fighters. The resistance spread to far larger Mosul and a dozen other cities. And in Fallujah the resistance continued into 2005, driving US forces out of parts of the city.

Politically, it was even a greater setback for the occupation. On November 9, just after the US assault on Fallujah began, the Iraqi Islamic Party pulled out of the Iraqi interim government.

The next day, another influential organisation, the Association of Muslim Scholars, called on the population to abstain from voting and defended Iraqis' choice to resist the occupation.

On November 13, a spokesperson for Moqtada al Sadr, Ali Smasm, announced that their group would boycott the voting. This is significant in a different way, as Sadr was a leader of an uprising in the south of Iraq and is a Shiite religious figure. It showed that even among the Shiite groups, many of which are participating in the elections, there are differences.

The US corporate news media still spread the administration's false claims of success in Iraq. But to anyone who went through the Vietnam War era, it's beginning to sound like the generals' claims then that they could "see the light at the end of the tunnel".

Independent reporters and analysts who have spent time in Iraq outside the control of the Pentagon have a completely different view of the events there.

Dahr Jamail, who wrote the New Standard article, writes: "Iraqis tend to favor free elections without American influence and setting a timetable for military withdrawal as part of the solution to the bloody quagmire their country has become under foreign control."

It's not just independent journalists writing this. The head of the Iraqi intelligence service, General Mohamed Abd Allah Shahwani, told journalists on January 3: "I think the resistance is bigger than the US military in Iraq. I think the resistance is more than 200,000 people."

"People are fed up after two years without improvement. People are fed up with no security, no electricity, people feel they have to do something", he added. Asked if the resistance was winning, he concluded: "They aren't losing."

[Abridged from the January 13 Workers World, weekly paper of the US Workers World Party.]

From Green Left Weekly, January 19, 2005.
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