FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Why No Democracy in Iraq?

by CHRIS KROMM, RANIA MASRI And TARA PUROHIT

It’s almost a year since the Iraq war began, and
now that the “official” reasons for the invasion–Iraq’s
storied stockpiles of weapons, the imaginary ties between Saddam
Hussein and Osama bin Laden–lie in disrepute, the Bush administration’s
new tack is to say the war was really about something else all
along: democracy.

The trouble is, the Iraqi people seem
more interested in democracy than President Bush. Just three
weeks ago, 10,000 Iraqis marched on the U.S.-installed governing
council in Nasiriyah, just south of Baghdad, demanding that the
U.S. appointees resign and that elections be immediately held.

The Bush administration’s response? Paul
Bremer, U.S. head of the Iraq occupation, categorically declared
that there will be no elections before the planned June “handover”
of “sovereignty” to Iraqis. Which begs the question:
are a people truly “sovereign” if they have no say
in their country’s future?

Bush’s aversion to democracy in Iraq
not only makes his latest justification for war questionable;
it should also heighten scrutiny of Research Triangle Institute,
the North Carolina outfit officially tasked with “democracy
building” in war-torn Iraq.

Last March, just before the war began,
RTI was invited by the U.S. Agency for International Development
to bid on a contract for creating “local governance”
out of the post-invasion rubble. Two other bidders dropped out,
and RTI was awarded a deal worth $167.9 million in the first
year, and totaling up to $466 million.

If that seems like a lot of money, it
is. When U.S. AID’s inspector general audited the contract last
September, he concluded that the deal appeared designed to “justify
spending the available money” instead of being based on
the needs of the Iraqi people.

RTI has a history of solid domestic research
and a generally liberal image; its connections and campaign contributions,
unlike Halliburton, Bechtel, and other Bush-connected beneficiaries
of Iraq contracts, has favored the Democratic Party.

But that hasn’t made their plans any
more palatable to occupied Iraqis–plans which bear little resemblance
to “democracy.” As Christian Arandel of RTI’s International
Development program described his organization’s work at a Chapel
Hill forum earlier this month, “Let us be clear. These are
not elections. These are all processes of selections.”

Arandel’s admission reveals that not
much has changed since November, when the Washington Post issued
this dispatch from Iraq, which is worth quoting at length:

“With the RTI’s guidance, the military
will execute the plan. It will select neighborhood councils,
which in turn will select district councils, which in turn will
select county councils, which in turn will select a provincial
council, which, finally, will select a governor. Members of the
new councils will be appointed rather than elected. Local leaders
will be consulted, and some groups will actually cast votes to
select neighborhood leaders. But the final decisions will be
made by the military and the RTI.”

Military planning and decision-making?
Five steps of selection? Appointments rather than elections?
No wonder that one Iraqi from Taji–where locals had set up their
own elected council, only to have it disbanded–told the Post,
“We feel we are going backwards.”

As a UN report by Secretary General Kofi
Annan released on Monday states, “Elections are a necessary
step in the process of building democratic governance and reconstruction.
The [U.S. sponsored] caucus-style system as it now stands is
not practical and is not a substitute for elections.”

An appointee government, the child of
the caucus-style system, would very likely continue with the
US-unilateral, economic changes — or, at the very least, not
oppose changes — that open control of Iraq’s wealth and resources
to outside interests.

Which points to another controversial
aspect of RTI’s activities in Iraq. A July report of Iraq’s Coalition
Provisional Authority says that RTI is pushing for privatization
of public services such as garbage pickup. This is disturbingly
reminiscent of RTI’s efforts to turn over water supplies in South
Africa to foreign corporations in the mid-1990s–a move which
caused water prices to skyrocket to unaffordable levels in poor
black townships, sparking riots and, according to human rights
groups, a cholera epidemic which killed hundreds.

Both privately and in public, RTI employees
are voicing displeasure with their role in Iraq’s political landscape,
portraying themselves as caught between a Bush-and Pentagon-driven
agenda for Iraq on one hand, and the will of the Iraqi people
for self-rule on the other. But RTI is still in Iraq, and still
taking the money.

But the Iraqi people have grown tired
of excuses and platitudes. It’s time for real democracy in Iraq.

Chris Kromm,
Rania Masri and Tara Purohit work at the Institute
for Southern Studies
in Durham, N.C. and are coordinators
of the Institute’s Campaign to Stop the War Profiteers. They
can be reached at: chris@southernstudies.org

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

February 20, 2017
Bruce E. Levine
Humiliation Porn: Trump’s Gift to His Faithful…and Now the Blowback
Melvin Goodman
“Wag the Dog,” Revisited
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima: a Lurking Global Catastrophe?
David Smith-Ferri
Resistance and Resolve in Russia: Memorial HRC
Kenneth Surin
Global India?
Norman Pollack
Fascistization Crashing Down: Driving the Cleaver into Social Welfare
Patrick Cockburn
Trump v. the Media: a Fight to the Death
Susan Babbitt
Shooting Arrows at Heaven: Why is There Debate About Battle Imagery in Health?
Matt Peppe
New York Times Openly Promotes Formal Apartheid Regime By Israel
David Swanson
Understanding Robert E. Lee Supporters
Michael Brenner
The Narcissism of Donald Trump
Martin Billheimer
Capital of Pain
Thomas Knapp
Florida’s Shenanigans Make a Great Case for (Re-)Separation of Ballot and State
Jordan Flaherty
Best Films of 2016: Black Excellence Versus White Mediocrity
Weekend Edition
February 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
David Price
Rogue Elephant Rising: The CIA as Kingslayer
Matthew Stevenson
Is Trump the Worst President Ever?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Flynn?
John Wight
Brexit and Trump: Why Right is Not the New Left
Diana Johnstone
France: Another Ghastly Presidential Election Campaign; the Deep State Rises to the Surface
Neve Gordon
Trump’s One-State Option
Roger Harris
Emperor Trump Has No Clothes: Time to Organize!
Joan Roelofs
What Else is Wrong with Globalization
Andrew Levine
Why Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban?
Mike Whitney
Blood in the Water: the Trump Revolution Ends in a Whimper
Vijay Prashad
Trump, Turmoil and Resistance
Ron Jacobs
U.S. Imperial War Personified
David Swanson
Can the Climate Survive Adherence to War and Partisanship?
Andre Vltchek
Governor of Jakarta: Get Re-elected or Die!
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Destruction of Mosul
Norman Pollack
Self-Devouring Reaction: Governmental Impasse
Steve Horn
What Do a Louisiana Pipeline Explosion and Dakota Access Pipeline Have in Common? Phillips 66
Brian Saady
Why Corporations are Too Big to Jail in the Drug War
Graham Peebles
Ethiopia: Peaceful Protest to Armed Uprising
Luke Meyer
The Case of Tony: Inside a Lifer Hearing
Binoy Kampmark
Adolf, The Donald and History
Robert Koehler
The Great American Awakening
Murray Dobbin
Canadians at Odds With Their Government on Israel
Fariborz Saremi
A Whole New World?
Joyce Nelson
Japan’s Abe, Trump & Illegal Leaks
Christopher Brauchli
Trump 1, Tillerson 0
Yves Engler
Is This Hate Speech?
Dan Bacher
Trump Administration Exempts Three CA Oil Fields From Water Protection Rule at Jerry Brown’s Request
Richard Klin
Solid Gold
Melissa Garriga
Anti-Abortion and Anti-Fascist Movements: More in Common Than Meets the Eye
Thomas Knapp
The Absurd Consequences of a “Right to Privacy”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail