Well, so much for the myth that the victors in the elections in Iraq will demand that the US set a timetable for the removal of its troops. In fact, so much for the myth that they’ll even ask their colonial overseers to consider such a move. According to a January 25, 2005 article by Knight-Ridder News Service, neither of the supposedly two major candidate slates will do such a thing when they take their places in the so-called National Assembly that these elections are designed to create. The fact that current Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s slate has no plan to demand (or even ask) for the US troops to get out is no surprise. After all, this man and his cohorts have not only put their money on the US endeavor to create the state Washington wants in Iraq, their very lives depend on the troops’ continued presence. Much like Duarte in El Salvador and the series of Saigon regimes that were elected in electoral processes similar to that expected to take place in Iraq this Sunday, these politicians would not be anywhere near the reins of power if it weren’t for Washington placing them there.
The surprise here, however, is the recent statement by Sheik Homan Hamoodi of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq party (SCIRI). Hamoodi’s party is the largest member of the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), which is the slate backed by Imam al-Sistani and is expected to garner the most votes in Sunday’s election. Until last week, the second point of the UIA’s platform called for “setting a timetable for the withdrawal of multinational forces from Iraq.” Apparently, the leadership has changed their minds on this point. One assumes that this is partially related to the apparent sectarianism behind some of the attacks attributed to either the insurgency or the foreign armed groups operating in Iraq. There is also the possibility that this was Sistani’s intent from the beginning of the US-designed electoral process in Iraq. After all, doesn’t he have more to gain with the US military backing his people up? Besides, aren’t some of his actions and words since the invasion somewhat counter to the Iraqi national sense, especially in regards to the use of occupation forces against his political opponents (al-Sadr being the most obvious example)? Supposedly nationalist, Sistani’s statements opposing the occupation have seemed to come only when his supporters pressure him and, even then, the statements themselves seem lukewarm at best. Kind of like the Democratic Party’s questions about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Even before these pronouncements, the likelihood that the elections would mean the withdrawal of US troops was minimal. Until Washington has the control it wants over Iraq, its troops will remain. This is what pundits and politicians mean when they talk about finishing the job George Bush and his cabal began. Various statements by members of his second-term cabinet confirm this. Sure, Colin Powell said the troops could begin coming home by the end of 2005. Instead, it’s Mr. Powell who is going home. As for the Congress, that other branch of government, they just seem to cough up the cash whenever Mr. Bush asks for it. The biggest challenge the administration might get is the occasional congressperson asking for some kind of accounting for the billions being spent on this war and the other one in Afghanistan (and who knows where else). It’s not as if these legislators really want to know who is getting the money and how it’s being spent. It’s just that some of their constituents have asked them to find out.
So, the congressmen and women ask without really wanting an answer. Nor do they want an end to the war. If they did, all they would have to do is stop funding the endeavor. Instead, they only ask that the war billions actually go to the military and not to the war industry. Who do they think the war is for, anyhow? The people who live in those countries where US troops operate? The troops? Such false naiveté only goes so far. In the end, it doesn’t matter how much bluster these men and women bring against the Condoleezza Rice’s of the United States when the real test of their opposition to Bush’s policies is in whether or not they vote to fund them. I have yet to see a serious campaign against any of the foreign or domestic policies put forth by the current administration. I don’t expect one, either, unless enough of the people in this country make them answer to them.
Back to Iraq. How does one measure victory in an election where substantial numbers of voters don’t vote and many potential candidates don’t run-either out of fear or because of their political beliefs (which include opposition to the US occupation)? How does one measure victory in most US elections–where substantial numbers of voters don’t vote and many potential candidates don’t run, either because they don’t have the cash or because their political beliefs (which include their opposition to the corporate control of their government). In other words, one just ignores the objective facts of the election and tells the world that American democracy has triumphed once again. Never mind that that democracy does not represent much of the country and one has to wonder at its true relation to the popular will. As the Bush people have made all to clear to the people here in the US, they won and nothing else matters-fairness, choices, manipulation-nothing matters if you’re the winner.
What about the so-called average Iraqi? Do they really think that they will have a better life after the Assembly is in place? To answer that, perhaps we should ask another question: Does the average US voter honestly believe that elections change their living situation? Anecdotal evidence seems to point towards a continued cynicism on the part of both populations. It’s as if we all know that life will only get better when the powerful and their armies leave us alone. Meanwhile, the powers in both countries continue to consolidate their control of the wealth and resources through the charade of elections-an exercise that they have designed to ensure their continued rule.
RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s new collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org