FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Why No Democracy in Iraq?

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

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
March 31, 2020
Jonathan Cook
Netanyahu Uses Coronavirus to Lure Rival Gantz into ‘Emergency’ Government
Vijay Prashad, Du Xiaojun – Weiyan Zhu
Growing Xenophobia Against China in the Midst of CoronaShock
Patrick Cockburn
Trump’s Chernobyl Moment: the US May Lose Its Status as World Superpower and Not Recover
Roger Harris
Beyond Chutzpah: US Charges Venezuela With Nacro-Terrorism
M. K. Bhadrakumar
Has America Reached Its Endgame in Afghanistan?
Thomas Klikauer
COVID-19 in Germany: Explaining a Low Death Rate
Dave Lindorff
We’ve Met the Enemy and It’s a Tiny Virus
Binoy Kampmark
Barbaric Decisions: Coronavirus, Refusing Bail and Julian Assange
Nicolas J S Davies
Why is the U.S. so Exceptionally Vulnerable to Covid-19?
James Bovard
The Deep State’s Demolition of Democracy
Michael Doliner
Face Off: the Problem With Social Distancing
John Feffer
The Politics of COVID-19
Mel Gurtov
Trump’s Cure and Our Disease
Howard Lisnoff
The Fault Lines of a Failed Society Begin to Open Up Into Chasms
Nino Pagliccia
Cuba: An Example of Solidarity In a Time of Crisis
Ralph Nader
Out of the Coronavirus Crisis Can Come Efficient Historic Changes for Justice
Thomas Stephens
Apocalyptic and Revolutionary Education in Times of Pandemic
Edward Martin
Erik Olin Wright and the Anti-Capitalist Economy
March 30, 2020
Marshall Auerback
Washington Uses the Pandemic to Create a $2 Trillion Slush Fund for Its Cronies
Ron Jacobs
Going After Maduro
Justin Podur
When Economists Try to Solve Health Crises, the Results Can Often be Disastrous
Thomas Knapp
Decarceration: COVID-19 is Opportunity Knocking
Arshad Khan - Meena Miriam Yust
Dying Planet and a Virus Unleashed
William Astore
How My Dad Predicted the Decline of America
Seth Sandronsky
Reclaiming Vacant Homes in the COVID-19 Pandemic
John G. Russell
Racial Profiling Disorder: the All-American Pandemic
Vijay Prashad, Paola Estrada, Ana Maldonado, and Zoe PC
As the World Tackles the COVID-19 Pandemic, the U.S. Raises the Pressure on Venezuela
Laura Flanders
Covid-19: Our Health Crisis is Born of Bigotry
Cesar Chelala
The New World of Coronavirus
Lawrence Wittner
The World’s Major Military and Economic Powers Find Happiness Elusive
Ted Rall
My Dead French Grandfather Helped Me with COVID-19
Rob Okun
A Citizens’ Call to Invoke the Twenty-fifth Amendment
Ashar Foley
COVID-19 Proves It: We Need Medicare-for-All
Robert Koehler
The Virus is Our Teacher
Wim Laven
Are You Prepared to Needlessly Die for Your Country?
Jill Richardson
Stay Home, Stay Angry
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
What’s Wrong with Ranked Choice Voting
Mike Garrity
Alliance for the Wild Rockies Sues Trump’s Bureau of Reclamation for Bull Trout Fatalities in Saint Mary-Milk River Irrigation Project on the east Side of Glacier National Park
Weekend Edition
March 27, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
Bailouts for the Rich, the Virus for the Rest of Us
Louis Proyect
Life and Death in the Epicenter
Paul Street
“I Will Not Kill My Mother for Your Stock Portfolio”
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The Scum Also Rises
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Stimulus Bill Allows Federal Reserve to Conduct Meetings in Secret; Gives Fed $454 Billion Slush Fund for Wall Street Bailouts
Jefferson Morley
Could the Death of the National Security State be a Silver Lining of COVID-19?
Ruth Hopkins
A Message For America from Brazil’s First Indigenous Congresswoman
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail