Since November 2004 Washington had insisted on holding the Iraqi elections that took place on January 30, 2005. Bush waxed eloquent about how elections arranged from abroad will result in “a free Iraq.” Is this an exit strategy, or the illusion of one? Indeed, Bush spearheaded a campaign to encourage hundreds of thousands of Iraqis living abroad to register to vote. Some don’t speak Arabic and have never set foot in Iraq. They nevertheless cast ballots for candidates many had never heard of. The new “elected” government will then fashion a constitution and magically gain legitimacy. US forces can then leave, and Iraq will defy the Humpty Dumpty law and put itself together again.
The facts, however, tell a different story, in which all the king’s horses and men couldn’t fashion a credible election, one that the world no less Iraqis — will accept as legitimate. Indeed, how can an uninvited, occupying power call an election amidst a civil war that its occupation has provoked? By invading, Bush provoked the very civil war that Iraqis had precariously contained for decades. Occupiers whether Nazis or US tend to behave brutally. Note the similarities between what US forces did in Falluja and how Nazi occupiers carried out bloody revenge campaigns against the civilian population after the 1942 assassination of a high Nazi official. (Reinhard Heydrich, “the Butcher of Prague). After Resistance fighters assassinated four American mercenaries, US forces with cold calculation laid waste to Falluja, using bombers and artillery against civilian targets.
Such actions, however, did not diminish the size and strength of the Resistance. Quite the contrary! Lest the US public underestimate the size and strength of the Resistance, Iraq’s Intelligence Chief, General Mohammed Shahwani told a Saudi newspaper that the “US was facing 40,000 hard-core fighters.” Support for the “insurgency,” he claimed, ran as high as 200,000.
Compare the Resistance’s determination with the will of members of Washington’s handpicked electoral machine. US officials cannot persuade or even bribe scores of Sunni and even Kurdish political parties to remain on the ballot. Not only have scores withdrawn, but the remaining candidates campaign underground, wear masks and travel with bodyguards when they leave their homes.
The Resistance targets collaborators much as those civilized European resistance movements targeted those who worked with Nazi occupiers. And Iraqis obviously know more about the Resistance than they do about the candidates they voted for or against. US-appointed Iraqi chief Ayad Allawi’s own Baghdad newspaper, Al-Sabah, claimed that less than 10% of adults can identify the candidates. But every Iraqi knows about the Resistance.
Ironically, US occupation served as midwife to this movement that targeted the phony electoral process. Western presstitutes (those embedded with the military and those self-imprisoned in hotels) report about “insurgents” tossing grenades into buildings with notes warning not to make the building a polling place; or dragging election commissioners from their car and shooting them in the head. On January 18, a suicide bomber hit the Baghdad headquarters of Iraq’s biggest Shiite political party. Three people died. On January 19, “insurgents” assassinated three candidates, eleven days before the elections. On January 20, Resistance fighters detonated four bombs within 90 minutes that killed at least 26 people. Their message: collaborators with the US occupiers will die!
Bush distracts the public from these cruel facts. On January 14, Bush told ABC’s Barbara Walters that invading Iraq and overthrowing Saddam Hussein was “absolutely” worth it. He shrugged off the facts that invalidate his original reasons for going to war: the definitive absence of weapons of mass destruction and the facts that Iraq was not defying the UN and did not support Al Qaeda or the 9-11 attackers.
The emptiness of Bush’s political rhetoric doesn’t alter the cold money facts of this war. Bryan Bender (January 14 Boston Globe) says the Pentagon “plans to ask Congress for up to $100 billion in supplemental funds to pay for the ongoing combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, bringing the total budgeted so far to well over $200 billion. But military officers say the administration’s estimates do not include the investment that will be necessary to fix what they say they fear is becoming a broken ground force.”
Bender cited House Armed Services Committee Member Martin T. Meehan (D-MA): “We’re going to be paying for this war for years to come.” Each month, some $5 billion plus goes toward maintaining the occupation of Iraq not counting barely underway rebuilding efforts. Iraqi oil revenues provide less than $150 million in return.
And the oil revenue is unlikely to rise. In mid January, as Iraqi Resistance video communiqué to western media showed a masked man addressing the President. “To George W. Bush, we say: You have asked us to `Bring it on.’ And so have we. Like never expected. Have you another challenge?” “Iraqi resistance fighters sabotage the pipe line” on almost a daily basis, the message said. “We will make them spend as much as they steal, if not more. We will disrupt, then halt the flow of our stolen oil, thus, rendering their plans useless.”
Plans? The plan was invade, seize the means of oil production, turn the government over to appointed then elected — lackeys who would declare their passion for free market economics; and then leave (with a few bases on Iraqi soil). Indeed, talking about elections covers this resource grab. Bush has stated his principle: “democracy,” which has encountered shaky terrain. Bush resembles Groucho Marx who said “Those are my principles. If you don’t like them, I have others.” He talked of “a free Iraq” while his White House approved of torture and the Pentagon talked of forming death squads. Some Iraqi victims claim that the Americans outdid Saddam Hussein’s brutes. A former Abu Ghraib prison inmate told a blogger that US troops delivered electricity regularly to his anus, but could not provide such service for his house.
Less fortunate Iraqis die when errant US bombs fall on their homes such as the one dropped on January 9 on a home in Mosul. The Pentagon said 5 civilians died because of that mistake; residents claim seven children and seven adults. One soldier told a Member of Congress that his unit took a mortar round every day when they left the protected base. “No matter how much fire power we deployed, they kept shooting.” So, nervous soldiers naturally shoot at anything that moves.
Small wonder that the insurgency grows! Indeed, newspaper headlines should scream: “CIVIL WAR IN IRAQ.” The press refuses to identify the daily slaughter of Iraqis by Iraqis as civil war.
As Iraqis have suffered from Bush’s war, the Israeli national security elite and their neo con counterparts in Washington feel elated. It cost Israel nothing. The destruction of Iraq left Israel as a stronger regional power without costing the life of one Israeli soldier.
Did US decision-makers study Iraqi history before sending soldiers into battle there? Did they read CIA reports that a US invasion would likely cause civil war? Had National Security Adviser Rice or Defense Secretary Rumsfeld consulted history texts they would have learned that since the seventh century contending factions — minority Sunnis and majority Shias — have lived alternately in peaceful coexistence and in murderous struggle. Indeed, other minorities have also lived precariously in this region, especially Kurds and Chaldean Christians. It’s easy to destabilize the fragile harmony of countries like Iraq — or Lebanon in the 1980s.
If the Shias win a majority, the Resistance will continue. It is unlikely that Shia rule will propel Iraq toward Western-style democracy. Look rather to an Iranian-style theocracy to the detriment of religious minorities and US interests.
Iraqis have never demanded that the United States should install its style of politics. Indeed, the invasion, occupation and elections derived from US imperial strategy, not Iraqi desires.
In 1920, propelled by the discovery of oil in the region, the League of Nations created “nation states” in the Middle East. To protect their oil monopolies, France and England installed monarchs. So, as Edwin Black says (Jan 12 Newsday), “democracy” meant “stable environment for oil.”
After the January electoral travesty, the Resistance will continue to disrupt oil flow and assassinate the newly elected government leaders. Bush will not have the option of declaring victory and then withdrawing. He will either continue to commit US troops to hold together the fictitious Iraq he invented with the help of the ovine media or allow the people who live in the 6,000 plus year old Cradle of Civilization to determine their own destiny. “Elections do not make democracies,” Black wrote, “democracies make elections.” How much more death and destruction must occur before Bush acknowledges the failure of his “free Iraq” mission? Don’t hold your breath. Go to the streets!
SAUL LANDAU teaches at Cal Poly Pomona University, where he is the director of Digital Media Programs and International Outreach, and is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies. He is also the co-author of “Assassination on Embassy Row,” which is about the Letelier and Moffitt murders. His new book is The Business of America.