Nasty Letters To Crooked Politicians

As we enter a new era of politics, we hope to see that Obama has the courage to fight the policies that Progressives hate. Will he have the fortitude to turn the economic future of America to help the working man? Or will he turn out to be just a pawn of big money, as he seems to be right now.

Monday, January 31, 2005

Let Freedom Bang (*aj)

(steve bell: Guardian G.B.)

(What a fucking joke, courtesy elChimperissimo & Co) *aj*

Iraq elections set stage for deeper crisis of US occupation regime

By Patrick Martin
31 January 2005

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The election January 30 in Iraq marks a further intensification of the contradictions confronting American imperialism, both in Iraq and at home. It will neither resolve the crisis of the American stooge regime in Baghdad, hated and despised by the vast majority of the Iraqi people, nor legitimize the US occupation in the eyes of world and among large sections of the American public.

George W. Bush emerged from the White House briefly to make a triumphal statement hailing the vote. The US media carried wall-to-wall, gushing coverage all day Sunday. But even the combined propaganda powers of the US government and the corporate-controlled media machine cannot transform an election held at gunpoint and under military occupation into a genuinely democratic event.

Initial reports on voter turnout were driven by the political imperative to put the best possible face on the election and influence public opinion in the United States, which is increasingly turning against the war. The turnout figure began at 90 percent plus—numbers reported, naturally enough, on Fox News. Then an Iraqi election official put the figure at 72 percent nationwide. This was subsequently lowered to 60 percent nationwide, then to 60 percent “in some areas.”

The compliant US media dutifully swallowed all these numbers in succession, never challenging their accuracy or questioning how each figure could be so quickly supplanted by a lower one as the day wore on.

The 72 percent figure, for instance, issued just before the polls closed, was inherently improbable, given that most polling places did not even open in the Sunni Triangle. With the vast majority of Sunnis, some 20-25 percent of Iraq’s people, boycotting the election, turnout among the rest of the population would have to be near-unanimous to bring the total up to 72 percent.

The reports on turnout were supplemented by television news footage of happy Iraqis celebrating their new-found freedom to vote, praising the American military, and thanking President Bush. There is ample reason to believe that these scenes were largely staged for the benefit of the media—like the scenes of Iraqis tearing down the statue of Saddam Hussein in Firdos Square after the US invasion nearly two years ago. (Similar scenes were a hallmark of the Baathist dictatorship as well, with cheering crowds vowing to sacrifice their lives for Saddam.)

According to Robert Fisk of the Independent, a major British daily newspaper, “The big television networks have been given a list of five polling stations where they will be ‘allowed’ to film. Close inspection of the list shows that four of the five are in Shiite Muslim areas—where the polling will probably be high—and one in an upmarket Sunni area, where it will be moderate.” Sunni working class areas were entirely off limits, he noted.

In some cases, the media reports were literally military propaganda handouts. ABC News, for instance, reported thousands of voters in Fallujah, the city virtually destroyed by the US military onslaught last November. The source for this report of surprisingly high turnout was the US military command in the shattered city. Meanwhile, other news outlets put the turnout in Fallujah as minuscule, on a par with the other predominantly Sunni cities where few polls opened and few voters turned out.

The major theme of the media blitz was that the Iraqi people had thronged to the polls in defiance of threats of violence from the insurgent groups opposed to the US occupation. Such coverage ignores the largest purveyor of fear and violence in Iraq by far: the American military occupation, which leveled Fallujah and has blitzed many other Iraqi cities, including Ramadi, Samarra and Mosul, all centers of the Sunni population.

According to Fisk, one of the few credible reporters working in the region, the incessant raids by US ground forces have been supplemented by a new air war: “American air strikes on Iraq have been increasing exponentially. There are no ‘embedded’ reporters on the giant American air base at Qatar or aboard the US carriers in the Gulf from which these ever increasing and ever more lethal sorties are being flown. They go unrecorded, unreported, part of the ‘fantasy’ war which is all too real to the victims but hidden from us journalists. The reality is that much of Iraq has become a free-fire zone (for reference, see under ‘Vietnam’) and the Americans are conducting this secret war as efficiently and as ruthlessly as they conducted their earlier bombing campaign against Iraq between 1991 and 2003, an air raid a day, or two raids, or three.”

The cumulative weight of this violence and destruction is far greater than that of the terror bombs planted by Islamic groups like that allegedly headed by Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian supporter of Osama bin Laden. The US military has killed an estimated 100,000 Iraqis since Bush ordered the invasion in March 2003, a total which dwarfs the casualties caused by terrorist attacks on civilians.

Moreover, the US government and media routinely label all acts of armed resistance against the US invaders, and their stooges in the puppet regime, as “terrorist”—a verbal device designed to criminalize all Iraqi opposition to foreign occupation. In truly Orwellian fashion, the US military occupation, notwithstanding its tactics of torture and mass killing, is identified with “democracy,” while those Iraqis who fight against it are, by definition, enemies of democracy, “anti-Iraqi” elements, and even fascists.

There is evidence of direct intimidation of Iraqis by the US military in the course of election day. American soldiers were reported going through the city of Mosul, largely Sunni-populated and a center of insurgent resistance, and seeking out Iraqi non-voters, who could easily be identified by the absence of a semi-permanent ink stain on the thumb. Any Iraqi without such proof of voting was subjected to questioning as to why he had not voted—and no doubt, had his name entered on US intelligence lists of suspected supporters of the resistance, targeted for future arrest or attack.

More fundamentally, the entire election process is fatally tainted by the US military occupation. The regime that conducted the vote was appointed by the US occupation authorities, with the United Nations giving its rubber-stamp approval. The timing and procedures for the election were determined by US officials. And it was President Bush who decided earlier this month to reject the pleas of a majority of the Iraqi cabinet and oppose any postponement of the vote so as to allow for increased Sunni participation.

January 30 saw an unparalleled display of American military power on the streets of Baghdad, Mosul and other Iraqi cities. The 150,000 US troops were out in force, backed by hundreds of armored vehicles, and supplemented by another 150,000 US-trained Iraqi police and soldiers. Even the American media could not disguise the spectacle of Iraqis filing in to the polls through rolls of barbed wire, being frisked three separate times under the eyes of US snipers, while US helicopters and war planes roared overhead.

It was not a scene of freedom, but one of occupation and brutal subordination.

Within Iraq, the January 30 vote sets the stage for greater political conflicts and growing opposition to the US occupation regime. No official results are expected for at least a week, a delay which gives the US-backed regime plenty of time to manipulate the totals.

In the Shiite and Kurdish areas of the south and north, where a large voter turnout was reported, religious and tribal leaders are collaborating with the American occupation in return for promises of political power and financial concessions in a new US-backed regime. Their devil’s bargain may produce a regime headed by the United Iraqi Alliance, the main Shiite coalition, with Kurdish support—or they may be defrauded by their American overlords.

The week before the vote saw a rash of reports in the American press that Prime Minister Ayad Allawi’s party was gaining. Given the absence of reliable polls or forecasts of voter turnout, such speculation reveals the hopes of the Bush administration, and its effort, in league with the media, to condition public opinion to accept a manipulated outcome engineered by Washington. Allawi’s Iraqi National Accord was supported and financed by the CIA for more than a decade, and the former Baathist enforcer is still the favorite of the White House—perhaps as the middleman in a coalition regime embracing both the Shiite and Kurdish parties.

Even should such a coalition emerge, facilitated by the Sunni boycott, Kurdish separatism could quickly break it up. The National Assembly elected Sunday is to draft a constitution in which Shiite demands for majority control will run up against demands for quasi-independence in the Kurdish provinces. An early flashpoint will be the status of Kirkuk, at the center of the rich northern oilfields, with its population evenly divided among Arabs, Turkomen and Kurds, but claimed by the Kurdish parties as part of the future region of Kurdistan.

Within the United States, the government-backed media blitz on the triumph of democracy in Iraq is aimed at intimidating opponents of the war and US occupation. But this propaganda campaign only intensifies the contradictions in the Bush administration’s political position. If the Iraqi people have “taken control of their country,” as the White House claims, why must 150,000 US troops remain there? Why can’t 25 million Iraqis defend themselves from the small bands of foreign terrorists and Saddam Hussein loyalists who supposedly make up the resistance?

“Democratization” is merely the latest pretext for the US occupation, following the now discredited claims that the US invaded Iraq to destroy Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction or because of Saddam’s alleged connections with the terrorists who perpetrated the attacks of September 11, 2001. The democracy pretext, too, will be exploded by events.

Pakistan: amid mounting crises, Musharraf twists and turns

By Keith Jones and Vilani Peiris
31 January 2005

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In a show of bravado, Pakistan’s military-dictator president quipped he had nine lives after two sophisticated attempts on his life in December 2003. Yet 12 months later, Pervez Musharraf reneged on his pledge to step down as head of Pakistan’s armed forces by the end of 2004 and announced he shall remain chief of Pakistan’s Armed Services, as well as the country’s president, till at least 2007. Clearly the general—a man the Bush administration has repeatedly touted as a key ally in the “war on terrorism”—doubts he has many lives left.

There are credible media reports of growing dissension within the officer corps over Musharraf’s readiness to cooperate with Washington in preparing a military strike against neighbouring Iran, as well as his peace overtures toward India, which have included ratcheting down the military’s support for the anti-Indian insurgency in Indian-held Jammu and Kashmir.

According to a recent report on Asia Times On-Line, “For the first time since he seized power on October 12, 1999, there are indications that [Musharraf] and some of his lieutenant-generals, who constitute the real source of his power, ... are not on the same wavelength.”

Link to report...

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Hollow Election Held on Bloody Day

** Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches **
** **

Hollow Election Held on Bloody Day

*Inter Press Service*
Dahr Jamail
January 30, 2005

An overnight rocket attack on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad that killed
two Americans and injured four others set the tone for the election Sunday.

*BAGHDAD, Jan 30 (IPS) - An overnight rocket attack on the U.S. embassy
in Baghdad that killed two Americans and injured four others set the
tone for the election Sunday.*

By the end of the day at least 29 people had been killed in attacks on
polling stations and voters.

An hour after polling stations opened at 7am, mortar blasts began
echoing across the capital city, at almost an attack a minute at times.

Most Iraqis stayed home after resistance fighters threatened to ”wash
the streets with blood.”

A suicide bomber at a security checkpoint in Monsour district of western
Baghdad killed a policeman and wounded two others. A man wearing a belt
of explosives detonated himself at a voters queue in Sadr City in
Baghdad, killing himself and at least four others.

Many Iraqis who had intended to vote stayed indoors as gunfire echoed
around the downtown area of Baghdad. Mortar attacks on polling stations
continued through the day.

”Yesterday a bicycle bomb killed someone near my house,” said
32-year-old Ahmed Mohammed. ”I never intended to vote in this
illegitimate election anyway, but if I had wanted to I would never go
out in these conditions.”

With draconian security measures in place, even some ambulances rushing
to victims of bomb attacks were turned back at security checkpoints.

”Baghdad looks like it's having a war, not elections,” said Layla Abdul
Rahman, a high school English teacher. ”Our streets are filled with
tanks and soldiers and our bridges are closed. All we are hearing is
bombings all around us, and for the last two nights there have been many
clashes that last a long time. We shouldn't have had elections now
because it's just not practical with this horrible security.”

The threats by the resistance fighters followed by a string of attacks
across Baghdad clearly reduced voter turnout.

”How can we call this democracy when I am too afraid to leave my home,”
said Baghdad resident Abdulla Hamid. ”Of course there will be low
turnout here with all these bombings.”

A series of bombings have been reported also in Hilla, Mosul, Kirkuk,
Basra and Baquba. In Samarra where a roadside bomb struck a U.S. patrol,
there was no sign either of voters or of the police on the streets,
according to reports from there.

”Nobody will vote in Samarra because of the security situation,” Taha
Husain, head of Samarra's local governing council told reporters.

Interim U.S.. appointed prime minister Ayad Allawi announced Saturday
that martial law will now be extended for another month. The hope of
many Iraqis that the elections will bring security and stability
continue to fade.

Voter turnout in the Kurdish controlled north of Iraq and the Shia
dominated southern region has been heavy, but most polling stations in
the capital city and central Iraq remained relatively empty.

Aside from security reasons, many Iraqis chose not to vote because they
question the legitimacy of these elections.

”They are wrong on principle, the High Commission for Elections was
appointed by Bremer (former U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer), so how
can we have a legitimate election under these circumstances,” said Sabah
Rahwani in the Karrada district of Baghdad. ”This election only serves
the interest of the occupier, not Iraqis. This is only propaganda for Bush.”

U.S. President George W. Bush announced in his weekly radio address
Saturday that ”as democracy takes hold in Iraq, America's mission there
will continue.” His administration has also recently announced that U.S.
troops will remain in Iraq at least until 2006.

The parliament elected by the Sunday election will draft a new
constitution for the country. A referendum on that is scheduled for Oct.
15, followed by another election Dec. 15.
More writing, photos and commentary at
** Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches **
** **

January 28, 2005

High Anxiety

Despite a continuing increase in the already draconian security measures
imposed across Iraq, the bombs keep coming.

Today in the al-Dora district of Baghdad a primary school which had been
a designated polling station was struck by a car bomb. Four Iraqi Police
(IP) were killed.

A GMC packed with explosives rammed a checkpoint at the al-Dora power
plant, killing several people, and as far south as Basra a policeman
died when his vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb.

With Baquba experiencing its daily car bombing, at least 18 Iraqis have
been killed in attacks on polling stations in the last 24 hours alone.

While IP’s have been given pay raises for this weekend, they remain
extremely tense and edgy, and not without due cause.

We are driving around Baghdad today attempting to take photos and
conduct interviews, and the streets are nearly completely empty

An oddity in Baghdad, where traffic jams often find people waiting for
hours in places to creep their way through clogged streets. Over 90
streets in the capital city are barricaded ,
further increasing the horrendous congestion on “normal” days.

I take a photo as we drive past an IP praying behind a barricade
which blocks an empty street. Almost immediately afterwards we hear
yelling and I look back to see an IP aim his Kalshinkov over our car and
hear the pop as he squeezes off a shot.

“They weren’t even guarding anything. What was that all about,” I ask
Abu Talat who takes us down some side roads in case they decided to
follow us.

“They are in terror of what is to come,” replies Abu Talat, “So many of
us are afraid of what is to come now.”

We drive past the recently bombed SCIRI headquarters
across the street from Baghdad University, then our circuitous route
takes us past an area where men are lining the streets handing out
bundles of posters and other election propaganda for the Royal
Constitution Party, in hopes of luring some votes.

I’m on a mission to photograph the barricades that are springing up
across the capital city, and one of Abu Talat’s sons, Ahmed, is along
with us doing some filming as well. Just after filming more of the
abundance of concrete blocks and razor wire we are pulled over by an
unmarked car of three IP’s.

They take Abu Talat and Ahmed’s ID’s, the registration papers for the
car and tell us to follow them.

I’d been detained by mujahideen in Fallujah last May while conducting
interviews inside the city, and Abu Talat and I were piled into a GMC
with armed Iraqi National Guard (in Fallujah they were all muj), and
taken in for questioning.

So this didn’t feel like a kidnapping, since we had our car sans
personal armed escorts. Nevertheless, it’s safe to say I was a bit

“Should I escape? I could try to get a taxi,” I say to Abu Talat. “No.
We’re fine. They will just verify we are press. Besides, you are
American. You are the only thing keeping them from throwing me in jail.”

From the back seat Ahmed says, “Me too!”

They pull over at a marked police vehicle and everything is sorted out.
“I apologize, we just have to make sure you are press,” says one of the

Before leaving them Abu Talat felt like having some fun and asked the
policeman, “Why didn’t you take the American’s papers?”

“The Americans will fuck my mother if I do,” he replied. They both burst
into laughter.

Later in another area of the city we are on a sidewalk and see a large
cargo truck with a tattered Iraqi flag on one of the antennae. A crowd
of weary travelers are milling around the back of it holding large
travel bags.

“They have just returned from their haj,” comments Abu Talat as he looks
at the weary travelers from Mecca. “Welcome to Iraq,” he says while

From the backseat Ahmed says, “Welcome to hell.”

We’d already pushed our luck, so after talking to a few folks we grab
lunch and head back towards home. “Let’s play a game and see how many
photos we can take before we get pulled over or shot at again,” I joke
to them both.

They laugh, appreciating my acquired Iraqi humor-if you don’t laugh at
this situation, you lose your mind promptly. “Yeah, why not,” replies
Abu Talat as we speed down another mostly empty street.

Ahmed, 15 years old, tells me one of his friends was shot in the back by
an Iraqi soldier because he drove by an unmarked checkpoint. “He’s in
the hospital now, but he’s in too much pain to talk to me,” he says.

These stories are everyday.

Going through the IP checkpoint at the hotel, one of the guards says, “I
don’t think much will happen this weekend. I think it’s just a bunch of
lies. Nothing will happen.”

After watching his colleague speak, the other guard who is looking under
our hood replies, “We’re closing this checkpoint at 5pm today, so no
more cars in or out of here. The coming days will be the worst we’ve
ever seen. Attacks will spread across all of Baghdad.”

Like the election and the aftermath, nobody knows for sure what will
happen here. Baghdad is on pins and needles. Gunfire cracks in the
distance as I finish this. Two distant explosions (the car bombs)
rattled the hotel earlier this evening.

The curfews have been extended and all the security measures are now in

And, as usual, nobody knows what will happen next in occupied Iraq.

More writing, photos and commentary at

Friday, January 28, 2005

Fucking Dick Cheney, Dressing Down (Kinda What He'll Wear To His Date With the Hangman on War Crimes Charges?)

Dick Cheney, Dressing Down ( "At yesterday's gathering of world leaders in southern Poland to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the United States was represented by Vice President Cheney. The ceremony at the Nazi death camp was outdoors, so those in attendance, such as French President Jacques Chirac and Russian President Vladimir Putin, were wearing dark, formal overcoats and dress shoes or boots. Because it was cold and snowing, they were also wearing gentlemen's hats. In short, they were dressed for the inclement weather as well as the sobriety and dignity of the event.

The vice president, however, was dressed in the kind of attire one typically wears to operate a snow blower."
Whattaf uckingj oke

Tom Tomorrow (Courtesy: Working for Change)

and this:


With friends like this...

I embrace the best tradition of American foreign policy that always has said that partisanship should end at the nation’s shores. And note that it doesn’t say policy differences should end. It doesn’t say ideological differences should end. It says partisanship should end at the nation’s shores, particularly so when our nation is engaged in a war – a global war on terrorism, a war in Iraq in which Americans have already lost their lives in the cause of freedom and in protection of our security...

One of the great strengths that Condoleezza Rice will bring to the office of Secretary of State is that the world knows that she has the President’s trust and confidence and I respect the right of any of my colleagues to reach a different decision today and to oppose this nomination. But I hope and believe that the Senate today, across partisan lines, will resoundingly endorse this nomination and send the message to friend and foe alike that while we have our disagreements, ultimately what unites us around this very qualified nominee in this hour of war is much greater than what divides us.

** Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches **
** **

Some See Hope, Others Civil War

Inter Press Service
Dahr Jamail

BAGHDAD, Jan 27 (IPS) - Some Iraqis are hoping for a new unity
following elections Jan. 30, but others seem convinced that existing
divisions will increase, leading possibly to civil war.

While hundreds of thousands of Kurdish people are traveling from
northern Iraq to Kirkuk to vote, many families in Baghdad are leaving
the city in fear of a huge wave of violence.

Violence continues to escalate throughout Iraq in the run-up to the
elections. Clashes flared Thursday again between occupation forces and
the Iraqi resistance in Baghdad, Tikrit and Samarra.

One U.S. soldier was killed in an attack on a U.S. patrol in the Diyala
province north- east of Baghdad Thursday, and three soldiers were killed
in Baquba town in the area, about 60km north-east of Baghdad.

Iraqis are running into difficult days. The gasoline shortage continues
to worsen. Many residents in Baghdad are struggling to pay the rising
prices of heating gas, cooking gas and petrol.

Whether they intend to vote or not, many hope that elections will lead
to better days, and that they will lead to more stability and unity.
Others are skeptical.

"We hope these elections will bring unity between Shias, Sunnis and the
Kurds," said Abdel Aziz who works at a money exchange booth in Baghdad.

He said he did not know which list of political parties he will vote for
because he found them confusing, but said the elections will not divide
Iraq. "Only the radicals have brought this divisive thinking," he said.

Many Iraqis are hopeful that despite the chaotic atmosphere around the
electoral process, stability and unity will follow.

"I pray the elections will bring us unity," said Ahmed Aziz, 25-year-old
owner of a small grocery stall in central Baghdad. "If it is a
legitimate election, we hope they will bring peace." He paused before
adding, "I hope it will be legitimate, but don't know how we will be
able to tell for sure."

Hamoudi Abdulla, 35-year-old owner of a garments store out shopping for
food with a friend in Karrada district because he feared violence on
polling day, sounded optimistic. "The elections will unite us," he said.
Asked if he was Shia or Sunni, he replied, "I am Iraqi."

His friend Hussam Hammad nodded in agreement. "There is no difference
amongst us," he added. "We are all Iraqi and we are all Muslims. An
election cannot change this fact."

But other Iraqis fear the elections will only bring division between
them, by forcing them to make choices based on ethnicity such as a
Kurdish identity, and on the basis of Sunni and Shia sects.

"No way these elections will bring more unity between Iraqis," said
36-year-old hotel owner Khassem Mohammed. "The differences between
Sunnis and Shia are over 1,400 years old. So how can this rushed
election help bring more unity?"

The hotel owner from Jadriya district of Baghdad said Shia political
parties will gain power and Sunni parties will disappear after the

"Saddam led us into to all of our previous wars, but this time Iraqis
are going to battle themselves because they are now choosing sides," he
added. "I fear civil war now." That is a view several Iraqis seem to hold.

Jassim Khalid who operates a street-side tea stall on Arasat Street in
Baghdad has decided to boycott the elections because he feels, like
Mohammed, that they will bring division.

"I'm not voting because I don't think the elections will bring unity to
Iraq," he said "In fact, they already appear to be doing the opposite."

A hotel guard said Iraqis have never been divided between Shia and
Sunni. "But these elections will cause a split because of the damned
politicians and the influence of the Americans."

More writing, photos and commentary at

::AWOL, But Not A Chimp_kid nor a Chump::

** Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches **
** **

January 24, 2005

Bending it

Kevin Benderman is a mechanic who is trained to fix Bradley armored
vehicles. On December 20, 2004, he applied for conscientious objector
status. Yesterday he made time to talk with us about his decision.

The following is the interview conducted by Omar Khan, editor and
'forum' manager of

Here is the link to the interview, followed by the full text:


Cheney at Auschwitz: an insult to the memory of Nazism’s victims

By Bill Van Auken
28 January 2005

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Auschwitz “reminds us that evil is real,” US Vice President Dick Cheney declared in addressing a ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of the Nazi death camp’s liberation by troops of the Soviet Red Army.

“Men without conscience are capable of any cruelty the human mind can imagine,” the US vice president said at the commemoration. “And in every generation, free nations must maintain the will, the foresight and the strength to fight tyranny and spread the freedom that leads to peace.”

It is not necessary to invoke the horrors of Auschwitz to remind us that “evil is real.” But Cheney’s presence at the site of the greatest crime of the 20th century gave this platitude a chilling significance.

In Europe in general, and Poland in particular, Bush’s failure to attend the commemoration himself was taken as a significant slight. An even more glaring expression of Washington’s indifference apparently went unnoticed—at least by the pliant media. Sections of Cheney’s speech were lifted virtually unchanged from an address given by Bush when the US president and his wife made a quick tour of the camp a year-and-a-half ago (see: “A presidential visit to Auschwitz: The Holocaust and the Bush family fortune”).

Cheney, like Bush before him, came to Auschwitz with one purpose in mind: to twist and exploit the atrocities of Hitlerite fascism to justify Washington’s own acts of aggression and inhumanity.

For a number of reasons, this year’s ceremony has attracted greater attention—and more heads of state—than the 50th anniversary marked in 1995. On the one hand, there are great power interests involved. The commemoration of Auschwitz and repudiation of the crimes of the Third Reich have become enmeshed in the attempts to create a common political and ideological framework for the eastward extension of European integration.

There are also more human considerations. The ranks of those who survived the death camp have dwindled to a handful, and few remain of the Soviet soldiers who were stunned by the scenes of depravity and death they encountered when they liberated the camp. There is a growing realization that their entire generation is passing from the world stage.

One of the camp survivors, Franciszek Jozefiak, 80, saw his father gassed at Auschwitz and suffered horrific torture and abuse at the hands of the Nazis. “The message today is: no more Auschwitz,” he told the Associated Press. “But the world has learned nothing so far—you see they are fighting and killing each other everywhere in the world. Today they are saying a lot because of the anniversary, but tomorrow they will forget.”

Jozefiak touched on the most compelling source of the Auschwitz anniversary’s heightened resonance today. The world confronts once again the growth of militarism, the deepening of international tensions, and an escalating attack on democratic and human rights—tendencies that found their consummate expression in the Nazi regime and its “final solution.” Though the world has entered a new millennium, the worst barbarities of the previous century seem closer to us, and a repetition of such atrocities more possible.

Cheney did not have to deliver a speech to remind his audience that those in power are capable of unspeakable cruelty; his mere presence sufficed. He is identified, perhaps more than any other world figure, with such evils.

Who is Cheney to represent the American people at Auschwitz? The US vice president is identified with the most right-wing political forces in America. In the 1980s, as a Republican congressman from Wyoming, he acted as a defender of the Apartheid regime in South Africa, voting against a resolution calling for an end to the quarter-century imprisonment of Nelson Mandela. Currying favor with homegrown racists, he likewise voted against the decision to make Martin Luther King’s birthday an official holiday.

As defense secretary in the administration of Bush the elder and in his current role as vice president, he has been the most vociferous proponent of the use of military force to achieve Washington’s global aims. He oversaw the first Persian Gulf War and acted as a principal organizer of the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq, orchestrating a campaign of public deception and propaganda that had no precedent since the days of the Hitlerite “big lie.”

In between, he enriched himself as the chief executive officer of the oil industry giant Halliburton, a principal Pentagon contractor from whose war profiteering the vice president stands to reap future dividends.

Cheney’s entire political and business career strongly suggests that if, by a twist of fate, he had grown to maturity in pre-war Germany rather than in the post-war United States, he would have found his way either into the Nazi regime or among the corporate criminals who financed the Nazis and profited off of the slave labor of concentration camp inmates.

The Bush administration is not the Third Reich and Cheney is not a Nazi, but the parallels between the course upon which German imperialism embarked in the 1930s and the one taken today by the government in Washington are real and have profound objective roots. With his invocation to “fight tyranny and spread the freedom that leads to peace,” Cheney used the Auschwitz commemoration to echo the threat of global US military aggression advanced by Bush in his inauguration address a week earlier.

The US vice president’s presence in Poland was bound up with the continuation of this aggression. One of primary objectives of his visit was to dissuade the Polish government from moving ahead with plans to begin withdrawing its 2,400 troops from Iraq, the only numerically significant contingent outside of the US and British occupation forces.

Aggressive war and the crimes of the Nazis

There is a grim irony in Cheney’s use of Auschwitz as a stage for promoting such a strategy.

When the surviving leadership of the Nazi regime was brought before an international war crimes tribunal at Nuremberg, the principal charge against them was conspiring to wage aggressive war. The ruling that sentenced the Nazi leaders to hang declared the waging of aggressive war to be “essentially an evil thing.” The launching of such a war, it said, “is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

Thus, in the view of the prosecution, the atrocities carried out by the Nazis—Auschwitz and the murder of 6 million European Jews, the destruction of the German workers’ movement, the liquidation of all political opposition—flowed from the fundamental policy of aggressive war.

In his closing statement to the tribunal, the lead prosecutor, US Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, dismissed a key justification given by the Nazi defendants for their crimes. “Some of the defendants argue that the wars were not aggressive and were only intended to protect Germany against some eventual danger from the ‘menace of communism,’ which was something of an obsession with many Nazis.”

Substitute the word “terrorism” for “communism,” and you have the basic justification given by Bush, Cheney and company for their policy of preventive war. Should they be brought to trial for the war crimes they have committed against Iraq, the prosecution would have only to cite Jackson’s words to establish the applicability of the Nuremburg principle to their case.

US imperialism’s policy of aggressive war has yet to produce killing on the scale of Auschwitz, but in resurrecting this criminal strategy it has opened the door to such atrocities. While it has not erected gas chambers and crematoriums, Washington has embarked on the construction and running of a growing international network of concentration camps, including Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, and Abu Ghraib in Iraq. It has legitimized both torture and assassination, while claiming the right to indefinitely imprison citizens and non-citizens alike without charges or trial.

This turn in American policy, like the rise of European fascism in the 1930s, has its ultimate source in profound and insoluble contradictions of the world capitalist system. Faced with the loss of its undisputed economic and political hegemony, US imperialism has embraced aggressive war as the principal means for reasserting its domination of the world’s markets and sources of raw materials, above all oil.

This drive will inevitably assume an increasingly destructive character and, sooner rather than later, provoke countermeasures by America’s imperialist rivals. This is the climate in which Auschwitz looms not merely as a historical reminder of abstract “evil,” but as a grim and urgent warning of what capitalism in crisis is capable of inflicting upon humanity.

In his arguments before the Nuremberg tribunal, Robert Jackson declared: “It is not necessary among the ruins of this ancient and beautiful city, with untold members of its civilian inhabitants still buried in its rubble, to argue the proposition that to start or wage an aggressive war has the moral qualities of the worst of crimes. The refuge of the defendants can be only their hope that international law will lag so far behind the moral sense of mankind that conduct which is crime in the moral sense must be regarded as innocent in law...”

In the face of 100,000 or more dead in Iraq, and with Fallujah and major portions of other Iraqi cities in rubble, there can be no question that Bush, Cheney and others in the current US administration stand guilty of this “worst of crimes.” Yet the US vice president’s ability to deliver his obscene speech at Auschwitz condemning “evil” and “cruelty” make it clear that today the “moral sense of mankind” finds no reflection in international law. Only the emergence of an independent and socialist political movement of the working class can create the conditions for bringing these war criminals to justice.

Dr. Dean for DNC--The Last Gasp of the Democratic Party In Chimp_Amerika

Democracy For America: "Letting go of central control is what gives voters real power. When I used the phrase 'You have the power' during the campaign, I meant that by working together, Americans could overcome the forces of the right-wing and reassume their constitutional role in running the country. What I didn't understand was that 'You have the power' was more than that. It didn't apply only to people's ability to change America, it also applied concretely to their ability to make every day decisions about how they would cause that change."

Link to story..

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Criminals the lot of us

The invasion of Iraq was a crime of gigantic proportions, for which politicians, the media and the public share responsibility

By Scott Ritter

01/27/05 "The Guardian"
-- The White House's acknowledgement last month that the United States has formally ended its search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq brought to a close the most calamitous international deception of modern times.
This decision was taken a month after a contentious presidential election in which the issue of WMD and the war in Iraq played a central role. In the lead-up to the invasion, and throughout its aftermath, President Bush was unwavering in his conviction that Iraq had WMD, and that this posed a threat to the US and the world. The failure to find WMD should have been his Achilles heel, but the Democratic contender, John Kerry, floundered, changing his position on WMD and Iraq many times.

Ironically, it was Kerry who forced the Bush administration to acknowledge that it was WMD that solely justified any military action against Iraq. Before the US Senate in 2002, secretary of state Colin Powell responded to a question posed by Kerry about what would happen if Iraq allowed UN weapons inspectors to return and they found the country had in fact disarmed.

"If Iraq was disarmed as a result of an inspection regime that gave us and the security council confidence that it had been disarmed, I think it unlikely that we would find a casus belli."

When one looks at the situation in Iraq today, the only way that it would be possible to justify the current state of affairs - a once secular society now the centre of a global anti-American Islamist jihad, tens of thousands of civilians killed, an unending war that costs almost £3.2bn a month, and the basic principles of democracy mocked through an election process that has generated extensive violence - is if the invasion of Iraq was for a cause worthy of the price.

The threat to international peace and security represented by Iraqi WMD seemed to be such a cause. We now know there were no WMD, and thus no justification for the war. And yet there are no repercussions.

The culpability for the war can be traced to those same Senate hearings in 2002, when Colin Powell said:"We can have debates about the size of the stockpile ... but no one can doubt two things. One, they [Iraq] are in violation of these resolutions ... And second, they have not lost the intent to develop these weapons of mass destruction."

Politicians, the mainstream media and the public alike accepted this line of argument, without debate, thus setting the stage for an illegal war.

UN weapons inspections were never given a chance. Ever since the Clinton administration ordered them out of Iraq in 1998, the US has denigrated the efficacy of the inspection process. This was a policy begun by Clinton, but perfected by Bush in the build-up to war. In October 2002, a month after Saddam Hussein agreed to the unfettered return of weapons inspectors, the US defence department postulated the existence of secret production facilities, protected by a "concealment mechanism" designed to defeat inspectors. Thus, even if they returned, a finding of no WMD was meaningless.

Inspectors did return, and they found nothing. Iraq submitted a complete declaration of its WMD holdings, which was dismissed as lies by the Bush administration. Everyone seemed to accept this rejection of fact. "Intelligence information" wasassumed to be infallible. And yet it was all just hype.

There was never any serious effort undertaken by the Bush administration to find Iraqi WMD. Prior to the invasion, the US military re-designated an artillery brigade as an "exploitation task force" designed to search for WMD as the coalition advanced into Iraq.

It did little more than serve as a vehicle for its embedded reporter, Judith Miller of the New York Times, to recycle fabricated information provided by Ahmed Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress, creating dramatic headlines that had no substance. Once Iraq was occupied, Miller was sent home, and the taskforce disbanded.

A new organisation was created, the CIA-led Iraq survey group (ISG), led by David Kay. His job was not to find WMD but to spin the data for the political benefit of the White House. He hinted at dramatic findings, only to suddenly reverse course once Saddam Hussein was captured. Kay told us that everyone had got it wrong on WMD, that it was no one's fault. He was replaced by Charles Duelfer, whose task was to extend the WMD cover-up for as long as possible. Duelfer was very adept at this, having done similar work while serving as the deputy executive chairman of the UN weapons inspection effort.

I witnessed him manipulate reports to the security council, rejecting all that didn't sustain his (and the US government's) foregone conclusion that Iraq had WMD.

As the head of the ISG, he was called upon to again manipulate the data. As it was virtually impossible to conjure up WMD stockpiles where none existed, he did the next best thing - he re-certified Colin Powell's pre-war assertion that Saddam Hussein had the "intent" to re-acquire WMD. Duelfer provided no evidence to support this supposition. In fact, the available data seems to reject the notion of "intent". But once again, politicians, the mainstream media and the public at large failed to let facts get in the way of assertions. The ISG had accomplished its mission - not the search for WMD, but the establishment of a viable alibi. Its job done, the ISG slipped quietly away, its passing barely noticed by politicians, media and a public all too willing to pretend that no crime has been committed.

But, through the invasion of Iraq, a crime of gigantic proportions has been perpetrated. If history has taught us anything, it is that it will condemn both the individuals and respective societies who not only perpetrated the crime, but also remained blind and mute while it was being committed.

· Scott Ritter was a senior UN weapons inspector in Iraq between 1991 and 1998 and is the author of Frontier Justice: Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Bushwhacking of America

Iraq crisis dominates Bush press conference

By Patrick Martin
27 January 2005

Use this version to print | Send this link by email | Email the author

The first presidential news conference of the Bush administration’s second term was dominated by the subject Bush sought to avoid in his inaugural address: the growing crisis of the US occupation regime in Iraq.

The press conference was called on short notice, only hours after the crash of a Marine helicopter in the western Iraqi desert that killed 31 US soldiers, the greatest loss of life on the US side in a single event since Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Bush’s opening statement made no mention of the disaster, but instead hailed the upcoming January 30 election in Iraq as one of a series of democratic milestones, following elections in Afghanistan, the Ukraine and the Palestinian Authority.

Bush sought to reprise his inauguration-day rhetoric about a US-led crusade for democracy, but he faced a series of questions, some critical and even hostile, about the American policy debacle in Iraq. In response to one of the first questions, he refused to say what level of voter participation was required to make the Iraqi election a success. “The fact that they’re voting in itself is successful,” he replied, demonstrating that his administration will hail even a minimal turnout as a victory.

Despite Bush’s claims that only terrorists and enemies of democracy could oppose an election conducted under military occupation, there are already indications that the election boycott will spread well beyond the Sunni Triangle and parts of Baghdad. Turnout among overseas Iraqis—in Iran, Jordan, Syria, Britain, the United States and a half dozen other countries—is likely to be in the single digits. Only 25 percent of émigré Iraqis have registered to vote, and that figure falls to 10 percent among Iraqis living in the US. Only those registered will be eligible to vote January 30.

Bush was asked directly whether in his inaugural address he was threatening war against “certain countries, especially Iran.” He did nothing to discourage the suggestion. “My inaugural address reflected the policies of the past four years that said—that we’re implementing in Afghanistan and Iraq,” he responded. The clear implication was that Iran could expect similar treatment to those two countries.

Another question focused on the hypocrisy of his claim of a US commitment to support freedom and democracy in every country, when many US allies—particularly those in the Middle East—are dictatorships or despotisms of the worst description. The reporter cited the arrest of an anti-Bush speaker in Jordan who called for a boycott of America and was charged under the Jordanian penal code and imprisoned.

“He stood up for democracy, you might say,” the reporter declared. “And I wonder if here and now you will specifically condemn this abuse of human rights by a key American ally.”

Bush sought to dodge the question by claiming ignorance of the case. Visibly flustered, he assured the questioner, “I urge my friend, His Majesty [Bush apparently could not recall King Abdullah’s name] to make sure that democracy continues to advance in Jordan.” He claimed that Jordan—a near-absolute monarchy in which the majority of the population, Palestinian refugees displaced from what is now Israel and the West Bank, are denied any political rights—was “making progress towards that goal.”

The next question produced an equally defensive response, this time angry rather than flustered. The reporter asked about charges from Senate Democrats, during the debate over the confirmation of Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state, that Rice and the entire Bush administration had lied about weapons of mass destruction and Iraq’s ties to Al Qaeda in the run-up to the war. Would Bush concede any mistakes were made?

Bush evaded the question, demanded that Rice be confirmed immediately, and went back to his theme of the supposed democratization of Iraq and Afghanistan. The Senate hearing’s lame manifestation of democracy in the United States, however, seemed to infuriate him, even though only 12 of the 44 Democratic senators voted against Rice’s confirmation later in the day.

The reporter persisted. “No reaction to the [charge of] lying? No reaction?” The assembled press corps tittered. Bush reddened. “Is that your question?” he replied. “The answer’s no. Next.”

The following question was on the federal budget deficit, but referred back to Iraq and the $80 billion supplemental appropriation for the war which the administration announced it would be seeking. Why was Bush not asking the American people to make financial sacrifices for the war, if his administration was prepared to sacrifice the lives of soldiers like the dozens killed in the helicopter crash, the president was asked.

Bush did not attempt to answer the question, instead repeating a series of platitudes and truisms: “Americans do pay taxes ... We’ve got people in harm’s way ... I look forward to working with Congress to fund what is necessary to help those troops complete their mission ... I felt it was very important to reduce the tax burden on the American people.” Eventually he ran out of breath and even the normally compliant press corps seemed to have run out of patience.

The next questioner began as though trying to explain himself to a small and obstreperous child: “Mr. President, I want to try another way to ask you about Iraq.” The reporter cited recent polls showing that a clear majority of Americans believes the decision to go to war was a mistake and the cost of the war is not worth its dubious achievements. He asked, “What would you say to the American people, including a significant number who supported you at the beginning of the war, who now say, this is not what we were led to believe would happen?”

Bush fell back on his ad nauseam-repeated mantra: “I’d say the world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power. A world with Saddam Hussein in power would’ve been a more dangerous world today.” He claimed progress in promoting democracy in Iraq and training Iraqi troops and police to some day replace American soldiers. Finally, he made reference to that morning’s helicopter crash, admitting—in perhaps the only unrehearsed line of the press conference—“listen, the story today is going to be very discouraging to the American people. I understand that.”

From there the press conference meandered to other topics, including Social Security, tax reform, the Department of Education’s payments to right-wing journalists, the federal budget deficit, and the selection of a new director of national intelligence.

One questioner asked Bush about the nomination of Alberto Gonzales for attorney general, and Gonzales’s role in drafting guidelines that sanctioned the use of torture by US interrogators. While Gonzales now claims to oppose torture, the reporter noted, “There are some written responses that Judge Gonzales gave to his Senate testimony that have troubled some people, specifically his allusion to the fact that cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of some prisoners is not specifically forbidden, so long as it’s conducted by the CIA and conducted overseas. Is that a loophole that you approved?”

Bush gave as brief a reply as possible. “Al Gonzales reflects our policy, and that is: We don’t sanction torture. He will be a great attorney general. And I call upon the Senate to confirm him.”

The final question on Iraq came from a right-wing journalist who cited criticisms of the war as a Vietnam-style “quagmire,” as well as the questioning of Gonzales and Rice before Senate committees, and asked: “I wonder if you have any response to those criticisms. And what kind of effect do you think these statements have on the morale of our troops and of the confidence of the Iraqi people that what you’re trying to do over there is going to succeed?”

Bush took the bait—with evident relief—declaring, “I think the Iraqi people are wondering whether or not this nation has the will necessary to stand with them as a democracy evolves. The enemy would like nothing more than the United States to precipitously pull out and withdraw before the Iraqis are prepared to defend themselves. Their objective is to stop the advance of democracy. Freedom scares them.”

Returning to the subject of his inauguration speech, he gave himself a pat on the back: “I firmly planted the flag of liberty for all to see that the United States of America hears their concerns and believes in their aspirations. And I am excited by the challenge and am honored to be able to lead our nation in the quest of this noble goal, which is freeing people in the name of peace.”

There was no follow-up, nor did anyone in the press corps ask Bush how his rhetoric about freedom and democracy squared with the reality in Iraq. According to a Human Rights Watch report, released Monday, torture is widely practiced in Iraq, not only in US military prisons like Abu Ghraib, but in the jails and detention centers of the stooge government set up by the United States under Prime Minister Ayad Allawi.

According to the report, many of the Iraqi police, jailers and intelligence agents are holdovers from the regime of Saddam Hussein, performing the same hideous functions under the new US-backed regime, “committing systematic torture and other abuses.” The Allawi government, wrote Human Rights Watch, “appears to be actively taking part, or is at least complicit, in these grave violations of fundamental human rights.”

Of 90 prisoners interviewed for the report, 72, or 80 percent, had been “tortured or ill-treated,” and many provided evidence of fresh scars and bruises. Hania Mufti, Baghdad director of Human Rights Watch, told the Washington Post, “Many of the same people who worked in Saddam’s time are still doing those jobs today. So there is a continuity of personnel and of mind-set. I think the Iraqi people themselves thought there was going to be a different system. Every day, they are finding it is not so different.”

The American Civil Liberties Union released documents the same day listing dozens of charges of abuse of Iraqi prisoners at US detention centers in Iraq, including at Adhamiya Palace in Baghdad, once a residence of Saddam Hussein, now a torture chamber run by US special forces. Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU, said in a statement, “Government investigations into allegations of torture and abuse have been woefully inadequate. Some of the investigations have basically whitewashed torture and abuse. The documents tell a damning story of widespread torture and abuse reaching well beyond the walls of Abu Ghraib.”

The methods of torture included sodomy with wooden batons and glass bottles, burning with cigarettes, electric shock applied to the testicles and other parts of the body, and severe beatings, carried out by both Iraqi and American interrogators. This is the real face of the “democracy” and “freedom” which American imperialism is bringing to Iraq.

See Also:
Bush tells Washington Post he is not accountable for Iraq war lies
[19 January 2005]

The Iraq election: a travesty of democracy

By James Cogan
27 January 2005

Use this version to print | Send this link by email | Email the author

The January 30 elections in Iraq have nothing to do with democracy. To claim a “free” election can take place in Iraq is no different to asserting that the French, Yugoslav or Greek people could have elected a representative government in 1942 while living under the jackboot of Nazi rule.

Over the past two years, Iraq has been subjected to invasion and a military occupation that has plunged the country into a social and political catastrophe. The Bush administration has brought the Iraqi people 50 to 70 percent unemployment, food and fuel shortages, a breakdown in essential services such as electricity, a collapse in basic law-and-order and dictatorial forms of rule little changed from those of the Baathist regime.

The US invasion of 2003 was launched not to bring “liberation”, but to establish US dominance over the country’s oil resources and transform it into an American client state and military base in the Middle East. Legitimate resistance to the country’s takeover is the main factor behind the guerilla war that has been fought against US forces for close to two years. Due to both Iraq’s experience with colonialism in the twentieth century and the reality of the occupation, millions of Iraqis bitterly oppose the US presence in the country.

The US military and its local collaborators are using the most brutal and indiscriminate methods to crush the Iraqi resistance. Millions of Iraqis daily confront the ordeal of vehicle or personal searches, restrictions on their movement and, in many cities and towns, what amount to dusk-to-dawn curfews. A large percentage of the Iraqi population have had family members or close friends killed, wounded, detained or abused. Thousands have had their homes and property destroyed or damaged.

The high point of the US reign of terror, thus far, was the destruction of the city of Fallujah in November, at the cost of an estimated 6,000 Iraqi lives. Over 250,000 Fallujah residents have been turned into refugees. While the exact number is unknown, over 100,000 Iraqis are estimated to have died since the March 2003 invasion, as well as some 1,500 US and allied occupation troops.

A Human Rights Watch report issued this week provides a timely refutation of claims that a democratic state is in the process of formation in Iraq. The report explains that “abuse of detainees by the [US-recruited] Iraqi police and intelligence forces has become routine and commonplace”. It documents cases of arbitrary arrest and torture, and accuses the US and British governments and the US-installed interim government of Prime Minister Iyad Allawi of “actively taking part”, or being “at least complicit”.

Over 160,000 US and allied troops, along with thousands of locally recruited security forces and more than 20,000 mercenaries—described as “private security contractors”—have maintained martial law. The past two weeks have been marked by an intensification of the repression, aimed at ensuring the election takes place under conditions of intimidation and fear. Curfews have been imposed across the country, the borders will be closed for three days before the ballot and all vehicles banned from the vicinity of polling booths. Last weekend, large-scale round-ups of alleged resistance fighters took place in Mosul.

The American terror has only served to heighten the determination of Iraqis to fight the occupation. While the resistance is made up of disparate forces, including reactionary Islamic extremist elements, those calling for armed struggle to expel the invaders can justifiably claim to represent the views of a clear majority of Iraqis. The predominantly Sunni Muslim regions of western and central Iraq are effectively war zones. The relative calm in the predominantly Shiite south has only prevailed since September, when a truce ended the popular Shia uprising led by the Mahdi Army of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

Given the sentiments of the Iraqi population and the actual state of affairs in the country, it is uncertain how many people will vote. The low turnout among émigré Iraqis living in North America, Europe and other Middle Eastern countries—who were able to cast ballots over the past week—testifies to the broad hostility, distrust and contempt toward the election. Just 237,000 émigrés registered to vote in 14 countries, out of an estimated one million eligible voters.

The Bush administration claims that any abstention on Sunday will be due, not to political opposition, but to fear of insurgent attacks on polling stations. This clearly did not apply outside Iraq. The fact that before 2003 many émigrés were under the illusion that a US invasion would bring democratic change to Iraq makes their repudiation of the ballot all the more significant.

Pro-occupation candidates

A major factor in the rejection of the election is the nature of the parties and candidates who are contesting seats in the 275-member Transitional Assembly. Most Iraqis know little about them and what they represent, except that they have the following characteristic in common: they either directly supported the US invasion or have accommodated themselves to the illegal occupation. These tendencies have set themselves in direct opposition to the aspirations of the Iraqi people and collaborated in their repression.

Iyad Allawi and his US-funded Iraqi National Accord (INA) head an electoral alliance known as the Iraqi List. The List has drawn together émigré and local businessmen, tribal leaders and other sections of the Iraqi elite who see collaboration with US imperialism as the means of securing wealth, power and privilege. It appeals to those who believe that the occupation cannot be defeated, by claiming Allawi is a “strongman” who can work with the US military to crush the resistance and bring stability.

The INA has received tens of millions of dollars in financing and assistance from US National Endowment for Democracy affiliates, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs and the International Republican Institute, which have also been involved in financing pro-US candidates in Haiti, the Ukraine and Venezuela.

The most prominent electoral bloc is the Unified Iraqi Alliance (UIA). While it includes Kurdish, Turkomen and Sunni groups, it is popularly known as the Shia List. Its main components are the sectarian Shiite fundamentalist parties—the pro-Iranian Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and the Da’wa Party—which supported the US invasion. It also includes the Iraqi National Congress of one-time US favourite, Ahmed Chalabi, who played a key role in fabricating the claims that Iraq possessed “weapons of mass destruction”.

Under the Baathist regime, which rested primarily on the Sunni-based elite, the Shiite religious hierarchy was largely sidelined from political power and economic privilege. The UIA aims to harness its influence among the majority Shiite population to dominate the Transitional Assembly and assert the interests of the Shiite establishment within a US-dominated Iraq. It has been tacitly endorsed by Ali al-Sistani, the most senior Shiite cleric in Iraq, who has issued a religious edict ordering Shiites to vote.

As many as 60 percent of Iraqis adhere, to some degree, to the Shiite branch of Islam. Even among deeply religious Iraqi Shiites, however, support for Sistani and the UIA is far from solid. Many Shiites regard Sistani and the parties in the Shia List as traitors and American collaborators. None of these parties, for example, supported the uprising led by Sadr last year, even as the US military was bombarding the holy Shiite cities of Karbala and Najaf. Moreover, millions of Shia Iraqis, particularly in the urban working and middle class, have long secular traditions. They are hostile to any suggestion of the clergy having a political role and deeply suspicious of SCIRI’s links to the Iranian theocracy.

Having endorsed the US invasion, the parties of the UIA are cynically attempting to adapt themselves to the anti-occupation sentiment. Its election platform declares that a date should be set for the withdrawal of US troops—but only when Iraqi forces can replace them. While its platform declares it wants Islamic law to be at centre of Iraq’s legal code, UIA spokesmen have been forced to issue repeated reassurances that it opposes an Iranian-style state. Nevertheless, the popular distrust is such that the UIA’s claim to overwhelming Shiite support is not credible. A representative of Moqtada al-Sadr’s movement in Basra told the New York Times: “The other Shiite parties are taking positions that are good for their interests but not for the people. Their actual popularity with the people is almost zero.”

In the three predominantly Kurdish provinces of northern Iraq, the Kurdish bourgeois nationalist parties, which have effectively ruled the region under US protection since 1991, have formed a joint electoral bloc called the Kurdistan Alliance. While not explicitly stated, its perspective is the separatist agenda of gaining American backing for a de facto Kurdish state that controls Iraq’s lucrative northern oilfields. The Alliance is campaigning for votes almost exclusively among Kurds. Its main platform is to incorporate the region around the city of Kirkuk into the Kurdish sphere and limit the influence of a central Iraqi government in the north.

Kurdish separatism has the potential to trigger ethnic fighting throughout northern Iraq. Clashes have erupted already over accusations that Kurdish militias are attempting to ethnically cleanse Kirkuk of the Arab and Turkomen communities. The International Crisis Group this week warned that tensions between Kurdish armed groups and the non-Kurdish population in Kirkuk have reached the point where “it may take only a minor provocation for open conflict to break out”.

The electoral bloc standing the largest slate of candidates is the Peoples Union—an alliance headed by the Stalinist Iraqi Communist Party (ICP). Far from being socialist or communist, the history of the ICP is one of political subservience to various bourgeois regimes, including the Baathists. The consequences for the Iraqi working class have invariably been disastrous.

The ICP and the Peoples Union are cynically appealing to voters with calls for the removal of US troops from Iraq and demands to assist Iraq’s workers and poor. But like the Shiite parties, the ICP slavishly supported and justified the 2003 invasion. At the same time, it is using its lingering influence among sections of the Iraqi working class to promote collaboration with the occupation, denouncing all resistance as the work of “Islamic fascists”.

The ICP sat on both the interim government and its predecessor, the Governing Council. It has endorsed policies that have produced mass unemployment and the US agenda for the wholesale privatisation of the country’s major resources—the oil industry in particular. The utter perfidy of the ICP is underscored by the fact that it is most likely, in the election’s aftermath, to volunteer again to operate as a coalition partner for Allawi’s INA.

Numerous other electoral blocs are standing, ranging from advocates of bringing back the monarchy to pro-occupation Sunni groups. In all, as many as 7,200 candidates, organised into 83 electoral blocs, have placed themselves on the ballot.

In many areas of the country, however, particularly where resistance is strongest, little campaigning has been carried out. In four provinces in central and western Iraq with a high proportion of Sunni Muslims, voter turnout may be as low as 20 percent. The provinces include about half Iraq’s population and some of the country’s major cities—Baghdad province, with the capital; Anbar province, with Ramadi and Fallujah; Ninevah; which includes Mosul, the country’s third largest city; and Salahidin, which is centred on Tikrit. In the predominantly Sunni suburbs of Baghdad, just 24 percent of people interviewed in a recent poll said they intended to vote.

Reflecting the mass sentiment against the occupation, dozens of leading Sunni organisations, Shiite leaders such as Sheik Jawad Khalissi, secular associations and groups representing ethnic minorities called last year for a boycott of the ballot.

The Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS), consisting of some 3,000 Sunni clerics, as well the largest Sunni-based party, the Iraqi Islamic Party, are advocating a boycott on the principled grounds that no expression of the will of the Iraqi people can take place under occupation. Both organisations are insisting that the prerequisite for a genuinely democratic vote is the withdrawal of all US and foreign troops.

Iraqi Islamic Party secretary-general Tariq al-Hashimi spoke this month in support of his party’s boycott call. He stated: “A situation marked by chaos and violence does not favour holding elections that will create a national assembly and even draw up a constitution. This assembly will not be representative of all categories of Iraqi society.”

A leading Sunni cleric, Mahmud al-Sumaydi, told his congregation in Baghdad in mid-January: “Everyone looks forward to the day when all Iraqis come out to vote, for elections are an Iraqi matter. But the elections cannot be held on the basis of the marginalisation of one community.”

Sadr’s movement, while not formally associating with the boycott coalition, is linking itself with the anti-election sentiment with the slogan “no boycott, no participation”. Sadr stated this month: “I personally will stay away from the election until the occupiers stay away from them and until our beloved Sunnis participate in them. Otherwise they will lack legitimacy and democracy.”

Renewed conflict is inevitable between the occupation and the Shiite working class and urban poor who form the social base of the Sadr movement. In the past two weeks, the Sadrists have sought to keep their influence among the increasingly restive urban poor by organising demonstrations in Baghdad, Karbala, Amarra and other southern Shiite cities. Avoiding any direct opposition to the election, the Sadrists insisted that action against deteriorating social conditions was the main political issue, not the January 30 ballot. The US response was a raid this week on a Sadr-aligned Baghdad mosque and the arrest of dozens of his supporters.

Regardless of the voter turnout, the Bush administration has made clear it will declare the election result an endorsement by the Iraqi people of the US invasion and occupation—just as it claimed the 2004 US elections constituted the American people’s endorsement of its criminal actions. Bush stated Thursday the vote would be a “grand moment in Iraqi history”.

The reality is that millions of Iraqis will refuse to vote on Sunday, not because of fear, but because they understand the election to be a sham designed to give a “democratic” gloss to an illegal neo-colonial occupation. While paying lip-service to the Iraqi people electing their own government and formulating a new constitution, the actual decisions about the country’s future have already been made in Washington. At the top of the list is the dismantling of state control of the oil industry and the establishment of permanent US military bases.

This week, the Bush administration has gone to Congress for a further $80 billion to fund the occupation, while the Pentagon has declared that 120,000 US troops will remain in Iraq for at least the next two years. The announcements, made before Iraqis even vote, only underscore the fact that the election results are irrelevant to Washington’s plans and will produce nothing more than a puppet regime.

The transitional government that takes office in Baghdad in the aftermath of the ballot should be rejected as illegitimate both in Iraq and throughout the world.

See Also:
Growing anxiety in US ruling circles over Iraq debacle
New York Times calls for postponing January 30 election
[14 January 2005]