Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Iraqi democracy

Bush has tried to cast the American role in Iraq and the Middle East as the great democratizer. This is a preposterous lie. One of the first American objections to an Iraqi election was the absence of a census and list of voters. The Iraqis pointed out that there was an acceptable list used for the distribution of food rations under the UN oil for food program, but the Americans said it wasn't good enough. The Americans then came up with the idea that there couldn't be elections as there was no constitution, but it was pointed out that there was a serviceable pre-Saddam constitution which could have been dusted off and used for the purposes of conducting the elections. Now it turns out that Iraqi census officials devised a detailed plan to conduct a full census next summer and prepare a voter roll that would allow for national elections to take place next September. The Americans vetoed the idea, and it was never even presented to the Iraqi Governing Council. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the Shiite spiritual and thus also effective secular leader of Iraq, has insisted on real elections. The Americans have spent months trying to get around this, hoping for some kind of corporatist appointed government like the U. S. toadies in Afghanistan. As the New York Times aptly puts it:

"Some Iraqis have said they wonder why American officials called for caucus elections in June, in part because a census could not be completed in less than a year, while at the same time rejecting a plan to produce a census more quickly."

American officials tried to get around al-Sistani's ruling, but finally realized the real power that al-Sistani has, and are now paying lip service to the necessity for real elections. At the same time, they are doing everything in their power to make such elections impossible. Of course, it is unlikely that al-Sistani is a great lover of democracy. He wants a real election because the Shiites have the largest number of voters and thus he will end up with a Shiite-dominated government. If fair elections are allowed, it is inevitable that there will be an anti-occupation government elected, which will immediately make the American presence in Iraq even more indefensible than it is now. The fact that Bush has the audacity to depict himself as the bringer of democracy just adds to the hypocrisy in the American position.