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Foreign Correspondent
by international syndicated columnist & broadcaster Eric Margolis


Copyright: Eric S. Margolis, 2005

January 31, 2005

NEW YORK – There was nothing at all surprising about yesterday’s election in Iraq. The vote, designed to justify the US-British invasion and occupation of a sovereign nation, had entirely predictable results.

First, a sidebar. No election held under a foreign military occupation resulting from an unjustified war is legal under international law. Only an election run by UN troops could be considered legitimate.

During the Cold War, elections staged by the Soviets after invading Afghanistan, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia were rightly denounced by the US as `frauds,’ and the leaders elected as `stooges.’

Iraq’s Shia, excluded from political power since Britain created Iraq in 1921, won because they represent 60% of the population. Shia Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani issued a fatwa, or religious decree, ordering the faithful to vote for the Shia coalitions.

Sistani made what some see as a pact with the devil. He is abetting at least temporary US occupation and exploitation of oil-rich Iraq in exchange for Washington handing power to his fellow `good’ Shia’s - not to be confused with Iran’s `bad’ Shia’s, who are facing US-Israeli attack. Baghdad’s `good’ Shia don’t sport turbans, sideline clerics, and avoid angry Islamic mutterings.

After first refusing to deal with the Shia leadership, Washington finally gave in and agreed to a deal due to its inability to crush the Sunni-led resistance.

Iraq’s pro-US Kurds elected two coalitions determined keep their oil revenues and create a state independent in all but name. Israel is secretly aiding Kurds’ secessionist ambitions. Turkey’s army went on alert in case Iraq’s Kurds declared an independent state.

Sunni’s have lost all the power and perks they previously enjoyed, and lead resistance against US occupation. They are left odd men out, at the mercy of hated Shia, a sect long persecuted by mainstream Sunni Muslims as dangerous heretics and fanatics. Few Sunnis voted. The 60% turnout ballyhooed by the US media represented mainly Shia and Kurds, who were eager to vote for their parochial interests.

The US-`guided’ regime emerging from the vote will be one of form without much substance, unless a new Shia regime revolts against US occupation and asserts its independence.

For now, Iraq’s real government will continue to be the US Embassy in Baghdad, the world’s largest, and 150,000 US occupation troops. The fact that the US occupation authorities will control every key aspect of political, economic and security in Iraq seems to have escaped the gushing US media.

Every important Iraqi ministry is run by US `advisors,’ who call the shots and allocate all spending. Power comes from guns and money. The US controls and pays Iraq’s low morale police and native sepoy troops who, in a nation with 70% unemployment, mostly serve to feed families.

Iraq’s entire budget comes from sporadic oil exports and US-dispensed aid (the latest bill for Bush’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: US $240 billion). He who pays the piper in Baghdad, calls the tune. US multinationals are lining up to harvest Iraq’s riches once security is established. `Freedom,’ in George Bush’s lexicon, means electing pro-US, anti-Islamic regimes that obey Washington’s orders, go through the charade of democratic elections, like Egypt or Tunisia (both military dictatorships), allow in US business, and make nice to Israel.

Many Iraqis will vote for anyone promising to end violence and social misery. But many nationalists and Islamists, excluded from the election process, are voting their own way – by bullets and bombs. Washington calls them `terrorists,’ but the UN Charter enshrines people’s right to resist foreign occupation.

A Muslim-Lite, turbanless Shia regime allied to Washington will immediately have to face Kurdish secessionists and Sunni insurgents. Younger, more nationalistic Shia with connections to Tehran will try to oust the `quietist,’ collaborationist Sistani faction once Shias are firmly in power. More, rather than less, violence is likely, with Sistani a prime bomb target.

Iraq, like Humpty Dumpty, is broken and may never be put together. That’s fine with the Bush Administration’s pro-Israel hawks who engineered this war. A shattered Iraq will never challenge Israel’s nuclear monopoly.

But not fine for the US. A senior American commander just warned 130,000 US troops must stay in Iraq until at least 2007, maybe much longer. Iraqization, like Vietnamization, has proved a chimera. So, too, plans to plunder Iraq’s oil. Meanwhile, Pentagon brass are livid over neocon plans to launch a new war against Israel’s principal enemy, Iran.

This `guided’ election is George Bush’s best last chance to declare a titanic victory, then bring all his troops home to a big ticker-tape parade before Iraq dissolves into bloody chaos or is taken over by Iran. Otherwise, the US will be stuck forever to its Iraqi tar baby, ruing the day it overthrew old ally, Saddam.

A truly independent regime will eventually emerge in Baghdad when the US finally runs low on money, men and crusading willpower, but this could take many years.

We’ll know for sure true freedom and genuine independence have come to Iraq when the government in Baghdad orders US troops out, raises oil prices, rebuilds its armed forces, and renews support for the Palestinian cause.

Writer's Notes:

The US media has followed the made-for-TV election with all the avidity of a PR firm in high gear. Few journalists have bothered to question the underlying reasons for the vote, or future problem. God knows, Iraq needs a decent democratic government – as do all the other Arab nations – but one developed by all Iraqis in their own time and under their own tribal and political leaders without prodding from Big Brother in Washington. Vietnam held elections, too, and these proved as meaningless as the one we just saw in Iraq.

To read previous columns by Mr. Margolis: Click here

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