Tuesday, February 01, 2005

 

Iraqi Elections - The Day After


The People Have Spoken

I had, and I still have, many reservations regarding the ‘rules of the game’ of the elections we have just had in Iraq.

But all these are secondary now. The key fact in all this is that it seems that more than 50% of the Iraqi people have cast their vote. I may not like the results, but this is immaterial now. The people have chosen to accept the game and play within it. This is what matters. If we accept the basic principle of democracy, then we have to accept that the people are the final arbiters. As simple as that!

They went out in large numbers against eminent dangers to say just that. Some were killed or injured doing that.

In the comment section of my last post written on the eve of the elections and which was full of anxiety and misgiving, someone wrote “You've got to trust in collective wisdom. I know this has been a flawed, tragic, some would say criminal process, I wish I could make it otherwise.” These words wisely sum it all up.

I was against the rules of the game, as defined by the unfortunate Transition Administrative Law (TAL) which was supposedly written by the Iraq Governing Council.

Sistani was outspoken in his opposition to that law. He made such a strong stand against it to the extent of writing to the UN Security General during the drafting phase of Resolution 1546, asking for TAL not to be mentioned in the resolution text (using rather strong words). And so it was. He was accommodated. Sistani was declared a winner.

The leaders of the two major Kurdish parties were furious. They wrote a letter to president Bush and threatened: “If the TAL is abrogated, the Kurdistan Regional Government will have no choice but to refrain from participating in the central government and its institutions, not to take part in the national elections, and to bar representatives of the central Government from Kurdistan.”

What happened later was that Sistani endorsed the intended elections – based almost totally on TAL.

I was also against the ‘major players’ presented to the people by the power of occupation as representing them. Many do not meet my definition for people to be entrusted with looking after the country in these difficult times and writing a constitution that will last. I still am.

I am still “fearful of the long-term damage being done to Iraq and to America”. I still believe that “ True, representative democracy is the only hope”. Democracy, not elections! I still stand by every word that I have written for the past 9 months since I first wrote those words.

The last time I went against the prevailing current, it took 22 years. It was 1982 when I was convinced that the previous regime was leading the country to ruins. When that was proven correct, it was then too late. The country was already in ruins. I can still wait. But this time I hope that the waiting is shorter; I may not live that long. I certainly also hope that the country is not in ruins when that happens. Above all, I hope that I am wrong!

My feelings at the moment are probably similar to the feelings of many people in America and around the world at the end of the US presidential election. No, I feel like someone whose long-awaited newborn turns out to be defective due to some genetic manipulation. Most people have accepted that new-born baby. I hope that with tender care it survives and thrives. I humbly bow to the will of the people… and to collective wisdom!

That was my personal position. I had to make it clear.


Two important observations need to be made on the election itself. They were not mentioned on the media because they refer to things that didn't happen:

1. There were no skirmishes, fights and sectarian or neighborhood battles in the many “mixed” areas of Iraq between people who wanted to vote and those who didn’t. This was a very significant thing that did not happen and was therefore unnoticed!

2. The violent attacks were far less than I expected and feared. They certainly did not reflect the strength of the “insurgency”. One reason of course is that “insurgency” strongholds did not vote. Nevertheless, forces capable of carrying out some 80 daily attacks against the US army could have mounted more and larger attacks on people at the polling stations. Also, we know that "insurgents" have a strong presence in "mixed" areas. My belief is that most of those attacks were carried out by ‘forces of darkness’ who have no qualms about killing Iraqis. This was another good sign.


Will these elections solve the multitude of problems in Iraq, unify the country, end the occupation, bring your boys and girls back home? That is a different question.

With large segments of the country underrepresented for a variety of reasons, how can their integration, already being talked about, into the process be possible (democratically) with the whole country designed as one gigantic electoral district? It may be said that these people gave away their right to have a say in the shape of Iraq by not voting. In theory this may be true and acceptable, if the elections were not polarized and seen as ethnic and sectarian even by those who took part in them. With the question of ethnicity, particularly to public Sunni participation, this takes a new dangerous turn.

At this point, I would like to refer readers interested in some serious analysis to an excellent study from the Project on Defense Alternatives entitled ‘The Iraqi election “bait and switch”’. I am grateful to a reader for the link. It is worth reading carefully. Please keep in mind that that report was compiled before the last elections. A small quote:

The legitimizing effect of the electoral exercise will rest on a simple misperception: Balloting is the most conspicuous element of the democratic process and can be easily mistaken for the whole of it. The world and the media will be enthralled when millions of Iraqis go to the polls on 30 January 2005 to cast votes in the country's first multiparty legislative election since 1953. Some Iraqi voters will have to fight their way, literally, to the ballot box; and some will be killed in the process. This mass expression of democratic passion will be proffered and broadly accepted -- at least outside Iraq -- as a realization of democracy's promise. But to judge the true worth of the event requires us to pay attention to a subtler issue: Will the balloting and the government it produces fairly represent the balance of interests and opinion in Iraqi society?

I hope that the post-election planning is better than the post-invasion planning.

I still have faith in my people who never stop surprising everybody.


Comments:

I was going to refrain from commenting for a while (stop that cheering, everybody) until the full import of the elections became clearer. But I couldn’t resist commenting on Abu’s statement "I feel like someone whose long-awaited newborn turns out to be defective."
I think that’s far too painful, or going much too far. How about feeling like someone who’s just started labour pains, Abu? Can you really expect instant perfection after the last two years?
And after what went before?
I hate to sound like Charles, but I must admit that I found those pictures of long lines of hopeful voters rather affecting, even given that they probably didn’t really understand what they were voting for (apparently many still thought they were voting for a President.) Perhaps a lot of the credit should go to whoever had the idea of banning private vehicles - that may have had a lot to do with the absence of really widespread mayhem.
Surely the main point is that whatever government emerges from the next month or so of negotiations is really rather unlikely to be a compliant puppet - it may not demand instant withdrawal of occupation forces, but it wont extend an open invitation to stay, either. By allowing the elections to proceed, Bush has started a process that he can’t finish the way the neo-cons originally planned.
I don’t want to slander your fine countrymen, Abu, but sometimes I get the impression they’d rather argue than eat. (As Charles so wisely observed, Adam and Eve were Iraqis, right?) And after these elections they’ve got a wonderful new topic to argue about: the date of departure. Not if but when. Isn't that the next stage of labour?
Circular
 
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Abu Khaleel
Your post lists several interesting points as usual. If I may I will comment on a few.
1) Collective Wisdom: Personally I remain worried about the sheep mentality aspect. If rumors are correct that List 169 has around 60% of votes (Al-Yawar came close to admitting this on his press conference this morning), then we may have major problems ahead. I simply distrust the 2 major players. Al-Hakim and Chalabi. The former because of his sneaky attempt at passing Law 137 when he had the presidency of the GC. The latter is an opportunist well passed his sell by date (acknowledging he was central in convincing the USA to topple Saddam). Yet sadly he is the only secular elementin list 169. If you remember how Khomaini played it back in 1979 then we may have a repeat of the hijacking of the change. We should watch closely if AlHakim insists on building easy powers for amendments into the constitution!!!

2) The TAL: Contrary to your assertion that the CPA wrote the TAL. In fact the first 2-3 drafts were written by Faysal Al-Isterbady. I had the privilage of corresponding with him a couple of years ago. He is very sincere and if you notice he built lots of checks and balances into the TAL. The purpose of which remains to encourage collective collaboration. That was what bugged Sistani in the first place.

3) Major Players: For once I commend the US for chosing the golden 7. Look how different our situation is progressing compared to Afghanistan where the US simply gone for their man. Prior to the invasion they invited whoever wants to get involved to participate. We have all aspects of the mozaic represented in these 7 groups as well as they happen to be the ones who gave most sacrifices during the term of the previous regime. So why are always complaining about them. The election results will surely show that the choice of the 7 by the US actually represented the opinion of the Iraqi people. The only problem issue that can be levelled against the original GC was that it contained predominantly exiles as opposed to people from inside Iraq. Frankly I find this distinction somewhat superficial even though people like Riverbend keeps bleeting about it.

4) Participation: I rang my sister on Sunday and asked if they voted. She said they were too afraid to go besides their local rations agent failed to register his entire area (he was threatened apparently). But she added "they knew some of us will be too afraid to vote and thats ok. Its democratic you see.... no one came and knocked on the door asking why we didn't go". I found that very refreshing to hear.

5) Dark Forces: Your observation is so good. Lets hope this helps with isolating the dark forces and marks the beginning of the involving the insurgency in the political process. We can only hope!
 
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Hello Abu Khaleel,
There is a great deal about the 'mystery' election which could be subject to manipulation, a Bush specialty. Interesting how eager Iraqis are to talk about US withdrawl '18 months..soon..soon', only to have Allawi subtly put a damper on it. I don't know how it seems to you but it looks like whenever an Iraqi politican says something about troop reductions a call goes to the PM office indicating a clarification by the PM personally is required. I am sure Allawi is quite sick of making these 'clarifications', but he appears to want that top spot. One interesting thing about the election was the fact that US troops were kept away from Iraqis and there was very little violence ( and better still no sectarian violence).
Hey, Bush may have finally found something that 'works'in Iraq. Perhaps a series of small regular'strategic withdrawls' is the key to victory. Ya think?
 
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Abu,

Keep up the good work. When I envision the kind of people I want empowered in Iraq, your 'type' comes to mind. I don't have to agree with you, and I often don't, but you're the kind of critical, intelligent, outspoken patriotic citizen who will be necessary to make this work for the long-run.

You'd be a heck of an American citizen, Abu, but I think you know that.

We have a saying here in America, from a Negro spiritual, sung by antebellum slaves, and adopted by the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s-1960s: "Keep your eyes on the prize." Guaranteed? No. Flawless? No. Peaceful? No. Ugly and cynical? Often. Americans are just as human as Iraqis, but that's how we're moving from A to B in the US, too. We're not finished yet, either. Your concerns for Iraq are fair, and that means you have to work harder. Don't give up.
 
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Abu Khaleel,

"Will these elections solve the multitude of problems in Iraq, unify the country, end the occupation, bring your boys and girls back home? That is a different question."

I think your assumption that the first national election could somehow solve all problems in Iraq is flawed - and it is the wrong question to begin with.

The question should have been - Will national elections be a legitimate first step along the road to solving these problems? Many said 'no.' I think the answer is yes. I never saw any reasonable and practicable alternatives proposed. The act of voting showed that the 'collective wisdom' favored a democratic process over violence. This is a principle fact that has now been established. The people were also able to select parties/platforms that they felt represented their roughly hewn (as opposed to finely tuned) interests. Was it perfect and will it solve all problems - absolutely not. But it did establish that the Iraqi people prefer to vote to resolve these issues.

This is a huge step.

Now the most challenging part begins. The people have risked death to choose a democratic process. Now it must begin. Will the newly elected leaders work in good faith to resolve the myriad of deep seated religious, ethnic, economic, and security challenges facing the country? Can they transend their own platforms/interests to compromise? The people have taken the first big step - now let's see if the new leaders can match the bravery and the wisdom of the people.

Democracy is a dirty business with many faults. The process exposes this dirt. Let's just hope that respect for the process will outweigh everyone's distaste for dirt.
 
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But did you vote? I gather not.. which is a pity because you could have had a voice in your own government as opposed to just complaining about the process and those who are participating in building a new government. Well, perhaps next time. Until then I'd say that the voices of those who had the guts to step up and participate carry a bit more weight than yours used to.
 
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Charles said

“Will the newly elected leaders work in good faith to resolve the myriad of deep seated religious, ethnic, economic, and security challenges facing the country? Can they transend their own platforms/interests to compromise?”

This I agree with (*gasp* Me agreeing with Charles?). Quite frankly, these must have been some of the worst elections held anywhere, in terms of the process, transparency, status (under occupation) and so forth. Yet … if they serve to bring some sort of inclusive national consensus together, and serve to facilitate true Iraqi sovereignty, as opposed to what I think they will be used for* … then I will have been proven wrong, and guess what, I will be the happier for it.

* ( To get Allawi into power, to legitimize greater violence against central Iraqi provinces by the US and to fracture Iraqi society in a divide and rule ploy, facilitating long term troop bases. )

PS – Just as a sort of an afterthought, I’d like to explore the ramifications of a successful outcome to these awful elections. Let’s imagine that there is indeed the national outreach for which we hope, that the insurgency is coopted and thus defused, and that a widely accepted Iraqi administration comes into power. This would be good news for Iraqis – BUT WOULD IT BE GOOD FOR DEMOCRACY ? The consequence that I predict is that every sham, intimidation – rife election in future will be held up to the Iraqi model and validated in that light.

Some food for thought.
 
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@ Bruno

"Quite frankly, these must have been some of the worst elections held anywhere, in terms of the process, transparency, status (under occupation) and so forth."

Or you may consider them THE greatest elections to have EVER taken place. Consider the values that drive democracy: freedom, liberty, respect, sacrifice, reconciliation, faith, hope, etc. Iraqis risked death. Iraqis died. Iraqis walked for miles. Can you recall a 'better' election that more eloquently and sincerely displayed the dichotomy between democratic and undemocratic ideals?

"Some food for thought."

Your cud must be getting sour by now.


Abu Katya
 
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Charles,
While you're so interesetd in castigating our host, have you noticed the low level of registration among Iraqi-Americans? The fear of commutes of hundreds of miles and southern California traffic jams seems to have dampened the interest of Chaldean and Assyrian Iraqi-Americans in democracy in their homeland.
Zinda magazine, an online magazine serving the Assyrian community, published the list of parties with Assyrian (and Chaldean) candidates last week, included the names of the candidates, and their numerica positions on the various slates (important since their positions will determine whether or not they are seated in the government). With all this, and with motivating stories of families which travelled the distance to register, there was still a very low level of registration.
For this embattled community, the risk is under-representation.
Given this situation here in the states, among folks who hated Saddam, support the war, and are very aware of the dangers their relatives face, I find reluctance of Iraqi residents to vote a bit more understandable.

I wish there were a higher turnout. I wish both more Iraqi residents and Iraqi-Americans had voted. Were I an Iraqi-American, I would be angry and disappointed with my community for its low turnout.

Interestingly, the local democracy advocated by our host elsewhere has parallels with the democracy practiced in the American colonies prior to the American revolution. Had such a policy been explored and supported, it would have greatly aided in the development of a strong Iraqi democracy. I'm not as sure the technique used for this election will help, paralleling far too closely the old Lebanese sectarian politics.

Be Well,
 
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Hi Bob,

I have the highest respect for Abu Khaleel. That doesn't mean I agree with him.

I disagree strongly with many of the other people who post here because they basically take the position that the US is an evil nation bent on world domination and oppression, etc., etc. ad nauseum.

"have you noticed the low level of registration among Iraqi-Americans?"

That is certainly disappointing. It looks like things were set up rather poorly. Budget? That would be strange since we have spent a pretty penny to get this far. Would it have been so difficult to set up some sort of polling station in every major city? Why so few? Didn't people have to make the commute twice (1.register, 2. vote)?

"For this embattled community, the risk is under-representation."

Hopefully this won't be the last election.

"Interestingly, the local democracy advocated by our host elsewhere has parallels with the democracy practiced in the American colonies prior to the American revolution. Had such a policy been explored and supported, it would have greatly aided in the development of a strong Iraqi democracy. I'm not as sure the technique used for this election will help, paralleling far too closely the old Lebanese sectarian politics."

Perhaps you are correct (theoretically). But my main argument is that the system agreed upon for this election is the one that we have. Period. Arguing to scrap it is far worse than moving forward.

Iraq has a long uncharted road ahead, and there are many pitfalls, but I think the entire world was heartened to see what happened Sunday.
 
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Hello Charles,
Some Iraqi exiles feel that as US citizens this their home now and that they don't feel entitled to vote in
another countries election. Isn't it strange that exiles in another country can vote but Iraqis can't, due to a security situation that is Bush's fault and in some cases 'not enough ballots'-on the order of 100000 in Mosul(Ridiculous on the face of it)! How many Iraqis voted to keep US troops(70+% say yankee go home!)? How many Iraqis voted for Sistani or Kurdistan? Many voted to screw Zarqawi-but they don't all love Bushie. You go to election[war?] with the country [army?]you have. As for scraping these elections,if the political situation amongst the Iraqis resembles 'Governing Council II'or if Bush tampers too much with the politics as he does daily, the situation could spiral out of control very rapidly for the US, which right now has NO purpose in Iraq other than enforcing its political mandates. Based on the smooth transition 6 months ago-Bush's track record-things are looking dicey. Isn't that always the way with Bush, who never has any idea where he's going.
 
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Well since the election outcome is clearly going to take a while, how about just getting down and dirty in the meantime?
Charles said: "I disagree strongly with many of the other people who post here because they basically take the position that the US is an evil nation bent on world domination and oppression ... "
Like me, presumably. I’ve just revisited the first few articles at InformationClearingHouse, which make it very clear that the authors of the "Project for the New American Century" were quite specific and open about their goals of US world hegemony, domination by force of arms, and all that good stuff. Now even Charles will presumably not dare to claim that these authors - Cheney, Rumsfeld, Perle, Wolfowitz, Feith, et al, were not the current wielders of power in the US, but some other guys who happened to have the same names.
(I’ve also struck it lucky (or unlucky) at the local Library, and my holiday reading has included David Frum, Richard Clarke, and Bob Woodward. They all make it clear that the Bush White House, pushed by the gentlemen above, used 9/11 as the pretext for fulfilling their geo-political aims.)
Now Charles is probably a decent guy, and I could possibly crack a couple of cold ones with him, but not if he started telling me that he was going to have hegemony over me, in the interests of his great nation, or that he was uniquely qualified to tell me how I should live. I’d probably crack the bottles on him rather than with him.
So where do you stand on this "world’s only superpower, do what we want, create our own reality" crap, Charles? Do all your bombs and missiles make you better than me, or just bigger?
Circular, naturally
 
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Professor Juan Cole has an interesting take on PNAC and the Iraqi elections amongst other interesting comments about war on terror.
He also wonders why a second chamber is missing in the Iraqi situation. Good to hear an American who actually understands Iraq.(Audio interview) http://207.44.245.159/article7949.htm
 
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U.S. Encouraged by Vietnam Vote

Officials Cite 83% Turnout Despite Vietcong Terror

by Peter Grose
Special to the New York Times

9/4/1967 -- "New York Times -- page 2" -- WASHINGTON, Sept. 3-- United States officials were surprised and heartened today at the size of turnout in South Vietnam's presidential election despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting. According to reports from Saigon, 83 per cent of the 5.85 million registered voters cast their ballots yesterday. Many of them risked reprisals threatened by the Vietcong.

The size of the popular vote and the inability of the Vietcong to destroy the election machinery were the two salient facts in a preliminary assessment of the nation election based on the incomplete returns reaching here.

Pending more detailed reports, neither the State Department nor the White House would comment on the balloting or the victory of the military candidates, Lieut. Gen. Nguyen Van Thieu, who was running for president, and Premier Nguyen Cao Ky, the candidate for vice president.

A successful election has long been seen as the keystone in President Johnson's policy of encouraging the growth of constitutional processes in South Vietnam. The election was the culmination of a constitutional development that began in January,
1966, to which President Johnson gave his personal commitment when he met Premier Ky and General Thieu, the chief of state, in Honolulu in February.

The purpose of the voting was to give legitimacy to the Saigon Government, which has been founded only on coups and power plays since November, 1963, when President Ngo Dinh Deim was overthrown by a military junta.

Few members of that junta are still around, most having been ousted or exiled in subsequent shifts of power.

Significance Not Diminished

The fact that the backing of the electorate has gone to the generals who have been ruling South Vietnam for the last two years does not, in the Administration's view, diminish the significance of the constitutional step that has been taken.

The hope here is that the new government will be able to maneuver with a confidence and legitimacy long lacking in South Vietnamese politics. That hope could have been dashed either by a small turnout, indicating widespread scorn or a lack of interest in constitutional development, or by the Vietcong's disruption of the balloting.

American officials had hoped for an 80 per cent turnout. That was the figure in the election in September for the Constituent Assembly. Seventy-eight per cent of the registered voters went to the polls in elections for local officials last spring.

Before the results of the presidential election started to come in, the American officials warned that the turnout might be less than 80 per cent because the polling place would be open for two or three hours less than in the election a year ago. The turnout of
83 per cent was a welcome surprise. The turnout in the 1964 United States Presidential election was 62 per cent.

Captured documents and interrogations indicated in the last week a serious concern among Vietcong leaders that a major effort would be required to render the election meaningless. This effort has not succeeded, judging from the reports from Saigon.
 
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Charles --

I don’t have a problem with the fervour shown by Iraqis to vote. I suspect however, that the US might, if these elections don’t deliver the sort of stable democracy that we all hope for. My problems are the same as Abu Khaleel has, with the addition because the process was severely flawed, a success here will lower the bar for legitimacy in elections elsewhere in the world. Nevertheless, all we can hope for is for that successful outcome; and that what does not happen is that the US tries to turn Iraqi against Iraqi, as I suspect that it will.

BTW, tell me, is it acceptable for expatriate US citizens to run for President in the US, if they are backed to the tune of say, around 100 million dollars of foreign money? You know, from say, Russia or China? I just want to confirm that this would be allowed and indeed, in the tradition of American tolerance and multi –lateralism, welcomed. You seem to have missed this question on the previous thread, and want to give you the opportunity to respond.
 
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I wasn’t going to post for a while and wait for the ‘fog of democracy’ to clear to see where things are heading but I have been ‘sensing’ some significant signs of change coming all the way from Washington that are too strong to ignore.

A few minutes ago, I was watching a clip of Paul Wolfowtiz addressing some congressional committee. I didn’t catch the exact words but he was saying something like “… we are not against the Iraqi people… we are NOT against the ‘national resistance, we are against the terrorists”. Hello! Isn’t there something new there? Has anybody heard the gentleman’s remarks?

If you couple this to Abu Hadi’s remark about Feith’s departure from DoD and the rapid, mainly positive developments, elsewhere in the area… one cannot but feel a glimmer of hope. Are we entitled to that? Is it possible for the present administration to do some soul searching and have a change of heart? (Bruno, you are about as suspicious of them I am! What do you think? Can you see any of these signs?)
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Circular,

I certainly hope that you are right regarding the newborn… but I’m afraid the signs are not encouraging… yet.
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Abu Hadi,

Interesting points. But I fear that the playing field was too tilted in favor of those golden seven. Any idiot among them could just roll down to the winning post. The two Kurdish parties have entrenched as almost the sole players representing the Kurdish people. Other, smaller parties never had a chance. Allawi was spreading money, very much like Saddam. I was even under the impression that he had bought al Arabiya TV channel. That front runner slate had the ‘undenied’ blessing of Sistani… indirectly resulting in the much hated Mr. Chalabi winning by a landslide!

Now I fear that they will almost have a free hand in designing a more permanent field tailored, not for us, but for them.

Where is the voice of non-sectarian, secular Iraq that set the tone in Iraqi culture for long decades?

________________________
Abu Jennifer, Abu Katya,

I disagree with both of you regarding my disappointment at the ‘rule of the game’. I never expected all those problems to be solved overnight… or on the first attempt. But couldn’t the rules have been better designed for a better start?

Which reminds me… What is this? Two incompatible adversaries ganging up against the poor Iraqis? An ‘unholy alliance’? Going all the way back to Adam and Eve to prove that Iraqis preferred to argue rather than eat?

Your contention can be easily refuted to expose your anti-Iraqi prejudices:) (I accept Bob Griffin as an arbitrator on this!)

Did poor Adam argue much… or did he just eat that apple?
 
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Incidentally, while the author of the Blog is ransacking his mind to find something to post about next, could I make a suggestion: I think many of us might be interested in an Iraqi perspective on this Ration Card caper. It has featured in two ways in the elections - providing the basis for electoral rolls, and allegedly being perhaps used as coercion towards voting - but there’s not a lot of information about how big a factor it is in maintaining stability. One gathers that it is, or was, a sort of huge Social Welfare measure, pre-sanctions? Post-sanctions? Appropriate to an oil-rich state? Essential in an economy of massive unemployment?
Is it open or liable to political manipulation by a new government? What happens if it is removed or scaled back? Just asking.
Circular
 
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Democracy in Kurdistan?? (copied from a post on bethsuryoyo.com )

Written by Jacklin Bejan on 03 Feb 2005 18:23:03:

A fascinating yet sobering analysis of what is taking place in North of Iraq.

One dictatorship replaced with another!

Copyright 2005 The New Republic, LLC
The New Republic

February 7, 2005
SECTION: Pg. 15
LENGTH: 1767 words
HEADLINE: Party Foul
BYLINE: by annia ciezadlo
HIGHLIGHT: Sulaymaniya Dispatch
Annia Ciezadlo is a Beirut-based writer.

To see what Iraq will look like after January 30, just look north: Here in Kurdistan, the election is already over, even before anyone has cast a ballot. The two ruling parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), have carved out most of the seats in Kurdistan's regional parliament. And, in the upcoming national election, most people here will vote for the two partners' combined slate; few have even heard of the independent tickets. "The only thing I know is that the election is between ethnic groups like Kurds and Arabs," says Dashne Khaled, an 18-year-old Kurd from the northern city of Irbil, which is controlled by Massoud Barzani's KDP. "So, if you're a Kurd, you vote for the Kurds, and if you're an Arab, you vote for the Arabs." And, in the PUK-controlled slice of Kurdistan, an old woman declares her loyalty to "Uncle Jalal," PUK leader Jalal Talabani, with an eerie echo of Saddam Hussein's old campaign slogan. Throwing her hands heavenward, she intones, "With my fingers, with my hands, with my whole body, I will vote for you, Talabani!"

Welcome to free Kurdistan, supposedly a thriving democracy in northern Iraq. According to The Washington Post, Iraq's Kurdish region is a "flourishing quasi-state" with "democratic elections and institutions." Other major U.S. media offer similar assessments, and Kurdish party leaders like to tell foreign journalists that their region can be a model for the rest of Iraq. They're right--but it's hardly a positive example: In fact, the region is actually a warning to the rest of Iraq. Kurdistan is a case study in what happens when nationalist political parties consolidate too much power, depriving citizens of what they really want--which, in Kurdistan, is independence.

In early December, the two Kurdish parties announced that they would run together for the national assembly and for the autonomous Kurdish parliament. Together, they formed a unified, unbeatable ticket--giving Kurds about as much choice as if, in last year's presidential election, George W. Bush had decided to merge with the Democrats and make John Kerry his vice president.

As a result, instead of making Kurdistan more democratic, the upcoming national elections are cementing the rule of the dominant parties here--a trend being repeated across Iraq. "Kurds, when they go to vote on January 30, are not going to vote for whoever protects their interests," says Hiwa Osman, a Kurdish political analyst. "They're going to vote for whoever is powerful enough to protect them from Arabs. Shiites are not going to vote for whoever has good governance--they are going to vote for whoever can protect them from the Sunnis."

Kurdistan is still recovering from its last election, held in 1992, when the region was protected from Saddam by a U.S. no-fly zone. After smaller parties were disqualified, the PUK and the KDP both claimed victory, and, in 1996, their simmering hostilities erupted into a full-blown civil war. In the next two elections, for municipal and student body governments, the two parties brutally suppressed any other groups. University students campaigning for Islamic parties were told bluntly by their professors--themselves installed by hacks from the two major parties--to back off or flunk their exams. "The tactics were quite ruthless. They ranged from arbitrary detentions of candidates for several days to beatings--quite severe beatings--of people planning to run against them," says Christoph Wilcke, a Kurdistan analyst for the International Crisis Group, adding dryly that support for parties other than the PUK and the KDP "might be broader than what is apparent."

Today, in fact, Kurdistan resembles a Soviet satellite state. Intelligence agents lurk everywhere, and those who threaten party power may find themselves languishing in prison. Everything is taxed. Party-run satellite channels broadcast endless footage of the party leaders and their press conferences. Independent candidates are virtually unknown. And, if you want a job, from hotel clerk to college professor, you would do well to join your local ruling party. In fact, there are few democratic institutions in Kurdistan. Even the 105-member Kurdish parliament is little more than a rubber stamp; party leaders make the real decisions in the KDP stronghold of Salahuddin--carefully maintaining a continual state of negotiated deadlock--and then notify the supposed lawmakers. "No parliament has power over these parties," says Shwan Mahmood, political editor of the independent Kurdish newspaper Hawlati. "Massoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani see themselves as above parliament." According to Amnesty International, both parties committed gross human rights violations throughout the '90s, from torture to summary executions.

Hawlati is a rarity in Kurdistan, where the media landscape is choked with shamelessly partisan newspapers like Khabat, which proclaims without irony that it is the "Party Organ of the KDP." Both Khabat and its PUK counterpart, the region's only dailies, revel in excruciatingly detailed accounts of their patrons' activities. Criticism of the party leaders is rare; deviation from the party line is almost never permitted. After the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, the parties warned journalists not to call coalition troops "occupying forces," ordering them to say "liberators" instead. "They were calling themselves `occupation authorities,' so why should we avoid using that term?" laughs Azad Seddiq, host of the popular TV talk show "Didar" ("Interview") on Kurdsat, the PUK's satellite channel. "Unfortunately, we are repeating some of the worst habits of the Baathist regime."

The saddest irony of all is that, free of any need to answer to the public, the parties can afford to ignore the Kurds' most burning desire: independence. While it's hardly a practical goal at the moment--neighboring Turkey, Syria, and Iran have made it quite clear they would respond drastically to such a move--the majority of Kurds want a government that will at least acknowledge that desire. And, before the national elections, it seemed Kurdistan was beginning to liberalize and even to consider acknowledging the popularity of independence. After the Iraq war, a group of Kurdish doctors, lawyers, poets, and exiles founded a mass movement to demand that Kurdistan hold a referendum asking Kurds if they want independence. In two weeks in February 2004, the movement gathered 1.7 million signatures--about half of Kurdistan's population of approximately 3.6 million--supporting a referendum. Their plan was to deliver the signatures to the United Nations that summer and simultaneously hold demonstrations. Many of the referendum movement's leaders also dared to criticize Kurdish party leaders, publishing articles on pro-independence websites. It seemed as though Kurdistan's closed civil society was slowly breaking open.

But then the run-up to the national elections began. The parties cracked down on the referendum movement, banning more mass demonstrations and preventing the local organizers from delivering the signatures abroad. When the United Nations finally deigned to welcome the stateless Kurds, on December 22, 2004, the quiet handover of their petitions garnered barely any attention--just as the parties had planned. "The PUK and KDP are afraid that, if there are mass demonstrations, it will look to the Americans like they don't support the elections," says Kamal Mirawdeli, one of the movement's organizers. "So they put pressure on people in Kurdistan not to have demonstrations."

At the same time, the parties were busy convincing homegrown opposition groups outside the referendum movement to close ranks. The national elections gave the Kurdish parties an airtight argument against dissent: the Shia. By skillfully invoking the specter of Iranian-style theocracy, the two parties have convinced most Kurds-- including smaller parties opposed to the PUK and the KDP--that it was their patriotic duty to join with the unified ticket and avoid splitting the Kurdish vote. "Separate lists would lead to internal conflict--and, in the long run, could hurt all of us," says Muhammad Haji Mahmud, head of the independent Kurdistan Socialist Democratic Party, which had originally planned to run independently. "If Kurds run in one list, it will help determine their percentage in Iraq, so that everybody knows their numbers, and there will be no split in the vote."

Not exactly the flowering of democracy the Iraqi elections were supposed to encourage. When the United Nations selected Iraq's electoral method, proportional representation, one of its selling points was that it allowed for minority representation. But the necessity of running in a national election, combined with the U.N.'s other choice--making Iraq into a single electoral district--transformed that strength into a weakness. Because the formula discriminates against independent candidates, it encourages small players to form coalitions instead of going it alone. The hope was that, by joining together, parties would join in that great parlor game of democracy, "coalition-building." It worked all too well, with Kurds and Shia congealing into two massive mega-slates based solely on religious and ethnic identity. And, just as the Shia super-slate forced smaller parties to join or risk losing the chance of getting any seats, the combined Kurdish ticket effectively forced all the smaller parties to align themselves with the PUK and the KDP or be lost.

What can be done as Iraq prepares for elections that appear certain to harden internal divisions and keep undemocratic parties in power? Some experts think Iraq's nascent democratic movements would fare better in local elections. In fact, local elections in Kurdistan are the one exception to party hegemony: While smaller parties like Mahmud's joined the combined Kurdish ticket for the regional and national elections, they are running independently on the local ballot. "Iraqis would vote for different candidates if other sects were not going to be a threat," says Osman. "They would vote for alternatives, and you would see moderate elements begin to emerge. Hard-liners of each group would have to move to the center. Instead, because of fear of dominance, we're electing warlords."

Or worse. "For me, it's no different whether we have an Arab Saddam or a Kurdish Saddam," says Mirawdeli. "We need a real, genuine civil society. We don't want nationalism to mask some kind of dictatorship, which is what is happening in Kurdistan."

-----
Be Well,
 
_____________________________________________________________________

Democracy for the Iraqi Assyrians and Chaldeans?
A post from aina.org, the Assyrian International News Agency ( http://www.aina.org/news/20050203140024.htm )
-----
(The Terms of Use don't give me the right to copy the text, else I would have posted it here)
Be Well,
 
_____________________________________________________________________

@ Circular

Ration cards - Ask Raed, he didn't vote and said that people who didn't vote were told they would not be able to use their ration cards. Ask him if he's hungry.

I think he is full of camel dung.

@ Bob

Try not to worry too much. These are probably normal forces at play. They will be mitigated over time. I do not see a sinister plot to stifle the long term aspirations of kurdish independence. The main goal now was to pull off an election. Let things settle down.

If Iraq cannot pull things together over the next few years, and chaos and violence reign, then the independence movement will get more traction (rightfully so in my opinion). The leaders understand themselves that now is not the time.
 
_____________________________________________________________________

Charles,
The problem mentioned in the article is not an attempt to dis-enfranchise the Kurds. Rather, it seems there was a successful attempt(s) to prevent the Chaldo-Assyrians (or Chaldeans and Assyrians) of the Nineveh plains from voting.
Intimidation was used in Mosul, and lack of voting material was used elsewhere. I'm not referring to Islamic extremists or Ba'athists. I'm referring to our Kurdish allies, who have no reason to support democracy for the ChaldoAssyrians, who share neither faith, language, nor ethnicity with their Kurdish neighbors.

So this is the best we can do for now? Aid in the democratic oppression of a people who are slowly being robbed of land and life? Aid in turning Assyria into Kurdistan? Well, at least it's democratic. And, by the way, the Kurds outnumber the combined Assyrian and Chaldean communities (the ChaldoAssyrians), so I guess they have a right to determine things for the Chaldo-Assyrians, many of whom don't even speak Kurdish or Arabic.

Be Well,
 
_____________________________________________________________________

Charles,

My apologies. Having re-read the article, I see that it doesn't mention the ChaldoAssyrians.
I had read the article on a ChaldoAssyrian website ( bethsuryoyo.com ), and had been reading other articles about the suppression of the ChaldoAssyrian vote before returning here to read your response. The second article (which I didn't copy) is a bit more to the point regarding the suppression of the ChaldoAssyrian vote.

By the way--it's interesting to note that in the Syriac/Aramaic/Chaldean/Assyrian/ChaldoAssyrian community/communities the arguments (mostly over ethnicity/national name) can be as heated as our political arguments here.

Be Well,
 
_____________________________________________________________________

Abu Jenifer

"Ration cards - Ask Raed, he didn't vote and said that people who didn't vote were told they would not be able to use their ration cards. Ask him if he's hungry."

Abu Katya is right. I too read Ask Raed and was worried. I picked up the phone and rang the husband of my niece who is a devout Sunni and frequents mosques, etc. He is also a school head master so gets to hear much of teh rumors in town. I asked him if that threat was true and he said he never heard of it!

Bob you are being left out on the Abu business. Please supply name of your eldest child (real or imaginary).
 
_____________________________________________________________________

Abu Khaleel
Looks like all the party leaderships have worked out the results (begs the question why the Commission needs another 10 days to work it out!) as I can see Shahrastani is increasingly sounding Prime Ministerial in his announcements. Interestingly he offered Sunni Arabs the Presidential spot in the morning only to hear Talabani claiming the post for himself in the afternoon. There is nothing like good old fashion horse trading...
My question to you however is where you see us heading with debaathification/rebaathification? We have the chief of staff announcing 50 high ranking officers from the old army have joined and asking for more officers to come forward, in particular from the Republican Guards and Special Forces. Meanwhile Chalabi is rubbing his hands to resume debaathification and Al-Hakim is hinting darkly that no baathist of any description have a role in the new Iraq. Where do you see all this leading to?
 
_____________________________________________________________________

"Now Charles is probably a decent guy, and I could possibly crack a couple of cold ones with him, but not if he started telling me that he was going to have hegemony over me, in the interests of his great nation, or that he was uniquely qualified to tell me how I should live. I’d probably crack the bottles on him rather than with him.
So where do you stand on this "world’s only superpower, do what we want, create our own reality" crap, Charles? Do all your bombs and missiles make you better than me, or just bigger?"

I don’t appear to have received a response to this query. Do I take it, Charles, that no answer means that you endorse the neo-con agenda of world domination?

If you do, then moving right along, do I also take it that you endorse the neo-con approach to implementing this agenda, i.e. through making war with overwhelming force? See, this is what bugs Iraqis like Abu, and observers like me: the fact that overwhelming force inevitably means high levels of "collateral damage," that innocents are going to suffer as you go after "suspected" insurgents and terrorists. At what stage do you become worse than the enemies you are targetting? To get at a few thousand supposed bad guys, the Marines quite happily destroyed a city of 300,000 people, making them homeless and jobless. Where I come from, cities consist of 70% women and children, who don’t have much say in what’s happening. Was Fallujah different, did all the kids have beards and AK47s? Your answer, I gather, is that you can’t wage war without making mistakes. You can’t make an omelette without first strangling the chicken?

Just so as I know to keep my kids out of any hemisphere that you’re in.
Circular
 
_____________________________________________________________________

Abu Khaleel --

I’m sure that this will come as a shock to you, to hear Wolfowitz say this, but:


Wolfowitz Says No Iraq Nationalist Insurgency
3 February 2005.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -

Calling the election "an epoch-making event," Wolfowitz said the turnout showed the violence "is not a nationalist insurgency. It is an unholy alliance of old terrorists and new terrorists" of remnants of deposed President Saddam Hussein (news - web sites)'s regime and "new terrorists drawn from across the region."

… Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, declined to give an estimate of the insurgency in public testimony, but said there were about 1,000 "foreign fighters."

So : not only is there NO national resistance, but they are composed of Baathists and dead enders and the ubiquitous “foreign fighters”. And are merely “terrorists”. (Odd that it takes only 1000 cowardly terrorists to tie down and whup the entire US Army, doncha think?)

And this excerpt from Al Hayat:
What Is Wrong With U.S. Foreign Policy?
Patrick Seale - 2005/01/28

… “In a remarkable new book, Leo Strauss and the Politics of American Empire, Professor Anne Norton of Pennsylvania University wrote that 'The grand strategy that Paul Wolfowitz framed in the wake of 9/11 entailed a plan… for attacking not only Iraq but Syria and southern Lebanon. The United States… would inaugurate a new order in the Middle East. The plan was built conceptually and geographically around the centrality of Israel… States surrounding Israel, states which presented a threat to Israel, would be attacked - pre-emptively.'
Professor Norton commented: 'This strategy could be understood as advancing American interests and security only if one saw those as identical to the interests and security of the state of Israel.' ”

Despite my initial scepticism on the fanatical US/Israel link, it appears that the theories of these Professor Norton types are becoming reality through events on the ground.

Conclusion? Wolfowitz is talking the usual crap, and spouting the usual rhetoric, and is indeed looking to the elections as a means of legitimising massive violence. What a shock, I’m sure. Feith has probably left to invent fairy tales about Iran … it takes a while to invent all those casus belli lies, you know.

After Bush’s big speech, I am left in no doubt that Iran / Syria are next on the chopping block. This should be good; Iraq is not even close to stable, and our cowboy friend wants to take on others already. Enjoy the draft, all you war pimps. I suspect you will be visiting the Middle East a lot sooner than you think. Don’t forget the nets to catch all the flowers that will be tossed to you. :|

(Iran, btw, will not be the pushover that poor old sanctions – gutted Iraq was. They have some serious hardware there … more in fact, than the US has in the entire Iraq at the moment.)

On the Ration Card Rumour --
Check out Raed’s latest post on the matter.
The actual event (no vote = no food) is a lie, but the rumour of it being real is indeed fairly widespread – though hardly universal, as Abu Hadi was kind enough to point out. I would like to know who started that story. Charles, btw, Raed never claimed that the rumour was genuine, he said it existed.

There is a difference.
 
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The Ration System 1. The system was introduced immediately after the sanctions.

2. There was some fraud and inaccuracies, but these were successfully weeded out during the first year. After that, it was quite accurate and equitable. It worked without a hitch for more than a decade.

3. It was computerized and centrally managed but locally administered. It survived the post-invasion chaos.

4. Many of the objections to the early introduction of democracy were erroneously based on the argument of lack of census. But the census was there all the time. My evidence is that the same system was used without any modification in the last election!

5. The system is based on neighborhoods. The ration agents are mostly local grocers who catered for 400 – 1000 families.

6. I was not talking ‘pie in the sky’ with my grass roots democracy. It was not ‘theoretical’! It could have been implemented in a matter of weeks. But it was politically undesirable, not on practical grounds. Anyway, I cannot see any chance for it now in the post-election set-up.

7. I cannot see any government discarding the system soon. With high unemployment and the absence of any social security systems, the rations are a life-line for millions. Besides, the money comes from nationally-owned oil, not taxes.

RumorsSeveral rumors were rife in the lead up to the elections, eg

Those who do not vote will be deprived from future rations.
If you vote for slate 169, Sistani will be responsible to God for your action. If you don’t, it is your responsibility!!
Those who had voting ink on their fingers would be targeted and killed.

But all those were just rumors... and rumors are difficult to find the source of!!

De-BaathificationThe slate 169 people and Moqtada’s people are adamant about de-baathification.

Allawi, on the other hand, is quite active in sending out messengers to former senior Baathists for ‘consultation’.

So I suppose that this will be a hot political issue in the months to come.

I am for reconciliation. People who are on the right side of the law should be allowed to play the democratic game… much like post-Soviet Russia, especially that they no longer have a political edge.
Kurds, I feel it would be wiser for America to advocate the cause of the Kurds in stable, democratic and US-friendly Turkey. There are a lot more Kurds there who are in need of some basic rights. Fragile and devastated Iraq can wait a while, especially that there is no eminent danger of Kurds being oppressed at the moment. What should concern us now is to avert civil strife in Iraq at any cost. I think I have already stated my position on this issue.

Europe has been doing a lot more positive work there than the US… why?

And I fear the Bob is right. The Christians have a lot to fear under the present set-up.
 
_____________________________________________________________________

Hello Abu Khaleel,
Why is it that if I let go of an apple it always drops, never rises? The heroic election result is as predicted
shiite religious victory with many seculars and most sunnis staying home and kurds doing their own thing. LOL, Talibani for 'sunni' president! Having remained quiet for 4 whole months, Moqtada speaks again, powerfully. The seeds of a civil war in a couple years are there for everyone to see.
As you pointed out the same GC game again. Am I just being negative? Iraqis want real democracy--your kind of democracy--but 'reality democracy' as in reality TV gets better ratings. But Iraq is 'free,free,free'!

One good bit of news, they are dropping the US troop level by 10% if you can believe liar Rumsfeld.

At least Bush got his post-inaugrual bounce. Did you see the photos of hysterical red US congressmen holding up purple fingers at the State of the Union address!
 
_____________________________________________________________________

Abu Anon

"Having remained quiet for 4 whole months, Moqtada speaks again, powerfully. The seeds of a civil war in a couple years are there for everyone to see."

And sunni clerics also said they would accept election outcomes...

Glass half full or half empty?

Things will be better or worse? Of course, if radicals decide to foment chaos and anarchy, then there will be chaos and anarchy. You seem to rejoice at the prospect!

"One good bit of news, they are dropping the US troop level by 10% if you can believe liar Rumsfeld."

Its true, but its not really a reduction. They are simply drawing down forces that should have already left Iraq, but were extended to help in election security.

Abu Katya
 
_____________________________________________________________________

"Now Charles is probably a decent guy, and I could possibly crack a couple of cold ones with him,"

Yeeee-haaaaw - I relish the thought! Thanks.

"but not if he started telling me that he was going to have hegemony over me,"

What? Are you the kiwi? Look, stick to butter and mutton. The US is a powerful country. On a macro level, this is a very good thing (not just for US). On a micro level, I'm sure you can find examples of bad decisions executed for good causes that not everyone is happy with.

"in the interests of his great nation,"

The US has stood as a bulwark against tyranny and protector of the civilized world for generations. I'm sure if roles were reversed, the Kiwis would do a decent job too. As things stand, what would folks like you and say, the canadians, accomplish in the face of major historical threats? Would your military and economic clout long stay the dastardy intentions of your foes?

"or that he was uniquely qualified to tell me how I should live."

Ah- yes - The US is oppressing the free peoples of the world and forcing them to, uh, to, uh... What are we forcing them to do?

"I’d probably crack the bottles on him rather than with him."

That's not nice.

"So where do you stand on this "world’s only superpower, do what we want, create our own reality" crap, Charles?"

Rather than arbitrary assertions and socialist innuendo, you may want to consider the alternatives. I think if the US had not pursued a very liberal, outgoing, and generous foreign policy since WWII, the world would be a very different place today. Not necessarily better. What do you think? What would the political landscapes of Europe and Asia look like?

"Do all your bombs and missiles make you better than me, or just bigger?"

Bigger - and more capable to do the right thing. But - ah yes - since we know absolutely that tyrannical regimes foment massive destruction and slaughter (I'm just speaking historically here), then we should in fact not consider them as threats and realize they are just decent folks who are misunderstood. Hey - let's give them equal votes at the US and appoint them to the Human rights commission - jeeeze, I never thought of that!

"I don’t appear to have received a response to this query. Do I take it, Charles, that no answer means that you endorse the neo-con agenda of world domination?"

Hmmmm. I'm not qualified to discuss neo-con agenda. But I do think it would be better for the world if the kiwis got on board and did something to help.

"If you do, then moving right along, do I also take it that you endorse the neo-con approach to implementing this agenda, i.e. through making war with overwhelming force?"

Hmmmm. Overwhelming? Would you rather try to underwhelm your enemies? I guess you are using a bit of hyperbole here since it is quite obvious that US has used only a tiny fraction of the firepower at its disposal. Remember the good old days of indescriminate carpet bombing?

"See, this is what bugs Iraqis like Abu, and observers like me: the fact that overwhelming force inevitably means high levels of "collateral damage," that innocents are going to suffer as you go after "suspected" insurgents and terrorists."

Ask the French if the tens of thousands of civilian casualties suffered during the liberation of France, and the leveling of dozens of cities and towns, was worth it. I would argue that in Iraq, the use of brute force is far more focused. Ask the Marines who have to go house to house and engage in close combat if they wouldn't prefer a few fuel air bombs to risking their own necks.

"At what stage do you become worse than the enemies you are targetting? To get at a few thousand supposed bad guys, the Marines quite happily destroyed a city of 300,000 people, making them homeless and jobless."

Freedom ain't free. What would it have cost to set the precedent of Iraqi government allowing insurgents and terrorists to occupy Iraqi towns unopposed? Would that embolden the baddies? Would more cities fall under their control? Could they eventually prevail in this struggle and set Iraq back? Would there have been elections and the beginnings of democracy if the baddies win? I agree it really sucks that the Fallujans didn't kick the bad guys out when they were warned repeatedly. Too bad the baddies didn't leave by themselves if they cared so much for the city and its people. Its not as if the US pulled a surprise attack. They gave weeks of warning knowing that, while it gave civilians the chance to decide what they wanted, it also allowed the insurgents to better prepare - meaning that the battle was tougher than it had to be.

"Was Fallujah different, did all the kids have beards and AK47s?"

Or, you could look at it that the percentage of baddies was far smaller than the percentage of able bodied men.

"Your answer, I gather, is that you can’t wage war without making mistakes. You can’t make an omelette without first strangling the chicken?"

OK. Faced with the strategic and tactical concerns of the government, what would you have done?

Abu Katya
 
_____________________________________________________________________

Charles from Circular
I don’t want to get into one of these "I said" "you said" quotation battles, I consider them tedious for other readers.
To me, your most important statement was "Hmmmm. I'm not qualified to discuss neo-con agenda." Since that was what I was asking about, there seems little possibility of communication.
Just one point: I consider that historical parallels or comparisons with WW2 are very largely irrelevant to the present situation - that was "total war" with accompanying tactics, very different to what’s happening now. And just for the record, the British Commonwealth was in the war against the fascist dictatorships for years longer than the US was, with proportionately much higher casualties and sacrifices. (And anyway the deciding factor in the end was 300+ Soviet divisions.)
My problem is that the openly stated neo-con aims of domination sound to me a bit too much like Hitler’s aims of Aryan supremacy. But since you’re not prepared to read their material, there’s no point in talking about it.
"OK. Faced with the strategic and tactical concerns of the government, what would you have done?"
Before 9/11, terrorists were treated more as an irritant. The response of going after them in their home base was a unified world reaction, and partly successful. (And Kiwi troops are still there. Bush recently awarded the NZ SAS (special forces) unit a Presidential Unit Citation for their work in the mountains.) The next step would have been to talk very seriously with the major sources of Islamic terrorist extremism, ie Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
Invading Iraq was nothing to do with Islamic terrorism, it was just seizing an opportunity to pursue the neo-con agenda of hegemony in the Middle East.
What I would have done was either not conquer a country for spurious reasons, or if I felt it was absolutely and urgently necessary then used sufficient forces to do it properly, like your generals wanted to. And made a genuine effort at rebuilding afterwards.
Instead of this present half-assed approach which so far seems to be heading towards a theocracy-dominated Iraq hostile to US interests. But without acknowledging the neo-con agenda, you can’t acknowledge how much they have screwed the pooch.
Isn’t it better for the biggest and strongest kid in the playground to be a quiet and friendly influence for order among the little ones, rather than picking on the ugly ones at random and trying to grab their lollies?
 
_____________________________________________________________________

@ Circular

"I don’t want to get into one of these "I said" "you said" quotation battles, I consider them tedious for other readers."

Tedious for readers and writers.

"Since that was what I was asking about, there seems little possibility of communication."

The policy aims regarding Iraq were based on the exact same aims of previous administration. Its all public info. The same arguments. The same rhetoric. Read speeches, congressional digest, etc. Was Clinton a neocon?

"I made it equally clear that if Saddam failed to cooperate fully we would be prepared to act without delay, diplomacy or warning, ... The best way to end that threat once and for all is with a new Iraqi government -- a government ready to live in peace with its neighbors, a government that respects the rights of its people,"

Just one point: I consider that historical parallels or comparisons with WW2 are very largely irrelevant to the present situation - that was "total war" with accompanying tactics, very different to what’s happening now."

OK. The Brits and French should have crushed Hitler in 1936 by preemptively invading Rhineland and Ruhr. The Brits and French should have actively engaged hitler in 1940 after war was declared while they outnumbered him on western front. Churchill couldn't believe that German soldiers were operating in the open in front of French lines. The French said that they didn't want to 'provoke' the Germans.

"And just for the record, the British Commonwealth was in the war against the fascist dictatorships for years longer than the US was, with proportionately much higher casualties and sacrifices. (And anyway the deciding factor in the end was 300+ Soviet divisions.)"

Agreed on all points. Who was the Kiwi general at Dunkirk who ordered his brigade to fix bayonetes and cross enemy lines at night?

Anyway, my point was about post WWII. The US protected the west from the Soviets. Fact.

"Before 9/11, terrorists were treated more as an irritant."

That was obviously a costly mistake.

"The response of going after them in their home base was a unified world reaction, and partly successful."

I don't think many Presidents would have done it. Sanctions. Cruise missiles. Tough talk. That would have been it.

"(And Kiwi troops are still there. Bush recently awarded the NZ SAS (special forces) unit a Presidential Unit Citation for their work in the mountains.)"

Why are kiwis in Afghanistan? The taliban never attacked anyone! They didn't cause 9/11.

"The next step would have been to talk very seriously with the major sources of Islamic terrorist extremism, ie Saudi Arabia and Pakistan."

Within hours of 9/11, Pakistan received an ultimatum from US. One of those "with us or against us" calls. I'm sure plenty of those calls were made.

"Invading Iraq was nothing to do with Islamic terrorism, it was just seizing an opportunity to pursue the neo-con agenda of hegemony in the Middle East."

I disagree entirely. The whole status quo in ME was a failure. Saddam's bad resume put him at top of the list of baddies and it would be far more dangerous to leave example of SOB disregarding UNSC ultimatums. He supported terrorists who formed part ofthe fabric of ME terrorism. Our 'containment' forces in SA (holy land) were propaganda for enemy,etc., etc., etc. Saddam had to go.

"then used sufficient forces to do it properly, like your generals wanted to."

Would 50% more soldiers have really made a difference? Would that not have exacerbated tensions even further? The overthrow was quick and forces reasonable. The rest of the world failed to help the Iraqi's stabilize country. The peace loving world ended up giving moral support to the enemy. BTW - thanks!

"And made a genuine effort at rebuilding afterwards.
Instead of this present half-assed approach which so far seems to be heading towards a theocracy-dominated Iraq hostile to US interests."

Thanks for the help! Your commitment to freedom and reconstruction in Iraq has been duly noted! Its funny - really - don't invade - invade with more troops - help iraq more - but we aren't going to lift a finger other than to condemn every effort and sacrifice you make...

"Isn’t it better for the biggest and strongest kid in the playground to be a quiet and friendly influence for order among the little ones, rather than picking on the ugly ones at random and trying to grab their lollies?"

"The little one's?"

Even the smallest has the potential power to destroy the strongest.

"Picking on the ugly ones at random?"

Saddam was ugly, but not in the cute playground sense. He was not chosen at random.

If you and those like you would stop giving moral support to the enemy, and tried to help Iraq get back on its feet, then the chances are much higher that fewer people will suffer, and that Iraq will be a stable, representative democracy positively influencing the region for decades to come. This region needs some positive influences. You are not helping the good guys.
 
_____________________________________________________________________

Charles,

I apologize for quoting you (below) from a context not directed towards me:
"If you and those like you would stop giving moral support to the enemy, "
In your first response to me in this thread, you said "I do not see a sinister plot to stifle the long term aspirations of kurdish independence. The main goal now was to pull off an election. Let things settle down.

If Iraq cannot pull things together over the next few years, and chaos and violence reign, then the independence movement will get more traction (rightfully so in my opinion). The leaders understand themselves that now is not the time."

I quote now from a post to the forum at bethsuryoyo.com:
"Written by Theologian on 04 Feb 2005 03:33:56:

As an answer to: Protest in Toronto against atrocious Acts of KDP and US passivity in Nineveh written by Shamiran on 03 Feb 2005 21:32:53:

Matthew 12:41

The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it:

Because the Kurds prevented them from voting, and the Allied forces allowed that to happen.

Thus said the Lord.
"

In this case, your words are aiding and abetting the case of those who have been targetting the native Chaldean and Assyrian communities at least since the early 1990s. As you may have observed, I myself, while I detested Saddam, was opposed to the war. However, the Assyrians and Chaldeans (the ChaldoAssyrians) have supported the liberation of Iraq (their homeland, their families). Unlike the Kurds, who had a safe haven in the north, the ChaldoAssyrians were often targetted by the Kurds in the north, and Saddam in the south. And here you apparently calmly say that it's simply just not quite the time for Kurdistan?!?!
My anger is because I have first spent years searching for information here in the states about the embattled ChaldoAssyrian community, while information about the Kurds, though scarce, was being published. When I discovered the on-line Assyrian/Chaldean/Suryaya... community, I started reading of CURRENT oppression (1999-2002) of ChaldoAssyrians by the Kurds, as well as the on-going oppression by Saddam. I read of Chaldeans being driven from their villages, which were then appropriated by Kurds. I read of Assyrian and Chaldean girls kidnapped by Kurds, to be forced to marry Kurds (sometimes as 2nd, 3rd, or 4th wives). I read of murders, and of a lack of response by Kurdish authorities.
When I discussed the upcoming invasion with local Assyrians in 2003, they started speaking of the dangers of Shi'ite radicalism. Within a couple months at the most I started reading of the armed wing of SCIRI terrorisng Assyrians and Chaldeans in southern Iraq. Now this community was being targetted both in the north and in the south, both by Kurds and by radical Shi'ites. Soon, as the Ba'ath and radical Sunni opposition grew, I read of individuals and families targetted by radical Islamists and/or by anti-American forces. Entire families were sometimes killed. At other times, only the children were slaughtered. And during this, I read of the increasing frustration of the ChaldoAssyrians towards Bremer et al, who seemed to be purposefully excluding them from any official recognition. Mullahs and imams could take part in official American-sponsored ceremonies. Priests, bishops and patriarchs were not invited.

Be Well,
Abu Billy
 
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Abu Billy,

I must admit my ignorance yet again. The assyrian plight doesn't get much coverage anywhere. Keep pressing people to pay attention. I will look into it.

Its a damn shame if the Iraqi's waste this opportunity, and the new Shia and Kurd majorities simply take power and start new oppressive regimes of their own.

A damn shame.

It takes a long time for democratic culture to take hold and function as a legitimate mechanism to regulate and minimize discrimination. What you are talking about is closer to genocide than to simple racial/ethnic discrimination.
 
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"The policy aims regarding Iraq were based on the exact same aims of previous administration. Its all public info. The same arguments. The same rhetoric. Read speeches, congressional digest, etc. Was Clinton a neocon?"
CHARLES! You have not done the homework I set you! You did not read up on neo-cons! You still think they are Action Man dolls. NAUGHTY BOY!
Regarding the rest of your post, let me clarify my country’s position, and hopefully in the process clear up some of your confusion. (You will understand that I speak here as though enjoying the confidence of our Government, which of course I don’t, but I think I understand their views.)
1) NZ sent its SAS to Afghanistan to help out with the urgent job of nailing Bin Laden after 9/11. Just being neighbourly.
2) NZ is currently in Afghanistan as part of the UN mission, same as its been all over the world (in a small way) for the past 60 years.
3) NZ was invited to join the Coalition of the Willing in 2003 specifically to get rid of WMD in Iraq. Nothing else. Remember Colin Powell showing dirty pictures at the UN. Nothing about regime change or bringing Freedom and Democracy was mentioned. Just WMD and links with you know who.
4) Being a good law-abiding little nation, we checked with the UN about WMD, and they said, Nah, we’ve looked, ain’t none. The war’s illegal. So we said no thanks, pass on this one.
And guess what, Charles, guess what, guess what: there were no WMD’s. Not even an itty bitty baby one. Weren’t we smart to pass on that one!
5) After "mission accomplished," NZ was invited by the Brits or UN to help out with reconstruction. The Brits said it was safe, so we made two deployments of Army Engineers to Basra, building irrigation and schools and all. Unfortunately some loony Marine Generals for some loony Marine reason decided to stir things up in Najaf, and the South became distinctly unsafe, our boys weren’t getting any work done, so we cancelled the third deployment. Security was the Brits’ responsibility, not ours.
6) Far as I know we’ve never been invited back. If we were, I imagine the conversation would go something like this:
"Hi there, Helen babe, lissen, we got this lil ‘surgency on our hands, y’all like to come and hep out, hep us deal to them terrists?"
"George babe, who would be running the show."
"Well, us, nat’rally, it’s our war."
"Thanks very much, George, but my military advice is that when it comes to dealin’ to a "surgency, y’all don’t know sausage. Y’all ain’t learned nuthin’ since Viet Nam, you cain’t win hearts’n’minds to save yoselves. And we got no innerest in makin’ profits for Halliburton an’ Bechtel an’ all. We hep’d you out in Viet Nam, and you sprayed our boys with Agent Orange. Y’all gunna have to clean up yor own mess." (I’m afraid I have no idea why Helen started speaking in Texan.)
I understand that 90% of the countries in the world think much the same way. We are not alone.
Circular
p.s. There were no NZ formations at Dunkirk.
 
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"p.s. There were no NZ formations at Dunkirk."

Quite right! Now I am beside myself digging through history books to recall what the hell made me think that.

Was it Alan Brooke's people? Was it the final battle at Dunkirk or simply the French/BEF retreat? If it was kiwi's then in fact it must have been africa!

Damn.

Maybe it was just a bunch of bloody highlanders. My mind says France. Surrounded - holding action - and Brooke finally gives orders to fix bayonets and make a night breakout through enemy lines to beach head...

Someone help me out here...
 
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You are possibly thinking of Minqar in the Western Desert where the NZ Division fought a breakout battle after being surrounded by the Afrika Corps.
 
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Hello, I just wanted to post a comment on how well you have put your Blog together. I was doing a search for home based business lead and came across your Blog. I personally run my own Blog for home based business leadhome based business lead so I know a good Blog when I see one.
 
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uh.......yep politics, democracy, it's all a load of confusing poo, i mean who needs it. Anyways i wanted to say that you're blog is too long, shorten it, and put a bit of comedy in them i mean who wants to hear about politics all day, not me....thats why i'm leaving your blog now.
Bye!!!!!
 
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