Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Op-Ed, Today/abs-cbnNEWS.com
January 24, 2005.

"[H]istory repeats itself with horrifying predictability," wrote Greg Palast last year. "First as farce and then as Presidency."

In the face of an impending conflagration, its feet firmly planted on rapidly disappearing sand, the US colossus gazes at Iraq - at the theater that has largely defined its apocalyptic vision for the world - and releases unintentionally from its eyes an astonishing lightning bolt of truth: "the survival of liberty in [America] increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands."

The empire tells us that the land it continues to occupy is on the verge of its "first free and democratic elections." Come January 30, we are told, a new Iraqi dawn will be at hand - the dawn of US-imposed democracy.

Glory be and all that; paradise is just around the corner. Democracy is struggling but will soon thrive in the occupied land. Over 15 million Iraqis are said to be eligible to vote. Of Iraq's 18 provinces, only four, we are told, will be unable to join the elections. All is well, until you realize that these four provinces contain more than half the population of Iraq.

America trumpets the fact that the party names of 111 slates of Iraqi candidates are already known. Good news, until one comes across a pallid fact: "the names of 19,000 individual candidates for seats in the National Assembly and for provincial councils are being withheld" - hehe, no one knows who they are, in short - "to prevent them being targeted by the insurgency."

Paradise indeed. Ignorance is bliss.

"It is the policy of the United States," huffed George W. Bush in his second inaugural address, "to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture."

Nice policy. Bush is merely following a long American tradition.

Who remembers the first ever memorandum issued by America's National Security Council?

In 1948, fearing that popular democratic forces in Italy were on the verge of coming to power through legitimate democratic means, the US issued National Security Council Memorandum 1 which stipulated that if the Italian Left won the elections, the US "must declare a national emergency: the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean should be put on alert, the United States should start subversive activities in Italy to overthrow the Italian government and . . . begin contingency plans for direct military intervention."

Intervention if America's opponents won - this was the view held at the time by 'moderates' in the US government. Others, such as the alleged humanist George Kennan, a leading architect of US strategy during the Truman administration, advocated the outright invasion of Italy even before the elections were held.

Under conditions of occupation and war, how legitimate would a national election in Iraq be? Good question.

Some in the UN claim that there are precedents to the January 30 Iraqi vote - the UN-run election in East Timor, for instance. Not true said Phyllis Bennis, a tribune of the global anti-war movement. "The 1999 vote was not to select a puppet 'government' to administer East Timor under continuing Indonesian occupation." It was, Bennis said, "a direct referendum on whether or not to end the occupation - a choice never offered to Iraqis."

Should Britain "have supplied election monitors to Vichy France?" a letter-writer from The Hague asked the International Herald Tribune last December.
[4] Another good question. And a rather irrelevant one: reporting from Iraq, the chief correspondent of the Sydney Morning Herald Paul McGeough writes that not a single international observer dares to cross the border from Jordan to monitor Iraq's famed first free democratic exercise.

Journalism yields a world of cliches, says the distinguished war correspondent Robert Fisk from Baghdad. "But here, for once, the first cliche that comes to mind is true. Baghdad is a city of fear. Fearful Iraqis, fearful militiamen, fearful American soldiers, fearful journalists."

Iyad Allawi and the rest of the US-appointed entourage, said Fisk in a recent interview, "behave like statesmen when they tour the world or turn up in Washington, but in Baghdad they're not even safe inside their little Green Zone. They're not even the Mayor of Baghdad."

Why is not such a smart question.

Fisk has a morbid calculator - a highly accurate device that can only be acquired by a reporter who has covered the ghastly wars in Lebanon, the Gulf, Kosovo and Algeria.

"My own calculations - probably conservative, because there are many violent acts that we are never told about," wrote Fisk last January 3, "suggest that in the past 12 months, at least 190 suicide bombers have blown themselves up, sometimes at the rate of two a day . . . Time was, in Lebanon, when a suicide bombing was a once-a-month event. Or in Palestine/Israel a once-a-week event. Now, in Iraq, it is daily or twice daily."

"The people of England have been led in Mesopotamia into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honour. They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information. The Baghdad communiques are belated, insincere, incomplete. Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient that the public knows... We are today not far from a disaster."

So wrote TE Lawrence - Lawrence of Arabia - in The Sunday Times in August 1920. And he could just as well have been referring to America.

[1] "Voter turnout won't be enough to legitimize the election," Paul McGeough, Sydney Morning Herald, January 21, 2005.
[2] Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky, ed. Peter R. Mitchell and John Schoeffel, The New Press, 2002.
[3] "Iraqi elections, Phyllis Bennis, ZNet, December 20, 2004.
[4] "Stop pointing fingers," Letter to the Editor by John Simpson-The Hague, the International Herald Tribune, December 16, 2004.
[5] "Fear and voting in Baghdad," Robert Fisk, The Seattle Post Intelligencer, January 14, 2005.
[6] Transcript of radio interview of Robert Fisk by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, January 3, 2005.
[7] "A mire of death, lies and atrocities," Robert Fisk, The Independent-UK, January 3, 2005.

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