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Year 2005 No. 18, February 4, 2005 ARCHIVE HOME JBBOOKS SUBSCRIBE

Fraudulent and Illegal Iraqi Election

Workers' Daily Internet Edition: Article Index :

What They’re Not Telling You About the "Election"

Reading the Iraqi Elections

The Iraqi Ballot, Translated

Iraqis Boycott Election Fraud
An Open Letter on the Election, January 29, 2005

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What They’re Not Telling You About the "Election"

by Dahr Jamail, Iraq Dispatches, February 1st, 2005

The day of blood and elections has passed, and the blaring trumpets of corporate media hailing it as a successful show of "democracy" have subsided to a dull roar.

After a day which left 50 people dead in Iraq, both civilians and soldiers, the death toll was hailed as a figure that was "lower than expected". Thus…acceptable, by Bush Administration/corporate media standards. After all, only of them was an American, the rest were Iraqis civilians and British soldiers.

The gamble of using the polling day in Iraq to justify the ongoing failed occupation of Iraq has apparently paid off, if you watch only mainstream media.

"Higher than expected turnout," US mainstream television media blared, some citing a figure of 72%, others 60%.

What they didn’t tell you was that this figure was provided by Farid Ayar, the spokesman for the Independent Electoral Commission for Iraq (IECI) before the polls had even closed.

When asked about the accuracy of the estimate of voter turnout during a press conference, Ayar backtracked on his earlier figure, saying that a closer estimate was lower than his initial estimate and would be more like 60% of registered voters.

The IECI spokesman said his previous figure of 72% was "only guessing" and "was just an estimate", which was based on "very rough, word-of mouth estimates gathered informally from the field. It will take some time for the IECI to issue accurate figures on turnout."

Referencing both figures, Ayar then added, "Percentages and numbers come only after counting and will be announced when it's over ... It's too soon to say that those were the official numbers."

But this isn’t the most important misrepresentation the mainstream media committed.

What they also didn’t tell you was that of those who voted, whether they be 35% or even 60% of registered voters, were not voting in support of an ongoing US occupation of their country.

In fact, they were voting for precisely the opposite reason. Every Iraqi I have spoken with who voted explained that they believe the National Assembly which will be formed soon will signal an end to the occupation.

And they expect the call for a withdrawing of foreign forces in their country to come sooner rather than later.

This causes one to view the footage of cheering, jubilant Iraqis in a different light now, doesn’t it?

But then, most folks in the US watching CNN, FOX, or any of the major networks won’t see it that way. Instead, they will hear what Mr. Bush said, "The world is hearing the voice of freedom from the centre of the Middle East," and take it as fact because most of the major media outlets aren’t scratching beneath film clips of joyous Iraqi voters over here in the land of daily chaos and violence, no jobs, no electricity, little running water and no gasoline (for the Iraqis anyhow).

And Bush is portrayed by the media as the bringer of democracy to Iraq by the simple fact that this so-called election took place, botched as it may have been. Appearances suggest that the majority Shia in Iraq now finally get their proportional representation in a "government". Looks good on paper.

But as you continue reading, the seemingly altruistic reasons for this election as portrayed by the Bush Administration and trumpeted by most mainstream media are anything but.

And Iraqis who voted are hearing other trumpets that are blaring an end to the occupation.

Now the question remains, what happens when the National Assembly is formed and over 100,000 US soldiers remain on the ground in Iraq with the Bush Administration continuing in its refusal to provide a timetable for their removal?

What happens when Iraqis see that while there are already four permanent US military bases in their country, rather than beginning to disassemble them, more bases are being constructed, as they are, by Cheney’s old company Halliburton, right now?

Antonia Juhasz, a Foreign Policy in Focus scholar, authored a piece just before the "election" that sheds light on a topic that has lost attention amidst the recent fanfare concerning the polls in Iraq.


I think it’s worth including much of her story here, as it fits well with today’s topic of things most folks aren’t being told by the bringers of democracy to the heart of the Middle East.

On Dec. 22, 2004, Iraqi Finance Minister Abdel Mahdi told a handful of reporters and industry insiders at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. that Iraq wants to issue a new oil law that would open Iraq's national oil company to private foreign investment. As Mahdi explained: "So I think this is very promising to the American investors and to American enterprise, certainly to oil companies."

In other words, Mahdi is proposing to privatise Iraq's oil and put it into American corporate hands.

According to the finance minister, foreigners would gain access both to "downstream" and "maybe even upstream" oil investment. This means foreigners can sell Iraqi oil and own it under the ground – the very thing for which many argue the US went to war in the first place.

As Vice President Dick Cheney's Defence Policy Guidance report explained back in 1992, "Our overall objective is to remain the predominant outside power in the [Middle East] region and preserve US and Western access to the region's oil."

While few in the American media other than Emad Mckay of Inter Press Service reported on – or even attended – Mahdi’s press conference, the announcement was made with US Undersecretary of State Alan Larson at Mahdi's side. It was intended to send a message – but to whom?

It turns out that Abdel Mahdi is running in the Jan. 30 elections on the ticket of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution (SCIR), the leading Shiite political party. While announcing the selling-off of the resource which provides 95 percent of all Iraqi revenue may not garner Mahdi many Iraqi votes, but it will unquestionably win him tremendous support from the US government and US corporations.

Mahdi's SCIR is far and away the front-runner in the upcoming elections, particularly as it becomes increasingly less possible for Sunnis to vote because the regions where they live are spiralling into deadly chaos. If Bush were to suggest to Iraq’s Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi that elections should be called off, Mahdi and the SCIR's ultimate chances of victory will likely decline.

I’ll add that the list of political parties Mahdi’s SCIR belongs to, The United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), includes the Iraqi National Council, which is led by an old friend of the Bush Administration who provided the faulty information they needed to justify the illegal invasion of Iraq, none other than Ahmed Chalabi.

It should also be noted that interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi also fed the Bush Administration cooked information used to justify the invasion, but he heads a different Shia list which will most likely be getting nearly as many votes as the UIA list.

And The UIA has the blessing of Iranian born revered Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Sistani issued a fatwa which instructed his huge number of followers to vote in the election, or they would risk going to hell.

Thus, one might argue that the Bush administration has made a deal with the SCIR: Iraq's oil for guaranteed political power. The Americans are able to put forward such a bargain because Bush still holds the strings in Iraq.

Regardless of what happens in the elections, for at least the next year during which the newly elected National Assembly writes a constitution and Iraqis vote for a new government, the Bush administration is going to control the largest pot of money available in Iraq (the $24 billion in US taxpayer money allocated for the reconstruction), the largest military and the rules governing Iraq's economy. Both the money and the rules will, in turn, be overseen by US-appointed auditors and inspector generals who sit in every Iraqi ministry with five-year terms and sweeping authority over contracts and regulations. However, the one thing which the administration has not been unable to confer upon itself is guaranteed access to Iraqi oil – that is, until now.

And there is so much more they are not telling you. Just like the Iraqis who voted, believing they did so to bring an end to the occupation of their country. Sabah Jawad agrees that Iraqis voted to end the occupation. In addition, Jawad denounces the elections as being anything but free and fair and argues, "If Iraq's elections had taken place anywhere else, they would have been denounced by the 'international community' as hopelessly flawed. If they had happened in Zimbabwe, they would have been cited by the White House as a reason for 'regime change' and possible invasion." Jawad's rationale:

"o [The election] took place under a state of emergency. The usual practice in authoritarian regimes is to lift a state of emergency during an election in order to give the appearance of normality and free choice. In occupied Iraq, the opposite happened.

o The election commission was appointed by the US and remains secret.

o The identity of most of the candidates themselves was also kept hidden.

o Occupation forces and Iraqi police have been pictured putting up posters for the party list of Iyad Allawi, the pro-occupation puppet "interim prime minister".

o The international observers sent to monitor the vote in fact didn't set foot in the country and "observed" from Amman in Jordan.

o Then there is the small matter of the brutal repression of people by the occupation. Over 300,000 people were driven from their homes in the city of Fallujah alone."

Article Index

Reading the Iraqi Elections

by Phyllis Bennis, Institute for Policy Studies, February 1st, 2005

** The millions of Iraqis who came out for the elections were voting their hopes for an end to violence and occupation, and a better life; their hopes are not likely to be met.

** George Bush will be the major victor in this election, using it to claim legitimacy for his occupation of Iraq. This election does not mean that the invasion and occupation of Iraq is legitimate – democracy cannot be imposed at the point of a gun.

** The election, held under military occupation and not meeting international criteria, including those of the Carter Centre, remains illegitimate; legitimacy is not determined by the number of people voting.

** Even the expected victory of Shi'a-led political parties is not likely to result in the new assembly calling for an immediate withdrawal of US troops.

** US domination of Iraq 's economic, political and social life will continue through the military occupation and the continuing control of money, the legal system, and political patronage.

** The US has a long history of using elections held under conditions of war and occupation to legitimise its illegal wars – the January 2005 elections in Iraq mirror the 1967 election held in South Viet Nam, also held to give credibility to Washington 's puppet government.

The individual Iraqis who came out to vote clearly were very brave and eager to reclaim control of their country. They were voting for their hopes, for secure streets so children can go to school, for electricity and clean water, for jobs, and mostly for an end to the US occupation. The elections, however, are unlikely to achieve any of those goals; the violence is likely to continue, perhaps even increase. The US occupation is STILL the problem, not the solution, in Iraq, and only bringing the US troops home, not imposing elections under continuing occupation, will lead to an end of violence.

Millions of Iraqis participated in the election, but it is still unclear how many. International journalists were limited to five polling stations in Baghdad, four of which were in Shi'a districts with expected high turnout. The US-backed election commission in Iraq originally announced a 72% participation immediately after the polls closed, then downscaled that to "near 60%" – actually claiming about 57% turnout. But those figures are all still misleading. The Washington Post reported (two days after the vote, on page 7 of the Style section) that the 60% figure is based on the claim that 8 million out of 14 million eligible Iraqis turned out. But the 14 million figure itself is misleading, because it only includes those registered Iraqis, not the 18 million actually eligible voters.

Similarly, the claim of very high voter participation among Iraqi exiles is misleading, since only 280,000 or so Iraqis abroad even registered, out of about 1.2 million qualified to register and vote. The participation of women, both as candidates (imposed by the US-backed electoral law) and as voters, was significant, but key demands of Iraqi women, particularly involving economic and social rights disproportionately denied to women, are unlikely to be met through this electoral process.

At least in the short term, George Bush will emerge as the major winner in this election, through the false propaganda claim that Iraqi participation and enthusiasm for the elections somehow equals legitimacy for his continued occupation and the preventive war that put it in place. This is the latest effort to identify mileposts "on the road to freedom" in Iraq – earlier ones included the " Mission accomplished" claim, the capture of Saddam Hussein, the "transfer of sovereignty," and none of them led to freedom, independence and security for Iraqis. In fact, Bush's false claim of legitimacy continues to hold the Iraqi population and the 150,000 US soldiers hostage to his agenda and occupation.

The Bush administration's goal is to increase the legitimacy of the occupation and the broader Iraq project, including a more vigorous counter-insurgency war, in the eyes of Americans and international public and governmental opinion.

This may lead to some European leaders, in particular, eager to rejoin the Bush bandwagon, to use the election's "success" as the basis for challenging their own population's continuing opposition to the US occupation. The president of the European Commission, José Manual Baroso, congratulated the Iraqi people for their courage, and said that the election represented "European values".

It is a huge insult to the people of Iraq to claim that enthusiasm for democracy only emerged when it was "offered" to Iraq in the form of elections imposed under the conditions of military occupation.

The Iraqi election was not legitimate. It was held under conditions of a hostile military foreign occupation. The Hague Convention of 1907, to which the US is a signatory, prohibits the occupying power from creating any permanent changes in the government of the occupied territory. These elections were arranged under an electoral law and by an electoral commission installed and backed by the occupying power. They took place in an environment so violent that voters could not even learn the names of candidates, and the three days surrounding the vote included a complete lock-down of the country, including shoot-to-kill curfews in many areas, closure of the airport and borders, and closure of roads. There were no international monitors in the country – unlike Afghanistan (with 122 monitors) and Palestine (with 800) during difficult elections held under occupation, Iraq was deemed too dangerous for international election monitors. The Canadian-led team of international election "assessors," who made an early claim that the elections met international standards, were in fact based outside the country, in Jordan.

The US-based Carter Centre, which has monitored elections around the world for more than a decade, declined to participate in Iraq. But they did identify key criteria for determining the legitimacy of elections, and their spokesman noted the day before the elections that none had been met. Those criteria included the ability of voters to vote in a free and secure environment, the ability of candidates to have access to voters for campaigning, a freely chosen and independent election commission, and voters able to vote without fear or intimidation.

The new Iraqi transitional Assembly, despite a certain majority of Shi'a-dominated parties, will be unlikely to call for an immediate withdrawal of US troops. Despite claims by many Shi'a leaders that they want an end to the occupation, this "government," whose legitimacy will remain tainted by its ties to the occupying forces, will remain in power only with the backing of the US troops. The Sunni current interim president, Ghazi al-Yawer, one of the most critical voices of the US occupation, announced after the vote that it would be "complete nonsense" to call for an end to the occupation.

Despite the effort to maintain an "Iraqi face" on the troops guarding the voting process, it was clear that, according to Newsweek magazine, "the US army role was pivotal in the election." US embassy officials also told the San Francisco Chronicle that it was important "not to read too much" into the level of security that made the elections possible – guarding polling places is easier than fighting a counter-insurgency, they said. Bush announced after the elections that "as democracy takes hold in Iraq, America 's mission there will continue". Newly installed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice affirmed that, " US troops will stay till Iraqis can do the job."

US domination of Iraq remains unchanged with this election. The US-imposed Transitional Administrative Law, imposed by the US occupation, remains the law of the land even with the new election. Amending that law requires super-majorities of the assembly as well as a unanimous agreement by the presidency council, almost impossible given the range of constituencies that must be satisfied. Chiefs of key control commissions, including Iraq's Inspector General, the Commission on Public Integrity, the Communication and Media Commission and others, were appointed by Bremer with five-year terms, can only be dismissed "for cause". The Council of Judges, as well as individual judges and prosecutors, were selected, vetted and trained by the US occupation, and are dominated by long-time US-backed exiles.

The 40,000+ civilian and military "advisers," including private contractors and US government officials, seconded to Iraq 's ministries and all public institutions will remain powerful; with the new assembly sending new staff to these ministries, the US "advisers" may hold the institutional memory.

The $16 billion of US taxpayer money not spent in the reconstruction effort (the billions paid to Halliburton, Bechtel, and others has come almost entirely out of US-appropriated Iraqi funds) as well as the $50 billion/year military costs will become a potential slush fund for the new assembly's favoured projects.

The US-backed privatisation schemes imposed by former US pro-consul Paul Bremer remain in place. The current interim finance minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, outed by the Los Angeles Times as a potential candidate for deputy president or prime minister, recently announced his support for the complete privatisation of Iraq 's oil industry.

A New York Times article of September 4, 1967, is entitled "US Encouraged by Vietnam Vote : Officials Cite 83% Turnout Despite Vietcong Terror." It reads, "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. 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 purpose of the voting was to give legitimacy to the Saigon Government . . ."

Article Index

The Iraqi Ballot, Translated

by Hawra Karama, January 31, 2005

I had the opportunity to participate in the long-awaited Iraqi elections this weekend. Contrary to popular belief, this was not the first time my opinion has mattered to the Iraqi state. It was actually the third. Saddam Hussein had asked us Iraqis in both 1995 and 2002 if we wanted him to be our leader. The question sounded rather silly, considering the amount of Iraqi, Iranian, and Kuwaiti blood on his hands. Nevertheless, in both referenda, Saddam's approval ratings exceeded 99 percent. That statistic could not have been accurate, could it? Did the Iraqis really want even more years of crushing tyranny, war with neighbours, and ethnic cleansing?

In retrospect, I could come up with dozens of theories on the shocking outcome of the two referenda. Maybe only Ba'athists participated in the polls. Maybe people were too afraid to say they didn't want Saddam. Maybe the chads of those who did cast a "no" vote were hanging. In any case, I shouldn't waste so much time analysing the past. The bottom line is that there is no such thing as democracy under dictatorship. My time today is better spent taking advantage of democracy under foreign occupation.

I hesitated before voting for reasons familiar to anyone who follows the news. But then I thought of the disappointment on the faces of my American guests if I did not accept the democracy they brought me. I didn't want their feelings to be hurt. I didn't want them to think that the residents of the Cradle of Civilization are not civilized. So I mustered the courage to go to the voting site nearest my house in Baghdad.

Initially, I thought I was at the American embassy because there were so many American soldiers standing outside. I checked my registration slip. I did in fact have the correct address. So I took a deep breath and walked in. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Iraqi authorities had requested American troops' presence because they needed help making Iraqi tea for the voters. Their desire was to make the democratic process feel as close to home as possible.

A young soldier from Texas served me a cup of Iraqi hospitality. Then I nervously proceeded toward the voting booth. My heart was racing, and tears flooded my eyes as I thought of the price that was paid to make this moment happen. On a personal level, my niece had suffered severe burns on her arms and legs when bombs shook Baghdad in March 2003. My backyard was converted into a parking spot for an American tank. More broadly, over a hundred thousand of my countrymen had to be killed, and many more had to be wounded and disabled. Many American families had to mourn the loss of their loved ones in the military. The environment was sentenced to suffer for the next several centuries. Politicians in the White House and Parliament had gone out of their way just to ensure that my cup of tea had the right amount of sugar while I expressed whom I thought should hold the magic wand to make all my agony go away.

I wiped my tears, pulled myself together, sipped the last drops in my cup, and went into the voting booth. By taking one quick glance at the ballot placed in front of me, I could immediately tell that this experience was going to be different from its 1995 and 2002 predecessors. On those two occasions, I was asked only one question about one tyrant. "Do you want Saddam Hussein to be your president? A) Yes. B) No."

This election, on the other hand, gave me a variety of choices on numerous issues. Behold the multitude of questions I was asked:

  1. Do you prefer to be tortured by A) American soldiers or B) British soldiers?
  2. When occupying soldiers stop you in the street, would you rather be strip-searched A) with blindfold or B) without blindfold?
  3. When foreign soldiers enter your house in the middle of the night to arrest your husband and terrorize your kids, would you prefer that they A) knock or B) ring the doorbell? [This question seemed odd because I thought they knew we don't have electricity and therefore the doorbells don't work.]
  4. Which of the following CIA-paid Iraqis should represent you? [The list is too long to reprint here.]
  5. Do you want the foreign forces occupying your country to leave? A) No. [I imagine they had accidentally forgotten to print "Yes."]

To make sure our voices were being fully heard, some of the questions were open ended. Voters were actually allowed to write in their opinions on a number of issues. Observe:

After reading all the questions, I did the same thing I'd done in 1995 and 2002. I left the ballot blank and walked out.

On my way out of the voting site, an American soldier handed me a sticker with the words "I voted" printed on it. He looked perplexed as I stuck it on his rifle and left.

Article Index

Iraqis Boycott Election Fraud

An Open Letter on the Election, January 29, 2005

Iraq is being denied free and fair elections, after enduring decades of Saddam’s brutal dictatorship. The US and British occupation governments have engineered a process for reproducing the US-appointed Iraqi Interim Government, to prolong the occupation and incite sectarian and ethnic conflicts.

Millions of Iraqis, under siege in many parts of their homeland, will be disenfranchised, while hundreds of thousands of second generation Americans and Israelis could vote.

While boycotting this undemocratic exercise, we strongly condemn all forms of violence against Iraqis participating in it. We, as exiles, are confident that the vast majority of Iraqis, at home and abroad, shall unite to end the US-led occupation and establish democracy, whatever their stance on participation.

We echo opinions within Iraq stressing the impossibility of holding free and fair elections while under occupation, and being subjected to war crimes by the US-led forces. However, we support demands for minimal pre-conditions: (1) setting a strict timetable for speedy withdrawal of all occupation forces, (2) ceasing all attacks, and confining all occupation forces to barracks until full withdrawal, (3) ending martial law and releasing all political prisoners, (4) establishing an independent election commission, led by Iraq’s senior serving and retired judges, and including all Iraq’s political forces. The commission can be assisted by anti-occupation figures, e.g. Nelson Mandela, and the UN General Assembly."

1. Sami Ramadani: Senior lecture, London Metropolitan University
2. Haifa Zangana: Novelist, UK
3. Professor Kamal Majid, UK
4. Tahrir Numan: Journalist, UK
5. Dr. Imad Khadduri: Nuclear scientist, Toronto, Canada
6. Mundher Adhami: Researcher, Kings College, London University
7. Dr. Nadje Al-Ali: Exeter university, UK
8. Dr. Mousa Al-Hussaini: Writer and journalist, UK
9. Dr. Usama Al-Shabibi: Pharmacist-Pharmacologist, UK
10. Dr. Ali Assam: Computer expert: UK
11. Yasar Mohammed Salman Hasan: computer expert, UK
12. Dr. Mahboub Al-Chalabi, Petroleum expert, UK
13. Dr Subhi Toma: Social studies researcher, Paris
14. Jafar Al-Samarrai: Computer expert
15. Dr. Ali Al-Shahwani: Engineer
16. Zaid Numan, Chartered building Surveyor, UK
17. Hani Lazim, Computer expert: UK
18. Mohammed Aref: Science writer, UK
19. Fenik Adham: Councellor: UK
20. Mahmoud Al-Bayaty: Novelist, Sweden

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