Voice in the Wilderness

The news about the "war on terror" your local newspaper won't print.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Elections: To what end?

While George W. Bush didn't say that Iraq elections would be delayed over his dead body it seems apparent that they will proceed over many dead bodies, perhaps promulgated by "hit squads."

Newsweek magazine reported that the so-called "Salvador option" would train Iraqi hit squads to search and destroy resistance fighters. The sobriquet comes from the tactics used by Salvadoran death squads to root out resistance in that nation's civil war during the Reagan Adminstration. It was widely believed that the death squads were furnished with weapons and materiel by the United States. The Telegraph of London reported:
"We have to find a way to take the offensive against the insurgents," said one senior officer. "Right now, we are playing defence. And we are losing."

The scheme is one of a number being considered as Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary, tries to ease the pressure on his overstretched forces.
The assassination Monday of the No. 2 Iraqi security official, Brigadier Amer Ali Nayef, and his son, Khalid Amer, is only the latest in an increasing spiral of death, strongly indicating that elections will not stabilize the country.

All along, Bush has assured everyone that elections will show the Iraqi people that democracy, while difficult to attain, has its rewards in long-term justice and fairness for all. That may very well be true. But it is clear that if the intent of the U.S. invasion was to instill a pro-western democratic government in that country, the prospects seem even farther away now than they did even weeks ago.

There are several reasons, analysts say:
  • There are many more resistance fighters than the U.S. is willing to acknowledge.
    "I think the resistance is bigger than the U.S. military in Iraq. I think the resistance is more than 200,000 people," said Gen. Muhammad Abdullah Shahwani, director of Iraq's new intelligence services.

    Shahwani said there were at least 40,000 hardcore fighters attacking U.S. and Iraqi troops, with the bulk made up of part-time guerrillas and volunteers providing logistical support, information, shelter and money.

    "People are fed up after two years without improvement," he said. "People are fed up with no security, no electricity -- people feel they have to do something."
  • Far from being hailed as liberators, U.S. forces have continually been regarded as occupiers and conquerors. The mistaken shooting deaths Saturday of Iraqi policemen by American soldiers, following civilian deaths during the mistaken bombing of a house near Mosul, did nothing to change the viewpoints of many Iraqis that Americans are there to control the country, not free it. With attacks increasing, U.S. forces seem to be on a hair trigger.
    Relations between US authorities and Iraqis have grown increasingly troubled. On the one hand, American officials insist they are winning Iraqi "hearts and minds" by building infrastructure and venturing off their bases to hand out footballs, teddy bears and toothpaste. But as attacks on US forces have escalated, American commanders have loosened the rules of engagement binding their troops, encouraging them to stand and fight.

    Many Iraqis, in turn, are terrified by the sight of a US patrol in their neighbourhood: their fear is that soldiers will be hit by a roadside bomb or bullets and respond by opening fire at anything nearby. After one particularly harrowing day of explosions, soldiers killed a mentally disabled man who failed to heed their commands, said Ali Salman Ali, 37, a shop owner. "The soldiers knew this guy and joked with him all the time. But on this day, they ordered him to stop, and he didn't. So they shot him dead."
  • In coping with the resistance, U.S.-supported Prime Minister Ayad Allawi has extended martial law -- or as officially put, a "state of amergency" -- for another 30 days. This gives the U.S.-backed government the power to restrict the movement of people around Iraq, search homes, freeze assets, impose restrictions on clubs and associations, and put curfews in place.

  • With echoes of Vietnam, the U.S. destroyed Fallujah to save it. Eric Ekholm of the New York Times reports that years of rebuilding lie ahead for the city, but may be impossible for its former residents.
    Sullen and anxious, tens of thousands of residents have passed through stringent checkpoints during the past week to find out, after agonizing weeks of uncertainty, whether their homes and shops were reduced to rubble or merely ransacked.

    Even if their houses are still standing, they are pondering whether a family can resume any decent life in a place devoid of electricity, running water, schools or commerce, in a debris-strewn city with a strict dusk-to-dawn curfew, conspicuously occupied by U.S. Marines and Iraqi troops who still have daily firefights with guerrillas.
  • Because Sunni representation in the polling is expected to be negligible, because of the warfare and official Sunni calls to boycott the elections, the result will instill a Shia government that might have cozier ties to the Shia theocracy in Iran than the Bush administration considers comfortable, according to Edmund Sanders of the Los Angeles Times:
    Leaders of the United Iraqi Alliance say they have no intentions of seeking an Iranian-style theocracy in Iraq but do want Islamic principles to be incorporated in governance.

    "We have never called for the formation of an Islamic government that resembles Iran," said Abdelaziz Hakim, chairman of the Supreme Council. "Our intentions are clear."

    At the same time, leaders insist that Iraq's next government, regardless of who forms it, will need to forge better ties with Iran in the interests of regional peace and stability.

    "America is not going to be here forever," Mowaffak Rubaie, Iraq's national security advisor and an alliance candidate. "Iran is here to stay."
And through all of this, Bush insists that he did the right thing. And 60,693,281 believed him.


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