George Bush mentioned the word ‘freedom’ over 30 times in his inauguration speech, which lasted for over twenty minutes. The timing of the speech came after the Palestinian "elections" and before the Iraqi "elections." Bush concluded his speech by saying, "Democracy is coming whether you are ready or not."
As a result of the so-called elections in Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas became the president of the Palestinian Authority as of January 12. The election was called as a result of Yaser Arafat’s death less than two months before. Declaring and registering candidates, allocating funds, deciding on and inviting international monitors, setting up voting centers, putting forth political agendas for the candidates, and running various election campaigns, all took place in less than fifty days. Impediments, such as pre-registering voters, appointing qualified election committees and commissioners, the Israeli military occupation with its stiff security measures in the areas where the elections were to take place, and the inability of over six million exiled Palestinians to participate and vote – all this was totally ignored. Abbas became the new Palestinian president with less than 400,000 votes out of a total of ten million Palestinians. The election was called by the US and approved by the Israelis. They were tailored to shoe in Mr. Abbas. There was never any doubt that Abbas would come out the winner.
On January 30 Iraq will have its turn in another election chosen by the White House. Interestingly, Eyad Allawi – the US-appointed prime minister in Iraq – announced this week during a press conference that tough security measures would be imposed during the elections between the 29th and 31st of the month. Such measures will include a curfew on all cities that have tense security conditions (no lists of these cities were provided, which meant all Iraqi cities qualify for the curfew) and traffic will not be allowed on those days. Allawi advised members of the media not to cover the elections since his government cannot guarantee their safety. He told the press that even international monitors such as the UN will not be on hand.
However, Allawi did invite all Iraqis to vote, assuring them that US forces and their collaborating police will be there to ensure that the Iraqi people can fulfill their long-awaited dream of an open election. He added that his men will not hesitate to shoot at any suspected saboteurs and then concluded by asking everyone to choose him for office.
The most bizarre aspect of the Iraqi elections is that the individuals who are running for Parliament are keeping their identities and programs secret until the end of the election day. This means Iraqi voters will not know who they are voting for. Votes cast will be for numbers rather than names. Each candidate will have a number that voters will write down to indicate their choice. When voting is over, US airplanes will transport the "sealed ballots" from all over Iraq to the Green Zone in Baghdad to be counted. Who will do the counting and who will observe the counting has not been announced.
Why is the US so determined to have the elections in Palestine and Iraq? Especially when the outcome is so predictable, why does the US carry on with the charade of presidents having any authority in either country?
Noah Fieldsman, a consultant appointed to the Iraqi government by the US occupation, is considered the mastermind behind the Iraqi elections. He advised – or rather, imposed – on the Iraqi puppet regime the idea of a coalition following the Israeli model of government. In this model the president plays a very limited role in deciding or executing polices. The prime minister, head of the largest party in the Parliament, is the man who runs the show.
A document seized by the Iraqi resistance in one government center in the northern city of Kirkuk revealed the predetermined outcome of the elections in Iraq. The cast is as follows:
– Adnan Pachachi playing the part of President
– Eyad Allawi as a Prime Minister who chooses a coalition government from a Parliament to consist of:
-> A National Coalition sponsored by Sistani, with 30 seats
-> The Iraqi List of Eyad Allawi with 40 seats
-> The Kurdish Coalition composed of three parties, with 45 seats.
-> Adnan Pachachi, with 24 seats.
-> Ghazi Al-Yawer, the current transitional president, with 16-20 seats.
-> The Turkoman list, with 15 seats
-> The Christian List, with 10 seats
-> The Iraqi Communist Party, with 12 seats
And 105 other lists to share the last 20 or fewer remaining seats
The biggest challenge facing these elections is how do you explain elections under foreign military occupation?
In deciding to have elections in Palestine, the US thought that Palestinian geopolitics clearly sees Israelis as an occupation, as aggressors. Also, there is the Palestinian Authority, which lives in a political gray area: it advocates the Palestinian agenda publicly but works within guidelines set by the US and Israel under the Oslo Accords. The PA’s funding, mobility, and political conduct are approved by the Israelis.
The Palestinian Authority which, after Oslo, became a police force for the Israeli occupation, was created in order to replace the Palestinian Liberation Organization, which called for the liberation of Palestine by armed struggle. The switch was not obvious to many people.
Furthermore, large propaganda efforts were used to conceal the PA under the cloak of the former PLO. This resulted in the PA gaining recognition as a legitimate sovereign political entity working for the Palestinians’ best interests. Unlike the Iraqi resistance, which directly attacks the puppet police and US occupying army, it was hard for the resistance in Palestine to strike the PA. The small Palestinian population and the poorly funded and poorly armed Palestinian resistance could not meet the expense of a civil war.
The US decided that a show of elections in Palestine under the Israeli occupation could sway Iraqis into thinking that elections in Iraq under US occupation might be legitimate. Many pro-election Iraqis, press, and politicians today use the Palestinian elections in their arguments to explain how elections can be conducted under military occupation.
In addition, the Camp David treaty between Israel and Egypt in 1978, the Oslo Accord between Israel and the Arafat in 1993, the Wadi-Araba treaty between Jordan and Israel in 1994, and the Israeli peace offer to the Syrians in 1998, introduced a new concept with regard to occupied lands: the occupied have an abstract "national sovereignty" while Israel has actual control on the ground. The US occupation decided to use this concept in Iraq.
Another model is that of Afghanistan – a national sovereign government supposedly led by Karzai, but entirely under the control of US occupying forces.
Elections normally mean rivalry and a struggle for power. Under the occupation, elections in Iraq have been a decisive help in controlling a population hostile to the military presence of the occupier. The Iraqi people are divided today between those who support the resistance – mainly Sunnis – and those who do not – mainly Shiites. As a result, both groups differ in their opinion about the elections. Uncle Sam used the elections to create competing interests for the different ethnic groups in Iraq. The US focused its efforts on the Shiites, who were repressed during the Saddam era, for two reasons:
1). Shiites are a majority in Iraq who are not objecting to the presence of the foreign military occupation. For them, elections mean that they would have the largest numbers of voters; winning the elections means winning power.
2). If there are plans by the US to invade or attack the Shiites in Iran, the Shiites in Iraq must be neutralized by being given power in Iraq. Moreover, buying off the Shiites in Iraq means a less influential role for Shiites from Iran.
Many Shiites today believe that they need to defend their political future and rights against the Sunnis as an ethnic group that ran Iraq prior to the occupation, and not as a group that leads the resistance. The view that all players in Iraq’s political arena are equal is false. Sadly, divisions along ethnic lines in Iraq do exist: Shiite, Sunni, Kurd, Turkoman, Christian, and so on.
Ex-Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Schultz suggested in a joint article recently published in the US media that elections in Iraq could lead to another kind of civil war. This was a warning that Shiites who approve of the elections, and disapprove of the US winning a share in the "New Iraq," could mean an Iraq allied with Iran. According to the famous Iraqi journalist, Sameer Obaid, the election list endorsed by Sistani suffers from internal conflicts that most likely would lead to this list not winning a majority of votes. The list supposedly represents Shiites, but the big names known to be on list are divided in their loyalty between Iran and the US. Shifting loyalty back from Iran to the US could be accomplished by creating internal divisions to weaken the Shiites loyal to Iran.
On a parallel track, the US has worked quietly to persuade neighboring countries not to dare influence the outcome of the Iraqi elections by providing political, material, or logistical support to any candidate. A conference of the neighboring countries was called by Jordan about a month ago. The US, who was absent physically, but heavily present, warned Iran, Syria, and Turkey against messing with the elections in any way. It is not a coincidence that the US has launched numerous threats against Iran. This is all part of a campaign to keep Iran from having any effect in the Iraqi theater.
The Palestinian election performance is now concluded. Sharon is now enjoying some peace in Gaza, thanks to the political maneuvers of the Abbas collaborator regime. But nothing has changed in terms of the suffering of the Palestinian people. The Israeli occupation remains. Mahmoud Abbas, the new broker of peace elected by Israel and the USA, will need to somehow make the Palestinians ignore the Israeli occupation. With all the closures, military operations, killings by the Israeli army, and confiscating of land to build the so-called security fence of Israel, this will be a tough mission to accomplish. The inevitable failure to hide what everyone can plainly see will only enforce the strength of Hamas and the Palestinian resistance.
Likewise, the newly elected US government in Iraq must convince Iraqis that the occupation is an illusion – that the tanks they see are only a mirage resulting from the heat. A US-manufactured government in Iraq must be able to put food on tables, restore electricity, and end violence. That too will be a tough mission to accomplish.
The US may have its election day on January 30, but it will not be enough to change things in Iraq. The most important player on the Iraqi political scene will not be participating in these elections. This player is the Iraqi resistance, which keeps its eyes focused like a laser on only one thing: the hated presence of the US occupying forces in Iraq.