It comes as no surprise that Washington’s party of choice has won the election in Iraq with a whopping 48% of the vote. The United Iraqi Alliance (UAI) prevailed in the final vote count ensuring that they will control at least 140 of the 275 seats in the new Iraqi National Assembly. This guarantees that the Bush administration will have key figures at the top levels of government to do their bidding on crucial policy issues. Their influence will also factor heavily in the shaping of the nation’s new constitution.
The UAI is the coalition of Shi’ite groups endorsed by the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Their platform includes widely popular planks such as a definite timetable for withdrawal of American troops and broad expansion of the public sector.
Think that will happen while “free market” Bush is in office? Don’t bet on it. Bush will undermine the aspirations of the Shi’ite majority by deferring to American stooges within the new government itself.
The UAI is headed by the pro-American Iraqi Finance Minister, Adel Abd al-Mahdi. As Naomi Klein notes in her recent article in The Nation (“Getting the Purple Finger”) al-Mahdi is Bush’s “Trojan Horse,” a trusted ally who has already promised to privatize the oil sector and not to press the administration for the withdrawal of American troops. As Klein says, “It was al-Mahdi himself who oversaw the signing of a flurry of deals with Shell, BP and Chevron-Texaco in the weeks before the elections, and it is he who negotiated the recent austerity deal with the IMF.” With al-Mahdi at the helm, we can rest assured that the neoliberal regimen initiated by Paul Bremer will go forward unimpeded, ignoring the obvious intentions of the Iraqi people. As anyone in the Bush administration will tell you, it’s always worthwhile having the right quisling in place.
Is it possible that the Grand Ayatollah is unaware that there is a traitor like al-Mahdi in his midst?
Probably. Al-Sistani appears to be removed from the critical issues related to Iraq’s future. Apparently, those matters are being manipulated by his subordinates whose wheeling-and-dealing is going on behind Sistani’s back. As Iraq’s foremost spiritual leader he’s more attentive to the concerns of individual morality and public conduct, leaving the political and economic running of the state to others. Al Mahdi’s backroom deals with the administration suggest that Al Sistani has been duped by the very man who may replace Allawi as Prime Minister. Sistani is bound to be shocked when he discovers how he has been deceived. Unwittingly, he has endorsed the continuation of the occupation and the hand-over of Iraq’s oil to American energy giants.
The western media have already begun to celebrate the “great democratic triumph” in Iraq. The final vote count is perceived as a stunning victory for Bush’s gun-barrel liberation. It has also translated into a 5-point jump in the polls for Bush’s sagging popularity, a paltry increase given the extent of the media hype. This shows that only a small percentage of the American public has been hoodwinked by Bush’s attempt to market martial law as democracy. Apparently, there are limits to the noxious affects of state propaganda.
One of the interesting anomalies of the elections is that the Shi’ites only received 48% of the vote. (They represented more than 70% of the electorate since the Sunnis boycotted the elections) That means that a large number of eligible Shi’ites refused to vote. This is astonishing given that they were threatened with having their food ration cards revoked, and were exhorted to participate by the Grand Ayatollah himself. The lower than expected Shi’ite turnout is a demonstration of solidarity with their Sunni countryman, a sign of the growing nationalism that threatens the perpetuation of the occupation. It’s a strong indication that cohesion and camaraderie have surpassed sectarian differences and are uniting the country with a common purpose.
Another intriguing fact is that less than 2% of Sunnis participated in the elections. This suggests that the insurgency has broad public support among Iraq’s five million Sunnis and that abhorrence to the occupation is nearly universal. It also reminds us of the devastation of Falluja, and how that single act of barbarity alienated the entire population. Historians may regard the destruction of Falluja as the turning point in the Iraq war; a miscalculation that eliminated any hope of American success.
Although the media continues to champion the outcome of the Iraqi elections, the facts on the ground are hardly encouraging. The incidents of violence have risen considerably since election day. The character of the attacks has changed, too, with more and more of the violence directed at Shi’ite civilians. As the New York Times’ James Glanz notes, “suicide bombers and gunmen have left at least 104 people dead in attacks at a Shi’ite mosque, a hospital, police facilities, a bakery in a Shi’ite neighborhood and in front of Iraqi houses as the insurgency continued to intensify.” As always, the New York Times obliges the reader by creating a narrative that explains the new trend in the violence: “The elections isolated the rebels by showing them as the enemies of a democratic process…Having failed to stop people from going to the polls, they are trying to create the impression of civil war.”
“Having failed to stop people from going to the polls”? So, according to the NY Times, the Sunnis are fighting to stop democracy in Iraq? Is this drivel the best we can expect from the “paper of record”?
Despite the illogical theory of the NY Times, the struggle against occupation has nothing to do with Bush’s phony elections, nor should we assume that the insurgents are responsible for the deadly campaign against civilians. Such strategies would only anger potential allies and undercut their chances of expelling the Americans. Rather, the growing hostilities are the work of covert operations intended to foment civil war and divert attention from American soldiers. The only one who really benefits from this new wave of attacks is the US Military. It’s clear that the plan originated at the top rungs of the Pentagon, another clever tactic to weaken the escalating nationalism.
This is consistent with a strategy produced for the military by the Rand Corp. a conservative think tank commissioned to analyze the deteriorating situation in Iraq. What they came up with was, “U.S. Strategy in the Muslim World After 9/11: A framework to identify major ideological orientations within Islam, examines critical cleavages between Muslim groups.” The goal of the paper is to develop a Shaping Strategy for pacifying Muslim populations where the US has commercial or strategic interests. The conclusions of the document are enlightening. Rand suggests the US, “align its policy with Shiite groups who aspire to have more participation in government and greater freedoms of political and religious expression. If this alignment can be brought about, it could erect a barrier against radical Islamic movements and may create a foundation for a stable U.S. position in the Middle East.”
What we see unfolding in Iraq is the actualization of this policy. The Bush administration has decided to elevate the Shi’ites and crush the Sunni’s. They intend to accomplish this by turning Iraqi against Iraqi and withdrawing their own men to the perimeter (where they can conduct flyovers safely from a distance). To achieve their objective they must incite civil war by a clandestine terror campaign carried out by Rumsfeld’s paramilitaries. It will require plenty of civilian carnage and a compliant media to spin a story of frustrated insurgents gone wild.
This new strategy confirms that the Bush administration has foreclosed on the idea of maintaining Iraq’s territorial integrity. It is an admission that they cannot defeat the insurgency, and so they plan to break up Iraq into smaller and more manageable pieces. Within the year, Iraq will be divided.
We may be entering the darkest phase of the war. The administration’s desperation is bound to produce oceans of innocent blood. Still, there’s no sign that their resolve is weakening.
Mike Whitney lives in Washington state, and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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