U.S. in Iraq: Hypocrisy of a Hated Occupier

Revolutionary Worker #1227, February 1, 2004, posted at rwor.org

Why do the armies of Britain and the U.S. occupy the strategic and oil-rich country of Iraq and hold the people there at gunpoint?

The excuse given, we all remember, was that this would make the people of the United States safer. The White House swore that Iraq's government was somehow connected to the September 11 attacks, and that there was immediate danger that they might somehow soon detonate powerful weapons in the U.S.

Since then Bush's own former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill described how the Bush team started planning the takeover of Iraq more than eight months before September 11. And U.S. teams so far have failed to produce any evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, or any connection with forces like al-Qaida.

So now, U.S. government spokespeople and apologists are falling back on another excuse: they conquered Iraq, they say, to bring democracy to the whole surrounding region.

In his recent State of the Union speech, George W. Bush claimed: "America is pursuing a forward strategy of freedom in the greater Middle East.. we will finish the historic work of democracy in Afghanistan and Iraq, so those nations can light the way for others, and help transform a troubled part of the world."

The deceit and hypocrisy of all this has been rudely exposed by the current U.S. dilemma over Iraqi elections.

Sticky Problems with Their Plan for Puppets

On Nov. 15, the U.S. government announced a plan for creating a future government for Iraq. There would be by-invitation-only meetings of "notables" this spring in each of Iraq's 18 provinces -- and delegates chosen at those meetings would pick a "transitional legislature" that would create a new government.

The U.S. is in a bit of a rush to form this new government, because there is no body in Iraq right now that has legal authority (under international law) to approve the long-term stationing of U.S. armies on Iraqi soil, sell off major Iraqi industries to foreign corporations, or make major deals for the sale of Iraqi oil. For that, the U.S. must invent some new "sovereign government" for Iraq.

Of course, there would be nothing "sovereign" (independent) about this Iraqi government that the White House has in mind. This process will produce a government hand-picked by the U.S. It would be financed by the occupiers and rest completely on U.S. military power. And its first assignment would be to quickly sign a treaty that gives the U.S. military a right to stay in Iraq for an indefinite occupation.

Like so many other U.S. plans in Iraq, this November 15 scheme quickly went sour. On January 11, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the leading religious figure among Shiite Iraqis, rejected this plan and demanded that Iraq have direct elections this spring to pick a government.

The U.S. immediately and forcefully said that such elections would not be allowed, and occupation troops opened fire on crowds across Iraq. Within days, 30,000 people marched in Basra and 100,000 people in Baghdad chanting, "Yes, yes to elections! No, no to occupation!"

Obviously, this is a highly embarrassing moment.

The invading superpower claims to be bringing "democracy" and "free elections" to the Middle East, but insists that the new government of Iraq cannot be elected!

Ayatollah Sistani, of course, isn't looking for some way to bring the masses of people to power either. Reactionary Islamic forces throughout the Muslim world have historically been very willing to use extreme fascist means to suppress the people and their hopes for progressive change. In this moment in Iraq, demanding elections is a way for the Islamists to put the U.S. occupation authority on the spot and to demand a bigger share of power for themselves in any new ruling structure the U.S. imposes on Iraq.

The U.S. authorities have come up with all kinds of excuses for rejecting this election demand: They claimed there was no time for elections, that Iraq first needs a national census, and that Sunni areas are not "secure" enough for elections. But their real reasons for rejecting early elections are pretty obvious.

The Associated Press wrote (Jan. 22), "Buried not-so-deep in the American concerns is not just the form of balloting in Iraq, but the results of it."

The New York Times (Jan. 17) reported that U.S. officials "are struggling to cobble together an electoral process that will favor Iraqi moderates in the transfer of sovereignty."

In other words, the U.S. is against elections for now because they don't like who would probably win.

Elections held now would favor those political forces that are currently organized--meaning first of all Islamist fundamentalists in the south and Kurdish separatist parties in the north. And such political results would not serve U.S. plans.

Powerful forces in the Pentagon and White House are considering new attacks on Iran, and they don't want anyone in power in Iraq who might support Iran's Shiite government. And the U.S. is busy curbing Iraqi Kurdish demands for autonomy and control over northern Iraqi cities and oilfields.

In short: The U.S. is not interested in allowing elections that would legitimize forces they don't want to see in power.

So-Called "Moderates" and "Hard-line Fundamentalists"

In the current U.S. government-and-media lingo, the U.S. plan is called "favoring the moderates." In the media, it is explained that if the U.S. doesn't pick Iraq's government, then "extremists" may come to power.

All this represents a rather perverse Orwellian twisting of words and facts.

This word "moderates" now means those Iraqi political figures who are corrupt, ambitious and reactionary enough to serve a foreign imperialist superpower that conquered their country and resources. Throughout human history, such people have usually been called "traitors" or "puppets."

And the word "extremist" is basically used to mean anyone who might get in the way of U.S. imperial plans. Specifically, we are all told that, in Iraq, this means (above all) "hard-line Islamic fundamentalists."

This talk of preventing fundamentalism from getting power is more mind-boggling hypocrisy coming from the U.S. government. For one thing, the U.S. has played a huge role in promoting Islamic fundamentalism as a political standard in the world--including right now in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

In Afghanistan, the U.S. brought together a "Loya Jirga" council last month. This "traditional" gathering of feudal cutthroats, warlords and clan heads gave leading U.S. puppet Hamid Karzai almost unchallenged powers as president. At the same time, the U.S.-backed constitution they approved establishes Afghanistan as an "Islamic Republic" where no law may offend the codes of fundamentalist Islam.

Meanwhile, in late December, the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) decreed that Islamic law (called Sharia ) would be used for a wide range of laws governing women's status--including marriage imposed on young girls, divorce, multiple polygamy, property inheritance and male preference in child custody cases. Sharia's standards have not had the power of law in Iraq since 1958!This IGC decree only becomes law if U.S. colonial administrator Paul Bremer III approves it (and his office says "no comment"). But even if Bremer doesn't sign it now, the decree indicates what Iraq's women may face if pro-U.S. forces like the IGC form the new Iraqi government this summer.

One of the reasons that reactionary fundamentalist forces are so strong in places like Afghanistan and Iraq is that the U.S. has been working hard to destroy revolutionary, progressive and secular forces there. In Iraq, the CIA worked closely with Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party to identify and assassinate thousands of secular working-class Iraqi communists in a major bloodbath after 1963. Then the Ba'ath Party, which is also secular, was itself shattered by this year's U.S. invasion. Today, the most powerful organized forces left standing in much of Iraq are Islamic networks built around mosques.

In Afghanistan, the U.S. spent billions during the 1980s building up fundamentalist anti-Soviet mudjahadeen forces who eagerly killed any forces who were revolutionary, progressive or even simply secular -- including burning teachers alive for instructing girls in reading and writing.

This U.S. government is not about protecting anyone from the ugly and reactionary politics of religious fundamentalism -- and nothing underscores that more than the disturbing fact that official U.S. bourgeois politics is itself becoming more and more dominated by an aggressive Christian fundamentalist current.

In his State of the Union speech, Bush ranted about imposing extreme and reactionary standards as law in the United States--starting, of course, with his call for massive new funding of FBI political investigations.

Bush threatened that if gay civil unions are promoted by state laws and court decisions, he will support the campaign to enshrine Christian fundamentalist standards on marriage by amending the U.S. Constitution itself. He talked about using federal money to impose sexual abstinence and drug testing on children. He demanded new legal powers to hand over federal funds to conservative Christian "faith- based" organizations. And he ended his sermon by telling kids to obey their parents and saying that U.S. actions are guided by a god whose "purposes are just and true."

The U.S. ruling class is not opposed to fundamentalist forces in power--it just opposes those specific forces that, in various parts of the world, threaten to upset the specific U.S. plans for domination.

Pick Reliable Rulers First, Then Round Up People for a Vote

The U.S. has come up with its November 15 political plan in Iraq--to identify, recruit, organize and train pro-U.S. political forces; and then turn them into a puppet government within an occupied Iraq.

The U.S. only wants elections if they can help stabilize and legitimize that new order-- meaning if elections can be used to rubber-stamp those political forces the U.S. has already approved, organized and promoted.

If elections are likely to promote political currents that might weaken a centralized, U.S.-dominated Iraq--then elections are ruled out of order and the Iraqi people are described as "not ready" for U.S.-style "democracy." The U.S. is already saying that Iraq "may not be ready" before 2005, or that parts of it may become ready and other parts not.

Because the U.S. rule over Iraq is so sharply opposed to the interests and desires of the people, the U.S. may never consider the Iraqi situation ripe for elections, and the U.S. may rely (as it has so often done) on the harsh militarized rule of puppet cliques (like Suharto in Indonesia, Pinochet in Chile, or Mushariff today in Pakistan) to defend U.S. interests in Iraq and the surrounding Middle East.


All of this says a lot about how the rulers of the U.S. view and use elections --and not just in Iraq!

Bob Avakian, Chairman of the RCP, summed it up this way:

"Many will say: how can the political system in a democratic country like the U.S. `serve to maintain the rule of the bourgeoisie over the proletariat' when everyone has the right to choose the political leaders by participating in elections? The answer to this is that elections in such a society, and the `democratic process' as a whole, are a sham--and more than a sham--a cover for and indeed a vehicle through which domination over the exploited and oppressed is carried out by the exploiting, oppressing, ruling class. To state it in a single sentence, elections: are controlled by the bourgeoisie; are not the means through which basic decisions are made in any case; and are really for the primary purpose of legitimizing the system and the policies and actions of the ruling class, giving them the mantle of a `popular mandate,' and of channeling, confining, and controlling the political activity of the masses of people."