“Elections are the best way to expel the occupier from Iraq.”
– Banners in Shi’ite mosques in Baghdad, Najaf, Karbala and Samarra
“I anticipate a grand moment in Iraqi history.”
– US President George W Bush, January 26
Iraqi Shi’ites, the Pentagon, the Sunni Iraqi resistance, the rest of the world, even Henry Kissinger: everybody is celebrating the Bush-anticipated “grand moment in Iraqi history” following elections on Sunday. Here’s how.
The Shi’ite celebration
In a crucial development, the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani-endorsed Shi’ite list, which will certainly win the popular vote, has dropped its No 1 electoral promise – an explicit timetable demanding that the Americans leave Iraq. According to Sheikh Homam Hamoodi, a top official from the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution, the main Iran-connected party represented in the UIA, this is because newly trained Iraqi troops will probably take “years” to assure the country’s security: “The item on the first platform called for a set time for US forces to leave Iraq, without taking into consideration the urgent circumstances.”
For the majority of Iraqi voters of any persuasion, the key appeal of the Shi’ite list has always been its promise to kick the Americans out, much more than the fact that it has been “blessed” by Sistani. This radical shift, Asia Times Online sources in Baghdad say, only confirms widespread Sunni fears of collusion between Shi’ite politicians and the Americans, not to mention fears that the election has already been stolen. It’s extremely unlikely a UIA-dominated elected government will succeed in convincing Iraqis that American troops must stay “for years” – the avowed Pentagon desire. Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who deftly blends Shi’ite faith and Iraqi nationalism, will call the UIA’s bluff right away, powered by the rage of his millions of downtrodden Sadrist supporters.
The Pentagon celebration
American soldiers celebrated by attacking the al-Rasul mosque in Sadr City and arresting 25 supporters of Muqtada. According to Sheikh Abd al-Hadi al-Darraji, a top Sadrist official, speaking to al-Jazeera, “They are targeting us because we boycotted the elections and said it should not be held under occupation.” Al-Darraji said one of the American soldiers urinated over the Koran, while another official, Naim al-Qaabi, said many Korans were ripped apart.
American attacks against the Sadrists have been going on for months. Muqtada’s official position is that free and fair elections are impossible under occupation – and will result in Iraq being dismembered along ethnic lines. According to Muqtada’s now famous words delivered in a sermon in Sadr City, “They allege that the elections advance security, and security advances the elections. This is false and wrong.” In early January, Sadrists organized demonstrations in several cities, enraged by the chaos created by months of no electricity and immense lines to buy petrol – the proud, joint legacy of the Americans and the interim Iyad Allawi regime.
The Sunni resistance celebration
At dawn on Wednesday, the general command of the Iraqi Islamic Resistance issued a communique broadcast to mosques in Samarra, Ramadi, Mosul, Tikrit, Kirkuk, Hit and Baquba, and distributed as a leaflet in mosques in Baghdad, Azamiyah, Latifiyah, Basra and many other cities across the country. It called for a new offensive: the “Operations of the Children of Mohammed the Messenger of God to Break the Back of God’s Enemies”, portrayed as “the beginning of the end of the occupation and its ultimate collapse”.
On the same day, the resistance fired a Sam 7 rocket at a CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopter over the city of Rutba, 460 kilometers west of Baghdad in the western desert – which is controlled by the resistance. Free Arab Voice reports that “shepherds and motorists who witnessed the attack saw the Americans gathering the remains of 31 American bodies … and American vehicles hauling away the wreckage of the helicopter that had been scattered over an approximately two kilometer area”. The Pentagon said the crash was due to bad weather. Sources close to the resistance in Baghdad say it was a Sam 7 rocket.
The world celebration
A huge demonstration to the sound of samba drums and political slogans (“Bush, terrorist number one”; “Bomb democracy is not a model”) celebrated the opening of the Fifth World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, whose main themes this year are the fight against poverty and erasing the debts of poor countries.
The truly global mix of Brazilians, Latin Americans, Europeans, Africans and Asians in the forum constitutes what a Mexican anthropologist defines as “planetary refugees”: landless peasants, small West African cotton producers, neo-Zapatistas, indigenous peoples from Chiapas, Equator and Bolivia, defenders of sexual diversity, homeless intergalactics from Paris, London and Quebec, American unionists, environmental non-government organizations, public intellectuals, jurists concerned with the reduction of civil liberties, apostles of free software, proponents of non-violent direct action, independent media.
Global unease against Bush’s fundamentalism is so acute that even the organizers were not expecting the spontaneous demonstration to concentrate on denouncing the man-made Iraqi disaster. Compare the World Social Forum with the World Economic Forum in the Swiss alpine resort of Davos – where global elites gather to assess the state of the world. The 12 main themes this year in Davos are: China, climate change, equitable globalization, Europe, the global economy, global governance, Islam, the Middle East, poverty, US leadership, weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and world trade. In Porto Alegre, the motto is “another world is possible”, which implies a world “without pre-emptive wars based on lies”, according to a Canadian environmental activist.
Former secretary of state Henry Kissinger is not the only member of the American establishment losing sleep over a new specter, a “Shi’ite crescent” formed by the new Iraq, Iran, Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon. So Kissinger, along with another former secretary of state, George Schultz, is already campaigning to smash this “crescent”. This entails two crucial developments: stealing the result of the Iraqi elections; and accelerating the country’s partition. It’s as if Muqtada has been reading Kissinger’s mind.
The US invaded Iraq under the – false – pretext of WMD. “Democracy” was only evoked when the WMD farce reached its conclusion. The elections are only taking place because Sistani played the occupiers like a master. Washington was never interested in Iraqi “democracy” because this would necessarily imply a Shi’ite-dominated, maybe even theocratic government.
As a member of the Iraqi resistance, a former Iraqi army soldier told Asia Times Online sources in Baghdad: “If you vote, you vote for Bush, not for an Iraqi government. You are legitimizing the occupiers. This is what they wanted all along. So the winner will be who the Americans choose, not a real choice by the Iraqi people.” There’s a desperate feeling in Baghdad that Bush and the neo-conservatives are intentionally steering Iraq toward civil war. The latest estimate is that only 25% of the population will vote. Of Iraq’s 18 provinces, only three – the Kurdish – are safe. From Washington’s point of view, the elections are meant to justify post-fact the American conquest of Iraq. Now American conservatives (Kissinger), not to mention the neo-conservatives (the shady manipulation in Baghdad to keep Allawi in power) want to steal them. So much for Bush’s America exporting “freedom” to the world.