An intellectual freedom blog with an emphasis on libraries and technology

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Snatching defeat from the jaws of Victory

The "Coalition" Provisional Authority, party hacks and the stillbirth of democracy in Iraq.

Michael Moore compiled some of the letters and e-mails he has received from people in (or formerly in) the military presently or recently in Iraq. The letters that appear in the book "Will they ever trust us again?" (Simon & Schuster, 2004) have importance not as a measurement of the percentage of people serving in Iraq who disapprove of the war or some aspect of it. These letters represent a minority of opinion in the ranks. No, the importance comes from the first hand observations of the writers. These are primary source documents. The factual information that the mainstream media will not touch comes from people in the best position to know what happened -- the participants.

The most significant information I found in a letter from an intelligence officer named Andrew Balthazor. He writes (and I paraphrase) that in Najaf in May 2003 the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) appointed a Sunni mayor [Abdul Munim Abud, a former artillery colonel]. Najaf is a Shi'ite holy city. When the Shi'ite protested the Marine Battalion Commander in charge of the city at the time decided to hold an election. The Iraqis gave speeches on street corners and all different factions put forward candidates. The Marines even re-built the T.V. station to broadcast the election results (around June 2003). Democracy in action. Balthazor does not mention any violence or accusations of fraud. But what happened? "The CPA stated that the election was invalid because the Marines did not have the authority to hold elections or change the CPA's designated mayor." (This letter appears on p. 33-36 of the book referenced above). This astonishing anti-democratic act on the part of Bush appointees has not seen any media attention anywhere that I have seen. What could possibly justify this? If the administration has changed its policy from a war over "weapons of mass destruction" to a mission to spread democracy, then where's the democracy?

There is confirmation from a mainstream source: The Washington Post. (Occupation Forces Halt Elections Throughout Iraq). The operative word here is "occupation." As quoted in the Post article, The head of the CPA explained: "In a postwar situation like this, if you start holding elections, the people who are rejectionists tend to win," L. Paul Bremer said. "It's often the best-organized who win, and the best-organized right now are the former Baathists and to some extent the Islamists." I recall the words of Jesse Helms: "Democracy used to be a good thing, but now it has gotten into the wrong hands." Who controls most of Southern Iraq today anyway? And who expects a great turn-out at the scheduled elections this January? Those who vote now look like collaborators with a foreign occupation.

This is a story of great urgency that the mainstream media have largely ignored. Given that the President changed his justification for this war (after the first justifications evaporated) to one of spreading democracy, then how could his appointees bungle so badly such an important mission? A battalion of Marines who passed their 8th grade civics class did the vitally important work of establishing democracy. The appointees in the Coalition Provisional Authority snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

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