Iraq: Elections – but no peace or democracy

Just before Christmas, 100 people were killed and injured in an attack on a US Army base dining hall in Mosul, northern Iraq. Nineteen US soldiers were amongst those killed – the most deadly attack on US forces since the war and occupation began.

With over 1,000 US troops killed so far, it’s little wonder that a recent poll showed 70% of people in the US now think that casualties are unacceptably high and a record 56% think that the war is not worth fighting.

Anger has been mounting against US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who arrogantly dismissed troop concerns about lack of vehicle armour and couldn’t even be bothered to sign letters of condolences sent to bereaved families.

As 30 January approaches – the date when elections are scheduled in Iraq – suicide attacks are becoming a daily occurrence, mostly against Iraqi security forces. Bush has been forced to admit that these forces are not up to the job of maintaining security in Iraq. Yet, they are the people who are supposed to be protecting polling stations and making it safe for Iraqis to vote!

The biggest Sunni party has withdrawn from the elections. With most Sunnis, who make up 20% of the Iraqi population, expected to boycott the polls, any talk of democratic and fair elections is just hot air.

The most likely outcome of elections held under these conditions is a Shia dominated assembly. This could further alienate Sunnis already enraged by the destruction of their homes, basic facilities and mass unemployment, and increase support for the resistance. It could also intensify religious and ethnic divisions.

Even the US administration has had to wake up to the fact that their latest ’strategy’ could make Iraq even more unstable. "There’s some flexibility in approaching this problem" said a White House official. "There is a willingness to play with the end result – not changing the numbers, but maybe guaranteeing that a certain number of seats go to Sunni areas even if their candidates did not receive a certain percentage of the vote." (The Guardian, 27 December). In other words, they will fiddle the vote to get the result they want!

But whatever tricks they try, US imperialism cannot bring peace, stability and democracy to Iraq.

Members of a cross-party group of British MPs came back from Iraq recently saying that troops would have to stay there for another 10 to 15 years! We say that they should be withdrawn now so that the Iraqi people can decide their own future, free from imperialist occupation.

Canadian journalist Naomi Klein recently criticised the anti-war movement for not having a programme beyond ’withdraw the troops’. But the Socialist Party does.

It includes support for Iraqi workers and poor in building organisations which can unite across ethnic, religious and tribal divisions; which can defend ordinary Iraqis and lead a mass struggle against occupation and for democratic working-class ownership and control of Iraq’s vast economic resources so that they can be used to provide jobs, homes, services and meet the needs of all Iraqis.

From The Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party, cwi in England and Wales

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January 2005