James Clay Fuller

Things We're Not Supposed to Say

Friday, February 04, 2005

Iraq election: Less than meets the eye

The entire U.S. of A. seems to be whooping about the election in Iraq, with the talking heads and newspaper writers acting like cheerleader Georgie Bush at a Yale-Brown game.

Republicans are near to dancing in the streets, and boy are they lambasting all of us liberals who are just "sore losers" because we aren’t shouting "Siss-boom-bah" and didn’t see from the beginning what wonders would result from the invasion and occupation.

Somehow they forget that neither they nor the Bushies had any thought of an election when our troops crossed the border into Iraq to save us from nuclear and/or poison gas attacks.

I voiced considerable doubt about the value of the Iraqi election to a friend – one of the people I call soft liberals – two days after the election. He pretty much told me that I should join the celebration. After all, he said, whatever little flaws there were, "it’s a lot more democracy than they ever had before."

Would I rain on a parade like that?

You damn betcha. Because the election was so much less than we’re being led to believe, and because of the way it’s being used to con the American people into acceptance of other policies that can only do them, and the world, catastrophic harm.

It does, however, support one basic truth this country has yet to face: If any member of or spokesman for the Bush administration is talking, he or she is lying or, at the very least, bending the truth to cover some nastiness. If you are in a room and a Bush insider enters smiling and tells you it’s a beautiful, sunny day, grab your umbrella and galoshes before you head out the door.

The Iraq election is one of those situations -- and there have been far, far too many -- in which the press joined the cheering even before the results were in, and almost all Democrats wet their pants in fear and started issuing statements to the effect that, well, golly, the Bushies got that one right. And, the chorus implies, that just about makes up for every other rotten thing they have done and are doing.

It’s like dropping charges and heaping praise on a brutal mugger because he returned the excess quarter when a store clerk gave him too much change.

The hoopla is mostly sham and fraud. The American public, and press, which collectively have the attention span of the average two-year-old, forget that the election was, as Arianna Huffington said a few days ago, "the administration’s fallback position," and a sort of Plan D, coming after (1) the plan to install the crook and Irani spy Ahmed Chalabi as a sort of proxy dictator, (2) the plan to make Paul Bremer a MacArthur-like "administrator" of Iraq, (3) the installation of the present puppet government.

A note about a couple of greatly under-reported facts:

* A majority of the Iraqi voters went to the polls not knowing who was running for office. By and large they walked away in the same state of ignorance after voting, although slates were identified to some degree in the day before voting began. A great many candidates – in key areas, all of them – refused to allow their names to be made public until no more than 24 hours before the polls opened because they feared for their lives and those of their families. Even after names became known – and not all of them did – people knew nothing about the individual candidates. Nothing. Not who they are, what they do for a living, what their education and backgrounds are, nor what they envision for Iraq’s future.

It is fair to ask if an "election" held under such circumstances is legitimate.

* You probably haven’t seen any reports on this if you read only "mainstream" newspapers:

Many Iraqis found that their names were on lists controlled at the polls not by election officials but by representatives of the agency that doles out food rations. The food distributors checked off names, and only after they did that did the voters get their ballots. The voters in many cases were told in advance that if they didn’t vote, they would be cut off from food distributions. Some said they had to sign voter registration forms in order to pick up their food in the dole right before the election.

A very large percentage of the Iraqi population would starve were it not for the monthly food dole.

* Greatly under-reported in this country is the fact that many Iraqis went to the polls because they somehow saw voting as an act of defiance against the United States, as well as against the terrorists. Again, as Huffington observed, recent polls show that 92 percent of Iraqis regard us as "occupiers" and only 2 percent see us as "liberators."

Those facts, reported by a number of foreign news services, put rather a different light on the "huge turnout," don’t they? Yet it must have taken great restraint for the White House propagandists to refrain from having George land on an aircraft carrier and give a short speech in front of a huge "Mission Accomplished" banner.

* Although it’s now being reported, most of the American public, distracted by the cheerleading, hasn’t noticed that despite the general falseness and blindness of the election, the Iraqis learned enough about who was representing what to give the leaders of our puppet government, led by Ayad Allawi, a thorough whupping. At last report, religion-rooted Shiite parties with ties to Iran got about 72 percent of the vote.

Now, while everybody is focused on the supposed triumph, consider a few other facts:

* The Bushies wouldn’t allow the Iraq election to be held until after our November election for fear that a few suicide bombers or rocket attacks would hurt the Liar in Chief’s own chances at the polls, so the timing of the Iraq election was a decision entirely based on American politics.

* Iraq’s essential infrastructure – electrical power, water and fuel supplies, food supplies, even water – remains at a disastrous level. Virtually none of the Bush/Halliburton promises to restore those services have been kept. To live in Iraq is to suffer, and that would be true even if the terrorists disappeared overnight.

* It’s been many weeks now since an Army reservist blasted Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for the fact that our soldiers in Iraq are woefully under-equipped. The White House, of course, promised quick action. Nothing has been done to remedy the situation. Undersupplying the troops continues to provide Halliburton and its subsidiaries with enormous profits – greater than we’re ever likely to know.

* The point above relates to a recent report, from the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction: the American occupation government (under Bremer) that was in charge before the current puppet government was set up is unable to account for almost $9 billion of our tax dollars sent over for reconstruction. The oversight of the reconstruction process, which remains largely a fiction, was so woeful that it was "open to fraud, kickbacks and misappropriation of funds," the report says. Gee, what a surprise.

* The Pentagon just announced that 15,000 U.S. troops will be pulled out of Iraq in March. At first glance, that would make anyone want to cheer, but, of course, there’s a terrible rub: One of the major criticisms of Rumsfeld and the rest of the Bush crowd by conservatives and military people with the guts to talk is that they never put enough troops into Iraq to actually take and keep control and allow restoration of the infrastructure.

The withdrawal of those 15,000 soldiers is a propaganda ploy that is bound to be successful and help create support for the destructive domestic policies now being pushed by the Bush crowd.

It also will put the U.S. and allied troops left behind in greater danger than they are now. There will be fewer people trying to cover the same ground, and they will be more vulnerable. And please note that Rumsfeld and the Bush administration are making no promises about any further withdrawals. There still is no plan, long- or short-term, to get us the hell out of there.

In plain language: More soldiers will die and more will be mangled than would be the case if the withdrawal did not take place, but it is a brilliant political move. The Bushies have never worried about the loss of some peasants’ lives if there were major political gains to be made in the process.

The press, the right wing talking heads and most of the public will think that bringing those troops home is a boon – and how do those of us who want all of the troops out of Iraq criticize it? The right and even most of the daily press will bury us in shouts of "Well, isn’t that what you want?" Only a few columnists will get what’s really happening, and only a small percentage of the population reads the columnists.

One more related topic, briefly:

Some liberals are asking why the press has dived so unquestioningly and enthusiastically into participation in the propaganda surrounding the Iraqi election.

For anybody who has been in the newspaper game for any length of time and retained the ability to think, that’s an easy question.

The armies of the right traditionally hammer at news outlets, and have been doing so for 40 years or more, ever since they learned that they can turn criticism away from themselves by blaming "the press" for all of the sins of the world, real and imagined.

Since Bush came to office, that hammering has increased by a factor of at least 10. If the Bushies and their flunkies in Congress make a mistake, big or little, or one of their abuses of the public is exposed, the right claims it’s simply the news people making up lies.

People who work in news, now more than in the past, are as sensitive to criticism as anybody else. They get tired of being screamed at and called liars and worse. And they want to demonstrate whenever possible that they are not biased against Bush, Republicans and conservatives.

When an opportunity like the Iraq election comes along, they always go overboard. They cheer and they and grovel to show that, by gum, they can appreciate a Republican/Bush triumph as well as the next guy. In fact, in their desire to show how balanced they can be, they give far more credit than is due, and refrain from providing information, no matter how real or pertinent, that would detract from that apparent triumph.

Also, folks, keep in mind that the skill of critical thinking has declined at least as much among journalists as it has among the population as a whole.