Will today's elections for 7,785 unknown candidates in violence-racked Iraq mark the dawn of genuine Mideast democracy, as U.S. President George W. Bush claims, or be another step deeper into the bloody quagmire in Mesopotamia?
First, no election held under a foreign military occupation resulting from an unjustified war is legal under international law. During the Cold War, elections staged by the Soviets after invading Afghanistan, Hungary and Czechoslovakia were rightly denounced by the U.S. as "frauds" and the leaders elected as "stooges."
Second, Shiites, excluded from political power since Britain created Iraq in 1921, will win since they represent 60% of the population. Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani issued a fatwa, or religious decree, ordering the faithful to vote for the Shiites' coalitions.
Sistani made what some see as a pact with the devil. He is abetting at least temporary U.S. occupation and exploitation of oil-rich Iraq in exchange for Washington handing power to his fellow "good" Shiites -- not to be confused with Iran's "bad" Shiites, who are facing U.S.-Israeli attack. "Good" Shiites don't sport turbans; they sideline clerics and avoid angry Islamic mutterings.
Iraq's pro-U.S. Kurds will elect their own coalitions determined to keep their oil revenues and create a state independent in all but name.
Sunnis have lost all the power and perks they previously enjoyed, they lead resistance against U.S. Occupation They will be the odd men out, at the mercy of the hated Shiites, a sect long persecuted by mainstream Sunni Muslims as dangerous heretics and fanatics.
Third, the U.S.-"guided" regime emerging from the vote will be one of form without much substance, unless a new Shiite regime revolts and asserts its independence.
For now, Iraq's real government will continue to be the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, the world's largest, and 150,000 U.S. Occupation troops.
Every important Iraqi ministry is run by U.S. "advisers" who call the shots and allocate all spending. Power comes from guns and money. The U.S. controls and pays Iraq's low-morale police and native troops who, in a nation with 70% unemployment, mostly serve to feed families.
VOTE TO END MISERY
Iraq's entire budget comes from sporadic oil exports and U.S.-dispensed aid (the latest bill for Bush's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: $240 billion US).
Many Iraqis will vote for anyone promising to end violence and social misery. But just as many nationalists and Islamists, excluded from the election process, are voting their own way -- with bullets and bombs. Washington calls them "terrorists," but the UN Charter enshrines people's right to resist foreign occupation.
A "Muslim-lite" turbanless Shiite regime allied to Washington will immediately have to face Kurdish secessionists and Sunni insurgents. Younger, more nationalistic Shiites with connections to Tehran will try to oust the "quietist" collaborationist Sistani faction once Shiites are firmly in power. More, rather than less, violence is likely, with Sistani a prime bomb target.
Iraq, like Humpty Dumpty, is broken and may never be put together. That's fine with the Bush administration's pro-Israel hawks who engineered this war. A shattered Iraq will never challenge Israel's nuclear monopoly.
But not fine for the U.S. A senior commander just warned that 130,000 U.S. troops must stay in Iraq until at least 2007, maybe much longer. Iraqization, like Vietnamization, has proved a chimera. So, too, plans to plunder Iraq's oil. Meanwhile Pentagon brass are livid over neo-con plans to launch a new war against Israel's principal enemy, Iran.
This "guided" election is Bush's best last chance to declare a titanic victory, then bring all his troops home to a big ticker-tape parade before Iraq dissolves into bloody chaos or is taken over by Iran. Otherwise, the U.S. will be stuck forever to its Iraqi tar baby, ruing the day it overthrew old ally, Saddam.
A truly independent regime will eventually emerge in Baghdad when the U.S. finally runs low on money, men and crusading will power.
We'll know for sure real freedom has dawned in Iraq when Baghdad orders U.S. Troops out, raises oil prices, rebuilds its armed forces, and renews support for the Palestinian cause.
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