Iraqis Against All Odds

The Iraq elections underline the tenacity of its people and their determination to take back their country.

Iraqis have succeeded in pulling away from the brink despite, not because, of US policies over the last seven years.

Crediting George Bush's policies for hard earned Iraqi accomplishments adds insult to injury.

It was not only the timing of declaring "Mission Accomplished" from
a battle ship that was proved unfortunate, but the whole notion of 'US
victory' in Iraq is utterly nonsensical considering the horrific human,
societal and other costs.

Accomplished - or not bloody accomplished - the US mission has turned Iraq into a complete mess.

What transpired after the invasion in terms of US failures and power
abuse could have completely dismantled the society, nation and country.
Alas, it still could!

The widespread destruction after 2003, civil war after 2005 and the
division of the country on sectarian lines after that have, for all
practical purposes, demolished the Iraqi state and society.

But Iraqis proved stronger and more stubborn than the disasters
brought on them by US occupation and the subsequent Iranian and
al-Qaeda involvement.

If there is a mission to be rewarded, it is how common sense
patriotism is helping Iraqis transcend the violent occupation and abuse
by some of their own countrymen.

Indeed, the hard work has only begun. Iraqis will need to heal their
wounds, reconcile their differences and put an end to the flames of

They might have held elections, but democracy is a long way off.

Rejecting sectarianism and occupation

Predictably, leaders closest to the occupation and outside forces have proven to be the bloodiest and most corrupt.

Those at the service of US objectives and followers of Iran or
al-Qaeda have demonstrated a lack of patriotism, indifference to
suffering and willingness to shed the blood of their fellow citizens
for the sake of foreign or fundamentalist agendas.

To their credit, the majority of Iraqis have rejected violent
sectarianism and condemned corruption with the same vigour with which
they rejected the occupation.

It was the US occupation that introduced - or at least deepened and institutionalised - political sectarianism in the country.

When the armed resistance hardened and expanded in 2004, the
US turned a blind eye to sectarian violence which killed tens of

In fact, according to certain reports, the Bush administration
helped introduce the Salvador Option [a grim reminder of US involvement
in El Salvador, where quasi-official death squads helped end an
insurgency] to the Iraqi interior ministry.

Pitting Shia against Sunni factions against each other became de
facto US strategy, aiming to exhaust both sides and to steer them away
from confronting the occupation.

With countless deaths, terrible displacements and awful suffering,
Iraqis have to a large degree discredited and tamed sectarian
extremists and rewarded those who condemned the exploitation of
religious tensions to gain popularity and allegiances.

Those with a fundamentalist or sectarian worldview saw their
electoral power diminish substantially during the last regional

As in the ballot box, Iraqis have also rejected sectarianism on the streets and in the countryside.

And just as the occupation planted the seeds of political sectarianism, it also brought al-Qaeda to Iraq.

But Iraqi tribes eventually rejected al-Qaeda's fundamentalist
agenda for Iraq and turned against its loyalists all over the country.

It was the fight Iraqis put up against al-Qaeda in the predominantly
Sunni regions, not in Baghdad where the military surge took place, that
brought an end to the group's destructive role.

Not a Karzai, nor a Saddam

Iraq has pulled away from the brink at times through unfortunate intimidations or brute force.

The tenacity, determination and ambition of the likes of Nouri
al-Maliki has played a central role in pulling Iraqi society from the
abyss it found itself in, to something more manageable. Although he
lacks American style charisma, he has proved to be an astute politician.

Since becoming prime minister, al-Maliki has claimed to represent
Iraqis, not foreign agendas, first and foremost. He has also kept a
certain distance from the domineering US presence.

Some credit his uncompromising stand on reducing sectarianism in the
police and military to the diminished sectarian violence on the streets.

Others point out his intimidation and misuse of government forces
and accuse him of outright "thuggery" just as others question his
attempts to keep the opposition, especially Sunni figures, off the
ballot lists.

Those alienated by his tough handedness, spoke of a new Saddam Hussein trying to hold onto power at any cost.

Al-Maliki's uncompromising agreement with the Bush administration
has secured, at least officially, full US withdrawal from Iraq within a
relatively short time, giving the Iraqis a new political horizon that,
to my mind, motivated many reluctant Iraqis to participate in the
elections and re-enter the political life of their country.

For many, this dealt a major blow to US interventionism.

Al-Maliki was just as tough with those who supported his
bid to become prime minister, like Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr, who
questioned the central authority of the government, by unflinchingly
confronting his militia at the risk of sparking a wider and bloodier

The Iraqi leader has also put Iraq's Arab neighbours on notice,
especially those who interfered in Iraq's internal affairs, or those
shooting from the sidelines, by asking them to live up to their
neighbourly responsibilities.

Al-Maliki has come under fire for his authoritarianism from certain
US circles, and like Karzai has been accused of putting his personal
interests and those of those closest to him ahead of that of Iraq.

However, unlike the Afghan leader whose authority is weak and
extends to no more than the capital's boundaries, al-Maliki's State of
the Law party, with all its terrible shortcomings and sectarian
colouring, has brought a certain order, however fragile, to Iraq.


While many celebrate the elections as the dawn of a new era, people
cannot live by elections alone. They need jobs, food, running water.
And millions need to go home.

Iraq continues to suffer from occupation, sectarianism, chaos, insecurity, lack of basic needs and utilities and uncertainty.

The elections will not give one single party the majority of seats,
but nor will a coalition government mean a working democracy.

After all, democracy cannot be reduced to majority rule, especially
if such a majority is undemocratic. Rather, democracy is the governing
of democratic values by those accepting its principles of government.

Democracy is also the rule of law and the protection of the rights of minorities against the whims of the majorities.

In fact, the elections could further confuse an already complicated
Iraqi politics, especially if accusations of irregularities lead to
challenging the results of the elections and pave the way to
instability ahead of scheduled US withdrawals.

Alas, in these neo-colonial times, Iraq is far from immune from more
of the same tensions and bloodshed it witnessed in the recent past.

After all, many of those who led and financed expensive electoral
campaigns in the shadow of the occupation cannot be trusted with the
future of the country.

But no matter what happens, Iraqis need to resolve their disputes
non-violently, and in the meantime show the occupation the door and
kick out mercenaries.

Time for the 'dogs of war' to dissipate with their tails between their legs.

It is paradoxical that 'free elections' in the Arab world takes
place mostly under occupation. But that says more about the sad state
of Arab affairs and the authoritarianism of Arab regimes than it does
about presumed enlightened occupation, itself an oxymoron.

The Palestinians, like the Iraqis, have also held elections after
four decades of oppression. To give Israel or American occupation
credit for peoples' patriotism and yearning for freedom is as cynical
as it is silly.

After long decades of wars, sanctions and destruction, Iraqis are
clumsily, but true to character, stubbornly trying to rise from the
ashes. Give credit where credit is due.

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