Out With the Old, In With the New

by Tariq Ali

Out With the Old, In With the New
The Iraqi Elections Were Designed Not to Preserve
the Unity of Iraq but to Re-Establish the Unity of
the West

by Tariq Ali

The Guardian
Distributed by www.commondreams.org

The US, unlike the empires of old Europe, has always
preferred to exercise its hegemony indirectly. It has
relied on local relays - uniformed despots, corrupt
oligarchs, pliant politicians, obedient monarchs -
rather than lengthy occupations. It was only when
rebellions from below threatened to disrupt this order
that the marines were dispatched and wars fought.

During the cold war, money was supplied
indiscriminately to all anti-communist forces
(including the current leadership of al-Qaida); the
21st-century recipients are more carefully targeted.
The aim is slowly to replace the traditional elites in
the old satrapies with a new breed of neo-liberal
politicians who have been trained and educated in the
US. This is the primary function of the US money
allocated to "democracy promotion". Loyalty can be
purchased from politicians, parties and trades unions.
And the result, it is hoped, is to create a new layer
of janissary politicians who serve Washington.

This most recent variant of "democracy promotion" has
now been applied in Afghanistan and Iraq, and it will
hit Haiti (another occupied country) in November.
Create a new elite, give it funds and weaponry to build
a new army and let them make the country safe for the

The 2004 Afghan elections, even according to some
pro-US commentators, were a farce, and the much vaunted
73% turnout was a fraud. In Iraq, the western media
were celebrating a 60% turnout within minutes of the
polls closing, despite the fact that Iraq lacks a
complete register of voters, let alone a network of
computerized polling stations. The official figure,
when it comes, is likely to be revised downwards
(according to Debka, a pro-US Israeli website, turnout
was closer to 40%).

The "high" turnout was widely interpreted as a
rejection of the Iraqi resistance. But was it? Grand
Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani's many followers voted to
please him, but if he is unable to deliver peace and an
end to the occupation, they too might defect.

The only force in Iraq the occupiers can rely on are
the Kurdish tribes. The Kurdish 36th command battalion
fought alongside the US in Falluja, but the tribal
chiefs want some form of independence, and some oil. If
Turkey, loyal Nato ally and EU aspirant, vetoes any
such possibility, then the Kurds too might accept money
from elsewhere. The battle for Iraq is far from over.
It has merely entered a new stage.

Despite strong disagreements on boycotting the
elections, the majority of Iraqis will not willingly
hand over their oil or their country to the west.
Politicians who try to force this through will lose all
support and become totally dependent on the foreign
armies in their country.

The popular resistance will continue. Many in the west
find it increasingly difficult to support this
resistance. The arguments for and against it are old
ones. In 1885, the English socialist William Morris
celebrated the defeat of General Gordon by the Mahdi:
"Khartoum fallen - into the hands of the people it
belongs to". Morris argued that the duty of English
internationalists was to support all those being
oppressed by the British empire despite disagreements
with nationalism or fanaticism.

The triumphalist chorus of the western media reflects a
single fact: the Iraqi elections were designed not so
much to preserve the unity of Iraq but to re-establish
the unity of the west. After Bush's re-election the
French and Germans were looking for a bridge back to
Washington. Will their citizens accept the propaganda
that sees the illegitimate election (the Carter Center,
which monitors elections worldwide, refused to send
observers) as justifying the occupation?

The occupation involved a military and economic
invasion as envisaged by Hayek, the father of
neo-liberalism, who pioneered the notion of lightning
air strikes against Iran in 1979 and Argentina in 1982.
The re-colonization of Iraq would have greatly pleased
him. Politicians masking their true aims with weasel
words about "humanity" would have irritated him.

What of the media, the propaganda pillar of the new
order? In Control Room, a Canadian documentary on
al-Jazeera, one of the more disgusting images is that
of embedded western journalists whooping with joy at
the capture of Baghdad. The coverage of "elections" in
Afghanistan and Iraq has been little more than empty
spin. This symbiosis of neo-liberal politics and a
neo-liberal media helps reinforce the collective memory
loss from which the west suffers today.

Carl Schmitt, a theorist of the Third Reich, developed
the view that politics is encompassed by the essential
categories of "friend" and "enemy". After the second
world war, Schmitt's writings were adapted to the needs
of the US and are now the bedrock of neocon thinking.
The message is straightforward: if your country does
not serve our needs it is an enemy state. It will be
occupied, its leaders removed and pliant satraps placed
on the throne.

But when troops withdraw, satrapies often crumble.
Occupation, rebellion, withdrawal, occupation,
self-emancipation is a pattern in world history.

At the Nuremberg trials, Ribbentrop, the German foreign
minister, was charged for providing the justification
for Hitler's pre-emptive strike against Norway. Colin
Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Jack Straw in a dock of the
future? Unlikely, but desirable.

Tariq Ali's latest book is 'Bush in Babylon: the
Recolonization of Iraq'.

(c) 2005 Guardian Newspapers, Ltd.