Monday, July 18, 2005

Bringing "Democracy" to Iraq, Bush-Style

It's hardly a surprise that after every phony pretense for the war in Iraq has been shattered the favored reason du jour for the carnage - bringing democracy to Iraq, ergo the Middle East - also now lies in smoking broken tatters in the gutters of GOP morality.

The Bush version of democracy in Iraq begins and ends with the Bush version of democracy in America - rigged elections.

As Sy Hersh writes in the current edition of The New Yorker (a must-have subscription these days), the Bush administration attempted to fix the much vaunted January elections in Iraq. The article makes for shocking reading, even if you thought you were immune from further shock from the sewers of Bush corruption.

Here are some key excerpts:

GET OUT THE VOTE
SEYMOUR M. HERSH
Did Washington try to manipulate Iraq's election?

The January 30th election in Iraq was publicly perceived as a political triumph for George W. Bush and a vindication of his decision to overturn the regime of Saddam Hussein. More than eight million Iraqis defied the threats of the insurgency and came out to vote for provincial councils and a national assembly. Many of them spent hours waiting patiently in line, knowing that they were risking their lives. Images of smiling Iraqis waving purple index fingers, signifying that they had voted, were transmitted around the world. Even some of the President's harshest critics acknowledged that he might have been right: democracy, as he defined it, could take hold in the Middle East. The fact that very few Sunnis, who were dominant under Saddam Hussein, chose to vote was seen within the Administration as a temporary setback. The sense of victory faded, however, amid a continued political stalemate, increased violence, and a hardening of religious divides. After three months of bitter sectarian infighting, a government was finally formed. It is struggling to fulfill its primary task: to draft a new constitution by mid-August.

Whether the election could sustain its promise had been in question from the beginning. The Administration was confronted with a basic dilemma: The likely winner of a direct and open election would be a Shiite religious party. The Shiites were bitter opponents of Saddam's regime, and suffered under it, but many Shiite religious and political leaders are allied, to varying degrees, with the mullahs of Iran. As the election neared, the Administration repeatedly sought ways--including covert action--to manipulate the outcome and reduce the religious Shiite influence. Not everything went as planned.

...A former senior intelligence official told me, “The election clock was running down, and people were panicking. The polls showed that the Shiites were going to run off with the store. The Administration had to do something. How?”

By then, the men in charge of the C.I.A. were “dying to help out, and make sure the election went the right way,” the recently retired C.I.A. official recalled. It was known inside the intelligence community, he added, that the Iranians and others were providing under-the-table assistance to various factions. The concern, he said, was that “the bad guys would win.”

Under federal law, a finding must be submitted to the House and Senate intelligence committees or, in exceptional cases, only to the intelligence committee chairs and ranking members and the Republican and Democratic leaders of Congress. At least one Democrat, Nancy Pelosi, the House Minority Leader, strongly protested any interference in the Iraqi election. (An account of the dispute was published in Time last October.) The recently retired C.I.A. official recounted angrily, “She threatened to blow the whole thing up in the press by going public. The White House folded to Pelosi.” And, for a time, “she brought it to a halt.” Pelosi would not confirm or deny this account, except, in an e-mail from her spokesman, to “vigorously” deny that she had threatened to go public. She added, “I have never threatened to make any classified information public. That’s against the law.” (The White House did not respond to requests for comment.)

The essence of Pelosi’s objection, the recently retired high-level C.I.A. official said, was: “Did we have eleven hundred Americans die”—the number of U.S. combat deaths as of last September—“so they could have a rigged election?”

Sometime after last November’s Presidential election, I was told by past and present intelligence and military officials, the Bush Administration decided to override Pelosi’s objections and covertly intervene in the Iraqi election. A former national-security official told me that he had learned of the effort from “people who worked the beat”—those involved in the operation. It was necessary, he added, “because they couldn’t afford to have a disaster.”

A Pentagon consultant who deals with the senior military leadership acknowledged that the American authorities in Iraq "did an operation" to try to influence the results of the election. "They had to," he said. "They were trying to make a case that Allawi was popular, and he had no juice." A government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon's civilian leaders said, "We didn't want to take a chance."

I was informed by several former military and intelligence officials that the activities were kept, in part, "off the books"--they were conducted by retired C.I.A. officers and other non-government personnel, and used funds that were not necessarily appropriated by Congress. Some in the White House and at the Pentagon believed that keeping an operation off the books eliminated the need to give a formal briefing to the relevant members of Congress and congressional intelligence committees, whose jurisdiction is limited, in their view, to officially sanctioned C.I.A. operations. (The Pentagon is known to be running clandestine operations today in North Africa and Central Asia with little or no official C.I.A. involvement.)

"The Administration wouldn't take the chance of doing it within the system," the former senior intelligence official said. "The genius of the operation lies in the behind-the-scenes operatives--we have hired hands that deal with this." He added that a number of military and intelligence officials were angered by the covert plans. Their feeling was "How could we take such a risk, when we didn't have to? The Shiites were going to win the election anyway."

In my reporting for this story, one theme that emerged was the Bush Administration's increasing tendency to turn to off-the-books covert actions to accomplish its goals. This allowed the Administration to avoid the kind of stumbling blocks it encountered in the debate about how to handle the elections: bureaucratic
infighting, congressional second-guessing, complaints from outsiders.

Thus ends the sad sham of "bringing Democracy to Iraq" - a sham that has claimed almost 1800 American lives and countless Iraqi lives. What casus belli remains? The only one that truly matters in the twisted, greedy minds of the Cheney faction that really runs the show - oil.

1 Comments:

Blogger Mudpuppy said...

<< The concern, he said, was that “the bad guys would win.” >>

What, you mean there are MORE bad guys?! I thought we already killed them all.

1:20 PM  

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