The Iraqi Election: News and Iraqi Voices
Since the election two weeks ago there has been a large number of articles published about the election and what it might mean both for the future of Iraq and the ongoing occupation. While the corporate press (and even some “left” news sources) initially expressed some degree of happiness with the election and declared it to be relatively trouble-free, a growing amount of information has come out indicating that the election was far from trouble-free. In cities such as Mosul, large numbers of Iraqis were prevented from voting and results have been delayed amid recount efforts. Moreover, while attention was focus on the relative lack of violence–and how any election in which 44 people were killed while trying to vote can be considered “successful” is ridiculous–over the past week more has been published on the numerous problems with the January 30 election.
The analysis of the election has been varied, with some commentators seeing the election as little more than a way for the United States to maintain control of Iraq while others describe it as a “decidedly popular election”. Author Rahul Mahajan has published one of the more insightful commentaries on the election, while Occupation Watch has put together an invaluable collection of election commentary from actual Iraqis, a population that has been predictably ignored amidst all of the attention surrounding the election.
There are also questions about what the victory of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani will mean for Iraq. While the more reactionary elements in the United States have warned that it may result in a close relationship with Iran and thus a potential “security threat” for the United States, such interpretations are rather simplistic. Some have argued that the election was largely Sistani’s doing and that without it the Bush administration would have simply installed a government of its own liking. The Bush administration rejects many of Sistanti’s politics–Sistani has talked of making “Islam the source of legislation in the permanent constitution and to reject any law that is contrary to Islam,” and is opposed to the US occupation. Moreover, Sistani’s election seems to indicate that Iraq is on its way to becoming some type of Islamic Republic, albeit a more moderate one than neighboring Iran.
The Iraqi Insurgency after the Election
Some optimistic commentators–generally those who followed the lead of the Bush administration–predicted that the election would bring a decrease in the number of attacks by insurgents in Iraq. However, this has not been the case, as the insurgency continues attacks at a pace inline with pre-election levels. Recent attacks have shown that the insurgency has a large intelligence network that enables it to not only attack Iraqi police but also officials within the Iraqi government. Far from being the random assassinations portrayed in the corporate media, these attacks are frequently the product of an increasingly effective process of identifying effective administrators and officials in the interim government and eliminating them, thus undermining the potential effectiveness of the occupation force. While the insurgency lacks the above-ground political apparatus that has historically characterized insurgent movements in other countries, it has become particularly effective in disrupting the daily functioning of the government which it views as collaborating with an occupying force.
Grand Rapids Companies Profiting from Weapons Sales in “the War on Terror”
A new report released by Media Mouse details the lucrative contracts awarded to Grand Rapids area companies by the United States military over the past two years. The report, titled Aiming to Please lists a number of contracts awarded to companies such as Borisch Manufacturing, L-3, Smiths Aerospace, and Wolverine Worldwide. Local companies are producing a variety of components for weapons systems that are being used both in Iraq and the larger “war on terror.” The report is the first part of a renewed antiwar strategy that is being planned by the Confronting Empire working group, a coalition of local activists working to create a more organized response to US empire.
Seeds Require Licensing in Iraq
In an order implemented by former head of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) L. Paul Bremer, Iraqi farmers are facing new restrictions on the traditional practice of saving seeds. Under new licensing requirements, Iraqi farmers are prohibited from saving seeds from genetically modified crop variants and must instead purchase new seeds each year from US-based corporations. The regulation is intended to shift Iraq from a traditional agricultural economy to an industrial agricultural economy complete with the requisite patents on seeds and other forms of life. The impact of this regulation is expected to be devastating, with many farmers lacking both the equipment and money to survive in an environment of industrial agriculture.
Iraq War Veterans Returning Home
According to two recent articles, veterans returning from Iraq are finding it increasingly difficult to both integrate into their previous communities and to find support in aiding them in their transition from the military to civilian life. Government agencies are facing a large backlog for services and in many cases are telling veterans that there is little they can do to help them. Assistance provided by the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) is limited and many veterans are returning to find that the services are not there, and in extreme cases, are turning to life on the streets.
The obvious comparison is to Vietnam, as large numbers of veterans returned home from Vietnam to find social services lacking and a society that was unable to help them cope with their experiences. Many social service agencies are preparing for a large influx of homeless veterans as well as an increase in reports of spousal and child abuse by soldiers as more return from Iraq and are unable to get adequate support for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental conditions as a result of their service. Whereas it took about 12 years for many of these problems to become recognized and reach a point where they became a national concern after Vietnam, representatives from veterans organizations expect that the problems will begin much earlier with veterans from Iraq, pointing to both the fact that many of the soldiers came from the National Guard and are thus less able to cope with the realities of war as well as the numbers that indicate 15 to 17% of Iraq veterans meet the criteria for major depression, generalized anxiety, or PTSD.
Restless Oil Companies Welcome New Iraqi Government
Western oil companies are viewing the recent election as a potential source of stability, which they hope will create a security situation in which oil extraction in Iraq can increase. Companies such as ChevronTexaco, British Petroleum-Amoco, Shell, and Exxon are donating technological assistance and software while offering “gifts” such as cash and vacations in hopes of winning a contract for a new three billion dollar “super-refinery” in Iraq. Moreover, there are indications that lucrative oil contracts will be awarded by the outgoing interim government, rather than the newly elected government.