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Bush claims that Iraqis are leading "better lives," but...
Iraq slides deeper into disaster

By Elizabeth Schulte | December 16, 2005 | Page 16

THE BUSH administration is pulling out all the stops to show the U.S. public that progress is being made in Iraq. So it's time for another election "milestone" on Iraq's supposed "road to democracy."

Voting for Iraq's National Assembly--under the terms of the cobbled-together constitution--will take place December 15.

"Iraqis are beginning to see that a free life will be a better life," Bush boasted. But ordinary Iraqis know that another election will bring a now-familiar routine--strict curfews, bans on travel, sealed borders and escalated harassment and terrorizing of Iraqi citizens in the name of Election Day "security."

To get an idea of the occupiers' idea of Iraqi "security," consider the recent reports of foreign security contractors shooting at civilian vehicles on busy streets in Iraq. Video of the shooting--accompanied by music by Elvis Presley--was posted on a Web site linked informally to the London-based contracting firm Aegis.

As for Bush's "better life" claim, unemployment in Iraq is estimated at 70 percent, and ordinary people are seeing prices for food staples and cooking fuel rise even higher. "Everything has gone up in price so many times," Abu Mushtaq, a father of five, told Inter Press Service. "Petrol, kerosene, even the price of bread has gone up so many times since the invasion. The invaders only came to Iraq to fill up their own pockets."

In the U.S., the popularity of Bush's war has sunk still further. According to a New York Times-CBS News poll, only 25 percent of Americans believed that Bush has "a clear plan for victory in Iraq."

Yet Bush's opposition in the Democratic Party is doing little to challenge the White House. Last week, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) made a heavily hyped speech that called for the withdrawal of 20,000 American troops after the elections. That's the same number that's already part of the Pentagon's normal troop rotation schedule.

And Kerry, purposely or not, likewise admitted that his real plan is to shift the burden of casualties further onto Iraqi police and Army units. "There is no reason, Bob," the Democrats' 2004 presidential candidate said on CBS's Face the Nation, "that young American soldiers need to be going into the homes of Iraqis in the dead of night, terrorizing kids and children, you know, women, breaking sort of the customs of the--of--the historical customs, religious customs. Whether you like it or not...Iraqis should be doing that."

These are Washington's high hopes for a "free Iraq." Iraqis won't be free or live better lives until the U.S. occupation is ended--immediately and completely.

Sami Ramadani on the latest "milestone" election in Iraq
"The elections won't change things"

SAMI RAMADANI was for many years an exile from his native Iraq as a political refugee from Saddam Hussein's regime. Today, he is an outspoken opponent of the U.S. invasion and occupation. At an international antiwar conference in London in December, Ramadani spoke with Socialist Worker's ERIC RUDER about whether the upcoming elections in Iraq would be a "turning point," as the Bush administration claimed.

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WE HAVE had so many turning points that we're getting dizzy. I think actually that the December elections are not going to change things in Iraq. The occupation will go on, and we'll have yet another government that is devised under U.S. control and influence in Iraq.

But at another level, it will have an important impact in terms of the legality of the occupation of Iraq. I think one of the plans behind holding this election so speedily is to legitimize the occupation, so the new government will be deemed to be a sovereign government with a permanent constitution, and this so-called new government will invite the occupation forces to stay in Iraq.

At one level, they would like to get the United Nations off their backs and legitimize the occupation. At another, if this does happen, then all contracts signed by the new government will have the force of international law behind them--and this has very significant consequences for control of Iraqi oil, because they are preparing so-called production sharing agreements that will pass control over Iraq's oil reserves to the transnational oil corporations.

These "production sharing agreements" are privatization under another name. Effective control will pass to the oil companies. They hope that once these agreements are speedily signed come January or February of next year, then even if they can't exploit Iraqi oil now, these agreements can be brought into effect at a later stage, once Iraq is stabilized and when they have a government in Baghdad pliant enough, and have enough American bases in the country to back such a government.

Much of this is already in the public domain and has been exposed in the past few months.

In terms of who will participate and who will not, I think overwhelmingly this election is going to prove to be--like the previous one in January--a non-event in terms of the daily lives of Iraqis. The situation in Iraq is deteriorating day by day, and this election is not going to change things, unfortunately.

The forces that are standing in the election are not even mentioning the word "oil," which is quite significant in many ways. And the constitution they adopted actually opens the door for the control of Iraq's oil by the oil companies.

The new constitution contains an article which is preceded by saying Iraq's oil belongs to the Iraqi people. Then there is a more detailed article that follows, which says that Iraq's current oilfields will continue to be administered by the Iraqi government. The word "current" is the crucial one, because only 10 percent of Iraq's oil is in currently exploited oilfields. About 90 percent of Iraq's oil is still underground and hasn't been tapped yet.

So the constitution has surreptitiously opened the door for the privatization of most of Iraq's oil, and put it at the mercy of so-called production sharing agreements.

Most of the forces running in the election are saying they want to end the occupation--some very strongly, some mildly. But I don't think that most of them are serious about this, because if you remember, the bloc that got most of the votes last time around had at the top of its agenda the withdrawal of the occupation forces, but they didn't do anything about it. This was Shiite leader Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani's Coalition List.

As far as kicking out the occupation forces, I don't think they are strong enough or serious enough to do so. But even if they are genuine about the slogan, they end up sitting in the Green Zone, where the occupation tanks are protecting them. So immediately, they are in a compromised situation where their daily safety and existence depend on the tanks and helicopters of the occupation forces.

Even if they last a week, two weeks, a month, two months, opposing the presence of the occupation, their daily life and existence grows ever more dependent on the presence of the occupation, and this is a fix that they cannot escape from.

You cannot join in this political process and become completely anti-occupation because of the facts on the ground--because the occupation forces are the only effective forces that can provide any state-type protection for elected representatives, even if these elected representatives are anti-occupation themselves. It's a very big contradiction they fall into the moment they get elected.

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