Mon, Dec 19, 2005 - Page 9 News List

Elections under occupation lack real credibility

Iraq's current political process will not solve the crisis. Only a US and British pullout and a UN-sponsored poll will provide any hope of achieving that goal

By Harith al-Dari  /  THE GUARDIAN , BAGHDAD

Iraq has a long history of civilization that has contributed both knowledge and wisdom to humanity. For many centuries, Islam also immunized Iraq against religious or sectarian strife and protected its population from the oppression that peoples of the ancient world had been subjected to.

Generation after generation of Iraqis succeeded in maintaining peaceful coexistence among their diverse sects and races, despite the hardships and challenges they faced. It is by virtue of this cohesion that Iraq managed to rise up again and put its house in order in the wake of every calamity.

In recent times, one of the most difficult periods has been the past 35 years, during which Iraq was subjected to one-party rule by a minority that dragged the country through a series of misadventures, with heavy losses for the Iraqi people.

During the last chapter of that painful era, Iraqis were for many years punished with sanctions that caused the death of hundreds of thousands of innocent people, most of them children. The sanctions ended with an invasion, followed by an occupation by US and British troops, in total complete contravention of international law and in defiance of the UN.

The invaders resorted to pretexts that soon proved to be false, including the lie about weapons of mass destruction.

Things became much worse under occupation, which has delivered none of the promised dividends of democracy, freedom, security and prosperity. Instead, Iraqis have been living in fear, poverty, oppression and a lack of freedom.

The occupation troops have resorted to excessive force, indiscriminate killing and collective punishment of the population.

They have besieged entire towns, storming into them, instilling fear and horror among residents and destroying their homes. Iraqis have been humiliated and stripped of their basic human rights. They have been subjected to brutal and ghastly forms of torture, as the infamous Abu Ghraib prison case and the British troops' abuse of detainees in Basra have shown.

In the meantime there has been a scandalous failure by successive Iraqi governments to attend to the basic needs of the population.

There has been a continuous rise in unemployment, which has been used to force young men to join the military and security establishments, which in turn throw them into the furnace of a destructive, yet futile, war. Many other young men find themselves drawn into drug trafficking because Iraq has become a theater for this sinister industry although it had until the invasion been one of the few countries in the world that had no significant drugs problem.

The conduct and motivation of the occupation authorities were suspect right from the start, when they encouraged the organized theft of public properties; left weapon dumps unguarded; dissolved the army and replaced it with militias whose agendas are incompatible with the collective interests of the Iraqi people; and when it introduced sectarian and racial quotas in political life, paving the way for serious sectarian and racial conflict that has been exploited by some political groups for their own exclusive ends.

This is what has become of Iraq under occupation. The US and its allies bear full legal and moral responsibility for all this: they are the ones who instigated it by illegally invading Iraq.

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