Sunday, October 16, 2005

CONSTITUTIONAL REFERENDUM: Iraq, Venezuela, Ohio & Florida

By Jack Random

One could not observe the unfolding story of a fixed election in Iraq without recalling the sordid electoral history of the Bush administration. After sacrificing two thousand American soldiers, tens of thousands of Iraqi lives, and countless untold casualties of war, it seems the democracy we have bestowed on Iraq is not the democracy of our founders in 1776 (declaring independence from a foreign power); it is not the democracy of 1783 (drafting a constitution on the foundation of a bill of rights); rather, it is the democracy of Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004.

The critical flaw of our founders was that they did not trust the common people, minorities or women to be a part of the fledgling republic. The problem with the neocon overlords of war, self-proclaimed champions of liberty and conduit of God’s true will, is that they do not trust democracy at all.

They like a fixed game.

In Florida 2000, with all the chips on the table, the current inhabitants of the White House administered the greatest disenfranchisement of African American citizens since the days of Jim Crow and still they had to fall back on a corrupt Supreme Court.

In 2004, when it all came down to Ohio, Karl Rove and his merry pranksters dusted off the bag of dirty tricks in a determined effort to suppress the black vote. When it appeared it was not enough (remember the exit polls), the fix went in on the electronic ballot box (which conveniently did not leave a paper trail).

They like a fixed game.

In the days leading up to the Iraqi constitutional referendum, the interim National Assembly tried to fix the rules (lowering the bar for passage). When that backfired in a barrage of unfavorable public opinion, the fix went in on the ballot box in the critical province of Ninevah.

Owing to the ineptitude of the opposition party, the pervasive corruption of the two-party system, and the complicity of corporate media, we never learned the full extent of democracy’s betrayal in Florida or Ohio. In the occupied territory of Iraq (can we even call it a nation?), where media is completely marginalized and there is no independent judiciary, there is no chance that the truth will ever emerge. We will be given a set of numbers and the numbers will be shaped to the desired result.

If there were a free press in Iraq, the wires would be buzzing with stories of disenfranchisement and voter suppression. In America, we disenfranchise undesirable (i.e., black) voters by falsely branding them criminals, by changing polling stations without notification, and by an assortment of other nefarious means. In Iraq, they simply round up the usual suspects (i.e., Sunnis) and detain them until after the election. If they resist, they shoot them down like stray dogs in New Orleans and proclaim another victory in the war for democracy.

The difficulty with foreign lands that we consider less sophisticated than our own is that the people have a sixth sense. They are not conditioned to believe what the government tells them or what the media dutifully reports. They may not fully understand the intricacies of a profoundly flawed legal document but they have a nose for corruption and they will sniff it out.

Curiously, the Associated Press issued a report based on the early count that admitted no doubt in the result of the referendum. In the Sunni dominated provinces of Diyala and Ninevah, the referendum was winning by margins of seventy and seventy-three percentage points. By Sunday morning (American time), Nation Public Radio was reporting a great deal of doubt – particularly in the province of Ninevah. What happened? Was the initial margin so overwhelming that it challenged common sense?

It was good enough, it seemed, for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

About two years ago, Dr. Rice spoke too soon when she signaled American approval of a military coup in Venezuela (the coup was reversed within days). She may have committed the same diplomatic perversity in pronouncing passage of the Iraqi constitution.

There were no exit polls in Mosul, were there?

What did Dr. Rice know that the people on the ground did not? Given the rudimentary hand-counting system of Iraqi elections, we were told it could take days or weeks before the ballots were fully tabulated but, according to the secretary, the results were already in. Perhaps they were in before the first ballot was cast.

When Dr. Rice spoke prematurely on the Venezuelan coup, she inadvertently tipped America’s hand. Our agents were intricately involved in that disgraceful attempt to overthrow a lawfully elected government – just as they were with Jean Bertrand Aristide in Haiti.

To be fair, Dr. Rice did not speak with certainty in her referendum pronouncement. She left room for doubt. She allowed for a safe retreat.

She and the neocon overlords in the White House would be wise to exercise the exit option. The defeat of the draft constitution would not be a crushing blow to either the occupation or democracy in Iraq. It might in fact lend some credibility to the process. The only outcome that would most assuredly fuel the fires of the insurgency is the perception of a crooked election.

As for the occupation, it is already doomed. It is no longer a question of success or failure – indeed, it never really was. It is a question of how long, how much, and how many more lives will be sacrificed on the altar of a lie. According to the latest CNN poll, fully 82% of Americans believe in a timetable of withdrawal. You do not press on in war with only 18% support.

We have had our own referendum on the war and the occupation. The results must bring shock and awe to the overlords of preemptive strike and never-ending war: They have utterly and miserably failed.

The only referendum in Iraq that truly matters is a referendum on the occupation itself: Shall all foreign soldiers withdraw from the nation?

Like Condoleezza Rice, we do not require an official tabulation to announce the result: America must withdraw.



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