Just before Saturday’s so-called constitutional referendum vote in occupied Iraq, one of my close friends in Baghdad wrote me, “I would like to point out that we are three days away from the referendum, yet very large sectors of Iraqi people couldn’t receive part of the five million copies [of the constitution] from the UN, ie- they will not know what the constitution contains. Subsequently, they will vote according to their backgrounds or religious or political preferences. Many people who will vote yes do not know why they will vote yes…what kind of vote is this?”
The vote had many similarities to the farce which took place on January 30-aside from a repeat of the draconian measures to provide security and quite a large dose of propaganda; we once again have what already appears to be rampant election fraud.
Figures provided by several governorates have required Iraq’s independent electoral commission (IEC) to order (under heavy Sunni political pressure) “re-examination, comparison and verification because they [voter turnout figures] are relatively high compared with international averages for elections” of this kind; according to a statement made by the IEC on Monday.
This occurred rather inconveniently after US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s nearly instantaneous belief that the constitution “has probably been passed.”
I have little doubt that the constitution will still be passed, despite what the IEC referred to in findings showing “that figures from most provinces were too high,” referencing voter turnout. Not surprisingly, a source close to the commission stated, “The problems are not in Sunni Arab zones,” as reported by Al-Jazeera.
Huge discrepancies are already reported in the Nineveh governorate, which includes Mosul, showing that while sources close to the IEC were quoted saying that 55% of the voters there voted against the constitution, Abd al-Razaq al-Jiburi, the secretary general of the Iraqi Independent Front said, “I have been informed by an employee of the electoral high commission in Mosul that the voting for the constitution has been ‘no.’”
He went on to add that his sources within the IEC said the “no” vote in Nineveh ranged between 75-80%. This is a critical governorate vote, with Diyala and Salahedin governorates already appearing to have decisively rejected the constitution, despite US military repression with ongoing operations there, as well as in other predominantly Sunni governorates.
Keep in mind that the draft constitution can be rejected by a 2/3 “no” vote occurring in three governorates.
How many people in the US will actually understand what is happening in Iraq regarding this referendum vote? Most likely not many when we consider the ongoing machinations occurring in US mainstream media outlets. One of my friends in Baghdad who is working by gathering information for one of these sources wrote me recently, “By the way, I asked them to omit my name as a contributor to their articles because the journalists they have writing them are not accurately reporting the views of Iraqis on the ground.”
He concluded his email with, “Everybody from the family is good. Life goes on as usual between the explosions. It is God who saves us.”
As usual, it isn’t only the Iraqis who are suffering from the illegal occupation of their country. A National Guard soldier who has been in Iraq for nearly a year writes me, “I needn’t tell you…how messed up everything over here is. Regardless of the intentions of most soldiers to do a good job and do what’s right, the organizational structure of our presence here makes it very difficult. The nature of the conflict–in terms of the insurgency, the attitude of our leadership, and the demands placed on soldiers because of numbers and resources—requires aggression where compassion and understanding are necessary. And this is against a background of profiteering by KBR and other contractors who are quite honestly raiding the American Treasury in the name of “providing services.” I was opposed to this war from the start; what I’ve seen has deepened that opposition into anger, anger over the exploitation of both American soldiers and third-country nationals for vain and venal reasons.”
A perfect example of the aggression he refers to occurred in Ramadi yesterday. Residents claimed that several people, including children, were congregating around the site where a US military vehicle was destroyed and five soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb on election day.
US warplanes conducted a strike on the crowd of two dozen people which had gathered to look at the wreckage and strip it for scrap metal. The military claimed that they were setting another roadside bomb in the same location.
Dr. Bassem al-Dulaimi at the main hospital reported that he received 25 dead bodies which were the result of US aerial bombings. Other doctors and Iraqi police officers reported that the dead were all civilians, including children.
At least 14 other Iraqis were killed in US air strikes on a nearby village.
The US army stated that the air strikes conducted by US warplanes and helicopters killed 70 “terrorists” during the air strikes in Ramadi and surrounding locales, and also said that not one civilian was killed due to their use of precision weapons.
Another doctor at Ramadi General Hospital who was tending to the dead and wounded told reporters, “They are not terrorists. They were ordinary people who were bombed by airplanes.”
Meanwhile, a delusional Mr. Bush told reporters during a recent meeting with the Bulgarian President, “The way forward [in Iraq] is clear. The political process will continue, with a constitution, if finally ratified. And then an election, coupled with a security plan that continues to train Iraqis so they do the fight.”
Bush is “staying the course” with his propaganda line of getting the Iraqi army trained before the US can withdraw, despite his top US commander in Iraq, US Army General George Casey, disclosing to the Senate Armed Services Committee on September 29th that only one Iraqi battalion was capable of operating independently.
But facts don’t sway our “resolute” Mr. Bush, who then on October 6th during a speech to the National Endowment for Democracy said, “Today there are more than 80 Iraqi army battalions fighting the insurgency alongside our forces.”
So rather than listening to the delusions of Mr. Bush or the prophesies of Condoleeza Rice, let us keep our eyes on the facts. Within the last week we’ve had clashes on the border of Syria between the Syrian Army and US military; the toll of dead US soldiers is now at least 1,976…with at least 23 dead in just the last nine days and ten times that number wounded, with over 110 dead Iraqi civilians in the same time period. And, lest we forget, there is no timetable for withdrawal.