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IW 04

Asia-Middle East

Iraq: Referendum under Occupation

A FARCE WITHIN A TRAGEDY


The infamous “regime change” exported by the Armed Forces of U.S. /British imperialism and their ‘Coalition of the Willing’ war criminals develops as a historical nightmare, combining features both of a tragedy and of a farce. The October 2005 “referendum” for the “new Constitution” in Iraq is such a farce within a tragedy.

An electoral process for the “founding document of democracy” has taken place under the threat of the guns of the U.S. led occupying army, on a document drafted by U.S. specialists to safeguard solely U.S. imperialist interests. U.S. exported “democracy” institutionalized its constitutional foundation by military terror, abuse and extensive electoral fraud, particularly in the third city of the country, Mosul , and in Sunni areas where abstention from the imperialist imposed farce has prevailed.

American kitchen

A Sunni collaborator of the Occupation authorities, involved in the commission of drafting the new constitution, has openly affirmed that it “was cooked up in an American kitchen, not an Iraqi one” (Reuters, August 28, 2005). The chef in the kitchen was the US ambassador in Baghdad, Zalmay Khalizad, a member of the neo-conservative Project for a New American Century, who had called for invading Iraq since 1998. Khalizad has served in the past as intermediary for the US government with the Taliban regime; he has previously worked for Unocal in Afghanistan and after the 2001 invasion was appointed as the US ’s first ambassador to Afghanistan helping to give a fake legitimacy to the Afghan elections and to the Karzai Quisling regime in Kabul .

Newly appointed to Iraq, Khalizad was backed by US embassy officials operating from a Kurdish party headquarters “to help type up the draft and translate changes from English to Arabic for Iraqi lawmakers” (Washington Post, August 23, 2005).

Thus, it is not a surprise that Khalizad was introduced to the Iraq’s fake “parliament” of collaborators by the Kurdish leader and President-Quisling of Iraq Jalal Talabani as “dear brother”( New York Times, August 16, 2005).

Manipulating the “Kurdish card” was crucial for American imperialism during the invasion as well during the Occupation. Now it is crucial also to institutionalize the Occupation. For this reason, the imperialist imposed “constitution” introduces the “federative principle” trying to present it as a vital concession to the Kurdish and Shia aspirations. As a matter of fact this is a cynical lie and a dangerous trap threatening to dismember Iraq by a permanent ethnic -religious civil war among Arabs, Kurds, Sunnis and Shias on behalf of imperialist domination.

Dismemberment and “federation”

The constitutions in modern times institutionalize the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the State-Nation. In multi-national, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural societies, where the federative principle is introduced generally, it is attempted to establish an equilibrium between the centralizing tendencies of an integrated economy and State with the decentralizing tendencies of the different entities inside the Federation.

The Iraqi ‘Constitution’ cooked up in the American kitchen is a first: under the guise of federalism, it introduces the dismemberment of the country into impotent sub-states, among the lines that existed under the Ottoman Empire while national sovereignty is torpedoed and its remnants are subjugated to imperialist control.

Herbert Docena writes in a very interesting article in Asia Times last August:

“Incidentally, during the course of the negotiations over the constitution, SCIRI [Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq ]’s al Hakim strongly pushed for the creation of a southern Shi’ite sub-state comprising nine of Iraq ’s 18 provinces. The draft constitution would allow this sub-state to determine oil policy in its territory, earn a substantial portion of revenues from existing oil fields, and rake up to 100% of revenues in oilfields that are yet to be developed. The US’ stance on the question of federalism may have a lot to do with the assurance that the ones who may end up ruling over Iraq’s oil reserves- the Kurds in the north and the Shi’ite parties in the south- are people who have gone on record as favoring their privatization[…] While the constitution gives oil producing regions the power to enact oil policy, it also goes out of its way to stipulate that the central state should ‘guarantee the freedom of movement for workers, goods, and Iraqi capital between the regions and the provinces’. This distinction of roles between the central state and the regions follows the template for the kind of ‘market-preserving federalism’ advocated by neoliberal constitutionalists: that in which the central state is empowered only to maintain a common market within the territory while the power to regulate the market is relegated to weakened sub-states. For neoliberals, federalism is alright as long as the regions don’t put up walls against free trade and so long as they don’t become powerful enough to implement labor, environmental, and other social policies.

"The constitution is also laying the ground for the eventual acquisition of Iraqi assets, in the form of equity, real estate or other capital by foreigners or multinational corporations[…] Given that Bremer’s order 39 already allows foreign ownership of Iraqi assets and given that this order will be perpetuated as a law, the constitution in effect removes the restriction giving Iraqis exclusive ownership over assets in Iraq[…] So while the press continues to tell the story of Sunnis, Shi’ites and Kurds squabbling over the spoils of oil, they are missing the contest between Iraqis and non-Iraqis. The constitution may yet pave the way for non-Iraqis to have as much right over Iraq ’s oil as Iraqis”. In other words US sponsored federalism paves the way to the colonization of the country and of its resources".

Despite the claim-sometimes supported, curiously enough, even inside the Left- that concessions are made to Kurdish national aspirations or a reparation is made to the injustices suffered by the Shia majority under predominantly Sunni Baathist rule, the truth is that the collaboration of the Kurdish and Shia leaders with US and British imperialism helps them to impose their neocolonialist project against all the nationalities and ethnic-religious groups living in Iraq, Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, Assyrians, Shias, Sunnis et al.

Furthermore: it is a lie that there is a popular trend in favor of federalism, expressing “distortedly” the aspirations of oppressed until now nationalities or religious communities. According to a July 2005 survey by the International Republican Institute, a US government-funded institution tasked to build the machinery of pro-capitalist Iraqi parties, 69% of Iraqis from across the country want the constitution to establish ‘ a strong central government’ and only 22% want it to give ‘significant powers to regional governments’. Even in Shiite majority areas in the south only 25% want federalism while 66% reject it.

The American ruling class and its state is deeply split because of the Iraqi war. It is shown clearly in the conflict between the CIA and the White House — the ‘CIA gate’ taking the place that the Watergate occupied at the end of the Vietnam War. Regime change abroad has been transformed into regime crisis at home.

Under these pressures, the Bush Jr. Administration tries to speed up the “State building” and the “democratization process” through fake elections and referendums. The new elections under the new “constitution” in December 2005 are another step in the same direction. At the same time, US style-democratization goes hand and glove with the Abu Ghraib tortures, concentration camps, white phosphorus bombs against the heroic fighters in Falludja, campaigns against the civil population masked as counter-insurgency operations. It is obvious that the main purpose of the new Constitution is to ignite a catastrophic civil war between the Sunnis and Shias as well as between the Kurds and the Arabs or the other ethnic groups living in Kirkurk.

The Coordinating Committee for the re-foundation of the Fourth International supports the Iraqi resistance against imperialism and all struggles in Iraq and, by the antiwar movement internationally, to kick out the Occupation troops from Iraq and finish with the imperialist military presence in the region. At the same time, we fight independently to build a revolutionary working class leadership under the flag of the Fourth International to unite all the oppressed for the national and social liberation in Iraq and for a Socialist Federation in the Middle East.

By Savas Michael-Matsas