Monday, July 18, 2005

Don't miss Seymour Hersh's piece in the New Yorker




Evidently, what I'd previously said was true: the last thing the Bush regime wanted was a truly democratic Iraq:

The initial election plan, endorsed in late 2003 by Paul Bremer, the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, involved a caucus system in which the C.P.A. would be able to exert enormous influence over the selection of a transitional government. Each major ethnic group—the Shiites, who represent sixty per cent of the population; the Sunnis, with twenty per cent; and the Kurds, with around fifteen per cent—would have a fixed number of seats in a national assembly. The U.S. hoped to hold the election before the transfer of sovereignty, which was scheduled for June 30, 2004, but the lack of security made the deadline unrealistic. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the spiritual leader of one of the Shiite parties, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or sciri, agreed to accept a delay, as the U.S. wanted, in return for the White House’s commitment to hold a direct one-man, one-vote election. President Bush agreed. It was a change in policy that many in the Administration feared would insure a Shiite majority in the new assembly.

The obstacles to a free election, in a country with shallow democratic roots, suffering from years of dictatorship, a foreign invasion, and an insurgency, were immense. As Larry Diamond, a senior adviser to the C.P.A., warned Bremer in a March, 2004, memorandum, “Political parties that have never contested democratic elections before tend to fall back upon their worst instincts and experience. They buy votes, and frequently they buy electoral officials. . . . They use armed thugs to intimidate opposition, and even to assassinate opponents. . . . They may use force and fraud to steal or stuff the ballot boxes.”

In a second memo, Diamond noted that sciri and Dawa, the other major Shiite party, as well as more militant Shiite paramilitary groups, were believed to be receiving funding and training from Iran. “Most of the other political parties complain of the difficulty of finding the financial resources to organize, mobilize support, and prepare to contest elections,” Diamond wrote. “Several have appealed directly, if discreetly, for some kind of international assistance, including from the United States.”...



The main advocate for channelling aid to preferred parties was Thomas Warrick, a senior adviser on Iraq for the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, who was backed, in this debate, by his superiors and by the National Security Council. Warrick’s plan involved using forty million dollars that had been appropriated for the election to covertly provide cell phones, vehicles, radios, security, administrative help, and cash to the parties the Administration favored. The State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor resisted this plan, and turned to three American non-governmental organizations that have for decades helped to organize and monitor elections around the world: the National Democratic Institute (N.D.I.), the International Republican Institute (I.R.I.), and the National Endowment for Democracy (N.E.D.).

“It was a huge debate,” a participant in the discussions told me. “Warrick said he had gotten the Administration principals”—senior officials of the State Department, the Pentagon, and the National Security Council—“to agree.” The N.G.O.s “were fighting a rearguard action to get this election straight,” and emphasized at meetings that “the idea of picking favorites never works,” he said...


...in the same time period, former military and intelligence officials told me, the White House promulgated a highly classified Presidential “finding” authorizing the C.I.A. to provide money and other support covertly to political candidates in certain countries who, in the Administration’s view, were seeking to spread democracy. “The finding was general,” a recently retired high-level C.I.A. official told me. “But there’s no doubt that Baghdad was a stop on the way. The process is under the control of the C.I.A. and the Defense Department.”...

Sometime after last November’s Presidential election, I was told by past and present intelligence and military officials, the Bush Administration decided to...covertly intervene in the Iraqi election. A former national-security official told me that he had learned of the effort from “people who worked the beat”—those involved in the operation. It was necessary, he added, “because they couldn’t afford to have a disaster.”

A Pentagon consultant who deals with the senior military leadership acknowledged that the American authorities in Iraq “did an operation” to try to influence the results of the election. “They had to,” he said. “They were trying to make a case that Allawi was popular, and he had no juice.” A government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon’s civilian leaders said, “We didn’t want to take a chance.”


So, is there any other reason left for the Iraq invasion beside control of Iraqi oil?


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