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zimv20
Jun 28, 2003, 01:22 PM
link (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A42905-2003Jun27.html)


Occupation Forces Halt Elections Throughout Iraq

By William Booth and Rajiv Chandrasekaran
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, June 28, 2003; Page A20

SAMARRA, Iraq -- U.S. military commanders have ordered a halt to local elections and self-rule in provincial cities and towns across Iraq, choosing instead to install their own handpicked mayors and administrators, many of whom are former Iraqi military leaders.

The decision to deny Iraqis a direct role in selecting municipal governments is creating anger and resentment among aspiring leaders and ordinary citizens, who say the U.S.-led occupation forces are not making good on their promise to bring greater freedom and democracy to a country dominated for three decades by Saddam Hussein.

The go-slow approach to representative government in at least a dozen provincial cities is especially frustrating to younger, middle-class professionals who say they want to help their communities emerge from postwar chaos and to let, as one put it, "Iraqis make decisions for Iraq."

"They give us a general," said Bahith Sattar, a biology teacher and tribal leader in Samarra who was a candidate for mayor until that election was canceled last week. "What does that tell you, eh? First of all, an Iraqi general? They lost the last three wars! They're not even good generals. And they know nothing about running a city."

The most recent order to stop planning for elections was made by Maj. Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of the 4th Infantry Division, which controls the northern half of Iraq. It follows similar decisions by the 3rd Infantry Division in central Iraq and those of British commanders in the south.

In the capital, Baghdad, U.S. officials never scheduled elections for a city government, but have said they are forming neighborhood councils that at some point will play a role in the selection of a municipal government.

L. Paul Bremer, the civil administrator of Iraq, said in an interview that there is "no blanket prohibition" against self-rule. "I'm not opposed to it, but I want to do it a way that takes care of our concerns. . . . Elections that are held too early can be destructive. It's got to be done very carefully."

Iraqi critics of the policy shift say the American and British forces are primarily hurting themselves by smothering aspiring leaders who would benefit from the chance to work more closely with Westerners. In addition, they say the occupation authorities are fostering a dependent, passive mindset among Iraqis and leaving no one but themselves to blame for the crime, faltering electricity and general misrule Iraqis see in their daily lives.

Sattar, the would-be candidate in Samarra, said: "The new mayors do not have to be perfect. But I think that by allowing us to establish our own governments, many of the problems today would be solved. If you ask most Iraqis today if they have a government, they will tell you, no, what we have is an occupation, and that is a dangerous thing for the people to think."

Occupation authorities initially envisioned the creation of local assemblies, composed of several hundred delegates who would represent a city or town's tribes, clergy, middle class, women and ethnic groups. Those delegates would select a mayor and city council.

That process was employed successfully in the northern city of Kirkuk, but U.S. civilian and military occupation officials now say postwar chaos has left Iraq unprepared to stage popular elections in most cities.

"In a postwar situation like this, if you start holding elections, the people who are rejectionists tend to win," Bremer said. "It's often the best-organized who win, and the best-organized right now are the former Baathists and to some extent the Islamists." Bremer was referring to members of Hussein's Baath Party and religiously oriented political leaders.

Bremer and other U.S. officials are fearful that Islamic leaders such as Moqtada Sadr, a young Shiite Muslim cleric popular on the streets of Baghdad, and Ayatollah Mohammed Bakir Hakim, leader of the Iranian-supported Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, would be best positioned to field winning candidates.

Bremer promises that as soon as an Iraqi constitution is written and a national census is taken, local and national elections will follow. But that process could take months.

Ten weeks into the occupation, the cities and towns outside of Baghdad are largely administered by former Iraqi military and police officers and people who had close ties to the Baath Party. Iraqi generals and police colonels, for example, are now mayors of a dozen cities, including Samarra, Najaf, Tikrit, Balad and Baqubah.

The U.S. military contends that these people have been vetted and were not in leadership positions under the old government or associated with crimes it committed.

In Najaf last week, several hundred demonstrators took to the streets to demand elections and the removal of Mayor Abdul Munim Abud, a former artillery colonel. The protesters' banners read: "Canceled elections are evidence of bad intentions" and "O America, where are promises of freedom, elections, and democracy?"

At Friday prayers in Najaf, Sadr told the faithful at the shrine of Imam Ali, "I call for free elections that will represent all Iraqi opinion, far away from the influence of those who have intervened."

In Samarra, a two-hour drive north of Baghdad, the selection of a new mayor and city council by delegates was postponed twice, and finally canceled late last week. "There will be no elections for the foreseeable future," said Sgt. Jeff Butler of the U.S. Army's 418th Civil Affairs Battalion from Kansas City, Mo., which is charged with running Samarra.

Butler said the city had been planning a caucus to pick a mayor when the order came down from Maj. Gen. Odierno. "He said, basically, stop," Butler said.

A timetable for elections in Samarra, Butler said, "is six months at least, but I'm just guessing."

Butler said he sympathized with Iraqis who are upset over the cancellation of the elections. "We would like to see some kind of democratic system, too," he said. But for now, he said, the Iraqis need to be satisfied with "baby steps."

Like almost all of the Army civil affairs soldiers in Iraq, Butler and his six-man team do not speak Arabic, and are confronted with a bewildering environment in Samarra that includes seven major and 14 minor tribal sheiks -- plus Muslim clergy and a more secular middle class that is trying to steer clear of rule by either the religious leaders or the tribes.

The current mayor of Samarra is Shakir Mahmud Mohammad, a retired general in the Iraqi army, who came into power here in April as U.S. forces arrived in the city. Mohammad was selected by a council representing the seven major tribes in and around Samarra, and by most accounts did an admirable job keeping order in the city in the postwar weeks.

Mohammad, whose brother was executed by Hussein, now runs the city with the help of another brother and another former army commander, who serve as his deputies. Butler described Mohammad as "a very personable guy, with a decent amount of legitimacy, and he is basically somebody we thought we can work with."

But many citizens in Samarra, which has a large middle class and a large drug manufacturing plant, and is unusually prosperous for an Iraqi town, have complained about Mohammad.

In Hussein's home town of Tikrit, the American in charge is Army Lt. Col. Steve Russell, whose mission is not to establish democracy in the region, but to hunt down remnants of the former government and others who are attacking U.S. troops.

That is understandable, said Nabel Darwish Mohamed, the mayor of nearby Balad, who is a former colonel in the Iraqi police corps. "But the American soldiers must understand that security comes also from giving the people their own leaders, their own powers. That will calm things down, I think."

Mohammad added, "Fine, we embrace the Americans, we want to see the security. But we want them to move aside and let us have our own voices. We have waited a long time for this and we are growing tired of the waiting, okay?"

Chandrasekaran reported from Baghdad.

leo
Jun 28, 2003, 03:18 PM
Chaotic Democracy

It scares me that a lot of people really used to think that there will be true democracy in Iraq shortly after Saddam is toppled. How naive.

If the Bush administration did facilitate free elections in Iraq, an anti-US-government and a defiant civil service would be in power. I'm not sure whether they knew it before (so they were lying about the prospects) or they didn't (so they are dilettantes).

e-coli
Jun 28, 2003, 07:14 PM
Couldn't you have just posted a link to the article? ;)

zimv20
Jun 28, 2003, 09:48 PM
Originally posted by e-coli
Couldn't you have just posted a link to the article? ;)

i did both. doesn't the washington post require registration?

pseudobrit
Jun 28, 2003, 09:49 PM
Originally posted by leo
If the Bush administration did facilitate free elections in Iraq, an anti-US-government and a defiant civil service would be in power.

There will be no democracy in Iraq for exactly this reason. They will never choose to like us.

There was never a plan for democracy in Iraq. The US occupation will continue indefinitely, because no matter what or who the people choose, they would never choose us.

The growing disgust and hatred toward the occupation force will grow and become increasingly violent and will be labelled by the Bush administration as it is now: dying gasps of a dying regime and loyal elements of the Ba'ath party rising up.

What will never pass their lips is the truth: that the people of Iraq have been swindled, promised everything and given nothing and now they resent us for it and would kill and die to get us out of their country. They will stifle democracy and cancel elections until the voters get it right, which isn't democracy.

MrMacMan
Jun 29, 2003, 10:50 AM
Well now that we elected the Iraqi officals now we can start our own brutal dictatorship!

Woot woot!

rice_web
Jun 29, 2003, 10:53 AM
Originally posted by pseudobrit
There will be no democracy in Iraq for exactly this reason. They will never choose to like us.

There was never a plan for democracy in Iraq. The US occupation will continue indefinitely, because no matter what or who the people choose, they would never choose us.

The growing disgust and hatred toward the occupation force will grow and become increasingly violent and will be labelled by the Bush administration as it is now: dying gasps of a dying regime and loyal elements of the Ba'ath party rising up.

What will never pass their lips is the truth: that the people of Iraq have been swindled, promised everything and given nothing and now they resent us for it and would kill and die to get us out of their country. They will stifle democracy and cancel elections until the voters get it right, which isn't democracy.

Or perhaps democracy will come to Iraq when the U.S. has enough money. Bush is facing wavering support heading into the 2004 elections, and dumping millions into building highways, creating jobs, and establishing a stable Iraq is not exactly an option for him, especially when he's failing to do those things in the States (our road's could use work and unemployment is still rather high).

To help Iraq in any reasonable way, the U.S. must fund Iraq as it would fund a State, with billions of dollars to build the country. Five years of significant help followed by ten years of limited aid and Iraq could easily be a powerhouse. Even employing the millions of unemployed Iraqis to do civil projects (plant trees, build highways) and paying them decently would do enough for Iraq in twelve months to create a full turn-around.

Democracy can come to Iraq, though I fear it's a costly venture that Bush would never undertake this close to an election.

If the people of Iraq can wait until 2005 for real change, I could see them getting it.

rice_web
Jun 29, 2003, 10:53 AM
Originally posted by MrMacman
Well now that we elected the Iraqi officals now we can start our own brutal dictatorship!

Woot woot!

I must say, imperialism was a fun time in history....