Exporting democracy to Iraq: neo culpa

A Vanity Fair article titled Neo Culpa by David Rose reports interviews with Neo Cons who had advocated the invasion of Iraq, now expressing their disappointment and pessimism. There is a little belated expression of the need for Iraqis to be their own liberators, which they think could have been incorporated into the US invasion plan. It would have been better, acording to the NeoCons if Iraqi battalions had liberated Baghdad and toppled the Saddam statue, if reconstruction contracts had been granted to Iraqi companies rather than US multi-nationals, if Iraqis had been sought for intelligence, and if an Iraqi had been selected prior to invasion for immediate appointed as the leader (Chalabi, or Allawi or Pachachi), rather than appointing Paul Bremer to be the governor of Iraq.

Since any of the 3 named would have been a US appointment, and since they’ve all participated in post invasion government, there is thin reason to believe that the last condition would have helped to bring a sense of self-liberation to Iraq.

What the article does highlight is that democracy cannot be imposed from outside or above.

A most telling point the article makes is that the US expected to find in Iraq the mechanisms of a secular government, ready made to be taken over by a post-Saddam administration. But these mechanisms had all been destroyed during the sanctions, when Saddam had distributed largesse to tribal leaders to bribe support and exchange of goods in the conditions of scarcity. UN sanctions, as demanded by the US, had done more damage to efficient administration than they had to the dictator.

If democracy and national self-determination is self-governance, then that requires local institutions, organisations, forms of co-operation and collective capability.

The Vanity Fair article does not touch on either the Provisional Government’s attitude to democratic rights for Iraqi civil society or to communal politics. Democracy could not fbe created by the invasion because the USA undermined democratic possibilities for its own interests. The US appointed governor, Paul Bremer, maintained Saddam’s anti-union laws. Even so hamstrung, Iraqi unions opposed privatisation of Iraqi industry and have stood for workers’ rights and wages against the US and multi-nationals, Halliburton, etc, that were awarded so-called reconstruciton contracts. With legal rights to organise, the unions could have achieved a great deal more and been a force for democracy that would not have suited US interests or Islamists. The USA through Bremer in Iraq chose to negotiate for an Iraqi government with religious and communal leaders, not secular or Iraqi nationalist interest groups. This also cultivated a sectarian civil war, rather than a secular democracy.

It is Iraqi trade unions above all, along with other secular civil organisations that need international solidarity, just in order to survive, and keep alive the seeds of a future possible democratic secular Iraq.

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