As millions of Americans wait to see who will ultimately emerge as president for the next four years, this election is being followed closely by billions of people across the world who also have a lot at stake in this election. We speak with independent journalist Rahul Mahajan about the 2004 election and the impact on the world. [includes rush transcript]
While millions of Americans wait to see who will ultimately emerge as president for the next four years, this election was being followed closely by billions of people across the world who also have a lot at stake in this election. Few would disagree that the past four years have dramatically increased anti-American sentiment abroad, relations between the US and most of the world have been heavily strained and, of course, the world-wide unpopularity of the occupation of Iraq.
- Rahul Mahajan, an independent journalist. He is author of "Full Spectrum Dominance: U.S. Power in Iraq and Beyond" (Seven Stories). He runs a blog at EmpireNotes.org.
AMY GOODMAN: We end this hour with Rahul Mahajan, an independent journalist. He is author of the book Full Spectrum Dominance: U.S. Power in Iraq and Beyond. Welcome to Democracy Now!
RAHUL MAHAJAN: Great to be with you.
AMY GOODMAN: Your response to what has developed in this election?
RAHUL MAHAJAN: Well, I think in terms of the international response, there are three different things to look at. One is response among Iraqis, one is response generally in the world and last is response in the Islamic world and particularly among this growing sort of Jihadist network and Al Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden, and the various people inspired by them. You’ve talked about Iraq and there is not so much, as you say, not so much distinction made between Bush and Kerry for two reasons. One is that they’re focused on what’s happening immediately. They have the daily experience of the way the soldiers treat them, of the bombing and so on, and the big thing for them right now is the impending assault on Fallujah. There are some reports that up to 80% of the town is already evacuated and that is completely what they’re focused on. They also follow some of the U.S. news pretty closely so they know Kerry has promised to do similar assaults, that Kerry is likely to increase the number of troops and so on. So they are not making as much of a distinction as some. In the world in general so far as I can tell from the newspapers, they’re holding off because of the disputed outcome but it’s pretty clear what the reaction is going to be. Bush’s actions have brought the United States in for execration unparalleled since the Vietnam war and this, no matter how it turns out in Ohio and of course it is looking almost certain to be a Bush victory, Bush has won the popular vote by a significant amount and this will be interpreted by the whole world as the American people’s ratification of these illegal acts and of these things that have really set the world’s teeth on edge. And for Bin Laden, for Jihadists in general, you know, in Bin Laden’s last videotape he made it clear, he said to the American people, your security is in your own hands. And a lot of people, if there were any people on the fence about whether they want to commit such acts they’re going to say very clearly, the American people have chosen this fate. They’ve chosen this crusade. And there will be people, there will be more people moved to say, well, anything that is done to them is all right because of that.
AMY GOODMAN: This election, of course, coming a few days after the last Bin Laden tape was released.
RAHUL MAHAJAN: Yes. And the Bin Laden tape was a very clear message, okay, you say you are a democracy, well, American people, you’ve got to now stop and think about this war you’re in and what position you take.
AMY GOODMAN: What about the occupation, itself, and the war that’s going on in Iraq?
RAHUL MAHAJAN: Well, the Republicans and the Bush administration will take this victory as incredible license. They’ve won with a significant bump in the popular vote. They’ve won seats in the House and the Senate. Given the logic that they have, they will say this is license to do whatever we want. It will mean an increase in domestic repression, undoubtedly. It will also mean that there are more gloves off in terms of Iraq. They, for the past several months, ever since the retreat and the defeat in Fallujah basically, they have understood that if they want to get control of the military situation in Iraq, they need a heavy offensive. The thing that’s been keeping them back from the kind of offensive they could put forward has been the election and wanting to not rock the boat and wanting to basically keep Iraq out of people’s minds. And now that’s gone. Now that question is gone and they will be unfettered and unleashed in Iraq at possibly whole new level of violence, quite likely.
AMY GOODMAN: Rahul Mahajan, you travel the country, you have spent time in Iraq. What about the state of the peace movement? What does this mean for the anti-war movement?
RAHUL MAHAJAN: Well, it’s too early to predict and I want to see what happens today in the streets, because I predict there will be a lot of anger out in the streets today. But I’m guessing what we’ve seen is a relative collapse in the peace movement. We’ve seen a total focus on the election and very often for example the during the whole bombing of Najaf in August where about 2,000 people were killed according to Donald Rumsfeld, very little of a peep out of the anti-war movement because there was so much of this focus on November. Now that’s over. We’ve lost the people. The people of the world have lost and I think there is the potential for tremendous demoralization. At the same time, there is also potential for huge radicalization so it is going to be really a matter of resolve and organization and determination, I think.
AMY GOODMAN: The new study out of John Hopkins, Columbia, and a Baghdad university, saying that the figures are far higher for Iraqi civilians, perhaps 100,000 Iraqi civilians dead.
RAHUL MAHAJAN: Yes. This is important because it is the first study that tries to look at total excess mortality. We’ve had previous studies where they literally count up media reports of people killed by bombs and by bullets and by direct U.S. military operations and that is in the neighborhood of 15,000 civilians and maybe another 20,000 Iraqi soldiers, something in that neighborhood. This is new because there is an increase in child mortality because of the decay in the hospital situation. There are increases in mortality because of crime. All of these things have not been factored into the total numbers before and the Lancet study tries to do that. There are real problems with it because they were unable to do the kind of full extensive survey that you’d want, like the survey that UNICEF did in 1998 in terms of the excess mortality caused by the sanctions. This time they haven’t been able to do that kind of sample, but all the indications are that the number they came up with, 98,000, if anything, is probably a little on the low side.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally Rahul Mahajan, do you believe the results that you have heard?
RAHUL MAHAJAN: Well, I think there is absolutely no way to know. And I think in a fundamental sense these results are illegitimate no matter what, because in Florida, they had a measure up saying, let’s have a paper receipt for every vote. That was defeated by the Republicans. At that point your motives are so suspect that any numbers that come out are, I think, in a sense, fundamentally illegitimate. The kinds of things they’ve done in Ohio, stationing thugs basically in the polling places just like they did in the south, in the post-bellum south except this time the thugs don’t have guns with them. But it is the same basic principle. These things fundamentally call into question the legitimacy of the election. We will never know what the real numbers were. All we will know is that I think officially at some point Kerry will concede and we will all be saying that Bush won.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you very much for being with us, Rahul Mahajan, independent journalist, author of Full Spectrum Dominance: U.S. Power in Iraq and Beyond.