Denied Direct Elections, Occupied Iraqis Get U.S. “Appointocracy”

StoryJanuary 27, 2004
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The U.S. is continuing to deny Iraqis direct elections despite repated mass protests around Iraq. We speak with author and journalist Naomi Klein about the Iraqi election process she calls an “appointocracy.” [includes transcript]

Acclaimed author and journalist Naomi Klein beings an article in Canada’s Globe & Mail:

'”The people of Iraq are free,” declared U.S. President George W. Bush in Tuesday's State of the Union address. The day before, 100,000 Iraqis begged to differ. They took to the streets of Baghdad shouting “Yes, yes to elections. No, no to selection.”

'According to Iraq occupation chief Paul Bremer, there really is no difference between the White House's version of freedom, and the one being demanded on the street. Asked on Friday whether his plan to form an Iraqi government through appointed caucuses was headed toward a clash with Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani’s call for direct elections, Mr. Bremer said he had no “fundamental disagreement with him.”

'It was, he said, a mere quibble over details. “I don't want to go into the technical details of refinements. There are, if you talk to experts in these matters, all kinds of ways to organize partial elections and caucuses. And I’m not an election expert, so I don’t want to go into the details. But we’ve always said we’re willing to consider refinements.”

’I’m not an election expert either, but I’m pretty sure there are differences here that cannot be refined. Ayatollah al-Sistani’s supporters want every Iraqi to have a vote, and for the people they elect to write the laws of the country — your basic, imperfect, representative democracy.’

  • * Naomi Klein*, award-winning journalist and author of Fences and Windows: Dispatches From the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate and No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined right now by Naomi Klein, well-known author and activist down from Canada. Welcome to Democracy Now!.

NAOMI KLEIN: Thanks, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you us with. You did a piece that was published in Canada’s “Globe and Mail,” called “Bush’s Iraq an 'Appoint-ocracy'”. Here we are deeply involved with elections in this country, can you talk about the latest in Iraq?

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, the latest is that all of the reasons for war — I mean, as the previous pieces have talked about, have been follow falling apart, no weapons of mass destruction, no September 11th link. The only thing that’s left as the rationale for war is the idea that the real reason behind the war was to bring democracy to the Iraqi people as Bush said in the State of the Union Address. But the day before the State of the Union address, 100,000 people were on the streets of Baghdad chanting “no, no, selection, yes, yes, elections”. The election process which I call appoint-ocracy, not a very elegant word, but it’s not a very elegant process. It’s an agreement that was reached on November 15, and I put that in quotes, it was an agreement between the coalition provisional authority and their appointed representatives on the Iraqi governing council to transition to a so-called sovereign Iraqi government by June 30. And it’s incredibly bureaucratic process that involves seven layers of appointment and selection. It starts with — I actually made a chart because I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep track of it. You have the coalition provisional authority and you have their appointed governing council. Members of the appointed governing council are further appointed to 18 regional organizing committees who then appoint members to 18 selection caucuses, who then further select members to a transitional national assembly who then further select the members of the new government. Then when you think back to the fact that this all started with Paul Bremer, who the head of the coalition provisional authority who was appointed to his job. He was never elected either in Iraq or in the United States. He was hired by George Bush out of an insurance firm, and you remember that Bush himself was appointed to his post by the supreme court. Then when you have is appointees appointing appointinees appointing appointees appointing appointinees, who then form the sovereign government of Iraq.

AMY GOODMAN: And it looks like the people of Iraq won’t have this?

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, there is a substantial revolt against it. But, it’s not clear what they will have instead. What some members of the Iraqi governing council are proposing is another appoint-acracy, but with fewer layers. What they’re saying is, let’s just expand the appointed governing council from 25 members to 125 members. I think the real questioning — you know, you read that quote from Kofi Annan, the real question is whether he’s going to stick by that, or whether, you know, he will be seduced by the amount of being important and useful again to the process, and be used by the U.S., to legitimatize extremely illegitimate process.

AMY GOODMAN: That the U.S. wants to put off on the U.N. the decision to have not direct elects in Iraq?

NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah. Exactly. And you know, I think that the U.N.'s hand right now is quite strong because, of course, Bremer has had to come crawling back. I think that the real issue is what this transitional–well first of all, why there needs to be a transitional government and where this deadline came from. Because all of this — what the U.S. is now saying is that we're open to refinements and changing the details of this agreement but what we can’t change is that we must transition to a sovereign Iraqi government on June 30, which happens to be two months to the day before the Republican National Convention. And I think there’s a couple of reasons that we have to understand that the most obvious one is obviously on the campaign trail, Bush wants to say, we’re on our way out.

AMY GOODMAN: 30 seconds. And the other?

NAOMI KLEIN: The other one is that he doesn’t actually want a sovereign Iraqi government. He wants a transitional government that will legitimize the presence of U.S. troops in the region and ratify all of the economic reforms that they pushed through, because the polls are now saying that only 12% of Iraqis strongly support the presence of the U.S. troops. That’s a C.P.A. poll, and I’m sure the numbers are much weaker than that. So they need a fake government before they can have a real government. If the U.N. is to have a role, it has to be to challenge that whole process and say it doesn’t need to be a two-tier process.

AMY GOODMAN: Naomi Klein, I want to thank you for being with us. Award winning journalist, author of “Fences and Windows, Dispatches From the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate” and “No Logo, Taking Aim at Brand Bullies.”

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