To get an Iraqi perspective on the election, we go to Baghdad to speak with retired Iraqi engineer Ghazwan Al-Mukhtar. Mukhtar says, “What do I do with democracy? Does it allow me to walk across the street without being feared of being kidnapped or being shot at or being mugged or being stolen? Would democracy feed my children? Would democracy allow me to quench my thirst? The U.S. has not done anything at all to improve the life of Iraqi people.” [includes rush transcript]
To get an Iraqi perspective on the elections we turn now to retired Iraqi engineer Ghazwan Al-Mukhtar. We have spoken to Ghazwan at key points during the invasion and occupation of Iraq. One the first anniversary of the invasion, the first siege of Fallujah and the so-called transfer of sovereignty on June 28. Today we get his thoughts on the elections in Iraq. Just before the program, we reached Ghazwan Al Mukhtar at his home in Baghdad.
- Ghazwan Al-Mukhtar, retired Iraqi engineer.
AMY GOODMAN: And this is Democracy Now! democracynow.org as we move from Kurdistan back to Baghdad, to get response from retired Iraqi engineer Ghazwan Al-Mukhtar. Throughout key points of the invasion and occupation we have checked in with him on the first anniversary of the invasion, on the siege of Fallujah, the so-called transfer of sovereignty on June 28. Today we get his thoughts on the elections. We reached him just before the program. This is Ghazwan Al-Mukhtar at his home in Baghdad.
GHAZWAN AL-MUKHTAR: I do not believe that the election is legitimate, the election is held under the occupation. The occupying power has modified the basic rules in Iraq as to who is an Iraqi and who is not. The election was shoved down our throat because all the major parties, including Allawi’s party, requested that the election be postponed. That was in November. And before even the independent electoral commission could decide on the request, that President Bush said he does not want the election to be postponed and Ambassador Negroponte said, oddly enough, it came from Fallujah. He was in Fallujah, and declared that the elections will be held on the January 30. It is an Iraqi election, it is not a U.S. election, it is not Negroponte’s election, it is the Iraqi people’s election. So, if the Iraqi parties wanted to postpone the election, they should have been able to do so without the interference of the United States government.
Anyway, having done the election now, it was forced down our throat, a lot of people have boycotted it. The Sunnis have boycotted the elections. Some of the Shias boycotted it. Muktadar Al Sadr faction boycotted the election. Al Khalaf faction boycotted the election. There is a resistance to the occupation in Iraq. This resistance stems from the fact that our life has been, for the last 22 months, deteriorating day and night and we have not seen any improvement in our condition for the last 22 months, nor that anything has been reconstructed. The telephone system is bad, the electricity is worse, the security condition is worse. A lot of people are saying, why do I vote? What does the government do for me? They did absolutely nothing. The shocking thing is that the conditions after 22 months of occupation is a lot worse in every single aspect of life than with Saddam Hussein, after 12 years of sanction.
While I’m talking to you I just heard two bombs exploding not too far from here. I did not vote and I will not vote to any one of those people who came on the back of the American banks. I do not see any change because there is no will to reconstruct anything. There is no will to improve the life of the Iraqis. It is going to take another two years and a lot of will. Mind you, in 1991, with the huge destruction in Iraq, we, the Iraqi people, despite the sanctions and with no help from anybody, we were able to restore the electricity, we were able to restore the water, the sewage and in six months we were able to rebuild the country in less than a year. Now that time has gone. The U.S. had 22 months occupation and they have not fixed a single thing in Iraq. We are still getting 2,000 to 2,200 calories on the ration system. We were told that Saddam Hussein was stealing our money both in the palaces and keeping us poor and hungry. But now after 22 months, we are still getting 2200 calories or sometimes less.
Halliburton — we have added crisis right now of petrol, Iraq was an exporting country of diesel fuel and refined oil products. Since the occupation, we have been importing oil from Turkey. No one fixes the refineries. There is a huge queue of cars waiting to get oil or petrol. And the Congress, the U.S. Congress said in 2003, May 2003, seven out of 18 governmentals had more than 16 hours of electricity. Now we are getting two hours of electricity right in Baghdad. I am lucky today, I have electricity from 7:00 to 9:00 and that is going to be all. Until late in the evening, maybe, I don’t know when, I’ll get the electricity.
So, all those factors will indicate that the people are discontent, the people are resentful of the presence of the American forces, that the people are dissatisfied with the occupation, because they have not seen any improvement in their life. Unemployment is very high; it’s at about 60%. People are starving. This is the basis for the resistance. It’s not the Mussabu Al Zarqawi and Abu, I don’t know who, or the terrorists coming from the outside of Iraq. It is the indigenous Iraqi resistance. While we were told that Saddam Hussein was torturing us, we are finding after 22 months that the Americans are torturing us, the British are torturing us, the Danish are torturing us and now we discover that the Iraqi forces, the ING is torturing us. So, instead of one having one torturer, now we have four torturers. And you want us to be happy with the election.
This reminds me of a story when Mary Antoinette, when she was told that the people did not have bread to eat. She said why don’t they eat cake? We don’t have anything and they tell us here it is democracy. Take democracy. What do I do with democracy? Does it allow me to walk across right the street without being feared of being kidnapped or being shot at or being mugged or being stolen? Would democracy feed my children? Would democracy allow me to quench my thirst? The U.S. has not done anything at all to improve the life of Iraqi people. And that is one of the reasons why you are seeing all those attacks.
AMY GOODMAN: Ghazwan Al-Mukhtar, a retired Iraqi engineer speaking from his home in Baghdad.