“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Friday, February 04, 2005

LI has fallen into the habit of quoting ourselves. Such are the ignoble patterns that mark the shut in and the braggart. We are going to do it again As the NYT’s John Burns writes:


“A second round of preliminary election returns released today by Iraqi authorities showed that 67 percent of the 3.3 million votes counted so far from Sunday's election went to an alliance of Shiite parties dominated by religious groups with strong links to Iran. Only 18 percent went to a group led by Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, a secular Shiite who favors strong ties to the United States. Few votes went to Sunni candidates.

Although the early votes were drawn primarily from Baghdad and from southern provinces where the Shiite parties were expected to score strongly, and from only 35 percent of the 5,216 polling stations, the scale of the vote for both religious and secular Shiites underscored the probability of a crushing triumph and a historic shift from decades of Sunni minority rule in Iraq.”

The Financial Times reports this:

According to the Financial Times, the United Iraqi Alliance is starting to feel a lot more confident:

“Mr Hakim, [Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the UIA] apparently confident of a sweep, announced on Wednesday that the Alliance could put forward a "group of suitable candidates" for prime minister, ruling out previous speculation that Mr Allawi might be chosen as a widely acceptable compromise leader.

If the Alliance, through its own seats as well as alliances with smaller parties, can put together a two-thirds majority in the national assembly, it should be able to dictate the choice of prime minister through horse-trading for the posts on the presidential council. “

The election result is going to travel down the cobra-like gorge of the American media like an port-a-let. No, it won't be a pleasant sight. The narrative was all set up: another statue crashing moment, another tearful hug from our good Iraqi friends, secret Christians all. But now it looks like they are hard hearts after all. Is this gratitude? Allawi looked so nice, mouthing neo-con platitudes, before Congress last year -- a real freedom lovin Iraqi. You could look into his eyes and see into his heart (an outstanding remodeling job had transformed that vault, in which various anti-Ba'ath activists had been tortured over the years, into a beautiful self-service gas station to fill all your SUV needs).

Our original analysis of Allawi and the American terror and awe strategy was on November 25th. Golem like, we are going to gloat in our prescience. Although Cassandra like, our curses and prognostications vanish, unheard, in the cruel air. Such is fate:

“LI has been pondering the strategy in Iraq the last couple of days. Blowing up Fallujah, breaking into Baghdad’s most famous mosque and shooting randomly, clamping down in Mosul – what this amounts to, we think, is the American response to the dilemma it faces in the elections.

The dilemma is this: given the state of opinion imperfectly revealed by even those polls conducted by biased American agencies, Allawi is not the most popular Iraqi politician. In fact, Sadr could easily give him a run for his money. Other Iraqi figures who have no fame in the U.S., but who register positively with the Iraqi public, are more popular than Allawi. Having failed to create a united confederacy of parties to present to the voters at election time (peculiarly, the U.S., in its role as occupier-democratizer, wanted to make sure that the elections were pre-rigged, and offered no choice whatsoever to the voter), the U.S. does face the slight problem that an unacceptable choice might actually take the prize in the election. That is, some party or personage representing a slightly anti-occupation bent might displace Allawi. Although it is unclear whether that is possible – this is an election for a transitional congress, not for the executive branch of the government. Still, that is the kind of embarrassment that the Americans would prefer to avoid.

So the task is: make Allawi popular in the next two months. How to do this? Taking a page from Milosevic’s book, the U.S. has evidently decided to take a wager on stirring up such ethnic/religious hatred as would inflate Allawi’s support. In the early stages of the occupation, there was a struggle in the Bush administration between those, mainly at the State department, who distrusted the Shi’ites, fearing Iraq’s becoming an Iran style theocracy, and those, mainly among the Pentagon Pump House gang, who urged the desuetude of this fear. The reality of the war against the occupiers has shifted the terms of the struggle, adjusting U.S. strategy not only to a pro-Shi’ite stance, but one that uses the revanchist tendency among the Shi’a, who have vivid memories of past oppression, to invigorate the flagging popularity of the American puppet government. They are doing this by associating Allawi with gross and powerful violence against the Sunnis. It was notable that Sadr himself did not protest, with his usual spirit, the razing of Fallujah. The Americans are favored here by the jihadist element in the war, with its face of comic book evil, Zarqawi. Zarqawi, from all that one gathers about him, is a trailer trash version of Osama bin. Al Qaeda has operated in Pakistan as, among other things, an on call death squad to effect anti-Shi’ite pograms. Zarqawi’s associates have the same program. Thus, there is a perfect demonic synergy between the horrors dreamt of by Zarqawi’s people and the horrors perpetrated by the Americans.

Still, it is not even the silence that greeted the displacement of 200,000 Iraqis by the Americans that is the strangest part of the recent episodes in the war. That honor goes to the raid on the Abu Hanifa Mosque in Baghdad. While the Mosque had been raided before, to raid it while Fallujah was being destroyed and to raid it in the manner reported could only amount to a provocation intended to send people out into the street. The better to shoot them down, my dear. These tactics have been so refined during the twentieth century among innumerable petty authoritarian states unti they have a dreary predictability. Resistance is many things -- a romance, a neurosis, a political program, a desperation -- but it is, under certain specific circumstances, a real opportunity for an uncertain governing power. The sudden crackdown on Sunni imams for committing “treason” by urging resistance to the Allawi government that is the real sign of the times in Iraq.

Allawi, with American assistance, is creating the usual authoritarian matrix: singling out some minority enemy, using that enemy to enforce censorship, using the recess from scrutiny produced by that censorship to imprison, torture and kill, and, finally, using the fear that emanates from that to reinforce his image as an impenetrable force. Also sprach Saddam, of whom Allawi is a dutiful pupil. As the election approaches, the conditions in which a free election has meaning are nullified one by one, ultimately to the gain of the current leadership. This, we think, is the ultimate meaning of the sudden American appetite for largescale violence in Iraq. It is a strategy that has worked in the past. We will see if it erodes the support of anti-occupation forces in Iraq in the next two months. We think Sadr, for one, definitely miscalculated by maintaining an unwonted silence in the midst of the latest round of violence. He, of all political figures, has the most to lose if Allawi identifies himself with a revanchist Shi’ite politics.”
There are good things and bad things about the defeat of Allawi. The great good thing is that this is a victory for a time table out of Iraq. We would be surprised if Sistani’s coalition insists on this first thing, but we expect that the population has spoken loud enough that the government will lose all credibility if it continues to comply with American pressure in this regard. In order to forestall this, the Americans will doubtless be looking to stir up military action – perhaps flattening half of Mosul and kicking out another 200,000 inhabitants will do the trick, or maybe another run at Samarra.

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