Iraq’s Democracy: The El Salvador Model

By Ghali Hassan

12/10/04 "ICH"
-- The Bush administration is preparing Iraq for “democratic elections”. The aims are to consolidate the Occupation, “legitimise” those who serve US interests in Iraq, and hence prolong the suffering of the Iraqi people. The Central American nation of El Salvador has been chosen as the best model of ‘democracy’ to be implemented in Iraq.

It seems that the Bush administration is in a dilemma trying to find a Vichy regime to install in Iraq. In 1940, in Nazi-occupied France, German leaders were able to create a regime that was acceptable to many French. By contrast, in Iraq no one seems to be able to fulfil the criteria of France’s General Philippe Pétain, and provides an Arab “façade” for the Bush administration. 

It was assumed that the best regime that could form the façade in Baghdad is the current US-appointed Iraqi Interim Government (IIG). However, this is not the case. The Allawi’s “government” is far less popular among Iraqis than the regime of Saddam, and Allawi is the most hated individual in Iraq today. Iraqis see all members of the IIG as collaborator with the Occupation against Iraq interests. Most of them spent decades outside the country and hold no loyalty to Iraq.

The core of the IIG are: The Allawi’s group of exiles (INA), the Chalebi’s group of exiles (INC), the Peshmergas of the two Kurdish parties, and the Badir Brigade (Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, SCIRI), mostly of Iranian origins. Furthermore, each group has its own mafia-style death squad, and links to the CIA or the Israeli Mossad agents. As I wrote earlier, since they entered Iraq with the US invasion, the four groups have taken the law into their own hands and have killed many innocent Iraqis, including hundreds of Iraqi scientists and community leaders. The Occupation authority has never investigated their crimes. They entered Iraq on the backs of US tanks. Their relations with the Occupation are fully symbiotic relations. They co-exist in a mutually beneficial relationship with their US master. They are participating in the upcoming elections, because they want the Occupation to continue. 

In 2003, UN own findings have shown that Iraqis accept free elections under UN control, and that US troops be replaced by UN troops from neutral nations. The US and its “coalition of the willing” were able to hold elections six months after the invasion, but they refused because they were not interested in a democratic outcome that could end of the Occupation. UN officials and Iraqi officials argued at that time that elections were feasible and possible within six months, but they were intentionally dismissed by the US. The Bush administration “stifled, delayed, manipulated and otherwise thwarted the democratic aspiration of the Iraqi people”.

It is not possible to hold free elections under martial law and illegal foreign Occupation. Most Iraqis view the upcoming elections as a US fig leaf to consolidate the Occupation. The process is very untransparent. According to Dahr Jamail of The New Standard, Iraqis are saying: “The Americans won’t allow a legitimate election in their own country, so why would they have one here”! As it stands, Iraqis do not put great hope on these fake elections, because the outcome of these elections is a forgone conclusion. The Bush administration is relying on sectarian forces in order to create a dependent Iraq and role it indefinitely.

The upcoming elections are not for the sake of establishing democracy in Iraq; they are being prepared to add another fake legitimacy to the US Occupation and marginalize the Iraqi people. In fact, elections are very minor thing of democracy. Democracy is a collection of institutions that govern an entire nation, and the purpose of elections is to evaluate the democratic processes. Elections were the last thing the Bush administration needed. 

The best solution is for the US to completely withdraw its armed forces from Iraq. All Iraqis are in favour of elections as long as the Occupation forces withdraw from Iraq. According to recent polls, 98 percent of Iraqis want the Americans to leave their country. Meanwhile a poll conducted by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations (CCFR) has reveals that more than two-thirds of both the US public and US leaders agree than the US should withdraw from Iraq if a clear majority of Iraqis want it to do so.

The US Occupation of Iraq is the most unpopular occupation in history. It is a violent occupation where innocent women, children and unarmed men have been massacred. More than 100,000 innocent Iraqis have died; thousands are imprisoned and tortured; the lives of millions more have been wrecked. The conditions of child health in US-occupied Iraq are now even worse than during the genocidal years of sanction. Despite that, those who are responsible for this wanton destruction of human lives have not been indicted for war crimes or been held accountable by prosecutors. A devastated nation and broken defenceless people are forced to prepare for an old-fashion colonial dictatorship, which has its echoes in other foreign countries under the tutelage of the US administration.

US history of preparing elections in foreign countries is full of bad examples. In 1984, the US was involved in the El Salvador elections that brought an assassin (Roberto d A’ubuisson) and a friend of the US to power. Roberto d’Aubuisson, leader for life of the ARENA party, that ruled El Salvador since, was named by the UN Truth Commission report to be implicated in the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero. The Archbishop of El Salvador was assassinated in March 1980, while giving a mass in a church and just before sainthood.

The 1984 elections in El Salvador “were little more than a farce designed to give democratic respectability to a regime that was perpetuating some of the worst human rights abuses in the hemisphere”, wrote Mark Engler of Foreign Policy in Focus. Those who seized power in El Salvador with the help of uncle Reagan have murdered more than 75,000 people. In 1993, the UN Truth Commission report found that the army and its death squads committed 90% of the atrocities in the conflict. Among their heinous crimes were the 1989 murder of six Jesuit priests, and the slaughter of hundreds of villagers. The rebels, led by the FMNL party were responsible for 5 %, and the other 5% remained unknown, said the report. 

In the March 2004 elections, the US used fear and threat against the Salvadoran people to promote its preferred candidates, members of the ARENA party. The Salvadorian people voted with a gun pointed to their head. The big loser of the elections are the majority of people of El Salvador, wrote Joe DeRaymond of Centro de Intercambio y Solidaridad who monitored the elections. 

During the 2004 US elections, Vice President Dick Cheney praised El Salvador dictatorship as a model for ‘democracy-building’ in Iraq. One wonders why the US is interested in the El Salvador’s model of democracy and not a Western model of democracy for Iraq? Now, as it happens, this is something I know quite a bit about. I, for some reasons have experience living in good democratic nations. I spent some years in Switzerland, Austria, New Zealand, Scandinavia and Australia. All these major democratic countries have fairly decent models of democratic elections. Indeed, the Swiss model of democracy is the best I have experienced and is very suitable for a heterogeneous country like Iraq, which has no similarity to El Salvador. 

In 1993, the American analyst, Noam Chomsky commented on the US approach to ‘democracy-building’ in El Salvador. Chomsky wrote, “[b]y and large, our approach in El Salvador has been successful. The popular organizations have been decimated, just as Archbishop Romero predicted. Tens of thousands have been slaughtered and more than a million have become refugees. This is one of the most sordid episodes in US history-and it's got a lot of competition”. It is this successful approach that the US administration is using to promote America’s ‘democracy-building’ posture in Iraq. The US is more interested in empire-building rather than ‘democracy-building’.

It should be borne in mind that, the US interference in election processes around the world is illegal and hypocritical. “The terror bombing of homes, hospitals and religious buildings by hundreds of airplanes and helicopter gunships is described by the media as ‘securing the city [of Fallujah] for free elections’”, wrote James Petras. The US message for Iraqis is; vote for the Occupation or you will die. Can you imagine Iran is preparing for a “democratic elections” of a puppet regime in Iraq with a massive terror campaign against the civilian population?

Instead of finding an exit strategy to end the violence in Iraq, the Bush administration is increasing it; using the pretext of democracy. An exit strategy to end the US Occupation of Iraq is not impossible. The UN General Assembly, which is less influence by the US and Britain, is the most preferable body to take over the Iraqi affairs and helps the Iraqi people achieve sovereignty and freedom. The UN has an obligation to condemn an act of aggression an illegal occupation of a sovereign nation.

There is no Vichy near Baghdad; there is Fallujah. The US-sponsored undemocratic elections in Iraq are against the long-term interests of the Iraqi people. The upcoming elections will not help achieve democracy and sovereignty for Iraq. The best solution for Iraq is the end of US Occupation and the true liberation of the Iraqi people. This will allow the Iraqi people to gain their freedom and organise their country for free and fair elections.

Ghali Hassan lives in Perth Western Australia: He can be reached at e-mail:

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