Originally issued January 2005.
Pax Christi USA, as a movement committed to nonviolence, self-determination and international law remains committed to the people of Iraq. While elections will surely remain a necessary ingredient for a peaceful Iraq to emerge from dictatorship, 14 years of brutal sanctions, “shock and awe” invasion, and deadly occupation, the Bush administration has neither the moral legitimacy nor has it evidenced the capacity to provide for the needed transition to a democratic Iraq. Neither does it have a legal right to do so. The Vienna Convention specifically forbids an occupying force from changing composition of occupied territories socially, culturally, educationally or politically.
The national elections in Iraq must be postponed. Despite the ongoing assurances of the Bush administration, the actual situation in Iraq has deteriorated into chaos and this lack of security ensures that any election will fail to provide legitimacy to a new Iraqi government. Iraq is currently under martial law. Major Iraqi political parties are boycotting the process. Hundreds of Iraqi villages and cities remain outside any government control and will not participate in the election. Election officials are being killed, threatened, and kidnapped daily, and the entire Electoral Commission in Anbar province west and north of the capital has resigned. Indeed, according to reports citing U.S. military sources in Iraq, four of Iraq’s 18 provinces may not be able to “fully” participate in the elections. Those four provinces contain more than half the population of Iraq.
Leading Iraqi figures in the Interim Government have expressed their unease over the arbitrary election date and have suggested a postponement. Iraqi interim President Ghazi Al Yawer recently stated that “the January date for Iraqi elections is not sacred and the vote could be postponed if a lack of security threatens the fairness of balloting.” Barham Salih, Iraq’s deputy prime minister, acknowledged that the increased violence can derail the elections. Iraq’s interim minister of defense, Hazim Shaalan, has added his voice to the chorus calling for a delay.
By moving ahead with this election, the Bush administration continues to turn a blind eye to the facts on the ground, and is blithely pushing Iraq deeper into violence and toward civil war. Already, attacks between Iraqi Sunnis and Shiites are increasing, in both frequency and intensity. An election at this point will only validate those most violent elements in Iraq who will use the illegitimacy of this election to further justify their opposition.
In every instance since the beginning of this war, the Bush administration has been wrong in its assessment of the situation and in its course of action. Why should anyone place any credence in the administration’s claims that the Iraqi elections will be another so-called “turning point?”
Pax Christi USA believes that the United States must abandon its failed and deadly course in Iraq as a precursor to any stability emerging in the country or the region.
The illegal and unnecessary U.S. invasion of Iraq has been a disaster for the Iraqi people with 100,000 civilians killed. The U.S.-led war has now cost the lives of more than 1,300 Americans, with more than 10,000 seriously wounded and leaving over 100,000 suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The Bush administration has offered no reasonable plan for ending the occupation and withdrawing U.S. forces. The daily lives of the Iraqi people are consumed with the struggle to secure basic nutrition and health care. The Iraqi infrastructure, including water treatment and electrical generation, remains seriously debilitated. The electoral process conceived in Washington does not even provide for Iraqis to know what the candidates’ positions are, or even who they are. Such is the seriousness of the lack of security in Iraq.
This election is another of a series of policy choices conceived by the Bush administration to deceive the American people into believing that the war has a noble purpose and serves the needs and the desires of the Iraqi people. The facts on the ground contradict this claim, just as the facts have contradicted every claim made by this administration. The path to true peace in Iraq will emerge only when the United States commits to withdrawal of U.S. forces, and internationalizes the physical and political reconstruction of Iraq under United Nations control.