Robert Fisk: Once again, a nation walks through fire to give the West its 'democracy'

Democracy doesn't seem to work when countries are occupied by Western troops

Share
Related Topics

In 2005 the Iraqis walked in their tens of thousands through the thunder of suicide bombers, and voted – the Shias on the instructions of their clerics, the Sunnis sulking in a boycott – to prove Iraq was a "democracy". There followed the most blood-boltered period in Iraq's modern history. Yesterday, the Iraqis walked in their tens of thousands through the thunder of mortar fire – at least 24 dead before voting stations closed – to prove that Iraq was a "democracy".

This time, the Sunnis did vote. And we Westerners tried to forget the past, even the recent past. Few news reports recalled that only weeks ago hundreds of candidates, most of them Sunnis, were banned from standing on the grounds that they had once had links with the Baath Party. It was a clear return to sectarian politics. Shias who were close to Saddam still hold their jobs in the "democratic" Iraq for which the Iraqis supposedly went to vote yesterday.

Under Iraq's new laws, the electoral system has been jiggled to ensure that no single party can win power. There has got to be a coalition, an alliance – or a "broad alliance" as the television analysts were telling us – among whomever of the 6,000 candidates from 86 parties gain seats in parliament. But all this means is that the next sectarian government will hold power according to the percentage of Shia, Sunni and Kurdish communities in Iraq.

The West has always preferred this system in the Middle East, knowing that such "democracy" will produce governments according to the confessional power of each community. We've done this in Northern Ireland. We did it in Cyprus. The French created a Lebanon whose very identity is confessional, each community living in suspicious love of each other lest they be destroyed. Even in Afghanistan, we prefer to deal with the corrupt Hamid Karzai – held in disdain by most of his fellow Pushtuns – and allow him to rule on our behalf with an army largely made up of paid tribal supporters. This may not be – in the State Department's laughable excuse – "Jeffersonian democracy", but it's the best we are going to get.

And always we defend these miserable results with the same refrain. Do you want the Taliban back? Do you want Saddam back? Or, in the cases of Cyprus and Lebanon decades ago, do you want the Ottoman Turks back? And while we think that election results – however fraudulent or however complex (Iraq's next government may take months to form) – are an improvement, we do not stop to ask who really wins these elections. Iran, whose demented president knows how to handle "democratic" polls, is of course the victor. Its two enemies, the "black Taliban" and Saddam, have both been vanquished without a single Iranian firing a shot.

Sunni politicians in Iraq claim that Iran is interfering, both militarily and politically, in Iraq. But since most of the current ruling parties were nurtured in the Islamic Republic, Iran has no need to interfere. The Dawa Party, to whom we now graciously bend the knee in respect, was 20 years ago kidnapping foreigners in Beirut, and bombing the US and French embassies in Kuwait City. And we are not even mentioning Mosul and other cities in northern Iraq, where the elections are not about democracy at all, but about who controls the oil on the Arab-Kurdish front lines.

Yes, the Iraqis are a brave people. How many Brits would go to the polls under mortar fire? Or Americans, for that matter? It's not that Muslims don't want freedom or democracy. It's that "democracy" doesn't seem to work when their countries are occupied by Western troops. It didn't work in Afghanistan. The withdrawal of American "combat" troops from Iraq doesn't mean that US forces won't remain in great strength.

And as long as the Mubaraks and the King Abdullahs (both of them) have our uncritical political support, their nations will make no real progress towards freedom.

Thus yesterday's election day in Iraq does not represent further proof of the values of our Western democracies. It does mean that a courageous people still believes that the system under which it is voting will honour its wishes.

As so often in the past, however, the election is more likely – under our benevolent eye – to enshrine the very sectarianism which Saddam once used so ruthlessly to enslave his people.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Exhibition Content Developer

£19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based in South Kensington, this prestigi...

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established managed services IT...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Advisor is r...

Recruitment Genius: Plant Fitter - Construction Industry

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This well established construction equipment d...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Bahrainis on an anti-government protest in May  

Hussain Jawad's detainment and torture highlights Britain's shameless stance on Bahraini rights

Emanuel Stoakes
August 1923: Immigrants in a dining hall on Ellis Island, New York.  

This election demonises the weakest

Stefano Hatfield
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003