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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A pack of seagulls squabble over discarded food left on the beach at St Ives on July 28, 2015  

Number of urban seagulls in Britain nearly quadruples: Hide food and avoid chicks to stay in gulls’ good books

Tom Bawden
 

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
RuPaul interview: The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head

RuPaul interview

The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head
Secrets of comedy couples: What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?

Secrets of comedy couples

What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?
Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it