It was downright shameful to hear the Canadian government and media falling all over each other to be promotional mouthpieces for American propaganda claiming the January 30 Iraqi elections were good news for the Iraqi people.
"Iraqis defy insurgents," "Iraqis defy violence as 8 millions cast votes," "60% dare vote in Iraq," trumpeted front page headlines in the January 31 Globe and Mail, Toronto Star and National Post, respectively.
"This was an important milestone in the transition to democratic self-government, and an important first step in the democratic processes that will unfold in Iraq throughout 2005. The election shows that a majority of Iraqis see democracy as a path toward a more stable and prosperous Iraq," said a congratulatory statement to the Iraqi people by Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew, and Minister of International Cooperation Aileen Carroll.
Their statement completely ignored the number one priority — and problem — for Iraqis, which is to end the illegal American occupation. The statement continued, saying, "Canada offers its support to the new Iraqi authorities to foster national reconciliation, and to ensure that the democratic transition unfolds in the inclusive manner outlined by the [UN] Security Council."
But if Canada, under pressure from Washington, is even thinking about sending our youth to be killed in military action, we should tell our government — just as Americans told theirs during the 1960s Vietnam War protests — "Hell No, We Won’t Go!"
The Geneva-based International Organization for Migration (IOM) has revealed that out of 4 million Iraqis living abroad, just over 2 million were entitled to vote. Of that number, only 280,000 registered and a mere 265,000 actually voted. This means only 13 percent of eligible Iraqi voters living abroad cast a ballot — I repeat, only 13 percent.
So the Bush administration is lying again, telling the world that 60 percent of Iraqis in their homeland — with no security and safety, and with little motivation to take part in a non-credible process — turned out to vote. Yet only 13 percent of those living in safe host countries did so.
Turning an election under occupation into a blatant PR campaign, however, is nothing new for America.
On September 4, 1967 the New York Times published a story on the Vietnam presidential elections. "US encouraged by Vietnam vote: Officials cite 83% turnout despite Vietcong terror," the headline reported. The article noted that Americans had been "surprised and heartened" by the size of the turnout "despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting."
The Iraq elections have been a sham and most Iraqis simply boycotted them. Polling centres were deserted and streets remained empty as Iraqis stayed home, too frightened, or too cynical, to vote. Besides, more than 40 percent of the Iraqi population lives in the four provinces whose local leaders most strenuously encouraged them not to vote.
The Iraqi election was not legitimate according to International Law, as it was held under foreign military occupation. The Hague Convention of 1907, to which the U.S. is a signatory, prohibits an occupying power from creating any permanent change in the government of an occupied territory.
The January 30 elections were arranged by an electoral commission installed and backed by the American military. There were no international monitors in the country — unlike the case of Afghanistan, with 122 monitors on site, and Palestine with 800.
The widely respected U.S.-based Carter Centre, which has monitored elections around the world for more than a decade, declined to participate in Iraq, saying the Iraqi election met none of the four criteria for legitimacy: i) the ability of citizens to vote in a free and secure environment; ii) the ability of candidates to have access to voters during campaigning; iii) having a freely chosen and independent election commission; and iv) the ability of voters to cast ballots without fear or intimidation.
"Iraqis opposing the elections were not just Sunni. The opposition was national, not sectarian. More than 70 political parties and political groups from all ethnic and religious affiliations have withdrawn from the elections," said Harith Al-Dhari, head of the Muslim Scholars’ Association.
"The permanent constitution which will be created by the elected Assembly will be based on the the law for the administration of the state which was mainly drafted by Paul Bremer, the former U.S. civil ruler in Iraq," Al-Dhari continued. "History informs us that countries liberated from occupation forces will work hard to eradicate all traces of the occupation. This includes the constitutions and laws that have been imposed by force."
Clearly, the main purpose of the Iraqi election was to legitimize America’s illegal invasion, not to end its occupation.
And until the Iraqi people are liberated from that occupation, we must put our Canadian government on notice that "Hell No, We Won’t Go!"