Apr 4, 2005
On March 29, the Iraqi parliament's second meeting ended in chaos after hours of shouting, finger pointing and walkouts by leaders of different ethnic and religious groups. Two months after its election, those elected have still not formed a government. That gives an idea of what's in store for Iraq.
So do recent events in Afghanistan. After its presidential election last October, the country was said to be well on its way to democracy.
Never mind the fact that the election itself was a farce, with different warring groups controlling the polling – and the election results – in different areas of the country. After it took several weeks for all the ballots to be gathered, it still took several more weeks for the counting to finish. Not surprisingly, U.S. favorite Hamid Karzai won easily.
That election was supposed to be only the beginning. But Afghanistan's parliamentary elections, scheduled to take place last year, were first delayed until sometime early this year. Last month, Karzai and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice announced that the election was delayed once again and would not be held until some time in the fall, maybe September.
These delays are acknowledgments of the reality in Afghanistan: it was one thing to rig elections and anoint a president. But that president has no real power and his government has no influence or control anywhere other than in the capital city of Kabul, where he's propped up by the continued presence of over 17,000 U.S. troops. With so much fighting continuing between different groups of warlords, the government can't even decide how many parliamentary seats each region of the country will have to vote on!
In the meantime, bombings and killings continue. During Rice's trip last month, five people were killed and at least 32 were injured by one bomb in the city of Kandahar. A very real war still continues in the country, over three years after it began, with no end in sight.
It's much the same situation in Iraq. This newly elected interim parliament, which is supposed to be drafting a constitution, can't even choose who will hold its top leadership posts without flying apart. The main groups of Shiites and Kurds who make up the parliament each want control over parts of the country the other doesn't want to cede. And both are looking over their shoulders at the Sunnis who aren't really represented in the parliament.
Just as in Afghanistan, this "government" has no real power. The only thing that keeps it from crumbling is the continued presence of 150,000 U.S. troops – which, we are now told, will need to stay at least until the next round of elections, after the constitution is drawn up and parliamentary elections are held. And in Iraq, too, there is already talk that the elections will have to be delayed.
This is the "democracy" the U.S. claims to have brought to Iraq and Afghanistan.