Method of Zarqawi madness (WASHINGTON TIMES COMMENTARY) By Claude Salhani 01/30/05)
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Abu Musab Zarqawi is the new bad kid on the block, with a $25 million
U.S. bounty on his head. In an audiotape released last week on a Web
site, Zarqawi vowed to fight the very concept of democracy and to do
his best to perturb today´s balloting in Iraq.
The Jordanian-born leader of the Iraqi Sunni insurgency, the self-
declared emir of the Iraqi revolt and al Qaeda´s man in Iraq, issued
a statement that borders on the absurd if the voice on the tape is
truly his. The tape says: "We have declared a bitter war against the
principle of democracy and all those who seek to enact it."
Even the staunchest of Stalinists who shunned democracy and its
institutions at least pretended to govern in the name of the
proletariat. They installed "people´s tribunals," "people´s armies"
and "people´s socialist republics." And even though few people had
any say in how things were done, the communists threw around the
words "democratic" for good form.
Zarqawi, however, doesn´t mess around with semantics; he goes
straight to the point, not bothering to try and hide his
intentions: "Candidates in the elections are seeking to become
demigods, while those who vote for them are infidels."
Calling the candidates "demigods" is somewhat an overstatement given
that the contenders in tomorrow´s voting, for the most part, have
remained anonymous for obvious security reasons. Zarqawi and his
zealots have been targeting just about anyone involved in the
One of the oddities is that Iraqis will go to the polls those brave
enough to defy Zarqawi´s threats of bombs and assassination not
knowing exactly whom they are electing to the 275-member assembly and
whom they are choosing to fill the governing councils in each of 18
provinces. Voters in the Kurdish region also will elect a Kurdistan
National Assembly. But that´s another story. In turn, Iraq´s elected
parliament will vote for a prime minister and draft a new
Iraqis will vote for a slate rather than a candidate. Each of the
country´s 111 political entities parties, individuals or
coalitions running for the Iraqi National Assembly is putting
forward a slate in the party´s name. Voters will cast ballots for the
slate, or list. There are a total of 7,785 candidates, not counting
the 14 Kurdish parties running for 111 seats in the separate Kurdish
Zarqawi, credited with much of the violence that has gripped Iraq
since the U.S.-led invasion, is also believed responsible for many of
the kidnappings and beheadings. His aim, as he so blatantly said, is
to stop the elections, no matter the cost.
Why would anyone be against democracy or free elections, if the
voting was carried out correctly? To be sure, not everyone walks away
pleased with an election´s outcome in any democratic society. But as
Winston Churchill once said, "Democracy is the worst form of
government except for all those other that have been tried."
Are elections un-Islamic? And, more to the point, why would Zarqawi
so vehemently oppose the voting?
Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic
Relations CAIR addressed the first question. He told United Press
International that in Islam the concept of "shura" is not
incompatible with democracy. Shura is basically a decisionmaking
process that has existed in Islam since the time of the Prophet
Mohammed. "Obviously, anyone who says an elected government is not
representative is against the concept of shura," Mr. Hooper said.
This is the key: a representative government. Zarqawi on his tape
calls on Sunnis to fight against the election. Today´s election,
which will go ahead despite its many flaws and Zarqawi´s zany
concept. Zarqawi wants to prevent the Shi´ite majority roughly 60
percent to 65 percent of Iraq´s 25 million people from winning the
upper hand, which is inevitable but something several of Iraq´s Sunni
neighbors dread as well. Well-informed intelligence sources say more
than one of Iraq´s neighbors is financing and arming the Sunni-led
Iraq´s Independent Electoral Commission estimated there are 14.27
million eligible voters inside and 1.2 million to 2 million outside
Iraq. A December 2004 internal U.S. State Department poll estimated
32 percent of Iraqi Sunnis are "very likely" to vote, while 87
percent of Shi´ites are "very likely" to vote.
Do the numbers. Elementary, my dear Watson: The Shi´ites are the
majority. Zarqawi and his backers would rather plunge the Sunnis
and Shi´ites into civil war than see governing power pass to the
Shi´ites, whom extremist Sunnis regard as heretics. There is also
fear of an alliance with Iran that would further empower Tehran,
ruled by the Shi´ite clergy.
To help secure these elections, about 150,000 U.S. troops in Iraq
will be on duty on Election Day, supported by some 125,000 Iraqi
security forces. Another 25,000 troops from about 29 other nations
will also be on hand to secure 6,000 polling stations that will
require approximately 194,000 poll workers. Assisting them will be 29
international organizations, including observers from the United
Nations, the International Foundation for the Electoral Systems, and
the United Kingdom´s Department for International Development.
The birth of democracy, like that of a newborn child, is not without
pain. Iraq´s first babysteps into a very shaky, very iffy and very
fragile democracy will be far from perfect, and painful.
Some of Iraq´s leaders have already called for postponing the
elections, afraid that even the thousands of troops will not be able
to secure Iraq to allow a truly representative election.
Indeed, the process is flawed and far from perfect. The election will
be contested amid cries it was unrepresentative.
Tomorrow´s voting will bring disappointment to many. Iraqis who think
it will end the violence will be disappointed, as Zarqawi will
continue fighting until Iraqis get a grip on the security situation.
Iraqis who see the elections as an end of the U.S. occupation of
their country will find this will not be the case; all indications
are U.S. forces will remain in Iraq at least another two years.
And those in the United States who hope the elections will be the
first step toward a stable Iraq, allowing for withdrawal of our
forces, will also realize this spoon-fed democracy is not the
solution either. But it is too late to turn back now.
Claude Salhani is international editor for United Press
International. (Copyright 2005 News World Communications, Inc.
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