The return of Mini-Me...

It has been argued by libertarians that the invasion of Iraq has little to do with "democracy" and freedom for Iraqis and, like the backing of Saddam in the 1980s and the toleration of his crushing of the popular revolts in 1991, a lot more to do with US imperialist interests. Essentially, as before, the invasion was an attempt to deter genuine democracy by removing the demonised leadership of a weakened formed US client regime in favour of a superficial "democracy" that protected US geopolitical and economic interests.

In opposition to the claim by a few left-wingers who supported the invasion because Saddam was so evil, libertarians argued that if you genuinely wanted real freedom and democracy in Iraq then a popular revolt was the only way to achieve it. Supporting the US invasion would see Iraq shaped in US interests, not Iraqi ones. Unsurprisingly, those who claimed to believe that the Bush Junta was telling the truth about their love of the Iraqi people have been proven wrong.

Yes, Saddam has been deposed but there is another despot in Iraq. Like Saddam he is an unelected ruler, ruling with an iron hammer. From the comfort of Saddam's luxury palaces, his military force is killing uncounted Iraqi civilians, censoring the press and asserting those who speak out against his rule. Saddam's palaces are not the only legacy of the past being used by the new boss, his network of domestic "intelligence" uses many of the same thugs that terrorised Iraqis for decades. Welcome to "free" Iraq and its master, Paul Bremer.

Remember back to before the war. As the Bush Junta geared up to bomb Baghdad, we were subjected to exposes of Saddam's lush lifestyle and his palaces. The irony of the pro-monarchy tabloids denouncing Saddam living in luxury while ordinary Iraqis suffered was lost on them. Just as the irony of the US occupiers seizing these very same palaces across Iraq was also unmentioned. Out went the old elite from their marbled palaces, in came the military commanders. Out went Saddam's Republican Guard; in came the marines.

Bremer not only shares the lifestyle of Saddam, but also the ruling techniques. Saddam and his deputies used Iraqi TV to inform their subjects of what they had planned for them. Now they get the ramblings of Bush, Bremer, Rice, Rumsfeld and US military commanders. According to one American soldier, Iraqi journalists call the US commanders working with them "Little Saddams."

As predicted before the war by libertarians, the US has keep dozens of Saddam's thugs, many in the same positions. They now have a new boss, which, like Saddam, is not that keen on having democratic elections. With Iraq's leading Shi'ite clerics becoming increasingly vocal in their demand for direct elections of an interim government, the US occupiers are ignoring them. The clerics want one person, one vote, with elections overseen by the UN. They want an end to US-appointments. Fair demands as this is what bourgeois democracy is all about and, more importantly, what the Bush Junta (sometimes) said it was waging war for.

Followers of one cleric have said that there may be direct action if the US prevents elections. We can only hope that the masses in Iraq will see the futility of swapping one set of bosses for another, organise themselves and use direct action to create a genuinely free society, one based on self-management. Unfortunately, independent class organisations are far weaker than religious ones at the moment and an Islamic republic seems to be the dominant demand, something the occupiers will be loath to tolerate even if the majority want it.

The problem is the US elite rejects elections if the "wrong" candidates are going to win. Unsurprisingly, the people most opposed to direct elections in Iraq are the Bush Junta and their imported "opposition". They argue that the country is too unstable for fair elections, favouring local caucuses of mostly appointed representatives to select a national assembly, which would then "elect" a government. But, then again, the Bush Junta did say it was going to create a "US style" democracy in Iraq. Perhaps the Supreme Court appointed cronies should have been honest and said a "Florida style" democracy?

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