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Buying Up Iraq Amal Sedky Winter, Ph.D. email@example.com 11/29/2003 I am an Arab American woman. My mother-was a Scots English fourth generation Californian, my father an Egyptian of Turkish heritage. I went to British schools and, although I was born in Egypt, I have lived in the United States since I was sixteen years old. To make sense of all these contradictory influences, I learned early in my life to observe my environment, compare my observations to those of others, and form my own conclusions. These are the personal observations I made in on my three-week mission to Iraq in the fall of 2003. Let me start with what General. F. S. Maude, commander of the British forces, said when he captured Baghdad in 1917: "Our armies do not come into your cities and lands as conquerors or enemies, but as liberators. Your wealth has been stripped of you by unjust men. ... The people of Baghdad shall flourish under institutions which are in consonance with their sacred laws. ... The Arab race may rise once more to greatness!" Although General Maude made this comment almost a century ago the Arab world did not rise to greatness under British colonial rule. Arab countries were artificially divided so their resources, specially their oil, could be fuel the great economic progress of the West at the expense of their own economies. It is not accidental that, in spite of its natural resources, the Arab world lags so far behind America and Europe. Talking heads not withstanding, Iraq is different from Germany and Japan. Like the rest of the Arab world it remembers a long bitter history of Western colonialism. I was against our invasion of Iraq although some in the Arab American community were for it. Along with millions of other Americans, I expected that the United States invaded Iraq with oil on its mind. After all, the Iraqis had had the audacity of controlling 'our' oil just because it was flowing underneath 'their' sand. I suspected it was following the neo-conservative agenda exemplified by Wolfowitz, Perle, and Feith who called for an invasion of Iraq long before September 11th, 2001. This agenda is based on forsaking the past American policy of stability and containment in favor of one based on continuous instability and maintaining power through preemptive wars. I knew, because the Bush Administration said as much, that the invasion of Iraq was seen as a way to bolster Israel's military control of the Middle East. I also knew the Israelis would use the hysteria of war to expand into the Palestinian territories they occupy. I was against our invasion of Iraq because I knew Iraq's history well enough to realize that if we went in we would have to stay. The country's boundaries were carefully designed by the British with the approval of the League of Nations to surgically slice up the Kurdish lands between the Turks, the Persians and the new Iraq to ensure that post-World War I British domination of the Middle East would not be contaminated by the existence of a viable nation state in its midst. It was designed to ensure ongoing tensions between opposing religious, ethnic and tribal groups, and to prevent easy access for Iraqis to the waters of the Gulf. Given the fractured and fractious nature of the country, pounded into political submission by the ruthless totalitarian Saddam Hussein regime, I did not see how the United States could succeed in its stated postwar goals: to reconstruct the Iraqi infrastructure, establish a legitimate democratically elected government, declare victory, and leave. When the International Federation for Election Systems (IFES) invited me to join its Pre-Election Assessment Mission to Iraq, I had to face both my Arab and American ambivalence about assisting in an immoral and ill-conceived occupation. I finally decided to accept the IFES invitation to do a strictly technical assessment which might get the United States keep its promise to return the country to its people and depart. The IFES team consisted of a dozen international electoral experts from Canada, Denmark, Italy, Norway, Poland, and the United States. I was the only woman. I am a clinical psychologist, affiliated with Psychologists for Social Responsibility and the Arab American Institute from the time these organizations started in the early eighties. I have been a political party delegate, served in an elected position and run for public office several times. I have been a consultant for the United States Department of State, IFES, and the National Democratic Institute in various Middle Eastern countries. The fact that I speak Arabic is invaluable to my work in the Arab world but this was my first pre-election assessment. A pre-election assessment is an extremely technical piece of work but its basic structure is easy to understand. It must determine what a country has in terms of processes and mechanisms to support democratic elections. For example, does it have accurate voter registries? In the case of Iraq, most government records were destroyed but there were food ration cards linked to a database. Does the country already have a constitution? Iraq had a constitution but it was one that allowed a totalitarian regime to remain in power. The assessment investigates the processes by which a new constitution can be written. Voting sites and procedures and processes for the selection and training of election monitors have to be established in order for citizens to be confident their votes are accurately recorded and counted. My portion of the IFES assignment included assessing the condition of the media and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in terms of their respective capacities to inform the populace on the election issues and educate them in the mechanics of casting their votes. I would also investigate Iraq's capacity to establish long-term, civic education and democracy curricula and develop democratic civil institutions in the future. My first Arab American identity crisis arrived with my blue flak-jacket on the morning of my first day in Iraq. I could see the Iraqi drivers and hotel attendants in the courtyard leaning against parked cars watching to see what I would do when my security 'shooter' tried to help me on with it. Foolish as my denial was, my Egyptian half could not imagine having to protect myself from my Arab brethren with a flak jacket. With a glance at the 'gawkers' I threw it in the back seat of the SUV, preferring to shot than embarrassed. My second crisis was in the 'up-scale' shopping area not far from our hotel. Accompanied by our mandatory 'shooter' a 6'6" African American who stood out like a sore thumb in the streets of Baghdad, I took two of my young American colleagues for a quick shopping trip. It was evening, the shops were open although poorly lit, and although it was far from the ordinary bustling of a Middle Eastern market area, there were people in the streets. An open bed military truck drove by full of armed American soldiers. The Iraqi children waved at them, the adults scowled. They scowled at me, too, even when I reached out in Arabic to the children by their sides. Cringing at the rebuffs, I remembered the broad smiles that greeted me in Palestine and the people in Jordan, Qatar and Kuwait who chuckled at my Egyptian Arabic, sang Egyptian songs in musical solidarity, and engaged me in long conversations. I wondered if the Iraqi's considered me a collaborator. I wondered whether it was the body-guard, or my American colleagues, that turned them away. I wondered how I would have been greeted if I had come to Iraq when the Iraqi Center for Research and Strategic Studies (ICRSS) conducted its first survey of Iraqi public opinion. Two thirds of Iraqis described the CPA as liberators one month after the coalition forces entered Baghdad. Only one third of the population saw them as an army of occupation. It says something about the CPA policies that within three months, these proportions were completely reversed. As I conducted my share of the pre-election assessment, I tried to figure out what happened to turn the Iraqi's against us so quickly. I met with high ranking members of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), the defacto government of Iraq, and members of the 25 person Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) appointed by the CPA which must approve their every move. The IGC is composed mostly of Iraqi exiles returning with the occupying powers. Only two of its members are 'internal' Iraqis and only two are women. The returning Iraqi exiles, men who lived abroad for 10 to 35 years, like Ahmad Chalabi who left Iraq as a child in 1958, have been given a disproportionately large role in the transitional process by the CPA but are disliked and distrusted by the local Iraqis who had to suffer under Saddam. Local Iraqis believe the exiles enjoyed the 'good life' in the West and returned, rich and powerful-allied with the occupying forces-to become the new ruling elites. The fact that Chalabi, under indictment in Jordan for embezzling $30 million dollars, has been Rumsfeld's principle advisor does not lend the CPA-or the IGC-the legitimacy they seek. I met with the heads of political parties like SCIRI, the newest and largest Shi'a party, and Dawa al Islameya, the oldest and most deeply rooted one. And I met with Kurdish leaders. Every party headquarter building is guarded by members of its respective armed militias. I also talked with university professors, social researchers, journalists, waiters, drivers and people in the street and traveled to the towns of Basra and Nasireyah. Everyone emphasized the importance of insuring security and employment before political issues could be addressed. It wasn't difficult to see that the Coalition Authority has concentrated on revitalizing the oil-fields rather ran insuring the minimal level of day-to-day security to which the average Iraqi was accustomed. Most Iraqis have known nothing but the terrorizing Ba'athist regime, the horrors of eight years of the Iran-Iraq war followed by the Gulf War, and ten years of harsh economic sanctions but there was always strict internal security. In my view as a psychologist, the violence and looting that broke out after the bombings were predictable indications of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the face of post-war chaos. Without the strict security, roaming gangs were breaking into local residences, mafia-types were extracting protection money from shop-keeper, and politically motivated violence was increasing. Women are staying home from work and shopping and children are being kept home from school to escape the violence created by thugs and criminals which Saddam released before the invasion, Ba'ath supporters who are intimidating the populace to reduce potential support for the occupation, personal and tribal vendettas, and foreign forces coming through the suddenly porous borders of Kuwait, Syria and Iran. After the need for physical security, the Iraqis I talked most stressed the need to solve the problem of 60% to 70% unemployment the occupation created by firing employees of the military, police and civil services. Kids are begging in the street to support their families while their well-educated parents sweep at its rubble. A good percentage of the 70% of Iraqis under the age of 30 are young men who have AK-47s and no jobs. The Iraqis expectations of what and how fast the CPA can deliver the physical and social infrastructure the population needs may be unreasonably high. They are used to rule by edict and the forced mobilization of labor and resources, proud of how quickly they reconstructed Baghdad after the Gulf War, and cannot believe that a country as rich and powerful as the United States cannot get the Iraq back on its feet immediately. I saw the effects of the uncannily accurate bombing of "Operation Shock and Awe" during the twenty minute ride to the CPA headquarters in Saddam's Baghdad Palace. Most of the government buildings we passed stood intact amongst the rubble. One of them had been set ablaze by indiscriminate looters during the 'liberation' of Iraq and was streaked with smoke. The feathery black lines radiating from the blown out windows looked like eye-lashes. The Ba'ath Party Headquarters had been bombed but only one side of the building had collapsed, its southern entrance demolished. In the northern entrance, an elegant chandelier hung straight and almost undisturbed. Few of the private homes appeared damaged. Fancy homes built with sandstone and marble which must once been polished to a high-gloss are now run-down and dusty. Their deterioration seems due not so much to the recent bombing but to the forced neglect created by the past ten years of economic sanctions. Piles of garbage gather stinking along the inner roads where refuse collection has yet to be resumed. I can understand why Iraqis are asking for sanitation like repairing the sewers so the Tigris is not full of human excrement, for public health measures like clean water and electricity and the jobs accompany these services. The roads of Baghdad were clogged with cars and donkey carts because civilian traffic is continually diverted to make way for interminable convoys of military tanks and Humvees. Trips which used to take twenty minutes take well over an hour and a half but everyone has to make way for us. Our unmarked SUV goes where ever it wants to go: the wrong way on one-way streets, against traffic at the roundabouts, over the curbs and down the sidewalks. I wondered how many Iraqis in their ten-year old Volkswagen Passats were angered by our arrogant disregard of traffic rules. We drove through streets covered with rubble: piles of bricks, scattered oil cans, rolls and rolls of razor wire, and lots and lots and lots of dust. Our Suburban passed the frequent check-points with just a wave of our 'shooter's' hand because Custer Battles, the security company that employs him, has a big contract to man roadblocks and guard facilities such as the Iraqi Airports. As we drove to the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), I tried to see beyond the city's current difficult conditions, imagined watered lawns, foliage in street dividers and roads cleared of post-conflict debris. Reluctantly, I concluded that, though it has an excellent system of roads, overpasses, and roundabouts, modern Baghdad is not a particularly beautiful city. The public buildings that radiate from Saddam's Palace are each bigger and more oppressive than the last and the regime seems to have invented a dark, heavy art-form of its own. The roundabouts are filled with huge, romanticized, Soviet-style sculptures of fierce-looking soldiers with arms cast as thick as Arnold Schwarzenegger's. They aim their rifles at the skies, protecting large-hipped women who pour water from bottomless jugs. The CPA is the defacto government of Iraq. Housed in Saddam's Baghdad Palace, it is surrounded by a Green Zone of maximum security. The Palace's classically Islamic dome is dominated by four identical busts of Saddam Hussein. The heavy-nosed faces scowl down from under strange looking helmets. I wonder if the sculptor deliberately designed these busts to look like Josef Stalin. The parking lot across the road was a pile of dust surrounded by coils of razor wire. I tramped through the rubble of what must once have been the official gardens in 120 degree heat. The blazing sun had already turned the dusty sky almost white and the sweat running down my face was gritty. Fortunately, the Palace was air-conditioned. An ornate chandelier hangs from the inside foyer's marble-faced dome. The doors are covered with panels of hammered gold. The walls and floors are inlaid marble: bold geometric patterns of brown and black lines punctuated with rectangles of deep russet red. The scale is deliberately gigantic and ultimately oppressive but Gold-gilt fake Louis XIV furniture, black swivel desk chairs and cheap laminate desks are pushed against the walls in a chaos of contradictory styles. Speckled gray Formica-topped tables overflowed from the central mess-hall. Men and women in uniform sit, three and four to a table, eating chicken fricassee, grilled cheese sandwiches, hamburgers and fries off paper plates that seem incongruously out of place in a Palace. The Palace's CPA's headquarters houses Baghdad Central whose structure parallels what had once been the government of Iraq. This includes ministries such as justice, education, and planning, headed by Americans and staffed by returning Iraqi. They receive funds in the form of grants from the CPA but, like the Iraqi Governing Council, have no independent administrative power. Because the CPA insists on complete de-Ba'athification (as though that could be achieved without disenfranchising three quarters of the population) it is hard pressed to bring Iraqi institutions up to snuff. The United States chose to believe that Iraqis would continue to operate their civil institutions under CPA occupation even after it dismantled the police forces and the military and removed all Ba'athists from their jobs. But Saddam appointed only Ba'athists to government ministries and people were forced to join the Ba'ath Party before they could teach, work at a bank, or contract with the government for work. The Ba'athists who controlled the government apparatus scrambled off the sinking ship, melting into the population of 25 million Iraqis, as soon as Saddam fell. The CPA must have deluded itself into believing it could remove Saddam and the Ba'athists and leave the civil infrastructure intact. I was told that the CPA arrived in Iraq with neither Arabic speakers nor translators. I can't quite believe that but I can vouch for the fact that very few CPA people speak Arabic and almost none of them can communicate with Iraqis outside the Palace. The CPA has no real communication with local Iraqis. Its staff seldom leaves the compound and, when it does, it goes through the streets in heavily guarded convoys. Other than a few cellular phones and some walkie-talkie radios, there are no phone lines. The CPA is floundering as it tries to administer a country it does not understand while its military patrols disgruntled civilians by shouting at them from the high turrets of their Bradley tanks. Trying to rebuild a country, when you are policing its civilians and fighting an escalating guerilla war, is a daunting task at best but the United States has boxed itself into an impossible position. Having justified its war on Iraq as measure that would bring liberation and Western-style democracy to Iraq, it needs Iraq to conduct elections as a fig-leaf to justify its occupation and allow it to step away from the impossible task of governing what may now have become an ungovernable country. And, the Bush Administration wants the Iraqi elections to be held before the American presidential ones. But, the Iraqi political scene contains several irresolvable contradictions. The Islamists insist that elections for the constitution and a bicameral house should be held immediately so Iraq can gain a semblance of self-rule. Iraq's influential chief cleric, Ayatollah Al-Sistani, has issued a fatwa-a religious directive-that only direct elections are acceptable and the Islamists expect to win them, handily. Toppling the Saddam Hussein Ba'athist regime has opened the way for them to come to power. The Islamists are well-rooted in the body politic. They have militias. They can count on support not only from Iran but from other foreign factions pouring into the country. They describe their various political, organizational, and cultural bureaus and their large representative Shura council in Western and Islamic democratic ideals but they do not believe in a separation between state and faith. Having established themselves in the religious sector in spite of Saddam Hussein's cruel campaign of oppression against them, they are the only truly organized political entities. The Kurds insists that there should be no elections for anything before a complete census is taken and adjustments made to correct for the internal and external diasporas Saddam Hussein created by his policies. They want the three governorates under their control to be joined together as a block and then joined to Iraq proper in some form of federation. This is not acceptable to the Shi'a-after all the Kurds control the richest of Iraq's oil fields. Factionalism is increasing in the nascent body-politic, as is common in post-conflict situations. The Shi'a are splintering into groups that range from the politically moderate to the religiously fanatical and the two strong Kurdish parties are experiencing internal struggles. The Ba'athists who melted into the population did not disappear. Those political parties that are not directly subsumed by the Islamists or Kurdish political factions are as much tribal entities as anything else. They, like the larger political factions, are equipped with militia of their own and positioning themselves for the up-coming power struggles. As far as I can see, any faction can trump the elections by boycotting and/or taking up arms. Once the issue of elections is joined, either in the form of a Constitutional Convention, or a in the form of general elections, there will be a surge of violence. Foreign forces are entering the country from Kuwait, Syria and Iran to further destabilize the country. Elections are likely to be bloody, at best. What will the CPA do then? Divide the country into three as Leslie Gelb, a former editor and senior columnist for the Times proposed recently? Gelb was once head of the Council on Foreign Affairs, an influential Washington think tank close to the heart of the State Department. He must know this proposal-the north and its oil for the Kurds, the south and its oil for the Shi'a, and the Sunnis cut-off from resources in the middle-would correspond with the new strategy of destabilization. Like the British policy of 'divide and conquer' the division of Iraq would excuse permanent military intervention and the justify bases on Iraqi soil to prepare for further wars in the region. I was prepared for the political and military ramifications of the American occupation of Iraq. I was not prepared for the extent to which CPA policies were facilitating the American corporate buy-out of the country's infrastructure. My first clue was the initials KBR on the counter of the buffet table in the Palace mess hall: Kellogg, Brown and Root-a subsidiary of Halliburton Corp, the company once headed by Vice President Cheney which received its contract in murky bidding process endorsed by the Bush Administration. According to the Government Accounting Office's (GAO) February 1997 study, KBR claimed its operation in Bosnia would cost $191.6 million. A year later this figure had ballooned to $461.5 million and the contract has cost the taxpayer $2.2 billion over the last several years. Brown and Root were investigated in Californian by Michael Hirst, of the United States Attorney's Office in Sacramento, who litigated the suit on behalf of the government and alleges, "Whether you characterize it as fraud or sharp business practices, the bottom line is the same: the government was not getting what it paid for . . . they exploited the contracting process and increased their profits at the governments expense." It turns out that corporations like Bechtel and Halliburton reap guaranteed profits. Their contracts typically provide full reimbursement of costs plus a 7 percent profit: the more the companies charge the Pentagon, the more profit they make. Perhaps that explains why KBR flies in all the food-chicken and ground meat, lettuce and tomatoes-from the States instead of buying from the Iraqis. The Pentagon's recent huge no-bid contract with Kellogg, Brown & Root, is classified. The terms are secret. The Bush administration says that the reason that the KBR contract is a secret is also a secret. According to Mark Scaramella, the managing editor of the Anderson Valley Advertiser, there is reason to suspect there are secret contract provisions, status of forces agreements (SOFAs), holding the United States liable for any security related losses to American corporations in Iraq. Under agreements like these, the United States will be obligated to maintain its military security presence in Iraq for as long as there is resistance to the military/corporate presence. The Iraqis are politically astute and, like most people in the Middle East, follow political and social events with exquisite attention. They have one of the highest literacy rates in the Arab world. George Soros' Open Society reports Iraqi literacy at 71% for men and 45% for women (down from 85% before the sanctions.) Iraq has 22 universities, 45 vocational colleges and approximately 141,000 schools. According to the Iraqi Center for Research and Strategic Studies (ICRSS), thirty-five percent of the Iraqi population listens to at least one of over 100 radio stations. The CPA has its own Iraqi Media Network (IMN) with radio and T.V. but less than half the listeners trust what it as a source of news. Iraqis who receive their news from the radio prefer BBC Arabic to other stations. Satellite dishes, banned by Saddam, are sprouting from the roof-tops of affluent and middle-class. According to the Center's findings, Iraqis who watch the news on Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabeya trust these sources significantly more than they trust the CPA's and yet while the CPA flouts the mushrooming of Iraq's access to satellite T.V. as one of its greatest successes it consistently threatens to close the news offices of these stations. Since the fall of Saddam Hussein 160 newspapers have hit the stands but most are party-affiliated or supported by religious groups like Al Mou'tamar and Al Da'wa and are best described as 'party-organs.' Even the smallest, "one-man" nascent political group publishes a paper. Some papers, such as the English language Iraq Today are supported by exiles based abroad. There are no established standards for journalism practice. Most journalists are unemployed people trying to make a living by attending meetings, briefings and conferences and reporting on the proceedings in the hope someone will pay them for their efforts. After 35 years of censorship, the Iraqis are now deluged with news. They are also deluged with rumors. Word of mouth is faster than email in Iraq. American objectives are examined in the papers, on Arabic language television, in the street cafes and market places. Iraqi's know Bush Administration insisted that America was in imminent danger from Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction in order to justify the invasion of Iraq. Having found none, the Administration has come up with the retrospective objectives of liberating the Iraq and opening it up to free market democracy. When it comes to the claim that we came to liberate the country from the oppressive, near-genocidal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi's applaud our success. But, now that the euphoria is over, they are assessing the cost to their personal day-to-day lives. They feel their basic needs are endangered by the lack of security, social services and employment opportunities. Many Iraqis told me that although they expected improvement in a few years time, as far as jobs and personal security went, their lives had been better under Saddam's regime. The second objective is more complicated. The United States claims we are opening Iraq to the riches of free market democracy but we should remain skeptical of its ultimate objectives. A recent United Nations/World Bank report point outs the underlying contradiction in the current reconstruction plan: the continued US occupation and the growing resistance struggle against it make any genuine rebuilding and social progress impossible. In the same report, the United Nations/World Bank estimates that, in contrast to the $18.6 billion figure submitted to the House Appropriations Committee by the Bush Administration, Iraq reconstruction costs in 2004 do not exceed $9 billion. The Iraqi Governing Council has questioned the CPA's budget projections. Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish member of the council, told the New York Times, "There is no transparency, and something has to be done about it. There is mismanagement right and left... A lot of American money is being wasted, I think. We are victims and the American taxpayers are victims." The council has charged the CPA with using higher-priced foreign contractors, mainly Americans, to do jobs that Iraqi businessmen could perform at less cost. Congresswoman and Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi of California, cited the example of a contract of 2 million dollars to a U.S. firm. When that firm could not deliver, an Iraqi firm completed the same job, on time and to specification, for $80,000.00. Henry Waxman, also a California congressman, has accused the Bush administration of wasting billions of dollars in contracts with Halliburton and Bechtel ''when Iraqi companies could do the work for less''. The 15-member European Union (EU) has called for a "separate and transparent'' fund to hold the money it donates to Iraq. Former U.N. Assistant Secretary-General Hans Von Sponeck, previously head of the Iraq 'Oil for Food Program,' is quoted in October, 2003, by Veterans for Peace as saying the CPA's Iraqi budget lacks transparency. He claims this includes a deficit of 2.2 billion dollars supposedly "funded from committed financial assets" without identifying what these assets are. ''What has happened to the cash the U.S. army captured?" he asks. "Should it not be identified as income in the 2003 budget? A very large amount of money -- 925 million dollars -- is identified as 'various expenditures.' What are these 'various expenditures?' " The more I discovered about the corporate buy-out of Iraq the more upset I became. I was upset as an American-an American taxpayer happy to support social, medical, and security services. The transfer of money from the poor and middle-class tax payer into corporate coffers is a scandalous affront to the American sense of fairness. Corporations are supposed to pay taxes for the common good, not take collect them for their own private use. Let us not fool ourselves about 'military spending.' Functions such supplying food and fuel and munitions, building barracks and other facilities, and conducting logistical operations in Iraq have been privatized. The young foot-soldiers who do the actual shooting and killing may be equipped with more reliable flak-jackets out of the $66 billion dollars appropriated for the military but the rest will go to the corporations that supply the military. The funds appropriated by Congress will go primarily to large American corporations like Bechtel and Halliburton connected to, or should I say 'imbedded in,' the Bush administration. To top it off, the corporate take-over of Iraq excludes most Iraqis. The bidding process favors Americans and Europeans over Iraqis and, while small enterprises are protected by the new law which mandates 51% Iraqi ownership, large ones need only be 30% Iraqi. It would be interesting to know how many Iraqi exiles with dual citizenship will be represented as Iraqis in these figures and how long it would be before the big fish eat the smaller ones. There is every reason to expect that a truly democratically elected Iraqi government will insist on controlling its oil production and little reason to believe that the United States will allow Iraq to elect a truly representative government that would do so. But there is another fundamental contradiction between the Bush Administration's stated goals and the realities of the Middle East. A recent CIA report, submitted to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, that U.S. policy vis--vis Israel is one of the primary reasons for negative feeling toward the U.S. in the region. The United States cannot tolerate Arab democracy at the national level because of its unilateral support of Israel's occupation of Palestine and no freely elected Arab government will support Israel against the Palestinians. If real democracy means letting people have a real voice in governing themselves then there is little hope of this happening in any Arab state, including Iraq. Was my work in Iraq worth anything? The IFES Pre Election Assessment certainly was. Modesty aside, the IFES assessment will become the international benchmark for similar projects. But I as far as the future of Iraq goes, I doubt it will it make a difference in the larger picture. The United States has its arms around a tar-baby. It cannot stay-without exacerbating the conditions, increasing the resistance-and it cannot leave without plunging the country into the chaotic violence characteristic of a failed state. While I believe the United States can endorse small civil institutions in Iraq such as those that advocate the national rights of women, improve health and education, and encourage local groups to participate in municipal efforts to improve daily existence it cannot allow the emergence of a true democracy at the national level. To be fair to the Iraqis and ourselves, I believe we must cut a deal with the international community to rescue us from this situation. If we taxed the corporations instead of letting them tax us, we could pay the United Nations for the costs of reconstruction, pay them for peace-keeping, and pay them to run elections. Then we can get out of Iraq. Please change my email address to firstname.lastname@example.org