June 19, 2003
New York Times

Iraqis Were Set to Vote, But U.S. Wielded a Veto

by David Rohde

. . . last week, L. Paul Bremer III, the head of the American military occupation in Iraq, unilaterally canceled what American officials here said would have been the first such election in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein. Overruling the local American military commander, Mr. Bremer decreed that conditions in Najaf were not appropriate for an election.

Several days later, American marines stormed the offices of an obscure local political party here, arrested four members and jailed them for four days. The offense, the Americans said, was a violation of a new edict by Mr. Bremer that makes it illegal to incite violence against forces occupying Iraq. . . .

The events here exposed an uncomfortable truth of the American occupation. For now, American officials are barring direct elections in Iraq and limiting free speech, two of the very ideals the United States has promised to Iraqis. American officials have said it may take up to two years for an elected Iraqi government to take over the country.


[Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.--U.S. Constitution: First Amendment]

"UN Provides Cover for U.S. Occupation, Sanctions Colonialism," The Wisdom Fund, May 22, 2003

"U.S. Curbs Iraqi Press," The Wisdom Fund, June 19, 2003

[U.S. military commanders have ordered a halt to local elections and self-rule in provincial cities and towns across Iraq, choosing instead to install their own handpicked mayors and administrators, many of whom are former Iraqi military leaders.

The decision to deny Iraqis a direct role in selecting municipal governments is creating anger and resentment among aspiring leaders and ordinary citizens, who say the U.S.-led occupation forces are not making good on their promise to bring greater freedom and democracy to a country dominated for three decades by Saddam Hussein.--William Booth and Rajiv Chandrasekaran, "Occupation Forces Halting Elections Throughout Iraq," Washington Post, June 28, 2003]

[Bremer has the power to overrule the council's decisions--"New Iraqi Governing Council to Meet on Sunday," Reuters, July 12, 2003]

Rajiv Chandrasekaran, "Former Exiles Given Majority on Iraqi Council," Washington Post, July 12, 2003

[I feared my role with the reconstruction council was sliding from what I had originally envisioned - working with allies in a democratic fashion - to collaborating with occupying forces.--Isam al-Khafaji, "Broken promise: Why I quit Iraq," Globe and Mail, July 18, 2003]

Gary Younge, "Annan backs Iraq's US-picked leaders," Guardian, July 22, 2003

[His report urged the United States and Britain to set a timetable for the end of military occupation and warned that 'democracy can't be imposed from the outside'.--"Kofi Annan calls for early end to occupation," Straits Times, July 23, 2003]

[Mr Feldman - a professor at New York University Law School - joined the US Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance led by Paul Bremer in Iraq - as an adviser on framing a new constitution.

He resigned from that position last week, but is continuing to offer suggestions to Iraqis themselves in a more informal role.--Rachel Clarke, "US 'must accept Islam in Iraq politics'," BBC News Online, July 25, 2003]

Ian Mather, "Future Iraqi leader spurns US," Scotsman, July 27, 2003

Andrew Buncombe, "Cut off for un-American activities: the mobile phone firm that connected Iraqis," Independent, July 30, 2003

[The unprecedented dispute between an Anglo-American occupation authority supposedly dedicated to "democracy" in Iraq and an Arab station once praised by Washington for its services to free speech in the Arab world comes at a time when the US administration appears to be laying the ground work to close down Al-Jazeera's operations in Iraq - along with those of the Arabia channel - for alleged "incitement to violence".--Robert Fisk, "America Increasing Pressure on Al-Jazeera TV," Independent, July 30, 2003]

Rajiv Chandrasekaran, "Panel to Help Set Process for Constitution," Washington Post, August 12, 2003

[The Iraqi Governing Council banned the station, one of the Arab world's largest, from working in Iraq for broadcasting an audiotape a week ago of a voice it said belonged to Saddam Hussein.--Bassem Mroue, "Iraq's U.S.-Appointed Government Shuts Arab TV News Bureau for 'inciting Murder'," Associated Press, November 24, 2003]

[Last week, Al-Jazeera was in the headlines again, this time for dumping its star Western journalist, Yvonne Ridley, as the senior editor of the recently launched English-language website,

. . . a respected Kuwaiti newspaper which quoted an American Gulf-based diplomat as saying Congress had secretly proposed to US President George W. Bush that he should 'put all possible pressure' on the Qatari government to close Al-Jazeera.--John R. Bradley, "Crunch-time for Al-Jazeera," Straits Times, December 1, 2003]

Chris Kromm, Rania Masri, Tara Purohit, "Why No Democracy in Iraq?," CounterPunch, February 24, 2004

back button