Sunday, November 18, 2012

Editorial: The UN betrays Iraq again

The United Nations is widely criticized and condemned.  In part, that would be the reality for any institution of many decades.  Decisions will prompt criticism, feelings will harden and your image will be somewhat less than pristine.

There is also the fact that "UN peace keepers" have often engaged in rape and murder. (Often?  Even once is once too often.  The UN actually has a pattern of this -- especially in Haiti and in Africa.)

united nations

Proclaiming itself to be an institution for the people ("We the peoples . . . A stronger UN for a better world") also results in massive disappointment because the United Nations is neither brave nor forward thinking.

That it reflects the will of the ruling elite is not news.

So it's probably not news that the desire to convert Iraq's economy into a complete capitalist market economy trumped the desire to protect the Iraqi people.

But are most people aware that the UN was willing to remain silent while Nouri al-Maliki, prime minister and chief thug of Iraq, laid the groundwork for voter fraud?

When Iraq was under US-imposed sanctions, a food-ration-card system was created.  It allowed every Iraqi the right to basic foods.  Since the start of the US war, this card system has been under attack.  Paul Bremer and others wanted to immediately eliminate it in the first two years of the war but the Iraqi people made clear that would not happen.

What happened instead was that the items given for free were regularly reduced until they became the most basic of staples.

November 6th, Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh announced the cancellation of the program. There was a huge pushback that grew and grew -- from politicians, from clerics, from the people until Friday when it really couldn't be ignored.  As the clerics, including Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, noted, this move would hurt the people who are already struggling economically.

This was disturbing when you think about how many Iraqis live in poverty and how the card system is so needed by the Iraqi people.

But what was even more disturbing was how everyone -- the media and institutions like the United Nations -- were silent.

The food issue was bad enough.

But in Iraq, they use the card system for voting.

In April, provincial elections are supposed to be held.  Nouri was trying to scrap the voter identification system and had nothing to replace it.

In early 2014, when Nouri's hoping to grab a third term, provincial elections are supposed to be held.  By that point, over a million Iraqis will have reached voting age but will not have their own cards that will allow them to vote.  With no new system to replace the existing one, these voters would be disenfranchised if Nouri was able to end the system (as he announced on November 6th) because no new cards could be issued.

 In the face of all of this, the United Nations remained silent.  (So did the US government but Barack Obama has demonstrated repeatedly -- such as backing Nouri for a second term despite the will of the Iraqi voters and the election results -- that he doesn't give a damn about the Iraqi people.)

The only person who spoke out about how this would impact voters and the vote?  'Radical cleric' Moqtada al-Sadr.   All Iraq News reports Moqtada al-Sadr issued a statement where he explained that the effort to cancel the ration cards was an effort to control the markets, that it was not about addressing corruption and that it was the start of an attempt to rig the upcoming elections.

All the institutions and governments that sneer at Moqtada al-Sadr, apply the term 'radical cleric' to him, all of them were silent.

Only Moqtada had the guts to call it for what it was.

The United Nations was more interested in serving the desires of the World Bank than in protecting the Iraqi people.  There have been many times throughout the ongoing war that it was clear the Iraqi people were not a top priority of the UN but this may have been the most transparent as greed trumped any efforts at allowing the people to have a voice.

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