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Devil in the Details

BY Naomi Klein

“The people of Iraq are free,” declared U.S. President George W. Bush in his State of the Union speech. The day before, 100,000 Iraqis begged to differ. They took to the streets of Baghdad shouting “Yes, yes to elections. No, no to selection.”

According to Iraq occupation chief Paul Bremer, there really is no difference between the White House’s version of freedom and the one being demanded on the street by supporters of Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. It was, he said, a mere quibble over details. “I don’t want to go into the technical details of refinements,” he said. “There are—if you talk to experts in these matters—all kinds of ways to organize partial elections and caucuses. And I’m not an election expert, so I don’t want to go into the details.”

I’m not an election expert either, but I’m pretty sure there are differences here that cannot be refined. Al-Sistani’s supporters want every Iraqi to have a vote and for the people they elect to write the laws of the country—your basic, imperfect, representative democracy.

Bremer wants his Coalition Provisional Authority to appoint the members of 18 regional Organizing Committees. The Organizing Committees will then select delegates to form 18 Selection Caucuses. These selected delegates will then further select representatives to a Transitional National Assembly. The Assembly will have an internal vote to select an executive and ministers who will form the new government of Iraq. This, Bush said in the State of the Union, constitutes “a transition to full Iraqi sovereignty.”

Got that? Iraqi sovereignty will be established by appointees appointing appointees to select appointees to select appointees. Add to that the fact that Bremer was appointed to his post by President Bush and that Bush was appointed to his by the U.S. Supreme Court, and you have the glorious new democratic tradition of the Appointocracy: rule by appointee’s appointee’s appointees’ appointees’ appointees’ selectees.

Naomi Klein is a former columnist for In These Times. She is the author of No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies,, Fences and Windows: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate and The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.

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