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memri
November 16, 2004 No.
196

The Iraqi Press on the Re-Election of President Bush

The recent campaign in the United States resulting in the election of President Bush was followed closely and intensely in the Iraqi press. The introduction of freedom of the press after Saddam's removal has allowed a diversity of views to be heard, and the views regarding the re-election of President Bush are no exception.

Notwithstanding criticism of the Bush administration, editorials expressed undeniable admiration for a system that produced a winner and a loser without one shot being fired and without the legitimacy of the results being questioned.

Editorials also expressed strong appeals to President Bush to fulfill his commitments to uproot the sources of terrorism, even if it means using force against two of Iraq's neighbors - Syria and Iran - accused of endorsing and supporting terrorism in Iraq.

Admiration for American Democracy

Aziz Al-Haj, who represents the National Organization of Civil Society and the Rights of Iraqis, wrote an article titled, "The Strength of American Democracy and its Glory - the Bush Victory is an Historic Event on both the American and International Levels." The article appeared on the website www.Iraqoftomorrow.com. The following are excerpts:

"Much can be said about this event, its meaning and consequences… I wish to express my feelings of happiness as a nationalist democratic Iraqi about this victory, which confirms anew the legitimacy and justice of the war of liberation of Iraq from the Saddam regime and the danger it had posed to the security of the region and the world.

"Kerry's opportunistic maneuvers with the Iraqi subject have failed, particularly his claims that Saddam did not represent a threat to the American and world security. We know that the Saddam danger was far greater than the danger of Al-Qa'ida and bin Laden because Saddam's regime had enormous capabilities in a very sensitive region and possessed forbidden weapons and capacities and programs to produce many types of these weapons. The betting on the defeat of Bush by the terrorists with all their tribes and branches, the nationalists, the Arab and European left, and the murderers in Fallujah, Ramadi, and Mosul, and the Iranian and Syrian regimes, has failed… These groups with disparate ideologies and objectives had one common denominator - a blind hatred for Bush. We offer them our deep condolences…" [1]

The daily Al-Sabah said the proximity of the total number of votes of the two candidates, meaning Bush and Kerry, would have caused a civil war in many countries in the world. It concluded: "What happened in America represents a civilized lesson in the practice of democracy as it shines upon the world in its progressive and civilized fashion." [2]

Under the heading: "The Pleasure of Peace and Freedom," Al-Taakhi, an organ of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), wrote about a widely publicized picture of an American female voter who was walking her dog with the American flag wrapped around the dog's neck as an expression of solidarity with the nation:

"… This is the difference between the values and habits in America and our values and thinking in the East. The common domestic animals in most of the villages in the [Middle] East are donkeys, mules, camels, sheep, and cows. What would people say in a [Middle] Eastern country if someone were to decorate the head or neck of a docile donkey, a dutiful mule a beautiful camel, a cow, a goat, or a sheep? The entire instruments of security, intelligence and the army will fly into a rage, and a state of emergency will be declared in search of the poor beast to be destroyed, to be followed by inflicting the most severe punishment on its owner! I say this for the sake of comparison, not for the sake of [advocating] the wrapping of animals with the national flag." [3]

In Support of Bush
The Kurds 'Endorse' Bush

Since the war in Kuwait in 1991 and the introduction of the no-fly zone in the Kurdish region that lasted through the fall of the Saddam regime, Iraqi Kurdistan has prospered both economically and politically. It is hardly surprising that the Kurds have "endorsed" the reelection of President Bush.

In an editorial titled, "Iraqi Politicians Prefer the Election of Bush," the daily Al-Taakhi wrote about a number of Iraqi politicians who have expressed their support for the election of President Bush for a second term, because "the contrary will provide happy news to the terrorists."

The paper went on to say that Bush has committed certain mistakes, but the arrival of a different administration at the White House would have worsened the situation. It quotes Muwwafaq Al-Rabi'i, the national security adviser of the interim Iraqi government: "George Bush has a comprehensive view about Iraq. He has deposed Saddam Hussein and liberated the country." He concluded by saying that "Bush has a commitment toward Iraq and I believe his re-election will provide pleasant news to Iraq and bad news to the terrorists" [4]

The Age of Bush

The Iraqi daily Al-Mada quoted the British Guardian newspaper, saying that the first decade of the 21st century will be the Bush decade just as the decade of the eighties of the last century was Reagan's, and the decade of the nineties was Clinton's. It stresses that "George Bush will not be on the margin of history; he will be its maker." [5]

The War on Terrorism
Terrorist's Miscalculations

In an editorial titled, "The White and the Black," Al-Mada suggested that the "armed Arabs" in Fallujah and Ramadi were hoping through their recent operations to embarrass Bush and cause his defeat. The editorial adds:

"If we look carefully, we will see that this assessment represents narrow mindedness apart from forgetting the sequencing of events. Since the 9/11 operation carried out by Al-Qa'ida in America, Bush has appeared stronger than before. While he made it to the White House the first time with the help of the courts, today he has won with a landslide. How do we explain that?

"Politics is measured by its practical results. By this measure, terrorism has strengthened the Bush administration and its unique theory of fighting it… By their fanaticism and the absence of a political horizon, [the terrorists] cannot distinguish between their political intentions and the practical consequences of their activities. For they have either been afflicted with political blindness, or have willy-nilly become an instrument of the Bush administration... How can these people not distinguish between the white and the black, if their intentions weren't dark?

"We call on our Iraqi brothers in political positions to expel them [the armed insurgents] from their ranks and choose the organized political work for unifying our people, removing the occupation, and building a democratic and just system that represents our interests." [6]

The Iraqi National Congress

The Iraqi National Congress (INC), under the leadership of Dr. Ahmad Chalabi, published two editorials in the party organ Al-Mu ' tamar - one positive and one critical. The first editorial was titled, "You have Returned, Mr. President, and the Return is Commended." The writer, Widad Fakher, condemned terrorism and the complicity of many Arab countries in supporting it. He went on to ask the U.S. for action:

"In order for America to fulfill its promise to liberate Iraq and to repulse future dangers from the countries of the region … it is incumbent on the American administration to look seriously into the complete elimination of the sources of terrorism. This requires a new resolution by the Security Council under Article 7, which requires countries supporting terrorism to refrain from doing so or face international sanctions or painful disciplinary strikes. [Such a resolution] should call by name the countries which participate and support terrorism, in particular the Syrian regime and the terrorist theocratic state of Iran and those who follow them."

Failing to do so, the author warns, will undermine the American promise to bring freedom and democracy to Iraq. [7]

Al-Mu ' tamar also carried an interview with "an anonymous leader" [perhaps Ahmad Chalabi himself], who called on the U.S. administration to deal with the interim Iraqi government on "the basis of complementarity, not subordination." While it is true, he said, that Iraq currently needs American help, the support that the U.S. provides "should not infringe upon the sovereignty and independence of the nation." He called on the U.S. to change the way it deals with terrorism by being firm towards countries like Syria, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates, which have given shelter to the remnants of the Saddam regime whose hands are stained by the blood of innocent Iraqis. [8]

The independent daily Al-Zaman, which is published simultaneously in London and Baghdad, wrote an opinion piece under the title "The Ghost of Terrorism and the American Presidential Elections."

"No two individuals disagree that George Bush has relied on the terrorism phobia, which has spread across the American society, to stay in the White House another four years… The common man may have overlooked the economic reversals for the sake of seeking personal security even as the price of a barrel of oil has reached unprecedented new records… It is evident that the concern about personal safety was the criterion that guided the voters… " [9]

Criticism of the President
Critical Editorial in Chalabi's Paper

In a critical opinion piece, also in Al-Mu ' tamar, 'Adnan Al-'Ameri wrote:

"The Arabs - presidents, kings, and leaders - are interested more than anyone else that Bush wins a second term. For this reason, they were ahead of their contemporaries in other countries of the world to send their congratulations, which poured upon him like drops of rain.

"The people in Iraq preferred Bush even though he may have fallen behind in his commitments to bring peace and stability to the country together with democracy and undiminished sovereignty. The Iraqis expect under the second term of Bush to amend their relations with America to achieve the interests of this country, first and foremost. Bush should leave them alone to stabilize their security and the safety of their country. And that he will genuinely help to put an end to terrorism." [10]

Let Bush Sink Deeper in the Iraqi Swamp

The most critical article regarding the election of President Bush appeared in the Iraqi daily Al-Madar, and was titled, "Bush Victory is the Victory of the Iraqi Resistance." The author, 'Ali Al-Jaffal, wrote:

"Observers all over the world have agreed that the administration of President George Bush is the worst American administration ever. [The administration] sees not except with one eye, and it hears not except with one ear… It is known that the American president plays according to the interests of Israel, the large oil companies, and the arms companies, and not according to the interests of the United States or the interests of the nations that have been burned by the fire of his democracy like our people in Iraq, our people in Palestine, or the Afghani people."

The author expressed his belief that the election of Bush represents the victory of the Iraqi resistance and the future of Iraq. This conclusion is based on the writer's firm belief about the inevitable "drowning of Bush and his administration and its supporters deeper into the Iraqi swamp whose water has reached in recent months the level of their belts." [11]

The Views of the Ba'th Party

The daily Al-Madar carried a summary of a communiqué issued by the clandestine Iraqi Ba'th Party, which seems to be reorganizing itself, as shown by the publication of the party daily Al-Thawra. The communiqué maintains that the Ba'th Party and the Iraqi military resistance have ignored the results of the American presidential elections, viewing them as having no role in the conduct of the military operations, "that will go on until liberation." It refers to "the open historical confrontation in which the Ba'th and the resistance on one side face the United States, its allies and the client government [Allawi's interim government] on the other side. In this confrontation the results of the elections will have no significance." The communiqué concluded:

"In choosing Bush, the American people have accepted the excuses of aggression and occupation of Iraq and the death and destruction of its people. The Iraqi Ba'th must conclude that the American people have rejected the competing political and economic liberalism in favor of the right wing conservative reaction and the thinking of the neo-conservatives." [12]

*Dr. Nimrod Raphaeli is Senior Analyst of MEMRI ' s Middle East Economic Studies Program.


[1] www.iraqoftomorrow.com, November 5, 2004.

[2] Al-Sabah (Baghdad), November 9, 2004.

[3] Al-Taakhi (Baghdad), November 4, 2004.

[4] Al-Taakhi (Baghdad), November 4, 2004.

[5] Al-Mada (Baghdad), November 8, 2004.

[6] Al-Mada (Baghdad), November 6, 2004.

[7] Al-Mu'tamar (Baghdad), November 10, 2004.

[8] Al-Mu'tamar (Baghdad), November 6, 2004.

[9] Al-Zaman (Baghdad), November 7, 2004.

[10] Al-Mu'tamar (Baghdad), November 9, 2004.

[11] Al-Madar (Baghdad), November 6, 2004.

[12] Al-Madar (Baghdad), November 6, 2004.