Memo From Mesopotamia | National Question Real Victor In Iraq Elections

[VDARE.COM note: Allan Wall, our popular Memo From Mexico columnist, is an American citizen who had been living and working legally in Mexico with an FM-2 residency and work permit with his Mexican wife and two children. But his Texas-based Army National Guard company was mobilized in August. Allan Wall is now in Iraq for at least a year.

Allan Wall will be carrying out a special educational research and writing project for VDARE.COM.  If you would like to support this project, please send your tax-deductible contribution payable to the Center for American Unity.

Needless to say, the views in this article do not necessarily represent those of the Bush Administration, the Department of Defense or any government agency]

Twenty-two months after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, Iraq held an election. Voters chose a provisional assembly charged with drafting the country's permanent constitution.

I am currently in Iraq, serving with my National Guard unit. We were here on Election Day and did our duty. So I played my small part in this historic occasion.

Saddam Hussein was a mass-murdering megalomaniac who deserved to be overthrown. But what kind of Iraq will emerge now? That's what remains to be seen.

In order to appreciate the challenges Iraq faces, we have to recognize what kind of country it really is. Iraq is a 20th-century multicultural concoction.

The territory of Iraq has been inhabited for millennia. It's the "Cradle of Civilization". But the sovereign state of Iraq was formed in the aftermath of World War I, cobbled together from contiguous provinces wrested from the Ottoman Empire.

Iraq is a multinational, multicultural state—Shia Arabs in the south, Sunni Arabs in the center, Kurds in the north; and assorted other minorities.

In Saddam Hussein's regime, the Sunnis were on top. Rather then viewing Americans as liberators, many Iraqi Sunnis think we spoiled the sweet deal they had. This wasn't helped by our complete dissolution of the Sunni-dominated Iraqi Army. Some of its cashiered former members are now part of the insurgency.

As Bradley Graham of the Washington Post put it, "In the U.S. view, the insurgency remains driven largely by Saddam loyalists bent on restoring themselves to power and preserving the dominance of the Sunni minority that existed in the Saddam years."

The results of the January 30th election were widely celebrated as a triumph for democracy.

But in fact they unmistakably show that most Iraqis voted (or refused to vote) along ethno-religious lines.

Most Iraqis were not voting in favor of abstract principles but on the basis of their own perceived group interests.

The biggest vote-getter was the United Iraqi Alliance, a coalition of Shiite parties. The Alliance has the backing of the nation's most influential Shiite cleric, Iranian-born Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, who has already demanded that Islam be the only basis for legislation in the new constitution.

How can this demand be squared with representative government? That remains to be seen. It certainly doesn't bode well for religious freedom.

The United Iraqi Alliance garnered 48% of the vote, and has been awarded 140 seats in the new Parliament (out of a total of 275).

In the runner-up position was the Kurdish Coalition, with 26% of the vote and 75 seats.

The Shiites and Kurds were eager to vote. Both groups had been marginalized by Saddam Hussein's Sunni-based regime.

But Sunni turnout was low—leaders of this community saw the election as illegitimate. Since the Sunni form only 20% of the population, democracy doesn't seem like such a great opportunity to them.

Parties closely associated with the present U.S.-backed government came in third and fourth. The Iraqi List of Prime Minister Allawi got 14% of the votes and 40 seats. Iraqis, the party of the Iraqi president won only 5 seats.

The Turkoman Iraqi Front, representing the small Turkoman ethnicity, has three seats. Other assorted parties picked up a few seats: the National Independent Elites and Cadres Party (3 seats), the Communist Party (2 seats), the Islamic Kurdish Society (2 seats), the Islamic Labor Movement in Iraq (2 seats). The National Democratic Alliance and The Reconciliation and Liberation Entity each had 1 seat apiece.

The National Rafidain List, representing Assyrian Christians, only received one seat. The Assyrians claim—not without justification—to be the indigenous people of Iraq. Now they compose a small minority of the population.

Ask the Assyrians—demography is destiny!

What does Iraq's future hold? A successful multi-party system of representative government? Civil war? Another dictatorship? An Iranian-style Shiite state? Partition? Some combination thereof?

What we at VDARE.COM call "The National Question"—whether a particular people can find political expression in a state—was the ultimate victor in the Iraq election.

Unfortunately for Iraq, its diverse population suggests no easy answer. 

Fortunately for the U.S., it has been blessed by relatively homogenous population—until the disaster of the 1965 Immigration Act and the subsequent collapse of our borders.

Allan Wall's WORLDNET DAILY National Guard diary is archived here. His VDARE.COM articles are archived here; his FRONTPAGEMAG.COM articles are archived here; his website is here. Readers can contact Allan Wall at allan39@prodigy.net.mx.