Joe Hendren

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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Is Prog-Blog John Pagani?

After some discussion with others I have reasons to believe the identity of the puerile poster Prog-Blog is none other than John Pagani, former chief press secretary to Jim Anderton.

Perhaps it was the personal attacks that gave it away, or perhaps the simple arrogance. Perhaps it was the repeated practice on misrepresenting the positions of others, instead of actually addressing the argument made. The writing style also seemed rather familiar.

While I would normally respect the right of a blogger to remain anonymous if he/she wishes, Prog-Blog has demonstrated that he does not respect the right of other bloggers to remain anonymous. In cases such as this, mutually assured identification should apply.

(This does not apply to the person who posts as 'Anon' on Prog-blog - generally his/her posts are more substantial).

Anonymous blogs can play an important function, especially where a person may have access, or perceived access to information of a public interest, yet identification would get them to get in trouble, most likely in a work situation. However when an anon blog is simply used for unsubstantiated abuse, anonymity is simply being abused. Consider this post from Prog-Blog (25-8-05), which from what I can make out from the garbled link appears to be aimed at National party blogger Aaron Bhatnagar.

"FAT CREEP AWAY FROM COMPUTER Foof it must be nice bludging on the old man. So much 'putin, playstation and Penthouse all day, you can't believe you're actually blinkin' in the sunlight for an hour or two. Super creep reports he will be away from his computer 'until later this afternoon'. WTF? This afternoon? Eeeee, we will be sure not to click refresh too much."

While one may disagree with many of Aaron's views, there is no need for this. Why bother with the personal attacks? Thankfully from my experience the NZ blogsphere rarely reaches such puerile depths. The comments above do not reflect well on Prog-Blog, nor on Jim Anderton's Progressive party Prog-blog claims to support.

And another question for Prog-Blog. If the Progressive MPs were so worried about the foreign ownership of TV3, an entirely reasonable concern, why did they not raise this issue when the Overseas Investment Bill was before the house this year? Many countries enact controls on media ownership through their overseas investment regimes. In fact, the bill effectively liberalised media ownership laws even further, as business transactions worth less than $100m now require no oversight. The Progressives supported the bill through all stages without raising a wimper inside or outside of the house. Either they simply do not believe what they are saying, or they are simply poor advocates.

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Monday, August 29, 2005

Blackball election meeting (West Coast Tasman)

On Thursday I spoke at my first candidate meeting. Best of all the meeting was at (Formerly) The Blackball Hilton on the West Coast, a proud historical home of the left. I drove over to Blackball for the meeting on Thursday, stayed at the Hilton overnight and had a good stroll around the town the next day.

Following a yummy dinner, kindly provided by Jane of the Hilton for the candidates, the debate got going just after 7.30pm. Each candidate got a 5 minute introduction followed by question time where each candidate got 1 minute to answer questions from the audience.

Apart from me, the line-up consisted of.

Richard Davies (Green): Bloody nice guy. Would pick him to be on the 'social justice' side of the Greens. Said he still had a lot of time for the Alliance and he admired our tax policy. He told me it was good to have someone to the left of him there as it made him look more moderate! (I took that in the kind way it was intended). I felt we were able to back each other up on a number of issues, often approaching the questions in different ways. If missed a point in an answer, or ran out of time I was often relieved to see Richard make up for it :)

Kevin Gill (Act): Despite only being 22 on the Act list Kevin has his own new looking Act bus with his name and photo all over it. In contrast, the Alliance candidate (me) arrived in a $750 car, borrowed from a mate. Kevin's initial 5 minute speech was a little unusual. Kind of reminiscent of your odd uncle telling jokes at a wedding. I thought got his points across better during question time. When I first arrived and introduced to the other candidates as the Alliance person, he made some quip about me only getting 1 minute to speak. I quickly quipped back that Kevin didn't need any dinner, as the 'market will provide!' :)

Damien O'Connor (Labour, sitting MP): An assured speaker, Damien delivered a very 'MP in Government' speech. Talked about what Labour had achieved with ERA and renationalising ACC, among other things. A local gave Damien a hard time about schools, as he felt Damien had done little to prevent the closure of many local schools (this was the big local issue).

Derek Blight (Christian Heritage): An interesting mix. I found Derek friendly and chatty and I was genuinely impressed with his enthusiasm for restorative justice and how it fitted into his work in Hokitika. I would normally associate CHP with the lock em up brigade, so meeting Derek was a welcome surprise. Of course he was a social conservative, stating CHP would repeal the Civil Unions Act and giving the obligatory 'abortion is murder' speech near the end.

Milton Osborne (United Future/ Outdoor) Seemed to be one of the Outdoor Recreation crew. Wanted to ban 1080 - prompting a question from the audience about what the UFO party would replace it with. Gave Peter's talk about UFO making MMP work and the need for one of the big parties to form a coalition with a smaller party. Don't remember him mentioning 'common sense' once!

Chris Auchinvole (National): At first sight Chris reminded me of English comic Harry Enfield and I had difficulty shaking off that image all night! His opening speech attempted to paint tax as the key issue in the election. A couple of people in the audience asked why rich people gained more from National's tax policy, gaining with those on the highest incomes getting $92 extra per week. Chris resisted from conceding this point, and argued that more people would gain tax relief under National than under Labour. I thought Chris would have done better to acknowledge rich people would gain more, as it was blindingly obvious, and this may have allowed him to make his point about 'more people gaining' in a more convincing way.

My opening was a bit of ramble following a few rough notes. I talked about despite the fact we were being told the economy was doing well, many people continued to miss out. Made a call for a minimum wage of $15, introduced our tax policy, and explained how 75% of people would pay less tax under the Alliance. Arriving with a large stack of Alliance tabloids, people seemed to enjoy my quip that the Alliance stood for free health, free education and a free newspaper! I also talked about what the Alliance had achieved in government, and made a strong call for public ownership and control of electricity, rail etc.

As I expected I was more comfortable at question time. Very happy to get a question on globalisation/free trade where I outlined the opposition of the Alliance to the current WTO/World Bank agenda as this has only led to the rich getting richer while the poor get poorer across the world. I think I surprised a few people by rattling off the most recent trade deficit figures, including the now massive $2 billion deficit with China, pointing out that despite the hype trade liberalisation was leading to an explosion of imports and this could have negative impacts on our economy.

My answer to the last question on school closures was very well received. I pointed out there was a bigger issue here, which went back to tomorrow schools which made administration of schools more businesslike, and that treasury was largely responsible for this agenda (hehe dig at treasury felt good). I said that some right wingers even celebrated the fact that businesses closed down when they talked about creative destruction. Labour were also making schools more businesslike by encouraging them to recruit foreign fee paying students, creating their own funding stream. I reminded people that every time they hear the words 'bulk funding', 'school choice' in this election, these were moves to make schools even more like businesses, and these policies would lead to more closures. I would have liked to flesh the argument a little more, but answers to questions were strictly limited one tiny minute.

Quite a few people told me I did well (including some of the other candidates).

Following the debate I got into some interesting discussions with a couple of people. A member of the Rail and Maritime Union questioned my contention that the Government should have bought back the entire railways instead of giving the operations to Toll until 2070. He actually confirmed my fear that track upgrades continue to be mostly of the band aid variety, like they have been for the past 15 years, instead of the major upgrades that are needed. I also talked with a woman about the management of schools and the possible implications of bulk funding. While I suspect we may have had different views, I felt we both appreciated each others strong interest in education issues. I suggested she check out the QPEC website.

Overall the debate was a lot of fun, made more enjoyable by the friendly nature of the other candidates and an audience dominated by lefties!

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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Labour backtrack over Private Early Childhood Education

In the 2004 Budget Labour announced that from 2007 three and four year old children would be entitled to 20 hours a week of free education at a community-owned early childhood service.

Now Labour have backtracked, with the annoucement they will also fund 20 hours free education at privately owned early childhood centres. It needs to be asked why Labour is further embedding the privatisation of education when so many public education services continue to be underfunded.

It is a real shame Labour did not defend their original policy, as there are many clear reasons for discriminating in favour of community owned services. Community-based services cannot distribute financial gains to their members. They are usually charitable trusts, community organisations or incorporated societies. In funding such services there is a higher chance this money will be used for the benefit of the kids, instead of being misdirected into private profits and over the top capital building plans. Perhaps the real reason National and their right wing friends complained so bitterly about Labour discriminating in favour of community based services, is that the right wanted to distribute public money as financial gains to their members?

The increasing presence of large multinational chains is turning child care into a branded big business, made up of companies expected to provide returns to shareholders. The insidiously named Kidicorp is listed on the NZ stock exchange, owned by a mix of NZ and Australian interests.

There is also a clear educational rationale for favouring community-owned services over for-profit centres, as Linda Mitchell'’s NZCER research shows that community owned and run centres provide a better quality education.

While it is true there many be a shortage of community-owned centres in some areas, this is in part due to the early childhood policies of the previous National government, policies that led to the closure of manykindergartens and other not-for-profit ECE services. The 2005 Budget also provided funding to build some 55 to 65 new community-based services over the next four years, meaning that "the shortage" is far from an insurmountable problem.

The response of the NZEI Te Ria Roa to Mallard's u-turn is interesting. While they were "pleased" more children would benefit from free ECE, they also hinted that at clear differences between the community-owned and for-profit education centres.
"The 'not for profit' part of the early childhood sector has shown a commitment to providing quality education by employing qualified teachers and by implementing pay parity, With the extension of funding for free early childhood education to private centres the onus is now on them to show the same commitment to providing quality education as the community-owned centres," says NZEI Te Riu Roa National President, Colin Tarr.

It is a real irony Labour quite rightly rejects calls to introduce a voucher system into primary and secondary education, yet Mallard's latest backtrack only embeds an effective voucher system in early childhood education. The same could be said for their reluctance to restrict public funding to PTEs profiting from tertiary education.

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Sunday, August 21, 2005

Southern Billboard Wars

Sorry for the lack of transmission - went on a road trip to Dunedin in the weekend with my friend Q. For two seasoned politicos the election hoardings provided some added interest as the road sped by. In case anyone is wondering, we stuck to the speed limit on the Canterbury Plains, as I doubt we would have seen much if we had motored like a certain motocade.

I can't remember going on a long road trip during an election campaign before - it was quite interesting to travel through the different electorates and see the state of the local billboard wars. We passed through Aoraki and Otago, two electorates likely to produce close local contests.

Will post some of my observations in the next couple of days.

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Monday, August 15, 2005

Misleading Headlines in the Herald

Nick Eynon of Three Point Turn does a good fisk on the Herald story headlined 'Greens withering in new poll'.

In fact, the Herald's own polls show the opposite effect. Compared to the last Herald-Digipoll the Greens actually went up from 3.2% to 4% in the poll reported on Sunday.

It is possible a subeditor is to blame here - they often tweak headlines without checking with the journalist to make sure it accurately reflects the story.

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Sunday, August 14, 2005

Film: Sedition: The suppression of dissent in World War II New Zealand

This afternoon I saw Russell Campbell's latest film 'Sedition: The Suppression of Dissent in World War II New Zealand'. The screening was introduced by Russell Campbell himself, who gave a quick introduction and acknowledged the presence of the CO veterans who were able to come to the premiere.

The film begins by introducing the key protagonists alongside their experiences of the first world war. Following the war, decorated soldier Ormond Burton, became a Methodist Minister and lifelong pacifist, faced imprisonment four times for speaking up against the slaughter of the second world war. Early leaders of the Labour party, Peter Fraser and Bob Semple were convicted of sedition for their strong opposition to conscription during the first world war, yet were both in the cabinet during the second war that introduced conscription, demonised the anti-war movement and cracked down hard on dissenters and consciencious objectors.

Most of the film is made up of interviews - allowing concies and those put in detention camps to tell their stories. There is a marked emphasis on the activities of the Christian Pacifist Society and other religious based groups - one interviewee relays the view of Burton that pacifism could only be true pacifism if grounded in Christian belief. But this is more likely to be due to the greater prominence of religion at the time (and who happened to be interviewed) than editorial decisions.

One of my favorite stories was the account of a meeting held in Wellington on the 9th of February 1940, following public threats by Wellington's right-wing mayor to close down any meetings of the Anti-Conscription Council. Ormond Burton got as far as 'ladies and gentlemen' before being arrested, and A.C. Barrington managed three minutes. The mayor spoke without interruption from police, only to be drowned out by a chant of 'Heil Hislop' from the crowd. There is also the story of Chris Palmer and Merv Browne, who made a cross country escape in 1944 from their dentention camp to Wellington to spread the peace message.

It was so great to see so many CO veterans at the screening, including many who appeared in the film. At the Question and Answer session afterwards, each got a chance to stand up in turn, and allow the crowd to acknowledge their struggle and the courage of their convictions.

Sedition is well worth seeing :)

Sedition uncovers untold stories - Press Release

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Thursday, August 11, 2005

News from the campaign trail in Dunedin

My friend Victor Billot, who is standing for the Alliance in Dunedin North has an amusing account of yesterday's 'Political Idol' contest hosted by the Otago Polytech. With so much political debate overshadowed by egos, a little good natured humiliation of candidates during the election campaign can't be a bad thing.

This involved "highly undignified things" like a three legged race (a metaphor for coalitions perhaps?) and a rap contest where "candidates had to rhyme their policies over a phat hip hop beat."

Victor gives each rap a rating, yet modestly refuses to rate his own performance. But given Victor's musical talents I suspect he probably did a lot better than he indicates.

Hopefully someone has had the good sense to record these impromptu campaign ditties :)

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Discovery is safe

Space Shuttle Discovery just landed safely. Yay!

Following the tragic loss of the Shuttle Columbia, NASA modified the shuttle to carry more cameras and other equipment to improve detection of damage should it occur during a mission.

Despite all the media coverage media concerning the 'safety' of Discovery, STS-114 has probably been a lot safer than the preceding 113 shuttle missions due to this detection equipment.

Not that I am complaining about the media coverage - it was quite fun to watch the shuttle landing, sounds and all. I don't remember seeing extended coverage of a landing since the 1980s.

The BBC quoted an alarming statistic. Apparently NASA estimates that of 100 astronauts who make a journey into space on the shuttle, 1 is not expected to come home.

One bonus of developing methods of repairing the shuttle in space is that this gives the International Space Station another vital function - acting as a space garage. If we are to continue to made 'manned' space missions, it makes sense to have a refuge for the astronauts/cosmonauts/euronauts in case anything goes wrong while they are floating in a tin can.

As Discovery landed at Edwards Airforce Base in California it will need a piggyback ride on a 747 back to the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, which will take 7 to 10 days.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Holmes: The ego has deflated

I admit a smile did come across my face when I heard that Prime has finally axed Paul Holmes - I don't normally do schadenfreude.

But this goes back years. I was less than impressed with Holmes ever since the staged 'walkout' by Dennis Connor on his very first show - IMHO he has long been overrated as a broadcaster. His interviews nearly always centred on the sentimental and the shallow, and despite years of practice Paul never came close to the interviewing skills of a Kim Hill or a John Campbell.

Years ago I used to tease my father about watching Holmes on TV1, arguing (tongue in cheek) that Holmes was more sensationalist than Shortland Street. The fact that Paul's audience did not follow him to Prime suggests that a significant number of Holmes viewers watched his show for similar reasons to Dad - it happened to be a 'current affairs' show on after the news.

Nevertheless, one memory of Paul will remain. Election night 1999 - the credits were about to roll on TV One's coverage - Linda Clark turned around to Holmes and said "well, it looks like you will be paying more tax now Paul". But it was the way Linda made this comment, and Paul's reaction, that made Paul look remarkably partisan. I have long remembered this as a 'poetic moment' :)

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Hiroshima Day 2005: Oh dear Don what would Daddy say?

In the early 1960s, The National Committee of the New Zealand Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (NZ-CND) included none other than a Reverend Alan Brash, father of Don.

On left, Rev. Alan Brash marches in Christchurch on Hiroshima Day 1962.

And what would Brash Senior make of the National party policy "to enhance relationships with our traditional allies" and Don's infamous quip that the ban on nuke ships would be 'gone by lunchtime' if he ever became Prime Minister?

As a leading member of CND in the early sixties, I doubt Mr Brash is all that impressed with Don's mate from school, Lockwood Smith, on hearing that he asked whether it would be "worthwhile for a United States think tank to assist with a public campaign" on the nuclear ships issue. In any case, Mr Brash doesn't think Lockwood sounds like a very honest boy, given that he denied using the words 'think tank' on one radio station, while admitting on another radio station he may have done so (Press, 4/8/05, A4).

On left, Rev. Alan Brash marches in Christchurch on Hiroshima Day 1962, accompanied by leading New Zealand Peace Activist Lincoln Efford. There could not be a better example of how a person can be judged by the company they keep.

Don Brash is now leader of the conservative National party.

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Friday, August 05, 2005

Random Historical Interlude #3: UK helped Israel develop nuclear weapons

In September 1958 the UK agreed to supply heavy water without safeguards against military use, enabling Israel to produce nuclear weapons. This revelation follows an investigation by BBC newsnight reporters of documents in the British National Archives. Other files on the matter remain classified.

The 20 tonnes of heavy water were part of a consignment which Britain bought from Norway in 1956, but the UK later decided this was surplus to requirements. While UK officials attempted to make it look like sale from Norway to Israel, the heavy water was loaded onto Israeli ships docked in a British port, half in June 1959 and half a year later (for some reason 5 tonnes was left outstanding).

These officials also attempted to conceal the deal from the US, according to the files, and may not have consulted their own ministers before approving the sale. It appears civil servants in the Foreign Office and the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) approved the sale, without safeguards to prevent the heavy water from being put to military use, with one official scrawling that "It would be somewhat over-zealous for us to insist on safeguards".

The heavy water was a vital ingredient for the production of plutonium at Dimona, a secretly build underground reactor in the Negev desert of southern Israel (near Beersheba), built with French assistance. Frank Barnaby, who worked on the British bomb project in the 1950s says he had "no idea" about the sale, "heavy water was crucial for Israel...Therefore it was a significant part of their nuclear programme".

Like any country with a secret nuclear weapons programme, Israel lied about the true purpose of Dimona, and claimed it was a "manganese plant", yet the security measures employed suggest Dimona was far more important (a Libyan civilian airliner and a Israeli fighter were shot down for getting too close).

The released documents suggest money was the primary motivation for the sale. At the time the consignment of heavy water was worth £1.5m, or £20m in today's money.

In 1960 the UK Daily Express exposed the Israelis' work at Dimona, and highlighted the fact Israel was probably making a bomb. The following March, the UKAEA told the Norwegians they thought it was unlikely Israel could have the outstanding five tons, although the deal was commercially "attractive". This was, wrote Peirson, because of "the political sensitivity of Israel's nuclear activities".

Israel is thought to have exploded its first nuclear devices in the mid-1960s, possessing several dozen deliverable atomic bombs by the time of the 1973 war (when Israel went on full nuclear alert).

While the Guardian reports that the Eisenhower administration was "hostile to proliferation" and President Kennedy and his defence secretary Robert McNamara "strived" to stop Israel acquiring nuclear weapons, John Steinbach says the United States also helped Israel develop the bomb (Chomsky says the same thing).

Although the French and South Africans were primarily responsible for the Israeli nuclear program, the U.S. shares and deserves a large part of the blame. Mark Gaffney wrote (the Israeli nuclear program) "was possible only because of calculated deception on the part of Israel, and willing complicity on the part of the U.S.." From the very beginning, the U.S. was heavily involved in the Israeli nuclear program, providing nuclear related technology such as a small research reactor in 1955 under the "Atoms for Peace Program." Israeli scientists were largely trained at U.S. universities and were generally welcomed at the nuclear weapons labs. In the early 1960s, the controls for the Dimona reactor were obtained clandestinely from a company called Tracer Lab, the main supplier of U.S. military reactor control panels, purchased through a Belgian subsidiary, apparently with the acquiescence of the National Security Agency (NSA) and the CIA. In 1971, the Nixon administration approved the sale of hundreds of krytons(a type of high speed switch necessary to the development of sophisticated nuclear bombs) to Israel.

Israel has over 200 nukes, and people wonder why Iraq, and now Iran want weapons of mass destruction? In 2003 George Bush and Tony Blair attempted to use Security Council resolution 687 as a justification for the invasion of Iraq. While 687 provided no such authorisation, it did call for the elimination of Iraqi WMD and delivery systems as a step towards "the goal of establishing in the Middle East a zone free from weapons of mass destruction and all other missiles for their delivery and the objective of a global ban on chemical weapons." (Article 14). So if 687 is really to be upheld, then pressure must be put on Israel to disarm.

BBC - How Britain helped Israel get the bomb
Guardian - US kept in the dark as secret nuclear deal was struck
Guardian - How the UK gave Israel the bomb

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Monday, August 01, 2005

The Bush Administration's complete contempt for democracy in Iraq

In the June 27 edition of Focus on Trade, Herbert Docena compiles the complete story on how America have implemented their neo-liberal economic designs on Iraq.

'Shock and Awe Therapy: How the US is attempting to control Iraq's oil and try open its economy" is a very impressive piece of work and while long, is well worth reading. My April 2004 article 'Hijacking of a Nation' covered similar ground - its nice to see someone else reaching similar conclusions, as well as providing some damming quotes and references :)

Even before the invasion Docena quotes documents to show that the US had "sweeping plans to remake Iraq's economy in the US image". During the bombing BP engineers were embedded with the soldiers to locate and secure the oil wells. In May 2003, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld announced the Bush administration would be installing a regime heading by personnel who "favor market systems" and "encourage moves to privatize state-owned enterprises"

The US hand the contract for "transforming" Iraq's economy to US multinational Bearing Point. The contract states "The new government will seek to open up its trade and investment linkages and put in place the institutions promoting democracy, free enterprise and reliance on a market-driven private sector as the engine of economic recovery and growth.". Docena contrasts this 'systematic plan' with the complete lack of any planning for post-war humanitarian, rehabilitation and relief operations.

US Viceroy Paul Bremer illegally changed the "existing laws in force" in Iraq, allowing foreign investors to buy up and take over Iraq's state owned enterprises and repatriate 100% of the profits and other assets at any time (Order 39). As Iam al-Khafaji, who worked with the US in the early states of he occupation but later left, attests, "Many radically new sweeping changes, for example the law on foreign investment, Iraqis were not allowed to review it. They not even given the chance to look at it before it was passed.". Other 'orders' allowed foreign banks into the country and reduced the top tax rate form 40% to a flat rate of 15%, doing away with the principle of progressive taxation.

All of these imposed 'law' changes are clear violations of international law. The Hague Regulations and the Geneva Conventions, which the US has signed up to, outlaw such law changes under occupation. Even though these 'laws' were forced on the Iraqi people before they had a chance to have a say in an election, Bremer also took steps to ensure it would be difficult for an incoming elected government to change the 'Orders' put in place by the Coalition Provisional Authority.

From the earliest days of the occupation, the US searched for Iraqis whose interests converged with that of the US. The US needed Iraqi faces 'out front' to attempt to show they were not colonizers imposing their will on the Iraqi people (yeah right!), and these Iraqis needed the US because lacking constituency and legitimacy, they have no chance of surviving in power without US protection. "What Washington wanted was Iraqis who - while willing to dabble in occasional criticism of the administration - were at the final analysis beholden to it" Middle East Historian Dilip Hiro (Hiro's book on the history of Iraq is well worth reading)

The US also planted hundreds of "advisers" in key ministries and the bureaucracy - including dozens of organisations and agencies who specialise in designing neo-liberal policies. The US also created new commissions and institutions that, according to the Wall Street Journal "effectively take away virtually all the powers once held by several ministries". Paul Bremer appointed the chiefs of the commissions to 5 year terms, which will neatly ensure the US appointees can not be replaced by an elected government.

During the January 2005 elections, the US used its usual "democracy promotion" organs (National Endowment for Democracy, The National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute(IRI)) to promote their preferred parties, mostly Allawi's and other parties inside the Iraqi Governing Council, who also dominated the interim government. A IRI survey found 55% of Iraqis did not see the interim government as representing their interests. Bremer and his cronies also made attempts to disallow "rejectionists" such as Moqtada Sadr from being candidates in the elections.

No international monitors were allowed to scrutinize the elections - so there was no way to verify if fraud took place - the world just had to trust the word of the US-installed Iraqi government.

My point at present is not whether Iraq adopts a free market capitalist or a socialised economy. Following the fall of Saddam Hussein, it should be entirely up to the Iraqi people to decide the type of economy they want and the laws that will govern it. Not only are the radical reforms imposed by the CPA in violation of international law, they have been imposed before the Iraqi people have had a chance to have a say in an election. Not only that, but it appears the US have gone to great lengths to ensure any 'elections' are anything but a fair fight.

The actions of the Bush Administration in Iraq demonstrate nothing by complete contempt for democracy.

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