International Troops in Iraq:
Fighting for "Democracy"
by Mina Hamilton
September 15, 2003
Shortly after Bush asked the US taxpayer to pick up the 2003 tab for his war in Iraq, Paul Krugman of the New York Times described Bush as "all take and no give, as usual." (1)
Krugman was writing about the $87 billion that George W. Bush and our spineless Congress is ready to gouge out of US taxpayers. He was also pointing his finger at the foreign cannon fodder the American government desires.
What foreign armies are currently serving in Iraq? Let's examine one of the two multi-national divisions that have been deployed in Iraq, the one near the city of Najaf. Bush administration spokesmen brag about how this division of 8000 soldiers is commanded by a Polish general, Major General Andrzej Tyszkiewicz, and has representatives from 17 countries.
Indeed the division is polyglot. A few phone calls to various UN missions produced the following numbers: At the top of the list is Poland with 2500 soldiers, next comes a Spanish contingent with 1300 from Spain and 1250 from Central America. The Central American soldiers break down to include 346 from Honduras, 370 from El Salvador, 300 from the Dominican Republic and 193 from Nicaragua. In addition, Bulgaria is contributing about 500 troops. Towards the bottom of the pile -- in terms of numbers -- is Mongolia with 150 recruits. The remaining soldiers are provided by the Ukraine, Lithuania, Slovakia, Latvia, Romania, Kazakhstan, Thailand and the Philippines.
Here's a division in which, at least, 17 languages are spoken. I say, at least, because probably a good percentage of the soldiers from Central America speak Amerindian dialects. And who knows what dialects the Philippine contingent speaks? Tagalog? Cebuano? Ilocan? What about the Kazakhs? Do they speak Turkish or Mongol?
What on earth is the command structure? How do these troops communicate with each other, much less the Polish commander or the American commander? Aren't soldiers that can't communicate with one another or with their captains and generals sitting ducks?
Can these troops serve any meaningful role - other than providing President Bush with propaganda for TV appearances?
How are these unfortunate examples of cannon fodder selected in their countries of origin? Usually, they'll be the poorest, most disadvantaged members of society. They're probably drafted or, if they enlisted, they did so for similar reasons to so many of our own hapless troops - out of economic necessity.
How do these poor recruits see their deployment in an Arab country thousands of miles from home?
Doubtless they've been fed the company line: we're bringing "freedom" and democracy" to Iraq, as well as "liberating" it from terrorists.
Given the type of "democracy" and "freedom" the US brought to a few of the countries in question one can well imagine what these draftees think and feel about being a part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
As is now common knowledge, in Nicaragua the US, using its client army, the Contras, crushed the popular Sandinista regime. The brutal civil war lasted 8 years during which a staggering 30,000 people - mostly impoverished peasants - died.
Next the US perverted the national elections in 1990. Via the CIA-front, the National Endowment for Democracy, the US helped organize and fund the opposition party, UNO.
Millions and millions of US dollars poured into UNO's coffers. The Council on Hemispheric Affairs (hardly a radical outfit) estimated that the pro-UNO funds were so lavish that the rough equivalent in a US election would have been $2 billion. (2)
An added boost to UNO was the loud threat repeatedly made by spokesmen for the then-President, George Herbert Bush: if the war-weary populace didn't vote in UNO, the US would continue to fund the Contra war against the Sandinistas. Another penalty for not supporting UNO? The US would continue the disastrous economic embargo of Nicaragua. (3) This threat Noam Chomsky has described as "Vote for our candidate, or watch your children starve." (4) Needless to say, Nicaraguans chose to feed their children.
How do Nicaraguan soldiers feel about defending "freedom" and "democracy" in Iraq?
What about the recruits from El Salvador? What do they think about the "freedom" the US previously brought to El Salvador? I doubt they've forgotten how the US-trained and advised death squads that massacred, tortured and disappeared thousands over the 12-year long civil war in El Salvador.
There were an estimated 75,000 civilian deaths during El Salvador's long agony. (5) This in a country with an overall population of about 6 million!
How do the El Salvadorans feel about their assigned task of making the US look good by showing up in the incredibly dangerous, powder keg of Iraq? (The troops were sent to Iraq despite the intense opposition in the El Salvadoran Assembly by FLMN party members.) (6)
What about the Honduran soldiers in the international division? Honduras is one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere with a staggering debt of $5.4 billion and annual revenues of $607 million. Half of the countries revenue goes to service this debt. How do the mestizos (who make up 90% of the population of Honduras) feel about risking their lives for US's imperial ambitions?
How many of these Hondurans remember that the US, courtesy of the School of the America's training of the infamous Battalion 316, previously wrecked brutal atrocities, including just about every imaginable form of terrible physical and psychological torture, on the campesinos? (7)
Does this pattern only apply to the Western Hemisphere where US has long manifested its ugly Manifest Destiny policies?
What about the Bulgarian contingent in Iraq? How do Bulgarian soldiers view the US's version of "democracy," considering that the US toppled their duly elected government?
In 1990, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) spent $1.5 million in an attempt to defeat the Bulgarian Socialist Party. This is another huge amount of money pouring into a small country with a population of about 7.5 million.
Interestingly, in the case of Bulgaria, the US's first attempt to snatch the elections away from the Socialists did not work. The Socialist Party won, but the NED was not deterred. Immediately after the elections this CIA-front went to work: they promoted and funded a six-month destabilization effort. This included street demonstrations, strikes, sit-ins, sieges of parliament and, eventually, the prime minister was forced to resign. (8)
What about the brave soldiers from far flung Mongolia? What has been their experience of US "democracy"? Surely the US did not also have its mitts in the electoral till there? Wrong. Again the NED entered the election fray and between 1990-1996 spent $2 million dollars on a country of 2.5 million people to defeat the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party. (The US wanted to have free access for such things as electronic listening posts to monitor Chinese army communications.) (9)
The list could go on and on.
The outrage of the US President trotting out his Orwell-speak and explaining how the US mission in Iraq is about "democracy" and "freedom" is bad enough.
The US government's twisting the arms of various corrupt regimes to send in their poorest and most needy human beings to this bloody meat-grinder is bad enough. (The arm-twist - done with a smile - is promises and threats regarding debt relief, IMF loans, military hardware, NATO or EU membership, among other carrots and sticks.)
The US, a draft-free country, asking foreign-language speaking, impoverished peasants and workers to be drafted and then sacrificed to spare Bush and other mainly white US politicians the political upset of too many US casualties is worse than bad. It's truly obscene.
Mina Hamilton is a writer based in New York City. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(1) Krugman, Paul, "Other People's Sacrifice," New York Times, September 9, 2003
(2) Chomsky, Noam, Deterring Democracy, (Hill and Wang,1991), p. 299
(3) Blum, William, Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower, (Common Courage, 2000), p. 175
(4) Chomsky, op. cit, p. 141
(5) Blum, op.cit., p. 156
(6) www.Cispes.org, "Stop US Intervention in Salvadoran Elections"
(7) Blum, op.cit., p. 55
(8) Ibid, p. 157
(9) Ibid, p.177