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Colleen on Politics
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Colleen has had numerous commentaries published in The Roanoke Times newspaper and several online publications. Below are two commentaries written by Colleen.

The Iraqi Election: A Reality Check

Let me get this straight: Under military occupation and martial law, Iraqis voted from a list of over 7,000 names that were approved by the U.S.-backed High Commission of Elections and were not available for them to review before the election.

At a cost of nearly 200 billion dollars, more than 1,400 American lives, and up to 100,000 Iraqi civilian lives, (The Lancet Report) Iraqis – excluding about a million Sunnis – cast ballots for people they probably didn’t know in an election that did not meet international election standards because the lack of security in Iraq made it unsafe for election monitors to be there.

Elections promoted under occupation have always been suspect, and they should be. During the Cold War elections staged by the Soviets after invading Afghanistan, Hungry, and Czechoslovakia were denounced by the U.S. as “frauds.” In September of 1967, a New York Times headline read, “U.S. Encouraged by Vietnam Vote…Officials Cite 83% Turnout Despite Vietcong Terror.” The U.S.-managed Vietnamese elections were meant to validate the cost and rationale of the war there, but they did not bring democracy or end the resistance. The elections in Iraq aren’t likely to either.

Surely the majority of Iraqis, who overwhelmingly want the U.S.-led occupation out of their country, believe that voting is a step towards ending occupation. The election made for some compelling images that were sure to stir emotions, but will it actually change anything on the ground? Over 100,000 U.S. troops still occupy Iraq; Allawi, the Bremer-appointed Prime Minister with CIA ties, is still in power; every important Iraqi Ministry is run by U.S. advisors who make decisions and allocate spending; the Pentagon is reported to be building as many as 14 permanent military bases in Iraq (Chicago Tribune, March 23, 2004); shortages of electricity, gas, and water continue; and Iraqi civilians and American soldiers are still dying everyday.

Sadly, the election turnout may be more of a victory for President Bush than one for the Iraqis. Bush can use the election to assert the legitimacy of the invasion (after the WMD war rationale has fizzled), and it can serve to take attention off failed objectives, lack of exit planning, and the growing call for the U.S. to withdraw from Iraq. Those who are calling for the withdrawal include some the most widely respected conservative policy experts of our time, including Zbigniew Brzezinski, Brent Scowcroft, and James Baker. Scowcroft, a former National Security Advisor under H.W. Bush and Gerald Ford, recently referred to the war in Iraq as a “war of choice” that has jeopardized long-held alliances and endangered America’s status in the world. Before the elections he warned that they “won’t be a promising transformation” and that they have the potential for deepening the conflict.

Freedom, liberty, and democracy, in the case of Iraq, are powerful words applied prematurely, in a similar manner that Bush’s unfounded claims of Iraqi WMDs were. The lofty goals behind those words are certainly easier for Americans to rally behind than what many believe to be the true motives for the invasion of Iraq: Establishing geo-political control at the heart of the oil-rich Arab region and a “democracy” that will welcome the type of free market economy on which U.S. economic growth depends. The Project for the New American Century (PNAC), written by the Neo-cons in 1997, outlines much of what our Middle Eastern policy is today. The U.S.-backed privatization schemes imposed by former U.S. pro-consul Paul Bremer can be viewed as economic conquests that will provide enormous windfalls for American corporations. Only the insurgency stands in the way of the privatization of Iraq.

What differentiates the Iraqi elections from President Bush’s earlier claim of victory, made in front of a banner reading “Mission Accomplished” or the Iraqi Transfer of Power in July of 2004? Both events evoked much fanfare while violence in Iraq was actually escalating. I wish the tragic conclusion of the October 2004 Lancet Report, citing that about 100,000 civilians have been killed in Iraq since the onset of the U.S. led invasion, got as much attention as the devastation of the Asian tsunami did. I wish the loss of life described in that report was taken as seriously by the media as the recent Iraqi elections have been.

The above was published online at and, and in The Roanoke Times on February 9th 2005 under the title “Occupation, violence undercut a valid vote in Iraq.”

A Verifiable Voting Insurgency

Just as the US invasion of Iraq seemed over with the fall of Baghdad, so did the 2004 presidential election seem to end when Kerry conceded. But the war was hardly over when Bush pre-maturely claimed victory, and the election isn’t over either.

In fact, a new Harris Poll indicates that one in five Americans question the election’s legitimacy. The number of skeptics would probably be higher if more people were aware of the scope of voting irregularities that have occurred. Unfortunately the corporate-owned media have mostly fallen in line with the “powers that be,” just as they did in the run-up to the war (something a few major newspapers later apologized for).

In the days following the election, I got my election news from the internet because the mainstream media weren’t covering it thoroughly. “Bloggers and investigative reporters are discovering an odd discrepancy in exit polls being largely accurate in paper-ballot states and oddly inaccurate in touch-screen electronic voting states,” wrote Thom Hartmann, author and nationally syndicated talk show host, in a November 4th article that really piqued my interest. With a story here… “Vote Count Glitches Haunt Bush’s Supposed Mandate”…. and a story there… “Palm Beach County Logs 88,000 More Votes than Voters”…I pieced together news from across the country in an effort to inform myself.

On November 14, I came across a compelling paper by University of Pennsylvania Professor, Steven Freeman, titled “The Unexplained Exit Poll Discrepancy.” After comparing exit polls, which had Kerry in the lead, with the announced results for Bush in Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania, Freedman, a statistician, calculated that the odds against such an accidental discrepancy in all three states together are 250 million to1.

Exit Polls generally match official voting counts and have been used around the world as a way to verify voter accuracy and guard against vote tampering. Even Dick Morris, a Republican consultant and Fox News regular, said in an article for The Hill, “Exit polls are almost never wrong… (They) cannot be wrong across the board as they were on election night. I suspect foul play.”

In an ironic twist, the media have recently been in high gear covering the suspected vote fraud in the Ukraine. Just weeks after our own election, in which exit polls didn’t match the computerized tallies, the Associated Press, while reporting the story, included Ukraine’s exit poll discrepancies as evidence of alleged vote fraud there.

Not only have the media been neglectful of investigating the validity of the U.S. election, they have occasionally discredited those who have questioned it, referring to them as “conspiracy theorists.” Considering the high numbers of vote “purges,” “spoiled” ballots, voter intimidation incidents, and other reported irregularities that have disenfranchised mostly Democratic voters, coupled with the knowledge that the largest voting machine companies are owned by known Republicans, or that a John Hopkins Study determined that electronic voting machines are wide open for fraud, isn’t some oversight in order? Isn’t it suspicious that voting anomalies have overwhelmingly come down in favor of Bush?

While 10’s of thousands of Ukrainians are in the streets defending the principles of democracy, most Americans probably aren’t even aware of the UC Berkeley statistical study which found that irregularities with electronic voting machines may have awarded 130,000 – 260,000 or more excess votes to Bush in Florida. For the sake of all future elections involving electronic voting – someone must explain the statistical anomalies in Florida, the professor who headed up the study said. If Americans knew that a reputable MIT political scientist succeeded in replicating the Berkeley analysis, would they take to the streets like the Ukrainians, or at least get on the phone to their Congressmen?

Contrary to what you might believe if you’re following the mainstream news, there is a substantial uprising of activism taking place by those who want our voting systems to be more accountable. Bev Harris, author and founder of, has filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act for vote records for over 3,000 counties as part of her investigation into possible electronic voting fraud. The General Accounting Office has agreed to investigate 2004 voting irregularities, at the request of several Democratic leaders. Green and Libertarian Presidential Candidates have announced that they will file for a recount in Ohio and have raised the money to do it.

While the post-election self-analysis the Democrat party is currently engaged in may be constructive, I hate to see Kerry supporters lambaste him for losing or beat themselves up for not doing enough, because, due to a lack of confidence in our voting systems, it’s not clear that he didn’t win. Kerry supporters should feel some solace in knowing that the latest Zogby Poll (November 13) has Bush’s approval rating at only 48%, with those disapproving at 51% (about the same percentages that the exit polls had Kerry winning by). A Gallop Poll gives Bush a modest post-election bounce with an approval rating of 53%. While that is a higher rating than the Zogby poll, it reflects the lowest post-election approval rating of any of the last 7 presidents who won a second term, which is hardly a mandate for Bush.

On the surface, the Election night coverage seemed as dramatic and believable as Colin Powell’s presentation to the UN when he reasoned to the world why we were justified to invade Iraq, but in reality Powell’s case was empty of substance, and eventually, even he conceded that his evidence against Iraq was wrong. Considering what the Pulitzer Prize winning author and journalist, Ron Suskind, says a top white house official said to him – You’re part of the reality-based community, one who believes that solutions emerge from your judiciously study of discernable reality…That’s not the way the world works anymore. We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality – judiciously as you will – we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too – it’s not hard to conclude that election results could have been created by those in power and are not a fact-based reality.

Voting fraud is nothing new. It’s part of our history and something both parties have been guilty of. If it’s easy enough to do, you can be assured someone will do it. And never has it been so easy. Currently, our voting system has been privatized by Republican-owned companies that have no meaningful federal or state regulations. It was Republicans who blocked legislation requiring that electronic voting machines produce a back-up paper trail, and some are now calling for an end to exit polls.

I don’t want to raise false hopes that the election results will be changed by upcoming recounts and investigations, but I don’t want those of us who find Bush’s fundamentalist agenda frightening to lose all hope either. To those Americans, I say, stay informed and be outspoken. And remember: Richard Nixon was re-elected too, only to later resign under the threat of impeachment.

A Verifiable Voting Insurgency was published in The Roanoke Times on December 2, 2004, in the New River Free Press, and widely on the Internet.

. To read more political commentaries by Colleen Redman, visit the following links:

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