It’s Tom Friedman, at it once again in today’s NYT!
Here we are now, almost exactly fourteen Friedman Units (F.U.’s) after George W. Bush’s (heavily Friedman-supported) invasion of Iraq, and the arrogant and over-rated “Sage of Bethesda” is now telling us that the decidedly mixed, and violence-plagued picture of what happened on Sunday’s election day in Iraq was unequivocally “a very good day for Iraq.”
Friedman completely omits to mention the big role that his own writings (and those of many NYT colleagues) played in 2002, in building up the nationwide constituency for the war. Instead, he just notes archly that,
- Some argue that nothing that happens in Iraq will ever justify the costs. Historians will sort that out.
That is, of course, also GWB’s own, famously self-exculpating line about the war.
And the Sage of Bethesda (SOB) doesn’t fail to give us one of his frequent little, faux-intimate verbal sparring matches with a world leader… In this case, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, to whom Tom addresses the following:
- How are you feeling today? Yes, I am sure you have your proxies in Iraq. But I am also sure you know what some of your people are quietly saying: “How come we Iranian-Persian-Shiites — who always viewed ourselves as superior to Iraqi-Arab-Shiites — can only vote for a handful of pre-chewed, pre-digested, ‘approved’ candidates from the supreme leader, while those lowly Iraqi Shiites, who have been hanging around with America for seven years, get to vote for whomever they want?” Unlike in Tehran, Iraqis actually count the votes. This will subtly fuel the discontent in Iran…
Oh my goodness. Do you think the SOB ever actually reads the news from Iraq where, as we know, Ahmed Chalabi’s extremely anti-democratic “Justice and Accountability Commission” intervened on Saturday to suddenly, on the eve of the election, disqualify 55 candidates– additional to the hundreds it had already disqualified, earlier on during the election campaign?
Chalabi is far from being a neutral figure in the election, since he’s running as a member of the Iraqi National Alliance, the Iran-backed list of mainly Shiite politicians.
So those 55 suddenly banned candidates– all of whom were affiliated with other blocs, mainly the Iraqiyya bloc headed by Ayad Allawi– still had their names on the ballots on Sunday; and thus not only were they subjected to last-minute banning, but in addition everyone who voted for them suddenly had their votes rendered essentially meaningless.
As the WaPo’s Ernesto London and Leila Fadel report from Baghdad today,
- If the votes for the newly barred candidates are annulled, it could give the Iraqiya coalition powerful ammunition to allege vote-rigging by rival politicians, including some in the Shiite-led camp of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
“It will be a very violent reaction,” Allawi said in an interview Tuesday. “A lot of violence will take place, and God knows how this will end. I will tell you there is already an existing feeling that there was widespread rigging and widespread intimidation.”
And it’s not just those 55 suddenly-banned candidates and those who voted for them who’re at risk of having their political rights suddenly stripped from them. Londono and Fadel report that,
- Faraj al-Haidary, chairman of Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission, said Tuesday night that … under Iraqi law, the Justice and Accountability Commission could theoretically bar more candidates in the days ahead if it submits paperwork before the electoral board certifies them as lawmakers.
Ah, but my friend Tom, sitting in Bethesda, can assure us that Iraqis “get to vote for whomever they want”?
The WaPo journos also write about our friend the Iraq specialist Reidar Visser that he,
- said the last-minute disqualification of candidates poses significant challenges for the electoral commission. Because Iraqis were able to choose individual candidates in the elections — as opposed to voting for slates that distribute the seats — disqualifying elected candidates could enrage voters.
“This could create a major problem for the whole process,” Visser said. “We have seen that there is no legal framework to deal with these eventualities, so they’re creating the framework as they proceed.”
So the post-election period in Iraq this time might well be– just as it was after the last national election, in December 2005– very messy, long-drawn-out and quite possibly even, as Allawi warned, violent.
So please let’s not sing any paens to the triumph of “democracy” in Iraq yet. (As Newsweek did last week, and as far too many other stalwarts of the US MSM seem to have been doing this week, too.)
George Bush’s hastily cobbled-together, back-up main “justification” for invading Iraq in 2003, remember, was– once he finally realized the “WMD justification” was a crock of nonsense– that the US
occupation liberation of Iraq would usher in a new era of democratic, accountable, and successful government that would immediately become a model for the striving peoples of the whole of the rest of the region…
(Kind of like what the SOB was still arguing in his mendacious piece today.)
But in the aftermath of Iraq’s December 2005 election, the country was plunged into deeper sectarianism and social collapse than it had ever before experienced, and for roughly 18 months thereafter the violence and heartbreak continued unabated, sending streams of extremely distressed Iraqis fleeing for their lives.
Electoral “democracy”, it turned out, was not a “model” that anyone anywhere else in the region wanted to emulate, at all. (In the OPTs, interestingly, all the major political forces did continue with their plans to hold an OPTs-wide parliamentary election just six weeks after that Iraqi election, in January 2006. Washington’s ferocious response to the results of that election gave the lie to any lingering idea anyone might have had that George W. Bush really did have any gut sympathy for the norms and principles of democratic self-governance… )
And, contra to what the SOB is now telling us, I certainly don’t think anyone in the Middle East, whether Iranians, Arabs, Turks, Israelis, or anyone else, is sitting on the edge of their chairs thinking that the 2010 election in Iraq is going to usher in a fabulous period of successful, democratic self-governance in Iraq. The most that anyone is able to hope for, really, is that despite the machinations of Ahmed Chalabi and his gang– the ones who got us into the war and occupation in the first place, remember, along with Bush and Cheney– Iraq’s conflict-battered people may somehow find a governance system that works for them and allows them to rebuild a society that has been torn apart by two decades, now, of extremely vindictive, lethal, politicidal, and arrogant western policy toward their country.
How Iraq’s citizenry decide to govern themselves is completely up to them. For Tom Friedman or anyone else to claim they know what should happen is imperialist arrogance of the most outdated and destructive kind.