By Stephen Schwartz (FrontPageMagazine.com) By Stephen Schwartz - TechCentralStation.com 01/31/05)
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The news from Iraq is spectacularly good: local authorities estimate
almost 75 percent of the electorate has voted. This is a triumph for
every Iraqi, for America, for the Muslim world -- indeed, for the
whole world. But it is a particular victory for an exceedingly small
group in Washington: those who maintained confidence in the appeal of
democracy, in the commonsense and intelligence of the Iraqis, and in
the correctness of the path taken by President George W. Bush to
Baghdad and beyond.
As stated, the group of non-Iraqis in America entitled to exult is
tiny: it consists of President Bush himself, Deputy Defense Secretary
Paul D. Wolfowitz, certain other members of the cabinet and defense
establishment, and a highly exclusive media list: Bill Kristol and
crew at The Weekly Standard, myself and some others writing on TCS
and a handful of other publications. (I won´t be modest about this.)
And that, folks, is about it. The global humanitarian services
industry was worst about Iraq: the experienced electoral monitors
chickened out of covering the balloting. The Europeans, of course,
have nothing but bad to say about Baghdad, aside from British Prime
Minister Tony Blair. But the American political and media class, the
latter above all, spent the months since President Bush´s reelection
searching desperately for reasons the Iraqi election was bound to
We could call them "the coalition of the wrong." Democrats sneered
openly, but even a considerable number of Republicans had cold feet.
According to the habitual critics, the Arab Sunnis would boycott the
voting, rendering it irrelevant, since without the good offices of
the former tormentors of the Shia majority, the democratization of
Iraq would be hopeless. According to the faint-hearted, Wahhabi
terrorists would make the ballot process impossible to complete.
According to the ideologues, democracy could not be "imposed,"
especially without sufficient "liberals," as argued by a renegade
former supporter of the Iraq effort, Lawrence F. Kaplan in The New
The main daily papers and TV networks repeated all this "common
foolishness," since it would be absurd to call it wisdom, down to the
last moment. The weekend edition of the London Financial Times
jabbered about Abu Ghraib and tried to keep afloat the limp balloon
of claims that Saddam Hussein was really no threat to anybody. The
Saturday front page of The New York Times whined that because a Shia
cleric had preached a Friday sermon without mentioning the vote, the
radical followers of Moqtada ul-Sadr would, allegedly, boycott it.
Times headline writers exercised their talent for slippery language
thus: "Shiite Faction Ready to Shun Sunday´s Election in Iraq" rode
atop Dexter Filkins´ stretching exercise. On Sunday, of course, the
Times had to report the truth, with Filkins writing, "voters turned
out in very large numbers in Baghdad today, packing polling places
and creating a party atmosphere in the streets."
The Washington Post was marginally better. On Saturday, its Damascus
correspondent, Scott Wilson, disclosed that the Syrian Baathist
regime had decided to support the Iraqi process, to bring some
stability to its neighbor. But its Washington diplomatic analyst,
Robin Wright, whose record on these matters is among the worst,
outdid herself. To her, the effects on the surrounding neighborhood
would be destabilizing. But she had at least discovered what I, along
with Saudi Shia dissidents and other Shia intellectuals, had been
saying all along: that the probable smashing victory for democratic
practices in Iraq would resonate in the Saudi kingdom, with its
restive Shia minority, subject to systematic hate and repression by
the Wahhabi state. She even cited the typically unnamed U.S.
official, as follows: "´At the core of Saudi concern is this
prejudice against the Shia they never enunciate in a policy. They
just cite the Iranian bogeyman,´ said an administration official,
referring to Iran´s Shiite theocracy. ´That´s not something we see
I felt as if I were in a special sort of echo chamber, bouncing back
my own words in distorted form. That´s fine; there´s nothing wrong
with being ahead of the curve, even when it twists like a
rollercoaster. But speaking of echoes, haven´t we been here before?
Has everybody forgotten how, in 1990, the U.S., Canadian, and
European media drastically miscalled the first free election in
Sandinista Nicaragua? In that instance, 92 percent of U.S. media
reported the Sandinistas held a lead; 60 percent predicted a
Sandinista victory. On Nicaragua, 76 percent of American media
coverage was critical of the candidacy of Violeta Chamorro, who was
elected president, while 64 percent assailed the "negative" effects
of U.S. support for the Nicaraguan opposition.
Iraqis voted the way Nicaraguans voted: enthusiastically, even
deliriously so. Baghdad´s voting urns are very likely to become, for
the presidency of George W. Bush, what the fall of the Berlin Wall,
which made the Nicaraguan election possible, was to that of Ronald
Reagan. Bush may be judged as great as Reagan, and the Republican
Party may permanently become a heroic force for global liberation.
Since the Iraq intervention began, leftists and other Bush-bashers
have snidely called for "regime change" in America. But what we
really need is a sign of commitment to the democratic values
President Bush so actively and correctly defends, on the part of our
media. How long will we have to wait? A generation? Or just the time
it takes for the democratizing domino effect to take effect in the
Arab world, after which the absurdities of the anti-democratic left
and right will disappear from memory, as the pro-Axis agitation of
the despicable America First and their short-term allies in the
American Communist Party were forgotten once the second world war
ended, and as mistakes of academics and political experts about
Soviet Communism were politely elided from the record after the
process that began with the fall of the Wall in 1989.
In 1992, I had the unforgettable experience of participating in the
annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of
Slavic Studies, the fabled "Sherpa Club" of highest-level
Sovietologists, in the aftermath of the failed 1991 Moscow coup.
American professors and analysts who had spent their whole careers
preaching the gospel of Communist permanence complained, "History has
failed us!" History will fail those who have dedicated decades to the
proposition that Arabs will not enter the world of popular
sovereignty, entrepreneurship, and accountability; that is, of
successful bourgeois democracy.
But history will not fail those of us who recall, and choose to live
by, the words of poet Archibald Macleish, a fervent supporter of
American involvement in the second world war: "How shall freedom be
defended? By arms when it is attacked by arms; by truth when it is
attacked by lies; by democratic faith when it is attacked by
authoritarian dogma. Always and in the final act, by determination
and faith." As President Bush has affirmed, freedom is on the march!
(©2005 FrontPageMagazine.com 01/31/05)
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