Under-hyping the Iraqi elections (JERUSALEM POST OP-ED) By MARK STEYN 02/03/05)
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And so the "looming Iraqi election fiasco" joins "the brutal Afghan
winter"and "the brutal Iraqi summer" and "the seething Arab street"
and all the other junk in the overflowing trash can of post-9/11
Western media fictions.
The sight of millions of brave voters emerging from polling stations
holding high their purple dye-stained fingers was so inspiring that,
from America´s Democratic Party to European protest rallies,
opponents of the war waited, oh, all of three minutes before flipping
the Iraqis their own fingers, undyed.
"No one in the United States should try to over-hype this election,"
warned John Kerry sternly, before embarking on the world champion
limbo dance of Iraqi election under-hyping.
He has a point. One vote does not a functioning democracy make. To be
a truly advanced sophisticated democracy you need an opposition party
that knows how to react to good news by sounding whiney and grudging
and moving the goalposts.
"The real test is not the election," declared Senator Kerry, airily
swatting aside eight million voters. "The real test is..." I dozed
off at that point, so I´m unable to tell you what moved goalposts the
senator inserted. But no doubt they involved, as they always do, the
Bush administration needing to "reach out" "more effectively"
to "involve" "the international community."
"International community," by the way, doesn´t mean Tony Blair, John
Howard, the Poles, Japan, India, Fiji, etc., but Jacques Chirac. In
an advanced sophisticated democracy, that´s how we define "the
international community": No matter how many foreigners are in your
coalition, it´s unilateral unless Jacques´s on board.
In Comonwealth countries, of course, they have the concept of "Her
Majesty´s Loyal Opposition," so called because the Loyal Opposition
carries on like an hysterical old queen. Thus Kim Beazley, the new
leader of Australia´s Labor Party, who on the very eve of the Iraqi
election triumph when elementary prudence might have suggested
waiting 24 hours couldn´t resist launching into another refrain
of "When It´s Quagmire Time On The Tigris."
The new Labor leader had barely taken possession of the keys to the
executive washroom before he was "warning" the US that it risked
being bogged down in all together now "a long-running civil war
How lame do you have to be to be the last guy on the planet to do the
old "Iraq on the brink of civil war" routine? Just as "the brutal
Afghan winter" that was supposed to mire shivering American forces in
the graveyard of empire is now a third of a decade behind schedule,
so Iraq has now been "teetering on the brink of civil war" for coming
up for two years.
Brink-wise, that´s quite a leisurely teeter. There´s no danger of
a "long-running civil war in Iraq." Instead, we´ve had a long-running
hysteria about impending civil war in Iraq. Indeed, as long runs go,
predictions of Iraqi civil war is the Cats of doomsday scenarios
except that, unlike Cats, it´s all previews and no opening night.
Tom Clark of Canada´s CTV network was warning that "Iraq could be
teetering on the brink of civil war" in August 2003. Graydon Carter,
editor of the perfumed glossy Vanity Fair, was warning that Iraq
was "now on the brink of civil war" a month earlier. To their credit,
both men teetered on the brink of making a laughably inaccurate
prediction and then plunged right in. What´s the point of Beazley
teetering on the brink for a full two years before hurling himself
into the abyss of yesterday´s clich s?
To hold a civil war you need two sides. Iraq fails to meet that
minimum requirement. Abu Musab Zarqawi not an Iraqi, incidentally
has a few foreign jihadi, some enthusiastic head-hackers and a
dwindling supply of suicide bombers, a job in which, by definition,
it´s hard to get people with experience.
On election day, his guys bullied a kid with Down Syndrome into
taking the gig. You can´t have a Sunni-Shi´ite war because Zarqawi
doesn´t represent the Sunni. Meanwhile, in the face of his
provocations, the Shi´ites have been a model of restraint and
discipline and political surefootedness. The Australian Labor Party,
the US Democrats and the British Tories might all learn a thing or
two from them.
Granted, A footling suicide-cult with no mass support will still blow
up cars and burn buildings, and they´re savvy enough to do so in
parts of the country conveniently located so that Zarqawi´s shills in
the Western press corps don´t have to stray far from their hotels to
film it. Or as the Internet satirist Scott Ott deftly summarized the
coverage: "Iraqi Voting Disrupts News Reports Of Bombings."
That´s another sign that you´re a mature, sophisticated democracy
when you´ve got a media so bogged down in the Vietnam-like quagmire
of its ancient Vietnam quagmire analogies it´s unable to drag itself
free whatever happens.
The election was "an act of folly in the eyes of so many Iraqis,"
pronounced a confident Robert Fisk, the veteran Fleet Street Middle
East correspondent and beloved comic doom-monger. Care to pin down
that "so many" a bit more precisely, Robert?
The BBC´s Fadel al Badrani reported: "A number of polling stations
have opened in Fallujah in the north, north-east, and inside the
public park. The turnout to all these stations is very low."
What does "very low" mean in the context of what we´ve been told for
months is an "insurgent stronghold?"
In his own pre-election message, Zarqawi denounced the "evil" of
democracy and warned any Iraqis who went along with it that they´d be
regarded as having gone over to the other side. Yet at some Sunni
Triangle precincts there were reports of 40% voter turnout
courageous men and women willing to defy the thugs and murders in
their own so-called stronghold.
Three years ago, Jonathan Kay of Canada´s National Post wrote that if
Zimbabwe´s Robert Mugabe turned up at an Arab League meeting he´d be
the most democratically legitimate leader in the room. That´s no
longer true. What happened on Sunday was a victory for the Iraqi
people and a vindication for a relatively small group of Western
politicians most notably the much maligned Deputy Defense Secretary
Paul Wolfowitz, whose faith in those Iraqi people turned out to be so
much shrewder than the sneers of his detractors.
Senator Kerry is wrong. It´s time for him and Ted Kennedy and the
rest of the gang to stop under-hyping. If freedom isn´t on the march,
it´s moving forward dramatically in a region notoriously inimical to
Last weekend´s vote was a rebuke to the parochial condescension of
the West´s elites. "These elections are a joke," Juan Cole,
a "professor of modern Middle East history" at the University of
Michigan, told Reuters.
Sorry, professor, the joke´s on you. And modern Middle East history
is being made by the fledgling democracy of the new Iraq.
The writer is senior North American columnist for Britain´s Telegraph
Group. (© 1995-2005, The Jerusalem Post 02/03/05)
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