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Under-hyping the Iraqi elections (JERUSALEM POST OP-ED) By MARK STEYN 02/03/05)Source: http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1107314591900 JERUSALEM POST JERUSALEM POST Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
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 in Iraq."

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 it.

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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