Friday, January 21, 2005

The Lost Elections

The Nation argues in its article Iraq's Lost Election that the elections in Iraq are a lost cause because the interim government and the United States have failed to provide adequate security for the campaign and balloting to take place according to an accepted standard.

As Dexter Filkins of the New York Times reported, rather than the normal democratic ritual of voters and candidates, what Iraqis know is "a campaign in the shadows, where candidates are often too terrified to say their names. Instead of holding rallies, they meet voters in secret, if they meet them at all. Instead of canvassing for votes, they fend off death threats." Filkins further reported: "Of the 7,471 people who have filed to run, only a handful outside the relatively safe Kurdish areas have publicly identified themselves. The locations for the 5,776 polling places have not been announced, lest they become targets for attacks."

As conditions deteriorated, it became harder for the Bush Administration to spin the upcoming poll to choose an Iraq National Assembly as a major step toward restoring security. Gen. George Casey, commander of coalition forces in Iraq, predicted more violence on election day and "for some time" thereafter, while a new US intelligence estimate foresees the elections being followed by more violence and possible civil war. ...

As long as the occupation continues, any Iraqi government or constitution will be tainted and incapable of producing the compromises necessary for a stable and unified Iraq. Therefore, for the sake of Iraq's future and the safety of our young men and women, the United States must begin an orderly withdrawal, coordinated with stepped-up US and international economic assistance. We recognize that further violence and internal fighting among Iraqis may follow, but to believe that a continuing US military presence can prevent this is naïve or disingenuous; it will, rather, contribute to the instability. The best long-term outcome is for Iraqis to regain control of their own country and sort out their own future.

There are two parts to the Nation's indictment. The first is that the elections will fail; and second, that even if elections formally take place a civil war will follow. From these premises they conclude that  the United States should withdraw, but not before leaving a large chunk of money, though to whom is not explained; that civil war may follow anyway, yet somehow this civil war will be less destructive than one they predict will follow the elections and therefore the lesser of evils.

A few loose ends might remain. For example, the Iraqis and Kurds who joined the Iraq government interim forces under American tutelage may find themselves hunted down by the 'insurgents' once US forces leave and become refugees. Who should accept them? If a civil war ensues as the Nation admits is possible, if Syria and Iran enter the lists of their co-religionists, how should America restrain them? Surely all-out conflict would be the time to heed the Nation's advice "No more money for war!". And if the Kurds were subsequently attacked and massacred all over again; and the Marsh Arabs slaughtered once more, without elections too, would there be enough days of silence, enough bags of flour in the UN relief warehouses, enough editorial handwringing to make it all up to them?

What then but to blame America for being the root cause of a tragic conflict, which was nevertheless the least evil of all remaining paths, once the basic and tragic mistake of invading Iraq was undertaken. Or is the Nation referring to the wrong lost election?