Monday, February 14, 2005

The Iraqi Elections: Bush and His Critics

After the elections in Iraq, reliably liberal columnist for the Chicago Sun Times Mark Brown, wrote “…it’s hard to swallow, but what if it turns out Bush was right, and we were wrong? If it turns out Bush was right all along, this is going to require some serious penance.”

And fellow liberal syndicated columnist Richard Cohen went so far as to entertain the possibility of a Bush revision, which recalls T.S. Eliot’s line in The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock: “Time, there will be time/ For visions and revisions/ That time will soon erase.”

If democracy begins to set forth shoots in Iraq and environs, Cohen believes that historians may be much kinder and gentler towards Bush than have Cohen and his cohorts in their columns.

To be sure, there are die-hards.

George Soros, the multi-millionaire moneybags of the anti- Bush movement and the founder of the Open Society Institute remains unrepentant – and, indeed, oblivious to the possibility of a democratic society in Iraq. Soros is a follower of Karl Popper, a philosopher and celebrant of what has been called “the open society.”

Prior to the elections in Iraq, Soros denounced in uncompromising terms Bush administration plans for democracy in Iraq. “To claim that we are invading Iraq for the sake of establishing democracy,” Soros said in a March 2003 Washington speech, “is a sham, and the rest of the world sees it as such. It is not merely that the Bush administration policies may be wrong; it is that they are wrong,” an assertion that did not leave Soros’ mind open to the possibility that some administration policies might have been right for the wrong reasons – or, at the very least, fruitful and leading to the open society that Soros hopes to advance everywhere in the world.

In a widely printed Jan 26 article, Soros said he agreed with Bush’s Wilsonian goal of spreading democracy. Soros wrote that he had “devoted the past 15 years to attaining” such a goal… Mr. Bush is right to assert that repressive regimes can no longer hide behind a cloak of sovereignty. But intervention in other state’s internal affairs must be legitimate.”

In days following the election, when most newspapers were full of reports showing courageous Iraqis standing in long lines preparing to exercise their franchise to vote, Soros’ web site made no reference to the elections. When asked by a reporter why Soros had maintained a sullen silence, Soros spokesperson Michael Vachon said, “He had been traveling since January 30 on various foundation projects and hasn’t had occasion to comment.”

Web sites make it possible for busy financiers like Soros to comment wherever in the world the smell of money takes them, and it seems small of an open minded philosopher not to join in celebrating the attainment in Iraq of a goal Soros had advanced for nearly 15 years.

Michael Moore was yet another joyless, tight-lipped holdout.

On the day prior to the elections in Iraq, Moore’s site directed its readers to a story in the New York Times headlined “A sinking Sensation of Parallels between Iraq and Vietnam.” That story would not have occasioned doubts in the minds of Brown, who was tipped by visuals showing jubilant Iraqi’s voting in favor of Soros’ “open society.” On the day following the elections, Moore’s site provided a link to a left wing Nation article entitled “Occupation Thwarts Democracy.”

The die-hards, in fact, are prisoners of their own rhetoric. “The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation,” Moore has said, “are not ‘insurgents’ or ‘terrorists’ or ‘The Enemy.’ They are the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow -- and they will win.”

Time and events have outstripped the outworn partisan rhetoric.

Here is a report from the Iraqi street from an observer closer to the action than Soros or Moore; the speaker is Thaer Sunni, an engineer who lives in eastern Baghdad: “The street was crowded since 7 a.m. I woke up to the voices of the people on the street – I did not expect such a number.”

“Everybody feels that he is human today and can have a free voice,” Sunni said. “No one wanted to lose his chance. I think today will show these terrorists lost their chance in this country. But I want to say one thing: I want to thank the U.S. soldiers for bringing this to Iraq. Without them, we would always have to vote for Saddam Hussein.”

One does not expect Sunni – or anyone like him – to appear in future Michael Moore films. The real division in American politics on Iraq’s future does not lie between those who predict a democratic or totalitarian future for the country; the real division is between those who are willing to work for democracy and those who prefer failure to success.
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