Thursday, March 11, 2010

Iraqi democracy? Three's a hostile crowd

NEWSWEEK published a breathlessly presumptive cover in its March 8 issue that declared in a war- size headline:
VICTORY AT LAST The emergence of a Democratic Iraq
How euphoric - particularly when the words were superimposed on that famous aircraft carrier photo-op for then-President Bush (who is pictured to the left of the headline) and the historic sign: Mission Accomplished.

And this morning, in my morning hometown paper, the op-ed headline over an equally euphoric column by Tom Friedman, an early booster of the war who has been waiting around for years for his hawkishness to be vindicated, declared: Young Democracy in Iraq.

I would like to think so, too. But we're talking about Iraq and the Middle East here, where you might have a greater chance of a happy outcome if you had been waiting around for Godot.

Some of the sheen faded a bit from the upbeat talk with the report on this week's Iraqi election in today's New York Times. After noting that Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki's coalition was likely to win a plurality, it grimly told us:
"The initial results, the officials said, suggested a race between Mr. Maliki's coalition; Ayad Allawi, a secular Shiite and the leader of the Iraqiya coalition; and a Shiite coalition known as the Iraqi National Alliance. The Kurds, though divided, appeared poised to finish strongly as well, leaving the country's political landscape as fractured as ever."
Should the likelihood of continued political and religious conflict surprise us? Or that one of the participants in all of this is a fellow named Ahmed Chalabi, a leader of the Iraqi National
Alliance, who immediately questioned the purity of the vote count? Chalabi, a slippery former exile who quietly dished out all of those mythical stories to Times reporter Judith Miller to advance his own mission to return to power, was paid countless millions by the U.S. government from the outset of the invasion for his insider's fables. He's back.

When will we grow up and accept the harsh truth that that area of world has been at war since the earliest days of Mesopotamia, when religion-based provincial chieftains claimed each other's turf?

Sorry Newsweek. They'll be counting votes, sort of, for a long time. A stable democracy now? I think I'll wait for Godot, instead.

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