January 30, 2005

Reflections on the Iraqi Election

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 5:39 pm

As I scan some of my favorite left-of-center political blogs, there seems to be two reactions to the successful election in Iraq. One is denial, by rejecting that this election is either a success, or meaningful. Armondo at Dailykos says “This Election is simply, in my estimation, an exercise in pretty pictures.” The other reaction is complete, or almost complete, silence.

I didn’t (and still don’t) agree with the circumstances under which we went to war. I believe this war clearly falls short of a just war because it was not a last resort. I was an enthusiastic John Kerry supporter. But as difficult as it might be to admit it, and it is difficult, the Bush administration’s ability to make this election happen is a good thing. A very good thing.

The US occupation seems to be universally hated in Iraq, but for one day at least, the Iraqis tasted democracy. It may be a mere shadow of the democracy we take for granted, but it’s more democracy than they have ever known. And this was a good thing.

There was violence during the voting. It is a small consolation that the violence was less than expected. It is a sad state of affairs when anyone uses violence to attempt to stop an election, or when anyone loses their life because they choose to vote. But still, the election was a good thing.

So has this election now redeemed the war? No, not by itself. I don’t know that any outcome could redeem unnecessary loss of civilian life, or the suffering of Iraqis at the hands of US interrogators at Abu Ghraib. I don’t believe this election can undo the errors in judgment that led to this war or that made it more costly in lives once it began. This election does not exonerate Bush and his administration. We still don’t know how this is going to turn out five years from now, or ten or twenty.

But for today, this election was a good thing.


  1. This election was only a good thing if it is accepted by the entire country—it’s looking like that isn’t going to happen. Where the blame rests is obviously a difficult question, but this strikes me as yet another episode just like the previous ones—the administration is doing what’s theoretically right, but they screw up in so many other ways that things end up worse than they were before.

    Comment by Chris Tessone — January 30, 2005 @ 8:42 pm

  2. I agree with you that, irrespective of how one feels about the initial decision to invade Iraq, the election there today is a remarkable and happy event. Hopefully, it will not only bring Iraq closer to democracy, but also bring the US closer to being able to withdraw from that nation.

    Comment by Mark — January 30, 2005 @ 10:10 pm

  3. Great post!

    Comment by Lefty — January 31, 2005 @ 8:02 am

  4. OF COURSE the election was a good thing.

    My Conservative freind today, offered his “condolences” to me, because the election was “successful”. As if I’m supposed to be sad, or think this is a bad thing? The sickness is on the right. The wrong-thinking is on the right. They’re the ones who are convinced that liberals don’t want freedom and democracy in Iraq.
    I *DO* want these things. I just don’t believe that’s going to be the outcome.

    But as difficult as it might be to admit it, and it is difficult, the Bush administration’s ability to make this election happen is a good thing. A very good thing.

    This is the height of cognative dissonance on this issue from the right.
    The Bush administration didn’t make this happen. The bravery of the Iraqi people, living under the constant threat of US bombardment, or Insurgent suicide bombing, beheading, etc, went out and voted, and made it happen. The Bush administration could have made things much better. (By comitting enough troops) There were still 13 suicide bombings, and the UK plane shot down. And we still don’t know what’s to come. These people elected their own government. But they aren’t “Free” in the sense that we Americans know the word. They will be living in constant fear. And the threat of civil war still looms. And debt. And the CPA has already ensured that “the right people” will be beneficiaries to the bulk of any wealth generated by the Iraqi economy. Not the people. These people still have no reliable electricity or water, or law and order.

    A successful election does not validate the methodoloy of force that the Bush Junta espouses.

    But it does validate the notion that the human spirit and desire for freedom will always triumph over terror.
    The Iraqi People spoke yesterday, and rejected the terrorists. Now they need to reject the terrorists who came in and smashed their country, and put white-collar criminals in charge (Ahmed Chalabi, Rice, Kerik, Bremer, Negroponte, etc). Unfortunately, these terrorists have airplanes and soldiers and “smart” bombs. And, access to all of Saddam’s files gathered by his secret police during his reign.

    A few radical theocratic goons: easy.
    White-collar criminal war-profiteers with the backing of a superpower: not so easy.

    Comment by Osama_Been_Forgotten — January 31, 2005 @ 10:27 am

  5. Osama –

    You have turned the issue the other way around from how the rest of us think about…this was a victory thanks to the Iraqis, and in spite of the US occupation and terrorist attacks. We’re so used to thinking that the Iraqis are either the problem, or “dead weight”, and not active participants in shaping their future.

    Thanks for a different perspective.

    Comment by Bob — January 31, 2005 @ 7:24 pm

  6. No argument that it was a good thing. Effective? Who can tell? Inspiring? Perfect? It was better than I had hoped for; but the election was a ritual, a liturgy, a prayer for better days. A good thing when there is despair and destruction all around.

    Comment by John Wilkins — February 1, 2005 @ 6:12 am

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