January 29, 2005


The Iraqi people will defy the Ba'athists and Islamofascists: Blair is right. Why aren't more democrats backing these elections? (William Shawcross, January 24, 2005, The Guardian)

Just look at who is trying to stop Iraqis voting and by what methods. That alone shows how important this week's elections are to Iraq. [...]

The Iraqi elections are at one level a brutal theocratic struggle between Sunni and Shia, between Bin Laden and Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Sistani, the principal leader of the Shias, who constitute 60% of the Iraqi population, has told his followers that it is their duty to vote. But in a video aired on al-Jazeera, Bin Laden declared that "Anyone who participates in these elections... has committed apostasy against Allah". He endorsed killing of security people in the new government - "Their blood is permitted. They are apostates whose deaths should not be prayed over."

Zarqawi describes the Shias as "the lurking snakes and the crafty scorpions, the spying enemy and the penetrating venom, the most evil of mankind". Every day he murders more. Last Friday a car bomber murdered 14 people, including children, as they left their mosque in Baghdad. He murdered Ayatollah Mohammed Baqr al-Hakim, the head of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, one of the principal Shia parties, and he recently tried to murder Hakim's brother and successor. In that attack 13 other Iraqis were killed and 66 wounded.

Allied to the Islamist groups are Ba'athist groups who want to restore Sunni Ba'athist dictatorship. Several of their military leaders were arrested in Falluja in November.

One was Colonel Muayed al-Nasseri, who said that Saddam had set up his group, Muhammad's Army, after the fall of Baghdad. Under interrogation he said that his group had been receiving aid from both Iran and Syria, neither of which wish to see a democracy in Iraq. He said Iran had given them "one million dollars... cars, weapons... even car bombs". He said that Saddam had sent him to Syria to liaise with Syrian intelligence, which was proving especially helpful with money. Other Saddamite officials are working with impunity from Damascus. Washington has protested about this, but the US has not yet put any really strong pressure on Syria.

The impact of terrorism on the election has already been huge. Many of the political parties have not dared name their candidates for fear they will be murdered. Public meetings are virtually impossible. The risks of going to the polling stations are real everywhere, huge in some places. Many candidates have been murdered; those who are elected will face real dangers.

What is astonishing is that people still seem determined to vote for a new Iraq. [...]

Tony Blair said in Baghdad in December: "On the one side you have people who desperately want to make the democratic process work, and want the same type of democratic freedoms other parts of the world enjoy, and on the other side people who are killing and intimidating and trying to destroy a better future for Iraq. Our response should be to stand alongside the democrats."

Blair is absolutely right. It is shocking that so few democratic governments support the Iraqi people.

There seem to be two possibilities:

(1) Opponents of liberalization in the Arab world are democrats who oppose democracy in this instance.

(2) Opponents aren't democrats.

Given that all the same suspects were arrayed against all the same advocates in the Cold War you'd have to say that (b) is closer to the truth.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 29, 2005 9:32 AM
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