January 31, 2005


Acts of Bravery (BOB HERBERT, 1/31/05, NY Times)

You'd have to be pretty hardhearted not to be moved by the courage of the millions of Iraqis who insisted on turning out to vote yesterday despite the very real threat that they would be walking into mayhem and violent death at the polls.

At polling stations across the country there were women in veils holding the hands of children, and men on crutches, and people who had been maimed during the terrible years of Saddam, and old people. Among those lined up to vote in Baghdad was Samir Hassan, a 32-year-old man who lost a leg in the blast of a car bomb last year. He told a reporter, "I would have crawled here if I had to."

In a war with very few feel-good moments, yesterday's election would qualify as one. But...

Why don't we start collecting the "but" columns here--those from opponents of Iraqi liberation who can't accept that what happened yesterday was a world historical event.

-Birth of a Nation? (Fred Kaplan, Jan. 30, 2005, Slate)

Few sights are more stirring than the televised images of Iraqi citizens risking their lives to vote in their country's first election in a half-century, kissing the ballot boxes, dancing in the streets, and declaring their hopes for a new day of democracy.

And yet...

-Fig-leaf freedom: One election does not a democracy make (Brian Whitaker, January 31, 2005, Guardian Unlimited)

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 31, 2005 8:48 AM

I don't know if
counts, as there is no actual "but", but...

"French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said the Iraqis had taken an important first step to ending the cycle of violence. We won't get out of this tragedy other than by democracy and elections," he told Europe-1 radio on Monday."

I wonder just what tragedy he is referring to.

Posted by: Peter B at January 31, 2005 8:31 AM

No big surprise here.....he manages to insert his but by the 3rd sentence:


Elections Are Not Democracy
The United States has essentially stopped trying to build a democratic order in Iraq, and is simply trying to gain stability and legitimacy

By Fareed Zakaria

"Feb. 7 issue - By the time you read this, you will know how the elections in Iraq have gone. No matter what the violence, the elections are an important step forward, for Iraq and for the Middle East. But it is also true......"

Posted by: Jeff Riley at January 31, 2005 8:36 AM

This is off topic, but here is a new Jib Jab animation

Hope it works.

Posted by: h-man at January 31, 2005 9:16 AM

One election does not a democracy make ---

Yup, look at Europe.

Posted by: Sandy P at January 31, 2005 10:10 AM

BUT. . .

Posted by: Oswald Booth Czolgosz at January 31, 2005 11:06 AM

BUT there was violence
BUT there was low or no voter turn out in some areas
BUT look who's counting the ballots
BUT we've marked all voters for death
BUT it's all propaganda
BUT they've been brainwashed by O.J.
BUT this
BUT that


Posted by: DaveW. at January 31, 2005 11:29 AM

"UPDATE: And more wet-blanketry -- actually, it's a lot worse than that -- over at the ironically named Democratic Underground:

'All the media keeps talking about is how happy the Iraqis are, how high turnout was, and how "freedom" has spread to Iraq. I had to turn off CNN because they kept focusing on the so-called "voters" and barely mentioned the resistance movements at all. Where are the freedom fighters today? Are their voices silenced because some American puppets cast a few ballots?

I can't believe the Iraqis are buying into this "democracy" bullshit.'"

Hat tip to Instapundit. No Buttheads at the Underground; just @$$#0!e$ ...

Posted by: Genecis at January 31, 2005 11:30 AM

The best "buts" of all are yet to come: When Iraq manages its SECOND (or third or . . .) election with GREATER voter turnout and LESS violence than this one. Then the "buts" will be the self-fulfilling prophecy kind referring to what "some" thought would never happen. The underlying poll results are irrefutable: Iraqi citizens believe Freedom is worth risking everything. The naysayers and so-called realists in this country would do well to believe them.

Posted by: John Resnick at January 31, 2005 12:39 PM

Read the words of dismay, anger and confusion on the DNC's "open thread"@ democrats.org

Posted by: ProadVoter at January 31, 2005 12:40 PM

Sorry to rain on the parade here but I think a few caveats are in order.

1. Democracy itself doesn't solve anything. We do not know what kind of government Iraq has selected yet. If the adults are in charge, as appears the case in Afghanistan, that is a great first step. But if it decays into gridlock followed by street violence, that is a real problem.

2. There is no shortage of people who oppose our efforts. The Democrats and the ratbag Left in America are pretty much irrelevant. If you keep away from San Francisco, the Upper West Side and the liberal arts departments of college campuses, you really never see them. The real problem is going to come from those in-country and outside who oppose us. The Saudis, the Islamists, the Iranian mullahs, the Ba'athists, the European Union and even the Putin regime in Russia are potential adversaries. Even the Turks are saber-rattling about Kirkuk. These are serious matters and as there will be bumps along the road over the next several years in Iraq, our adversaries can cause real harm.

3. Even if the democracy works perfectly, the rewards will not come overnight. Democracy is hard work and a society where people settle things by blood feud is not one where they are likely to accept losing a vote in parliament gracefully. Do we have the tenacity to see things through? We cut and ran in Lebanon, Somalia and in Afghanistan in the 90s.

Posted by: Bart at January 31, 2005 1:03 PM

yes, Bart, we know--they're Arabs....we should incinerate them instead...blah, blah, blah...

Posted by: oj at January 31, 2005 1:29 PM

But Saddam got 99% turnout.

Posted by: h-man at January 31, 2005 2:01 PM

OJ, Kurds are not Arabs. Shi'ites are not Sunnis. I will admit to holding Muslims, particularly Arab Muslims, in low esteem but a pollyannish view of what is going on in Iraq does no one any favors. If I'm proved wrong, I'll be happy to admit it.

Democracy has had dubious results in Latin America, Africa, Russia and India. The problems transcend chimerical issues like race and ethnicity. It is unwise to see it as a panacea.

Posted by: Bart at January 31, 2005 2:03 PM


You've already been proved wrong by Kurds, Shi'ites, Sunni Arabs, Latinos, Russians, Africans, Indians, etc.

Posted by: oj at January 31, 2005 3:09 PM

Bart's right about one thing though: Democracy without morals is clearly doomed. You did mention that, right, Bart?

Posted by: John Resnick at January 31, 2005 3:32 PM

"One election does not a democracy make ---"

"Yup, look at Europe."

A rather sweeping statement meaning what exactly, if anything?

Posted by: creeper at January 31, 2005 4:36 PM

He may have been reflecting on the significant vote for a pedophile in the Netherlands recently and the election of a Genocidal maniac in Germany 70 years ago.

Posted by: h-man at January 31, 2005 5:31 PM

"Democracy itself doesn't solve anything."
Hey Bart? It solves lack of democracy.

Posted by: Tom at January 31, 2005 7:43 PM

Iraq: Images vs. Reality
by John Nichols

The images of Iraqis crowding polling places for that country's first free election in a half century were both moving and hopeful. The voting, while marred by violence, irregularities and boycotts, went off more smoothly than even the most optimistic members of the Bush administration had dared predict.

Unfortunately [...]

"...the vote didn't end up 100% pro-Saddam the way I, John Nichols, expected."

Posted by: Matt Murphy at January 31, 2005 8:38 PM


"He may have been reflecting on the significant vote for a pedophile in the Netherlands recently"

Why should that make the Netherlands not a democracy?

Does a democracy put limits on who or what one can vote for?

"and the election of a Genocidal maniac in Germany 70 years ago."

Even when a democracy is in place, it takes hard work to maintain it. Germany was a democracy in the 1920's, but was corrupted and twisted into a dictatorship in the 1930's. Hitler and his Nazi party did not begin their leadership of Germany with a majority of Germans' votes, and Hitler attained power not after an election, but as a result of powermongering behind the scenes after the death of chancellor Hindenburg.

Later elections obviously need to be regarded sceptically, as by that time the Nazi party suppressed opposing parties, controlled the media and so forth. These elections certainly did not a democracy make, and I doubt anyone would describe Nazi Germany as a democracy. Saddam had elections too, but no democracy. Both Nazi Germany and Saddam's Iraq were lacking other vital ingredients of democracy.

I don't think that what happened in Germany in the 1930s besmirches the idea of democracy in the slightest, but instead only serves as a warning that freedom and democracy must be guarded vigilantly, and can not be taken for granted. Just because a country enjoys freedom and democracy today does not mean that it is not potentially subject to corruption etc.

So, perhaps Sandy P. was reflecting on those things; perhaps he wasn't. It remains a vague, nonsensical statement.

Posted by: creeper at February 1, 2005 6:25 AM

The rule of law is far more important than democracy. Singaporeans, Chileans and Turks all benefitted far more from authoritarian systems with a working judiciary and respect for property rights than democratic forms where the courts were totally corrupt and the government simply looted the productive.

If the people selected to rule Iraq simply use their power to feather their own nests and transfer funds from the productive sectors of the population to their voters, the democracy will fail. Plato and Aristotle could have told you that one and its truth can be seen from Zimbabwe to Newark.

Posted by: Bart at February 1, 2005 8:50 AM

All very true, Bart, but that is why transparency and accountability are essential components of democracy.

Posted by: creeper at February 1, 2005 9:12 AM

Those are just road bumps, as demonstrated in Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America.

Posted by: oj at February 1, 2005 11:08 AM


In Southern Africa, they are a major problem. In Zimbabwe, Mugabe got a lot of political traction by supporting taking away the White-owned farms and giving them to the 'war veterans.' In neighboring Namibia and South Africa, the silence from the ruling parties is deafening because both SWAPO and the ANC have large constituencies that want them to do the same thing in their respective countries to their white populations. A democratically elected regime can engage in tyrannical activities dangerous to the continued health and welfare of the society, doing so for short-term political gain.

If the government can take away Farmer A's land today, what stops it from taking Farmer B's tomorrow? This is the argument one hears from Black Zimbabwean farmers.

Posted by: Bart at February 1, 2005 12:01 PM

There are hardly any A's and a lot of B's--that's how democracy works.

Posted by: oj at February 1, 2005 12:13 PM