The heroism of the Iraqi voter

The heroism of the Iraqi voter

: Dan Henninger in the Wall Street Journal nominates the Iraqi voter for the Nobel Peace Prize. I second that nomination:

They have already won the world’s peace prize by demonstrating in a single day a commitment not seen in our lifetime to peace, self-determination and human rights — the goals for which the Nobel Peace Prize began in 1901. Formal recognition by the Nobel Committee of what the Iraqi people did on Jan. 30 would do more to ensure the furtherance of these goals, in concrete ways, than any other imaginable recipient this year. Who did more?

The history of the Peace Prize shows as well that Iraq’s voters placed themselves squarely at the center of one of the Nobel Committee’s enduring, seemingly quixotic, goals — peace in the Middle East.

: And right next to that on the WSJ edit page, Bernard Lewis — a Middle East expert I’ll take over Juan P.S. Cole any day — says the are not only heroic but historic:

The Iraqi election is a momentous occasion even in the long history of that cradle of civilizations that we now call the Middle East. This election was an achievement first and foremost of the Iraqi people, who showed both wisdom and courage — wisdom in recognizing the meaning of freedom though it was unfamiliar, courage in operating it despite both danger and inexperience.

The critics have been proved wrong, both the so-called realists, more accurately denigrators, and some of the so-called friends and supporters, more precisely previous or expectant participants in the profits of tyranny….

The cause of freedom has won a major battle, but it has not yet won the war. Democracy in Iraq and elsewhere in the region faces a double threat, on the one hand from ruthless and resolute enemies, on the other from fickle and hesitant friends. We must stay with the Iraqi democrats, even if their choice of rulers is not what some of us would have preferred. It is their country, and freedom — a free election — means that the choice is theirs.

But our role has been, and will for a while remain, crucial. In successive phases, we enabled the peoples of Axis-ruled Europe and Asia to create or restore democracy. More recently, we helped give the peoples of the former Soviet bloc the opportunity to do the same, and some are well on the way. Now it is time for the countries of the Middle East to join the Free World, and recover their rightful place in the forefront of civilization.

  • stevek

    What ‘Free World’? The one where income taxes are withheld from paychecks, where welfare programs and government schools destroy families, where state-sponsored thugs commit atrocities with impunity, where ‘free speech’ is permitted, so long as it doesn’t influence the outcome of an election? That Free World?
    If being a ‘realist’ means I must also be a ‘denigrator’, so be it.

  • http://www.hfienberg.com/kesher/ Yehudit

    Jeff, I would amend Lewis’ and Henninger’s nomination only to include the voters of Afghanistan. The award should go to both. They both ran the same risks and each election was equally momentous.

  • http://www.hfienberg.com/kesher/ Yehudit

    stevek, have you ever heard of the concept: “The perfect is the enemy of the good”?

  • http://www.glcq.com paul_lukasiak

    cluetime, Jeff.
    The vast majority of Iraqis did not vote because of their commitment to democracy, or anything approaching it.
    They voted because they were instructed by their religious leaders that it was a religious duty to vote.
    The only really interesting thing about the Iraqi election is the question of what happens when a nation chooses to democratically to subject themselves to non-democratic forms of governance. Currently, it appears that Islam will be the basis of all laws — the likeliest outcome of the election is that the Kurds will allow the Shiites to impose theocracy in exchange for a great deal of autonomy in dealing with their own affairs. (The only real stumbling block to this outcome is the status of Kirkuk.) This means that ultimately, the acceptability of legal interpretation will be left to clerical authority in Iraq.

  • blue_in_ohio

    True, the Iraqis deserve the Nobel Peace Prize but not for the reasons Jeff states. Their vote was an overwhelming rejection of the American presence and it’s so-called purpose. Read this and enlighten yourselves:
    http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20050228&s=klein

  • http://www.elflife.com/ carsonfire

    re: http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20050228&s=klein
    A cynical rant based more on internal bile than reality and complete facts, no different from stevek and paul_lukasiak’s comments.
    Yehudit is right: “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” If this were the American Revolution we were talking about, you’d be sourly pronouncing it a dismal failure because we failed to abolish slavery at the same time. Jefferson lied and people died!

  • TomB

    Well, if it’s in “The Nation”, it’s GOT to be true.
    I mean, after all, they’re DUE!

  • TomB

    Heh.
    Does that qualify as poetry?

  • http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/weblogs/pressthink/2005/01/28/arch_fwp.html blue_in_ohio

    Hmm..let’s see:
    Poetry (n.) The art of apprehending and interpreting ideas by the faculty of imagination; the art of idealizing in thought and in expression.
    Well, based on the above definition I would say yes, you are a poet! You are certainly using your imagination to interpret ideas, and you are idealizing your thoughts and expressions. Whether your interpretations, idealizations, and expressions are real or not remains an issue. :)

  • TomB

    Actually, I was looking for an informed opinion.
    Sorry, but any use of The Nation obviously disqualifies you.

  • http://http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/weblogs/pressthink/2005/01/28/arch_fwp.html blue_in_ohio

    Ah I see… so this is the type of expertise you prefer to base your world-view on: “JEFF JARVIS is former TV critic for TV Guide and People, creator of Entertainment Weekly, Sunday Editor of the NY Daily News, and a columnist on the San Francisco Examiner.” Ah yes, TV Guide, People, Entertainment Weekly and those folks at the NY Daily News and SF Examiner are so much more qualified than anyone at the Nation, or lil ol’ me, an ignorant college graduate here in the backwoods of Ohio. Gee, I guess I am disqualified. Peace.

  • stevek

    You know, I get the “make the perfect the enemy of the good” line an awful lot. You all are wrong. I don’t think it’s asking too muich that the government follow its own laws. To me, that is the essence of good. We have morally degenerated as a nation to the point that, like Communists, we believe that our ends (which are utterly preposterous) justify any means at all.
    If you still want to accuse me of “making the perfect the enemy of the good”, then name for me a right of the people guaranteed by the Constitution that remains defended, a living remnant of the sovreignty of the States, and any essential power of the government that resides wholly in its proper branch. I might then reconsider my position.

  • TomB

    Gee, I guess I am disqualified.
    It’s always good to know your place.
    “No matter where you go, there you are…”

  • blue_in_ohio

    TomB, here’s another story you won’t be interested in:
    http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2005/02/10_danner.shtml

  • Del

    If they don’t seperate Church (Islam) from State in their constitution this war will have been a huge mistake. I don’t care whether its a ‘democracy’ and they voted for their own leaders or not. I cautiously supported the war up to this point, but that was based on the fact that a secular ‘liberal’ democracy is what would develope there, not a fucking theocracy (sorry, but Im angry about this). And if that is what developes, I’m going to have to reluctantly admit that the anti-war ‘moonbats’ were right – at least in hindsight.

  • http://www.hfienberg.com/kesher/ Yehudit

    “that was based on the fact that a secular ‘liberal’ democracy is what would develope there, not a fucking theocracy”
    It’s not that black or white. Try some nuance.

  • Del

    I did ‘try nuance'; the interim constitution with Islam as a ‘source’ isn’t what I’d liked to see and not what Bremmer and the Bush Admin wanted either, but I figured that thats about the best you could expect. It doesn’t seem like even thats what they’re going to end up with now; all indications I’ve seen from who was elected, to what the Admin is saying, to what Sistani is saying suggests that it is going to be some kind of Islamic theocracy. And I thought the point of all this, besides looking for WMD, was to create a at least somewhat secular democracy in the heart of the middle east and hope that it spreads, that the failure of middle eastern countries is to a great degree due to the fact that they don’t seperate church and state an therefore stagnate and become breeding grounds for terrorism. Maybe you think the democratic process can overcome a flawed constitution, but I dont. I think the principles set forth in it, that they have to get those right or that the government won’t work. I don’t know if this is gonna happen or not, its still early, but Im starting to see signs and hear things that I think are reason for concern. Im still hopeful, but Im becoming alot less so all the time – it seems like things are moving in the wrong direction.

  • EverKarl

    It’s way too early to conclude things are moving to a theocracy. The evidence on Sistani is rather mixed over time — Johann Hari thinks he’ll be a democrat, Michael Totten has links on both sides, etc.

  • J. Peden

    lukasiak channels the Iraqi religious leaders, indicating he has reached the sacred Head Start ritual known as “the donning of the tinfoil hat which starts your head plateau”. Congrats, Paul. You join the esteemed company of Shirley McClain, Jimmy Swaggert, Jerry Falwell, OBL, et al.
    Joan Baez shows the next step where the one channeled actually comes to live within the channeler’s own brain, finding an empty space there! Joan became inhabited by a dumb black teenage girl in Georgia complete wit de ap-ap-ro-bate massa mans tetchins o talkin.[An appoximate rendition of Joan's new language as she herself spoke it.]
    So you, Paul, can expect to soon be an Iraqi religious leader. Allah Akbar! Next stop after cohabitation, God, Allah, or Plato’s Forms if the program goes well.
    An De Naton bees no fo behindin sinz it nos de intinton o de vothers.
    Or as Jesse Jackson asserted, “Intentions count, and should be count-ed,” which led to the psychic reading of the chads, a now established process, if actual voting is even necessary. [I don't see why it would be.]
    For, you see, Paul,I can personally attest to the process. Joan and I share quality time with our little girl on an equal, nonsexist basis.
    It is not evil capitalism which has made me rich, but true Diversity, now living within me, in a way in which the mere mass-effect of being around a “critical mass” of people with black skin can only crudely approximate.
    As the hall of fame channeler Richard Vandeman used to say:”It is written.”

  • http://www.glcq.com paul_lukasiak

    If they don’t seperate Church (Islam) from State in their constitution this war will have been a huge mistake. I don’t care whether its a ‘democracy’ and they voted for their own leaders or not. I cautiously supported the war up to this point, but that was based on the fact that a secular ‘liberal’ democracy is what would develope there, not a fucking theocracy (sorry, but Im angry about this). And if that is what developes, I’m going to have to reluctantly admit that the anti-war ‘moonbats’ were right – at least in hindsight.
    there was never really any chance of a “secular liberal democracy” developing in Iraq because that was clearly never the actual goal of the Bush administration. The real goal was the spread of “capitalism” and “free enterprise” which the neo-cons consider an essential part of “democracy”. Indeed, given the fact that the US initially wanted to install Chalabi as the “temporary” leader of Iraq, it is safe to say that the US intent was to install a kleptocracy.
    When one considers the mess that the Iraqi economy is, it is extremely unlikely that order can be restored and the “trains run on time” without the imposition of authoritarian rule. The right to political self-determination and democratic rights are well below the list of priorities like food and shelter for most people, and the fact that Iraqis are used to authoritarian rule suggests that there would be little resistance among the majority Shiite population for such a regime if that regime was under the control of clerical authority.
    And right now, the forces at work in Iraq make a repressive theocratic government almost inevitable. The “Sistani” government (for want of a better term) will be caught between the overwhelming desire of the Iraqi people for an end to the occupation, and the need to defend itself against the Ba’athist insurgency. The likeliest “solution” will be reliance upon the Shiite militias to deal with the insurgency, but many of those militias are controlled by religious hard-liners like al-Sadr.

  • http://oodja.blogspot.com oodja

    If this were the American Revolution we were talking about, you’d be sourly pronouncing it a dismal failure because we failed to abolish slavery at the same time.
    Ah, yes – the ever-delightful “Iraq 2004 = America 1776″ meme. So who’s George Washington in this tortured analogy? John Adams? Thomas Jefferson? Is Muqtada al-Sadr Alexander Hamilton? Ayatollah Sistani as Benjamin Franklin, perhaps?
    Who gets to play Betsy Ross? Better cover up those ankles, arms, shoulders, and hair though, first (Riverbend has a lovely anecdote about the return of good old-fashioned Islamic values thanks to the American invasion)!
    Good job, team. You helped enable your country to overthrow a secular non-terrorist (albeit brutal) police state and replace it with a theocratic training camp for Al-Qaeda version 2.0. The Founding Fathers would be so proud.

  • http://www.elflife.com/ carsonfire

    Fringeys = Benedict Arnold.
    OK, just kidding. I think.
    The point, anyway, isn’t to draw a perfect parallel with the American Revolution, as you attempt to do yourself for ludicrous reasons, but to show that no great movements in history are cleanly cinematic, which is what the left is demanding. Because this doesn’t have the perfect grace of a well-executed Hollywood script, you’re ready to dismiss the entire effort.
    And this is why it’s laughable when the fringeys claim to be “the reality-based community”. Your sour dismissal of everything is based on SHARED INTERNAL BILE, and not reality or history.

  • http://oodja.blogspot.com oodja

    Because this doesn’t have the perfect grace of a well-executed Hollywood script, you’re ready to dismiss the entire effort.
    No – I dismiss the entire effort because it was a bad idea, full stop. Even if the occupation had gone swimmingly and Baghdad had been magically transformed by our efforts into an all-Arab production of “1776”, I would still have opposed the invasion of Iraq as a matter of principle.
    I wish the Iraqi people no malice, however, and I honestly hope that their country can find a way to a future free of both political and religious tyranny. But right now it ain’t looking good, and that’s not the bile talking, those are simply the facts on the ground.
    Get back to me when people stop dying by the dozens every single day in Iraq, when attacks on our servicemen and women abate, when it’s safe for an American to leave the Green Zone without an armed escort, or when thugs like al-Sadr and zealots like Sistani aren’t calling the shots anymore. Okay?

  • http://www.elflife.com/ carsonfire

    “I would still have opposed the invasion of Iraq as a matter of principle.”
    Now’s your chance: define that principle!
    Will it be: support of the continued oppression, torture, and rape of the Iraqi people? Support for totalitarianism? Heaving jollity at US planes being shot at regularly in the no-fly zone? A fetish for ex-assassin Saddam’s payments to terrorists abroad to keep on killing innocent people? We can’t help asking, since a lot of the very same people who opposed this “as a matter of principle” have public orgasms whenever they think of thugs like Castro.
    Or will it be one of the old canards, like the spurious “illegal war” or the ridiculous “Bush and Cheney are stealing oil for Halliburton”?
    If there is principle behind the left’s motives these days, will you please explain it to us, for once. Apart from BUSH IS HITLER, it makes absolutely no sense to hard-core Republicans, ex-Democrats, and moderates alike.

  • http://oodja.blogspot.com oodja

    Will it be: support of the continued oppression, torture, and rape of the Iraqi people? Support for totalitarianism? Heaving jollity at US planes being shot at regularly in the no-fly zone? A fetish for ex-assassin Saddam’s payments to terrorists abroad to keep on killing innocent people? We can’t help asking, since a lot of the very same people who opposed this “as a matter of principle” have public orgasms whenever they think of thugs like Castro.
    Um, yeah. Contrary to what Sean Hannity tells you, a lot of us liberal-types have no love for any kind of dictator. When the MSM was lionizing Castro as the American-backed “George Washington of Cuba” in the 1950’s, there were good people on the Left and the Right who thought maybe our best bet would be to stop meddling in Caribbean politics and not continually fucking it up by backing the current strongman who just so happened to be supporting our interests at the time. When Castro inevitably turned on us (as they all do, inevitably), we only had ourselves to blame for thinking we were the puppetmasters of the world. Fifty years later and we haven’t learned a damned thing about American power and its limitations.
    Generally speaking I think minding our own business is a fairly good principle – one that is shared not only by liberals but many conservatives as well. Another one is not lying to the citizens who elected you in order to get the war you want. If you think Saddam is evil and you want to rid the world of him, then take your case to the American people and Congress and see what they say. Don’t scare us with bullshit stories about balsa wood drones and nonexistant WMD’s and then tell us it was all worth it because the man had rape rooms. We knew that for years before the war, but no one was going to sign on for a multi-billion dollar war that would cost thousands of American and tens of thousands of Iraqi lives to do anything about that.
    Now don’t get me wrong – if someone attacks us, like al-Qaeda did on September 11th, then they deserve to die. I have nothing against using our power to defend our sovereignty when it is threatened by any nation, rogue nation, or terrorist. But Saddam was contained and represented no real threat to either us or his neighbors. To invade Iraq when we had a real war against terror yet to fight was an act of pure idiocy. You don’t open up more fronts than you can handle, especially when one of those is a war of choice.
    We embolden our enemies by showing them how little it takes to bog down our military. You think Kim Jong-Il will take us seriously from here on in? Or Iran, for that matter? The threat of force is always an order of magnitude more intimidating than its actual display. In two years Bush’s Iraqi Crusade has weakened our military far more than anything Clinton/Gore did during their two terms in charge.
    Enough principles for you? Sorry I disappointed you by not fitting your Fox News mold for anti-war folks…

  • http://www.elflife.com/ carsonfire

    Um, no, I don’t see any principle in there at all, yet. Your last point… showing the enemy how easy it is to get us bogged down… is that the “Iraq is Vietnam” argument? That will be the difference between optimists and cynics: we knew that this would be a long process, but cynics pretend that we’re “bogged down” because it’s a “surprise” that we’re still there because we “told you” we could just snap our fingers and have it done. All spurious.
    As for taking the case to Congress and the American people… this is not a principle on the left’s part, either, but the same tired argument that ignores the reality that Bush went to Congress and got their approval (even Kerry’s); he went to the people and had something like 70% approval in the polls for the Iraq action in the beginning (before the left began running with the “Iraq is Vietnam” line); he even went to the United Nations. Bush told us that we should do something about Saddam *before* he becomes an imminent threat; the left lies to us and tells us that he says that Saddam *was* an imminent threat; we remember the whole history of Iraq/US relations, but the left lies to us and tells us that all anybody ever talked about was WMD. WMD was all the *left* ever talked about.
    In other words, in the midst of the left complaining that we should have a debate on the issue, we *had* the debate. The left *lost* the debate. They lost the debate, and they’ve been losing elections since.
    At some point, you have to discover some real principles, and that will lead you to a better, more persuasive argument. You don’t have one, yet.

  • http://www.thex.com/rd/ richard dows

    I’m just curious here, what are we going to do if Iraq declares itself an Islamic state, then in a year or so makes it illegal for other parties to run, then gives whoever is in power a lifetime “term”.
    Is this what we have been paying our taxes for? Is this what our soldiers have been dying for? So the iraqi’s can choose another single party system which could be even WORSE than what was there in the first place?

  • http://www.elflife.com/ carsonfire

    So the solution to protecting democracy is to never have it in the first place? Flawless logic.
    My first instinct is to dismiss the rant-like questions, but for fun:
    1. You pay your taxes for the country’s defense. The president argued that proactive action was necessary against a regime that was paying terrorists abroad, shooting at our planes in violation of cease-fire agreements, and was strongly suspected of pursuing weapons of mass destruction, in order to defend the country. There was a debate, but the left lost that debate.
    2. Our soldiers are brave men and women, and from what I’ve heard from them, they have a much better handle on these issues than anyone on the left does. Talk to them if you need further clarification.
    3. This question begs the argument; you assume that Iraq is headed towards something worse by virtue of your ability to wring your hands. You could just as easily foresee doom for any ambitious movement in history. The reality of the vote seems to contradict the fear of one powerful totalitarian regime taking over, as the vote was split between many parties, as it tends to happen in more mult-party democracies, like Britain.