The insurgents will pronounce the elections illegitimate, and the violence will continue. The only difference is that the insurgents will have a new set of targets (the winners) to shoot and bomb.
I’m not suggesting that Iraq would be better off without the elections or that the Iraqi people were better off under Saddam Hussein. Far from it, although he did do a better job of delivering electricity. No, I’m simply forewarning against the American politicians’ tendency to paint too rosy a picture.
The president will crow like a bantam rooster and claim to have delivered freedom to the Iraqi people. They are a long way from that at the present time. They won’t really be free until we leave the country, if then, and there is no assurance that the Bush administration intends to leave Iraq ever.
These people who are to be elected have the job of writing a Constitution. That’s never easy, even for the geniuses and statesmen who wrote ours. They, however, did not have tribal and sectarian differences to deal with, and they had had plenty of experience in self-government under British rule. They had only one really divisive issue – slavery – and they compromised on that. Furthermore, nobody was trying to kill them as they were writing it.
The Iraqis will have a tougher job. They have had no experience at all in self-government, and their culture favors revenge over compromise. One of the ground rules that has to be accepted for democracy to work is that the losers agree not to shoot the winners and vice versa. You think I jest. That’s the way of many countries in the world today. That’s why in many African countries, for example, there was one man, one vote, one time.
And, of course, people will be trying to kill these legislators and their families, as well as our soldiers and those of the Iraqi interim government. In other words, the elections won’t do squat to stop the guerrilla war we’ve gotten ourselves into.
The question for Americans to ask is, How many American deaths can you tolerate before demanding that we pull out? Is the magic number 2,000 or 3,000 or 5,000 or 10,000? You can be certain that as long as American troops remain in Iraq, somebody will be trying to kill them.
What I hope Americans will soon realize is that whether we leave Iraq next year or five years from now, the results for Iraqis will be the same. We cannot govern their country for them, nor can we force-feed them our values. We cannot defeat an insurgency when our very presence is the cause of that insurgency. We have already done what we had the power to do – topple a dictator. We should start planning for a withdrawal right now.
Alas, my guess is that the Bush administration plans to blackmail or coerce the new Iraqi government into granting the United States permanent basing rights. If that’s true, I hope the new Shi’ite government in Iraq disappoints Bush and tells us to go home. The top Shi’ite leader, while he has favored elections that he knows the Shi’ites will win, has not expressed any fondness or affection for the United States whatsoever. The new Iraqi government will be much closer to Iran than to the United States, and as you know, we are not exactly buddies with the Iranians.
I try not to be pessimistic, but realistic. Propaganda aside, our actions have created the almost universal hostility toward the United States in the Arab world. Our actions have been to support Israel 100 percent while it kills and brutalizes the Palestinians and refuses to negotiate with them. Our actions have been that we have killed Iraqis and destroyed their country in the process. Those actions and the problems they have created are beyond the reach of any public-relations campaign or political spin.