Ave, Iraq!

Good morning to all Troppo Armadillians on this last day of January! And I am finally out of my major revisions to my novel, Malvolio’s Revenge–and just before I restart work on my new one, The Tyrant’s Nephew–so thought I should finally come back to do the occasional post. Sorry for the long silence–I’ve simply been overwhelmed with work, with family things(the boys have been on holiday till today) and with travel–a trip up to Brisbane(for an awards ceremony–I was nominated in 3 different categories, but didn’t win, ah well!) and then down to Sydney in the one week!
I wanted to say today too how good it felt to go to the Web today and see the high voter turn-out in Iraq. It is simply thrilling to see how brave people are there; in the words of Michael Ignatieff yesterday in the London Observer, this has been the most fraught election ever, with millions of people attempted to be held to ransom by gangs of vicious, murderous thugs. Well, their bluff has been called well and truly; their attempt to prolong the Baa’thist reign of terror has failed miserably. Ave, Iraq!

It seems to me that the Iraqi people have proven not only that they’re brave, but also that in the last couple of years–horrible and difficult though they’ve been–they have been quietly moving away from what Arthur Chrenkoff has called the ‘post-totalitarian stress syndrome’. This is something they have done for themselves–though the circumstances were obviously facilitated by the Coalition, no-one really could predict with any accuracy what would happen. No American or even Iraqi interim govt words of encouragement could force people to the polling booth; people had to find the strength, the determination, within themselves. This result to me shows that Iraqis have moved out from the shadow of Saddam and his decades long dictatorship; they have made their first decision as free people, by themselves, looking forward to better times. Who could fail to be thrilled by that? Who could fail to be thrilled by the fact so many women went to the polls, too? Who could fail to be thrilled to know that the vile Baathist bullies and bloodsoaked terrorists have been dealt a massive and humiliating psychological blow? I predict that the ripples in the Arab world will be immense!
Nobody knows what the future holds in Iraq. There are many imponderables. Iraq is not out of the woods yet by a long way. But this is a great day indeed. No doubt the terrorists and insurgents will hit back, and try to punish people; but their days are numbered now. I believe–I hope–that the Iraqi insurgents will begin to give up now; this is a much more telling blow than the capture of Saddam and the killing of his horrible sons, which after all was effected by the Americans. This is something the Iraqi people themselves have done; and it’s going to be hard for even the die-hards to argue with that. Of course psychos like Zarqawi and his foreign patsies and homicide suicide bombers will keep going, at least for a while (what else can they do with their miserable, unimportant lives, now they’ve tasted world-wide limelight?), but Iraq might well get mighty small for them. A terrorist outfit can keep bombing for years, with only a small minority, sometimes even just dozens, of active members(as in the case of ETA), but they have little chance of actually achieving their aims, especially if they’re not even nationally-based.
So ave to Iraq, and Iraqis, for this great day, and the very best of all good hopes go with you. There is absolutely no reason why people in the Middle East are any different to anyone else in their need for a decent, peaceful life, free of fear, intimidation and the secret police knock on the door in the middle of the night. I’ve never had to fight for my right to vote, never had to brave anything more annoying on my way to the polling booth than umpteen how to vote cards thrust into my hand, and so I can only salute the brave and spirited and hopeful people of Iraq for a historic turning-point in the life of their country.

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TimT
2022 years ago

It’s early days yet, but good luck to all the Iraqi people; I hope it works out for them.

wen
wen
2022 years ago

My index finger’s good and blue as per Andrew Sullivan’s suggestion. (via Norm)

http://normblog.typepad.com/normblog/

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Sophie

I agree it looks promising, although the percentage actually voting seems to have been revised down to 60%, and even that is said to involve some “guesswork”. Nevertheless it’s impressive given the level of violence the terrorist insurgency has been exerting to sabotage the ballot. Keep in mind that US presidential elections typically only achieve voter turnouts of around 50% (although the last one was somewhat higher).

Apparently Iraqis haven’t been reading the opinions of Marxist historians or their devoted admirers. Or perhaps they have, and recognise hypocritical bullshit when they see it. After all, when you’ve lived under Saddam all your life, you’re unlikely to be impressed by the perspicacity of a historian who continued to worship Stalinist Russia after the terror and gulags became known (albeit that Hobsbawm now gives utterly unconvincing self-serving excuses for having done so).

Of course, it’s quite unlikely, given Iraq’s recent history and ethnic and religious divisions, that the new Iraqi polity will bear a close resemblance to a human rights-protecting western liberal democracy, at least in its initial phases. But this election is a promising start. Liberal democratic habits and mindset have to begin somewhere, and the current process, with all its imperfections and American hamfistedness, is the only way I can think of whereby it can begin.

Only this morning at Davos, the UN’s Kofi Annan highlighted the fact that poor countries in Africa and Asia were unlikely to achieve fairly modest economic and social development goals set only a few years ago, mostly because of what he labelled as “conflict and poor governance”. That’s polite code for ethnic, tribal and religious violence along with entrenched corruption. Until those problems are addressed, no amount of foreign aid is going to make any real difference. Hence, some sort of program to introduce the beginnings of liberal democratic institutions and the rule of law in such regions must surely be the starting point. Of course, whether they can be successfully seeded and nurtured at gunpoint is the sixty four million dollar question, but it’s difficult to see what other realistic choice existed.

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

The big worry is that if the Iraqi people get Allawi again and little change then the government’s legitimacy will (rightly) be questioned.

Rob
Rob
2022 years ago

I’m not anti-American – quite the reverse in fact – but I always struggled with the reationale and morality of the US intervention. I tried very hard to believe it was the right thing to do, and still haven’t managed to persuade myself. However, even if it was not the right thing, yesterday’s election indicates that it may turn out to have been a good thing. (I realised a quite a while ago that there is not an easy equivalence between what’s right and what’s good.)

What I have found most depressing is the determination of so many in the media to talk the elections down, almost as if they were wanting and willing democracy to fail in Iraq just to spite the Americans.

Great to see you back and blogging, Sophie.

Confused
Confused
2022 years ago

Enlighten me Mark. How is it that Allawi would be illegitimate if he got elected? (Have you got Democrat talking points already?)

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

If Allawi’s group gets a minority of the vote but he is nevertheless co-opted to serve as PM again. Actually, the talking point comes from the Fin Review (no link available).

Tiny Tyrant
2022 years ago

This election, though a wonderful positive step (which the U.S. were dragged into supporting), will have less effect on the insurgents (and their actions) than the departure of U.S. troops.

Iraqis can expect at least two more years of occupation and this timeframe is likely only as correct as the U.S. Government’s other public statements concerning Iraq i.e. not very.

Rob,
Have a quick squizz at the U.S. internet media, they are talking the elections up (or are you talking about the lead-up?).

Rob
Rob
2022 years ago

TT – True, I was really referring to the lead up. I wonder if the ‘talking up’ will last, though. The Iraqis have a tough road ahead of them – it’s hard to imagine less fertile ground for the planting of democracy. I’d like to think that the best wishes of every decent person on the planet were with them, but there won’t be any shortage of comentators watching from a safe distance and celebrating every stumble, especially if it can be made to look like the US’ fault.

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

“Apparently Iraqis haven’t been reading the opinions of Marxist historians or their devoted admirers. Or perhaps they have, and recognise hypocritical bullshit when they see it. After all, when you’ve lived under Saddam all your life, you’re unlikely to be impressed by the perspicacity of a historian who continued to worship Stalinist Russia after the terror and gulags became known (albeit that Hobsbawm now gives utterly unconvincing self-serving excuses for having done so).”

I’m not taking the bait, Ken.

“Of course, it’s quite unlikely, given Iraq’s recent history and ethnic and religious divisions, that the new Iraqi polity will bear a close resemblance to a human rights-protecting western liberal democracy, at least in its initial phases. But this election is a promising start. Liberal democratic habits and mindset have to begin somewhere, and the current process, with all its imperfections and American hamfistedness, is the only way I can think of whereby it can begin.”

I mostly agree with this, support the elections, and largely agree with Rob’s position as well.

Confused
Confused
2022 years ago

“The assembly will also serve as the national legislature during the transitional period and exercise oversight over the executive officials that it selects. The members will choose a president and two deputy presidents from their ranks to serve as heads of state. This three-member presidency council will have two weeks to choose a prime minister, and the prime minister will then have one month to form a council of ministers. The ministers will be subject to a vote of confidence from the assembly before assuming their posts.”

murph
2022 years ago

[Bahnisch] a classical liberal

guffaw

Evil Pundit
2022 years ago

It gets even better. The main function of this National Assembly is to formulate a Constitution for Iraq — then there will be more plebiscites so that the country ends up with a government of its own making:

Elections Calendar

Jan. 30, 2005

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Um, I’m confused now. I didn’t realise my credentials as a classical liberal had ever been issued.

I don’t really want to bag Allawi, though I could if I were inclined. I think arguing over my politics and my opinion of Allawi is off topic for this thread.

Confused
Confused
2022 years ago

My apologies mark. I recalled you were quite interested in the state of liberalism within the Liberal party last year. A thread memorable by your defence of Jeff Kennett. I thought you had sympathies in that direction. My mistake.

Confused
Confused
2022 years ago

Coming hot on the heels of your revealing insights into German prostitutes, I look forward to your detailed post on the Iraqi elections drawing extensively from the legitimacy insights of the Financial Review.

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Whatever, Confused. I look forward to your next comment. I doubt that I want to say very much about the current situation in Iraq actually, which is why I tossed off a quickie comment based on a morning’s read of the Fin. Now we seem to be having a discussion about my political leanings which is quite irrelevant to this thread.

I am indeed sympathetic to social liberalism and thought Jeff K had the right idea in some areas of social policy, but I’m afraid I’m not much of an economic liberal.

MarkL
MarkL
2022 years ago

Well said, Sophie, very well said indeed. For a nation, freed only a short time ago from a classic national socialist dictatorship to be able to hold the plethora of local elections that have been having over the past year, and then to hold this, is remarkable.

It is thrilling to see a nation of 25,000,000 following Afghanistan down the path of freely elected government, Doubtless they will adapt it to their own requirements – everyone does that – but the core of it is a freely elected government.

This, on top of the growing evidence of impressive economic growth in Iraq bodes well for future of the Iraqi people.

There is a good chance that 2008 will see Iraq a much more stable nation, the leading Arab economy, and a free nation to boot. The national socialists in Syria and the unspeakable Mullahs in Tehran will not be happy campers right now, with a growing democracy next door.

That adds an extra layer of good news. So does the thought that Zarkawi and his murdering thugs have just received a very severe defeat at the hands of the Iraqi people, who they have been murdering so many of. Shades of Algeria in 1995!

MarkL
Canberra

Confused
Confused
2022 years ago

Great Mark (Bahnisch)! So I can summarise your contribution to the momentous events in Iraq as this: you question the legitimacy of a democratic process that produces a leader not to your liking. Perfect.

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

No. If a deal is done which imposes a leader who has only received a minority of the vote, then the process may lack legitimacy. But it’s got nothing to do with whether I like Allawi or not, the test will be how the Iraqi people react – keeping in mind that this is a hypothetical at this point. Anyway, au revoir, Confused, I’ve got other stuff to do.

cs
cs
2022 years ago

“…the perspicacity of a historian who continued to worship Stalinist Russia after the terror and gulags became known (albeit that Hobsbawm now gives utterly unconvincing self-serving excuses for having done so).”

Hi Ken. Any evidence to support these assertions, particularly the first one. My recollection is that EJH was chair of the UK’s famous communist historians’ group in ’56-57, and a leader in the internal protest.

So deeply did he ‘worship’, none of his books were published in Russian, or any other Soviet language, during the communist period (except his book on jazz, which was translated into Czech).

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

1956-57 was very late in the piece to begin waking up to the horrors of Stalinism. Much was known about Stalin long before Krushchev denounced him in that year, except by those like Hobsbawm who remained wilfully blind in the face of atrocity and mass murder, in the hope/belief that you couldn’t make a workers’ paradise without breaking a few eggs.

In any event, the extent to which Hobsbawm ever truly woke up to the evils of Stalinism (or communism more generally) is problematic at the very least. As an admittedly unreliable source (an article by David Pryce-Jones in New Criterion) puts it (http://www.newcriterion.com/archive/21/jan03/hobsbawm.htm):

“The Cold War saw him become a spokesman for Communism, and a visitor to the Soviet Union and its satellites. In this memoir he continues to glide over Stalin and the criminality of Stalinism. Communists allegedly did not recognize the extent of the Soviet camps. Why ever not? Everybody else did. The United States, he holds, was responsible for waging the Cold War, winning what he considers an undeserved victory. An unfathomable contradiction emerges: the Soviet Union was a superpower inspiring a sixth of the globe yet helplessly weak in the face of the supposedly blind and selfish United States.

For Hobsbawm, Khrushchev’s denunciation of Stalin at the Twentieth Party Congress in 1956 was a horror. Khrushchev wantonly sullied the October revolution and its dream. (The implication is that if he had only kept his mouth shut Stalinist criminality could have endured indefinitely.) An immediate consequence was the Hungarian uprising that same year, put down by the Soviets with the usual mixture of duplicity and brute force. Most of Hobsbawm’s friends left the Communist Party. He himself made a point of staying, out of pride, the refusal to admit that he might be in the wrong. He has the tiresome habit of quoting at length from his own writings, but he carefully makes sure not to quote the letter he published on 9 November 1956 in the Communist Daily Worker defending the Soviet onslaught on Hungary. “While approving, with a heavy heart, of what is now happening in Hungary, we should therefore also say frankly that we think the USSR should withdraw its troops from the country as soon as this is possible.”

cs
cs
2022 years ago

Ken, I don’t know enough of the history to really know how “Much was known about Stalin long before Krushchev denounced him in that year” … although I know enough to be sure that not “everyone else [exept EJH] did [know],” as Pyrce-Jones exaggerates. I suppose in some decades to come, “everyone” will have known that George Bush and John Howard were also inveterate liars. In any event, it is fanciful to suggest that “the extent to which Hobsbawm ever truly woke up to the evils of Stalinism … is problematic at the very least”.

Pryce-Jones presents as little other than a Cold War polemicist. The suggestion that Eric would have preferred Nikita to have kept his mouth shut is simply slandourous, given it was the historians’ group that led the rebellion against the UK party’s attempt to keep it quiet. The idea of any sort of fair game going on here is completely given away by Pryce-Jones quoting a party-published letter of 9 Nov 56 demanding the USSR remove its troops from Hungary, as if it an indictment, while neglecting to quote the more well-known letter of 18 Nov, which was refused party publication and subsequently published in the New Statesman, and which read in part:

“The exposure of grave crimes and abuses in the USSR and the recent revolt of workers and intellectuals against the pseudo-Communist bureaucracies and police systems of Poland and Hungary, have shown that … we have based our political analysis on a false presentation of the facts … this past must be utterly repudiated.”

More generally, you will be rather hard pressed to read any history of communism or the soviet union by EJH with “a heavy scepticism”, as he never wrote any post-1914 history until after the USSR had collapsed, precisely because he knew he would be immediately denounced as a party heretic. Caught between party dogmatism and his professional discipline, he did not currupt the discipline.

As for EJH’s continuing membership of the CP, this is a perennial magnet for right-wingers, a personality peculiarity by which he is perhaps better known in the media than anything else – apart, perhaps, from his refusal to wear blue jeans. Yet the only office he ever held was the brief period as chairman of the historians’ group (comprising one of the century’s most distinguished group of historians), after which he lingered as a dissident, uninvolved ordinary member, refusing to toe the party line and subscribing, as he put it in hs autobiography, “to something like spiritual membership if the Italian CP”.

I’m inclined to accept Eric’s explanation about his unwillingness to give the Cold War warriors the satisfaction of his ex-communist scalp, being of Irish descent myself. But an associated pet theory is that staying in the party combined with his Jewishness to consolidate his social ‘outsider’ mentality, which I suspect is always an advantage for a historian … all of whom, incidentally, should be read with healthy ‘scepticism’.

derrida derider
derrida derider
2022 years ago

Yawn – who cares whether some old Pommy academic was a gull of Stalin or not? Get back on topic.

I can’t believe the sort of obliviousness to inconvenient facts that this sort of post represents. True, the elections seem to have gone much better than we could have hoped (though it’s early days yet), and we should be thankful for that. But these events were not Bush’s preference – he originally wanted Ahmed Chalabi’s people to write the new constitution, and more recently he wanted to delay the elections further. Sistani of course has the yanks by the balls, so their hearts and minds have followed.

Even if this flawed election proves a turning point for Iraq (which of course is not certain at all), that doesn’t mean the whole thing was worth it. You can arrange a lot of elections for $300B dollars. Not to mention the non-monetary costs (massive recruiting for al Qaeda, forcing Iran to go nuclear, destruction of alliances which the US will need in the future, creation of a pro-torture faction in the US, widespread official lieing going unpunished, damage to the international rule of law, tieing down the US army so it can’t tackle NK and others now if it needs to, having to entrust your balls to an Iranian Sh’ite cleric, etc. Oh, and the small matter of ~100k Iraqi lives).

But celebrate away – you warmongers have had little else to cheer about in this miserable exercise.

Evil Pundit
2022 years ago

What a load of waffle from a sore loser. The elections were a great triumph — which is of course why you’re trying to put them down — and the rest of your nonsense has as much relation to reality as the fabricated Lancet study of Iraqi deaths that you cite.

You lost in the Australian election, you lost in the American election, and you just lost again in the Iraqi election. It must suck to be you.

Ken Miles
2022 years ago

fabricated Lancet study

For those readers who don’t know what EP means when he refers to this Lancet study… basically he referring to a survey of excess deaths in Iraq which indicated that the loss of life was potentially very large. This doesn’t fit very well with EP’s ideology, hence it must be fabricated.

Peter Kemp
Peter Kemp
2022 years ago

It is correct to say that elections should have, as a final goal, sovereignty. If, despite current electoral flaws, Iraqi people regain their sovereignty (and that means a Shia majority must flow from this election), then continued US presence in substantial form will render that new sovereignty null and void. If Allawi becomes PM again, I agree with Mark B, it will stink to high heaven, especially if his slate gets 15%, meaning he could teach Joh BP a trick or two.

If the newly elected body does not insist on a planned withdrawal, then it will be fair to assume that such a government has been nobbled, possibly driving more and more Shia elements, along with the Sadre group, into supporting Sunni insurgents against US forces.

DD is correct. Sistani has the US by the balls and the ability to call out most of the Shia population to violently oppose US nobbling of a future government. It has been, in fact, his influence that has prevented Shia retaliation for Sunni atrocities against Shias so far, knowing that in a relatively fair election the Shias have to come up trumps politically.

Those who oppose the inexorable rise of Sistani’s proteges, will inevitably lose, but it may take, sadly, a civil war which is perhaps arguably if not cynically, America’s policy and only excuse to remain.

wbb
wbb
2022 years ago

Christ! The Shia done been calling for elections since Day 1. Sophie writes like the US just spent two years teaching ’em what a vote was. And now they can sweetly queue up all by their cuddly little selves. Post totalitarian stress syndrome? What about the post shock and awe invasion and then having the shit kicked out of you syndrome.
If anyone thinks Iraq’s going to elect a Shia government that then asks the USA to depart they’re dreaming. It will be rigged just so. Iraq is the front-line in the GWOT afterall. ie next door to Alice – er – Iran.

MarkL
MarkL
2022 years ago

My dear derridaderider, a question or two about your non-monetary costs comments…

“massive recruiting for al Qaeda,” Where did you get the data behind this comment from? I’d be most interested to see it, because the trendline in AQ attacks has been declining even when 100% of their own claims to have done something (anything) are accepted as valid. (Including their triumphant capture of an action doll recently) Where are these people going to, to join this organisation?

forcing Iran to go nuclear, (the Iranians commenced their nuclear program with French assistance in 1992 IIRC, and Bushehr is a Russian reactor with built with Franco-German assistance. Construction began in the late 90s. How does this link to the Bush regime and the Americans? Or is it the Clinton regime you are blaming for the mess, as it occurred on their watch?

destruction of alliances which the US will need in the future,

Which Treaties of Alliance have been cancelled? NATO is intact and has many troops deployed to support the freely elected government in Afghanistan, so it is not NATO. The Japanese, Koreans, and us are all working in Iraq, so it is not the Japanese, Korean or ANZUS Alliance. Which US alliances have been ‘destroyed’?

creation of a pro-torture faction in the US,

What is your definition of torture, please? WHo are the members of this faction? Why do people put up with them, if they have fornmed so open a cabal? I mean, if the yanks can deal with the KKK, why can’t they deal with a group who publicly advocate torture? When and where has this faction met? What are their pronouncements? Why do they promote torture, and who do they want tortured, and why?

widespread official lieing going unpunished,

What lies and by whom, and why is an independent judiciary, ably assisted by the media, unable to punish them?

damage to the international rule of law,

Um, what is this? Who enforces it and how? In a world built on the concept of post-Wesphalian national sovereignty, how can a supra-sovereign ‘rule of international law’ be enforced?

tieing down the US army so it can’t tackle NK and others now if it needs to,

So taking out dictatorships is bad in Afghanistan and Iraq, but good in NK? Why the difference? Which others? Iran, Cuba perhaps? Zimbabwe? What differentiates a good fascist dictatorship you accept, and a bad fascist dictatorship you do not? Why do you accept ANY dictatorships at all?

having to entrust your balls to an Iranian Sh’ite cleric, etc.

The Najaf school Shia are a majority in Iraq. This was a democratic election. The majority usually has a strong say under such circumstances. And someone appears to have convinced Sistani to try and include the Sunni and the Kurds. Precisely how does Sistani have the Yanks by the cluster?

Oh, and the small matter of ~100k Iraqi lives).

Hmm. 100,000 dead caused by US action alone is roughly 4000 a month or so. Why has nobody noticed? If true, and let us assume a vast new mass grave is being filled every month somewhere, why is nobody reporting it? If not true, why is this more important than displacing a dictator responsible for known numbers of deaths an order of magnitude or so larger? How come the Iraqi’s appeared to be rather chuffed with this election thingy if the yanks are killing 4000 of them a month?

I am asking as I am quite puzzled by where you get your info, and why you appear to have assembled a grab-bag of slogans rather than a coherent argument.

MarkL
Canberra

mars
mars
2022 years ago

MarkL asks: “What is your definition of torture, please?”

Well I suppose it depends which side of the cattle prod you’re on. “Torture” is such a vague term isn’t it? Emotive too! The type of thing that can be twisted and spun to suit your agenda.

Yeah, using the word “torture” is a sure way of getting an emotional reaction. Sort of like using “democracy”.

trackback
2022 years ago

The Silence of the Right

Over at Groupthink Central, Tim is taken aback by

trackback
2022 years ago

The unsecret order of the blue finger

The worst thing about being out of action last week was that I didn’t get a chance to congratulate the Iraqi people on their election and their rejection of the policies of the Bush Administration. By insisting on elections back…