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Elections Don’t Justify Iraq War

Amitabh Pal

 by The Progressive

Years after the debate was seemingly settled on the folly of the
Iraq War, some in the media are using the recent Iraqi parliamentary
elections to excuse the invasion.

The Newsweek cover on the voting crows "Victory at Last." Ex-Wall
Street Journal alum (and, I'm embarrassed to admit, a fellow schoolmate
of mine) Tunku Varadarajan asserts at the Daily Beast, "What Iraq has achieved in five years is a political wonder, and those who would deny that are being very, very dishonest."

And the New York Times resident Middle East expert becomes all gooey
on seeing a picture of an Iraqi mother having her son put her vote in
the ballot box. "Former President George W. Bush's gut instinct that
this region craved and needed democracy was always right," gushes Thomas Friedman. "Democracy was never going to have a virgin birth in a place like Iraq, which has never known any such thing."

Friedman ought to read his own newspaper more carefully. People in
the Middle East itself have been quite unimpressed with the voting.

"Elections across this region have long been viewed as not much more
than window dressing to tidy up the image of authoritarian leaders and
absolute monarchs eager for greater legitimacy," the New York Times reports.
"That perception, combined with Election Day violence, American
occupation and Iranian influence, left few analysts and commentators in
the Middle East declaring the elections a success and Iraq on the road
to stability."

Now, I do admire the courage of Iraqi voters. And the situation in
Iraq is more secure than at any time in the last few years. But none of
this even remotely justifies the Iraq War and its toll.

Estimates of Iraqi fatalities since Bush's invasion
range from 100,000 to upward of 1 million. Millions of Iraqis were
either forced to flee abroad or become refugees in their own country.
And crimes against women escalated dramatically in the aftermath. To
glibly ignore or dismiss this human wreckage is unconscionable.

"Always we defend these miserable results with the same refrain: Do you want the Taliban back? Do you want Saddam back?" writes Robert Fisk in The London Independent in a piece entitled, "Once Again, a Nation Walks Through Fire to Give the West its ‘Democracy.' "

Besides, I thought that the reason for invading Iraq was to get rid of those dreaded Weapons of Mass Destruction. (Read Harper's hilarious satire
on the Bush Administration's excuses for the war.) "Democracy" was
never much more than an afterthought for the Bush team, used as a
pretext for its misadventure after the fabled WMDs turned out to be
fairy tale creations.

"To influence public opinion, to counter criticism, the United
States came up with a second reason to invade Iraq-that it had invaded
Iraq to advance democracy and human rights," Iranian Nobel Peace
Prize-winner Shirin Ebadi told me in 2004. "North Americans do not understand that you do not throw down human rights like bombs on the Iraqis."

We would all do well to pay heed to Ebadi's wisdom.


© 2021 The Progressive
Amitabh Pal

Amitabh Pal

Amitabh Pal is managing editor of The Progressive. He has interviewed the Dalai Lama, Mikhail Gorbachev, Jimmy Carter and John Kenneth Galbraith for the magazine.

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