Eating the Apple

Eve did it. Adam did it. Now it's my turn to take a bite. Why not? Hey! It's delicious.

Monday, December 12, 2005

'Democracy' in Iraq

Now the great test of Iraqi democracy has begun. Today some people have voted by absentee ballot. This includes prisoners who have not been convicted. (I wonder who received the vote of Saddam Hussain.)

We will know soon whether this great experiment with democracy will work. Can the new government rule effectively? Will the new government gain the respect of the people? Can it cope with the insurgency? Will it be stable?

Our own history should have taught us many lessons.

Elections do not a democracy make. The Soviet Union had elections. And all of the citizens were required to vote. But no imagines that the Soviet Union was a democratic country. In the age of slavery and Jim Crow, the United States was not a democratic country. The U.S. did not become a democratic country until the 1960's when the Voring Rights Act was passed.

Constitutions do not a democracy make. A country's learders must be willing to abide by the constitution. Time and again, governments of the United States have used unconstitutional means to meet some crisis, real or pretend. This started in he early 1800's with the infamous Alien and Sedition Acts.

Political parties do not an democracy make. More than 100 political parties contested the first election in Iraq. That is too many. It is a recipe for political paralysis. In Germany's Weimar Republic some twenty five political parties contested the elections. No political party could rule effectively until 1933 when the Nazi Party took power.

The trouble in Iraq lies in the fact that the new constitution has not healed the country. Instead, the electoral process has laid bare the bitter divisions in that society. The new constitution, which favors the interests of the Shia over the Sunni, may become a bone of contention. Whatever the outcome of the election, the insurgency is not likely to abate.

The Shia have suffered severly from the insurgency. Policemen, parlimentarians, and government officials have been assassinated. Shite mosques have been attacked. Shia weddings have been attacked. Even funerals have been attacked. Not even the dead can rest in Iraq.

The Shia have shown remarkable forbearance up to now. But someday, those who have lost friends and loved ones will demand a bitter accounting. The insurgents are only inviting retribution for their atrocities. Ans it will be the Sunni who will suffer.

The likely response to entrenched disruption and disorder will be the emergence of a strongman. This strongman may, like Hitler, be elected under the aegis of a democratic process, but then impose dictatorial powers. The new rulers will not have to burn a Reichstag to justify extraordinary powers. Hitler waited three months before establishing the first concentration camp at Dachau. The new Iraqi strongman will not have to wait. We already know of two 'secret' prisons where suspected insurgents are tortured. That is the 'strange fruit' of Bush's ill-considered war.

All this can happen under a facade of democracy. George Bush can hardly complain about the excesses of a new Iraqi strongman. That would be admitting the failure of his adventure in Iraq. How can Bush complain after gutting the Bill or Rights?

An Iraqi strongman may unleash the Shiite militias against the Sunni. Since the Shia constitute sixty percent of the population of Iraq, the decision to crack down on the Sunni might be a democratic decision. Then American troops will be needed for years to come in order to protect the Sunni from the democratically-elected Shiite government. That would be a most ironic outcome.

Perhaps some day Amreicans will ask, "Why did we oust one strongman only to install another?"


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