Friday, January 28, 2005

Brief notes on the Iraq election

In a recent newsgroup post (the link is to one iteration of it -- there are others on various groups), "libertarian Republican" gadfly Eric Dondero asks: "Not a peep out of the Anti-War Libertarians about Sunday's Elections in Iraq. Why is that you think?" He then proceeds to construct a bizarre conspiracy theory in which fascists have infiltrated the libertarian movement (presumably over the course of decades) in order to stymie the spread of freedom at just this particular, pivotal point in history.

Leaving aside the fact that anti-war libertarians haven't been unanimously silent on the subject -- Harry Browne and tex of UnFairWitness have both commented at length, for example -- and leaving aside Dondero's pretty stilted view on what such silence might portend, it's a reasonable question. So I'll try to answer it.

The Republican Surrealists and their fellow travelers in the War Party have no problem talking about the Iraq elections. After all, their modus operandi is to make big claims and ebullient predictions. If those predictions fail to come true ("WMD!" "Welcomed as liberators!" "When we catch Saddam, the resistance will collapse!"), then they simply deny that they ever predicted any such things, or claim that the predictions were true and that it's just that damn leftie media lying to us, or that the predictions didn't come true because the rest of us slackers didn't click our heels together hard enough while wishing.

Anti-war libertarians, on the other hand, are pretty much stuck with the facts. Reality-based community and all, you know.

So, here are some facts:

- Nearly 200 slates are competing in Sunday's election in Iraq. Of those, only two of them -- the neo-Ba'athist slate of US-supported "interim prime minister" Iyad Allawi and the primary Shiite slate blessed by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani -- have received significant attention. To the extent that any polls have been done, they show the neo-Ba'athists at about 10% and the Shiite slate at about 20%. In other words, if the polls are right, the real action is going to take place as Allawi and the Ayatollah try to put together coalitions composed of a bunch of groups none of us have ever heard of. And how can anyone intelligently comment on how that will turn out?

- Most of the actual candidates on these 200 slates are ... anonymous. Their names haven't been publicly released, they won't be named on the ballot and they're not publicly campaigning. It's kind of hard to analyze the platforms or prospects of unnamed candidates.

- Nobody knows what the Sunnis are going to do. Their religious leaders have pronounced a boycott. The Islamist terrorists have threatened to murder those who vote. Will they stay home, out of support for the boycott or from fear of death? Or will they defy expectations and turn out? I don't know. Neither do you. Neither to the Republican Surrealists.

- The locations of the polling places are being kept secret until the last minute. Cars will be banned from the streets on election day. Despite the alleged presence of observers from a number of countries, we haven't been told anything about how -- or by whom -- the votes will be counted.. The potential for skulduggery is nearly limitless. We don't even know yet exactly how the Republicans stole Ohio, for the love of Pete. How the hell are we supposed to know what they're up to in Badghad?

Here's the bottom line: I hope that there's a good turnout for the elections. I hope that Sunday doesn't turn into a festival of terror. I hope that the vote produces an outcome that Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds alike can live with, and that the immediate result of the election is a request, honored by the White House, for withdrawal of US troops from Iraq over a reasonably quick timeline.

But I'm not going to predict those things.

I'm also not going to predict an abysmal turnout, blood in the streets, an election fixed on behalf of the neo-Ba'athists by the US or an escalation of the war.

I don't know what's going to happen. And unlike the Republican Surrealists, I'm not going to pretend in advance that I do know what's coming, or pretend afterward that it didn't happen, or that if it happened, it's everyone's fault but that of those who created the situation in the first place. It's not my job to ratify the fantasies of the War Party, and frankly I'm not up to the task of predicting how badly their hubris might backfire on them this time. If history is any indication, even the most dire prediction would be an underestimation.

So, Mr. Dondero, if you're looking for a bedtime story, please get thee back to the lap of Hans Christian Wolfowitz or Mother Goosestep Cheney. Over here, we do non-fiction.

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