Sunday, January 30, 2005

A critical moment for Iraq

It's afternoon in Iraq, and reports seem to indicate that the election is proceeding fairly smoothly despite the attacks everyone knew would accompany today's voting.

So far, no coordinated wave of terror has managed to emerge and close the process down. That, in itself, constitutes a victory for several parties -- not least among them the Bush administration, which made a pretty ballsy bet on its ability to maintain security and convince the Iraqi people to risk their lives for the opportunity to begin choosing their own form of government.

Not to minimize or disrespect the 27 dead so far today. Far from it. If this thing succeeds, those 27 (and any others killed today) die as functional, willing martyrs for their country's future rather than as just the latest victims in a merry-go-round of terror and reprisal.

It's not a lock. The election isn't over, and when it is over, assuming that it continues to go well, there will still be several questions. Was turnout sufficient to confer anything resembling legitimacy upon the results? Were the elections honestly conducted? Can the constitutional convention which they are choosing succeed in its mission to frame a constitution that will bring Sunni, Shiite and Kurd willingly under the same rubric of polity?

But those are questions yet to be answered, and right now it's gut check time for the anti-war movement. There are some among us -- and you know who you are -- who are praying for a fiasco today. You've allowed your opposition to the war and to the occupation (an opposition I have shared and still share) to bring you down to the level of the Busheviks. You're willing to ignore -- even exult in -- the loss of life so long as that loss of life validates your opinion on the war and makes your opponents look bad. To the extent that that phenomenon exists, it tilts the anti-war movement away from being part of the solution and toward becoming part of the problem.

I am skeptical of the Iraqis' ability to forge a lasting peace and a just polity out of the events of the last 22 months while their country remains under foreign occupation and torn by ethnic, religious and political rivalries which have, for so long, been pursued via the cartridge box rather than the ballot box. But I hope they can do so, and I hope that others who opposed the war and oppose the occupation will join me in that hope. To prefer otherwise would be an insult to those who are attempting it, knowing that the price of that attempt may be their very lives.

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