Why I Have Grave Doubts About Iraqi Democracy
Last night I posted an article by Ralph Peters wherein he expressed the following sentiments:
Iraqis deserved their chance. They got it. They voted. Three times. Each time along confessional or ethnic lines. They elected ward bosses, not national leaders.
Iraq doesn't have a democracy in any meaningful sense. It isn't even a nation. Iraqis didn't vote for freedom. They voted for revenge against each other. Iraqi democracy hasn't yet failed entirely. But it looks as if it might.
Fellow Infidel JayMac left an angry comment:
Where does this guy get off claiming that Iraq isn't a democracy or even a nation? I hear the same crap about Amercia from people who can't stand that Bush was elected to office. Tell that to the millions of people who braved the threat of terrorism to simply go and vote.
Yes, I remember the elections. I remember those heady days well. I remember how proud I was at the time. I felt as if people like us had fought the brave fight and that we were seeing the first fruits of victory. I didn't think at the time that victory was assured, but I thought we were on the right track.
But, many things have happened since then that have slowly brought me to have serious doubts as to whether Iraq was ever headed in the right direction. Now, understand, I do not read the leftist media. If an article seems to be biased against George Bush, or against the idea of the Iraq war, I rarely bother with it, so the negative opinion I have formed about our democracy project in Iraq has come over time as little pieces of information slowly began to pile up in my conciousness and form themselves into doubts.
One of the first things I began to notice was that each time there was an election in Iraq, I saw fewer women wearing anything other than the blackest burqa or chador.
Yes, it is true that Iraq prior to the U.S. invasion was Saddam Hussein's personal S&M dungeon, (and certainly I would never argue that it is not a postive thing that we ended his regime), but Iraq was also known for having a relatively educated and secular populace by Muslim-world standards.
So what's with all the burqas? And, when is the last time you saw a photograph out of Iraq which included a woman who was not wearing a burqa or chador? Do you think all these women have freely chosen to wear burqas?
If Natan Sharansky's book (upon which George Bush constructed much of the inspiring rhetoric with which he supported our efforts in Iraq) is correct, then the hallmark of a free country is the ability of its citizens to walk into the town center and express their opinions without fear of violent reprisal.
If every woman feels the need to don a burqa or chador, then how do you think that town hall test is faring for the female half of the population in Iraq?
And, I must say, I remember being thrilled at the sight of women in Burqas voting. But, as time has passed, and each succeeding election only seemed to bring on more burqas I began to wonder, according to whose will does a woman vote when she votes in a burqa? Does she cast her vote freely according to her own will, or has she been instructed how to vote by her husband, or by the local Imam?
How would you expect a black man to have voted in the pre-Civil War American South, if he showed up to cast his vote chained together with a whole group of slaves?
The burqa is the chains of female slavery. Do not fool yourself. It is possible that many of these women were voting according to their own will, but let us not let our guard down on totalitarianism, and the burqa is a very clear sign of totalitarianism.
Now, let us look at exactly who the Iraqi people voted for. Ralph Peters stated that the Iraqi people didn't vote for parties of ideas, but instead they voted for revenge against each other. I'm not going to defend that statement, except to say that Ralph Peters spends a lot of time in Iraq. This means that he knows better than I which sects of Iraqi society the various political parties represent.
All I can tell you is, from what I have read, the Iraqis elected parties which are largely Islamist or Communist in nature. The largest coalition in the Iraqi Parliament is called the United Iraqi Alliance. The UIA garnered 41% of the votes and now has 128 of 275 seats in the Parliament.
The Alliance is made up of primarily Shiite groups "most importantly the Islamic Al-Da'wa Party and Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq." Now, it is true that Ahmed Chalabi's group was also part of this alliance, and he is a supporter of secularism, but he has since left the coalition.
The Alliance also includes supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr. Muqtada al-Sadr is the radical Shiite cleric who led the Mahdi Army in a seige against coalition forces in Najaf. We surrounded al-Sadr and his army in a Mosque, but then, afraid to enrage the populace by sending troops into a "holy" place, we instead chose to make a deal with him. In one of our greatest failures during the course of this war, we guaranteed al-Sadr that he would not face arrest in turn for his laying down of arms.
We should have killed him. I don't know of any supporter of the war who does not think so.
Now, the man has his own political party with seats in the Iraqi Parliament.
The second most powerful coalition in the Iraq Parliament is called the Democratic Patriotic Alliance of Kurdistan. This alliance has 22% of the seats in the Parliament. I will not go into detail about all the separate parties which go to make up this alliance. Suffice it to say, there are good and bad things. Jalal Talibani is a principle in one of the parties. However, his group states that they are working towards "Kurdish self-determination." Another party is an entity of the Muslim Brotherhood, which gave rise to Hamas and CAIR. Another party bills itself as Communist.
Clearly, this is an alliance the component parts of which do not fit together in any way except that they are all Kurdish. The ideologies do not go together. Instead, tribal concerns trump ideology.
The third most powerful coalition in the Iraqi Parliament is called the Sunni Iraqi Accord Front which has 15% of the total seats. A prime player in this alliance is the Iraqi Islamic Party. "The Iraqi Islamic Party (Hizb al-Islami al-Airaqi) is a Sunni Arab Islamist political party in Iraq. The party was founded in 1960 and evolved out of the Muslim Brotherhood movement."
The next largest coalition is called the Iraqi National List. This coalition "was meant to offer a secular, cross-community alternative - composed of both Sunnis and Shiites - to the religious Shiite United Iraqi Alliance and the Sunni Iraqi Accord Front." That is clearly a positive. However, this party has a mere 8% of the total seats in the Iraqi Parliament.
Additionally, it is instructive to view a list of the various parties which go together to form this alliance:
Iraqi Communist Party
Assembly of Independent Democrats
Al-Qasimy Democratic Assembly
Iraqi Republican Group
Arab Socialist Movement
Independent Democratic Gathering
Iraqi National Accord
League of Iraqi Turkmen Lords and Tribes led by Abd Al-Hammed Al-Bayati
Independent Iraqi Sheikhs Council
I apologize for being snide, but that list is hardly Jefferson, Madison and Adams.
We have now looked at the four major political alliances which comprise 81% of the Iraqi Parliament. The first three are tribally based. The third is not, but is, instead composed of socialists, communists, sheikhs and "lords and tribes."
Now, to be fair, this does not mean that there is no real Democracy at work here. The title of this post expresses "doubts", not conclusions. However, viewed from the much-maligned "Western perspective" it is hard to view alliances comprised of Islamists and communists as being as being the bedfellows of freedom and human rights.
Ask yourself, would you align yourself with Islamists and Communists? Against who, and under what conditions? These coalitions sound more like the types of alliances one makes in a war. In World War II, of course, the United States aligned itself with the Soviet Union in order to vanquish Germany and Japan. But, one would never expect such an alliance in a sane world.
Hey look, I want to be argued out of my doubts. Fire away. Convince me. I recognize that I am likely to lose friends over the ideas I am expressing, just as I lost friends when the war began and I went from a lifetime of leftism to being a supporter of George Bush.
Hopefully, some of you can convince me that I am wrong. I do wonder whether the old phrase "things are darkest before the dawn" somehow applies here, but I can't see how. This dawn seems to have broken a while back, and the new light shines down on an Iraq that looks a lot like the rest of the Middle East, only instead of being governed by a thug, this Iraq looks like what you'd have if you put all the countries and competing ideologies of the Middle East into one pot and left it to boil.
Maybe some good soup will come from this, but in order to have good soup, don't you have to start with some good ingredients?