The Isolationist Left

Even if this were true,” by “patsified,” Democratic Underground, http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=show_mesg&forum=102&topic_id=1196550&mesg_id=1196634&page=, 30 January 2005.

I don’t typically reply to individual posts from Democratic Underground here. The forum moderators are quite aggressive and the posts are not “fringe” for DU’s moderating community. However, one struck me showing exactly what is wrong with the isolationist Left. It also struck them, which is how it was linked to on the front page of the Daou Report.

Even if all the Iraqis in the world are jumping up and down and clapping and dancing and crying for joy; even if there were really and truly 100% turnout for this election; even if the winner of this election were truly the choice to represent the majority of all Iraqis:

Was this worth destroying the United States of America? Was this worth sending our nation tumbling into the toilet? Was this worth destroying our reputation and the worth of our word in the world? Were the lies worth it? Was this worth the billions and billions of dollars emptied from our nation’s treasury? Was the enrichment of Halliburton and the Carlyle Group worth it? Was this worth the bloodshed of soldiers and of innocents? Was it worth losing your arms, little Ali? Was there NO OTHER WAY to have achieved this? Am I supposed to jump up and down and clap and dance and cry for joy that MY nation has been turned into a shitpile and everyone in the world hates MY nation now? There is no democracy here in America, but I am supposed to be overwhelmed with good cheer that it exists for the Iraqis?

Reading this, I was trying to answer it in my head. “I don’t care if military contractors get rich,” I thought. “Every war requires treasure,” I thought. But her last paragraph sums everything up

I can’t think of a single cause outside of the borders of my country that would be worth destroying my country for. And that’s what has happened, I don’t care how happy the Iraqis are. I mourn what my country has become, and I am bitter because I know what she could have been. So I’m sorry if I can’t join in the joy today.

Let us hope our country is never destroyed. Let us hope that a wicked enemy never occupies our land or blockades our ports. Let us hope the White House is never again burned down and we never again fight conventional battles in our cities.

No one so embodied the poster’s cowardice like Lord Halifax. After Chamberlain’s resignation Lord Halifax could have become Prime Minister of Britain and ended the war. Thank God he realized his weakness and allowed Churchill to lead the British in the air and on the beaches.

Isolationists with introspection are bad enough. Millions might have been saved if Halifax opposed Germany sooner. Isolationists withouch such knowledge of themseleves are simply dangerous.

President Bush’s Remarks on the Iraqi Elections

Law of Administration for the State of Iraq for the Transitional Period,” The Coalition Provisional Authority, http://www.cpa-iraq.org/government/TAL.html, 8 March 2004.

President Congratulates Iraqis on Election,” by George W. Bush, The White House, http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/01/20050130-2.html, 30 January 2005.

I’ve blogged President George Bush’s speeches before, so here I go again…

Today the people of Iraq have spoken to the world, and the world is hearing the voice of freedom from the center of the Middle East.

In great numbers, and under great risk, Iraqis have shown their commitment to democracy. By participating in free elections, the Iraqi people have firmly rejected the anti-democratic ideology of the terrorists. They have refused to be intimidated by thugs and assassins. And they have demonstrated the kind of courage that is always the foundation of self-government.

This is a good sign. The election is important, and Bush seems to be signalling this.

The people of Iraq have voted. Their opponents are thugs and assassins.

A clearer signal to that branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Iraqi Islamic Party, could scarcely be made in diplomatic language.

On cable news, all the talking heads are “praising” “wise” Shia leads for promising to include sunnis in writing the Constitution. If this means we are forcing our democratic allies to appease tribalist murderers, it will be a disaster. But seemingly, Bush promises that this isn’t so. Bush seems to recognize the tribal nature of the on-going civil war. That while Sunni rights should be protected, the tribes and parties that worked against the election are the enemy.

This does not mean they will be dissolve, or banned, or persecuted. But like the Serbs in Yugoslavia, the Sunni Arabs are on the road to losing forever. There is no reason why a minority group composing a fifth of the population should have any special rights of privileges. Bush understand this.

Some Iraqis were killed while exercising their rights as citizens. We also mourn the American and British military personnel who lost their lives today. Their sacrifices were made in a vital cause of freedom, peace in a troubled region, and a more secure future for us all.

Americans are best on the offensive when we see ourselves as the defense. We proudly remember the Revolution, Civil War, and Second World War as defensive wars, even though both involved spread our ideals to places where they were resisted. The Second Battle of Iraq in Global War on Terrorism is the same way. We are over there so our enemies do not come over here. President Bush is selling more secure future as a future worth creating — good.

The Iraqi people, themselves, made this election a resounding success. Brave patriots stepped forward as candidates. Many citizens volunteered as poll workers. More than 100,000 Iraqi security force personnel guarded polling places and conducted operations against terrorist groups. One news account told of a voter who had lost a leg in a terror attack last year, and went to the polls today, despite threats of violence. He said, “I would have crawled here if I had to. I don’t want terrorists to kill other Iraqis like they tried to kill me. Today I am voting for peace.”

Bush rhetorically combines images from the Revolution and Civil Rights struggle. Both are appropriate. Building a better world is a revolutionary undertaking. Being “ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom.” We have seen antidemocratic terrorist cliques in our land, and we have conquered them.

Across Iraq today, men and women have taken rightful control of their country’s destiny, and they have chosen a future of freedom and peace. In this process, Iraqis have had many friends at their side. The European Union and the United Nations gave important assistance in the election process. The American military and our diplomats, working with our coalition partners, have been skilled and relentless, and their sacrifices have helped to bring Iraqis to this day. The people of the United States have been patient and resolute, even in difficult days.

“Diplomats” stands out. Soldiers are dying daily, and Bush mentions diplomats? This seems to be intra-Washington signalling to the State Department. Is Bush saying that Rice at State will be less bloodthirsty than Goss at CIA? Or that progress demands political careers die?

The commitment to a free Iraq now goes forward. This historic election begins the process of drafting and ratifying a new constitution, which will be the basis of a fully democratic Iraqi government. Terrorists and insurgents will continue to wage their war against democracy, and we will support the Iraqi people in their fight against them. We will continue training Iraqi security forces so this rising democracy can eventually take responsibility for its own security.

Israel is still under the Basic Law, never ratifying a constitution. Other states survive without one, most notably Britain.

Interestingly, Iraq’s Basic Law specifically plans for a failed Constitution ratification (in the now likely scenario, vetoed by three IIP-dominated provinces) or failed Constitutional Convention

Article 2.

(A) The term “transitional period” shall refer to the period beginning on 30 June 2004 and lasting until the formation of an elected Iraqi government pursuant to a permanent constitution as set forth in this Law, which in any case shall be no later than 31 December 2005, unless the provisions of Article 61 are applied.

Article 61.

(A) The National Assembly shall write the draft of the permanent constitution by no later than 15 August 2005.

(B) The draft permanent constitution shall be presented to the Iraqi people for approval in a general referendum to be held no later than 15 October 2005. In the period leading up to the referendum, the draft constitution shall be published and widely distributed to encourage a public debate about it among the people.

(C) The general referendum will be successful and the draft constitution ratified if a majority of the voters in Iraq approve and if two-thirds of the voters in three or more governorates do not reject it.

(D) If the permanent constitution is approved in the referendum, elections for a permanent government shall be held no later than 15 December 2005 and the new government shall assume office no later than 31 December 2005.

(E) If the referendum rejects the draft permanent constitution, the National Assembly shall be dissolved. Elections for a new National Assembly shall be held no later than 15 December 2005. The new National Assembly and new Iraqi Transitional Government shall then assume office no later than 31 December 2005, and shall continue to operate under this Law, except that the final deadlines for preparing a new draft may be changed to make it possible to draft a permanent constitution within a period not to exceed one year. The new National Assembly shall be entrusted with writing another draft permanent constitution.

(F) If necessary, the president of the National Assembly, with the agreement of a majority of the members’ votes, may certify to the Presidency Council no later than 1 August 2005 that there is a need for additional time to complete the writing of the draft constitution. The Presidency Council shall then extend the deadline for writing the draft constitution for only six months. This deadline may not be extended again.

(G) If the National Assembly does not complete writing the draft permanent constitution by 15 August 2005 and does not request extension of the deadline in Article 61(F) above, the provisions of Article 61(E), above, shall be applied.

In this context, it’s interesting to note some other wrinkles of the Basic Law

Article 3.

(A) This Law is the Supreme Law of the land and shall be binding in all parts of Iraq without exception. No amendment to this Law may be made except by a three-fourths majority of the members of the National Assembly and the unanimous approval of the Presidency Council. Likewise, no amendment may be made that could abridge in any way the rights of the Iraqi people cited in Chapter Two; extend the transitional period beyond the timeframe cited in this Law; delay the holding of elections to a new assembly; reduce the powers of the regions or governorates; or affect Islam, or any other religions or sects and their rites.

In other words, a super-majority in the TNA could write its own Constitution without ratification. The would just amend the Basic Law to be what they want, and rename it “the Constitution.” This is how the SCAP Constitution of Japan was technically ratified — as an amendment to the Meiji Constitution.

Allawi has been declaring Martial Law on and off again. The Basic Law implicitly allows this

Article 14.

The individual has the right to security, education, health care, and social security. The Iraqi State and its governmental units, including the federal government, the regions, governorates, municipalities, and local administrations, within the limits of their resources and with due regard to other vital needs, shall strive to provide prosperity and employment opportunities to the people.

So by precedent, Iraq is not interpreting the Basic Law too literally.

Basically, it is very clear to the TNA that the need for a Constitution is theoretical. Bush is encouraging them to try hard to follow the constitutional timeline. But everyone knows it’s optional.

There’s more distance to travel on the road to democracy. Yet Iraqis are proving they’re equal to the challenge. On behalf of the American people, I congratulate the people of Iraq on this great and historic achievement.

Thank you very much.

Thank you Mr. President, for freeing Iraq and being our first leader in the Global War on Terrorism.

Presidential Blogging

Ronald Reagan, Blogger,” by Mark Safranski, Zen Pundit, http://zenpundit.blogspot.com/2005/01/ronald-reagan-blogger-coming-from.html, 29 January 2005

Mark at Zen Pundit wonders what history would look like, if our Presidents had access to the blogosphere

Abraham Lincoln we must include because of the Gettysburg Address, which is short enough to be a post, and for Lincoln’s humor and insight into human nature. Teddy Roosevelt, amateur historian and one of America’s first media celebrities, would have tried to take the blogosphere by the throat. ” T.R.’s Corner” would have been a colorful, blustering, blog. Teddy’s daughter Alice would have had one too and her lethal wit would have given Wonkette a run for her money.

Check it out.

Photos from Iraq

A new link to the left link list — the Under Mars online photo gallery. But as everything in the world is now a blog, I guess it’s a photo blog.

Under Mars

Most of the photos are of every soldier life. It humanizes our heroes in the best sense of the word.

Some are of happiness, and some are of sadness, but all are worth viewing.

Juan Cole Crack-Up, Part 2

A Mixed Story,” by Juan Cole, Informed Consent, http://www.juancole.com/2005/01/mixed-story-im-just-appalled-by.html, 30 January 2005.

I’m just appalled by the cheerleading tone of US news coverage of the so-called elections in Iraq on Sunday. I said on television last week that this event is a “political earthquake” and “a historical first step” for Iraq.It is an event of the utmost importance, for Iraq, the Middle East, and the world. All the boosterism has a kernel of truth to it, of course. Iraqis hadn’t been able to choose their leaders at all in recent decades, even by some strange process where they chose unknown leaders.

Oh? Is Cole saying that Allawi and Hakim are unknown?
Or less known that challengers in most American elections?
Or that it’s unclear what Allawi’s policies would be?
Or what the Kurdistan Alliance wants?
Or is Cole complaining about proportional parliamentary representation in general?

But this process is not a model for anything, and would not willingly be imitated by anyone else in the region. The 1997 elections in Iran were much more democratic, as were the 2002 elections in Bahrain

Let’s see… what else happened in Bahrain in 2002

In February 2002, Amir HAMAD bin Isa Al Khalifa proclaimed himself king. In October 2002, Bahrainis elected members of the lower house of Bahrain’s reconstituted bicameral legislature, the National Assembly.

Well, there’s always…

and Pakistan.

Oh?

The election of President Pervez Musharraf’s candidate for Prime Minister of Pakistan is a big victory for Musharraf, and for U.S. efforts to retain Pakistan’s support in the war against terror. Zafarullah Khan Jamali, 58, a tribal chieftain from Baluchistan, narrowly defeated his closest rival, a pro-Taliban preacher. But his slim, one-vote majority reeked of political bullying and dealmaking. It was an arrangement rigged outside Parliament, struck in lengthy telephone calls to an exiled politician hoping for a comeback and, a losing candidate claims, tainted by bribes and threats.

Continuing with Cole…

Moreover, as Swopa rightly reminds us all, the Bush administration opposed one-person, one-vote elections of this sort. First they were going to turn Iraq over to Chalabi within six months. Then Bremer was going to be MacArthur in Baghdad for years. Then on November 15, 2003, Bremer announced a plan to have council-based elections in May of 2004. The US and the UK had somehow massaged into being provincial and municipal governing councils, the members of which were pro-American. Bremer was going to restrict the electorate to this small, elite group.

I would imagine that the Allied Occupation of Germany gives the live to a supposed devotion to Deutche federalism.

Embracing Defeat, a book quite sympathetic to communist and leftist elements in Japan during the Occupation, criticizes SCAP for reversing some of its demilitarization and democratization plans. But Cole’s writing is hyperbole. Perhaps he should learn the history of the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers before he talks about people wanting to “be MacArthur.”

Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani immediately gave a fatwa denouncing this plan and demanding free elections mandated by a UN Security Council resolution. Bush was reportedly “extremely offended” at these two demands and opposed Sistani.

An alternative explanation is in America’s Secret War.

I’m not sure what the truth is, but considering President George Bush’s democratic speeches, I doubt he was “extremely offended.”

Bremer got his appointed Interim Governing Council to go along in fighting Sistani. Sistani then brought thousands of protesters into the streets in January of 2004, demanding free elections. Soon thereafter, Bush caved and gave the ayatollah everything he demanded. Except that he was apparently afraid that open, non-manipulated elections in Iraq might become a factor in the US presidential campaign, so he got the elections postponed to January 2005. This enormous delay allowed the country to fall into much worse chaos, and Sistani is still bitter that the Americans didn’t hold the elections last May. The US objected that they couldn’t use UN food ration cards for registration, as Sistani suggested. But in the end that is exactly what they did.

This had nothing to do with the fact that:

The food ration card plan was opposed because the Ba’athis had drawn up the cards, so it would underrepresent Shia and Kurds, and
Shia and Kurds declared they didn’t care, as long as the election was soon as possible?

Politics is complicated. Again, I don’t know everything. But not every situation is a conspiracy.

So if it had been up to Bush, Iraq would have been a soft dictatorship under Chalabi,

Like Afghanistan is now a soft dictatorship under Karzai?

or would have had stage-managed elections with an electorate consisting of a handful of pro-American notables.

SCIRI is so pro-American. So are the Iranians.

It was Sistani and the major Shiite parties that demanded free and open elections and a UNSC resolution. They did their job and got what they wanted. But the Americans have been unable to provide them the requisite security for truly aboveboard democratic elections.

How many polling places were overrun by insurgents? None.
What fraction of the country voted? About 60%.
But this is not “truly aboveboard.”

With all the hoopla, it is easy to forget that this was an extremely troubling and flawed “election.” Iraq is an armed camp. There were troops and security checkpoints everywhere. Vehicle traffic was banned. The measures were successful in cutting down on car bombings that could have done massive damage. But even these Draconian steps did not prevent widespread attacks, which is not actually good news. There is every reason to think that when the vehicle traffic starts up again, so will the guerrilla insurgency.

Zen Pundit has the goods.

The Iraqis did not know the names of the candidates for whom they were supposedly voting. What kind of an election is anonymous! There were even some angry politicians late last week who found out they had been included on lists without their permission. Al-Zaman compared the election process to buying fruit wholesale and sight unseen. (This is the part of the process that I called a “joke,” and I stand by that.)

Which one is it? Are candidates secret? Or are names associated with lists?

This thing was more like a referendum than an election. It was a referendum on which major party list associated with which major leader would lead parliament.

“… a referendum on which major party…”

So like any multi-party democracy in the world?

Many of the voters came out to cast their ballots in the belief that it was the only way to regain enough sovereignty to get American troops back out of their country. The new parliament is unlikely to make such a demand immediately, because its members will be afraid of being killed by the Baath military. One fears a certain amount of resentment among the electorate when this reticence becomes clear.

Iraq now faces many key issues that could tear the country apart, from the issues of Kirkuk and Mosul to that of religious law. James Zogby on Wolf Blitzer wisely warned the US public against another “Mission Accomplished” moment. Things may gradually get better, but this flawed “election” isn’t a Mardi Gras for Americans and they’ll regret it if that is the way they treat it.

*sigh*

Update: The American Scene adds its own criticism of Cole (from The Corner). — tdaxp 1 February 2005

Ishihara and Tanaka

Liberals in the lead,” The Economist, http://www.economist.com/displaystory.cfm?story_id=3562305, 13 January 2005.

Besides sadness and aikokushin, Japan’s also noted for hyper-interesting local politics

If all politics is local, then 2005 could be a big year politically for Japan. Throughout the year, 136 elections will be held in prefectures and big cities, along with more than 400 local ones in smaller towns. Local politicians have already been gaining prominence in recent years, with independent-minded governors such as Masayasu Kitagawa in Mie, Yasuo Tanaka in Nagano and Shintaro Ishihara in Tokyo grabbing headlines and upstaging national politicians and officials. If these trends continue in 2005, that will be a good indicator of the prospects for reform.

The article drones on and is not all that interesting, but the mentioning of distinctly-Japanese-rightist Ishihara and distinctly-Japanese-leftist was nice. The best introduction to these two monumental figures, both of whom have a shot at becoming Prime Minister, is found in Japan Unbound. From a press release:

Nathan profiles several leaders in culture and politics. We meet Yoshinori Kobayashi, a demagogue and ultranationalist cartoonist. His series called The Arrogant-ism Proclamations, informed by the notion that arrogance is the only antidote powerful enough to rouse Japan from its subservience to foreign ideologies and foreign interests, has sold more than twenty million volumes. Politicians like Shintaro Ishihara, the governor of Tokyo and the country’s most powerful nationalist, and Yasuo Tanaka, hero and champion of the burgeoning Japanese left, are also featured.

In the book, Ishihara is a politician the American Right could love. Proudly patriotic and a defender of Taiwan’s interests, he’s also a “can-do” Governor of Japan’s largest prefecture. Yasuo is a polar opposite, comfortable with stuffed animals and schoolchildren. He leads a prefecture laden with debt from the Nagano Olympics.

What will Japan’s future hold? I have no idea. But with great work like Japan Unbound in the bookosphere, and The Economist‘s reporting, we will know in time.