Tuesday, February 01, 2005
POLITICS AS USUAL: THE THIRD SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE
Posted for posterity in its entirety:
"The people of Iraq voted for themselves. This is the wonderful thing that happened on Sunday. Time and again, reporters who asked people standing in the long lines why they were voting were told they were doing it not to support this or that candidate or faction or religious group, nor that they were voting against the terrorists, but that they were doing it for the sake of their own dignity and self-respect, and to be free.
The ordinary people of Iraq thus have made themselves more important, more substantial, than they were the day before. They have begun, at the very least, to start to break themselves free from their history.
Of course, much can still go wrong. No doubt, a fair amount will still go wrong.
The Shiites and the Kurds may overplay the high cards that circumstances have given them — that of weight of numbers in the instance of the Shia and of ethnic solidarity in the instance of the Kurds. (The real objective of most Kurds is independence from Iraq.)
The minority Sunni, who once ran the nation, may fail to respond to offers to take part in the writing of a new, democratic and federal constitution, even if the victorious Shia and Kurds make such offers to them.
The terrorists and the insurgents won't give up. Recruiting may begin to dwindle now and the readiness of ordinary Iraqis to inform, most especially on the "foreigners" or outsiders, may increase. But suicide bombers are almost impossible to stop entirely.
Far from last, the risk is real that too many of the newly elected politicians may turn out to be incompetent and corrupt, while the public's expectations of what they can do for them may soar to unattainable heights. At democracy's start, its greatest enemy is always democracy itself.
But nothing can diminish what has happened. Something like 60 per cent of Iraqis (about the same proportion as in the U.S. or Canada) turned out to vote despite the threats to themselves and to their children.
This is why they have put distance between themselves and their history.
Ordinary Iraqis, following in the footsteps of the Palestinians and, before them, of the Afghanis, have begun to accomplish something else of potentially greater significance. They have shown, or more exactly have seized the opportunity to show, that a real alternative exists to terrorism and to religious fanaticism.
What may happen now, as a consequence, is that the war against terrorism will begin to turn into a war for democracy. What was negative will become positive. What was reactive will become creative.
Here it is time to set down in type the most difficult sentence in the English language. That sentence is short and simple. It is this: Bush was right.
President George W. Bush wasn't right to invade Iraq. His justifications for doing so were (almost all of them) either frivolous, in comparison to the scale of the venture, or were outright fraudulent.
Having conquered Iraq and deposed Saddam Hussein, Bush and his officials and generals then made every blunder that could be imagined by an occupying power, adding several original ones of their own.
But on the defining, fundamental question, Bush was right.
He understood that to defeat an idea, no matter how perverse and brutal it might be, it was necessary to have an opposite and superior idea.
He understood, in other words — instinctively rather than intellectually — that the only way to win a war against terrorism was to turn it into a war for democracy.
This is now happening. Against the quest of ordinary Iraqis for dignity and self-respect and freedom, the terrorists in Iraq had nothing ultimately to offer, except blood and hatred.
Already, Palestinians and Afghanis have made the same choice.
Inevitably, many others elsewhere in the Arab and Islamic worlds are going to start to wonder why those choices are still denied them.
It is not the beginning of the end. But some 3 1/2 years after the mass murders of Sept. 11, 2001 in New York and Washington, and then of all their successors, we may have reached the end of the beginning."
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