Iraqi Freedom

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It is good that the Iraqis have elected a government, even if it’s temporary. It is the third temporary government since the U.S. invasion. The United States appointed the first two; this one, at least, was chosen by the Iraqi people.

Before you join the television chirpies celebrating this "historic" event, you would be wise to wait to see what the new government will actually do. One election does not a democracy make.

The new National Assembly has three jobs. It will appoint a council of presidents. The council, in turn, will select a prime minister, who will select a cabinet. The National Assembly will approve it. Then the National Assembly will write a constitution. That constitution will have to be ratified by a plebiscite in the fall. If it’s ratified, then new national elections will be held, hopefully by the end of the year, for a permanent government.

Some of the chirpies who whore for the Bush administration resorted to the old straw-man trick, pretending that some critics had said the election would never be held. I’m not aware of anyone who said the election would never be held. If you have more than 200,000 troops, declare martial law, ban automobiles, impose a dusk-to-dawn curfew and keep the candidates’ names secret, then 15,000 to 20,000 insurgents cannot stop you from having an election.

The chirpies are also misinterpreting the vote, la Bush, by saying the Iraqis voted for freedom. I suspect they voted for what they hope will be security, jobs and an end to the American occupation.

The insurgents were successful where they were expected to be successful — in the Sunni Triangle. Very few Sunnis voted, and, naturally, they are calling the election "illegitimate." The big turnouts came, as expected, in the relatively safe areas of the Shiite and Kurdish populations. The lack of Sunni representation, even though it was self-chosen (the Sunni clergy advocated a boycott of the elections), will fuel the insurgency.

Elections are always the easy part. Governing is where the screw-ups occur in every country, ours included. Like the Iraqi voters who voted for candidates they didn’t know, I have no idea how effective the new government will be or what it will want to accomplish. We will just have to wait and see.

As many Iraqis have said, however, the fear of civil war has long been overstated by the American news media. Iraqis have a strong nationalist sense. Shiites and Sunnis intermarry. The Shiites fought Iran during that war. The Iraqi Shiites are Arab and of a different school than the Iranian Shiites. Civil war is one thing you can strike off your list of things to worry about.

The one hopeful thing is that since this is an elected government, the Iraqi army and police forces might now feel that they have a vested interest in defending it. The insurgency will die when the people stop protecting the insurgents.

In the meantime, I still say that elections in Iraq and Afghanistan are not worth 1,500 American lives and $300 billion. The Constitution does not authorize evangelizing democracy at the point of a gun in foreign countries. The president is flat-wrong, and those in Congress who support him are likewise as wrong as a man or woman can be. It’s obvious few of them have ever read the Constitution they take an oath to support.

I wish the Iraqi and Afghan people well — as I do everyone, except those who vow to kill us — but misusing American troops and violating the Constitution are two things I will never support. Those young Americans have not died to defend either freedom or the United States. They died to support a crackbrained neoconservative theory, the purpose of which is to make the Middle East safe for Israel and American oil interests.

The real test of Iraqi freedom will come the day the Iraqis tell us to get out of their country.

Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years, reporting on everything from sports to politics. From 1969—71, he worked as a campaign staffer for gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional races in several states. He was an editor, assistant to the publisher, and columnist for the Orlando Sentinel from 1971 to 2001. He now writes a syndicated column which is carried on Reese served two years active duty in the U.S. Army as a tank gunner. Write to Charley Reese at P.O. Box 2446, Orlando, FL 32802.

© 2005 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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