Recently, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld said this about holding January elections in Iraq:
“Let’s say you tried to have an election and you could have it in three-quarters or four-fifths of the country. But in some places you couldn’t because the violence was too great,” Rumsfeld said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. “Well, so be it. Nothing’s perfect in life, so you have an election that’s not quite perfect. Is it better than not having an election? You bet,” he said.”
Allawi, the Prime Minister of Iraq, said this:
“Dr. Allawi said that of Iraq’s 18 provinces, “14 to 15 are completely safe.” He added that the other provinces suffer “pockets of terrorists” who inflict damage in them and plot attacks carried out elsewhere in the country. In other appearances, Dr. Allawi asserted that elections could be held in 15 of the 18 provinces.”
I am dismayed that two prominent political figures argue that elections in democratic countries do not have to be available for everyone in order for those elections to be legitimate. “Elections for elections’ sake” ideas are foolish and misguided. Elections are for all those eligible to vote to express their will, exercise accountability of politicians, and therefore to legitimize the democratic system. You simply can’t have partial elections. It is an all or nothing, not an elections for elections’ sake proposition. Imagine the United States declaring Florida an unsuitable place for elections because of the numerous problems found in the voting systems (both former presidents Ford and Carter advised that changes be made, and changes have not been adequately done. See here for the history and here for the follow-up). Well, 49 out of 50 ain’t bad, right?
And how safe are these provinces? According to a recent report, every single province in Iraq has been under attack at least once:
“Over the past 30 days, more than 2,300 attacks by insurgents have been directed against civilians and military targets in Iraq, in a pattern that sprawls over nearly every major population center outside the Kurdish north, according to comprehensive data compiled by a private security company with access to military intelligence reports and its own network of Iraqi informants.”
Towns like Falluja are considered “no-go,” which means that at the current time, insurgents control resource distribution there. No-go means no elections. The most intense fighting is, of course, in Baghdad. Baghdad is not a no-go, but what are the realistic possibilities of holding elections there by January?
The Pentagon, of course, has a different view:
“Pentagon officials and military officers like to point to a separate list of statistics to counter the tally of attacks, including the number of schools and clinics opened. They cite statistics indicating that a growing number of Iraqi security forces are trained and fully equipped, and they note that applicants continue to line up at recruiting stations despite bombings of them. But most of all, military officers argue that despite the rise in bloody attacks during the past 30 days, the insurgents have yet to win a single battle. “We have had zero tactical losses; we have lost no battles,” said one senior American military officer. “The insurgency has had zero tactical victories. But that is not what this is about.
“We are at a very critical time,” the officer added. “The only way we can lose this battle is if the American people decide we don’t want to fight anymore.”
How does a “no-go” zone not fall under the “zero tactical losses” category? What word twisting are they doing here?
The U.S. and Iraqi governments are spitting propaganda about the possibilities of elections. Worse yet, prominent political officials believe that elections in a democratic country can be legitimate even if some people who, under the law, would be eligible to vote, but are prevented from doing so. It is time for realistic assessments of what is going on in Iraq other than the propaganda smoke screens thrown in the faces of Americans and Iraqis.
Tell the truth. We can handle it.