The Iraq Elections

I was up late last night, watching the coverage of the Iraq elections. My favorite image from the elections is here. We have talked about the war in Iraq from time to time on T&S, but no matter what you think of the war, you have to be pleased for the Iraqi people, don’t you? I mean, even the New York Times smiled for a moment.

UPDATE: If you want to see the upbeat paragraph that the New York Times took out of its story on the elections, read Instapundit. This is really disgraceful on the part of the Times, in my opinion.

UPDATE: For the other side of the NYT story, see here.

67 comments for “The Iraq Elections

  1. January 31, 2005 at 12:07 am

    Watching this election coverage, and reading about it always brings a tear to my eye. Democracy is truly the will of the Lord for all his children.

  2. John H
    January 31, 2005 at 12:33 am

    I think this is why a lot of us still struggle with this war. Supporters point to moments like this, or the deaths of Uday and Qusay, or the capture of Saddam, and say, “See! See! This is why we’re in Iraq.” And only the nuttiest left-wingers among us would argue that those are bad things.

    But none of it changes the fact that there were no WMDs. None of it changes the fact that if Iraqis deserve to be liberated, don’t North Koreans? North Korea is a starvation regime, far worse than Saddam (yes, it is possible, though not easy to be worse than Hussein). Okay, they get to vote. Was the cost worth it? Over 1,100 dead American soldiers, and anywhere from 17,000 (at the absolute most conservative) to almost 100,000 (at the other end of the spectrum) Iraqis dead?

    I don’t pretend to have the answer, but I’ll confess I get frustrated when people point to voting Iraqis, as if it’s an open and shut case, no reason to be concerned at all.

  3. January 31, 2005 at 12:49 am

    John, I agree completely that the many issues surrounding the war remain problematic, but why not enjoy the moment? Instead of bringing up all of the reasons for division, why not simply recognize that this is an unbelievable event for the Iraqi people? The reasons for division will remain, and there will be plenty of opportunities to argue in the weeks to come. But today, you can do better than merely conceding that the election was not a “bad thing.”

  4. John H
    January 31, 2005 at 1:09 am


    The election is great – far better than “not a bad thing.” And while I see your post as a genuine attempt at appreciating an important moment in history, I suppose I’m still guarded. Too many conservatives are trolling the Internet and daily talk-shows, thumbing their noses at very real concerns (like they’ve done all along) and using the election to promote their own politics.

    So while I tend to agree with you in principle, I’m concerned by this attitude from others that the election is a stamp of approval. I’ve been frustrated by an almost “Ha ha, we were right, you were stupid” vibe and I let myself rant on at BCC – appearing far, far more liberal than I actually am about the war. I guess my anger and frustration at what’s going on is ill-timed, because I really do admire the Iraqis’ courage and what seems to be very successful elections.

  5. Marc D.
    January 31, 2005 at 1:09 am

    Most of the Iraqis didn’t even know who they could vote for before they actually did. It’s not like they were all watching pre-election debates on television.
    Democracy is truly the will of the Lord? That’s interesting, Travis. Maybe we can vote for the next president of the Church?

  6. January 31, 2005 at 3:16 am


    I’ve never been able to feel any real force behind arguments that we shouldn’t do x (provoke regime change in Iraq) because we don’t also do y (provoke regime change in Korea). If you can’t do everything you shouldn’t do anything?

    I run an ambulance service, and it’s not unusual to make decisions about what to do when there aren’t resources to do everything.


  7. Derek
    January 31, 2005 at 3:20 am

    I wonder if we (the United States) aren’t doing Iraq a disservice, not by invading their country, or by involving them in a war that killed thousands of Iraqis, or by imposing democracy on them when they might not necessarily want it, but by imposing upon them our own knowingly flawed version of democracy?

    I say “knowingly flawed” because there are many problems that we are aware of but still haven’t resolved. For example, it should take more than just a plurality of the votes to choose a winner. When more than half of the people didn’t vote for the person who was declared the winner, that’s a flawed process. I’m speaking not of the 2000 and 2004 U.S. presidential elections in which the electoral college affected the outcome, but of local elections such as the 2003 California governor recall election in which Republican Schwarzenegger won with only 48.6% of the votes, and the 2004 Washington state governor election in which Democrat Gregoire won with only 48.9%. When it’s so close to 50%, it may seem like the outcome doesn’t matter, but you can bet a lot of tactical voting was going on. The tactical voting that necessarily occurs in plurality election systems artificially limits the number of candidates who can have any chance of winning the election. Unless you vote for one of the two top candidates, you’re essentially throwing your vote away. Is this really what democracy is all about?

    It would also be nice to find a way to prevent the underinformed from influencing the results of an election, similar to the way we prevent people who haven’t received the proper instruction from driving. Until then, elections will still largely be little more than popularity contests. Arguably, the 2003 recall election in California was one such contest. And it’s been reported that many people during the 2000 election thought Bush was his own father. If I ever decide to run for president, I’m changing my name to Abraham Lincoln.

    Since the wheels of democracy turn so slowly, I just think we could give them something better to start with than what we currently have in place in our own country.

  8. January 31, 2005 at 6:21 am


    I think Government of a country and the Church are two seperate matters. The Lord wants us to have free agency in our lives. Democracy is not only an example of free agency, but also our best protection for that God given right (in the times we live in anyway). Is there any doubt that he favors it to some degree if he raised up that type of system in order for his work to be established?

    There is a difference between picking someone to govern over you for a period of time, and then picking somone to lead us in the way the Lord would have us directed.

  9. lyle
    January 31, 2005 at 8:25 am


    Does this mean you didn’t raise your arm to the square for the Prophet? If you did, what did the act mean to you? While the “selection” of the Prophet is not done “democratically,” the official & unofficial affirmations are so done. Moreso than any President of a country, the President of the Church is voted upon daily, as each individual Saint chooses whether to, or not, follow his counsel & the will o the Lord. For me at least, this is much more democratic than elections every X years based upon promises, policies & personal ambition.

    Derek: Plurality, instead of majority wins, have been the norm for several U.S. presidential elections…at least until 2004. And if you want a majority, instituting a multi-party system will take your further, not closer, to one who can claim to represent “the majority” of the people.

  10. Marc D.
    January 31, 2005 at 8:43 am

    John Kane,
    The Church is not a democracy but a theocracy.

    ‘Does this mean you didn’t raise your arm to the square for the Prophet? If you did, what did the act mean to you?’
    I means to me that I am willing to support him not that I have chosen him to lead the church.

  11. Frank McIntyre
    January 31, 2005 at 8:44 am

    Gordon, that really is a great picture. I’d have to agree that this is as good a time as any to be happy. The problems won’t go away. But this sure looks like a step in the right direction.

    Also, Michael Umphrey has a nice point on resource allocation. I can understand someone arguing that they would have preferred invading North Korea, or invading nowhere, or even that we have the resources to invade both. But to ignore the finite resource problems and simply complain that to invade Iraq logically requires that we invade North Korea at the same time seems a little simplistic. Our resources constrain our behavior. You can’t split the difference and “half-invade” two countries any more than you can split an ambulance in two and “half-rescue” two people on opposite sides of town.

  12. Frank McIntyre
    January 31, 2005 at 8:52 am


    The Church is not a state operation and has little compulsory power over you. It cannot put you in jail, tax you, or shut down your business. It cannot execute you. It lacks the power to do any of the things a state normally can do. It is a free association of membership. Of course _you_ do not get to choose the leader of _Christ’s_ church, because it is not _your_ Church. You would be more than welcome to choose the head of _your_ Church, if you were to start such a thing.

    So the Church does not govern over us in anything close to the way a system of government does. That said, you’re absolutely right that as a Church our doctrine prefers government by God (in the millenium or after, for example) to government by democracy. We prefer democracy when we must have government by men. That also seems to be a doctrinal preference (see Mosiah’s speech). I think that is what was being argued. I don’t think anybody was actually arguing that democratic government is better than the Kingdom of Heaven, but if so I’m sure they’ll let us know.

  13. lyle
    January 31, 2005 at 9:04 am

    Marc: One clarification, although it doesn’t seem like you took it that way…I did not mean to call into question any loyalty, good faith, etc., re: the Church or sustaining the Prophet. I could have worded the slightly rhetorical question better.

  14. January 31, 2005 at 9:30 am

    Derek said: “When more than half of the people didn’t vote for the person who was declared the winner, that’s a flawed process. I’m speaking not of the 2000 and 2004 U.S. presidential elections in which the electoral college affected the outcome…”

    Derek, you *are* speaking of the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, if only to say that you are not speaking of them. And obviously the 2000 election fits your criterion for a “flawed process.” But in the 2004 presidential election, more than half of the people (51%) voted for the person who was declared the winner (Bush). So it doesn’t fit your criteria (and the electoral college didn’t really affect the outcome the way it did in 2000).

    Interestingly, the 1992 and 1996 elections do fit, since Clinton never won half or more of the popular vote (he got 43% and 49%, respectively). Should we have had a runoff? They aren’t fool-proof, either. Ask the French, a majority of whom told pollsters they wanted Jospin in 2002, but who ended up having to choose between Chirac and Le Pen thanks to perverse effects of their runoff electoral system.

  15. January 31, 2005 at 9:41 am

    John H,

    1) The US did not go to war in 1941 to save Jews, Slavs, Gypsies, etc. from being gassed and cremated. But when we talk about the rightness of the war, we inevitably invoke the holocaust. Why? Because its termination was a righteous consequence of our actions. You argue that the US did not go to war in 2003 to allow Iraqis to vote. (I disagree, and I recommend you read Bush’s 2002 and 2003 state of the union addresses, among other things.) Even if this is true, why is it wrong for supporters of the war to include this election as a righteous consequence of that action?

    2) If you want to go to war to liberate more countries, I am behind you. As soon as we have the manpower necessary, let’s do it. Unfortunately, North Korea will have to wait since our intelligence tells us that they probably have nuclear weapons. Once a country has nukes, intervention becomes prohibitively costly. Too bad. We bribed them not to develop these weapons, but they cheated and made them anyway. So maybe Iran should be next, since they are currently cheating on their deal and will soon have nuclear weapons. What do you say, John H? Ready to go to Tehran? Or do you point out other nations deserving of liberation just as a way of pointing out the hypocrisy of the liberal hawks, when really you’d rather not invade anywhere at all?

  16. Nate Oman
    January 31, 2005 at 10:15 am

    Derek: Umm…We didn’t impose our flawed election system on the Iraqi’s. The elections were based on a proportional representation scheme. Rather than having elections for officers from geographic areas determined on a winner-take-all basis, folks voted for different coaltions of parties. Those coalitions will then be able to send a number of delegates to the national assembly proportional to the number of votes they recieved in the general election.

    Hence, your remarks really are about the 2000 election in that they are a criticism by analogy of an Iraqi election system that does not actually exist.

  17. annegb
    January 31, 2005 at 10:40 am

    I am humbled before the courage of those Iraquis who voted yesterday. If I thought one person MIGHT get shot, I might not go vote.

    I heard that a suicide bomber blew himself and a cop up near a line of people waiting to vote, and they stayed in line, as the authorities cleaned up the bodies and tended to the wounded.

    I’d like to think I’d get mad and all ten foot tall and bulletproof, as I do when I am angered, but maybe my fear would overcome that. I don’t know.

    These have to be people who want their freedom. It gives me chills.

  18. DavidH
    January 31, 2005 at 11:25 am

    I opposed the war originally, and continue to oppose it.

    Nonetheless, we are there. My hope is that we can get out while minimizing future Iraqi and coalition casualties.

    If the election is regarded as legitimate by Iraqis, and the interim and succeeding government is supported by them, perhaps the new government will express thanks and request our early departure. I hope that occurs and soon.

    At that point, my fellow bloggers can debate whether, given this hopeful success, we should try to democratize another country by force of arms. I will let the reader guess which way I would vote on such a proposal.

  19. Trenden
    January 31, 2005 at 11:35 am

    I’m always amazed by people’s jaded outlooks in the face of something good. What happed yesterday was an amazing thing and I believe history will look back at this event as a major milestone in spreading freedom in the Middle East and Bush should get much of the credit. You can always nit-pick the details and miss this big picture. It’s silly to argue we shouldn’t have invaded Iraq because we can’t dispose of every dictator in the world. What we’re doing in Iraq is a good thing and we’ll just have to take each dictator one at a time as we can afford to do it and as each situation warrants intervention. But there’s no question in my mind that the US is a force for good in the world. I don’t see France doing much to spread freedom.

    I also don’t understand the argument that Iraqis don’t want democracy. I saw an article from the NY Times after WWII stating the same thing about Japan. They had never had democracy and who were we to impose it on them!

  20. HL
    January 31, 2005 at 11:48 am

    One small point. It certainly is always reason to celebrate when a ruthless dictator is disposed of. Surely that was a success coming from the war. My only question is what does that have to do with the war on terror? More than the absence of WMD how about the absence of any meaningful ties to Al Queda. Of course now we have attracted terrorists to the region and anything but a resounding victory in Iraq will be a failure in the war on terror. But this war was sold to the people as a war against terrorists, especially those who had or would attack America. It appears now that it was nothing of the sort. On that criteria the war was a failure and a bit of a sham job. That being said, I hope democracy works in Iraq and that it can spread throughout the Middle East.

  21. Trenden
    January 31, 2005 at 12:38 pm

    Everyone thought Saddam had WMD including Democrats and the French and Bush worried Saddam might give them to terrorists so he took him out. Bush made a judgment call based on the information he had at the time. It’s that simple.

    In a post 9/11 world Bush didn’t want to take a chance. If Saddam had given plutonium to terrorists and they had set off a dirty bomb in Los Angeles the democrats would have been the first to call for Bush’s impeachment for sleeping on the job.

    The WMD didn’t turn up but many other benefits have come from the Iraq invasion. For one, we got rid of an evil dictator and the torture rooms, rape rooms, children’s prisons, etc. were emptied. Second, we sent a strong message to the rest of the world that the US stands behind its threats, unlike the UN. Momar Kadaif, for one, has been much more agreeable as of late. Third, this action may lead to the spread of democracy in the Middle East and from an LDS perspective, eventually the spread of the Gospel, perhaps.

  22. DavidH
    January 31, 2005 at 1:06 pm


    Israel has a democratic government, but LDS proselyting is forbidden. Any reason to think that future, hopefully democratic, governments elsewhere in the middle east would be different?

    I am troubled by intimations that a benefit of a war is that the gospel may be spread. I have heard this from many LDS supporters of the war, as well as evangelical christians. Should we favor going to war with another country so that the LDS gospel (and other religions) can “eventually” be spread there? (There is arguable precedent for it in the various wars in the middle ages between the Muslim and Christian worlds–some would argue that the war on terror is simply a continuation under a different name–as well as the conquistadores in Latin America.) Does the fact that the gospel may or may not be spread at some point in Iraq retroactively justify the war? Is that an appropriate retroactive justification of World War II–that the gospel is spread in Japan (the gospel does not seem to have become more embraced in Germany now than it was before the war)? We never formally went to war with the Soviet Union, yet the gospel is being spread in that area.

  23. Debbie
    January 31, 2005 at 1:17 pm

    I actaully didn’t intent to comment but I felt compelled after reading these posts. I am disappointed by what I have read to say the least. After teaching seminary for 7+ years I have learned that democracy and freedom is what Heavenly Father wants for all his children. We only have to go back to the war in heaven to know that this is the oldest struggle mankind has ever known! All of you stood firmly on the side of freedom in that war. So where is your backbone in this one? Is freedom only something that we selfishly claim for ourselves or do we keep our covenants to share the gospel with every race, kindred, tongue and people? This is a covenant that can be kept only in the seedbeds of freedom.

    Why is it so difficult for so many to see the hand of the Lord in these events? Instead of this insecent arguing we should all be sending prayers heavenward for the Lord’s purposes to be accomplished and then figure out how to support HIs work! In a regional conference last year President Faust ( a democrat btw) said that this war would be use by the Lord to bring freedom to the Middle East and the gospel to those people. In the end, isn’t that the most important issue? It’s not if there were WMD’s or not. President Benson said that freedom is always bought with a price and that price is always the blood of the people. How much blood was spilt at Calvary, Gethsemane, Vally Forge or Gettysburg? What about the French Revolution, one of the bloodiest battles for freedom the world has ever known!

    I submit that we have had so much ease and peace on our own land that we have lost the stomach for how to truly protect and keep our freedom. Isn’t that exactly where Satan would have us be? “All is well Zion prospereth” so he can lead us carefully down to hell. Hell, after all, is the ultimate loss of freedom! I suggest a re-read of the Book of Mormon might give everyone a timely wake up call.

  24. Brizz
    January 31, 2005 at 1:23 pm

    How many of you remember 9/11? Regardless of whether or not we went to Iraq as a result of 9/11, the lives of those people are still being “avenged”. So many people are sad about the soldiers we are losing over there. Isn’t that amazing? We still haven’t lost as many soldiers in the war on terrorism as we lost in that one single terrorist attack in NYC.

    I don’t see much different in this war compared to Vietnam. Everyone in America thinks they know the answer to our country’s “problems” and that the people running it don’t. They think protests HELP the soldiers in Iraq, they think that the President is to blame for everything that has happened over the last 4 years. The fact is that it’s simply not true. We can assume that neither Bill Clinton or Al Gore would have been prepared for an attack on American soil any more than Bush was. Do you assume that they would have handled the situation any better because they are Democrats?

  25. January 31, 2005 at 1:28 pm

    DavidH, Just a quick response: I don’t think war is justified today on grounds that we might be able to spread the Gospel by spreading democracy, but this may be the design and effect of such a war. In other words, I don’t want George Bush or anyone else sending troops abroad on a crusade, but if the result of a war is that the countries open to missionaries, I would not be sad to see it. And yes, Israel does not allow missionaries, but take a look at Eastern Europe for an example of democracy and missionary work advancing together.

  26. January 31, 2005 at 1:32 pm


    I don’t believe I ever said the Church was a Democracy.

  27. Breyers
    January 31, 2005 at 1:46 pm

    Yes, no matter the mixed feelings I have about the war, I was very happy for the Iraqi people being given the opportunity to vote.

    Many brave soldiers, including a relative (Lt. Nainoa Hoe), died providing that opportunity.

    I can only hope that this is a first real step towards the day that our troop levels in Iraq can begin to diminish significantly.

  28. Derek
    January 31, 2005 at 1:47 pm

    John David Payne said:
    > Should we have had a runoff? They aren’t fool-proof, either. Ask the French, a majority of whom told pollsters they wanted Jospin in 2002, but who ended up having to choose between Chirac and Le Pen thanks to perverse effects of their runoff electoral system.

    I believe this is an example of a situation in which Condorcet supporters say their system works better than IRV, as it eliminates tactical voting. But I think both systems are better than what we have now.

  29. gst
    January 31, 2005 at 1:49 pm

    I for one am mightily glad that there were no stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction on hand when we invaded Iraq. If there were, they almost certainly would have been used on my brother and his fellow marines, just as they’d previously been used on Saddam’s other enemies.

    It’s interesting to me that Saddam could have prevented or postponed the invasion by demonstrating that he had none of the these weapons but did not. Tell me if you think this analogy works: a known thug is surrounded by police who demand that he put his hands in the air. Instead of complying, the thug attempts to hold the police off by pointing his index finger at them from within his coat pocket such that it looks like he has a gun. The police, who know that this guy has killed people with a gun before, and have every reason to believe that he has a gun now, shoot him. On searching him, they determine he had no gun (perhaps he passed it on to a friend–let’s call him Bashar Assad). It seems to me that we should give those cops medals.

  30. HL
    January 31, 2005 at 1:49 pm

    Obviously this is an emotional issue so I will attempt to tread lightly (attempt being the key word). First, I find the argument that detractors of the war in Iraq simply have fallen into easy life styles and have forgotten the price we pay for OUR freedom a bit hard to swallow. The fact is the war in Iraq has very little or nothing at all to do with OUR freedom. One may be able to argue that we thought it did when we went (an idea I find very suspect. That most politicians thought Saddam had WMDs only points to many contributing facotrs not the least of which is the fact that the White House was publishing misleading intelligence). But there was no tie between Iraq and any terrorist or terrorist groups involved in 9/11. In fact, that is one of the facts that most upsets me. If we were really concerned about 9/11 and those who lost their lives we would have focused on Afghanastan and Bin Laden. If our attention were focused there one could argue that we could have made far more progress in that area toward peace and democracy and more importantly to stable Mid East politics. I find the conflation of religion and politics very troubling, to say the least. I am grateful Iraq has a chance at democracy. I am grateful to US men and women who bravely risk their lives to protect the Iraqi people. I will be very grateful if the gospel is spread throughout Iraq and the middle east. But those aspects of the conflict are to some extent beside the point when discussing the politics of the issue. At best, they are facts to be used to show that a misguided conflict may have some redeeming facets. That does nothing to pursaude me away from aspects of the conflict such as: that Bush had intelligence that he ignored, had false intelligence that he knew to be suspect and still relied on and passed it on to the senate to get democrats on board. Partially he made a judgment call with available info. And I agree that although his judgment call was wrong it needs to be judged from an ex ante not ex poste viewpoint. That being said, those who support Bush should not be able to so easily dismiss the misleading statements made by Bush, especially in the light of the intelligence he asked the Senate to rely on when he knew it to be misleading. Well, so much for treading lightly.

  31. Jonathan Green
    January 31, 2005 at 2:18 pm

    Sure, Gordon, Iraq has come up here before. Every time it does, I am reminded how completely unprepared we are to hold a civil conversation about it, let alone an informed one, and I don’t think that will change soon. I wish your post hadn’t included a sentence–“I mean, even the New York Times smiled for a moment”–that framed the issue in terms of defeatists vs. optimists. If Iraq is largely tangential to T&S, then why does the NYT’s editorial policy matter at all?

    Your update troubles me more. It would be easier to be unreservedly positive about the Iraqi elections if trumpeting good news from Iraq did not already have a long partisan history. So when you link to Glen Reynolds and call the NYT “shameful,” I become less willing to join in the celebration, as the NYT and Instapundit are readily identifiable with the anti- and pro-war positions, respectively. I can’t know your intentions perfectly, but I read the update as tending to confirm my initial suspicion: that the unity you invoke is somewhere on a slippery slope beginning at universal consensus and sliding precipitously towards the capitulation of one side to the other.

  32. Jed
    January 31, 2005 at 2:51 pm

    “All of you stood firmly on the side of freedom in that war. So where is your backbone in this one?”

    Debbie (#23): Your sincerity and zeal impress me, but they also scare me to death. Freedom may indeed come by blood, but it can also come by meekness, forebearance, and the mild answer, all their own sturdy “backbone.” You come dangerously close to advocating war at costs. The end, freedom, you imply, justifies nearly any means.

    Your post puts an interesting array of wars into dialogue–from the WAr of Heaven to the French Revolution and beyond. You seem to imply that God wills for these wars to occur, that he wants them to happen, that he must have them fought in order to bring about his purposes. Is this your position?

    Do you think God ever bails out humans from their own error, salvaging something good out of evil designs originating in the hearts of wicked and conspiring men? Do you think a nation inhabiting a covenant land can ever make a mistep and enter a war God does not endorse?

  33. Nate Oman
    January 31, 2005 at 3:00 pm

    ” I can’t know your intentions perfectly, but I read the update as tending to confirm my initial suspicion: that the unity you invoke is somewhere on a slippery slope beginning at universal consensus and sliding precipitously towards the capitulation of one side to the other. ”

    Gordon: You tricky guy! You almost tricked everyone into universal consensus on the policies underlying the Iraq war! I for one was almost duped by your clever ploy into lock step agreement with everything said by Glenn Reynolds and the White House press office. Fortunately, I now know that I stand on a slippery slope and I am not letting you push me toward unilateral capitulation with your sneaky antics.

  34. HL
    January 31, 2005 at 3:06 pm

    Is receiving a snide post from nate a rite of passage? If so I hope to elicit such a response soon! ;)

  35. Nate Oman
    January 31, 2005 at 3:19 pm

    HL: I thought that I had made enough snide comments to you in person that you already could feel the love ;-> I will try to say something characteristically snitty here. BTW, are you going to be in NYC next month for the LDS law students’ conference? I could say something snide to you in person…

  36. HL
    January 31, 2005 at 3:39 pm

    Unfortunately I’m stuck here in very sunny LA. However, I’m sure you’ll get another chance soon.

  37. Jeremiah J.
    January 31, 2005 at 3:50 pm

    Your “disgraceful” line is sadly typical of most media bias rants. The typical pattern goes that you assume some nefarious bias then read it into every omission, every inclusion, any editorial decision at all. The result is that you never get a full view of what the Times does and does not report, since the fixation is always on particular slights to some “side” of the story (which “side” is always assumed to be worthy of mention and well-supported), which “slights” can usually be explained in many other ways besides nefarious and “disgraceful” editorial practices.

    On what grounds do you claim that the omission of the paragraph in question makes the article plainly worse? It can’t be because Instapundit has some priviledged insight into the “truth on the ground” in Iraq, what constitutes disrupting an election, or what constitutes a free and fair election. He almost certainly doesn’t. And he has a two-year history of being extravagantly wrong on almost everything about Iraq. Is it rather because we have a moral duty to report an administration-sponsored “bright side” in every story about Iraq, even if the facts or even the context of the story don’t warrant it?

    Having said all this, it seems that from the various reports coming out of Iraq the worst fears of election day chaos did not come true. I like the fact that elections are happening in Iraq. I also like the fact that people are going to be elected and will write a new constitution (though the old one, which Saddam merely ignored, really isn’t that bad). But I still do not understand this combative desire which some people have to pit themselves against any attempt to calmly assess the quality of the election. We can talk about the decline of Russian democracy, the sham that is Belarus, the situation in the Ukraine, etc., but when we start talking about Iraq, a good third of the participants in our discussion will procede to lay on the ground kicking and screaming until we all acknowledge that only 5 political murders were reported on the street today instead of 10 or 20.

    There are serious problems with the election in Iraq, however. These are not just left-wing handwringing reasons, but they are problems which many democracies struggle with all the time. I’ll mention two. One is that there has been almost no campaigning. The threat of violence has insured that there even the public who will vote knows very little or nothing about the candidates, the parties, and the range of views which are being presented. These things are just as much a part of democracy, if not more a part, than the actual vote. The current situation is like having freedom of speech, but without the use of public assemblies, telephone, internet or paper.

    It is true that having an election in only 90% of a country might not be a problem which is devastating to the legitimacy of an election. But it is devastating when the places without voting coincide with places where ethnic minorities live. In other words, it’s one thing if the imperfections are basically random, but quite another if the imperfections fall almost completely on a very significant political minority. After Sunday’s election, it will likely be very possible and plausible for the Sunnis to continute to claim that the election is a Shi’a-Kurd alliance against them. But this is exactly the problem which the elections were supposed to overcome. If really care about assisting a real Iraqi democracy rather than banishing our negative feelings we have about this war, we should be a lot more open to talking about these problems.

  38. January 31, 2005 at 3:50 pm

    HL: “That most politicians thought Saddam had WMDs only points to many contributing facotrs not the least of which is the fact that the White House was publishing misleading intelligence)”

    Well, you would have to add France and Russia’s intelligence to that list. The probability of Iraq having WMD wasn’t really questioned by much of anyone. The question of how to deal with the situation was. So to say that Bush had this intelligence that he knew to be false is a little disingenuous. If the intelligence was so obviously false at the time, I’m sure France and Russia would not have backed up those claims considering their stance on the war.

    The fact is that information is coming to light that the action these countries made in the name of peace were likely to have more corrupt motives than ours were for war. And if George Bush knew these claims were false, and that Iraq had no WMDs, why didn’t he plant any there? Many people in this country think he is capable of such a ploy. The fact that we find nothing there tells me that at the very least he believed what he said and fully expected to find WMDs.

  39. Martin James
    January 31, 2005 at 4:08 pm

    Nate, one definition of liberal is ” Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded.”

    The last two seem relatively straightforward.

    Its the first two in relation to your posts that I am curious about. What are your favorite proposals for reform and you favorite new ideas for progress? I am new to reading the blog so if you could point me to past posts or if not start a new one addressing this question.

    For good and for bad, the law has always struck me as conservative, (precedent and all that) so I am curious how history and the law inform your sense of liberalism.

    If its bad manners to ask for a post on a specific topic, well…be liberal and indulge me.

  40. January 31, 2005 at 4:15 pm

    Jonathan & Jeremiah,

    Despite Nate’s valiant defense, I largely agree with you that claims of media bias are usually overwrought and that my including this particular claim was not conducive to building a unified celebration of the election success in Iraq.

    Although I am pretty quick to believe the worst about the NYT, I generally don’t see mainstream media as a vast left-wing conspiracy. In the spirit of even-handedness, therefore, I have posted another update.

  41. Jeremiah J.
    January 31, 2005 at 4:21 pm

    Kane: The debate on WMDs is really off-topic, but I’ve been amazed at the oil-for-food line of argument for quite some time. Amazed, because it is completely laughable and yet is repeated over and over. First the question focuses on the private motives of leaders who opposed us, which seems to be of little relevance. The question should be whether there really were good reasons for not going into Iraq. It’s obvious that there were, and these were very knowable, even if many intelligence services had views about WMDs which were similar to ours. So claiming that France and Russia were right about everything, but for nefarious reasons (whereas we were wrong about everything, but for very good reasons), establishes very little of importance. But even if the private motives of the France and Russia are important for the debate on whether our decisions were correct, it’s still wrong, since the idea that whole governments and, indeed, whole populations, were basing their view of an Iraq invasion on corrupt oil-for-food deals is wildly absurd. Chirac, Schroder, and Putin would have been politically dead if they had gone into Iraq, corruption or no corruption. So the argument gets destroyed coming and going.

    I don’t for one minute think Bush made up evidence for Iraq WMDs. But he does have a very hard time distinguishing baloney from well established fact. The judgements on fact thus typically fall to subordinates, who are less responsible and that’s where you get the obvious falsehoods on a variety of issues. On this score I feel bad for the guy–he is led around very flawed advisors, and yet getting rid of them would amount making himself blind and deaf. What’s more, his thinking was that Iraq deserved relatively little thought and care–the strength and severity (which is a key element) of the WMD case didn’t matter since Saddam was bad and besides it would be easy–even if the supposed weapons weren’t a threat to us, invasion and occupation would be so easy that any unforseen troubles don’t come close to tipping the balance. To me this is morally culpable gross negligence, but I suppose that for someone with little way of knowing that there would be many, many difficulties, it’s somewhat different. Paradoxiacally Bush himself is the one of the few people with little or no way of knowing this.

  42. Nate Oman
    January 31, 2005 at 4:25 pm

    Martin: Wrong thread. My embrace of liberalism was on Kaimi’s toung biting thread. In part it was a jab at Russell, who I realize, is almost certainly not reading these threads. Here is a sampling of my posts on the kind of liberalism that I am talking about:

    Office Decor and the Place of Mormonism in American History
    Mormonism, Liberalism and Social Epistemology
    A Contract Theodicy
    The Quandry of the Sugar Beets
    The Political Limits of Agency
    Covenant and Contract
    Against Civic Religion

  43. January 31, 2005 at 4:35 pm

    The argument that the US and it’s coalition allies went to war over WMD’s is fallacious. Yes, WMD’s were one reason we went, but only one. It has been demonstrated that Iraq did give refuge to Al Qaeda at the least, and funded it’s activities at most. In addition, it has been demonstrated that the Saddam regime provided reward money for Palestinian families whose sons and daughters engaged in homocide bombings. Add to these the horrible cruelties enacted on the people of Iraq by Saddam and his sons, and I believe there can be made a strong case for initiated conflict.

    In the end, the result is that now there are 25 million human beings, our brothers and sisters, who no longer are subject to rape rooms, mass genocide, gasing, maming, being tossed from buildings, etc. etc. Instead, they now have an opportunity at self government, an opportunity to determine for themselves how they will be treated by their heads of state, and who will be those heads.

    Was the war devastating? No doubt. War always is. The civil war was devastating to the people of the day. Yet the outcome was freedom previously unknown by thousands and thousands of blacks. World War II was devastating to the Jews, not to mention those who suffered in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, Pearl Harbor, Normandy, and so on. Yet, those whose lives were spared from the gas chambers, as one example, most likely look upon the price paid, and thank God for those willing to pay it.

    More than 1,100 of America’s finest young men and women have paid the ultimate price for the freedom of a people they don’t even know. And while I am certain there are many in the US who think that price was too high, ask the average Iraqi voter what they think.

    I know, the question that will undoubtedly be asked is “why should we care in the US?” To borrow a phrase out of Texas history “Remember the Twin Towers!”.

    Sure, North Korea, Iran, Syria- these, too, are hot-beds of terrorism. And in turn, it is likely that each will have to be confronted. We start where we can, and move from there.

  44. Jonathan Green
    January 31, 2005 at 4:36 pm

    Nate, I’ll try one more time.

    Gordon’s post sounds at first as if it wants everybody to forget their differences over the war and join in applauding the elections in Iraq: “no matter what you think of the war, you have to be pleased for the Iraqi people, don’t you?”

    With the link to Instapundit and the aspersion cast on the NYT, the post starts to smell of asking people to forget their opposition to the war and join in applauding it. For a post ostensibly about unity on a dvisive issue, the semiotics of the NYT/Instapundit update are all wrong.

  45. Jonathan Green
    January 31, 2005 at 4:40 pm

    Gordon, thank you for the updated update, which crossed paths with my last post.

  46. Adam Greenwood
    January 31, 2005 at 4:51 pm

    We shouldn’t call Gordon to task for suggesting that the NYT is biased and then start talking about how Bush is too dumb to sort fact from fiction, etc. Tolerance is a two way street.

  47. Nate Oman
    January 31, 2005 at 4:55 pm

    Jeremiah: I think that you raise the real issue with regard to this election and that is low turn out among Sunnis. This is potentially ominous not only for Iraq but also for the broader strategy that the administration is pursuing in the Middle East. The strategic goal in Iraq, as I understand it, is to create a functionging Arab democracy that will by example place pressure on other regimes to clean their acts up thus mitigating the tyrannical political dysfunctionality that Bush et al see as — not unreasonably — being a major contributor to terrorism. However, to the extent that Iraqi democracy can be cast in terms of Shi’ia and Kurdish victory over Sunni’s, the Sunni leaders who are supposed to be pressured by the Iraqi example can try to delegitimize it in the eyes of their own people by portraying it as an anti-Sunni ploy. (In addition to playing on garden variety anti-Americanism.)

    Frankly, I am surprised that the elections went as well as they seem to have gone. However, I think that they are a long way from either justifying or damning Bush’s policy. Ultimately, the administration’s policy is a very long term strategic gamble. It could take a very long time to figure out if it ultimately works. After all, we had to wait forty years to discover that George Kennan’s anti-Soviet strategy was basically sound, and along the way we had several horrible little wars and huge swaths of informed opinion in the West that came to the (ultimately mistaken) opinion that Soviet totalitarianism was essentially a permanent part of the world that we should just learn to live with.

  48. Nate Oman
    January 31, 2005 at 5:00 pm

    Jonathan: I am less worried about the semniotics of suspicion and power than you are for the simple reason that I don’t regard Gordon as that powerful. (Sorry Gordon. ;-> ) I don’t think that anyone can be tricked into dropping opposition to the war, and I doubt Gordon is dumb enough to attempt such a thing. Hence, I find your grim determination to read sinister rhetorical agendas into the interstices of Gordon’s post implausible. This is not to say that your interpretation is invalid, I just don’t think that this is the sort of sneakiness about which I need to worry that much.

  49. HL
    January 31, 2005 at 5:06 pm

    Kelley Knight: “has been demonstrated that Iraq did give refuge to Al Qaeda at the least, and funded it’s activities at most. In addition, it has been demonstrated that the Saddam regime provided reward money for Palestinian families whose sons and daughters engaged in homocide bombings. Add to these the horrible cruelties enacted on the people of Iraq by Saddam and his sons, and I believe there can be made a strong case for initiated conflict.”

    First of all, I would need to be shown cites for the “demonstrating” of Al Queda ties. I know Fox News has reported that but am unaware of anyone else who has claimed this (I might just be missing it). Second, what does Palestinian suicide attacks in Israel have directly to do with either the twin towers or American security on American soil. I know many strong arguments can be made for indirect consequences that should not be ignored and so we should be involved in the issue but if it is so important why not invade Gaza? Third, once again what does anything happening in Iraq pre-9/11 have to do with what happened on 9/11. I have still not heard a convincing response to this question (I know I am inviting the barrage but oh well). Fourth I am surprised at how often the argument in favor of the Iraq war simply turns into emotional pleas for world democracy and remembering our fallen comrades over the last 200 years (that was a bit hyperbolic in case it was missed). This rush to emotion seems to demonstrate the weakness of the rational argument for war in Iraq.

  50. January 31, 2005 at 5:38 pm

    HL:” First of all, I would need to be shown cites for the “demonstrating” of Al Queda ties. I know Fox News has reported that but am unaware of anyone else who has claimed this (I might just be missing it). ”

    You might try “The Connection” by Stephen Hayes

  51. HL
    January 31, 2005 at 5:45 pm

    Anything not penned by an ultra-conservative with an obvious agenda? I believe the 9/11 commission found little or no basis for the belief of any substantial “connection”.

  52. January 31, 2005 at 5:49 pm

    Nate: “I don’t think that anyone can be tricked into dropping opposition to the war, and I doubt Gordon is dumb enough to attempt such a thing.”


  53. January 31, 2005 at 5:55 pm

    Well, I usually read something first then make a judgement based on what is written. Having an agenda doesn’t make you wrong. I’m not saying he is right, but he does make a case. And by the way, the 9/11 commission only looked at Iraq’s link w/ 9/11, and members of the comission itself have commented on the fact that their findings have been distorted by the media to now mean that they had “no relations period”, and that is not the intent.

    Nobody is really contesting that Iraq was linked to 9/11. The point is that they had a relationship outside of 9/11 that could lead to future problems. The case for entering Iraq was never revenge for 9/11, it was to protect us from another one.

  54. January 31, 2005 at 6:08 pm

    Well put, annegb! (#17)

    I wish my finger were blue today. It was breathtaking to see the calm order and smiles inside polling stations, knowing there were snipers on the roofs, all vehicle traffic prohibited, death threats for any who voted (in the words of the terrorists) “against Islam” . . .

  55. January 31, 2005 at 6:09 pm


    In the interest of clarity, it is KELLY, no E. Thanks.

    Now as to the question of Al Queda ties with Iraq pre 9/11, I did a very quick Google search and found countless entries discussing this. One of the more prominent, and perhaps the most verifiable, comes from a collection of US News and World Report, and TIME Magazines. They date back to 1991 and contain only PRE-Bush contacts.

    The list extracted from these two magazines was too long, and only the first six months of 1998 took 4 pages in Word. In the interest of saving space on T&S, not to mention that portion of my arse that would be bitten off, I have posted just those six months on my personal blog. (

    As to the emotional side of things- I’m sorry, but war is not only devastating, it is also emotional. True it may be that one must avoid going to war over emotions. But let’s face it, the country was mad as hell at the perpetrators of 9/11, and used that emotion to motivate themselves in the direction of finding those responsible, hunting them down, and killing them.

    As for Gaza, I think Israel is doing a fair job.

    Finally, Palestinian homocide attacks in Israel that are funded and rewarded by Iraq being tied to the Twin Towers- Well, that I know of there is no direct connection, nor did I make one. However, it serves as another example in a long history of terrorist activities around the world supported by Saddam and sons.

    One day, when my oldest was in 4th grade, he found a 6th grader picking on a kindergartener. He intervened and the two of them decided to take it to the park after school. The school found out and stopped things before they got started, and suspended both my son and the other boy for a period of time. I congratulated my son for coming to the defense of the kindergartner despite the suspension, explaining to him that while the school has its rules, which we must obey, what he had done was noble and I could find no fault with him. We tried to make his three days at home as pleasant as possible.

    The US is in a similar position. We are the most noble, strongest, and greatest nation on God’s green earth (to paraphrase Michael Medved). As such, we have an inherit responsibility to protect the little guy, the down-trodden, against aggressive oppresion the likes of Saddam. Like it, or not.

  56. DavidH
    January 31, 2005 at 6:15 pm

    As I recall, after the President announced he had decided to invade Iraq–citing, among other things, the likelihood that Iraq had WMDs that the incompetent UN inspectors had not located–support for the invasion in the U.S. soared to around 70% or 75% in the polls. Disgracefully, even many democrats and the Washington Post (including usually lucid columnists like Richard Cohen, who has subsequently changed his mind) supported the invasion.

    I may be wrong, but I suspect that had a majority of the people in the U.S. opposed the war, the President would have been more likely to give inspections or other less drastic measures additional time–if only to build a stronger political coalition in the U.S. Frankly, in such a case, I do not think there would have been a war at all.

    The war drums for another invasion, this time of Iran, are only softly beating now–as Thomas Friedman points out, we do not have the money or the troops to forcibly democratize another country at the moment.

    Next time, if the President seeks a resolution of Congress before invading another country, I suspect the democrats–and even some republicans–will have some backbone.

    As I read some of the pro-war comments on this thread, I suspect there are many who would favor knocking off some other governments as soon as the troops can be brought home from Iraq. Given that a substantial minority or plurality (depending on the timing of the poll) now believes that the Iraq invasion was a mistake, I anticipate it will be much more difficult to build political support for subsequent invasions.

  57. January 31, 2005 at 6:21 pm

    If I could build on Jon Kane’s last comment. Going to war purely for revenge (ie, because of 9/11) is wrong, and the USA did not do that (nor is Australian support for the war on terror based on the Bali bombings). The invasion of Afghanastan and Iraq were made, primarily, to prevent future attacks. Afghanastan made immediate sense (refusing to hand over Al Qaeda).
    Iraq? The fear was WMDs (which plenty of intel agencies thought were there) and future collusion with terrorists who would target the west. And while Iraq did not have WMDs, the final report did state that it would not be difficult for Saddam to restart his WMD program. Given the harm that sanctions did to Iraq, would it be conscienable to go that route again? Or to continue it? The fact is, we didn’t know the WMDs weren’t there until after Saddam was removed. That should have happened before he defied over a dozen UN resolutions. The fact that he was bribing members of the security council should be more troubling than the abscence of WMDs in Iraq.

  58. January 31, 2005 at 6:23 pm

    DavidH: “As I read some of the pro-war comments on this thread, I suspect there are many who would favor knocking off some other governments as soon as the troops can be brought home from Iraq.”

    I would not want to be put in that group. Not now anyway. I think Iraq could be a domino in the Middle East, and we should see how it plays out. Furthermore, Iraq had special circumstances that Iran doesn’t have (History of WMD use, constant violation of cease fire, previously discussed ties, way too many UN resolutions, attempt on a former President’s life, etc.) I don’t think we should go around attacking everyone, Iraq was a unique situation.

    Also, here are some quotes from Lee Hamilton (D) Vice chair of the 9/11 commission:

    “I must say I have trouble understanding the flack over this. The Vice President is saying, I think, that there were connections between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein’s government. We don’t disagree with that. What we have said is [that] we don’t have any evidence of a cooperative, or a corroborative relationship between Saddam Hussein’s government and these al Qaeda operatives with regard to the attacks on the United States. So it seems to me the sharp differences that the press has drawn, the media has drawn, are not that apparent to me.”

    “There are all kinds of ties. There are all kinds of connections. And it may very well have been that Osama bin Laden or some of his lieutenants met at some time with Saddam Hussein lieutenants.
    They had contacts, but what we did not find was any operational tie with respect to attacks on the United States.”

  59. DavidH
    January 31, 2005 at 6:27 pm

    “The US is in a similar position. We are the most noble, strongest, and greatest nation on God’s green earth (to paraphrase Michael Medved). As such, we have an inherit responsibility to protect the little guy, the down-trodden, against aggressive oppresion the likes of Saddam. Like it, or not.”

    I get nervous in applying superlatives to my country, good or bad. I agree that militarily we are currently the strongest. The noblest? How do you measure that? Does one take into account the personal morality of its citizens or of its media? Is it a matter of foreign policy? Are we the noblest only when republicans are in power?

    As far as our “inherent responsibility” to always protect the down-trodden–has God invested the United States with this duty because we are the promised land, or part of the promised land? What about our neighbor countries who are also part of the promised land?

    Where in the Book of Mormon or Doctrine & Covenants is there set forth a theory of war that allows the U.S., without being attacked or being threatened with imminent attack, to declare war on other nations to democratize them (or permit the spread of the gospel)?

  60. January 31, 2005 at 6:30 pm

    DavidH- a “substantial minority”? At first glance this sounds oxymoronic. Actually, at second glance, too.

    Just a thought- No, there were no WMD in Iraq, that we could find. Why? Because Saddam expended them against the Kurds, and countless thousands of his own people in testing. Rest assured, could he replenish that stock, he would have.

    Again, WMD’s were not the only reason, or even the majority reason, for invading Iraq. But let’s say for argument sake they were. Even the left’s candidate for President, John Kerry, believed and accepted the intelligence that said there were. The Brits, the French, the Germans, The Russians, The Spaniards, and so on and so forth, believed intelligence reports that there were WMD in Iraq. We understand now why the French, Germans, and Russians, wanted to avoid invasion (Oil for food scandal), but this did not deminish their belief in the existence of WMD.

    If Bush was duped, the whole world was duped. It is suggested lately that even Saddam was duped, by his own scientists who feared telling Saddam that they had nothing more than they feared invasion by the infidel.

    As for “knocking off” other governments as soon as this war is over- perhaps by then it will be too late. We already know that NK has nukes, and Iran is knocking on the door. It is rumored that any WMD that might have been in Iraq could quite possibly now be in Syria.

    Personally, I do not favor war. No one with any measure of sanity does. However, sometimes war is the solution, despite liberal bumperstickers to the contrary.

  61. annegb
    January 31, 2005 at 6:38 pm

    Hi, Ana, It’s me, Grandma’s evil twin. :)

    I have no political affiliation, sometimes I go one way, sometimes another. I lost a son in the military (to suicide), and I did not want another mother to go through what I did, that day the two Marines came to my door. I did not want war in Iraq. I still wish we weren’t there.

    But now we’re there. We have to do what we have to do. I see no way out of this, but through.

    You know, my step- son was in the Navy. One day I was criticising our government in his presence, and I asked him, “what do you think? ” And his reply: “I’ve served all over the world, and I’ve never found a government better than ours, anywhere. I’ll take it.”

    I like superlatives, in reference to my country. Now my leaders, they take a lot of flak from me. If they can’t take heat, they should stay out the kitchen. Where but in America do we have such freedom?

  62. January 31, 2005 at 6:39 pm


    First, I made no introduction of the Bible or Book of Mormon into this discussion. To set them up as a strawman is unwarranted and unneccesary.

    As for the US being Noble- Morality is certainly waning in the US. Political parties have nothing to do with nobility; I made no mention of republican, democrat, conservative, or liberal in that statement. Rather, in this case, nobility applies to the willingness to defend others who are unable to defend themselves. We are noble and great. We believe in good, speaking as a whole, not individual, and we have demonstrated that greatness for generations. We have never sought to broaden our borders through domination, we have sought only to spread the liberating force of freedom and self-governance.

  63. DavidH
    January 31, 2005 at 6:56 pm

    The phrase “substantial minority” is not an oxymoron. Try googling it. It is essentially synonymous with “significant minority.”

    “We have never sought to broaden our borders through domination, we have sought only to spread the liberating force of freedom and self-governance.”

    I think this is largely true for our wars after the Spanish American War; I would not agree this was true of our wars in the 19th century and I would not agree that the U.S. has always had pure motivations and clean hands in its military and paramilitary actions in the 20th century.

    I, too, do not favor war. I, too, believe that in certain instances war may be necessary. I am not sure whether we are in agreement that war should be a last resort, which is my belief. We disagree whether the invasion of Iraq was necessary; I believe it was not.

    I believe we are also in agreement that we should rejoice that the elections apparently went well yesterday, and hope that our troops can come home soon.

  64. Nate Oman
    January 31, 2005 at 9:23 pm

    “Next time, if the President seeks a resolution of Congress before invading another country, I suspect the democrats–and even some republicans–will have some backbone.”

    People have been saying more or less the same thing since the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. I wouldn’t get my hopes up…

  65. January 31, 2005 at 10:18 pm


    To put your mind at ease, I do beleive that war should be a last resort. As for the invasion of Iraq, I tend to believe that the president and his aids are far more privy to information that you and I do not have, information that perhaps I do not even want to know.

  66. Jonathan Green
    January 31, 2005 at 10:44 pm

    Nate, I don’t think you figured out my original point. Could be my fault. No worries, I never quite figured out yours. Par for the course on an Iraq thred.

Comments are closed.