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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Monday, January 31, 2005


Liberal bloggers react to the Iraqi elections

posted by praktike at Monday, January 31, 2005 permalink View blog reactions
Whether you supported the initial invasion of Iraq or not, it's hard not to be inspired by yesterday's tremendous outpouring of hope and defiance. No, it wasn't perfect. No, it won't end the insugency tomorrow. No, one election does not a liberal democracy make. A lot of us have qualms about the viability of this project, to say the least. But yesterday was a day to be celebrated, for the Iraqis' sake. Remember that it's not all about US.

In that spirit, here are some of the best reactions from the liberal blogosphere. Not all of these folks agree on what should be done or on the prospects for going forward. But all of them celebrated a good and historic day for Iraq.

Publius put things in perspective:

Before I get to the substance of this post, I want to offer two words of advice – one to anti-war Democrats, and one to pro-war Republicans. To the anti-war Dems first (I’m considering abandoning the terms “left” and “right”), I would caution them to avoid knee-jerk rejection of all potentially good news just because of the justified animosity toward people like Bush or Glenn Reynolds. The elections yesterday were important and are worthy of praise – as is the courage of the Iraqis who faced death to vote. As much as I reject Bush, I’m not going to root for failure just to spite him, and neither should you. If we fail, and if this government fails, then the result will be an all-out slaughter, complete with genocide and ethnic cleansing right in the heart of an already unstable region. That is the reality of failure. And if you’re silently rooting for that reality, you need to take a step back and put things in perspective.

He also had some strong words of advice for those who would set expectations too high or use the lives and hopes of Iraqis as some sort of partisan club. Yesterday was certainly exciting and a success in many ways, but democracy is a slow and painstaking process. Folks would do well to remember that. And again, it's not all about US. It's about the Iraqis and what they want.

Chicago Life, the son of an Iraqi Assyrian dissident, wrote the following in his dKos diary:

My father was a freedom fighter in Iraq, a founder of several Assyrian pro-democracy groups, and was arrested and tortured; he was also the victim of an assassination attempt.

I write this to my fellow dKosers because I think it is important, in our observation of the war, to realize that many Iraqis did, in fact, support the war and continue to support the war effort. Now, my father and I are both as Democrat-y as they come--I worked on Kerry's campaign, currently work in the Labor movement, and am otherwise active in progressive politics.

So it is important to understand that Iraqis support the war effort and do feel positively about the elections; however, as my and my father's comments on MSNBC make clear, that does not mean we think the Bush administration has handled the war correctly or that holding elections translates to success. I think many Iraqis deplore the military situation over there--yet after 30+ years of Stalinist oppression, we were looking for anything to change the status quo. Today is a day to be positive about what is going on there. [...]

[MSNBC] asked why I, as an American-born citizen, felt it was important to vote. I replied that because people in Iraq were struggling to build a democracy, we shouldn't flunk our duty to support that struggle if we had the opportunity--and casting a ballot was showing solidarity. I also said that as Americans, we wanted to see the occupation end as soon as possible to bring our troops home. I was hoping the follow up to that would give me an opportunity to explain that enthusiastic participation in this election did not imply support for the Bush administration or the war (although I did initially support the war), but rather support for our troops and Iraqis.

Josh Marshall:

Good news has been hard to come by in Iraq for some time. So this unexpectedly high turn-out, relatively low level of violence, and what seems to have been a swelling tide of enthusiasm over the course of the day, is something more than very welcome news. It may also provide some indication or clue to explaining those polls which show, on the one hand, deep-seated Iraqi disenchantment with the US occupation, outrage over the persistent violence that afflicts the country, and yet also an underlying optimism about the future.

Disasters aren't turned around in a day; but this was a good day. Nobody should be surprised that people show up in large numbers in a country where elections have never or only seldom happened; that happens all the time. But I'm not sure I can think of a similar instance when voting has occurred amidst such immediate and credible threats of violence.

Ben P. of MyDD:

I feel compelled to write an essay saying why I am disappointed that more liberals have not recognized that the Iraqi elections were successful. Indeed, they were more successful than I imagined they would be. Really, just because Bush believes something or says something to be so doesn't make it not so. Remember, a broken clock is right twice a day. I have hardly been a strong advocate of this war (you might remember some of my posts to this effect), and would most certainly not support an invasion of say, Iran, because of one succesful election in Iraq. (and I'm sure I'll blog more in the future about issues such as these) But for most of Iraq's population, this election was a success - and is certainly a step in a positive direction.

Of course, I know all that it is wrong in Iraq and what could still go wrong - Sunni disenfranchisement/refusnikism, terrible security, very high unemployment, terrible infrastructure, and so on. But for a majority of non-Sunni Iraqis, this election really does represent a step towards a better life, if only in small measure. What, after all, do liberals believe in? Do we not believe in the enfranchisement of the formerly dispossessed and downtrodden? Do we not believe in democratic elections, even if flawed?

The Bull Moose, aka Marshall Wittman, added his own two cents:

The results of the Iraqi election are the first significant good news from Iraq since the end of the initial invasion. After over two years of chaos, turmoil, terror and Administration triumphalism and incompetence, the Iraqi people and our brave soldiers have achieved an advance for democracy in a part of the world that has only known tyranny.

We should not fall victim to either sour pessimism or irrational exuberance. As the Moose pointed out yesterday, the outcome of this struggle is by no means certain. Iraq will not soon, if ever, enjoy a Vermont type town hall democratic life - hopefully it will not lapse into a Putin like authoritarian state or an Iranian style theocracy. Nevertheless, for the Arab world, what transpired Sunday is profoundly important. Millions braved threats and attacks from fascist terrorists to cast a vote for a democratic future.

Brad Plumer:

Okay, I'll admit it—I've been swept up in the election fervor! From a rational standpoint, yes it's true that elections won't change much, and it's true that all the big problems still lie ahead. It's also generally true, as Swopa rightly points out, that these "one-man one vote" elections owe as much to Ayatollah Ali Sistani's agitating as to George W. Bush's foreign policy vision. But screw all that for now!

Eric Umansky:

The photos from the Times are remarkable and moving. Hopefully the early reports of unexpectedly high turnout will hold up--especially in Sunni areas. And if they do, hopefully that will take some wind out of the "withdraw-now" line, pushed by both some Dems and Republicans. The U.S.'s stay shouldn't be mainly driven by what the U.S. wants but instead by Iraqis. It's what we owe them.

Spencer Ackerman makes a slightly different point:

Seeing Iraqis vote yesterday--and celebrating that vote--was awe-inspiring. If the occupation has any reason for being, it's to ensure that we see that sight again and again and again over the coming years. And that involves asking ourselves very uncomfortable questions about what the relationship is between occupying Iraq and establishing Iraqi democracy.

Eric Martin savors the moment before looking ahead to the next few months:

As any reader of this site knows, I have been actively rooting for success in these elections and beyond - even offering my humble suggestions when I see an opening. The Iraqi people deserve this and much more. So it was with some trepidation that I watched the coverage of the elections, waiting for the other shoe to drop so to speak. Thus, it was immensely relieving to see that things went off relatively peaceful (yes, there was violence, death, and bloodshed, but compared to the fears, and compared to the recent levels of each, it was peaceful by contrast).

Unfortunately, there is not much time to bask in the electoral afterglow. As a friend, whose opinion on foreign policy matters I respect, commented to me via e-mail late Sunday: "now comes the hard part." Indeed. I am hoping that these elections have created a certain nationalistic momentum, and an invigorated sense of cooperation that can buttress efforts to tack the Iraqi body politic towards the embrace of inclusiveness and enlightened governance. An entire olive tree needs to be felled and carved up for the number of branches that need to pass hands over the next couple of months in order to see Iraq through its ordeal of fragmentation.

Eric ends with this thought:

With so many questions left unanswered, so many thorny issues to be smoothed out, and so many compromises needed to be struck, let's hope that these elections mark the beginning of an upward trend toward something positive and lasting. One small, but encouraging step.

I think we can all agree on that.



Chris Allbritton:
"I only hope American editors and the audiences still want to hear about Iraq if the stories are a little more Iraq-centric and less focused on American soldiers and policies. Iraq to America: It's not all about the U.S. troops."


Jeff Simmermon:I still am no Bush fan, and I know that America got lied to. I know we shouldn't have gone, and I think Rove is as evil as they come. But through all this deception and lying, through all this dismemberment and pain, America has wrought a beautiful, fantastic side effect: joy, freedom and a hope for peace. Does it take lies and misdirection to do this?? Is this what the other side of justice is? I feel like such a whiner and I don't know what to think anymore. Ultimately, in total defiance of my mother and grandmother’s teachings, two wrongs have made a right and my moral compass is tired and busted.

I can't tell the difference between the good guys and the bad guys, and I want a clear cut mandate, some lines to believe along. But there aren't any. There's just right and wrong and following your heart of hearts. And for the first time in my life, I can say that I was wrong to be compulsively critical of the current administration without seeking my own truth.

Some clear wrongs rise from this morass like an evil swamp monster, reeking of decay and crawling with filthy insect larvae. Puppeting a belief for social or financial gain, wihtout seeking the truth within one’s heart is real, real wrong. The level of discourse in Amaerica has plummeted to a name-calling ping-pong match with a turd for a ball. It doesn’t matter how wicked the serve is, both sides are still smacking a bunch of shit around. Just like Ann Coulter and the Protest Warriors, those "Fuck Bush" signs hurt America and all that it stands for. Even though I don't know what it stands for anymore...but I am so glad those people can vote.


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Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.