Odds and ends

by Ted on January 31, 2005

– The biggest news today, the election in Iraq, seems to have gone better than I would have dreamed. It’s no secret that I don’t think that the Bush administration has much to be proud of. But they deserve credit, along with the courageous Iraqi voters, for the first real elections in half a century. When Bush said that the terrorist hostility to the elections showed the emptiness of their vision, he was exactly right.

Iraq isn’t out of the woods. There may come a time when we look back and see how the elections made inevitable the Iraqi civil war/ next brutal strongman/ rise of our robot overlords. However, let the record show that, as of 1/30/05, I certainly didn’t have any better ideas.

– On the subject of forced investments in ideologically offensive companies, Greg Klass has a paper on the “compelled subsidization doctrine”, which holds that entities have a First Amendment right against being forced to subsidize speech with which they disagree. He writes, “If one could make out the case that limiting investment options “compels” investment in certain companies (because it prevents you from investing only in the high-return companies whose speech/policies you agree with), it would be possible to extend this odd First Amendment doctrine to the SS privitization proposals.” – I believe that there was only one other response from an mp3 blogger to the “greatest hits that never were” challenge: Keith at Teaching the Indie Kids to Dance Again recommends (and posts) a few great poppy tracks by the short-lived punk band Osker.

{ 36 comments }

1

roger 01.31.05 at 7:23 am

Why credit an administration that opposed the elections until, at gunpoint, they agreed with Sistani? Are we going to now credit Putin for not invading the Ukraine and putting his Russian puppet on the throne?

The US deserves zero credit for this election. From the war crime committed against Fallujah to the heavy leaning against Sistani’s list to get the timetable for the evacuation of the U.S. troops, the Bush administration has been a dead, reactionary, oppressive force. That the Iraqi people, minus the Sunnis, the ethnically cleansable people du jour, went out is amazing and beautiful and shows that, contrary to the ceaseless American lie, the Iraqis can deal with their internal affairs by themselves. This tears the last lie off of the pro-occupation side. Let’s not hear about how the Iraqis can’t handle their own security, or their own oil, or their own (Saddam accrued) debts and (moronic) reparations.

2

coinneach 01.31.05 at 10:43 am

Roger, you can’t possibly be serious. You don’t have to be a friend of the Bush Administration to see that these elections would not have had a chance of going as well as they did without the American military presence. I’m no friend of Bush, but this is a clear case where he and the American military have an actual, tangible success to point to. I don’t intend to undervalue the role of Iraqi security forces, but you can’t realistically say that the Iraqi forces would have provided enough security yesterday to make people feel comfortable enough to turn out in such large numbers. As it was, security was not perfect. 40 people lost their lives while engaging in an act that most of us take for granted. American troops yesterday helped make sure that more did not do so. That — no matter where you stand on the US motivations for going into Iraq — ought to be lauded. This election does not prove that “the Iraqis can deal with their internal affairs by themselves.” It is a great step in that direction, no doubt, but it is a step and not a completed journey.

What you say smacks of thoughtless Anti-Americanism. Reasoned opposition is well worth hearing, but you sound too blinded by your prejudices to come up with any such thing. Let us give censure and credit where they are due, and not just rail out against the US on every occassion.

3

Bob B 01.31.05 at 11:16 am

I am inclined to think that the invasion of Iraq and what followed was the consequence of this:

http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB82/press.htm

4

Brendan 01.31.05 at 12:19 pm

To agree with Roger: isn’t it amazing that history is being rewritten even before the ink is dry?

The Americans didn’t want any elections AT ALL: and Sistani had to threaten a Shia uprising before they were granted one.

http://www.needlenose.com/node/view/1043

As the Guardian quotes a Western diplomat ‘Sistani has played his cards well’: it was his use of diplomacy and sheer wiliness that outfoxed the Americans and forced elections. These elections were in many ways a joke: turnout was not particularly high (57% is not a particularly high amount) there were no international observers at the vast majority of polling booths, which will lead to allegations of widespread fraud, there is little or no press freedom, there is a civil war raging etc. etc.

Nevertheless, they were an achievment and a tribute to the bravery and democratic spirit of the Iraqi people.

The next step, clearly, now that ‘sovereignty’ (albeit of a highly limited sort) has been returned to the Iraqis (the previous handover of ‘sovereignty’ was a sick farce), is that Coalition troops should make preparations to leave. The UN mandate, as Robin Cook pointed out recently expressly states that the Coalition must be out by the end of the year. They should ensure that they are.

5

rd 01.31.05 at 12:56 pm

the notion that Americans didn’t want elections “at all” is a canard that seems to be gaining ground in some corners of the blogosphere. The original American plan was for: a constitution to be drafted by some consultative assembly not directly elected, for that constitution to be accepted or rejected by a popular referendum, for direct elections to follow for a permanent government in early 2006. The difference with Sistani was that he wanted the constitution drafting assembly to be directly elected in mid 2004. The eventual compromise was to have it elected now.

6

Superskepticalman 01.31.05 at 1:06 pm

As I recall, the 1933 German elections were free and fair as well.

Didn’t exactly turn out well for the rest of the world, did it?

7

jet 01.31.05 at 1:29 pm

“The Americans didn’t want any elections AT ALL”

You can not argue that the right in America celebrated yesterday as a great victory. You can ascribe all the Machiavellian motives to Bush and this election that you want, but as far the the American culture war this was a major victory for those who supported Bush.”The Americans didn’t want any elections AT ALL”

You can not argue that the right in America celebrated yesterday as a great victory. You can ascribe all the Machiavellian motives to Bush and this election that you want, but as far the the American culture war, this was a major victory for those who supported Bush and for the Iraqi people.

Can anyone believe there were protesters out agitating against the Iraqi election? There are those you disagree with and then there are those your find abhorrent.

8

Brendan 01.31.05 at 1:46 pm

Ok to be more specfic: yes the Americans were prepared to accept elections at some point in the future. However they didn’t want any elections like THESE elections: i.e. elections that would appoint a body that would decide the constitution. And the reason why is obvious: he who writes the constitution creates the constraints within which any government must operate. Would the Americans have tolerated it if their Constitution had been written by the British? Of course not. The idea that the constitution should be written, or strongly influenced by, an occupying power is simply ridiculous and Sistani was right not to accept it.

I read somewhere (can’t find the source: sorry!) that some unnamed source claimed that if these had simply been ordinary elections, then Sistani would not have been nearly so keen to bring out his supporters to vote. But the point is that these aren’t just any elections: they will decide who will write the constitution: and that will decide the future fate of Iraq.

And to repeat: the Americans did not want that decision to be made via the democratic process.

9

MQ 01.31.05 at 2:16 pm

We were clearly trying to rig the Iraqi constitution behind the scenes, there is a ton of evidence for that, and we did not want elections that would interfere with that. But at the same time our political culture forced us to go along with Sistani’s demands for elections, and that does say something positive about the fundamental decency of our traditions. Even if we don’t always honor them as well as we ended up doing here.

But the elections are about the Shi’ites getting control of Iraq, that is why they worked as well as they did. They plug into a long history of Shi’ite oppression. The Shi’ites welcomed them for that reason, not out of gratitude to the Americans.

10

john c. halasz 01.31.05 at 2:28 pm

Well, I for one am heartened by the relative success of the elections,- (and perhaps kudos are in order for the professional military for having for once competently executed a plan)-, just as I was heartened, when over 10 million people worldwide turned out to protest the war in advance. And, though I hopefully am not one to bewail narcissistically the woes of the world unto me, look at what that got me. Still, congratulations are in order for millions of Iraqi strangers, who bravely stepped out to stake their claim, in however flawed a process, most of whom do not possess a computer to spout off their obscure neurons into equally obscure electrons and all of whom lack the electricity.

11

ken 01.31.05 at 2:42 pm

But at the same time our political culture forced us to go along with Sistani’s demands for elections, and that does say something positive about the fundamental decency of our traditions.

This is a pretty naive statement. What forced us to go along with Sistani’s demand was “the correlation of forces.” He would have made Iraq bloody ungovernable for us if we had not. Recall Al Sadr’s brief but violent insurrection? Sastani stood by as it was crushed. He could have chosen not to stand by. He could have given his blessing to it. If he had, it would have been game, set and match for the US in Iraq. Period. We knew that. That’s all there is to it.

Also, the ORIGINAL plan — the one that had us being greeted as liberators in the Shia south — was simply to install Chalabi and his gang of thugs as the new Iraqi leadership and then to write a constitution and hold “elections” in some distant future.

So I don’t think it’s at all a matter of the “fundamental deceny of our traditions” — especially not our traditions in the foreign policy, which since the end of WWII and the rebuilding of Europe (which I take to be the high water mark of deceny in our foreign policy) our foreign policy has at least as often as not been highly indecent. Those repressive Arab regimes that are supposed to be quaking in their boots because the rise of popular sufferage? Many of them are our clients.

12

andrew cooke 01.31.05 at 3:17 pm

Ok to be more specfic: yes the Americans were prepared to accept elections at some point in the future. However they didn’t want any elections like THESE elections: i.e. elections that would appoint a body that would decide the constitution.

Yeah, I’ve always felt that Bush compromises way too much too.

13

Louis Proyect 01.31.05 at 3:56 pm

Ronald Reagan statement on the election of Jose Napoleon Duarte as President of El Salvador

May 18, 1984
On Wednesday, May 16, the Central Elections Commission of El Salvador certified Jose Napoleon Duarte as the winner of the May 6 Presidential election in that country. By this act, the people of El Salvador have made clear their choice of Mr. Duarte as the first popularly elected President of that country in recent history.

The voters have chosen as President a man who had dedicated his life to achieving democracy and reform for his homeland. We congratulate President-elect Duarte on his victory and pledge that we will do all in our power to strengthen the ties of freedom and democracy that unite us.

Mr. Duarte carried with him a clear mandate from the people of El Salvador, over 80 percent of whom voted on May 6, that democracy and the vote should determine their future. The United States bipartisan observer delegation noted that, “This election was fair and honest, and . . . provided a clear and undeniable mandate to whichever candidate is elected.” Election observers from other countries echoed a similar conclusion.

In protecting both rounds of the recent elections, the Salvadoran Armed Forces took more than 80 casualties, demonstrating once again their determination to defend freedom. They acted professionally and apolitically and are showing us now that they will respect the popular electoral will. In contrast, the guerrillas refused to participate in the election and intensified the combat before, during, and after the voting.

As El Salvador’s voters had to brave the intimidation of the guerrillas, their newly elected President will have to face the challenges of creating a peaceful and secure framework for social and humanitarian reform, economic development, and further democratic advance.

The people of El Salvador have spoken. We, along with other nations committed to a democratic form of government, must heed their courageous action. We will support their newly elected government in the pursuit of and the opportunity for a better life.

I look forward to meeting with El Salvador’s new President-elect on Monday, May 21, during his visit to Washington. In addition, I have asked Secretary of State George Shultz to head our delegation to the President-elect’s inauguration on June 1 in San Salvador.

14

Donald Johnson 01.31.05 at 4:51 pm

The fair way to put it, I think, is that the insurgents lost and that the Bush Administration was clever or lucky enough to change course and support what the majority of Iraqis wanted–elections now. True, it’s not what the Bushies originally wanted, but they’ve been a lot smarter than the insurgents. Though from their actions, it’s hard to see the insurgents has having any morally defensible goals.

There’s a tendency on both left and right to filter facts through our ideology and you see this pretty clearly all through the Iraq war. I think the right has been worse, but in this case if the left doesn’t admit that this election is a victory for the Iraqis and to a lesser extent (unfortunately) for Bush, then the left can’t claim to be reality-based. One can perfectly will say this and still believe that Bush and company are a pack of war criminals. In this case, the war criminals standing on the right side of the election issue.

15

ken 01.31.05 at 5:06 pm

Don Johnson:

I don’t entirely disagree with you. The Bushies have faced up to a few realities every now and then. One-man-one vote elections, sooner, rather than later was one of them.

But as heartwarming as relatively free and relatively fair elections are, I don’t think it’s yet determined exactly what these particular elections mean. There are at least two possible futures.

Possibility One: The elections lead to the creation of a new, unified, pluralistic Iraq because the Shia and Kurds, who will obviously dominate the new assembly, write a progressive democratic constitution that respect minority rights and offers the Sunni’s a buy-in.

Possiblity two: The writing process proves that the divisions are intractable. The Shia’s want a unified Iraq in which their power over all Iraq is largely unchallenged. The Kurds want autonomy. The Sunnis are offered no buy-in. Iraq explodes into civil war.

If the elections turn out to be instrumental to the former outcome, it’s a “win” for Bush and democracy. If the elections turn out to be instrumental to the latter outcome, Bush’s policy is an utter disaster and the time of the elections was a major mistake.

I’m not prepared to place bets either way. I don’t think we know yet whether there are powerful enough, clear-sighted enough, persuasive enough indigenous voices to shepard this toward a good rather than a disasterous outcome.

Politics is about to break out in Iraq. And who knows where that will lead.

16

Ted Barlow 01.31.05 at 5:20 pm

Folks, it’s very easy to submit comments more than once without meaning to. We’ve got a bit of a slow server. Not a big deal, and I appreciate the discussion; I’m just saying. Hit the “Post” button once.

17

roger 01.31.05 at 5:52 pm

I would not say Bush “won” — although this might gain him a couple weeks of glow in the always servile American press. The one thing the Americans did get, apparently, was an agreement from the United Iraqi Alliance to withdraw their demand for a timetable of the American withdrawal. Natch, the imperialists don’t like that idea. But this election is going to put them under some real pressure — after all, Iraq has something like a fifty percent unemployment rate, and the most popular candidate for the Shi’a poor, Muktada al-Sadr, is on the sidelines, ready to seize his moment if United really rolls over.

So we will definitely see. I find it amusing to think that the Iraqis, in the summer of 03, couldn’t have had an election as “free” as this one. Of course they could have. Of course, they could have had an army too, and electricity, and many other things they used to have. What they got, unfortunately, was a criminally incompetent Coalition Authority and a ceaseless flow of war profiteering American companies.

So much to be grateful for! Only a blitheering anti-American could fail to see the good will there!

18

Doctor Slack 01.31.05 at 6:33 pm

Yeah, I actually do think the “elections” are the next step toward large-scale sectarian strife and/or theocracy. Only better idea I have is US withdrawal — which won’t stop either outcome but at least could stop exacerbating the resulting death — but that’s not happening anytime soon.

In itself, all the “gee whiz, so few dead” musing casts an identifiable pall. When you stand back and look at it, how impressive a harbinger of democracy are “elections” which have to be conducted in a draconian lockdown environment, in which people often had to real idea who they were voting for, and that were “successful” in terms of coming off with relatively few firefights and bombings? The ’67 Vietnam Presidential elections managed a better turnout and a more credible aura of legitimacy. It’s just kind of sad.

But hey, the warfloggers will have something other than oil-for-food to talk up for a while. Who knows — in the process, maybe people like Glenn Reynolds will complete their years-long headfirst pilgrimages up their own rectums and vanish entirely.

19

Jon 01.31.05 at 9:05 pm

Among the many sub-plots to watch for in Wednesday’s State of the Union address will be President Bush’s appropriation of the words “freedom” and “liberty” for his agenda and the GOP.

As we’ve written before, the Republicans have dominated American policy debates through their manipulation and control of language. Whether through message discipline or superior framing (to use Lakoff’s term), the GOP has won a succession of victories spanning tax reform, Medicare, environmental policy, and more.

Bush’s 2005 State of the Union will be no exception to this strategy. Across both domestic and foreign policy, President Bush will position the Republicans as the party of “choice“, “liberty” and “freedom.” The dangerous and unneccessary privatization of Social Security through “personal accounts” will provide Americans greater freedom and control over their retirement security. Irresponsible and inequitable tax cuts will give Americans freedom to spend their money. School vouchers empower parental choice. New proposals for the Bush “Ownership Society” will free individuals to control their financial destiny. And that is just the beginning…

For more, see:

“Hijacking Freedom”

20

Uncle Kvetch 01.31.05 at 9:11 pm

Folks, it’s very easy to submit comments more than once without meaning to. We’ve got a bit of a slow server. Not a big deal, and I appreciate the discussion; I’m just saying. Hit the “Post” button once.

Um, Ted, it’s a little more complicated than that.

I encounter 2 different scenarios (scenarii?) when commenting on CT:

1) Hit “Post.” Wait wait wait wait wait. I get a time-out message from my browser. I open another browser window, open CT, open the thread in question, and lo & behold, there’s my comment. Slightly annoying, but no biggie.

2) Hit “Post.” Wait wait wait wait wait. I get an error message saying the post didn’t get through. Wait a few more minutes. Open CT in a different browser window, open the thread in question–my comment still isn’t there. Seems safe to assume that it’s not going to get there, doesn’t it? So I start from scratch and submit the post again–only to discover that I’ve now double-posted! Still not a biggie, but way more annoying. And just telling people to “Hit ‘Post’ only once” is no solution.

I don’t know of any other blog that’s so cantankerous. Is it really just a question of a slow server?

21

Uncle Kvetch 01.31.05 at 9:15 pm

Folks, it’s very easy to submit comments more than once without meaning to. We’ve got a bit of a slow server. Not a big deal, and I appreciate the discussion; I’m just saying. Hit the “Post” button once.

Um, Ted, it’s a little more complicated than that.

I encounter 2 different scenarios (scenarii?) when commenting on CT:

1) Hit “Post.” Wait wait wait wait wait. I get a time-out message from my browser. I open another browser window, open CT, open the thread in question, and lo & behold, there’s my comment. Slightly annoying, but no biggie.

2) Hit “Post.” Wait wait wait wait wait. I get an error message saying the post didn’t get through. Wait a few more minutes. Open CT in a different browser window, open the thread in question–my comment still isn’t there. Seems safe to assume that it’s not going to get there, doesn’t it? So I start from scratch and submit the post again–only to discover that I’ve now double-posted! Still not a biggie, but way more annoying. And just telling people to “Hit ‘Post’ only once” is no solution.

I don’t know of any other blog that’s so cantankerous. Is it really just a question of a slow server?

22

Uncle Kvetch 01.31.05 at 9:17 pm

In case you’re wondering…yeah, it just did it again.

23

jet 01.31.05 at 9:23 pm

Uncle Kvetch,
That is funny enough that you had to have done it on purpose.

24

jet 01.31.05 at 9:28 pm

Jon said: “New proposals for the Bush “Ownership Society” will free individuals to control their financial destiny.”

You’re just mad that Bush is a bigger socialist than you are. When Bush says that the people will own the factories, he really means it.

25

Kevin Donoghue 01.31.05 at 9:37 pm

Uncle Kvetch

I usually look at my post in Preview and hit Post from there. I have never had a double.

26

Ted Barlow 01.31.05 at 9:40 pm

“I don’t know of any other blog that’s so cantankerous. Is it really just a question of a slow server?”

In all honesty, I don’t know. It’s a fair point, though; I’ll send an email and see if there’s anything we can do about it.

27

Paul Deadman 01.31.05 at 10:03 pm

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2005/1/31/2335/87390

U.S. Encouraged by Vietnam Vote : Officials Cite 83% Turnout Despite Vietcong Terror
by Peter Grose, Special to the New York Times (9/4/1967: p. 2)

WASHINGTON, Sept. 3– United States officials were surprised and heartened today at the size of turnout in South Vietnam’s presidential election despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting.

According to reports from Saigon, 83 per cent of the 5.85 million registered voters cast their ballots yesterday. Many of them risked reprisals threatened by the Vietcong.

The size of the popular vote and the inability of the Vietcong to destroy the election machinery were the two salient facts in a preliminary assessment of the nation election based on the incomplete returns reaching here….

28

Uncle Kvetch 01.31.05 at 10:44 pm

Uncle Kvetch, That is funny enough that you had to have done it on purpose.

Nope…swear to the deity, I really didn’t do that on purpose.

I’m going to try Kevin’s solution now.

29

jet 02.01.05 at 1:41 am

I looked at the JavaScript on this page and it isn’t the problem. I then downloaded MoveableType and am looking through the MT::App::Comments library to see if I can track it down there when I realized that even if I did find the bug, what admin from CT woudl take my edited code.

But just for giggles, I’ll continue looking at it. But does everyone else have the same problem I do; when I hit post, it does nothing and I have to hit post again (at which point, I might get an error, a 5 minute reload, or a phone call from Satan, and hitting a third time results in a double post)? The two hit on the submit button could be an important clue, so I’d appreciate any feedback.

30

jet 02.01.05 at 1:48 am

Well holy shit. This site is running MT 2.661. The world has moved on. MT is up to 3.15. Just upgrading to the latest would probably resolve the double post issue. And since I can’t grab 2.661, I certainly won’t be wasting time spelunking libraries when there is perfectly good Nicky-B to be drank (drunk?).

Someone should email the admin that his site is a full version behind.

31

Kieran Healy 02.01.05 at 2:34 am

Hi Jet –

yes, we know we are behind on MT versions, and need to fix the site. We feel bad about the crappy comments processing. Alas, the people who manage the site (ie, Henry and me) also have jobs and families and whatnot. We’ll do this soon. Upgrading is a pain.

32

jet 02.01.05 at 2:49 am

Kieren,

I think most CT readers would agree with me that putting up with such trifling issues as double posting and mastering the Art of Post are small prices to pay for getting to interact with CT.

Too bad MT doesn’t roll out automatic updates. All the cool Gnu-kids are doing it these days.

33

buermann 02.01.05 at 4:02 am

“The original American plan was for”

The plan was “To Be Provided.” You’re rewriting what happened according to ad hoc actions taken in the face of pressure from a high ranking cleric and a viscious insurgency.

But if you want to give Bush credit for a highly undemocratic, unmonitored, anonymous election in which the largest minority boycotted and which will most likely not be a turning point for the better for much of anybody, I don’t see anything incorrect about assigning him the blame.

34

Kieran Healy 02.01.05 at 4:10 am

Thanks jet, that’s very kind. We still want to fix the problems, of course. A platform jump (to WordPress or Textpattern) is verrry tempting, but adds even more potential for disaster to an upgrade.

35

Luc 02.01.05 at 5:47 am

This election is a success for the Bush government.

Let me predict a few other successes –

– Iraq will show healthy economic growth in a few years from now.
– Iraq will survive the violence and return to normalcy.
– Electricity will be working again soon.

The list will be long.

I’m just revulsed by people willing to lie, kill, torture and destroy anything that stands in their way on this glorious path to democracy.

That was what opposition to war was about. Not about support for Saddam, not about opposition to democracy. It was about the means of reaching those goals.

But the dead are dead, what needed to be destroyed is destroyed, and what remains is looking forward.

And the way forward is democracy, security and prosperity in Iraq.

And equally important, never to fight these fucked up wars again.

Especially in the UK, in politics, on blogs and in the general discourse, these two things get mixed up. And between the fascism shouting and open letter writing people it becomes hard to distinguish right from wrong. It is strange to see those that promote violence as a means to achieve political goals call themselves the “decent left”.

On the other hand if George Galloway is the last man standing to publicly defend an anti-war position there is something wrong on that little island.

I saw a funny Labour politician in a pointless debate with Galloway on the Beeb. It was at the end of a Newsnight show about these elections. This Foulkes guy mixed his scripts on an old question:

.. because they were removed, they were hidden, they were taken away …

Ah, yes those WMD’s.

Anyways, that’s just my opinion, fwiw.

Back to the serious issue of double posts, I always thought of that as a feature. Faith based posting, as it were. Press the button once, ingore al adversity, and put some trust in the fact that whatever you typed, it will end up on this website eventually.

But just like any other (web) publication, you’ll have to upgrade your looks and technology once in a while. But there’s no need to rush. It is fine as it is.

36

jet 02.01.05 at 2:13 pm

luc, great points. What a winning way to frame the arguement, that in our glorious quest for Democracy we shouldn’t be burning the country to the ground. Certainly a reminder that democracies are almost as prone as other governments to treating their adversaries with less than humane treatment and that our governments actions deserve careful watching.

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