Sunday, January 30, 2005

Ignatieff, for the record

Also, be sure not to miss Michael Ignatieff in today's NYT Magazine, on "The Uncommitted."
The election in Iraq is without precedent. Never, not even in the dying days of Weimar Germany when Nazis and Communists brawled in the streets, has there been such a concerted attempt to destroy an election through violence -- with candidates unable to appear in public, election workers driven into hiding, foreign monitors forced to ''observe'' the election from a nearby country, actual voting on election day a gamble with death in at least 4 of the 18 provinces and the only people voting safely the fortunate expatriates and exiles in foreign countries.

Just as depressing as the violence in Iraq is the indifference to it abroad. Americans and Europeans who have never lifted a finger to defend their own right to vote seem not to care that Iraqis are dying for the right to choose their own leaders. Why do so few people feel even a tremor of indignation when they see poll workers gunned down in a Baghdad street? Why isn't there a trickle of applause in the press for the more than 6,000 Iraqis actually standing for political office at the risk of their lives? Have we all become so disenchanted that we need Iraqis to remind us what a free election can actually be worth?

Explaining this morose silence requires understanding how support for Iraqi democracy has become the casualty of the corrosive bitterness that still surrounds the initial decision to go to war. Establishing free institutions in Iraq was the best reason to support the war -- now it is the only reason -- and for that very reason democracy there has ceased to be a respectable cause. The administration's ideologues -- the ones who wrote the presidential inaugural and its image of America in the service of ''the Author of Liberty'' -- have managed the nearly impossible: to turn democracy itself into a disreputable slogan. Liberals can't bring themselves to support freedom in Iraq lest they seem to collude with neoconservative bombast. Meanwhile, antiwar ideologues can't support the Iraqis because that would require admitting that positive outcomes can result from bad policies and worse intentions...

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