Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Newsweek's take on the world

Just got the new copy of Newsweek in the mail, and was glad to learn that, thanks to American imperialism and Bush's general evil-ness, the world is going to hell in a handbasket. (Although there were some pretty nice pictures of the inauguration.) There's the conjectural "Gonzales: Did He Help Bush Keep His DUI Quiet?" Apparently, when Governor of Texas, Bush was called to do jury duty in a DUI case. Had he gone through the jury questioning process, he would have had to reveal his own DUI history. According to the report, Gonzales went to Court with Bush and made a patently fallacious legal argument to keep Bush off the jury. Maybe it's true, maybe it's not. The fact is though, that it's so obviously positioned as a simultaneous Gonazales/Bush hit piece, I just have my doubts. I suspect that the people that the article cites to are going to prove to be "long-time Democratic operatives" or some such palaver. Nothing's believable anymore, especially with this type of partisan rancor driving the discourse. That's just kind of fluff. The story that really got my goat was this one: "Election Time: Americans 'liberated' Iraq, but it's hard to find anyone who is grateful." The picture illustrating the article is an emotionally loaded (and obviously tragic) shot titled "An Iraqi girl screams after her parents are killed by U.S. soldiers in Tal Afar." The article then opens with a line comparing Americans to Saddam Hussein: "Iraqis often point out that Saddam Hussein talked about freedom and democracy almost as much as the Americans do." It goes on to note that, under Hussein, they got to vote, too, and, amusingly, points out that Hussein once won by a 104% margin. Well, 104% is not good enough: "When the Americans arrived almost two years ago, most Iraqis had high hopes for much better. Now every major poll shows an ever-larger majority of Iraqis want the Americans to leave." The article then goes on to savage the electoral process:

Elections aren't necessarily going to make people feel much better. Sunni moderates are mostly boycotting the elections, while Sunni insurgents threaten to kill anyone who participates. In most cases, voters will cast ballots for a party, yet won't even know the names of the actual candidates, which are being kept secret for security reasons. To protect polling places, the government has banned all vehicle traffic on Election Day, forbidden travel and mobilized every last cop and soldier. But that will just make it easier to spot the voters and give the resistance what it likes best: soft targets. "On Jan. 31, elections will have triumphed," says one Coalition diplomat. "But democracy will have failed."
According to the article, there's horrific violence, too (and a little riff actually explaining the tragic orphan in the photograph illustrating the article):
Increasing violence feeds this disenchantment. Last week alone there were at least 11 suicide car bombings in Iraq. Soldiers are jumpy. In Tall Afar, a generally pro-American area in the north, a patrol of the Stryker Brigade shot up a car that approached them and didn't stop, the driver apparently oblivious to the soldiers' instructions in the dark. Mom and Dad were killed in the front seat, leaving six blood-splattered, but mostly unhurt, orphans in the back. "They did everything they could to warn the vehicle to stop," said military spokesman Lt. Col. Steve Boylan. "In a perfect world, it wouldn't happen. But we're not in a perfect world."
And on and on. The problem is that, again, I don't believe this relentlessly dark view of things. When one escapes the stranglehold of the MSM, there are tremendous stories out there of hope, optimism, and courage. (For example, see this story at Beef Always Wins, or this post at Chrenkoff, or this post at Chrenkoff, which predicts a much higher percentage turnout than we're used to in American elections.) In any event, there's a dangerous naivete animating the MSM if it believes that a bloodthirsty dictator can be removed and the entire infrastructure can be rejiggered in a matter of minutes. Even in better functioning Democracies we have electoral problems -- somehow tire-slashing in Milwaukee springs to mind, not to mention those famous voting felons in Washington. Admittedly, these are not car bombs, but they're not signs of a perfectly functioning democratic process, either. Democracy, Thank God, is not facism -- that means, people are free to act, and some of them act appallingly, making life difficult for the rest of us. The problem is, if you let the bad actors control the discourse, you've given up -- something the US is not willing to do, and something the Iraqi's, who promise a 76% turnout at the polls, don't appear willing to have happen either. UPDATE: Not that he was addressing the Newsweek article, but John Podhoretz, in an op-ed in today's New York Daily Post, provides the best possible rebuttal to the doom-and-gloom reporting out of Newsweek. I think this language is the core of his argument:
To the extent that the pessimism is based on fears of an election day terrorist calamity, it's hard to argue with. The relentless suicide-bombing campaign of the last few months raises the specter of an all-out onslaught against voters on Sunday. But others speak in pessimistic tones about the inability or the unwillingness of the residents of the "Sunni Triangle" to participate. Sunni Muslims, who were the dominant force in Saddam Hussein's regime, constitute 20 percent of Iraq's population. And yet the argument is seriously made that a Sunni boycott will invalidate the election results. If white South Africans had refused to participate in that nation's first-ever free elections back in 1994, nobody on earth would have argued that their lack of participation invalidated the election results. Now, it will certainly be tragic if Sunnis who wish to vote are forcibly prevented from doing so by the terrorists in their midst. But those Sunnis' best chance to secure their freedom to vote at a later date will emerge from a viable result in Sunday's elections. Why? Because once a legitimately elected Iraqi assembly is seated, the insurgents will have no argument left with which to advance their cause — except for the open hatred of liberty.
Podhoretz is careful to point out something that Newsweek, with its generalized attack on America, ignores. The terrorists' target is democracy itself, the very process at issue here. And from there, he points to the real target of MSM reporting:
The latest tape from Iraq's terrorist master, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, made that point crystal clear. "We have declared a fierce war on this evil principle of democracy and those who follow this wrong ideology," Zarkawi says. "Anyone who tries to help set up this system is part of it." Note that Zarqawi doesn't say he's fighting imperialism, or foreign invaders on Iraqi soil, or any other (and far more seductive) argument. He is waging war on democracy inside Iraq — on the right of Iraqis to choose their own leaders and structure their own governments. Zarqawi is a very frightening and very evil man, a destructive force with hundreds of gallons of American and Iraqi blood on his hands. Iraqis and Americans alike have reason to be concerned about his declaration of war. But calling democracy "evil" is a self-defeating exercise. By doing so, he is including among the evildoers all Iraqis who go to the polls. His fight will no longer be with Western devils, but with Iraqi patriots. There is a very real likelihood that under such conditions, his insurgency will collapse from the inside or will merely transition into becoming a brutal gang of parasites who use kidnapping and the threat of terrorism to extort money, pure and simple. So let's talk turkey about the dark talk emanating from the media and opinion leaders this week. Their pessimism isn't really based in concern about Iraq's elections. It's really based in concern about the success of American policy in Iraq. Anti-Bush partisans — both Democrats and Leftist ideologues — understand that if the elections are seen as a triumph, they will be seen as Bush's triumph, and they cannot stomach it. And for those who are still mired in the foreign-policy conservatism of the past, success on Sunday will place them permanently on the shoulder of the road to the future, thumbs outstretched. Once they were the drivers. In a world with a free Iraq, they will be hitchhikers. Maybe what they're really pessimistic about isn't Iraq's future but their own.