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Michael Ubaldi, December 14, 2004.
The second car bombing near Baghdad's "Green Zone" over two days has murdered another half-dozen, and some journalists are trying to find some significance for the attacks in the dates — Saddam Hussein, of course, was captured one year ago. Politics masquerading as reporting aside, the pertinent question is this: what deleterious effect will the two attacks have on American operations or Iraqis' preparations for and anticipation of the approaching popular ballot?
None. Iraqis have faced far worse than this; as Omar Fadhil recently told a group of bloggers, terror under Saddam was ubiquitous and ever-watchful. Insurgent thugs, ruthless and dangerous, are nevertheless destructive on a strictly local, tactical level. For nearly two years pessimists have predicted sectarian strife or total collapse brought on by terrorism; instead we've seen two years of progress in defiance of intimidation and violence. The terrorists' only chance to defeat the United States ended with the failure of a presidential challenger promising to abdicate American leadership for cultivating liberty abroad. If only they weren't thoughtless murderers, the enemies of a free Iraq might give up for the futility of it.
Michael Ubaldi, December 14, 2004.
Reaction to the latest outburst of paranoia from the left (linked as an update here yesterday) continues, including Ali Fadhil's response to slander against his brothers. Ali took prejudice with calm wit, and that was worth a letter of congratulations. Sent yesterday evening, I make the letter an open one now:
Your defense of Omar and Mohammed against Juan Cole et al was well-put, Ali. What you and your brothers are beginning to understand about the left is what those of us on the right have struggled with for years, and painfully so after September 11th. Leftism — what I see to be moral relativism — has a striking adolescent quality to it.
MORE ITM: Did I say wit?
AND: Don't forget to read accounts of Omar's and Mohammed's trip to the United States. One, first-hand and delightful, is here.
Michael Ubaldi, December 13, 2004.
Let's try out an adage: for every story about a terrorist attack against Americans, the Allies or Iraqis, there are five or six stories about rebirth, reconstruction, civic or military victories in Iraq. The bombing near Baghdad's Green Zone was a single insurgent success among multiple failures. In Mosul:
Iraqi Security Forces and Multi-National Forces repelled separate attacks by anti-Iraqi insurgents as they attempted to seize a police station and attack an MNF convoy on Dec. 11 in Mosul. MNF Soldiers also detained six people wanted for anti-Iraqi activities and destroyed a large cache of weapons and munitions in western Mosul.
Iraqi police and national guardsmen beat back an insurgent attack on a police station just south of Baghdad on Dec. 12, fueling optimism that the fledgling security forces are growing more confident and capable even in the face of a concerted campaign of intimidation and terror.
Michael Ubaldi, December 12, 2004.
Saddam Hussein is rumored to be refusing food, and the general headline exclaims something along the lines of "US Denies Saddam on Hunger Strike." It'd read better as "Mass Murderer Gives Self Taste of Own Medicine."
Michael Ubaldi, December 10, 2004.
In the Wall Street Journal, Daniel Henninger narrates the trip of Iraqi democrats, average citizens, two of three brothers, to New York City and Washington, D.C.:
"Baghdad is booming," says Mohammed Fadhil Ali, one of three remarkable Ali brothers who oversee the Web log, Iraqthemodel.com. Mohammed and his younger brother Omar came this week to the Journal's offices, their first trip to the States, to discuss Iraq's future.
If an opinion column can offer spectacular news of Iraq, can the right assume the vanguard and finally accept itself as the advocate for progress?
Michael Ubaldi, December 10, 2004.
Chester found more evidence to support great expectations of Iraq's first democratic elections and the country's future in what amounts to a broad political coalition calling itself the United Iraqi Alliance:
The alliance includes Iraq's largest Shi'ite parties, a prominent Sunni tribe, and smaller non-Shi'ite groups. It has the blessing of the country's number one Shi'ite leader, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. The alliance could dominate Iraq's national election in January and become Iraq's pre-eminent political force.
Michael Ubaldi, December 9, 2004.
Iraqi elections follow the country's scheduled June 30, 2004 administrative handover in Baghdad and October 9, 2004 presidential elections in Afghanistan as the third major socio-political milestone in the forward-reaching, American-led war on terror. Afghans voted while some regions of the country remained under threat from Taliban and al Qaeda terrorists, and Iraqis assumed power while a handful of provinces suffered daily terrorist acts of killing and intimidation: both actions were taken at the insistence of the Bush administration and against a hail of criticism, skepticism and blanket worry tailor-made for Afghanistan and Iraq each. To pessimists and opponents, confusion, internecine strife and terrorist mayhem were all one false step away. Ironically, they spoke of the interests of stability and progress, when in fact they would find it difficult to deny that postponement would have sown terrific doubt among millions of hopeful, peaceful people — even if it didn't strengthen the hand of terrorists whose goal it was to obstruct democratic progress in the first.
And what happened? Critics were ignored, and objectives succeeded beyond all expectations. Coalition Provisional Authority head L. Paul Bremer relinquished power to Iyad Allawi on June 28, two days ahead of schedule. Afghans conducted an orderly, highly attended election with less irregularities nationwide than in Democratic Philadelphia one month later.
Correspondingly, calls for handing Iraqi democrats a rain check not only come from typical quarters — such paragons of representative government as Lakhdar Brahimi and Vladimir Putin, and most of the political and intellectual left — but sound obligatory rather than ardent, more a gesture of dependable opposition than justified disagreement. Criticism sounds similar, only now more like the third cry of "Wolf!" than prescient warnings. Past experience is on the optimists' side.
Does non-participation, especially from Sunni Iraqis, by choice or under threat, pose a threat to legitimacy? Historical precedent of incomplete representation on a provincial level in, of all places, Civil War-era America, flattens that argument. Representation by ballot is done by invitation, and is an institution thoroughly capable of supporting spectators; Iraqis active in preparing for elections agree.
What about security? As Baghdad's leaders, the White House and military leaders continually remind us, fourteen of Iraq's eighteen provinces are relatively secure and have been ready for elections for months. The Anglo-American-Iraqi victory in Fallujah that the left has been desperately trying to tear up into political defeat has left us with enemies more farcical and self-destructive, no matter how individually lethal and fanatic. The parade of hostages has stopped — even if more innocents are abducted in the future the correlation is obvious, and made crystal clear by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's increasingly panicked dispatches to his faithfully psychotic. What attacks have succeeded to kill Iraqis, like today's stupifying murder in a vegetable market, only harden national resolve against Islamist invaders and Ba'athist troglodytes. Intellectual elites don't seem to understand a society that truly lives the anthem "Give me liberty or give me death": after forty-six years of modern military dictatorships and twenty-five years of Saddam Hussein's Stalinist horror, Iraqis aren't turning back. As Strategypage reports, insurgents are forced to recruit their suicidal murderers from the ranks of the brainwashed and the numb-skulled — and even then, some one-way bombers need to be suckered. Iraqi forces designed to meet and destroy a paramilitary enemy — not including the unfairly maligned Iraqi police forces — grow and strengthen. Perhaps the surest sign of enemy defeat is Iraq's construction and societal rebirth, slowed in many places over the past two years but halted in very few, and continuing unabated in others unaffected by terrorist destruction.
What's left? The only key to victory the free world's authoritarian enemies have been able to claim since the beginning of this war: our own doubt, insouciance the curse of the blessed. The president's simple determination and reelection because of it should guide us from there.
Michael Ubaldi, December 8, 2004.
Iraqi blogger and political activist Omar Fadhil has described his gradual exploration of the free world's moral and intellectual struggle — and his consequent discovery of the left. Though nonchalant, his references to the control of information under Saddam Hussein ("remember, we were isolated so we didn't know much about [the pre-liberation debate]") are a stark picture of the dictator's repression; something about which, he notes, his new acquaintances are quite indifferent.
Omar finishes by declaring himself a liberal — which most rightists should, too, in the immediate sense, their ideas promising far more progressive change than leftists. The sempiternal divide between left and right is moral relativism and absolutism, but that's another discovery for Omar to make. (And an essay for me to research and write.)
Michael Ubaldi, December 7, 2004.
The most blinkered presumption of Iraqis holds that the country's highly religious Shiites are too strict for democracy, if even culture could sustain it. The Washington Post has outdone its peers, offering the world yet another look at the natural and deep appeal of liberty:
Outside the mosque, posters vied for space along the walls. One read, "The enemy of Iraq is the enemy of democracy, justice and elections." Another quoted Sistani: "One vote is like gold, but even more precious."
Michael Ubaldi, December 6, 2004.
Continuing from yesterday: Americans, Iraqis and allies are hard at work scoring victories against the enemy, media recognition or not. On Saturday, combined forces rounded up three score suspects and netted a cache of arms in Mosul; yesterday, two terrorist cell leaders near Tikrit were cuffed and sent to the pen; and back in Mosul another twenty-two terrorist suspects were taken in, "bringing the total detained in a seven-day period to 232."
SOCK IT TO ME: From Arthur Chrenkoff, thousands of candidates, constitutional guidance and the irrepressible Baghdad Stock Exchange, and everything else good in Iraq that the left would have you believe doesn't exist.