Hurray for Dubya!
Published: Sunday | February 6, 2005


TWO CHEERS for Dubya! That was my reaction at seeing BBC pictures of jubilant Iraqis lining up to cast their ballots last Sunday. For George W. Bush has steadfastly maintained that ­ as the old pop song goes. ­

'All the world over, so easy to see. People everywhere just wanna be free. Ask me my opinion, my opinion will be. Nat'ral situation for a man to be free'.

And, however clumsily he prosecuted his war, the people of Iraq are proving him right.

Now I admit to being as irrationally knee jerk anti-American as the next man. It's only human nature to want to see the great and powerful brought down to earth, especially when they are smug and arrogant about their superiority. As Wilt Chamberlain remarked "No one roots for Goliath." And I confess that at times an inner voice has involuntarily cheered at reading about American soldiers' inability to control suicide bomber insurgents. Even now a secret part of me is sad that the Iraqi elections weren't a big flop that exposed George Bush's idiotic policies.

But only children let unreasonable petulant prejudice overrule logic and history. America has been, with the possible exception of the British Empire, probably the greatest political force for good the world has known. Where were the 'evil America' critics when the United States military was providing huge logistical help to the Boxing Day tsunami survivors? Yes, America has committed numerous crimes. But which great power has committed less? And though I still find George Bush irritating beyond reason, it's foolish to confuse the message with the messenger.


There are a million reasons to criticise the way America has gone about things in Iraq. The lies, the cynicism, the high handedness, the bad intelligence and the sheer incompetence all stick in the gullet. But life rarely, if ever, offers purely good or purely bad alternatives. Certainly politics is nearly always a matter of choosing the lesser of two evils. And despise the neo-Conservatives in America as I might, their argument that "Would you prefer to see Saddam Hussein still in power?" really is unanswerable. Pre-election condemnation of democracy as 'an evil system' by the insurgents' leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi shows they have nothing to offer Iraqis except chaos. Surely only idiots could demand that the American army should leave immediately and leave Iraq at the mercy of such murderous nihilists.

Frankly, what has occurred in Afghanistan and Iraq in the past two years is something of a political miracle. Whatever the problems those countries are still facing, their situation now is infinitely preferable to what previously obtained. For no matter how bloody and violent things are in Iraq today, at least there is a possibility of a democratic and peaceful society on the horizon. Under Saddam there was no prospect of change from brutal and murderous dictatorship. And though disruptive warlords in Afghanistan still threaten to destabilise the central government, what sane person could want to see the Taliban back in power there?


There are few things men find more difficult than to admit they were wrong. And it's amusing to see condemners of America's invasion of Iraq try to put a negative spin on the self-evident fact that the government which result from last Sunday's election will be the most representative of the will of the Iraqi people in 50 years. So we read '50 dead on election day in Iraq' or 'Sunnis boycott Iraq election' headlines. Or hear variations of the "It was a staged propaganda event and if everything is controlled by an occupation force of a country, how can voting can be considered as indicative of people's will?" arguments.


Yet surely giving Iraqis a free vote is an unambiguous good. Yes, it was a highly imperfect process. But the worst democracy is better than a brutal dictatorship. And I felt a great admiration for the millions of Iraqis who defied the suicide bombers to turn out in droves. How anyone could argue that what we saw on the TV screen was not true democracy is beyond me. These people weren't being dragged out of their houses by soldiers and sent to vote, they were doing so of their own free will. And I cannot understand the mindset of those who live in democracies and yet could argue against democracy being granted to Iraqis. How could they, at least morally, deny to others what they demand for themselves? Who should choose Iraq's leader if not Iraqis themselves?

Iraq is hardly the first country to hold elections under occupation or under the shadow of violence. Examples like Palestine, Kosovo, Bosnia, East Timor, Germany, Austria, Japan, Sri Lanka and Colombia come to mind. Nor will Iraq's elections be the last. As to the argument that democracy cannot be imposed, well it certainly can be kick-started. We in the West Indies are shining examples of this, as are Germany, Japan and South Korea. Who is to say Iraq cannot one day become as genuinely and self-sufficiently democratic as these? And Sunday's festive scenes might be an inspiration to other people who don't have the right to vote. The autocratic governments in the rest of the Arab world are probably feeling rather uneasy right now.

Yet, it's too early to say democracy has been established in Iraq. The Sunnis who make up about 20 per cent of the population seem to have mostly boycotted the polls, and Angola, Bosnia and Liberia are recent cautionary tales of countries which held initially successful elections only to succumb later to civil war. It's also highly ironic that the winning party in the Iraqi election is likely to be an alliance formed under the auspices of Shi'ite cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Sistani's own party is called the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a name that must be a little worrying to George Bush and his advisers.


Aides to the Iran-born cleric insist he has no intention of trying to turn Iraq into an Iran-style Islamic republic. Yet the reality is that Iraq's future right now rests almost entirely in the hands of a religious leader who has yet to clearly articulate what he stands for. For the sake of Iraqis and world peace, let's all hope he is the moderate democrat supporters say he is.

Yet, I can't help wondering if the late Ayatollah Khomeini is not somewhere laughing at the fact that his sworn enemy 'the great Satan America' may have helped put one of his own in power.

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