Bush Finds Democracy Has Its Limits

With supreme irony, the “war to make the world safe for democracy” ended by leaving democracy more unsafe in the world than at any time since the collapse of the revolutions of 1848.

J.H. Robinson, The Human Comedy

It’s becoming a bit clearer. Mr. Bush’s support for democracy has its limits and a solution to his concerns is not immediately apparent. That there are limits to his support came as something of a surprise after listening to his post Palestinian election comments in February. Discussing the election that brought Hamas to power he said: “I remind people, the elections-democracy is-can open up the world’s eyes to reality by listening to people. And the elections-the election process is healthy for society, in my judgement. In other words, it’s one way to figure out how to address the needs of the people is to let them express themselves at the ballot box.” Although syntactically weak, it showed Mr. Bush’s strong support for the democratic process irrespective of its outcome.

The example of democracy at work in which he took most pride, however, was the election that took place in Iraq, an election that justified all the lies told by Mr. Bush to justify the invasion of that country. As a result of that election, the Iraqis have now seen democracy in action. Here’s a little of what Mr. Bush said about the process in January 2005: “Today the people of Iraq have spoken to the world, and the world is hearing the voice of freedom from the center of the Middle East. . . .They have refused to be intimidated by thugs and assassins.. . . .The Iraqi people, themselves, made this election a resounding success. . . . Across Iraq today, men and women have taken rightful control of their country’s destiny, and they have chosen a future of freedom and peace. . . . The commitment to a free Iraq now goes forward. On behalf of the American people, I congratulate the people of Iraq on this great and historic achievement.” It now appears that the historic achievement does not please Mr. Bush as much as those remarks suggest.

Unlike the U.S. Congress that handles all its work with dispatch, the Iraqi parliament has spent an unseemly amount of time trying to determine its next prime minister. The Iraqi constitution says that the largest bloc in parliament can nominate the prime minister. That bloc nominated Mr. Jaafari. One would think Mr. Bush would relate to that event since Mr. Jaafari, like Mr. Bush, won by only one vote albeit in different venues. While never having hinted at any dissatisfaction with the one vote on the U.S. Supreme Court that made him president, Mr. Bush is very dissatisfied with the one vote that gave Mr. Jaafari the nomination and has publicly said so. Although an argument could be made that Mr. Bush has no more business criticizing the voting in the Iraqi parliament than Mr. Jaafari has criticizing the vote in the U.S. Supreme Court, Mr. Bush would probably say that without him there’d be no Iraqi parliament whereas Mr. Jaafari can’t say the same thing about the U.S. Supreme Court.

According to reports from Baghdad, the Bush administration is pressuring Mr. Jaafari to step down. In late February Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador, told the leader of the Shiite faction that nominated Mr. Jaafari that Mr. Bush didn’t like its choice for prime minister. The New York Times reported that a Shiite member of Parliament attended a meeting on March 25, 2006 between Mr. Jaafari and Mr. Khalilzad in which the ambassador told Mr. Jaafari he was passing on a “personal message from President Bush.” The message was that Mr. Bush “doesn’t want, doesn’t support and won’t accept” Mr. Jaafari as the next prime minister.

In a subsequent interview with Edward Wong of the New York Times, Mr. Jaafari observed that: “There was a stand from both the American government and President Bush to promote a democratic policy and protect its interests. But now there’s concern among the Iraqi people that the democratic process is being threatened.”

It’s hard to know what Mr. Bush can do if the Shiite bloc persists in nominating Mr. Jaafari. As this is written, Condoleeza Rice and Jack Straw are in Iraq trying to persuade the parliament to select someone other than Mr. Jaafari. If they are unsuccessful the obvious solution would be for Mr. Bush to invade Iraq and democratically install a prime minister he likes. The problem is he’s already done that. An alternative would be to let the democratic process run its course but if Mr. Bush ends up with a prime minister he doesn’t like the whole invasion seems a waste of time. It’s a terrible dilemma. Perhaps it could be solved if Mr. Cheney invited Mr. Jaafari to go hunting.

CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI is a lawyer in Boulder, Colorado. He can be reached at: Brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu. Visit his website: http://hraos.com/



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