The finger of freedom, having written, moves on

I think almost everyone, regardless of their views about the war in Iraq, would have seen the images of Iraqis going to the polls to elect a new Parliament two years as a positive development. Many media outlets, blogs and other websties carried pictures of numerous people happily showing their ink-stained fingers as proof of having voted – an image which should have gladdened the heart of any democrat, whether they were for the war or not. Which makes this latest report from the New York Times all the more tragic.

Parliament in recent months has been at a standstill. Nearly every session since November has been adjourned because as few as 65 (out of 275) members made it to work.

Parliament is the heart of the political process,” Mr. Mashhadani (the Speaker) said in an interview at his office, offering more hope than reality. “It is the center of everything. If the heart is not working, it all fails.”

Monday’s attendance actually surpassed the 50 percent plus one needed to pass laws. It was the first quorum in months, caused in part by the return of 30 members loyal to the Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, whose end to a two-month boycott created a public relations blitz that helped attract 189 members.

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  1. On the contrary CU, the Democrats – as the party’s name would suggest – have been stronger supporters of democracy than any other Australian political party over many years.

    The Democrats didn’t believe that launching an illegal unprovoked war was consistent with democracy, or an appropriate way to ‘restore’ or ‘install’ democracy – and was also a very hugh risk approach likely to lead to widespread death and suffering and enormous instability. It is sad to have been proven right.

    Launching unprovoked wars on countries which are not a threat is an anti-democratic action.

    History suggests it was always going to be fairly improbable to achieve a genuine democracy and relative stability in the sort of manner and time frame that was promised by those who promoted and initiated the war. I generally don’t believe in the ends justifying the means, so even if it was probable it could have been achieved I doubt I would have supported it, because the precedent it set and the destabilising regional impact were still likely to have been so negative.

    The fact that it appears that not even those basic goals have been achieved, despite all the death and destruction, is a total tragedy.

    However, whilst the war boosters can keep living in their ‘Mission Accomplished’ fantasyland, the rest of us need to focus on how best to assist the people of Iraq from here.

  2. Andrew,

    So you would be happy to acknowledge then that had the Australian Democrats been calling the shots that Saddam Hussein and the Baathist regime would still now be in power in Iraq.

  3. The American people have rejected the idea of sending further troops into Iraq.

    I would still like to see Exit Counsellors sent in to see what they can achieve. It may sound like a longshot, but may still be worth a try.

  4. If the Australian Democrats were in power, Saddam would still have been thrown out but Australia probably wouldn’t have had much involvement in that.

  5. Hank Reardon, I’m sure the US would have gone ahead anyway. We weren’t exactly necessary to the operation.

    Also please remember that the reason we invaded initially was because Bush and Howard thought that there were weapons of mass distruction in Iraq. It was at least a year later that they started talking about regime change and introducing Democracy, a flickering torch that you’re carrying quite nicely for them.

    I believe Bush and his administration also said that they would be greeted as liberators, and that they were ‘winning’, just two more examples of statements that proved to be completely false.

    Would you be happy to acknowledge that had the Australian Democrats been calling the shots that the Australian people would have avoided a long, costly, and almost completely pointless invasion?

  6. If the Australian Democrats were in power East Timor would never have been liberated because defence spending would have been viewed as a waste of taxpayers money.

  7. That wasn’t exactly my question Richard.
    Andrew was speaking in terms of principles so I’d prefer to see his acknowledgement of it.

  8. CU and Hank are utterly dishonest in their flawed propositions.
    There was no “democracy” involved anywhere in the original sending of troops to the mid east because the public in COW countries were lied to. Democracy means the public being able to make an informed decison based on information provided by reps and anuncompromised media proferred without fear or favour”, not being soft-soaped by politicans who withold crucial information for venal puposes.
    Coral astutely noted that, allowed adequate information, the US public made a decision that reversed the policies of Cheney, Bush and their carpetbagging “friends”.
    Secondly, was the Iraqi public consulted as to COW intervention ( or the sanctions regime that had so many starved and bombed in the nineties ) You are telling me that the Iraqi people WANTED, firstly to have a dictator imposed on them for the benefit of foreign interests, and secondly to be bombed, starved and finally occupied by people with no real concern for their plight?
    What about growing up and debating sensibly?
    To suggests that Iraqis WANTED all this suffering, or that we wanted it inflicted on them, is a dreadful parody of a dreadful reality.
    It is a pity that some who spend their privileged lives comfortably here in the West, are never acquainted by experience to the reality of real sufffering and cannot thus show even a skerrick of empathy for the victims of world politics.

  9. I guess we are going to have to agree to disagree on this one … I think the cost of getting rid of Saddam in this method was waayyyy too high. A million dead for regime change? And our own Western world seriously diminished in security and moral (and military) authority.

    I think the problem with America in Iraq is that America can not “create” a society better than their own … and let’s face it, America isn’t the bees-knees of functioning societies.

    I mean, would you want to replace the Australian system with the American one? It would mean:
    – more poverty
    – lower literacy rates
    – lower life expectancies
    – A dsyfunctional electoral system (no preferential voting, lower numbers of representation, 2000 president wasn’t even elected!)
    – a TERRIBLE retirement system
    – terribly split along ethnic lines

    Best case scenario in Iraq with the Americans in charge is:
    – 1/3 poverty
    – huge gap in opportunities corresponding to race
    – electoral system that barely works

    That’s not much of an improvement on what they had!

  10. #9 Paul Walter
    What on earth are you doing calling me “utterly dishonest” and say I’m running with a flawed proposition??
    Senator Bartlett in the #2 post above has said that under his and Australian Democrats reckoning that a brutal and repressive dictator cannont be toppled by external forces.
    If you read his post the only way he sees it as legitimate is if that country poses a threat.
    Time for a bit of intellectual honesty and acknowledgement that the price of doing nothing is that people like Saddam Hussein are free to impose whatever terror they want on “their own” people for as long as they like so long as they don’t pose a threat to specific other countries.
    Senator Bartlett, what are your thoughts?

  11. And will everybody else join with me and dismiss out of hand the figure of ” a million dead” in post #10.
    The highest figure stated by anybody was by Lancet that claimed 600,000 odd which was utter rubbish anyway. Is anybody prepared to stand by that figure with Dodgyville and claim there has been 400,000 deaths in the last two months?

  12. I don’t think we can give a “hindsight view” on what might have happened in Iraq. We can’t go back in time, make different choices, and then make a comparison.

  13. My thoughts, Hank, are that it would good if people could start to look at how we can best help the Iraqi people now, rather than rehash very tired and usually very shallow arguments. That’s why I thought I would highlight one recent event in Iraq which almost everywhere agreed was positive – the election – and express concern that the promise seemed to not be being realised in that area.

    The Iraq invasion arguments have been done to death – on this blog site and many other places. I can’t see how it is supportable for
    any to operate as a global vigilante, taking out ‘bad guys’, and it certainly shouldn’t be Australia’s role to support them.

    However, it’s not possible to engage in arguing the merits of even such an extreme stance, because the ‘principle’ is only being applied when it’s convenient. I have never seen anyone who attacks others for allegedly supporting Saddam staying in power who has made the faintest suggestion we should be helping to overthrow other dictators in places like North Korea, Zimbabwe, Burma? Why are they not screaming with outrage that we are allowing dictators from China and Pakistan to speak in our Parliament? Why are they not demanding our ally stop supporting the regimes in places like Saudi Arabia or Uzbekistan?

    Regardless of whether war should have been launched on Iraq in the way it was (and it’s no secret I thought at the time it was a crazy thing to do), it’s undeniable it is now a very serious and ugly mess. If the Parliament is becoming dysfunctional too, that’s a bigger problem.

    We really need to be spending a lot more debating where we (Australia) and we (the world as a whole) should be going from here, rather stay stuck in the debates of 2003.

  14. Well, it seems that folk who appear never previously been interested in the overthrow of dictators in, say, Saudi Arabia, Egypt,Turkey half of Latin America, Africa and Asia, are suddenly focussed, after all these years, interested in three particular isolated examples.?
    Oh, thats right.
    The rest were US stooges rather than US scapegoats or opponents.

  15. Personally myself Paul, I don’t think there should be room for any dictatorships in 2007. Given bodies like the UN don’t seem to want to do anything about it I have no problem with countries like those in the Coalition of the Willing ousting the worst of them by force.

  16. I don’t like dictatorships either Hank but I wonder if the way we are doing things now is really the only option we have. That being saud, I think it’s a bit too early to say if Iraq is going to be a democracy. From what I can see, Iraq is still in the early stages.

  17. About the UN, I’m not sure about what they can actually do with nation states that are widely considered to be pariahs. Perhaps someone could lead me to some information?

  18. Richard, the UN – notably the Security Council – can endorse sanctions and even invasions. The main problem is that the five permanent members of the Security Council (USA, Russia, UK, France and China) can and often have vetoed various propsitions. None of these countries is likely to endorse any action against one of their allies.

    Unless the system is changed, we rely either on a consensus among these countries, or our own moral and personal sanctions.

    If you’re wanting to read something about international law (but mostly as it relates to indivduals in terms of crimes against humanity) try Geoffrey Robertson’s The Justice Game. Eminently readable and informative.

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