The Corner

Why Iraq’s a Mess

Colin Freeman, writing in the London Sunday Telegraph, to tell us what would be obvious to everyone if we hadn’t been marinating ouselves for decades in a warm soup of multi-culturalist glop:  That electoral democracy is problematic in a multicultural society, given the strong temptation to vote for representatives of your own cultural group:   “Yet, asked why this [lapse into sectarianism] has happened, the Iraqis I have met also cite another pivotal event alongside [last year’s bombing of the Shi-ite shrine in] Samarra – the same one that Tony Blair and George W Bush insist has made the past four years worthwhile. The historic first elections of 2005, they say, have been disastrous for the country. Far from ushering in the Middle East’s first secular, liberal state, as the West had hoped, they have allowed Islamist parties to take hold, encouraging Iraqis to identify as Sunnis or Shias and opening up 1,500-year-old religious tensions that might otherwise have lain dormant.   “The parties that are running the government now are all Islamists,” said Saleh al-Mutlaq, a Sunni who is of the few secular politicians in a parliament otherwise dominated by Shia and Sunni religious power blocks. “All of them are sectarian, and mostly they cannot work together. Instead they pull the country in a sectarian way. The US and British might be proud of our elections, but personally I wish we had an Arab dictatorship which had peace and security, rather than a democracy which works on chaos.”   The euphoria of polling day, he points out, eclipsed the fact that the elections were scarcely the informed, rational contest of policies that is supposed to characterise a democracy. Inexperienced in the ways of multiparty politics after decades of totalitarianism, millions of Iraqis voted for the Sunni and Shia religious parties simply because they thought they would go to hell if they didn’t. “My own brother told me that the imam in his local mosque told him to vote for the Twaffaq [a Sunni religious party] if he wanted to join Mohammed in the afterlife,” said Mr Mutlaq. “And it was the same with the Shias. Their hands would shake with fear if they didn’t mark the box for their religious parties.”   Political choices were also made in the expectation of jobs for the boys, a legacy of the nepotism that was a hallmark of Saddam’s Ba’ath party era. Mithal al-Alusi, another secular Sunni, was convinced he was a hot ticket for prime minister when nearly 100,000 people joined his tiny, underfunded party. When they then scraped just one parliamentary seat, he realised people had only joined up in the belief that a party membership card might come in handy one day.  “We had delegations of sheikhs coming up to lend us their support, but they probably went to every other party as well,” he said, stirring coffee in his villa in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone. “They thought they would get some sort of benefits if we got into power. That’s the old way, the Ba’ath Party way, and now the Islamists are doing the same.”   [Derb]  Multi-culti politics is a study all by itself.  The Iraqis are getting a crash course.  It’s not entirely new here in the U.S., either; Who was the last Democratic presidential candidate to win the white vote?**   Wanna place a bet that we won’t, in the next 4-5 election cycles, see the rise of a Hispanic party?   ——————————- **Lyndon Johnson in 1964  

John Derbyshire — Mr. Derbyshire is a former contributing editor of National Review.

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