Why would Iraq hold an election sure to fall short of a real exercise in democracy? Because George Bush and the other architects of the disastrous decision to invade Iraq are desperate for a result — any result. They hope to convince the Iraqi people and the world community that the war in Iraq has produced a budding democracy.
It won’t work and it won’t sell because the sales force of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Rice are suspect at best. To be blunt, few in the Arab world or our allies believe what the Bush administration says about anything. We can scream all we want about the French and the Germans, but one fact is irrefutable — the United States has repeatedly misled the world and our own citizens on Iraq.
According to George Bush, we went to war in Iraq because Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was allied with Al Qaeda. Despite significant evidence that refuted these motives, Bush went to war anyway. Turns out there were no weapons and the connection to Al Qaeda was tenuous at best. The result has been disastrous.
All of the goodwill the U.S. achieved by routing out the Taliban in Afghanistan has been eroded. The great success of real democratic elections in that country has been overshadowed by Iraq. Our relations in the Arab world and with our European allies, save Great Britain, have been strained to the breaking point. We have lost 1,400 American soldiers, 10,000 have been wounded, and 20,000 innocent Iraqis have died, including thousands of children.
But instead of admitting any mistakes in Iraq, George Bush simply redefined the purpose of the war. Forget WMDs, we are fighting so that Iraq can become the first Arab democracy in the Middle East, and to become a democracy any school kid knows you have to have elections — so elections there will be.
Forget that large population centers are in the hands of insurgents and millions will not vote out of fear of reprisal. Forget that there are not enough U.S. soldiers or Iraqi police to insure any significant level of security. Forget that many leaders of the Sunnis in Iraq, who make up 20% of the population, are boycotting the election. Forget all that so George Bush can get an election result, any election result.
Why is the President so set on this election? The real reason is that without an election, any hope of withdrawing U.S. forces in the near future is nil. The American public has turned against the war, as dissent grows daily.
George Bush needs to convince Americans that an end to this war is in sight. The election is being held to convince voters here that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. This might be true if the Iraqi election was a real exercise in democracy and accepted as such, both inside and outside Iraq, but like WMDs, such an election is likely an illusion.
I implore the Bush administration to be honest with us about the results. Don’t try to convince us that holding these elections is a real step on the road to U.S. withdrawal, if it is not. Remember the old saying, “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me." Here’s betting the American people will not be fooled again.
Known as the man who managed Walter Mondale’s 1984 presidential campaign and politicized Wendy’s “Where’s the beef?” slogan, Bob Beckel has emerged as one of Washington’s leading political analysts. Currently Mr. Beckel is a political science professor at George Washington University, and democratic political analyst for Fox News Channel.