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Special Report

Expectations of Sunday's Election

This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume," Jan. 24, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ADEL AL LAMI, INDEPENDENT ELECTORAL COMMISSION, IRAQ: This election is very important because this election puts the end to the occupation, put the end to the terrorists, put the end to the bad situation in the life of the Iraqi people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JIM ANGLE, GUEST HOST: The elections in Iraq next weekend could hardly be more important for the Iraqis and for the U.S. But skeptics argue the election will be so marred by violence that it cannot and will not improve life for the Iraqis or make it easier to bring home American troops. But there is also another view of the potential outcome of the elections.

Joining us from the campus of Stanford University is military historian and Hoover Institution senior fellow, Victor Davis Hanson.

Mr. Hanson, thanks for joining us sir.

VICTOR DAVIS HANSON, MILITARY HISTORIAN, STANFORD UNIV.: Thank you for having me.

ANGLE: Let me ask you first, violence clearly will be a problem. But you think that there is a lot to be gained no matter how much violence there is. Tell me why.

HANSON: Well, the Iraqis are going to start to get praise for the success and going to have to accept blames for the failures. As we start to see this transition move forward, where militarily speaking, we are going to see more and more Americans, especially in the guise of Special Forces an air power along the lines that were so successful in Afghanistan.

As there’s going to be a new dynamic because this is a democratic government that’s going to be legitimate and people — the train is leaving the station for people in the Sunni Triangle. And they’re either going to have to get on or have a civil war and if they do, they’re going to lose.

ANGLE: Now, one of the concerns, of course, is that the Sunnis who are a large part of the insurgency would be somehow excluded from the government, because they may not be able to get out and vote. Ordinary Sunnis, because the violence might be kept from the polls. And that somehow they would be underrepresented in the government. There have been a number of efforts though to make sure they have some representation in the new government, hasn’t there?

HANSON: There has been. They can be. There’s legislative and executive appointments. We should not see Iraq as simply divider between Sunni and Shiites. There’s intermarriage, they’re integration. There’s assimilation. But more importantly, there’s a very strange lodging that that a lot of people in Washington operate. That 20 percent of the people who either can’t or will not — either can’t or will not stop the violence that threatens the election are not going to dictate to others to who every day are risking their lives to go forward with consensual government. Especially when the Kurds and the Shiite have been waiting for this so long.

The final thing I think this is very important. This is more than just an election. Americans should realize that we are on the side of historic change. We haven’t seen something like this since the liberation of the Helots or the emancipation of women in Japan, or our own Civil Rights Movement, where the Shia and Kurds were perennially despised, and demeaned in the Middle East. And now they’re going to have equity. One man, one vote, it’s a radical revolutionary development. And Americans should be proud we’re on the right side of history.

ANGLE: Well, it will be a radical revolutionary development if it works. What are your concerns about all of the dangers that the critics point out, all of the skeptics say, look, this can’t work, there’s too much violence. What are your concerns in that area?

HANSON: So far, they have been proven wrong, I think. We were told that the Shia would be puppets of Iran. That has not happened. Mr. Sistani has shown himself statesman like. And it seems that most Iraqis who claim to be Shia are more Arabs and Iraqis than they are Iranian puppets. We were told that Zarqawi et al would thwart the process. That hasn’t happened.

Remember, we’re in a sort of damned if we do and damned if we don’t. We were told the elections took too long. and then when we scheduled them, we were told they were too soon. We were told that Americans had a too prominent a presence. And then we pulled back, we were told that we are not establishing security.

So you have a deductive, pre-existing distrust of what’s going on. And why not? This is a revolutionary development that’s going to change the Middle East, if you’re a Jordanian or Saudi or a Syrian. And a lot of people don’t want this to happen.

ANGLE: Let me ask you quickly about Mr. Sistani, who is the most revered Shiite cleric in the country. He seems to have played a very positive role in this, discouraging any sort of reaction from Shia that might have led to some sort of sectarian war with the Sunni.

HANSON: Absolutely. We were told throughout that this would look like an Afghanistan with warlords on the part of the Shia, that it would be endemic Lebanon or the West Bank. But so far that just hasn’t happened. And the Americans have been very careful to cultivate him and to send the message out that when this both is elected, it’s going to very soon be autonomous. And if they want the United States to leave, the United States at some point will leave. It will be a legitimate government.

All the old stereotypes don’t apply. The oil is under transparent control. The U.N. and French are not involved, and the Russians are not involved. Gas went up after we went in. Billions are going to be under control of the Iraqi people. It doesn’t fit any of the old conspiracy theories that we’re after oil. we’re after hegemony. It does make sense that it’s part of an effort to change the landscape of the Middle East that fostered terrorism, and autocracy, and made people not like the West.

ANGLE: And we did have some success in Afghanistan. Enough so that Hamid Karzai, the leader there, today urged Iraqis to go out and vote.

HANSON: We did, and we are starting to see a disturbing pattern among our own elites, where people first swear that the military operations will fail. After they succeed, they say the post bellum reconstruction is hopelessly mired and won’t work. After we have an election and success; they go to the next theater.

And we are starting to see Iraq operate in the same pattern we saw Afghanistan, just about the same 20-month period. I think that after the elections we’re going to see rapid improvement even more so.

ANGLE: Just 30 seconds left. Zarqawi, the chief terrorist in Iraq declared war on democracy, and told people that they would be infidels for voting. That’s not exactly a winning battle cry, is it?

HANSON: No, it isn’t. Especially if you look at the world, there’s more democracies in the world than there ever has been. And you look at the Muslim world, and Turkey and Afghanistan, Muslims in India, and Indonesia, and Malaysia; they’re starting to see a truth there that when people follow Islam under democratic auspices they’re not terrorists.

ANGLE: OK, got to go. Victor Davis Hanson, thank you, sir. Appreciate it.

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