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Monday, May 01, 2006

Voting in Iraqi FantasyLand

(Keywords: politics, Iraq, media, advocating 'cut and run' without admitting it )

Jonah Goldberg wrote a column last week that showed up in my local paper yesterday (online version here).

The welcome formation of a new unity government notwithstanding, Iraq's climate remains poisonous.

America's reputation as freedom's champion is taking lumps around the globe, while public support here at home for the war is waning. Arab nations are using the situation in Iraq to push an antidemocratic and anti-American agenda. Terrorists have made the Iraq conflict the Spanish Civil War of the war on terror.

These are the words of a man who still thinks the Iraq war is a good idea. Yet, these are the opening salvo in an argument for continued US occupation. And he has a brilliant PR plan to get everyone behind us. "I've an idea to help fix all that," Goldberg writes, "Let the Iraqi people vote on whether U.S. troops should stay in Iraq."

His idea is that the iraqi people, so grateful for the occupation, will vote to keep american forces. To back up his argument, he quotes two pro-american iraqi leaders. However, his big plan for direct democracy to shore up our pretense of justice is seriously flawed on two points.

First, it's unconstitutional. The Constitution of Iraq has no provision for a national referendum. Even if such a vote were held, the results would be invalid. Local referenda could be held, but would only be advisory and nonbinding. They would have no legal weight.

Second, they'd vote us out in a heartbeat. Goldberg admits this is a possibility, but writes that his idea "depends as much on fear as it does on hope." At least it's openly fearmongering. I guess that makes it OK, somehow. In fact, he makes that point again. "Some would surely vote out of fear, others hope," he wrote, "But they would all check the same box."

Let's go back to an actual poll taken by the British Ministry of Defense in 2005, from The Sunday Telegraph:

Millions of Iraqis believe that suicide attacks against British troops are justified, a secret military poll commissioned by senior officers has revealed.

The poll, undertaken for the Ministry of Defence and seen by The Sunday Telegraph, shows that up to 65 per cent of Iraqi citizens support attacks and fewer than one per cent think Allied military involvement is helping to improve security in their country.

Maybe Goldberg thinks that a majority of iraqis will vote for coalition troops to stay so everyone can get a chance to attack them. But in his closing, he reveals his true motive for calling for a vote - he wants out.

But what if it failed? What if the Iraqis voted to kick us out? Well, again let me say I think this idea only makes sense if, after consulting with Iraqi politicians and others, we determine that it would likely pass. At the end of the day, America still might lose. I'd hate to see that happen. But I can't think of a more honorable way for America to withdraw from Iraq and to prove it respects democracy. America won't bow to bullets and bombs -- but it will to ballots.

Jonah Goldberg may be an idiot, but he's not uninformed. He knows about the MoD poll and he knows that iraqi opinion isn't likely to have changed from "let's kill them" to "let's keep them".

If he had any guts, Goldberg would put on his big boy pants, admit he was wrong about this whole misadventure, and call for us to get out. As it is, he wants to sneak out the backdoor, while using the iraqi people as a shield.