Dec 27, 2003 1:43 am


The good news from Samara is that the US army stopped being exclusively reactive. It has never cleared Samara and in the past, it has not only tried to complete its mission but has also be known to retreat. This time it made the enemy pay a price.

That's good but that is ALL. Samara is still an unliberated enemy ground. Why? because reporter found all over town graffiti warning that the"houses of those collaborating with the enemy will be destroyed." Mahmoud Muhammad, the American appoint chief of police told the Financial Times,"Were the French happy under the Nazis?" He is afraid either afraid or extremely hostile, in either case, he should be fired. It is one thing to point out the inevitable problems of living under the rule of others, it is another to compare the Americans to the Nazis. Even the Bremer administration should have some red lines. But more importantly, can you imagine what it would be like to hold caucuses in Samamra? Only a dim bureaucrat could have put together the"selection" chart printed in the NYT. It is not difficult to imagine the bullets which are sure to fly around those daring to participate in the cumbersome process.

Ayatolla Sistani is right. Elections may not yield desirable results but the anonymity of the voting booth is bound to help. At least, those elected will feel dependent on the electorate. Those selected are bound to be viewed as merely"semi-legitimate," undermine liberals by demonstrating that the US still fears real Arab democracy and help Islamist and tyrants who argue that the real Arab choice is between their own bastards and American appointed bastards. Those selected are sure likely to resemble Mahmoud Muhammad, fearful and dependent on thugs with guns.

I do not worry that the US will not stay the course, it is an elephant, it moves laboriously slowly but it has demonstrated time and again that it will stay the course. Those who assume the Bush's defeat will end the American commitment to the democratization of the Middle East are as wrong as those Cubans who believe that a new, more amenable American policy is in the offing. Note, Hillary Clinton's demand for more troops for Iraq and Afghanistan. At issue is merely the cost to the US, the Middle East and the world. As in all wars, the shorter, the cheaper.

In other words, the selection process is bound to make the"long, hard slog" unnecessarily, longer and harder.

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