Yesterday was a joyful day not only for Iraqis but for anyone who was following the election in Iraq and whose (let us just say) political alignments weren't causing them indigestion over what they were having to digest. A very happy day. And the happiness of it was not only, in a manner of speaking, necessary but also sufficient. Today, it's already the day after and some initial reflections are in order.
The UN Secretary General has called the election a beginning:
... not the end of the process [but] the beginning of transition, of political transition, which eventually should see the day when Iraqis run their own affairs and and take charge of their own destinies...Well, that's fair enough. It is only a beginning; but then so are the first faltering steps of a young child, generally cause for much family celebration. Back in September Carlos Valenzuela, who led the UN team that organized the Iraqi elections, said that if these could be held, they might contribute to altering the security situation for the better. It remains to be seen whether he turns out to have been right. But in any event if we consider what yesterday's election signifies from a different - although related - angle, it rather does resolve something. The angle I'm talking about here is the angle of legitimacy. As it is, the transitional arrangements currently in place in Iraq have behind them a couple of UN resolutions, but for reasons known to everyone, residing in the division of opinion over the war which liberated Iraq from the regime of Saddam Hussein, those resolutions weren't enough for a lot of people.
However, and speaking bluntly, the game is now up. The 'illegal war' and/or 'unnecessary war', the war most of whose opponents just couldn't (try as they might) summon into their understanding a moral case for it they could respect, this war has led via several stages, including yesterday's election, to a new prospective set of interim arrangements that will have the endorsement which matters most. The assembly to follow from the election and which is to oversee the drafting of a new constitution will have the endorsement of the Iraqi people, and in conditions in which they had to risk no less than life and limb to express their views. Let people who will quibble over the democratic validity of this endorsement shame themselves as they choose.
All those who have expressed their support, in one way or another, for the 'glorious resistance' in Iraq now have some hard thinking to do. Up to this point, even in spite of the political character and the murderousness of the forces composing it, the Western supporters of that 'resistance' have been able to trade on ambiguities about legitimacy resulting from the fact that an invading and occupying army had ushered in the transitional arrangements currently in force. No longer will they be able so to trade. Henceforth, they will be supporting - those who do continue to support it - an 'insurgency' against an attempted transition to democracy that has the express will of the Iraqi people behind it; an 'insurgency' not merely criminal (under all civilized codes and norms) in its methods, but also without a shred of democratic legitimacy. How many good liberals, how many on the Western left, will be willing to go this far it remains to be seen. So does it remain to be seen how, if at all, the weight and direction of commentary will change coming from those who, though they have not supported the 'insurgency', have aimed the greatest volume, and the warmest, of their condemnations at the political leaders whose decisions opened the way to yesterday's election.
[This is the first of two linked posts.]