Cigars in the Sand

Commentary, Notes and Pictures from my time in Iraq

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Location: Baghdad, Iraq

Farmer by genetics, Lawyer by training, currently "vacationing" in Iraq and advising the Iraqi government on border security issues. Before moving to Baghdad, I served in the White House as Deputy Counsel for the Homeland Security Council. I can be reached at opusxryanathotmaildotcom.

Thursday, February 10, 2005


The Chicago Tribune's Steve Chapman weighs in this morning with a column about the recent Iraqi elections (I've linked to the version on RealClearPolitics for those without a Trib subscription). The basic gist: the Iraqi elections were interesting, but their success should come as no surprise. His larger point seems to be that Republicans have nothing to pat themselves on the back about.

I'll give Steve that some on the right have been a little too self-laudatory. But that's a fair point to make without insulting the Iraqis and what was accomplished on January 30th. A few additional responses are in order:

"But what did the elections prove that comes as any surprise?"

I seem to recall that Jimmy Carter and a whole host of other pundits claimed that holding elections in January would be impossible given the security situation. I also recall that many of those same folks claimed the results would not be accepted as "legitimate" by Iraqis. Both those claims proved false. More importantly, the elections proved for the first time that Iraqis really and truly are ready to stand up and reject the terrorists. I know a lot of folks doubted the Iraqis resolve on this point, and I myself was a little nervous on that count as well. When I stood in Baghdad on election morning and could here multiple bombs and mortars detonating not too far away, I questioned whether Iraqis would brave those bombs to come out and vote. And they did, in massive numbers.

"In fact, since the 2003 invasion, the chief obstacle to elections in Iraq was the Bush administration."

Umm, no. Probably the most laughable line in the entire column. The security situation in Iraq was the chief obstacle to elections, in case Chapman wasn't paying attention to all of his naysayer brethren already mentioned above. January 30th was about the earliest possible time these elections could possibly be held, given the facts on the ground here. I seem to also distinctly remember that it was the Administration's critics who previously argued that these elections were not "Iraqi elections", but rather elections forced upon them by Bush et al. So how was Bush the "chief obstacle" again?

"For all the triumphal pronouncements, no one knows yet what the actual turnout was. But it would not be a surprise if Iraq's Shiites and Kurds turned out in force, any more than it would be a surprise to find beer drinkers at a bar."

The most insulting line of the column, on several levels (let's leave aside the complete non sequitur). I had to re-read this line a few times before I could believe it was actually printed. Would Mr. Chapman be surprised to find beer drinkers in a bar if those beer drinkers were threatened with death for going to the bar? if some of their fellow drinkers wouldn't make it to the bar because they were assasinated on the way there? And did Chapman really just compare the staunchly religious Shiites (who he early warns about potentially imposing an Iranian-style Islamic regime) to beer drinkers in a bar?? I've been trying to think of a comparable slight, but I seem to be coming up empty.

And finally:

"The election was an inspiring spectacle, but an assessment of its effect on the fate of Iraq will have to wait. The self-congratulation should wait as well."

Ah yes, an "inspiring spectacle". What Mr. Chapman misses in his attempts to backhand those engaged in self-congratulation is that those folks were also -- primarily -- congratulating the Iraqi people on an amazing achievement. Even al-Jazeera covered the event as a watershed moment in Iraqi, and Middle Eastern, history, but a Chicago Tribune columnist doesn't get it? Very sad.

Chapman opened this mess with the following line: "It's a good time to be an orthopedic surgeon in a red state, because lots of Republicans have dislocated their shoulders patting themselves on the back." Very clever. May I suggest that Chapman at least give the Iraqis a few pats on the back for standing up to terror, for at least one day? Or at least that he pull his head out of his nether regions and give the Iraqis credit where its due? I promise to cover his orthopedic surgeon bill.