Is This The Democracy We Are Fighting For?
January 03, 2006, 1:00am

Why are we really fighting this war? First it was the search for WMDs. None were found. Then it was hunting for the terrorists and “smoking them out.” We’ve only created a breeding ground for more terrorists. Finally, President Bush insisted the mission in Iraq was worth it in order to bring democracy to the country and unseat Saddam Hussein, a very bad guy, but one who was contained economically, politically and militarily. Remember, he was our ally in the fight against Iran. And there are many countries that need democracy, but the United States has not gone in militarily and usurped control. But Iraq has oil and Bush has a lot of big oil friends.

For the past 2 ½ years, the President has exhausted the public with his rhetoric that building a democracy in Iraq will establish a peaceful civil society that will ultimately be an ally in the war on terror. In speech after speech, the country has heard the message point hammered home from Bush, Cheney, Condi and Rumsfeld: A free democratic Iraq is central to the war on terrorism. But judging by the climate of violence and unrest that still continues in Iraq, that battle is far from being won.

Central to the creation of a free and democratic Iraq was the notion of having the Iraqi people elect their own leaders. Amid great anticipation, the Iraqi elections were held in December. The good news is that there was strong turnout, little violence and large-scale participation by Sunni Muslims, who along with the Kurds, are the underrepresented, minority religious faction in Iraq. The White House heavily supported and hoped for Ayad Allawi to be victorious. While a Shiite, he believed in a modern secular government. The bad news is that the Administration, in their desperation to present the world with a successful and free Iraq election, had largely ignored the growing fury felt by many Sunni Arabs over the dominance of fanatical religious Shiites, who seek to implement their own version of fundamental Islamic law. The Administration’s biggest fear was the possibility of a fundamentalist Shiite controlled Iraqi government, and that is now the likely reality. With the recent Iraqi election, the only regime that we have helped to erect is a theocratic one, where fundamental Islamic law will likely continue to repress the Iraqi people, spread religious intolerance and deny basic rights to women. Is this what we are fighting for?

The result of the December election has plunged Iraq into political turmoil. Preliminary results showed the advancement of the United Iraqi Coalition, supported by the Shiite religious figure Ayatullah Ali al-Seistani. Days after the election, Sunni Arab leaders had angrily rejected early election results, saying that the vote has been fixed to favor the Shiite majority party. Sunni Arab politicians have threatened to boycott the political process altogether, which would be a serious set back for the Bush Administration.

With the religious Shiite faction having gained control of the Iraqi government, religious law will be high on their agenda. The Islamic law that is favored by the Shiite fundamentalists has horrible implications for women. “Personal status” law, which governs marriage, divorce, inheritance, burial, and other issues, will likely replace the uniform civil code. It is possible that the December election may be the first and last “free” election the Iraqi people will participate in.

The fundamentalist Shiites have strong ties to Iran. With the Shiite victory, Iran will now become a close ally to Iraq and even more of a threat to the United States. In addition to proudly announcing their nuclear capability, Iran’s unstable President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, called the Holocaust a ‘myth’ and pledged to destroy Israel. This new alliance is dangerous for the US and far from the secular democratic government that the Bush Administration naively envisioned for a dictatorless Iraq.

Is this the democracy that we have been fighting for? Or has the Bush Administration failed once more in their mission to make America safer. There are no WMD’s, there is an increasing anti-American sentiment in the Middle East and around the world, chances for a true democracy in Iraq are slim and a dangerous alliance between Iraq and Iran is likely. The Bush administration has made a mess in Iraq that they seem incapable of cleaning up. And speech after highly publicized speech by the President will not change this reality.