“These elections have not yielded much. It is necessary to wait and see the results, but I think all this is unreliable and dubious.” – former communist apparatchik, Mikhail Gorbachev. Yep. You can understand why he’s not too keen on democracy.


“Granted, these are only allegations. But there are a lot of them — enough to fill this whole page, never mind this column. That is too many to dismiss as unfounded. Too many to shrug off as the deeds of a few rogues on the night shift. And too many to make excuses for in the name of political or ideological loyalty. As regular readers know, I write as a war hawk. I strongly support the mission in Iraq. I voted for President Bush. I believe the struggle against Islamist totalitarianism is the most urgent conflict of our time. But none of that justifies the administration’s apparent willingness to countenance — under at least some circumstances — the indecent abuse of prisoners in military custody.” – Jeff Jacoby, in the Boston Globe. Thanks Jeff. Maybe the private conservative horror at torture may now become more public and vocal.

EMAIL OF THE DAY: “You wonder whether the MSM are responsible enough to admit when they’re wrong, and cite the NYT’s editorial of some time back urging the postponement of the elections in Iraq.
They’re just sticking to form. They also editorialized in favor of postponing the recall election in California. There the excuse was much flimsier – the ghost of a suspicion that punchcard voting systems in counties like Santa Clara would result in proportionally more balloting errors in minority areas.
I lived and voted in Santa Clara county for 10 years before I bought a house further north, and that was the first time I’d ever heard such concerns, even in the election of 2000.
Of course, Florida gave the NYT their arguing point, but I think by now it’s clear what these people are up to. If the election seems likely to go their way they’re in favor of it. If it seems that there will be a result they don’t care for then they start worrying about whatever seems like a good pretext – anything from car bombs to hanging chad – to intervene administratively, and let the unelected tell the rest of us how and when we’ll be allowed to vote.
And these are the bunch that claim Karl Rove is depriving the electoral process of its legitimacy. Rove is at least more daring than they are. He’s only trying to change the way we’ll vote, not whether we’ll even get the chance.” More feedback on the Letters Page.


Check out Mark Stevens’ interesting and tough assessment of the late architect Philip Johnson in the NYT. Fair and revealing – especially about Johnson’s flirtation and endorsement of fascism (which he later renounced). Now can you imagine a similar piece appearing about Susan Sontag’s flirtation and endorsement of communism, her racist claims about white people, and her constant attraction to murderous tyrants, such as Castro or the acolytes of bin Laden? None of this detracts from her considerable skills as a critic. But it puts her work in the context of a disfiguring, ideological defense of tyranny. Yes, she renounced much of it. But so did Johnson.


In the blogosphere, we are often called to account for previous statements; or asked to concede that we were wrong about something or other. It happens. We’re all human and our judgment is never going to be 100 percent correct. But in the MSM, such accountability is rare. It seems to me, for example, that when the Iraq elections are a huge success and you have recently editorialized in favor of their postponement, you might owe your readers an acount of what you misjudged, or at least an acknowledgment that you have been proven wrong. So check the NYT editorial today. No such acknowledgment. The difference between the blogosphere and the MSM: more accountability.

BARNES ON DISSENT: Fred Barnes is fighting mad that the Dems may be getting tougher in obstructing the president’s agenda. He thinks the tactic will backfire and will prompt the Dems to lose more seats in 2006. But we can’t wait till then! Here’s his recipe for White House response tactics:

Stronger countermeasures will be needed, including an unequivocal White House response to obstructionism, curbs on filibusters, and a clear delineation of what’s permissible and what’s out of bounds in dissent on Iraq.

Harrumph. Harrumph. One quibble: the White House will determine what constitutes “permissible” dissent? I assume he means that some dissent will merely be described as treason by the White House. They won’t actually try and stop such expressions, will they? Still, it’s an interesting insight into the mentality of some Bush defenders. It seems to me that if an opposition party wants to mount an obstructionist campaign, it has evey right to do so. And face the consequences. It’s called a democracy. You know: like we’re trying to foster in Iraq.


Two years ago, the West liberated Iraq. But yesterday, the Iraqis liberated themselves.


The latest indicators suggest a turnout of something like 60 percent. We’ll have to wait for precise numbers and ethnic/regional breakdowns. But if I stick to my pre-election criteria for success, this election blows it away: “45 percent turnout for Kurds and Shia, 25 percent turnout for the Sunnis, under 200 murdered.” Even my more optimistic predictions of a while back do not look so out of bounds. But the numbers don’t account for the psychological impact. There is no disguising that this is a huge victory for the Iraqi people – and, despite everything, for Bush and Blair. Yes, we shouldn’t get carried away. We don’t know yet who was elected, or what they’ll do, or how they’ll be more successful at controlling the insurgency. There are many questions ahead. And I don’t mean to minimize them. But I’m struck by some of the paradoxes of all this. We’re too close to events to see them clearly. But the timing of this strikes me as fortuitous. Why? Because by the time of the elections, the insurgents had been able to show themselves as a real threat to the democratic experiment and to reveal their true colors – enemies of democracy, Jihadist fanatics and Baathist thugs. The election was in part a referendum on these forces. And they lost – big time. Their entire credibility as somehow representing a genuine nationalist resistance has been scotched. If the election had happened earlier – say a year sooner – it might not have registered the same impact, because the insurgency would not have been so strong or so defined. Failure and success are not always binary in history, or mutually exclusive. Sometimes early success – like the liberating war – can aggravate the problems of an occupation. And sometimes failure – like losing control of security across whole swathes of the country – can lead to unexpected success. These are my provisional thoughts (sorry, Mickey). And they may be infused with a certain euphoria (sorry, again). But providence does seem to be at work in these events. Miracles do happen. One just did.

THE IMAGES: The pictures are extraordinary. Don’t miss the slideshows in the Washington Post and NYT this morning. The images of women especially moved me – because of what this election represents for the future of women’s dignity and equality in the Middle East. Then the general merriment all round. Even from this distance, it appears that Iraqis were celebrating their common citizenship, a moment when their civic and national space just got larger. Look at these photos and re-read the president’s Inaugural. This is real. Freedom is advancing. Out of chaos and fear. Maybe it took staring into the abyss to bring Iraq back from a form of hell.

CAN WE HOPE? My <a href = http

//www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2088-1462071,00.html target = _blank>column in yesterday’s Sunday Times of London.

TWO NEW PIECES: Defending Hillary Clinton on abortion and Larry Summers on women.

“I’M JUST APPALLED …”: Juan Cole vents on the Iraq elections.

WHY THE RIGHT WON’T CONCEDE ERROR: Here’s an email that says that the right’s failure to acknowledge specific errors in Iraq is directly connected to the left’s visceral hostility to Bush:

I am utterly convinced to the point of certainty that the ‘failure of the people on the right to see the serious problems in the way we’ve administered the occupation’ was based on not wanting to give into the left’s countless methods to undermine the success of a George Bush-led anything. They will take a contrarian position no matter what the topic. They will lie and distort their own past stated positions, The ends justify the means, and all. The same people who claim to have been for the Afghanistan action in order to justify their exceptional opposition to the Iraq action were, for the most part, against Afghanistan. They lie with ease; they don’t want us to win anything; they want America to be publicly chastened, especially by our European intellectual ‘superiors’. Conceding anything to this crowd, right or wrong, feels like it will lead to giving them something they don’t deserve, the higher ground, and, worse, carte blanche to take us back to a pre-911 ostrich-like security strategy. We know things aren’t going perfect. But we never expected that standard in the first place.

That may well be empirically true. But it’s depressing nonetheless.