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Guide to planning seasonal celebrations

Voters' Voices

Jobs, the economy and the 2004 presidential election

Holiday Movie Preview 2004

Multimedia slide show with capsule previews of upcoming films

Standardized Testing 101

A primer for parents

Deadly Weapons in Dangerous Hands

Special report about weapons of mass destruction

Losing Ground

Special report: Wetlands' demise ripples across nation

Iraq: After Saddam

Continuing coverage of the conflict in Iraq


Friday, April 25, 2003
Democracy is learned, not force-fed





and Gannett News Service
Learn about Tomahawk
cruise missiles
Beyond smart bombs: High-tech weapons explained
Meet U.S. commanders directing the war
Learn about Iraq's most powerful men
Case against Saddam
Suiting up for chemical war
Saddam's rise to power
Key U.S. diplomatic players

Nothing better illustrates the dilemma in Iraq than listening to President Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld chattering about its future.

Bush leans into the mike and says reverently, "We are going to give democracy to the people of Iraq."

But feisty Rumsfeld, if asked whether the United States will allow the Iraqi Shiite majority to democratically produce a Muslim theocracy like the one in neighboring Iran, says, "We're not going to let that happen."

Bush and Rumsfeld both claim they want Iraqis to decide their own future, but what they really want is a chance to persuade Iraqis to use the ballot box to ratify their vision of how Iraq should be run.

They want a Westernized democracy, controllable by and accountable to Washington. That's not what the president says he wants - but get real. No matter how they grin and bear it, a million newly liberated Iraqi Shiites trudging to Karbala, chanting anti-American and anti-Israeli slogans and ritually flogging themselves is not W's or Rummy's idea of democracy. Mine either.

So what to do? Stuff democracy down their throats like force-feeding a goose gruel to make fois gras? It's bad for the goose but great for the gourmand.

Democracy is a learned habit, not a state of nature. But the Bush administration is in no position to plan for a decade or more to breed the stable institutions it would take to overcome the power of the existing religious and ethnic elites in Iraq. It hopes Jay Garner, the retired U.S. Army lieutenant general in charge of reconstructing Iraq, can shorten that to a few months with a combination of cash, kisses on both cheeks to friendlies and a few dope slaps for the slow learners.

Bush and Rumsfeld are counting on the human craving for freedom without facing the possibility it might become freedom to stomp on people who disagree. Good luck to them. It means they have little understanding of Eastern cultures where individual freedoms are highly suspect and there is little taste for letting minorities dissent from majority sentiment. It's cultural tunnel vision.

Lost in translation

Among Islamic fundamentalists, the defeat of secular Muslim governments by Western forces is a sign that those governments were punished by Allah for straying from the true faith by trying to emulate the infidels. In those terms, Saddam Hussein's ignominious defeat means that Allah wanted him to be replaced by leaders who hew to that good old-time Islam. From the Muslim fundamentalist perspective, the governments most successful at rejecting infidel influence are Iran, Saudi Arabia and, until Osama bin Laden's head got too big, the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The American assumption is that the vast majority of Iraqis do not agree with these powerful religious elites and, if given a chance, would overwhelm them democratically through the ballot box. We'll see if Garner, in a few months, can counter the trend running throughout the Middle East.

The reason so many former British colonies have done well as democracies is that the native elites, under British rule and tutelage, got decades of practice tamping down religious and ethnic troublemakers and keeping them powerless. We can't do that openly because we don't want to be seen as colonialists. Anyway, that's what Saddam did.

What we are more likely to do is impose a rickety puppet government, bribed to let Washington rule by remote control, and pretend it's a democracy. It might even work for a while. But it is not likely to fool anybody but the people who still think we kicked Saddam's butt just to find his weapons of mass destruction so we could come home and celebrate.

The world is not that simple. Ask the South Koreans.

----

Norman A. Lockman, a Pulitzer Prize winner, is associate editor of The News Journal, P.O. Box 15505, Wilmington, Del. 19850. E-mail: nlockman@delawareonline.com.


Back to top
General: Iraqi troops improve
The top U.S. general in Iraq said Wednesday that once Iraqi government forces take the lead in the war, the insurgency can be defeated and the American troop level reduced.

| USA TODAY | Wednesday, January 26, 2005 | 11:40 pm

Parties waging a polite battle to control Najaf
In this city, the holiest in Iraq to the country's Shiite Muslim majority, political rhetoric is heating up. But unlike in some places in Iraq, the debate here isn't focused on religion or historic ethnic divisions, and there's little violence.

| USA TODAY | Tuesday, January 25, 2005 | 11:34 pm

In Iraq, the question is: To vote or not to vote
A recent survey by the International Republican Institute found that 80% of Iraqis say they will probably vote this weekend. But unrelenting insurgent violence, the specter of post-election sectarian strife and confusion over complex ballots threaten to snuff out democracy before it can take hold.

| USA TODAY | Tuesday, January 25, 2005 | 11:17 pm

Politics popular in Shiite areas
In Basra and other parts of heavily Shiite southern Iraq, people are embracing politics.

| USATODAY.com | Thursday, January 20, 2005 | 11:51 pm

Lengthy ballots, ad blitzes contribute to confusion
Less than two weeks before Election Day, many Iraqi voters still are unsure about some basics, such as: Who are they electing?

| USATODAY.com | Wednesday, January 19, 2005 | 11:44 pm

Sunni leaders urge talks with insurgents to end 'stalemate'
Moderate Sunni leaders are urging the United States and Iraqi governments to change course and seek a cease-fire and negotiations with insurgents.

| USATODAY.com | Tuesday, January 18, 2005 | 11:46 pm

Female Iraqi candidates risk lives
Members of Congress who traveled to the Middle East over the weekend got a harrowing lesson on the high price of democracy.

| USATODAY.com | Wednesday, January 12, 2005 | 10:57 pm

U.S.: Elections will be credible
The Bush administration will consider the results of Iraq's elections credible even if most Sunni Muslims minority don't vote on Jan. 30.

| USATODAY.com | Wednesday, January 12, 2005 | 10:57 pm

2 Iraq cities, separated by politics, await election
Sadr City and Fallujah illustrate both the hopes and risks of Iraq's march toward democracy.

| USATODAY.com | Tuesday, January 11, 2005 | 10:58 pm

Polling places planned in Iraq's problem areas
The Iraqi Election Commission plans to set up polling stations in problem areas in Iraq despite insurgent attacks.

| USATODAY.com | Monday, January 10, 2005 | 11:03 pm

Court-martial begins for Abu Ghraib figure
The court-martial of Army reservist Spc. Charles Graner, the man portrayed as the ringleader in the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse scandal in Iraq, is set to begin Friday at Fort Hood in Texas.

| USATODAY.com | Thursday, January 6, 2005 | 11:47 pm

Iraqi expatriates fear being left out of elections
Iraqi-American groups say disorganization and overly stringent requirements are plaguing an ambitious effort to allow expatriates worldwide to vote in Iraq's Jan. 30 elections.

| USATODAY.com | Thursday, January 6, 2005 | 10:48 pm

Allawi: Elections will go on
Iraqi interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi on Wednesday rejected growing calls for postponement of the national elections set for Jan. 30.

| USATODAY.com | Wednesday, January 5, 2005 | 11:15 pm

Fallujans reluctant to return
So far, Fallujans are not lining up to return to what's left of their devastated city.

| USATODAY.com | Wednesday, January 5, 2005 | 11:13 pm

Congress expects $100 billion war request
Congress expects the White House to request as much as $100 billion this year for war and related costs in Iraq and Afghanistan, congressional officials say.

| USA TODAY | Monday, January 3, 2005 | 11:30 pm

More contracts steered to Iraqi firms
The U.S. government is shifting more reconstruction contracts toward Iraqi companies as violence makes it harder for American contractors to work.

| USATODAY.com | Monday, January 3, 2005 | 11:00 pm

Iraqi election candidates crave coverage
As Iraq moves toward elections scheduled for Jan. 30, the media campaign is intensifying.

| USATODAY.com | Sunday, January 2, 2005 | 10:57 pm

Gas shortage fuels resentment in Iraq
Buying gasoline in Iraq is a serious undertaking. Determined motorists get up before their dawn prayers to join 2-mile-long lines. Sometimes they don't get to fill their tanks until evening. A black market is thriving.

| USA TODAY | Wednesday, December 29, 2004 | 11:47 pm

Soldiers saw giant tent as inviting target for insurgents
Soldiers at the Forward Operating Base Marez near Mosul, Iraq base had long complained of feeling defenseless in the fabric-covered hall, which lately has been the target of mortar and rocket attacks almost daily.

| USA TODAY | Wednesday, December 22, 2004 | 11:42 pm

U.S. contractor pulls out of Iraq rebuilding project
A Virginia company this week became the first large contractor to withdraw from the multibillion-dollar Iraq reconstruction drive, saying work there was too dangerous and costly.

| USA TODAY | Wednesday, December 22, 2004 | 11:35 pm

Mosul attack showcases insurgents' intelligence
The implications of the audacious suicide attack in the center of a heavily guarded U.S. military base in Mosul go beyond a failure of base security.

| USATODAY.com | Wednesday, December 22, 2004 | 11:11 pm

Mosul blast hits U.S. hard
A massive lunchtime explosion struck a flimsy mess tent filled with soldiers Tuesday at a military base near Mosul. It was one of the deadliest attacks yet against Americans in Iraq. Mlitary spokesmen in Baghdad and at the Pentagon said 19 U.S. soldiers were killed.

| USA TODAY | Tuesday, December 21, 2004 | 11:45 pm

Soldiers who led invasion must return
Continuing insurgent attacks have forced the United States to boost its force in Iraq toward 150,000, its highest level yet.

| USATODAY.com | Sunday, December 19, 2004 | 11:08 pm

Chaplain, others look to lift Christmas spirit in war zone
Across Iraq, military chaplains will enter makeshift chapels on the morning of Dec. 25 and pray for peace on earth in a land where peace continues to be in short supply.

| Gordon Trowbridge | Marine Corps Times | Sunday, December 19, 2004 | 6:41 pm

Troops can't beat deals at PX
Flush with hazardous-duty pay and tax-free earnings, U.S. troops in combat zones often have more money to spend than things to buy. That's where the PX, or post exchange, comes in, providing a taste of home if only for the time it takes to eat a bag of Doritos.

| C. Mark Brinkley | Army Times | Thursday, December 16, 2004 | 11:22 pm

Army spending billions on new armored vehicles
The Army said Wednesday that it is spending $4.1 billion to armor all military wheeled vehicles in Iraq by June.

| USATODAY.com | Wednesday, December 15, 2004 | 11:23 pm

Air Force boosts number of supply flights
Roads have become too dangerous for American convoys, the top Air Force general said Tuesday.

| USATODAY.com | Tuesday, December 14, 2004 | 11:32 pm

Army Guard now says its Iraq troops figure was inaccurate
The Army National Guard said Monday it had given USA TODAY an inaccurate count of the total number of Guard troops in Iraq since the beginning of the war in March 2003, but still could not provide a precise count.

| Dave Moniz | USA TODAY | Tuesday, December 14, 2004 | 10:29 am

Fair vote possible in Anbar, top Marine says

The U.S. military believes Iraq's rebellious Anbar province can be brought into national elections scheduled for January.

| Gordon Trowbridge | Army Times | Sunday, December 12, 2004 | 11:05 pm

U.S. military preparing restive Iraqi province for elections
The top U.S. officer in Iraq's rebellious Anbar province believes the region can be settled and brought into national elections scheduled for Jan. 30. Anbar, a hotbed of insurgent unrest, stretches from west of Baghdad to the Syrian border and poses perhaps the toughest challenge to the U.S. mission in Iraq.

| Gordon Trowbridge | Army Times | Friday, December 10, 2004 | 9:09 pm


© 2003, Gannett News Service