A Mind That Suits What doesn't kill me, makes me laugh... usually.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005 :::
More of the Same, From A Mind That Suits, and From the Wall Street Journal.

Our theme for the last few days continues, because more examples keep rolling in.

The once mighty Wall Street Journal editorial page today offers yet one more conservative assessment where there seems to be a lot that is not being said. Again, they express their relief that Shi'a religious parties will have to form a coalition so they "will be in no position to demand an Islamic constitution for Iraq and that the political influence from Iran will be a long way from the dominance feared in much Western reporting."

Again, the bluff confidence and the sneering, this time bubbling just below the surface.

"But," the impish, ill-behaved conservatives who refuse to "sign on" might reasonably ask, "weren't we supposed to believe that Iraqi Shi'ism was 'quietist" and apolitical? And that there was no fondness for Iran among Iraqi Shi'a? So then why are you so relieved that they came in just a few points lower than expected?" But then one remembers that the same editorial column once insisted it would be great to bring in Indonesia's armed forces, with their "distinctly quietist" version of Shi'a, or some such. If it was distinct, or uniquely, or emphatically, how then is it different from other forms of Shi'ism? Or is that just something that good boys and girls are not supposed to ask?

They also put the best face on Sunni reactions, and one certainly hopes the Sunni come to their senses, but there needs to be a little more information available than there is to draw too many conclusions.

Sneers all around, too, to those who think Muslims might vote for an Islamist ticket because "democracy itself is a moderating influence." Good little boys and girls are not supposed to remember that Islamist parties have won in Nigeria, Algeria, and--oh, what's that country's name? Oh, yes, Turkey. The military in Algeria and in Turkey voided those elections, of course, but in Nigeria a few years back crowds torched 100 churches in a Muslim state. And didn't the religious parties just get a whopping percentage of the Shi'a vote? That 48 percent applies only to the whole country. How did they do in Basra and Najaf?

And the writers seem unaware of the history of "list" voting in Europe, where, Karl Popper pointed out, it allows parties to shift and form new coalitions without ever having to take responsibility for their own contributions to the failures of the coalitions that they left.

Charming, too, that they caution the Bush administration to resist "the (CIA) temptation to pay kingmaker or otherwise try to influence the result." They themselves have been shameless in promoting Ahmed Chalabi, who spent several years in the '90's trying to attract dissidents to a camp he had in Kurdistan, with no results, and who scrambled so feverishly to gain some power base in a country that hardly knows him that he went visiting the Iranians himself (he is Shi'a). He was at one point the least trusted public figure, according to one poll, and did not face the voters himself. He negotiated himself onto the list, which is something, and a tribute to his tenacity. What else it means, this writer has no way of knowing, but if the Journal bases its support of him on the same kind of reasoning they are applying to this situation, he will remain agnostic on the question of Mr. Chalabi's supposed virtues. It is worth remembering that the Journal wanted us to just impose Mr. Chalabi on Iraqis--although other conservatives maintained that he would have been greeted as a national hero if we had just staged it right. By all those Sunnis who refused to participate in the election, of course.

It may be wise here to say again that the point is not that this writer knows what is going on over there. The point is that it is the sacred duty of intellectuals to maintain some distance from situations and to be critical, to seek the truth, to call public officials to a higher standard, and that is not happening. It seems as if too many writers feel that they are part of a movement, and that they are defending precious certainties against the awful ambiguities of reality. It is also sad that one could read the Journal and the National Review every day and not know one more thing about Shi'ism than you did when you started. That's not entirely true: David Pryce-Jones does his best, which is considerable, and so do some others, but they are almost drowned out in all that boosterism. Plus, he has the standing to say whatever he wants. It is, sadly, also worth noting that nasty letters from extreme leftists get published, but letters from conservatives who merely have doubts and want to ask questions never do. Indeed, they seem to inspire the greatest hostility.

Much the way, ironically, that liberals treated neocons when they left the fold.

::: posted by A Mind That Suits at 12:10 PM



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