Thursday, September 23, 2004

To Iraqi Media: Show Us the Candidates

This launch of the Iraqi national debating period, in advance of January elections, must start right now. Time is short. It must not be delayed until after the USA election or until the security situation "on the ground" is under control. Use the media, use the internet, start the debate.

USA citizens need the same information: they need to gauge the level of commitment to true democracy in Iraq. Will the security forces protect and give ample air time to candidates who represent Iraqi views, as measured by polling and interviews, such as this widespread view that the occupation must end, that it was illegal in the first place, that Iraqi companies should not have been auctioned off to foreign investors by the Bremer camp?

Sure, these won't be the only views. Allawi is free to offer his. But not only Allawi -- no way. Opposition must be vocal, well defined, and protected by security forces. Give them fortified accommodations in the green zone. And let us hear from them often. Otherwise, we're not really talking about creating a democracy at all. And we deserve to know that right now, today. Not after November 2. Not after hundreds of more Iraqis and USA soldiers are killed. We need to see the payoff for removing Saddam Hussein. No more dictatorship. Freedom of speech. OK, let's see it. Prove the USA is sincere. Let the many voices in this debate hold forth. Let's put down the guns and listen.

Does this mean political candidates for high office in Iraq should be allowed to come on TV and incite violence? No. The rhetoric should be reasonably confined to political solutions. The whole point is to urge freedom fighters (insurgents, terrorists, rebels, whatever) to put down their guns and tune in to the media, because there they will hear their heartfelt views reflected, by fellow Iraqis who share their dreams. This will prove to them that representative democracy has a chance. Or it least it will make the case. It's what the USA needs to be pushing to make happen, if the USA is really giving more than lipservice to the idea of democracy in Iraq.