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July 27, 2004
Iraq, simmering in the background
Amid the deluge of convention reports, an interesting and well-balanced piece in today's edition of The New York Times deserves a close read. (membership required.) Ian Fisher, reporting from Baghdad, highlights, "Early steps, maybe, toward a Democracy in Iraq." The story ventures onto the campaign trail with Dr. Ahmad Abu-Raghif, a 37-year-old physician who wants one of 1,000 seats at a national conference next week.
Fisher says: "The concrete goal of the conference is to vote - openly and freely - on a 100-seat transitional council that will oversee the government of Iyad Allawi, the interim prime minister, until national elections are held in January. But the conference is also meant to function as an opportunity for a national dialogue, in which for the first time since the fall of Saddam Hussein, Iraqis from all religions, regions and political and ethnic groups begin to discuss the way forward." The story notes that Dr. Abu-Raghif is wearing "a good haircut, a blue suit and a big smile: the outfit of the office-seeker worldwide."
He cautions that it's way too early to know whether some form of democracy will take hold in Iraq. And I would add that the answer probably won't be clear until years from now, well after the results of the 2004 election are recorded in the history books. But at a time when views about the wisdom and success of the war in Iraq have hardened on both sides, it's a good reminder that the situation isn't as clear as most people think. We don't really know how things will play out in Iraq between now and November. The course of events, and perhaps more importantly, the perception of those events, will determine the outcome at the polls in the U.S. That situation is fluid, and little understood. Part of the problem is that it's so dangerous that we just don't have enough stories like this one, which look beyond the car bombings, to understand what's going on. And that means we probably don't have a good feel for how the election in November will turn out, either.
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