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Less-Than-Perfect Elections OK For Iraq

Reported by Marie Therese - November 30, 2004

On the Big Story with John Gibson that aired November 29, 2004, Gibson interviewed Ambassador James Dobbins, former envoy to Afghanistan, who monitored the recent elections there. Dobbins was pessimistic about the prospect of truly fair elections in Iraq on January 30, 2005.

The segment began with a video clip of an unidentified military personage stating: "I think with the momentum that we have continuing to keep the insurgents on the run that we will have a good security environment by the end of January so that the majority of the citizens of Iraq can participate in free and fair elections."

GIBSON: Can Iraq hold elections in what I'm euphemistically calling less-than-perfect conditions?

DOBBINS: I think the answer is yes, but they'll be less-than-perfect elections .. There may need to be some adjustments made before we get there in order to make them a little better than they would otherwise be.

GIBSON: What do you need to hold a credible election in a place you're sort of knocking down and rebuilding at the same time? What do you need in terms of a period of time before voting day for voters to realistically understand who it is that's on the ballot?

DOBBINS: I don't think that you can apply the normal institutional standards for free and fair elections to Iraq, in light of its current security situation. Ideally, what you need are a variety of political parties, a free press, a period of open debate in which candidates can't be intimidated and then an electoral process where people feel secure and can go out to vote. You're not gonna get that in a lot of Iraq, but it's compared to what? At the moment you have a government that was essentially appointed by the U.N. and the United States. That's as illegitimate or as unlegitimated as you can get in a democratic sense, so even an imperfect election may be an improvement.

GIBSON: But what happens .. guess what? This is not a jump ball. The Shi'a are gonna win this election. The Sunnis are gonna be upset. They're a minority anyway. They're an aggrieved minority with all the guns, shootin' at the Americans. So now you have a Shi'a-dominated government, with the Kurds in the north having some power because they're a big minority block, and the Sunnis very unhappy and they're the ones that are already armed. What have we got after this election?

DOBBINS: Well, I think we're going to have to take steps to make sure that the Sunnis are represented at least in proportion to their numbers in the population, rather than in proportion to the numbers who actually go out and vote. If they're represented only in terms of the number of actual voters, they may be reduced to 5% of the total rather than 20 or 25 percent of the total, which is what they actually represent.

GIBSON: Well, how would you do that? How would you hold an election in which two-thirds of the population is actually gonna elect somebody? One-third of the population - we know you're saying "Well, we know you can't go vote so we're gonna put some of your people in there anyway."

DOBBINS: ... The electoral system in Iraq is a proportional representation with a single national constituency which means that people get represented only if they go out and vote, as opposed to, say, the American system where Maryland gets two senators even if nobody in Maryland goes to the polls at all. So I think that the system needs to be changed so that the Sunni areas of the country will get representatives that are in proportion to their proportion of the population, even if most of those voters either can't vote or choose to boycott the vote.

GIBSON: Now, you know, Ambassador, a lot of people - and a couple of people on the network - Fred Barnes is one - have said you don't want to postpone the elections because elections actually end insurgencies, not foster them Do you believe in that?

DOBBINS: "Well, I don't favor postponing the elections until the security situation gets better, because there's no reason to believe it's going to get better. It's gotten steadily worse for 18 months and there's no reason to believe it's going to get better in the short to medium term, so I don't think that's a good reason for postponing the elections. I'd like to think that a successful election will result in the insurgencies ending, but I don't think that's likely, particularly not in the Sunni areas of the country, which will either be prevented from voting or choose not to vote in large numbers.

So, I think we should assume that the insurgency will continue to that security may continue to deteriorate. I think the vote is important, however, in transitioning from an American-led war to an Iraqi-led war, one which Iraqi moderates still have a chance of winning but only to the extent that they become less dependent on us.


OK. Now let me get this straight. Dobbins is suggesting - when it comes to elections - anything is better than nothing as long as it gets done by January 30, 2005. Who cares if a quarter of the adult population is disenfranchised? Certainly not Mr. Dobbins, who, as was noted above, is recently returned from Afghanistan. Clearly he is a surrogate for the Bush administration, sent out to soften the gullible FOX viewers up with talk of "less-than-perfect" being just fine for Iraq. It has been suggested by analysts in other media outlets that BushCo just wants to go through the motions of something that sorta, kinda looks like an election, so they can make a big show of turning power over to an "elected" government, and then withdraw our troops soon after that. Then, as is obvious to anyone who has eyes to see and ears to hear, Bush plans to invade Iran next, using the same tactics he did for Iraq: Lies, distortions, half-truths, jingoism, pseudo-patriotism and fear. I sincerely hope that - when he tries it - the rest of the world takes to the streets in numbers beyond imagining. If they do, I'll be there. Will you?

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