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David Frum: The Sunnis Better Play Ball or They'll Pay Later

Reported by Marie Therese - January 5, 2005

Judge Andrew Napolitano subbed for John Gibson yesterday on Big Story. After the obligatory tsunami story praising our relief efforts and our generosity while denigrating the Middle Eastern countries for their miserable little donations, Napolitano turned his attention to the upcoming elections in Iraq in a Q&A session with David Frum, Bush's former speechwriter,

NAPOLITANO: Are the terrorists weakening the Iraqi peoples' resolve?

FRUM: The center of gravity in this war is not the resolve to the Iraqi people. It's the resolve of the American people. This is the way the war is being waged. This ... terrorist war in Iraq is becoming increasingly a genocidal campaign. They've targeted children receiving candy from U.S Marines. They've targeted Shi'ite worshippers at the holiest places in all to Shi'a Islam on the very holiest hay. It's like detonating a bomb in front of the Vatican at Easter...This is a war in which a small minority of Iraqis based in the Sunni minority of the population is waging war against the entire Shi'ite population, whom they regard as unworthy human beings.

[COMMENT: Notice how what's good for the goose is not good for the gander in BushWorld. If our soldiers fire on insurgents who are giving candy to children, that's regrettable collateral damage. But, if an insurgent fires at our soldiers while they are giving out candy, the insurgents must, naturally, be targeting not the soldiers but the children. War is a sick and dirty business. Each side makes the same damn arguments and neither wants to see the other as human. The Eyes of Heaven weep while the Heart of Heaven breaks.]

Later in answer to Napolitano's question about the Iraqi foreign minister's call for a postponement of the election, Frum noted that the Sunnis have anxiety that they "are about to lose their traditional total dominance within Iraqi society. This is a dominance that goes way back before Saddam Hussein. It goes back to the 1920's, to the creation of the Iraqi state." He added that it is "bad, bad, bad advice" to suggest postponing the elections.

FRUM: ... If you have a more democratic society, they're [the Sunnis] are going to lose a lot of their traditional dominance. They got everything before. But here's the mistake we're in danger of making. American diplomacy has been focussed very hard on creating incentives to the Sunnis, to say "Please come in. Please join the political process. We want you. We want you." And a lot of the Sunni population has kind of stood by while these terrorists, who largely come from the Sunni population, wage war on American and the Shi'ite majority ... This may be the time for some disincentives, to say "If you don't join, you're gonna lose out. We're not gonna hold this election up for you. You better play or pay."

NAPOLITANO: The terrorists must know .. that the American resolve will not be weakened. I mean, this President has fulfilled every promise and met every deadline he said he was going to make. With respect to this war, is it not the resolve of the Iraqi people and the resolve of the Iraqi government that they're trying to weaken? I mean, just yesterday, the President of Iraq, not the Prime Minister, the President, who I believe is a Sunni, said the U.N. - of all people - (louder) the U.N., David, should determine whether January 30th is too soon for the elections!!

FRUM: Well, what you're seeing here is communities speaking up for their own communal interests ... and the President of Iraq does come very much from that community. But, if these elections get postponed, it will be a breach of faith by the United States to the majority population of Iraq that want these elections. Individual people may, sure, be frightened. They may stay away from the polling places. Hard to tell what's going to happen. But I think they're going to surprise us with how they turn out and, if we allow this minority of a minority to delay the elections, we are going to break faith.

NAPOLITANO: Will the elections be interpreted as legitimate, valid, lawful - with political credibility - if 20% of the population, the voting population, intentionally stays home?

FRUM: Let's put it this way. Suppose if, in the first post-apartheid election in South Africa, there had been a boycott by the white minority. Would the world have said "These black majority voters, who have been excluded for so long, who've been standing in the sun, their votes don't count because their former masters don't like the process." I don't think so. And, that is very - it's not exactly analogous - but it is similar to what is going on in Iraq. The former masters, the former subjects, are about to have their say.

NAPOLITANO: ... Is American domestic politics playing a role here ... We have put this to a question. Iraq was the ballot question in November and Americans vote to win, not to cut our losses and get out.

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