By Brigitte L. Nacos
In a democracy, citizens’ policy preferences are supposed to influence governmental decision-making. But that fundamental premise of the rules of the game in democratic systems is often ignored by the Washington Post’s editorials when it comes to the Iraq war. The paper’s lead editorial today criticizes sharply House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s plan to force President Bush’s hand in the Iraq mess by controlling funding and setting benchmarks for the withdrawal of American troops as a means to “winning votes in the United States.” In other words, the Post’s editorial page is well aware that the majority of Americans rejects the administration’s Iraq policies and supports the congressional Democrats’ oppositional positions. That is the message of public opinion surveys.
Why, then, is the Pelosi plan so out of bounce for the Washington Post’s editorial page? Because “the only constituency House Speaker Pelosi ignored in her plan for amending President Bush’s supplemental war funding bill are "the people of the country that U.S, troops are fighting to stabilize.” What kind of logic! The editorial condemns the Speaker for listening to the majority of Americans and ignoring Iraqis. For one, decision-makers in a democracy should be guided by their own citizens in the first place. But in this case, Iraqis were not ignored either since most Iraqis have also come to oppose a long-term presence of American-led coalition forces. What the Post editorial conveys is this: Those in charge of the editorial page, just like the Bush administration, know what is best for Americans and Iraqis—never mind what public opinion here and there reveals.Is this the kind of democracy that the Post’s editorial writers and the administration they support so staunchly have in mind for Iraq?
If troops were withdrawn along the lines of the Democrats’ plan, the editorial poses questions that contain horror scenarios:
Will Iraq collapse into unrestrained civil conflict with “massive civilian casualties” as the U.S. intelligence community predicts in the event of a rapid withdrawal?—Well, as far as I am concerned, the reality in Iraq today is a civil war with massive civilian casualties literally every day. Iraqis are killed and injured in numbers that would be unacceptable in the United States.
Will al-Qaeda establish a powerful new base for launching attacks on the United States and its allies?--If you listen to President Bush, Vice-President Cheney, and their supporters, the U.S.military is fighting terrorists all along in Iraq so that they do not attack us at home. But to whatever extent the terrorist attacks in Iraq are the work of Sunni and Shiite insurgents or adherents of Al Qaeda, all of them are direct consequences of this war. There was no Al Qaeda safe haven in the Iraq of Saddam Hussein. Since the invasion, Iraq is the major reason why so many tnew errorists, most of them eager to die for their cause, have been recruited by Al Qaeda and like-minded groups. The Post’s editorial mentions a “substantial cadre of al-Qaeda militants” there. If there is such a cadre, the continued presence and now the “surge” of American troops will not change the situation for the better.
The editorial reminds readers that Iraq holds the world’s second largest oil reserves. With the non-existence of weapons of mass destruction, involvement in 9/11, and cooperation with Al Qaeda in pre-invasion Iraq, only the country’s oil reserves and the impossible dream of a western-like democracy remain as justification for the Iraq war and the continued presence of our troops there. The American public finally has come to understand the changing reasons for invading Iraq as explained by the administration.
But that does not matter to the Post’s editorial page and the President who has threatened to veto the Pelosi plan if adopted by Congress. Both continue to agree on Iraq and ignore the policy preferences of the majority of Americans and Iraqis.