2005-02-10 / Arts & Entertainment


¬©2005 Tribune Media Services, Inc.Never Mind Who Won The apparent success of the elections in Iraq is a bitter disappointment to people who dislike President Bush. They’re unhappy when the news about anything is good for the President.

I know people who dislike Presi-dent Bush so much that they’re disappointed when the market goes up even though they own a lot of stock. (You readers probably don’t know how lucky you are to have a columnist like me who is wise, politically neutral, fair, balanced, unprejudiced and possessed of an open mind about what’s right or wrong with our country or our Presi-dent.)

I have a friend who spent time in Iraq working for the government as an architect, and he says that of all the Middle Eastern countries, Iraq is closest to being enlightened. It is not en-lightened, he said, but it comes closest. He says, for example, that women have more rights in Iraq than in many Muslim countries, and I thought of that when I saw how many women voted in the Iraqi election. For the first time in months, Iraqis going to vote looked like average, ordinary people and I felt bad about having distanced myself from them in my mind.

No one in our country knows what the Iraqis were voting for or who won. However, it didn’t really matter and most Americans who could put the thought of how good the election was for President Bush out of their mind, were pleased. They were surprised by the number of Iraqis who risked their lives to vote.

The election was also a pleasant surprise because we had not thought Iraqis cared that much about the democratic process from which they had been so long separated.

Reporters and cameramen don’t dare circulate among the people of Iraq be-cause of the danger of being blown up or kidnapped and beheaded, so we haven’t been seeing average Iraqi people on television. When the three network anchormen went to Baghdad last week, they were forced to stay in safe compounds, isolated from the Iraqi people, and most of what they said on camera was written for them in New York. The joke in network newsrooms was that before going on the air from Iraq the anchor would call the writers in New York and ask, “What’s it like over here?”

We don’t know what’s going to hap-pen next in Iraq any more than we knew how many Iraqis would go to the polls. Indicating the choice of a name on a list of candidates doesn’t say much about what a voter thinks ought to be done in the country and voters have a limited effect on the people they elect anyway.

We’re all enthusiastic about democracy in a general way, but there is a limit to what public opinion, as express-ed by its vote, can accomplish. People are often so uninformed and dumb that it’s a miracle democracy works at all, and that must be as true in Iraq as it is here. “The public,” someone once said, “is a idiot.” It doesn’t really know what it thinks and there’s no guarantee the people it elects will do what they pro-mise to do anyway.

We aren’t talking a lot about it be-cause it’s an uncomfortable subject, but religion is basic to our problem in Iraq, as it is in many countries we deal with where religion plays a dominant role. Americans know little or nothing about Islam. They are even uncertain about when to use “Islam,” when to use “Muslim,” or even whether the word is spelled “Muslim” or “Moslem.” When I was young, Muslims were called “Mohammedans.”

I hope our religious differences don’t interfere with the peace process in Iraq, and I wish the Americans who don’t like President Bush would give him some credit if things work out there.

Now I’m going to Jacksonville to see the Super Bowl. For a couple of days, I won’t be caring about what’s happening in Iraq.

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