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The Antiwar Left’s Conspiracy of Silence By: Jacob Laksin
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, December 20, 2005

There was no shortage of good news following last week’s parliamentary elections in Iraq. Upward of 70 percent of Iraqis reportedly took part in the voting. Sunni participation was up, even in redoubts of insurgency like Fallujah. Incidents of violence were down. International observers attested to the legitimacy of the process, which met international standards. Even Kofi Anan, hardly an exponent of pro-American talking points, was compelled by the sheer volume of the turnout—11 million strong according to the latest figures—to recognize the success of the historic election.

The anti-war Left’s response? A collective shrug. Talk on the Huffington Post, and most other likeminded sites, focused on a front-page story in the New York Times, breaking the seemingly uncontroversial news that, following the attacks of 911, the Bush administration had authorized the National Security Agency to monitor individuals with suspected ties to al-Qaeda and other terrorism groups. Of particular interest to the Huffington Post’s editors was the article's disclosure that the Bush administration had asked the Times to refrain from publishing the article so as not to jeopardize its investigations of terrorist suspects. (Unmentioned in either the Huffington Post or the Times was that the co-author of the article, James Risen, had already published the ostensibly exclusive details of the story in his soon-to-be-released book, State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration.) Indeed, the lone mention of Iraq on the site was in a post by curmudgeonly columnist Karen Kwiatkowski, who took the occasion to rail against America’s “colonial rule” and smear the American troops for allegedly committing “illegal, immoral and despicable acts of disrespect, abuse, and corruption in Iraq and Afghanistan.” News of the elections was nowhere to be found.


Commondreams, the self-styled voice of the “progressive” community, highlighted stories on everyone from the anti-globalization protestors at the World Trade Organizations to Bolivia’s socialist presidential hopeful Evo Morales. Notably excluded from the coverage was the Iraqi voter. It was the same story at Truthdig.com, the personal web zine of recently pink-slipped Los Angeles Times columnist Robert Scheer. Avoiding the subject of Iraq altogether, the site instead featured reviews of two current movies: “The Chronicles of Narnia,” based on the works of Christian writer C.S. Lewis (bad), and another of “Brokeback Mountain,” a love story featuring gay cowboys (good).


Other Left-wing sites struggled to suppress the any signs of success. Over on truthout.org, an online collection of news and Left-of-center punditry, a wide menu of “breaking” stories was on offer. There were even two dispatches from the Washington Post chronicling the successful voting. One noted that “the Sunni outpouring was a long hoped-for victory for the Bush administration,” and another speculated that “the strong turnout for Iraq's election yesterday may represent the best day since the fall of Baghdad 32 months ago because all major factions participated in the political process.” Rather than acknowledging these propitious developments, however, truthout.org insisted that the first story proved that “anti-US sentiment is motivator for many,” while the second indicated that, the Post’s reporting aside, the elections were “not a turning point.”


Likewise, the story of Iraq’s broad-based embrace of democracy failed to register on the radar of the popular far-Left site DailyKos, where commentary mostly concentrated supposed malfeasance of Republicans and conservatives. The one post that addressed the elections was decidedly unenthusiastic. Even as it conceded that the unprecedented participation of Iraqi voters was “good,” it dismissed it as merely “some lovely imagery” unworthy of being taken seriously.


At the Nation, the silence on Iraq was deafening. To coincide with the popular showing of democratic enthusiasm among Iraqis, the magazine featured a blog entry by writer John Nichols, fulminating against Senator Joe Lieberman and endorsing his possible opponent for Connecticut’s senate seat, anti-war Republican Lowell Weicker. Lieberman’s crime, according to Nichols, was his “over-the-top cheerleading for a war gone wrong.” Apparently Nichols had not bothered to check on the Iraqi exit polls.


The radical journal Counterpunch greeted the Iraqi elections in much the same way it greets every piece of news that reflects well on the United States or the Bush administration: by publishing a comically unhinged screed denouncing both. Thus, on the day after the elections, the site featured an incoherent rant lambasting the “Bush-Pentagon vast disinformation campaign in Iraq,” which was far removed from “statue-toppling victory parades in the heart of Baghdad and manufacturing a ‘Mission Accomplished’ celebration on the deck of an aircraft carrier.”


Ironically, of all the content touted by anti-war Left sites on the day after the elections, the Counterpunch’s embittered ire came closest to putting the vote in perspective. True, the mission isn’t quite accomplished. But with Saddam Hussein standing trial for his crimes, the enthusiasm for democratic process evident across the spectrum of Iraqi society, and hostility toward Islamic extremism burgeoning throughout the Arab world, that day may not be far off. Don’t look for the anti-war Left to admit it.


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Jacob Laksin is managing editor of Front Page Magazine. His email is jlaksin -at- gmail.com

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