By Amitabh Pal on March 11, 2010

Years after the debate was seemingly settled on the folly of the Iraq War, some in the media are using the recent Iraqi parliamentary elections to excuse the invasion.

The Newsweek cover on the voting crows “Victory at Last.” Ex-Wall Street Journal alum (and, I’m embarrassed to admit, a fellow schoolmate of mine) Tunku Varadarajan asserts at the Daily Beast, “What Iraq has achieved in five years is a political wonder, and those who would deny that are being very, very dishonest.”

And the New York Times resident Middle East expert becomes all gooey on seeing a picture of an Iraqi mother having her son put her vote in the ballot box. “Former President George W. Bush’s gut instinct that this region craved and needed democracy was always right,” gushes Thomas Friedman. “Democracy was never going to have a virgin birth in a place like Iraq, which has never known any such thing.”

Friedman ought to read his own newspaper more carefully. People in the Middle East itself have been quite unimpressed with the voting.

“Elections across this region have long been viewed as not much more than window dressing to tidy up the image of authoritarian leaders and absolute monarchs eager for greater legitimacy,” the New York Times reports. “That perception, combined with Election Day violence, American occupation and Iranian influence, left few analysts and commentators in the Middle East declaring the elections a success and Iraq on the road to stability.”

Now, I do admire the courage of Iraqi voters. And the situation in Iraq is more secure than at any time in the last few years. But none of this even remotely justifies the Iraq War and its toll.

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Estimates of Iraqi fatalities since Bush’s invasion range from 100,000 to upward of 1 million. Millions of Iraqis were either forced to flee abroad or become refugees in their own country. And crimes against women escalated dramatically in the aftermath. To glibly ignore or dismiss this human wreckage is unconscionable.

“Always we defend these miserable results with the same refrain: Do you want the Taliban back? Do you want Saddam back?” writes Robert Fisk in The London Independent in a piece entitled, “Once Again, a Nation Walks Through Fire to Give the West its ‘Democracy.’ ”

Besides, I thought that the reason for invading Iraq was to get rid of those dreaded Weapons of Mass Destruction. (Read Harper’s hilarious satire on the Bush Administration’s excuses for the war.) “Democracy” was never much more than an afterthought for the Bush team, used as a pretext for its misadventure after the fabled WMDs turned out to be fairy tale creations.

“To influence public opinion, to counter criticism, the United States came up with a second reason to invade Iraq—that it had invaded Iraq to advance democracy and human rights,” Iranian Nobel Peace Prize-winner Shirin Ebadi told me in 2004. “North Americans do not understand that you do not throw down human rights like bombs on the Iraqis.”

We would all do well to pay heed to Ebadi’s wisdom.

Amitabh Pal is the Managing Editor of The Progressive magazine. To subscribe for just $14.97 a year, just click here.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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