The Fair & Balanced Election

by Harry Browne

January 31, 2005

The occupying army manned the polling areas to assure that there would be no voting irregularities. Meanwhile, the population went to the polls and voted in unprecedented numbers. When the votes were counted, to no one’s surprise the party in league with the occupying military won the election and began to run the country while the foreign occupying army got a series of military bases and stayed on and on and on.

Iraq in 2005?

No, it was Poland in 1947, and over 40 years passed before the Soviets left.

But that was different!

Then why did you assume I was talking about Iraq?

The Orgy

I was traveling on Iraqi Election Day. So I wasn’t able to participate fully in the 24-hour television orgy celebrating President Bush’s great vindication.

Shortly after I returned home late at night, I tuned into Fox TV News and watched the late-night reruns of The O’Reilly Factor and Hannity & Colmes. According to the Fair & Balanced network, there were no shades of gray concerning the Iraqi election:

This was an "historic election."

Somehow, although never explained, the election turnout was proof that countries like France and Germany now have to participate in rebuilding all the Iraqi infrastructure destroyed by the American military.

Somehow, although never explained, the election proved that President Bush is right in saying that the world is now a safer place with Hussein out of power.

This was a defeat for the far left in the United States.

This was an "historic election."

Somehow, although never explained, all the American deaths (the Iraqi deaths don’t count) have now been justified by the election.

Somehow, although never explained, the 150,000 American troops in Iraq are now much safer.

Somehow, although never explained, "This is obviously a huge blow against worldwide terrorism, which opposes any kind of democracy" (O’Reilly’s words).

This was an "historic election."

This election was unprecedented in a Middle Eastern Muslim country.

Failure in Iraq would have made our lives more dangerous.

This was an "historic election."

Iraq will be the leading democratic reformist state in the Muslim world, and other countries will necessarily have to follow suit.

The Democrats in the U.S. are looking very bad now because of their negative statements about Iraq, and they have a "real problem" because they’re so out of touch with reality and with the American people.

Did I mention that this was an "historic election"? (They mentioned it over and over and over.)

All this was accompanied by a few film clips of Iraqis voting or dancing clips that were repeated over and over.

The Other Side

Both Fox shows played clips of Senators Kennedy and Kerry making the following points:

The election in no way changes the fact that Americans were deceived into supporting a war.

The election won’t stop the violence.

The election won’t change the growing perception of an American occupation.

We shouldn’t celebrate the election until we see what it leads to.

It is time to start withdrawing American troops from Iraq.

America is less safe as a result of the war in Iraq.

The Fox hosts were shocked shocked! that the Senators would make statements that were so "irresponsible" (a word they managed to repeat frequently during the two hours). The Fox commentators came very close to accusing Senators Kennedy and Kerry of treason.

Although they felt it was important to show the film clips of the Senators’ statements several times, no one was invited on the Fox shows to explain or defend those statements. Instead, the Fair & Balanced network interviewed about ten guests who agreed that such statements were "irresponsible." They even brought on everyone’s favorite "moderate," Senator Joseph Lieberman, to register his disapproval of his fellow Democrats.

And they dug up Alexander Haig from somewhere, so they could play the clips for him and ask him whether he thought the statements were "irresponsible." Big surprise, he did.

He also mentioned that George Bush took America into war "to protect our values and our interests." He didn’t mention how Saddam Hussein threatened our values or our interests — or even what our interests are.

History

If there’s one thing that politicians and TV commentators know a great deal about, it sure isn’t history.

Although the Fox commentators repeated over and over that the election was "historic," none of them mentioned that Iran has regular elections.

Nor did they mention that Iraq has had plenty of elections already. During Hussein's reign, the 220-member National Assembly was elected by popular vote.

The only recognition of this came when someone reporting from Iraq quoted one voter who said something on the order of, "We’ve had ballots before, but Saddam marked them for us."

Yes, it’s true that the choices available in previous Iraqi elections were limited.

But, then, Donald Rumsfeld made it plain on April 15, 2003, that the choices to the people in a "liberated" Iraq would be limited as well. Rumsfeld said that, no matter what the will of the Iraqi people:

Iraq cannot be divided into three separate countries (a plan that many people believe is the only way to bring lasting peace and freedom to the country).

No matter what weapons nearby countries such as Israel, Pakistan, or Russia might use to threaten it, Iraq will not be allowed to have comparable weapons.

Iraq cannot become a fundamentalist Islamic country like Iran.

Former members of the Ba'ath Party cannot participate in any new government (although the Bush people chose Ayad Allawi, a former official in the party, to be the interim Prime Minister).

People who are pro-Iran or pro-Syria cannot participate in the elections or the government, although anyone who is pro-American is of course free to do so.

And speaking of limitations on democracy, the people of California voted in 1996
to make medical marijuana legal, only to have the federal government tell them that their "historic election" was unacceptable and the Feds convicted Ed Rosenthal for doing what the voters of California had authorized him to do. Also the federal government (the same one bringing democracy to Iraq) decided not to accept the assisted-suicide law passed by a referendum of Oregon voters in 1998.

Current History

Along with ancient (pre-September-11th) history, the war hawks have little interest in current history. As a result, the 24-hour "special edition" orgy on the Iraqi elections acknowledged no facts, or even potential facts, that would dampen the celebration.

Here are a few aspects of the election that the Fox TV News boys had no desire to explore:

Many of the Shi’ites who voted may have been doing so because they thought it would hasten the end of the American occupation.

Many Iraqis voted because they had been told their food rations would be cut if they didn’t vote.

Estimates of voter turnout started at 72%, and continue to be cited by various commentators, but were reduced several times during the day and will probably turn out to be significantly less than the figures that formed the basis for the celebration. But then, it’s always more fun to celebrate the initial expectation than the final result.

The U.S. occupying authorities have contingency plans to adjust the election outcome if they’re not satisfied with it.

Foreign monitors were unable to verify any of the claims made for the election, because it was unsafe for them to visit the polling places.

Turnout was apparently very high in Shi’ite areas because Shi’ites (deprived of power during Hussein’s Sunni reign) expect to dominate the new National Assembly and perhaps impose a religious regime on Iraq, while fewer than 1% of the population in Sunni Samarra bothered to vote.

While the Fox programs showed video clips of the interim Prime Minister, Ayad Allawi, casting his ballot and then issuing a celebratory statement on the election, no one bothered to mention that those clips were filmed in a heavily guarded bunker.

Most likely, the soldiers shown in dispatches by Geraldo Rivera in Iraq had been hand-picked to assure that no one appeared on TV who didn’t support the war.

Does the phrase "Mission Accomplished" ring any bells?

Far from being a great triumph for George Bush, he had to be pressured into holding the election by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani.

After the U.S. celebrated the end of "ethnic cleansing" in Kosovo and the victory over the Taliban in Afghanistan and in each case turned its attention elsewhere all hell broke loose. But here we are, once again celebrating before the final results are in.

Conservatives seem to be good at only two things: (1) They celebrate victory when all they’ve done is start toward some goal; and (2) They never run out of excuses when the plan fails.

Meanwhile, back at the Foxy TV News network, we can see that the slogan . . .

We report
You decide

. . . should be modified to read:

We report one side
You decide between it.