Adding Insult to Illigitimacy

Iraq’s upcoming parliamentary election will face some serious challenges.

Iraqis don’t know where to vote. They don’t know the candidates on the party slates. A major portion of the electorate has boycotted the entire proceeding. Foreign election monitors will do their work from Jordan. “It is stunning in this situation that we are representing any idea this is legitimate,” Rep. Ellen Tauscher told the Washington Post, before acknowledging the election is the “lesser of all evils” and must proceed.

Just as stunning, however, is that the United States is helping to strip away what little legitimacy remains.

The Associated Press has published photos of U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopters flying interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi to campaign stops around Iraq. Given deteriorating security conditions and the recent assassinations of several candidates, this protection is an invaluable asset. As University of Michigan Middle East expert Juan Cole points out, “There is no campaign. Publicly identified candidates are limited to people with good security.” Already Allawi has the advantage of incumbency, albeit one determined not by Iraqis but by the White House, which handpicked Allawi for his current position.

If President Bush is indeed interested in “the Iraqi people’s capacity to self-govern,” he should take care to ensure that the United States is not unfairly assisting one election slate over the others. U.S. forces should either offer protection to a set number of prominent candidates from all of the slates, or refuse to provide protection to Allawi while he is campaigning.