Skeptics of President Bush’s attempt to bring democracy to Iraq have been largely silent since Iraqis enthusiastically turned out for Sunday’s elections.
Billionaire Bush-basher George Soros and left-wing filmmaker Michael Moore were among critics of the administration’s Iraq policy who had no comment after millions of Iraqis went to the polls in their nation’s first free elections in decades.
The Carter Center determined that the security situation in Iraq was going to be too dangerous to send election monitors, so the Atlanta-based human rights organization founded by former President Jimmy Carter posted its personnel in neighboring Jordan.
Despite widespread predictions of spectacular terrorist attacks on election day in Iraq, fewer than 50 were killed, and the 60 percent turnout for the elections was much higher than many predicted.
Asked whether the Carter Center had a comment on the election, spokeswoman Kay Torrance said: “We wouldn’t have any ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ statement on Iraq.”
Mr. Carter told NBC’s “Today” show in September that he was confident the elections would not take place. “I personally do not believe they’re going to be ready for the election in January … because there’s no security there,” he said.
Mr. Soros, the Open Society Institute founder who contributed millions of dollars to groups seeking to prevent Mr. Bush’s re-election, had denounced as a “sham” the administration’s plans for a democratic Iraq.
“To claim that we are invading Iraq for the sake of establishing democracy is a sham, and the rest of the world sees it as such,” Mr. Soros said in a Washington speech in March 2003, adding that “the trouble goes much deeper.”
“It is not merely that the Bush administration’s policies may be wrong, it is that they are wrong,” Mr. Soros said in the speech. “Because we are unquestionably the most powerful, [the Bush administration claims] we have earned the right to impose our will on the rest of the world.”
Mr. Soros’ Web site (www.georgesoros.com) has no reference to the Iraqi elections. Its latest comments are in a Jan. 26 op-ed article on what Mr. Soros calls Mr. Bush’s “ambitious” second inaugural address.
“Mr. Soros has not released any statements about the elections in Iraq,” said Soros spokesman Michael Vachon. “He has been traveling since Sunday on various foundation projects and hasn’t had occasion to comment.”
Mr. Vachon said Mr. Soros’ “position regarding the Bush administration’s policies in Iraq and his criticism thereof have been consistent.”
In his Jan. 26 article, published in more than 20 newspapers, including the Toronto Globe and Mail, Mr. Soros said he agrees with Mr. Bush’s goal to spread democracy around the world, “and [I] have devoted the past 15 years and several billion dollars of my fortune to attaining it,” but accused the president of “Orwellian doublespeak.”
“Mr. Bush is right to assert that repressive regimes can no longer hide behind a cloak of sovereignty,” wrote Mr. Soros, 74, who made his fortune as an international currency trader. “But intervention in other states’ internal affairs must be legitimate.”
There has been no comment since the Iraq elections from Mr. Moore, the Academy Award-winning filmmaker who characterized the Iraqi insurgents as “Minutemen,” and predicted “they will win.”
The last posting from Mr. Moore on his Web site (www.michaelmoore.com) is dated Jan. 10 and concerns “Fahrenheit 9/11” being named best dramatic movie in the People’s Choice Awards. An e-mail to Mr. Moore requesting comment was not returned.
On the day before the elections, Mr. Moore featured a link to a column in the New York Times with the headline, “A Sinking Sensation of Parallels between Iraq and Vietnam.” On the day after the elections, Mr. Moore linked to a story in the left-wing Nation magazine titled “Occupation Thwarts Democracy.”
Moorewatch.com, a site dedicated to countering the filmmaker’s political statements, knocked Mr. Moore for “failing to acknowledge [the Iraqi people’s] achievement.”
“I find it telling that the man who has lamented such great concern for the kite-flying, tea-sipping Iraqi people featured in ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ can’t be bothered to string together a few words of admiration for those same people who braved the threat of death to cast their votes this past weekend,” the anti-Moore Web site said. “It seems Moore only admires the Iraqi people when they validate his agenda of hating George Bush.”
Some administration critics, however, saw the Iraqi elections as reason to revise their opinion of Mr. Bush.
Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown, who has consistently opposed Mr. Bush and the war in Iraq, wrote for yesterday’s edition that “it’s hard to swallow,” but “what if it turns out Bush was right, and we were wrong?”
The Chicago columnist wrote that he was struck by “television coverage from Iraq that showed long lines of people risking their lives by turning out to vote, honest looks of joy on so many of their faces.”
“If it turns out Bush was right all along, this is going to require some serious penance,” Mr. Brown wrote.