President Obama praised the Iraqi people on Sunday on the occasion of their parliamentary elections. “The future of Iraq belongs to the people of Iraq,” Mr. Obama said. That progress is no thanks to him.
Sunday’s election was the third since Iraq’s liberation in 2003 from Saddam Hussein’s dictatorial rule. The event lacked much of the drama of the January 2005 National Assembly election, when the war was hotter and risks were higher. Five years ago, insurgents vowed that they would see to it that the election would fail. “We have declared a fierce war on this evil principle of democracy and those who follow this wrong ideology,” Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi stated. But the people defied the terrorists, and Iraq’s first free election proceeded with little disruption. Eleven months later, the country held another successful election under its new constitution. Six months after that, al-Zarqawi was dead.
The images from Sunday’s polling evoked 2005, with long lines of resolute voters, scattered low-level violence and the ubiquitous purple fingers inked to show an individual had voted. But the sense of threat was reduced, and the press coverage was less intense. The most noteworthy factor about the election was the feeling that the process was becoming routine. Iraq is well on the way to being a functioning democracy. The big news was the relative lack of news. Nothing says “mission accomplished” more than a low-key election in a country recently beset by nationwide conflict.
Mr. Obama took the opportunity to reiterate that U.S. troops were meeting their timetable for withdrawal, yet failed to mention that he was executing a policy put in place by the George W. Bush administration. The president is quick to blame his predecessor for various supposed problems he inherited, but the O Force is noticeably stingy when it comes to expressing appreciation for the things the previous administration demonstrably got right. The policies President Bush pursued that then-Sen. Obama opposed, denounced and fought against have made it possible for Mr. Obama effortlessly to preside over the successful conclusion of a hard-fought struggle for freedom.
Last month, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who shepherded the Iraq war authorization through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2002, said that ending the conflict in Iraq would be one of the Obama administration’s great achievements. But Mr. Obama’s principal contribution to the Iraq effort has been to resist his impulses to pursue the policies he advocated when he was a senator. Had the United States followed the course Mr. Obama was counseling in 2007, there likely would have been no election last weekend, terror would reign in Baghdad, and the Iraqi people’s future would be grim. A little gratitude would be appropriate.