It's impossible not to be moved by the stories coming out of Iraq: voters braving mortar blasts to cast ballots; election workers counting votes by the glow of oil lamps; teary-eyed women in traditional garb proudly holding up their purple-ink-stained fingers.
It was a great moment. A Kodak moment. And unlike the other Kodak moments from this war — think Saddam Hussein's tumbling statue and Jessica Lynch's "rescue" — this one was not created by the image masters at Karl Rove Productions.
But this moment, however moving, should not be allowed to erase all that came before it, leaving us unprepared for all that may come after it. The triumphalist fog rolling across the land has all the makings of another "Mission Accomplished" moment
Let's not forget that for all President Bush's rhetoric about spreading freedom and democracy, a free election was the administration's fallback position — more Plan D than guiding principle. We were initially going to install Ahmad Chalabi as our man in Baghdad, remember? And the White House consented to an open election only after Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani sent his followers into the streets to demand it — and chose an election date that came after our presidential campaign was done, just in case more suicide bombers than voters turned up at Iraqi polling places.
And the election doesn't change that.
And let's never forget this administration's real goal in Iraq, as laid out by Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and their fellow neocon members of the Project for the New American Century back in 1998, when they urged President Clinton and Congress to take down Hussein "to protect our vital interests in the Gulf." These vital interests were cloaked in mushroom clouds, WMD that turned into "weapons of mass destruction-related program activities" and a Hussein/Al Qaeda link that turned into, well, nothing. Long before the Bushies landed on freedom and democracy as their 2005 buzzwords, they had their eyes on the Iraqi prize: the second-largest oil reserves in the world and a permanent home for U.S. bases in the Middle East.
This is still the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time. And the election, as heartwarming as it was, doesn't change any of that.
She's absolutely right. We were still duped into a war for oil and empire by lies.