Echo... echo... echo...
TomPaine.com has a rather depressing reprint of a New York Times article from 1967 on their site today:
Plus Ca Change...
The following 1967 New York Times article was forwarded to me by a wry but incisive observer of U.S. misadventures in Iraq, Pat Lang. It is eerily familiar:
U.S. Encouraged by Vietnam Vote
Officials Cite 83% Turnout Despite Vietcong Terror
by Peter Grose, Special to The New York Times
September 4, 1967, p.2
WASHINGTON, Sept. 3-- United States officials were surprised and heartened today at the size of turnout in South Vietnam's presidential election despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting.
According to reports from Saigon, 83 percent of the 5.85 million registered voters cast their ballots yesterday. Many of them risked reprisals threatened by the Vietcong.
The size of the popular vote and the inability of the Vietcong to destroy the election machinery were the two salient facts in a preliminary assessment of the nation election based on the incomplete returns reaching here.
Pending more detailed reports, neither the State Department nor the White House would comment on the balloting or the victory of the military candidates, Lieut. Gen. Nguyen Van Thieu, who was running for president, and Premier Nguyen Cao Ky, the candidate for vice president.
A successful election has long been seen as the keystone in President Johnson's policy of encouraging the growth of constitutional processes in South Vietnam.
[ . . . ]
Laura, on Wednesday, February 2, 2005 at 9:59 PM:
And now for something even further back, a quote from American Scholar, forwarded to me by one of my colleagues:
"I say we had best look our times and lands searchingly in the face, like a physician diagnosing some deep disease. Never was there, perhaps, more hollowness at heart than at present, and here in the United States. Genuine belief seems to have left us. The underlying principles of the States are not honestly believed in (for all this hectic glow, and these melodramatic screamings), nor is humanity itself believ'd in. What penetrating eye does not everywhere see through the mask? The spectacle is appalling. We live in an atmosphere of hypocrisy throughout."--Walt Whitman, Democratic Vistas, 1871.
Andrew Sundstrom, on Sunday, February 6, 2005 at 7:55 PM:
Democracy Has to Start Somewhere
"It's now a week since Iraqis flooded the streets for their first free election in decades, and America, midwife to the birth of Arab democracy, is still in relieved thrall. Sunni clerics urged boycotts; the French dripped ridicule; terrorists promised to wash the streets with the blood of anyone foolish enough to cast a ballot. And 6 in 10 eligible Iraqis - roughly equal to the turnout in President Bush's own victory last November - voted anyway.
Honestly, has there ever been an election so inspiring?
Unfortunately, yes. Ponder the first sentences of one dispatch from this newspaper's archives: "United States officials were surprised and heartened today at the size of turnout in South Vietnam's presidential election," it reads, "despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting. According to reports from Saigon, 83 per cent of the 5.85 million registered voters cast their ballots yesterday. Many of them risked reprisals threatened by the Vietcong."
That appeared in September 1967. Last week, Mr. Bush proclaimed that Iraq tests "our generational commitment to the advance of freedom." In 1967, Lyndon B. Johnson's State of the Union proclaimed a test of American will to "keep alive the hope of independence and stability for people other than ourselves."
But wait: there are other parallels. If Baghdad voters can look disturbingly like voters in Saigon, the building of an Iraqi democracy has its own, sometimes more promising soulmates. Take South Africa, where an oppressed majority reconciled with its minority oppressors, or El Salvador, where representative government weathered a major-party boycott not totally unlike last week's Sunni boycott of the Iraqi vote.
In these and other cases, the democratic road began with a bracing show of popular support - massive turnouts for elections, or throngs of peaceful protesters in a Belgrade square. But as Vietnam and, more lately, the former Soviet Union prove, oppressed people will always show up en masse to choose their own fate, even if that fate turns out to be more oppression. Last week's good news from Baghdad was not so much that voters turned out - history forecast that - as that they did not defy history by sitting on their hands.
Andrew Sundstrom, on Sunday, February 6, 2005 at 8:00 PM:
And then Richard Clarke has an interesting response to the typical media adulations.