By Alan Nathan © 2005 FrontPageMag

Looking for The Washington Post’s reasoning skills is like trying to locate Dracula’s tanning lotion – it’s an exercise in futility. In a much-reported February 14th article, staff writer Robin Wright portrays Shia dominance in the Iraqi election results as validation for her story’s title, “Iraq Winners Allied with Iran are Opposite of U.S. Vision.” She argues that having won almost half the votes cast, the Shiite’s United Iraqi Alliance will choose the next prime minister and press for inclusion of Islamic law in the next constitution.

First, a two-thirds consensus is required for the passage of any law, regardless of who is prime minister. Second, the binding interim constitution provides a fail-safe against theocratic dominance by ensuring that it takes only three of the 18 provinces to reject a new constitution. Because the Shiites only control about 50 percent of the national assembly and must therefore coalesce with the minority parties in order to govern, we see both Iraq and the U.S. with results that are almost idyllically antithetical to Wright’s delusions.

Only three of her 21 paragraphs reference material dissenting from her thesis; however, they’re powerfully undercutting to her premise nonetheless:
1. A leading prime minister contender, Adel Abdul Mahdi, argues for no Shiite or Islamic government;
2. U.S. and regional analysts agree that Iraq will not be a likely surrogate to Iran; and
3. Iraq’s leading Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, rejects Iran’s theocracy as a model.

Aside from these brief sightings of contrasting views, over 85 percent of the piece focuses on perspectives and quotations from well known antiwar critics like “scholar” Jaun Cole from the University of Michigan and editor Rami Khouri of Beirut’s Daily Star, the Middle East’s largest English language newspaper.

“ This is a government that will have very good relations with Iran. The Kurdish victory reinforces this conclusion. {Jalal} Talabani is very close to Tehran,” said Juan Cole, a University of Michigan expert on Iraq. “In terms of regional geopolitics, this is not the outcome that the United States was hoping for.”

Added Rami Khouri, Arab analyst and editor of the Daily Star: “The idea that the United States would get a quick, stable, prosperous, pro-American and pro-Israel Iraq has not happened. Most of the neoconservative assumptions about what would happen have proven false.”

Because we provided pre-Gulf II no-fly zones to protect them from repeated genocidal attacks from Saddam Hussein, the only folks more pro-American than the Kurds are perhaps the citizens of Texas. And Khouri’s contention is baseless because not one single White House official espoused that Iraq’s future stability or prosperity would ever be “quick.”

Another device used by Wright to diminish the appearance of Iraq’s legitimacy in transition to independence is the assumption that Prime Minister Ayad Allawi was handpicked by the U.S. and the UN. Many in the mainstream press – who insist that Iraqi President Ghazi Al Yawar was similarly selected – share this point-of-view. This fiction must stop. The preferred choices by the U.S. and UN were Shiite Nuclear Scientist Hussein Shahristani for prime minister and Sunni elder statesman Adnan Pachachi for president. The Iraqi power brokers at the time told both U.S. Coalition Leader Paul Bremer and UN Special Envoy Lahkdar Brahimi to get stuffed! Under the June 4, 2004, headline “Iraqi Politicians Assert Themselves in New Government,” CNN’s Political Analyst Bill Schneider reported that the then-interim Iraqi General Council rejected outside pressures. “[T]he bottom line: Iraqi politicians took control of this process.” His report along with so many others during that news cycle have been seemingly ignored with all due prejudice.

Apropos of the Robin Wright piece comes another journalistic problem: the blurring line that once separated reporting from editorializing. This story was on The Washington Post’s front page under the unobtrusive heading of “Analysis.” If it’s analysis, why not keep it with the rest of the analyses found in their op-ed section? It’s journalistic “slight-of-hand” to juxtapose opinion pieces with serious reporting because, whether intentional or not, it acts like a parasite, using the more credible sinews of news writing to give it more weight than it would otherwise have (or deserve) if presented alongside other works of its kind.

The subscriber deserves better; this paper has done better. Lets get nostalgic and do better again.