Amidst the chaos, Iraq has seen some progress since the US invaded it. Most notable were the three democratic elections that were successfully held with Hussein no longer in power. The Iraqi people have expressed their sincere desire to further the democratic process in their land by proudly displaying their purple ink-stained fingers.
Unfortunately, although the results are not even in yet, Sunni Arabs are already charging that the election was beset with widespread fraud. Twenty-thousand Iraqis protested the election in a mass demonstration organized by 35 Sunni Arab and secular Shiite parties Friday. Granted, these protests might be dismissed as simply "sour grapes," with the Sunni minority losing the controlling power it previously held in Iraq, but that makes them no less troubling.
Although some 1,500 complaints have been lodged against the election, what's even more troubling is that Iraq's leading Shiite religious bloc is ready to discuss Sunni Arab participation in a coalition government. Why is this troubling? Because it circumvents the already very fragile democratic state that's developing in Iraq. How will the majority of Iraqi people who voted in the election feel if their vote is not what establishes membership in the Parliament but, instead, negotiated deals by political power brokers do?
In the latest news, Sunni Arab political leaders asked the main Shiite political bloc to give them ten of the parliamentary seats the Shiite won in the election. The Shiite turned them down, which is the appropriate action for those who believe in democracy. However, it's likely to inflame ethnic tension. Iraq's Shiite and Kurdish communities have historically been victims of the Sunni-dominated Baathist regime. The Sunni are sure to be concerned about the possibility of retribution once the Shiite firmly establish control of the government.
Now democracy is stuck in a Catch 22. Democracy cannot take hold in Iraq unless the people participate but, now that the Iraqi people can finally vote, their elected leaders will not all go along with the democratic process. As grand a vision Bush's is, of planting the seed of democracy in Iraq to spread across the Middle East, perhaps the biggest barrier to accomplishing it is that the Iraqi society simply cannot sustain democracy.