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Friday, January 20, 2006

Dick Cheney has it wrong

Q Mr. Vice President, a cornerstone of U.S. policy has been to spread democracy in the Middle East. Does the electoral success of Hamas and of the Iran-backed fundamentalist parties in Iraq prompt any second thoughts?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: No, I think the basic principle is still sound. If you look at the problem in Iran, though, a very restrictive system in terms of who's allowed on the ballot. And there's an unelected group of clerics, basically, that dominate in Iran. They're the ones who have to certify before someone is allowed on the ballot. And we've seen the result of that process, obviously, has been the election of the new President Ahmadinejad, the former mayor of Tehran. And he has conducted himself in a way and made a number of statements since he got elected, obviously, that are cause for concern. I don't think you can blame democracy or democratic principles for the fact that he is there.

Hamas in the Palestinian areas -- we'll see what happens. We got an election coming up shortly. But if you believe in democratic practices, as we do; believe in a freedom agenda for the Middle East, as we do; then I think it's important for us to be as consistent as possible going forward.
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Once we've started down this road, though, I think it's very important we stick with it, and stick with those principles. And we believe -- the President believes very deeply and I share his conviction that the solution to the long-term problems in the Middle East lies in having democratically elected governments in places like Iraq that won't spawn the ideology of hatred and violence that has dominated so much of the region, that will offer people opportunities and hope, and will reduce the prospects for war in the future. So it doesn't mean you're always going to get a perfect result, but I would argue that we're going to get a much better result out of that process than we have the system that's been in place in the past that has produced the likes of Saddam Hussein, for example, or of Yasser Arafat.

This is the quandary that we've been talking about for a year now. By pushing democracy before pushing true freedom, you get a sham of an election that is easy for Islamists and terrorists to manipulate.

But if Dick Cheney thinks that election rallies where people get killed by campaigner bullets is what democracy is all about, who am I to argue?