The New York Times reports on very worrisome happenings in Iraq: “Two political parties that led demonstrations in Baghdad over the past two weeks said on Monday that security forces controlled by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki had ordered them to close their offices. The actions came amid growing concerns that Mr. Maliki, who is backed by the United States, is using force and other measures to stifle this country’s democracy.”

This would not be going on if the Obama administration had taken a minimal interest in the war that the U.S. will soon have devoted almost a decade to winning. Washington has seen Iraq through far more difficult challenges than this: heading off civil war, getting Maliki to turn his guns on Shiite militias, and handing security for cities over to Iraqis — to say nothing of pulling together an Iraqi parliamentary democracy.

We see popular convulsions across the Middle East, and without having any real handle on who or what is being represented, we pronounce them democratic. At the same time, we watch with perfect indifference as the Arab world’s one verifiable democratic project courts political necrosis. Today’s Iraq, paid for in thousands of American lives, should continue as a regional model of democratic governance, a thriving rebuke to the dead letter that is the despotic ownership of Arab populations. But the U.S. administration looks to the only viable Arab democracy and sees nothing more than some loony New Yorker cover drawing depicting Bush-age imperialism. So Barack Obama’s “responsible” exit from Iraq continues apace.

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