Tell us all once again why we had to bomb Iraq.
Yesterday in a town 150 miles south of Baghdad, even the local American military commander, together with his officers and the soldiers and marines under them, were disappointed with U.S. heavy handedness.
American marines had built makeshift wooden ballot boxes. An Army reserve unit from Green Bay, Wis., had conducted a voter registration drive. And Iraqi political candidates had blanketed the city with colorful fliers outlining their election platforms restore electricity, rehabilitate the old quarter, repave roads.
But last week, L. Paul Bremer III, the head of the American military occupation in Iraq, unilaterally canceled what American officials here said would have been the first such election in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein. Overruling the local American military commander, Mr. Bremer decreed that conditions in Najaf were not appropriate for an election.
Several days later, American marines stormed the offices of an obscure local political party here, arrested four members and jailed them for four days. The offense, the Americans said, was a violation of a new edict by Mr. Bremer that makes it illegal to incite violence against forces occupying Iraq.
Mohammed Abdul Hadi, an official in the party, the Supreme Council for the Liberation of Iraq, accused the United States of a double standard.
"Why do you apply these constraints on us in Iraq," he said, "and they are not being applied by the American government on Americans?"
The events here exposed an uncomfortable truth of the American occupation. For now, American officials are barring direct elections in Iraq and limiting free speech, two of the very ideals the United States has promised to Iraqis. American officials have said it may take up to two years for an elected Iraqi government to take over the country.