'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Iraqi Elections 

Here's Robert Fisk:

The media boys and girls will be expected to play along with this. "Transition of power", says the hourly logo on CNN's live coverage of the election, though the poll is for a parliament to write a constitution, and the men who will form a majority within it will have no power.

They have no control over their own oil, no authority over the streets of Baghdad, let alone the rest of the country, no workable army or loyal police force. Their only power is that of the American military and its 150 000 soldiers whom we could all see on the main intersections of Baghdad yesterday.

The big television networks have been given a list of five polling stations where they will be "allowed" to film. Close inspection of the list shows that four of the five are in Shi'ite Muslim areas - where the polling will probably be high - and one in an upmarket Sunni area, where it will be moderate.

[ ... ]

Yes, I know how it's all going to be played out. Iraqis bravely vote despite the bloodcurdling threats of the enemies of democracy. At last, the US and British policies have reached fruition. A real and functioning democracy will be in place so the occupiers can leave soon. Or next year. Or in a decade or so. Merely to hold these elections - an act of folly in the eyes of so many Iraqis - will be a "success".

The Shi'as will vote en masse, the Sunnis will largely abstain. Shi'a Muslim power will be enshrined for the first time in an Arab country. And then the manipulation will begin and the claims of fraud and the admissions that the elections might be "flawed" in some areas.

But we'll go on saying "democracy" and "freedom" over and over again, the insurgency will continue and grow more violent, and the Iraqis will go on dying. But there will be democracy in Iraq.

and here's "This Election is a Sham " which was written buy a former adviser of the late Sergio Vieira de Mello, and here's al-Jazeera fleshing out the bit about thirty people getting killed so far that has been relegated to about a sentence in the news stories of the West:

Rebels killed two people in a string of bomb and mortar attacks across the country Sunday, three hours before the polling stations opened.

Casting his vote in Iraq’s first multi-party ballot in half a century, interim President Ghazi al-Yawer called it Iraq's first step "toward joining the free world."

Although Iraqi authorities adopted strict security measures, numerous explosions and violent attacks shook Baghdad on the elections’ first day. Also multiple blasts rocked the Iraqi cities of Mosul and Baquba.

A bomb attack in western Baghdad killed one policeman and wounded several others. Meanwhile mortar attacks rocked Khan al-Mahawil, 40 miles south of the Iraqi capital, killing another policeman at a polling center.

Three other people were injured when a rocket landed near a polling station in Sadr City, the heart of Baghdad's Shiite Muslim community, witnesses said Sunday.

The Iraqi capital was hit with several explosions and mortar attacks. Several other Iraqi cities, including Baqouba, Basra and Mosul were also struck with similar attacks.

Also the Ministry of Interior on the city's eastern edge was hit Sunday with two mortars, according to one witness.

In the New Baghdad area in the eastern part of the city, an exchanges of gunfire were also heard.

Meanwhile Baqouba, northeast of Baghdad, and southern city of Basra, the country's second-largest were also struck with several explosions.

and here's AFP with a round up of reaction to the elections in the Arab press. Oh yeah, and here's a little Juan Cole

With all the hoopla, it is easy to forget that this was an extremely troubling and flawed "election." Iraq is an armed camp. There were troops and security checkpoints everywhere. Vehicle traffic was banned. The measures were successful in cutting down on car bombings that could have done massive damage. But even these Draconian steps did not prevent widespread attacks, which is not actually good news. There is every reason to think that when the vehicle traffic starts up again, so will the guerrilla insurgency.

The Iraqis did not know the names of the candidates for whom they were supposedly voting. What kind of an election is anonymous! There were even some angry politicians late last week who found out they had been included on lists without their permission. Al-Zaman compared the election process to buying fruit wholesale and sight unseen. (This is the part of the process that I called a "joke," and I stand by that.)

This thing was more like a referendum than an election. It was a referendum on which major party list associated with which major leader would lead parliament.

Many of the voters came out to cast their ballots in the belief that it was the only way to regain enough sovereignty to get American troops back out of their country. The new parliament is unlikely to make such a demand immediately, because its members will be afraid of being killed by the Baath military. One fears a certain amount of resentment among the electorate when this reticence becomes clear.

Iraq now faces many key issues that could tear the country apart, from the issues of Kirkuk and Mosul to that of religious law. James Zogby on Wolf Blitzer wisely warned the US public against another "Mission Accomplished" moment. Things may gradually get better, but this flawed "election" isn't a Mardi Gras for Americans and they'll regret it if that is the way they treat it.

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