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January 30, 2005

Iraqi Elections

I'm with Matt on the Iraqi elections, a day that will go down in history but be forgotten the morning after. Like the June 30th handover, this is a largely symbolic event whose success -- given the constraints of Sunni non-participation -- will be forgotten by nightfall. At the moment, the streets seems blissfully clear of shrapnel and gore, and I think they'll probably remain so. The insurgents realize that, with or without attacks, tomorrow's elections will produce a government. So why expose themselves to the elevated risk promised by the day's enhanced security? They can lay low for a day, or even a few, waiting for the heads of government to shift (or, if Allawi wins, emerge codified) and the new leaders will find themselves no more protected than the old. After all, an Iraqi-led government has been "ruling" for months now, what do the insurgents care which Shi'ite is at its helm?

Americans, for our part, will spend the morning watching CNN say the same thing a thousand ways. We'll exult in the mystical power of voting, but next week, it'll be back to the news ticker's impersonal body counts. So elections? Count me in, I think they're great. But with the rebellious, terrified minority that's driving the insurgency boycotting the polls, let's not pretend that the Ballot Fairy will sprinkle constitution dust on this razed country and out of the ashes will emerge a stable, pluralistic democracy. Iraq's task is monumental, and its solutions anything but telegenic. In fact, odds are neither our military nor cable bureaus will be playing a big role in them...

Update: Well scratch my predictive powers, there was plenty of violence.

January 30, 2005 in Iraq | Permalink

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» Thank goodness I was wrong from Doubly Sure
But the real measure of success will be how things play out in the coming weeks and months. An election does not a democracy make. It may be a necessary but it is not a sufficient condition for democracy. [Read More]

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» Iraqis Overwhelmingly Endorse Democracy And Defy Terrorism from The Moderate Voice
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Comments

Back on December 3, I predicted that with Ukraine as a precedent, Bush and Allawi would feel free to hold today's elections and then overturn them to reoccur at some unspecified date.

Posted by: Frank | Jan 30, 2005 10:21:55 AM

Really bizarre: al-Jazeera's Arabic website (I don't know about the TV channel) has a complete news blackout on Iraq. Not one mention other than a ticker that says a British plane has crashed in the South.

Posted by: Jeff | Jan 30, 2005 11:52:26 AM

At the moment, the streets seems blissfully clear of shrapnel and gore, and I think they'll probably remain so.

Uh, are you sure? What about this?

Insurgents carried out more than a dozen attacks across the country on Sunday, killing at least 25 people and wounding 71 others.

At least eight suicide bombings took place during the voting. There are reports of a ninth, but CNN has not confirmed those reports.

There were eight other types of attacks as well, including one in which insurgents identified Iraqi civilians as having voted -- based on the ink on their fingers -- and threw grenades at them, killing them.

More on the ink on voters' fingers here, from an Israeli citizen whose parents left Iraq long ago, voting in the Iraqi elections at a polling station in Jordan:

A mustachioed and grave-looking man was seated who made me dip my finger in a sponge swimming in a puddle of indelible ink. In my naivete, I presumed this was the first stage of voting by fingerprint, but the Iraqis corrected my mistake with a smile usually reserved for the feeble-minded: coloring the finger with the black muck that will come off "in another month, maybe more," was merely intended to prevent repeat voting.

So the various insurgents and terrorists will have a month, maybe more, to identify people who voted from the ink on their fingers. Democracy on the march, baby.

Posted by: Haggai | Jan 30, 2005 12:17:27 PM

I really want this to work. I do. You would have to be blindly partisan not to hear the tales of voters excited about voting and not feel moved. We live in America where very little is asked of us. The thought of some who in some cases risked their lives to vote and put their finger in purple ink is moving, frankly.

That said, is this it? No, I fear not. Whoever the new leader is will have to do two extraordinarlily challenging things:

1) Guarantee security for their citizens while at the same time for the sake of their legitmacy press for a US withdrawl (training Iraqi armed forces),

2) Keeping a increasingly restless Kurdish society, a resentful Sunni population and a Shiite population feeling their muscles not necc. on the same page, but at least in the same country,

Without #1, the legitimacy of the new government will be questioned. Without #2, the very idea of a unified Iraq will be in question.

And our battle against terrorists -- which is real, btw -- is directly tied to those two questions.

Posted by: Chris Rasmussen | Jan 30, 2005 1:16:40 PM

What's so repulsive about the ink-on-the-fingers thing as well as the violence specifically geared towards disrupting the violence is that, following what Chris said, we're allowing these voters to put their lives at risk for an election that, unless our own administration makes an actual commitment to Iraqi self-determination, is nothing but a fraud. Standard Bush photo op stuff, which is bad enough, but what makes it unforgivably worse is that people are getting killed, and will be killed, for the sake of this photo. Hurrah for the bravery of those Iraqis in Iraq who vote, but their bravery probably won't be worthy much more than that of the Light Brigade.

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