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January 30, 2005

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I'll second that today is something to be happy about. The most heart-warming images I've seen from Iraq today are those Iraqis trimuphantly raising their purple fingers, showing that they've voted.

As I type, I hear Cokie Roberts note that what the Iraqis who voted went through to do so really puts we Americans, who simply roll out of bed and go to the polls, to shame.

I'm very happy for the Iraqis today. Let's hope the election results are as encouraging.

As I type, I hear Cokie Roberts note that what the Iraqis who voted went through to do so really puts we Americans, who simply roll out of bed and go to the polls, to shame.

Amen.

This is a HUGE victory (yes, it's just one battle, but it's a big one to win), and it will further undermine the legitimacy of the "insurgent" movement.

This is a HUGE victory

Yes.

But let's not forget that 56 US troops and so many more Iraqis were killed in Iraq this past week. There's no victory without its costs.

I've heard the Iraqis are dancing in the streets. God bless them.

Double amen.

You know, if this were an Iraqi blog, I'd say the triumphalism was appropriate.

But it's an American blog, so I'll say: Come off it.

That the elections went off without more than the usual amount of bloodshed Iraqis have come to expect while the US occupies their country, is a good thing. But it's worth pointing out that "no more than the usual amount" means people died today, the same as any other day in Iraq. Thanks to Bush & Co.

And as Votermom (I think) pointed out on an earlier thread, we don't know and we won't know and we can't know whether this marks a success or a disaster until much later. This is still just cheering that the runner got to first base even though the ball is stil lin the air.

Sure, great: the runner's at first base. Cheer.

This is still just cheering that the runner got to first base even though the ball is stil lin the air.

Hey, that was my analogy... ;(

I think von qualified this quite perfectly though Jes. Let's acknowledge that the elections seem to have come off as well, if not better, than most people had hoped for.

Bottom line for me is that this IS the first step toward getting our troops out of there...and that is good.

The elections by themselves don't mean much. The reason Kennedy and a majority of the American people think the war was a mistake is not becasue we haven't had elections. The reason Kennedy and a growing number of Americans (not a majority yet but getting there) think we should leave now is not because the Iraqis haven't been able to vote.

The reason is the insurgents, who despite all our efforts are not only not being beaten, they are getting stronger. That's the problem.

So long as Americans are getting killed on a regular basis, and given that we now know there were no WMDs or operational ties to terrorists, support for the war will continue to fall. Unless something dramatic happens that leads us to defeat the insurgents a decline in support will grow to the point where kennedy's position will become a majority one.

How are the elections going to change that?

Edward: I think von qualified this quite perfectly though Jes. Let's acknowledge that the elections seem to have come off as well, if not better, than most people had hoped for.

Was that what most people hoped for in April 2003, or in January 2005? Von's praise for Bush seems more than ever out of place.

The only way to get independent reports on the election from outside Baghdad is if the army flew reporters to those cities, to see officials and speak to them.

The last I read, only 28% of Iraqis had registered to vote at all - which means that hopeful predictions of an 80% turnout among registered voters amount to around 22% of the total population. (And there are no foreign electoral observers in Iraq. None.)

How many people have been killed today? Final reports aren't in.

I hear all of six people managed to vote in Ramadi.

I see no cause for American triumphalism. This is no "spectacular success".

Hey, that was my analogy... ;(

And a good one!

oops...re-read Von's note that "Now is not the time (per Senator Kennedy) to sing from Roger Waters' songbook, and "bring the boys back home." "

I disagree. Not a total pull-out obviously. Maybe none until it's clear we can so so responsibly. But just as one can praise the President for his steadfastness in seeing the elections take place, I'd like to praise him for his steadfastness in working toward bringing our troops home. It's time to at least begin planning an exit strategy. That's, IMO, a requirement for Iraq to continue on its path toward democracy.

Edward: I think von qualified this quite perfectly though Jes. Let's acknowledge that the elections seem to have come off as well, if not better, than most people had hoped for.

Was that what most people hoped for in April 2003, or in January 2005? Von's praise for Bush seems more than ever out of place.

The only way to get independent reports on the election from outside Baghdad is if the army flew reporters to those cities, to see officials and speak to them.

The last I read, only 28% of Iraqis had registered to vote at all - which means that hopeful predictions of an 80% turnout among registered voters amount to around 22% of the total population. (And there are no foreign electoral observers in Iraq. None.)

How many people have been killed today? Final reports aren't in.

I hear all of six people managed to vote in Ramadi.

I see no cause for American triumphalism. This is no "spectacular success".

Hey, that was my analogy... ;(

And a good one!

But just as one can praise the President for his steadfastness in seeing the elections take place,

Why? Has everyone else forgotten that Bush's "steadfastness" amounted to preventing the elections from taking place a year ago, and wanting to delay them even longer? Why praise Bush for finally and reluctantly letting elections take place that could have taken place a year ago, and that Bush wanted to delay even longer?

Sorry for the double post - I don't know how that happened. *kicks computer*

Why praise Bush for finally and reluctantly letting elections take place that could have taken place a year ago, and that Bush wanted to delay even longer?

There was pressue to delay the elections this time Jes. I understood where those folks were coming from but I never agreed. It was important to get through this milestone. Credit where it's due on this one.

There's plenty to criticize in the war. Personally, I think that criticism falls on more deaf ears if you don't recognize the successes. I expected today to not go as well as it did. I think it's fair to be happy about that.

I acknowledge Jes's criticisms, but I respectfully disagree for the reasons set forth in the post.

I disagree. Not a total pull-out [of troops] obviously[, but Bush needs to be working to bring the troops home].

The best way to bring the troops home quickly is, ironically, to remain absolutely steadfast that we will remain in Iraq for as long as it takes (and not one minute more). Kennedy's comparions to Vietnam and call for a draw down are exactly the wrong messages to send (and the wrong policy as well).

But, in any event, you have to appreciate the lengths I went to work in a "Pink Floyd: The Wall" reference.

Lots of coverage from Blair and Chrenkoff.

Edward: I expected today to not go as well as it did. I think it's fair to be happy about that.

That's fair. But calling it a spectacular success? That's nonsense.

Personally, I think that criticism falls on more deaf ears if you don't recognize the successes. I expected today to not go as well as it did. I think it's fair to be happy about that.
I'm turning into such a Dittohead on this site at the moment, but absolutely.

Jes, I think you need to pick your battles a little better. Tomorrow, next week, next month, when we see just how much or how little impact the election has had on life in Iraq, then we can renew the criticism in the new light. Today, in this thread, at this time, let's admit that it's been, at the very least, a better day than expected.

The best way to bring the troops home quickly is, ironically, to remain absolutely steadfast that we will remain in Iraq for as long as it takes (and not one minute more). Kennedy's comparions to Vietnam and call for a draw down are exactly the wrong messages to send (and the wrong policy as well).

But what about Kennedy's argument that it's time to send a clear message about our occupation intentions. If there's no indications of moving toward ending the occupation, our troops still become a rallying point for those advocating terrorism and the new government's authority is still highly suspect, especially if they're seen as taking orders from the Americans.

Symbolically, it seems to me Kennedy is right.

McDuff: . Today, in this thread, at this time, let's admit that it's been, at the very least, a better day than expected.

What, because only (so far) 25 people have been killed as they went to the polls, and it might have been many, many more?

My problem with praise of what's going on Iraq is that in order to praise it, low expectations have to be set. It's the kind of thinking that sets up a school with a fresh coat of paint (but broken windows and few textbooks) turns into a major educational achievement.

In order to praise it as lavishly as "spectacular success", you have to have set your expectations for what constitutes a spectacular success very, very low indeed. Only 25 people killed? It might have been hundreds! It's a success!

I disagree von. The right toime to bring the troops back is when they are no longer needed. If someone thinks we can't wing the war (as a great many experts have said) that time is now.

For anyone to argue that we should not bring the troops back you need to believe that we can win the war. That is the crucial debate.

von said that it was a spectacular success "by initial reports". That seems to me exactly right. And there are ways of signalling our intention not to stay forever other than bringing our troops home (I tend to dislike the idea of using troop deployments to send messages, though of course I can think of situations where it might be necessary.) For instance, we could dismantle those 'permanent' bases.

I don't feel exactly triumphal right now. For one thing, as von said, there's a long way to go. In particular, it doesn't change some fundamental facts, like the fact that the Iraqi government has no army and thus has to rely on us for security, and we are not popular, or that (iirc) a good number of the Iraqi government's small number of troops are pesh merga, who are not primarily loyal to the central government, and could not be expected to stick around in the event of a civil war. I am also less impressed with much of anything that the Bush administration has done than I am with the Iraqis who are risking their lives to vote.

But that doesn't change the fact that this is a very good day (so far), in a country that hasn't had too many good days for a while.

I am happy for the Iraqis who have voted! Specially the women. They showed a woman voter being patted down by a woman poll worker; the voter looked terribly embarassed but also grimly determined. I hope that the new government will continue to protect women's right to vote.
I am worried about the extremely low sunni turnout; somehow the new govt has to give them representation.

Now that I've read something posted by Don Q in another thread, I'll qualify 'a spectacular success by initial reports' with 'in the Shi'ite and Kurdish regions'. Partial on'the-fly translation:

"Polling places were deserted, or nearly so, Sunday in the Sunni parts of Iraq, where the community's chief religious organization has called for a boycott of the vote, and guerillas have threatened those who participate in the election with death. (...)

In Mosul, the large Northern city, six explosions were heard. In the al-Arabi neighborhood, north of the city, only the Iraqi army was present in the morning. In the polling place, election officials were happy to see a correspondent, thinking he was a voter.

In al-Anbar proving, the polling places were empty. In Fallujah, 50km west of Baghdad, which was the scene of a massive assault against the guerillas by the American Army in November, the deserted streets were patrolled only by American soldiers and Iraqi forces. Five polling places were open, but no one dared to go to them except for a correspondent from AFP. (Agence France-Presse -- trans.) The American Army announced in a communique, without further detail, that a Marine was killed in combat Sunday.

-- And it just goes on and on. (This from Le Monde.)

I think we can throw 72% voter turnout, which is being trumpeted by both CNN and Fox without a bit of cynicism, as nothing more than wishful thinking worthy of Bagdhad Bob. At the very leastit is extremely disappointing considering that in the last election in Iraq voter turnout was 100% and Saddam Hussein was reelected with 99.9% of the vote.

I am extremely skeptical about this election. The news out of Iraq is so filtered through an administration that has proved so adept at lying that I just don't believe anything it says anymore. Even when the lies are revealed, nobody cares. In ten days when it turns out that Allawi's party won in a landslide and the Shiite religious parties are marginalized are we going to believe that that is really the will of the Iraqi people? There are no independent observers. I didn't even trust the results of the election in this country, why should I trust the results of the election in Iraq?

Is that 28% percent registration figure accurate? I've looked and looked, and can't find so much as an estimate. This suggests that the number is indeed low, but I'd like to find some confirmation.

What, because only (so far) 25 people have been killed as they went to the polls, and it might have been many, many more?
Yes, exactly.

Don't let the perfect become the enemy of the good. Are you worried that if you admit something good has come out of this that the world will fall apart, because you'll be giving credit to Bush?

This doesn't make the whole thing justified, it doesn't mean that they didn't embark on a foolhardy adventure and make it ten times harder for themselves than they had to. But unless they were working to sabotage their own process, which I have in some dark moments suspected, they couldn't help but get some things right, just on the law of averages.

It's not as good as it could have been, but it's not as bad. Appreciate symbolic victories, they're important.

McDuff: Are you worried that if you admit something good has come out of this that the world will fall apart, because you'll be giving credit to Bush?

I'm against the easy triumphalism of low expectations.

"I acknowledge Jes's criticisms, but I respectfully disagree for the reasons set forth in the post."

No we expected them. But I also agree that the triumphs need to stay within the borders of Iraq. However, we're way beyond first base. And we didn't start at home plate. This game began in an empty field. The analogy is a poor one. There are many bases to reach and no one is quite sure there is a home plate to touch.

Congratulations to the Iraqis for overcoming a murderous terror campaign waged by the enemies of freedom. (freedom, freedom, freedom, freedom, freedom) I say it because I can. I hope and pray the men and women they elected can at least reach enough consensus to set up a government, take control of their streets, direct their wealth and assets to the benefit of the citizens of Iraq. This endeavor consists of a series of triumphs and many set backs.

Let's hope some day they will have a leader millions helped elect and approve of, someone they are free to trash and belittle in public. Come to think of it, our President just won another election. Some are free to hate it so. So be it.

I'm against the easy triumphalism of low expectations.
When you emerge from the cellar after the tornado, and find that you're missing some slates and half a fence, but your house is still standing, you consider it a good thing. If those slates fell off in the middle of autumn, you'd think it were a royal pain in the ass.

That these elections happened at all, no matter how imperfectly, is a triumph. Considering where we've started and the tortuous route we've taken to get here, we're lucky to have them at all. I'm damning with all the faint praise I can here, Jes, but I can't but acknowledge that the faint praise exists.

And frankly, I think if the Iraqis can have a party about this then we should be able to as well.

jpe,

IIRC the "28% percent registration figure" was reported for expatriates, not for voters inside Iraq.

Seems like turnout was high in the Shia South and the Kurdish regions.
BBC Reporters' log: Iraqi elections

McDuff: When you emerge from the cellar after the tornado, and find that you're missing some slates and half a fence, but your house is still standing, you consider it a good thing.

When you ask your neighbors to come over and help you rebuild your house, and they arrive three weeks later, armed with material for a barbeque, and proceed to burn down most of what was left of your house, you don't count it a "spectacular success" that half your kitchen and your garden shed survive.

Wow, imagine if 57% did vote. Good for them! Heck, our turnout was just 60% in last year's Pres. election.

If that number turns out to be true, well, I certainly can't predict the result, but I hope that the 43% who didn't vote change their minds about what might be possible...

I hate to resist celebrating what may have turned out well, but I have a hard time believing that the 72% number has much relation to reality -- not so much because it's improbably high, but because it appeared improbably fast. I just don't believe the data could cave been collected and compiled fast enough to get us a voter turnout number the same evening the polls closed. CNN now has Election Commission quotes backing away from certainty on the turnout figures.

It wasn't a bloodbath, but I'm waiting to rejoice in the untrammeled exercise of democracy for a couple of days, until more information is in. Still, any day that isn't a bloodbath is a good one.

By realistic standards today was a great success. The bloodbath was relatively contained - "only" 44 dead so far. Very high turnout in the Shia and Kurdish regions. But most reports show either zero Sunni participation in the Sunni triangle, or modest participation in mixed regions. The election was a great chance for the Shia to achieve power commensurate with the population for the first time in 400 years. It was about more than democracy for the Shia. It was about power - reclaiming it from the dominant Sunni minority who used trickery and brutality to hold it for so long. The real question now, then, is what do the Sunni do? If they accept the reality of the election and work to engage the political process as minority members with less power then we can look back at this election as the real turning point in establishing democracy. If, on the other hand, the Sunni read this election as an unacceptable ratification and permanent alienation of rightful Sunni rule and "rights", which can only be claimed now with armed conflict, then this election will be the beginning of a full-on civil war.

1) I wouldn't trust the early turnout estimates, just based on U.S. elections. Every election day I can remember, they've reported "record turnout" at first, whether it was true or not, and then revised downwards.

2) It does sound like turnout was higher, and violence less, than I had expected, though. Which is of course excellent. A good day, Which I hope is the beginning of better days.

3) Has anyone heard estimates of Sunni turnout? (And why doesn't it occur to any of the TV reporters to ask this question? argh.)

4) so what does the national assembly actually do? Do they disappear after they write the Constitution and choose the council, or is this going to be the main legislature? Or does that depend on the Constitution they write?

Juan Cole's suggestion of a bicameral legislature, with an upper house where the Sunnis and Kurds will be somewhat overrepresented, sounds like a good idea to me.

5) The BBC's reporter's log said that Sistani didn't vote because he doesn't have Iraqi nationality. First time I ever heard that. I assume that would also bar him from holding office, though he didn't seem so interested in doing so anyway.

Katherine: Has anyone heard estimates of Sunni turnout?

All reports I've heard suggest it's low, but no estimates as to how low.

(And why doesn't it occur to any of the TV reporters to ask this question? argh.)

Because it's not likely to have a good answer.

That's the first hurdle down. Here's to hoping the rest of them will go as smoothly.

These are the BBC reports from areas with large Sunni populations or that have seen a lot of violence:

"Caroline Hawley : Baghdad : 1611 GMT
There are estimates that turnout for the elections has been reasonably high across the country. Yet the independent electoral commission doesn't yet know how many people have turned out. They have been talking about a figure of eight million but we just don't know.

But the day also brought nine suicide bombings and many mortars falling as well. And generally turnout depended on the regon. We saw a better turnout in the Shia south and northern Kurdish regions.

In the Sunni areas of central Iraq, the turnout was much lower, in some places, getting off to an extremely slow start and with reports of polling stations empty and in one town at least noone turning up to man the station."

"Paul Wood : Baghdad : 1558 GMT
A British C-130 Hercules military transport plane has crashed north of Baghdad. This has been confirmed by the Ministry of Defence in London but there are few further details at the moment

A search and rescue mission is underway with helicopters circling over the scene of the crash, but an American military official has been quoted as saying the plane's wreckage has been scattered over a large area.

There's no information on casualties and it's not known either how many people were on board the Hercules."

"Fadel al-Badrani : Falluja : 1305 GMT
The US army and the national guards opened a number of polling stations in and around the centre of Falluja, including one in the public park.

Other voting centres have been set up in residential areas in northern parts of the city. There has been a low turnout, but many people had thought there wouldn't be elections here at all and that no-one would be able to vote.

We have seen a number of people - just a few - heading for ballot boxes and casting their votes. Only about 25% of the Falluja's residents have now returned to the city, mostly the men, while children and women have remained outside.

So those who participated in the elections this morning were only men. There were a number of explosions this morning, as well as clashes between armed men and American forces in the southern part of the city."

"Roaa al-Zarari : Mosul : 1219 GMT
In Mosul, the day began with several explosions.

In places with a Kurdish majority, such as the Noor and Masarif districts, there is a huge turnout.

Other areas, the mainly Arab zones, has a patchy presence. In Talafar, just north of Mosul, fighting took place from 0700 for three hours between US forces and armed groups. In the four polling stations in Talafar, only one had a queue.

There's been a problem in Hamdiya, just outside Mosul. This town is inhabited by Christians and Chaldeans. No ballot boxes have been sent there. Residents shouted at the local district officers demanding boxes to be sent."


"Fadel al-Badrani : Falluja : 1216 GMT
A number of polling stations have opened in the city in the north, north-east, and inside the public park. The turnout to all these stations is very low.

I witnessed some persons, all of them or most of them are men, because only men have returned to Falluja leaving their women behind.

Meanwhile, sounds of explosions are coming from the outskirts."

"Paul Wood : Baghdad : 1202 GMT
So far there have been nine suicide bombings in Baghdad, including two car bombs. One attack was outside the justice minister's house. Most were at polling stations.

There was sporadic violence elsewhere in the country too. The interim president Ghazi Yawer urged fellow Iraqis not to give up their right to vote in the face of threats by the militants.

We have seen voting here in the capital, and in the streets close to the BBC office the atmosphere was almost euphoric.

One elderly Shia man told us his two sons had been executed under Saddam and he was voting now to make sure there was no return to the old days."

"Caroline Hawley : Baghdad : 1002 GMT
Iraqi authorities have told us there have now been seven suicide bombings carried out by men with explosives strapped around their bodies. There has also been a mortar attack in Sadr City in Baghdad which killed four voters.

So militants are doing what they can to carry out their threats to disrupt the poll and shed the blood of voters, but it is also very evident there is a lot of enthusiasm for the vote.


Hugh Sykes : Baghdad : 0936 GMT
For the people of the district of Muthana, in eastern Baghdad, this is not a good morning. The polling station opened at 0700 this morning. I was here talking to early voters who were cheerful and optimistic.

We went off to have breakfast at the military base where I'm embedded, and coming back we were told there had been a suicide bomb attack in this comfortable residential neighbourhood.

Across the road from me lies the naked torso of the suicide bomber. His arms and his head were blown off. Around the corner is the body of the bomber's only victim - a young man lying motionless in the road, with blood flowing from a large hole in his head.

I heard a bang a few minutes ago which has now been confirmed as another suicide bomb."

The other correspondents are in Najaf, Basra, al-Amara, --which are all Shi'ite dominated I believe--and Irbil, which I think is mainly Kurdish, as well as smaller towns whose names I didn't recognize and at polling places in the U.K. and outside Iraq. Those reports are all much more cheerful--parties in the streets, extremely high turnout, proud first-time voters, etc.

This is from Juan Cole:
"At a little after noon EST, Jane Arraf on CNN is reporting about 30 percent turnout in Baqubah, a mixed Sunni-Shiite city to the northeast of Baghdad. It seems clear that the turnout was largely Shiite."

"Turnout seems extremely light in the Sunni Arab areas, where some polling stations did not even open. It was heavier in the Shiite south and in the Kurdish north."

"Zogby International did a poll of 805 Iraqis between January from January 19 to 23, 2005 in the cities of Baghdad, Hilla, Karbala and Kirkuk, as well as Diyala and Anbar provinces.

Results:Sunni Arabs who say they will vote on Sunday: 9%
Sunni Arabs who say they definitely will not vote on Sunday: 76%
Shiites who say they likely or definitely will vote: 80%
Kurds who say they likely or definitely will vote: 56%"

and here's the Financial Times.

sigh...but that was to be expected. It's still a good day.

...where "as smoothly" is, of course, a relative term.

whoa, I didn't realize it was going to be quite that long and hard to read. sorry.

It's a bit premature to call this a success. The three big questions about this election are:

1. Will this government be able to exert control over the nation, or will it be a government-in-name-only like Karzai's?

2. Did they elect an islamic theocracy?

3. Will the newly-elected shia government "put down" the insurgency by simply killing all the sunnis?

4. Is this going to be a democracy like, for instance, the presidential republic of Egypt?

Those, in my opinion, are the questions that will determine the success or failure of this venture - not whether or not they can put pieces of paper into a ballot box.

5. Can Josh Yelon count to three?

I don't see what we're getting so cheery about. Sunni turnout has been abysmal by all accounts, and the larger worry was never that there would be massive violence on the day of the elections, but that a lopsided Shiite government with next to no Sunni representation would further escalate sectarian violence.

More and more, I see Americans subscribing to the "elections = democracy" theory of democratic government. Get them to vote once, and we're done here - never mind that the vote disenfranchises the most volatile segment of the country. What a sad joke.

More and more, I see Americans subscribing to the "elections = democracy" theory of democratic government. Get them to vote once, and we're done here - never mind that the vote disenfranchises the most volatile segment of the country. What a sad joke.

You've clearly been hanging around with different Americans than I have. No one I know thinks this is the end product. It is, however, a good start.

Katherine - in answer to "so what does the national assembly actually do? Do they disappear after they write the Constitution and choose the council, or is this going to be the main legislature? Or does that depend on the Constitution they write?" the BBC has a good Q&A about the process. From that Q&A:

What powers will the assembly have?

The assembly will have law-making powers. But first it must elect a state presidency council made up of a president and two deputies. The council in turn will choose a prime minister who will select ministers. The assembly will then vote on the make-up of the government. The prime minister will be the key figure, having control over the armed forces, for example.

The assembly's other main role is to write a draft constitution by 15 August and submit this to referendum by 15 October. Parliamentary elections are due in December.

In essence, the assembly will become part of a new interim government. From what I can tell, there is a presumption that the assembly and ministry will be disbanded and replaced with whatever executive and parliamentary bodies are specified in the new constitution.

Kathering and Jes,

Thanks for not dissappointing anyone with your posts. I'll give you both credit for being consistently negative. It's impressive.

Jes:
"I see no cause for American triumphalism. This is no "spectacular success"."

Of course not. No one would expect that from you.

"Sure, great: the runner's at first base. Cheer."

I know I was happy the first time I got to first base.

Iron,

"Sunni turnout has been abysmal by all accounts"

Well then maybe they are following in our footsteps...

little over 50% of eligible voters this year.
In 1824, it was 26.9%.

Your posts are so predictable its almost funny.

You've clearly been hanging around with different Americans than I have. No one I know thinks this is the end product. It is, however, a good start.

I haven't hung around him much, but I listen to statements made by George Bush, who calls Afghanistan a "democracy" after one election that reelected a man whose authority barely extends beyond the range of his security detail, in a country run by warlords, still occupied by the Taliban, and whose economy is dependent on the production of opium.

The American response to Afghanistan has been to forget it, because hey, they had an election, and the election itself - not the country, not the government, but just the act of election - wasn't a total disaster, so gee, they must have it all figured out now. If this isn't the "soft bigotry of low expectations," I don't know what is.

The war in Iraq, with its attendent body count in the tens of thousands, is being retroactively justified on the basis of bringing "democracy" to the Middle East. What it got today wasn't democracy; it was an election. The Middle East isn't in need of elections. It needs stability, and it needs to be able to reconcile itself with the rest of the world. Is this election going to increase stability in Iraq? Is it going to move the country towards modernization and away from militant theocracy? I see no signs of that at all.

If there is not a significant Sunni voice in the new government, it will have no legitimacy with the Sunnis, and violence will expand from nationalistic drive-out-the-occupiers motivations to sectarian divisions between Sunnis and Shiites. If the new government becomes theocratic as opposed to secular, it will engender more of the militant Islam that the United States is theoretically trying to turn back. So what's to celebrate?

smlook,

little over 50% of eligible voters this year.
In 1824, it was 26.9%.

Is this supposed to mean something? Is that US turnout, Iraqi turnout? It's certainly not Sunni turnout, which was the point of my post. The BBC reports that most Sunni polls are closed or deserted. In mixed Sunni-Shiite areas like Baquba the turnout has been about 30%; I'm betting those were Shiites at the polls.

Your posts are so predictable its almost funny.

Your posts aren't even comprehensible.

Regardless of how many Iraqis were able to vote (and Sunni vs. Shia distributions), the question of the value of this election is based on how long will it take for a government to be formed, what power will that government actually have, and how long before the next election can be scheduled. Otherwise, this election will have the same significance as "capturing Saddam" had on "quashing the insurgency".

Iron Lungfish

Sidereal put this up in the pro-Torture thread, but it needs to be put up everytime certain people post

"I'm going to teach you how to talk to respectable folks if it's my last act," says Brer Rabbit, says he. "If you don't take off that hat and say howdy, I'm going to bust you wide open," says he.

Tar-Baby stayed still and Brer Fox, he lay low.

Brer Rabbit kept on asking her why she wouldn't talk and the Tar-Baby kept on saying nothing until Brer Rabbit finally drew back his fist, he did, and blip--he hit the Tar-Baby on the jaw. But his fist stuck and he couldn't pull it loose. The tar held him. But Tar-Baby, she stayed still, and Brer Fox, he lay low.

"If you don't let me loose, I'm going to hit you again," says Brer Rabbit, says he, and with that he drew back his other fist and blap--he hit the Tar-Baby with the other hand and that one stuck fast too.

This is not to say that I'm not happy things are going to well. But I have to wonder at the psychohistory behind this post, given that the title sounds like something from the genre best represented by the A team

Thanks for the FAQ.

Didn't know that 1/3 of the candidates had to be women. Horrors, a quota! (Just kidding. When there's a constitution to be drafted I think it's a good idea.)

Zeyad's report is here. (my favorite of the Iraqi weblogs--he does not disappoint; he has a tip for how to get the marker off your finger).

Besides as high turnout as possible, as high Sunni turnout as possible, and as little violence as possible, what are people hoping for as far as results? I don't really have any idea. I guess the three leading vote getters are expected to be the Shi'ite list, Allawi's list, and the Kurdish list, right? Are there any Sunni parties participating? Who ARE the Sunni leaders anyway? It can't just be Zarqawi, surely.

I'm sorry if I'm not bouncy enough (not for smlook, who I'm sure will never be satisfied with anything I write, I'm talking to others of you.)--it's just that things seem to follow a pattern that if there's a specific day when we expect a lot of violence, it goes better than expected, but then it picks right up again as soon as that day ends. This happened with the initial assault on Baghdad, the handover of power last June, the assault on Fallujah, and in general it's happened so many times that my sense of optimism has gone on the fritz. But today went as well as could be reasonably expected. The thing is, the tone of the TV reports was so gushy that I thought that it exceeded any reasonable expectation, and that even the Sunni areas had voted. So far that seems not to have happened, but that doesn't diminish the courage of everyone walking around with magic marker on their finger.

LJ - your point is noted and appreciated, and I should've known better. The tragedy of the internet is that it makes it faster to communicate than it does to think.

I haven't hung around him much, but I listen to statements made by George Bush, who calls Afghanistan a "democracy" after one election that reelected a man whose authority barely extends beyond the range of his security detail, in a country run by warlords, still occupied by the Taliban, and whose economy is dependent on the production of opium.

Hmmm...Bush saying something about Afghanistan has what, exactly, to do with what more and more Americans are saying about Iraq?

If there is not a significant Sunni voice in the new government, it will have no legitimacy with the Sunnis

Do I really need to remind you how democracy works? If Sunnis wish to abstain, then they'll lack representation.

The greatest danger now is that we will see this as an end, rather than simply another step, in the struggle for Iraq

Von, nice post, I've loved the comments so far.

But Von as you know, today was just the beginning of an aggresive time table to write a constitution, have it ratified by the people of Iraq and then vote again a new government all within the year.

And even with all that work the Iraqi Republic will be a work in process, just like our's was and is. But it was a grand day and the start of a new beginning.

The BBC's reporter's log said that Sistani didn't vote because he doesn't have Iraqi nationality.

Katherine, somewhat surprised that you didn't know that Sistani is an Iranian.

not surprised he was born in Iran, though I was not aware. Am surprised that you don't become an Iraqi citizen after living there for, like, 50 years.

Maybe he isn't able to pass the test on Iraqi history. That's a lot of history.

Hmmm...Bush saying something about Afghanistan has what, exactly, to do with what more and more Americans are saying about Iraq?

You asked where I could have possibly gotten the idea that any Americans have reduced the concept of "democracy" to simple elections. I make the point that this has ocurred with Bush and numerous Bush supporters with regards to Afghanistan, and it looks like it's happening again with Iraq. The notable problem here is that Afghanistan's problems haven't gone away wth an election; it's just that nobody pays attention to them. Today Iraq had an election that was not, in its mechanics, a complete disaster, and everyone here is passing out party hats while the administration is sizing up Iran. I see a familiar, and incredibly self-destructive, pattern emerging.

Do I really need to remind you how democracy works? If Sunnis wish to abstain, then they'll lack representation.

This isn't a civics class; it is - I hope - an attempt to build a stable and functioning society. The issue is not whether the mechanics of a single election are legitimate; it is whether the system itself is given legitimacy by its participants, and a sizable minority are poised to reject that very tenuous legitimacy. You can tsk tsk all the Sunnis who didn't show up at the polls all you want for throwing away their voice in the constitutional process, but it doesn't change the fact that if they don't think the system is meeting their needs, they will reject it, and a non-trivial portion of them will do so with violence.

and this article has higher reports of Sunni turnout. And now I have to go check an article's footnotes for 3 hours. woo.

it is whether the system itself is given legitimacy by its participants, and a sizable minority are poised to reject that very tenuous legitimacy

Would you make the same comment, if say we were talking about South Africa and the minority which previously ruled it.

Katherine, I could be wrong on this, but citizenship in most countries of the world are determined by a father's ancestry and thus length of stay doesn't count (like being a Turk in Germany). What I don't know, if Sistani is a Persian or an Arab. I believe he is an Arab but I don't really know.

Maybe he isn't able to pass the test on Iraqi history. That's a lot of history.

It's not too bad as long as you restrict yourself to polities called "Iraq". If you open yourself to all the peoples who've lived there over the past few* years, well, that's a whole new ballgame.

* Ten thousand or so.

Timmy: Would you make the same comment, if say we were talking about South Africa and the minority which previously ruled it.

I think you'll find there are sufficient differences between South Africa and Iraq to make that comment nonsense, Timmy.

If you care to look up some basic facts about both countries, that is.

South African whites are 13.6% of the population, and were spread thinly over the whole country (with some small exceptions).

Iraqi Sunnis are 32%-37% of the population, and are found overwhelmingly in central Iraq.

In short, it's too vast a difference to make your comparison make any sense. (You might also want to research and consider the difference between how the South Africans set about reforming their country, and how the US set about "reforming" Iraq, and which method had the better and more effective results.)

Do we have any idea who won, yet? Who's even in contention at this point? I'm deliberately not watching TV news and the websites aren't too useful -- "Bush declares vote a success", gee, thanks CNN -- so it's a little hard to figure out what the breakdown of the provisional government's going to be. Joyous triumphalism is all well and good (especially for the Iraqis) but I'm interested in facts at the moment, which seem in short supply.

That said, I wholeheartedly agree with Iron Lungfish's 10:17pm post: elections ain't democracy, which in turn ain't a free society. This is a significant step but it's just a step; there's a long, long way to go before we can declare this venture a success and we need to keep our eyes on the prize.

Anarch, estimates I've seen say that it will take 3-5 days to count all the votes. So it should be in the news between Wednesday and Friday next week, who won.

Instant gratification isn't fast enough, Jes. I want answers, and I want them yesterday!

Iraqi citizenship, now that is an interesting question

Here are the old 'Axis o' Evil' requirements

- age: 18 years
- Iraqi citizenship
- disqualifications: insanity, undischarged bankruptcy, conviction for crime, allegiance to a foreign State

link

This is from assyrianvote.com though I don't know what the precise outlines were. Sistani still retains his Iranian citizenship, so presumably, he doesn't have an Iraqi passport.

This link has the following:

-Have current, or had in the past, Iraqi citizenship or were born in Iraq, or your father is Iraqi -Are at least 18 years old by Dec. 31, 2004 -Can present official documents to prove all of the above

The patrilineal requirement is interesting.

I feel so happy for the Iraqis. It is ok to be triumphant about the voting-- as long as our attention doesn't stop there.
I also don't see any incompatiblity between being totally opposed to the initial invasion and hoping that the Iraqis end up with a good government.
Juan Cole predicted that the Sistani group would be the biggest percentage, but not a majority and that they would have to form a majority by allying themselves with the Alawi (I didn't spell that right, did I?) group or a coalition of the Kurds and smaller parties.
There are plenty of example of Americans using the flimsiest of self-serving definitions of democracy to excuse the inexcusable but in this case the whole world is watching. I have never believed that Bush really wanted a democracy in Iraq. I think by "democracy" he has always meant "an American -controlled government with for-show elections." Can I prove this? No. But Bush has shown himself over and over again to be completely untrustworthy so I don't think cynicism about his motives is unreasonable. However, the whole world IS watching what we do in Iraq and I don't think he will get away with less than the real thing. The Iraqis are pretty committed to having an independent government of their own design and I don't think they will let Bush get away with premenent bases in their country or interference with their foreign policy.
Circumspect pullouts are probably the best thing to do over the next year or so.
I am so happy for the Iraqis.

Iraqi Sunnis are 32%-37% of the population, and are found overwhelmingly in central Iraq.

You do understand that the Kurds are Sunnis. Need to carve out the Kurds from your calculation and thus the non-Kurd Iraqi Sunnis are around 20-10%% of the population, generally speaking.

Shia- 60-65%
Sunni-20-10%%
Kurds-15-20%%
Other- 5%

http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/iz.html#People

BTW Central Iraq is the only region without oil.

Thus your previous vastness, well it wilted away. But thanks for trying.

I think the elections have gone much better than we could have hoped for. But it's a long, long way to go before Iraq could be considered a "success". And even if it ever becomes a success, that doesn't mean the whole thing was worth it - the blood, the treasure, the ready accceptance of official lies, the alienation of allies the US will sooner or later need, the damage to American democracy caused by the pro-torture faction, the motive provided to the Iranians to get a bomb ASAP, the recruitment boost for al Qaeda; these are all massive costs to be weighed against any future success.

And the line that Bush deserves praise for this little success is surely a joke - it was forced on him by Sistani (without whose support the US position is politically, and probably also militarily, indefensible); he initially made it clear he wanted the elections postponed but Sistani vetoed that.

A few questions:

How does one choose a candidate to vote for in an election where one does not even know the names of the candidates?

If 50 people had been murdered during an election in Venezuela, what would the Bush administration's reaction be?

If an election in a former Soviet bloc country were conducted with absolutely no supervision, and a candidate the US did not approve of won, what would the Bush administration's reaction be?

Does any sane person believe that the level of violence in Iraq over the next year will be less than the level of violence in Iraq over the previous year?

Does any sane person believe any good will come of the US policy of implying to the Iraqi voters that the election will mean the end of US occupation when no such thing is likely to occur? What will the reaction of the Iraqi voters be when they find they have been duped?

Are the people who believe the election is a positive sign for Iraq's future the same people who believed that invading Iraq would be a cakewalk, that the capture of Saddam would help to end the insurgency. and that the return of "sovereignty" to Iraq would help end the insurgency? If so, why should anyone believe them now?

Election or no election, is there any reason not to believe that the most likely scenario in Iraq is still continued and growing violence leading to an all out civil war?

All that said, good luck Iraqis. You will need it. I hope for your sake and ours that I am wrong to continue to be as pessimistic about Iraq as I have been for the last two years.

I have to laugh at this comment.

At the very leastit is extremely disappointing considering that in the last election in Iraq voter turnout was 100% and Saddam Hussein was reelected with 99.9% of the vote.

Well, let's look back at the election coverage of Decision 2002, courtesy of Saturday Night Live, for some real truth:

Daljit Kalakh Galanlaneesh: Pervez, a pleasure as always. Wow, what a roller-coaster ride. First of all, let me say that in all my years of watching Iraqi elections I have never *not* seen an election like this one.

Pervez Al-Huwayeh: Here, here... But the 0.03, what is *that*?

Daljit Kalakh Galanlaneesh: Well, first Pervez, you have to remember that for Saddam Hussein -- may his name be whispered with lasting reverence -- this is a new election, the political landscape has changed a lot since 1995. Look at the opposition: I mean, Saddam is running against, well, nobody, but the Nobody he faces this year is much a tougher Nobody than the Nobody he faced in '95.

Pervez Al-Huwayeh: Oh man, oh my gosh, so this is a real camel-derby here, and that accounts for all the blue on the map?

Daljit Kalakh Galanlaneesh: Well, Pervez, here is my suspicion: the ballots being used this year are a little confusing.

Pervez Al-Huwayeh: Okay, okay, walk us through it.

Daljit Kalakh Galanlaneesh: Okay, see, here is the box for Saddam...

Pervez Al-Huwayeh: ...He Whose Benevolence Spreads Like a Milk Through the Tigris Valley...

Daljit Kalakh Galanlaneesh: ...yes, the Sturdy Bridegroom of the Iraqi State, yes, the one and only -- ah, but there is a box marked 'No' here...

Pervez Al-Huwayeh: Okay, okay... see, already you have *lost* me.

Daljit Kalakh Galanlaneesh: Okay, okay... I'll explain it in more detail. See, marking this box is a vote *for* Saddam, and marking *this* box means, 'No, I am *not* voting for Saddam.'

Pervez Al-Huwayeh: Once again, [waving hand over head] whoosh! I am *very* confused, I do not envy those voters out there at the polls. Actually, I am just getting word that earlier today that two of these 'No' votes were cast by secret ballot.

Daljit Kalakh Galanlaneesh: That's right, Pervez, cast by secret ballot in Saddam's home village of Tikrit by Omar Bakeesh and Tariq Al-Darwesh.

Pervez Al-Huwayeh: We go now to Rasheed Al-Mulakh in Tikrit, who's trying to get an interview with the two 'No' voters. Rasheed?

Rasheed Al-Mulakh: Yes, Pervez! I'm here in the village of Tikrit, where two men have realy gotten things "shaken up!"

Pervez Al-Huwayeh: So, Rasheed, can we get an interview with the two 'No' voters?

Rasheed Al-Mulakh: No, no! Hahaha, they are [making air-quotes] *unavailable*! Hahaha...

Pervez Al-Huwayeh: [chuckling] Fantastic! And with those latest developments in Tikrit, I am now receiveing word that Saddam Hussein, He Whose Loins Yeild Unto Us a Legion, has secured 100 percent of the electorate.

Daljit Kalakh Galanlaneesh: [makes trilling vocalizations]

Pervez Al-Huwayeh: We go now live to the Mosul Palace for the acceptance speech.

Saddam Hussein: [laughing] Yay! HAHAHAHA! Thank you! Thank you so much, YEAH! We did it, ahhhhhh! [shoots rifle in air, then hands it to subordinate] Whoooooooo! Alright... Thank you to the guys in Starship -- oh, my God, what a great campaign song, whooo-boy! This... whoa, this is unexpected, this is a *real* surprise. Oh man, I should have *prepared* something. Okay... Oh, I have so many people to thank... My Death Squads, where are you guys? Heyyyyyy, hahahaha... Ahhh, I couldn't have done it without you guys.

You asked where I could have possibly gotten the idea that any Americans have reduced the concept of "democracy" to simple elections.

No. Go back and read what you wrote, and see how that just might be a wee bit different from "any".

How does one choose a candidate to vote for in an election where one does not even know the names of the candidates?

Voted for blocks of candidates.

If 50 people had been murdered during an election in Venezuela, what would the Bush administration's reaction be?

How many people were murdered during the last presidential election?

If an election in a former Soviet bloc country were conducted with absolutely no supervision, and a candidate the US did not approve of won, what would the Bush administration's reaction be?

Chicago 1960 right or Milwakee 2004, right

Does any sane person believe that the level of violence in Iraq over the next year will be less than the level of violence in Iraq over the previous year?

Yes

Does any sane person believe any good will come of the US policy of implying to the Iraqi voters that the election will mean the end of US occupation when no such thing is likely to occur? What will the reaction of the Iraqi voters be when they find they have been duped?

Is Germany and/or Japan still under US occupation using your metric.

Are the people who believe the election is a positive sign for Iraq's future the same people who believed that invading Iraq would be a cakewalk, that the capture of Saddam would help to end the insurgency. and that the return of "sovereignty" to Iraq would help end the insurgency? If so, why should anyone believe them now?

I never believed it was going to be a cakewalk, didn't believe that the capture of Saddam would end the insurgency and I thought the violence would escalate before the January election.

I don't want you to believe me or anyone else. I would prefer you stew in your own juices. I figure you probably haven't been this upset since they tore down the Berlin Wall.

Election or no election, is there any reason not to believe that the most likely scenario in Iraq is still continued and growing violence leading to an all out civil war?

Sunni self preservation.

All that said, good luck Iraqis. You will need it. I hope for your sake and ours that I am wrong to continue to be as pessimistic about Iraq as I have been for the last two years.

Please don't put on a smily face, it might make you ill.

he [Bush] initially made it clear he wanted the elections postponed but Sistani vetoed that.

a cite if you don't mind, thank you in advance

Wasn't Timmy going to leave us?

I think the real hero in this story is Sistani. At every step of the way since the initial invasion he has blocked Bush
Administration attempts to manipulate the outcome and set up a puppet government. Remember when he called for public demostrations to oppose the caucus system? He also was one of the strongest voices against the Administation's early attempt to put Chalapi (spelling?) in charge. If Iraq ends up with an independent government it will be largely because of Sistani's leadership.

Wasn't Timmy going to leave us?

I thought I read at least two threads here in the past week about civility and posting rules. This is at least the third attack I'ver read in the same vein.

Tomsyl: This is at least the third attack I'ver read in the same vein.

How is it an attack to refer to a lengthy comment Timmy made in another thread in which he said he was planning to leave Obsidian Wings?

Because you clearly are responding to a comment by expressing a desire that the commenter would leave instead of responding to the substance of the comment. Don't be coy.

Tomsyl: Because you clearly are responding to a comment by expressing a desire that the commenter would leave instead of responding to the substance of the comment.

Unfortunately, there was no substance in the comment to respond to.

And I really had thought Timmy had made his farewell comment and departed.

Wasn't Timmy going to leave us?

He has, just his evil cousin Billy filling in for him. :)

OH MY GOD, ELECTIONS HAVE BROKEN OUT ALL OVER THE MIDDLE EAST!!!

Why didn't we decide to invade and kill many of them sooner and avoided 9-11?

Syrian Elections

Egyptian Elections

Iranian Elections

Kuwaiti Elections

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Whatnot


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