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January 31, 2005

Comments

What points of Juan Cole's column do you refute?

Yesterday was a great victory for Bush's policies

Still trying to claim victory in advance for Bush?

I don't know if I'd go so far as to lay the happening of the election at Sistani's feet, but there is no doubt whatsoever that this is a great man (in the Time Magazine sense). Thus far he has used his great power in a uniformly responsible manner, perhaps singlehandedly preventing a civil war by keeping the Shia largely placid, he has slapped around Al Sadr sufficiently to allow Iraq to continue to move towards true self gov't and he is clearly one of the reasons to hope that Iraq will turn out well. His health is of course a major issue. But if Iraq works, he should get great credit. I don't know if Iraq has a George Washington figure, but perhaps Sistani could be thought of as the most valuable of the Iraqi Founding Fathers.

If Iraqis can hang together, this would be a really big deal. Kurds, Shia, Assyrians, Turkomen, Sunnis. This would be similar in the amount of diversity in a new democracy to India. Poland and Ukraine are great news, but they were not nearly as ethnicly divided. Thanks, Sistani. Thanks Turkey. Even though Turkey wouldn't let our troops come through there (gotta keep that EU membership viable), at least they didn't go into the Kurdish north and mess things up.

What points of Juan Cole's column do you refute?

Well, for starters:

"I'm just appalled by the cheerleading tone of US news coverage of the so-called elections in Iraq on Sunday."

I don't see any cheerleading. There's good news; report it.

"The 1997 elections in Iran were much more democratic, as were the 2002 elections in Bahrain and Pakistan."

Huh? In particular: Pakistan????

And that's just the first couple paragraphs.

Still trying to claim victory in advance for Bush?

Yesterday's election was a great victory for Bush. Although, as I noted, it is not a final victory and there's much work that needs to be done.


As someone who was very pleasantly surprised by how well things seemed to go yesterday, I'm quite grateful to Sistani. I think that if he had used in influence in darker ways, the election would have been marred by either low turnout and/or bloody violence.

BTW, anyone else besides me find it a bit sad that with all the danger voters faced in Iraq, they still managed a better turnout at the polls than we Americans usually do?

BTW, anyone else besides me find it a bit sad that with all the danger voters faced in Iraq, they still managed a better turnout at the polls than we Americans usually do?

Actually, I think the true measure of success will be when Iraqis become as blasé about their democracy as we Americans are with ours. :)

"I don't see any cheerleading."

Did you watch CNN?

"Huh?"

is not exactly a fully-developed argument...

I think we owe an enormous debt to Sistani. He had it in his power to bring Iraq down in flames, instead of which he has been responsible throughout, and managed to keep large chunks of the population from pursuing immediate vengeance at the cost of long-term stability. Of course, this is in the interests of the Shi'ites, but it's so common for people to throw out their long-term interests for the sake of anger and vengeance, and I commend him not just for not doing that himself, but for exercising his power to prevent others from doing it as well.

I think I feel happier about it all than Juan Cole does. Nonetheless, I think he's right about this:

" the Bush administration opposed one-person, one-vote elections of this sort. First they were going to turn Iraq over to Chalabi within six months. Then Bremer was going to be MacArthur in Baghdad for years. Then on November 15, 2003, Bremer announced a plan to have council-based elections in May of 2004. The US and the UK had somehow massaged into being provincial and municipal governing councils, the members of which were pro-American. Bremer was going to restrict the electorate to this small, elite group.

Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani immediately gave a fatwa denouncing this plan and demanding free elections mandated by a UN Security Council resolution. Bush was reportedly "extremely offended" at these two demands and opposed Sistani. Bremer got his appointed Interim Governing Council to go along in fighting Sistani. Sistani then brought thousands of protesters into the streets in January of 2004, demanding free elections. Soon thereafter, Bush caved and gave the ayatollah everything he demanded. Except that he was apparently afraid that open, non-manipulated elections in Iraq might become a factor in the US presidential campaign, so he got the elections postponed to January 2005. This enormous delay allowed the country to fall into much worse chaos, and Sistani is still bitter that the Americans didn't hold the elections last May. The US objected that they couldn't use UN food ration cards for registration, as Sistani suggested. But in the end that is exactly what they did."

I also think he's right to say that there are still huge problems ahead, most notably writing the constitution in a way that satisfies both the Kurds, who want veto power, and the Shi'ites, who don't want to give it to them, and creating a functional army for the central government.

And if what he means by 'less democratic' is something like: an election is less democratic when a significant minority has to risk death to come to the polls, when the identity of the candidates is disclosed only a few days before the elections, and when what the various lists actually stand for is by all accounts very hard to discover, I also think he has a point. I don't know enough about the Pakistani elections of 2002 to have any idea about the comparison, but I don't think it detracts from the real courage shown by the Iraqis who voted, or the significance of the election, to point out that it had some pretty serious problems. (Not that delaying it would in any way have helped -- as far as I can see, it would not have diminished the violence, but would have made Sistani explode.)

Von: Yesterday's election was a great victory for Bush.

Why? It wasn't what he wanted, it wasn't what his plans called for, and it wasn't due to his persistence in demanding it. It happened way late because he didn't want the results to mess up his election.

I will call it a tremendous success for the Iraqis - because it was. I admire their courage in going to the polls in Iraq itself, and I'm delighted with the number of refugees who registered to vote from elsewhere.

I understand that to praise Bush at all it's necessary to set the bar very, very low. But this seems like praising a man for not beating his wife...

Well, the first paragraph was just his opinion, but I though he made a good argument, and had good points. His point was that Iraq still has a lot of major problems facing it, and there is a real danger of complacency about a "great election" leading the public into ignoring those. It seems like he said thw glass is half-empty and you said it's half-full -- doesn't seem to me that either one of you are "just wrong."

Cole's points include:
The Iraq election is not a model (for democracy in the region) because: a)the country is an armed camp and vehicle traffic was banned for the day (to prevent car bombs) b) the voters do not know the names of the candidates ("buying fruit wholesale and unseen") c) there were complaints from politicians who had been included as candidates without their consent.

Cole thinks the majority of Iraqis voted so that they could regain sovereignty -- that is get the US troops out of the country. He fears that the new govt will be too afraid, because of the security situation, to ask the US to go (read, they need our troops to support them). So he fears a public backlash on this.

Also, he points out that the elections were held at all is due to Sistani, who had to have Iraqis protest in January 2004 publicly against Bush plans. Bush delayed this until yesterday. So saying that this is "a great victory for Bush's policies" is misleading, don't you think?

I think yesterday was a milestone for the Iraqi people. Kudos to them and to the US troops providing security. But please don't gloss over the hard work the Iraqis had to do to get there, despite the US govt policies.

I think Cole was too negative, but I wouldn't say that the election was a "great victory for Bush's policies in Iraq." I think it was a great victory for the majority of the Iraqi people, even if it turns out to be largely symbolic. It was wonderful to see the jubilation and courage of the voters.

However, considering how badly this war was planned (at the very least, we should have taken more time and the administration should have been open to alternative viewpoints) and how the occupation has been generally mismanaged (partisanship over qualifications at the CPA, for example), I ended up cheering the Iraqi voters on with the perspective that they were voting to gain their independence from the past (Saddam), the insurgents, AND the Bush administration.

"The 1997 elections in Iran were much more democratic, as were the 2002 elections in Bahrain and Pakistan."

I'm sorry but when you say the elections in Iran were more democratic, you are using the word 'democratic' improperly. When you say the elections ratifying the King's power in Bahrain is more democratic you are using the term improperly.

And it sounds like sour grapes when you a Middle East expert plays around like that.

Opus: I wouldn't say that the election was a "great victory for Bush's policies in Iraq."

It's a bit early to say that. Wait till we find out who won power: it may well be that Bush's puppet Allawi is still in charge, and if so, then I fear that the election will merely turn out to be the triumph of Bush's policies in Iraq, rather than the first step on the road to an independent Iraq.

Rilkefan, again, one can report good news without the being described with the pejorative "cheerleading."

is not exactly a fully-developed argument...

Some arguments are self-evidentially false, and further argument simply demeans the discussion. Professor Cole asserts that "President" Mussaraf's election in 2002 in Pakistan was freer and fairer than the recent elections in Iraq. Unless the Professor is employing some super-secret code book -- rather than ordinary dictionary definitions -- I'd say that "Huh?" is more dignity than such an assertion deserves.

The Iraq election is not a model (for democracy in the region) because: a)the country is an armed camp and vehicle traffic was banned for the day (to prevent car bombs) b) the voters do not know the names of the candidates ("buying fruit wholesale and unseen") c) there were complaints from politicians who had been included as candidates without their consent.

On that point, Votermom, exactly how will democracy come to the Middle East (and how has it come to other locales)? 1945 was not an ideal time to start building a democracy in Japan -- with the economy in ruins, the government defunct, and millions homeless. But that's when it occurred. Likewise, there never was a good time to end apartheid in South Africa -- and, when it did occur, tens of thousands were slaughtered in violence.

By Professor Cole's standard for action, nothing would ever get better because nothing would ever be done -- we'd eternally be waiting for some far-off celestial alignment to occur. His pessism well be warranted. But it's no basis to govern. And it's not a winning message to take to the '06 elections (if you don't mind some unsolicited political advice).

JKC,

BTW, anyone else besides me find it a bit sad that with all the danger voters faced in Iraq, they still managed a better turnout at the polls than we Americans usually do?

That, and also this - The Intl. Film Festival Rotterdam has pulled "Submission, Part I," directed by slain Dutch filmer Theo van Gogh, for "security reasons."

Ironically - The short was to be part of a debate on freedom of speech in films at the IFFR on Sunday as well as an homage to van Gogh....

His point was that Iraq still has a lot of major problems facing it

Oh, good lord. That's right up there on the genius scale with "the sky is blue" and "fires are hot". Hell, our country could be described as having a lot of major problems facing it.

On that point, Votermom, exactly how will democracy come to the Middle East (and how has it come to other locales)?

I don't think Cole is saying that the election was invalid; only that it's not all sunshine and lollipops. Personally I think that the election would have gone even better if it had been held in early 2004 (at least before June). They might even had goten some Sunni participation then, before the insurgency had mushroomed. But that's all water under the bridge. The best thing going forward is to support the will of the Iraqi people.

I've just given Chas an elbow on the previous thread, so let me point out here that he has praised Sistani as well.

I'm not sure if 'cheerleading' is the worst pejorative I've ever heard, but I had to wince when CNN did the story about the Iraqi child born on the day of the elections. I didn't have the stomach to listen to is, so I'm assuming that it was some heart-string tugging piece about how this child was born on the same day that democracy was reborn in Iraq (as only Bill Hemmer can deliver, Soledad displays a preternatural ability to avoid the worst of this garbage) I admit that Professor Cole may be a bit jaded, but do you really think this doesn't just slightly partake of 'cheerleading'?

blockquoteRilkefan, again, one can report good news without the being described with the pejorative "cheerleading."

Of course one can - I'd say the NYT has done so - the question is whether e.g. CNN has been reporting good news or cheerleading.

Oh, good lord. That's right up there on the genius scale with "the sky is blue" and "fires are hot". Hell, our country could be described as having a lot of major problems facing it

Well, I didn't think I should do any more restating for Cole, but he was a mite more specific than my gross overgeneralization. As I was saying though, it seems liek von is saying half-full, and Cole is saying half-empty, but they actually do agree that the election is a good thing. Enthusiastically in von's case, grudgingly in Cole's. I'm still in the wait and see camp.

but he was a mite more specific than my gross overgeneralization

Fair enough. Consider my last remark retracted.

Still, one has to ask, why "grudging"?

Yesterday was a great victory for Bush's policies in Iraq

Ah, the genius of setting low expectations.

I wonder how Sistani views the Iran-Iraq War and America's duplicity, which encouraged Shia brothers (Arab and Persian) to kill each other in huge amounts?

I have a strange feeling that Sistani is not divorced from history like most Americans.

This is interesting.

U.S. Encouraged by Vietnam Vote :
Officials Cite 83% Turnout Despite Vietcong Terror

by Peter Grose, Special to the New York Times (9/4/1967: p. 2)

WASHINGTON, Sept. 3-- United States officials were surprised and heartened today at the size of turnout in South Vietnam's presidential election despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting.

According to reports from Saigon, 83 per cent of the 5.85 million registered voters cast their ballots yesterday. Many of them risked reprisals threatened by the Vietcong.

The size of the popular vote and the inability of the Vietcong to destroy the election machinery were the two salient facts in a preliminary assessment of the nation election based on the incomplete returns reaching here.

...

A successful election has long been seen as the keystone in President Johnson's policy of encouraging the growth of constitutional processes in South Vietnam.

No, I'm not citing this to justify the usual comparisons. I just think it's interesting.

I have a strange feeling that Sistani is not divorced from history like most Americans.

I know a few good lawyers, I think...

It's a trial separation, Slarti. No need to call Johnny Lawbook just yet.

Stupid question, but von, why is the font size in your post larger than the rest of the page? Or is that just me and my browser?

I've written about Sistani here and here, and have found him to be a reasonable guy who chose to work in good faith with the U.S. and the interim government. Juan Cole may have a few relevant points here and there, but they get lost amid his unrelenting use of the Gloom Cole Formula. He's a glass one-eighth empty fella.

Stupid question, but von, why is the font size in your post larger than the rest of the page? Or is that just me and my browser?

Hmmm. It actually appears smaller on my browser (I'm currently using IE). I'll try to fix it.

Edward: Ah, the genius of setting low expectations.

And shifting the goal posts, let's not forget. ;-)

It actually appears smaller on my browser (I'm currently using IE).

A reversal of the usual male perspective issue, I'm guessing.

The fact that all of us only use examples of political theory done in an American framework (founding fathers, federalism, democracy, freedom) and never use the political theory prcticed in Iraq may really reveal how limited our sight is.

The anti-colonial impulse is strong throughout the Third World. It is a framwork for much ideology, both left and right, religious and secular. The fact that we keep using American archetypes to frame Iraqi stories, really is revealing.

Iran is a constitutional theocrocy, and is very much democratic and is proof that one should be specific when discussing political theory. A democratic republic like ours is structured differantly than a theocratic republic.

I am sure that the halls of Najaf are not quoting the Federalist Papers on their journey to independance. Their political theories are alive and well and may disgust many of the right-wingers who have a distorted view of political theoiry to begin with.

The Shia clerics are probably happy that most Americans know nothing of other cultures becuase they do not have to enter discourse to justify their reasoning.

Thus far, democracy in the ME means the majority dominates, which does not bode well for libertyand freedom.

I think y'all all missing the point of Cole's references. The elections in Iran and Pakistan, pathetic as they were by Western standards, were more democratic than yesterday's election.

Their choices were limited, but in both cases voters in Iran and Pakistan knew who they were voting for and against, and sent a clear message about the direction they wanted their country to take. The 1997 Iran election was widely viewed as the first real choice available to Iranians in 20 years, and as a rejection of the hardliner slate in favor of the "liberal" Khatami. In 2002 Pakistanis increased the number of anti-Musharraf fundamentalists in parliament from 2 to 45 and made it near impossible for Musharraf to establish a ruling coalition. Clearly, the voters' intent hasn't been fully realised in either case. But the elections were an expression of that intent.

Cole isn't proclaiming Iran and Pakistan as democratic societies; he's saying yesterday's election doesn't even meet the reduced standard of other elections in the region.

And as he's said numerous times before, Cole calls things as he sees them, not on what will get Democrats elected in '06.

Von,

Your post us a bit strange, to say the least. You claim Cole is wrong about nearly everything, yet you only refer to his opinions and have nothing to counterargue. I don't know what media you watched but I only saw cheerleading on the newschannels. If that's your only complaint...

I think Cole is basically right and we will have to see where this goes.

"Cole isn't proclaiming Iran and Pakistan as democratic societies; he's saying yesterday's election doesn't even meet the reduced standard of other elections in the region."

Yes I know, and in that he is being ridiculous. These elections did not have the repressive nature of the Iranian regime breathing down people's neck. It is a perfectly silly comparison.

Sebastian,

Have you read all the critiques The Islamic Revolutionary Parties of Iraq have made conserning Iranian elections? (I think they admire them) Do you know how the Islamic Revolutionaries kept Iraqi Communist Party (and other Leftist Parties) from campaigning in areas where the Islamic clerics think secular ideologies should be jailed?

Shi'a - The Islamic Republic

Shi'a Islam

Democracy and the Rule of the Clergy in Iran: Problems of Coexistence

Shi'a Modern Iran

Shiia Islam

I really do not read much that would encourage pluralism and liberty in Shia political theory, I do know the Kurds seem to mistrust Shia clerics as much as Saddam.

good morning everyone. nice weekend?

re: great victory for Bush.

There was a lot of this nonsense about the fall of the Berlin Wall being a great day for Reagan. It was a great day for GERMANS; it was a good day for Americans; it was an opportunity for yet another american president to claim credit for the bravery of other people.

so too iraq. look, once the decision to invade was made, some election was going to occur at some point. Or were there people who believed that we would run Iraq as a protectorate indefinitely? i can't imagine many liberals did.

the point is that it's hard to give too much credit to the president for iraqis voting. How's the power supply, water supply, gasoline supply, kerosene supply, sewage treatment supply, supply of security? these things are the responsibilities of america. and we still ain't doing so well.

The one thing that has been in supply in excess is american righty triumphalism. Voting is, admittedly, an important step, but it is entirely possible that those who were elected will end up being a step in the wrong direction. Three-way civil war has always been a dangerous possibility. If Iraqis elected hard-core nationalists, they took an important step toward fighting that war.

SH sez: "These elections did not have the repressive nature of the Iranian regime breathing down people's neck. It is a perfectly silly comparison."

this may be the funniest thing i read all week. I suppose that the repressive nature of the insurgency and the occupation are almost, but not quite, completely unlike the repressive nature of the iranian theocracy.

[hat tip to douglas adams]

Cheers

Francis

"Great Victory for Bush"

Well, that seems to confirm Cole's statement about media cheerleading regarding the elections -- in this instance, the cheer being led by von.

Since you correctly note that the elections were held now because of the insistence of Sistani (as opposed to the resistance of Bush), how can you then award Bush with credit for something he was against?

Let's remember that the Bush plan was to first install cronies (Chalabi, et al, per Judith Miller's recent remarks) well before holding elections -- which were at the earliest to occur in 2006. The Sistani plan was for elections last year, when according to Bush it was allegedly too unstable to permit elections to proceed. We then belatedly held the elections after the instability increased (and a parallel be drawn between growing unrest snd delayed elections).

The elections are a good thing -- its also a good thing that Bush had to be dragged to the table for this program. Let's not pretend otherwise.

Also, don't fool yourself. The elections appear to be a victory for the Iran-lite faction of Iraqi politics, which seems to be Sistani's predilictions. He may be more reasonable than your typical mullah, but a semi-religious state based on Shia principles is still his goal. It will have more in common with Iran than the USA.

The country still teeters on civil war, with the USA presently doing the fighting for the Shia militia against their Sunni rivals.

Any bets on whether or not the Shia majority will find a way to include the Kurds or Sunni in the new Iraqi order that is acceptable to these minorities? That is the key to future success.

NeoDude I'm not sure what you are trying to say with your links. The third especially seems to be taking at face value the idea that the election of Khatami changed the nature of the country's system, when the reality is that the way the clerics have marginalized him shows that his ability to change things is essentially nil.

Are you trying to say that the Islamic Revolutionary Party of Iraq kept people from doing things? Ok, so let us compare to Iran. In Iraq, that Party can try to bully people, but did not control the state to opress people. In Iran, it controls everything. Yet Cole says that Iran is the more democratic place.

Anyone else see this?

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2005_01/005556.php

GT to Von "Your post us a bit strange, to say the least. You claim Cole is wrong about nearly everything, yet you only refer to his opinions and have nothing to counterargue."

Obviously, Von's opinions are different than Mr. Coles. I've tried to read him now and then and usually give up. Taking the most negative of every situation, bits and pieces of fact, then molding them neatly into a tidy rendition matching his rubber stamp meme is too obvious for me.

One thing I was happy to learn from an honest history professor is that history is not tidy. Looking back a week or so at Mr. Coles Iraq election predictions based on his firm grasp of the facts and acute wisdom regarding history proved fruitless. He missed by a country mile. I can see why some have engaged almost a cult following for his work. He packages it nicely and says exactly the things they wish were true. Then the meme becomes the truth. When in fact, some history is made by playing the hand your delt, drawing and discarding cards along the way, and ultimately you are sometimes fortunate to reach your goal, some of it or more than you hoped for. Talk about lowering expectations and setting the bar. It's the naysayers performing that function quite nicely, thank you. I say Mr. Cole is the blind squirrel. Every now and then his hopeless portrayal of history draws some resemblence, but as is the case this week, he's just what Von says he is - wrong.

Can you show the exact cite of Cole's comment that missed by a mile?

Blogbudsman: Looking back a week or so at Mr. Coles Iraq election predictions based on his firm grasp of the facts and acute wisdom regarding history proved fruitless. He missed by a country mile.

I was going to be a bit more sarcastic about it, but I'll refrain.

I looked back a week, and I can't find any post of Coles' that is out "by a country mile". (Obviously, all American predictions are "fruitless", Coles as much as anyone else's, since the vast majority of Americans have no influence over Iraqi elections one way or another.) So, if you have a specific claim in mind that you think didn't follow through, why not specify what post you're talking about? Or, like Von appears to be doing, are you saying you disagree for the sake of disagreement when you know the facts are as Coles stated them?

I suppose "missed by a country mile" refers to the 60% (or more) turn out as opposed to the 43% which Cole said would constitute a success. Cole predicted that Sistani's group would get a large percentage--seems he ws right about that. He also predicted that Allawi's group would get a respectable slice of the vote--seems he might be right about that, too. He predicted that the Kurds wold turn out to vote, predicting on McNeil Lehrer that their turnout would be in the 40% which he thought would be good. Also he sited an opinion poll which predicted that about half the Kurds would vote. He seems to have got that right as well.
So he didn't do half bad. Now let's see how the actual count comes out. I hope Sistani's group gets a bigger-than -predicted share and I hope Allawi's gets less than predicted.

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2005_01/005556.php

Yeah, it's been going the rounds. Hopefully things will be different this time.

Speaking of lowered expectations, if the new govt does turn out to be religious Shia, and they continue to support women's right to vote, I will consider it a victory for democracy. Otoh, if the new govt turns out to be secular Shia, and they are challenged by a majority of Iraqis as US puppets and/or corrupt, I will also count it a victory.

Otoh, if the new govt turns out to be secular Shia, and they are challenged by a majority of Iraqis as US puppets and/or corrupt, I will also count it a victory.

NOT challenged. sorry!!!

PS, folks: in all the media hoopla surrounding the Iraqi election (and, FWIW, I too found the general media tone in its coverage to be one of golly-gee cheerleading), does anyone know (or can provide a link to) what, precisely, the results of the vote turned out to be?
Most of coverage I have read in the MSM (as well as that I have perused, so far, in the blogosphere) seems to concentrate mostly on marvelling at the fact that Iraq was able to hold some sort of election at all, that it was not a bloodstained debacle, and that this event has somehow vindicated every and all of President Bush's Iraq policies (and pace Von, these elections HAVE happened as much in spite of the Administration's actions as because of them).
So now, what exactly have the Iraqis voted FOR? Who are the "winning" candidates/parties/lists? The "losers"?
Any indications as to who/what influences will be dominant/suppressed in the crafting of their new constitution? Which parties look to be popular/not for upcoming elections?
Maybe it is just too soon to tell, but unlike most elections, here and abroad, the mere fact of voting in Iraq (and the attendant outpouring of self-congratulation from the pro-war, pro-Bush crowd) seems to have overshadowed the RESULTS of said vote.

since the invasion of Iraq, who has, over time, made more accurate predictions regarding the situation there:

1) The Bush administration.
2) The right wing war bloggers.
3) Juan Cole.

The answer, for those playing along at home, is 3. Listening to people who have been disastrously wrong over and over whinge about the reliability of someone who has been right over and over is farcical, particularly when no specifics are mentioned. Usually it ends with said actors complaining about Mr. Cole having the gall to mention numbers of casualties on a regular basis. Support the troops!

Jay C: Maybe it is just too soon to tell, but unlike most elections, here and abroad, the mere fact of voting in Iraq (and the attendant outpouring of self-congratulation from the pro-war, pro-Bush crowd) seems to have overshadowed the RESULTS of said vote.

I read that it was estimated it would take 3-5 days to count the votes. So, I would expect to hear what the results of the vote was on Wednesday at earliest: any reports before that have to be based on exit polls or inspired guessing. (Or both.)

what, precisely, the results of the vote turned out to be?
I was going to suggest http://www.electionsiraq.org but I can't seem to get in there at all right now.

I'm guessing the ballots are still being counted.

GT meet http://www.detnews.com/2004/editorial/0412/05/A17-23977.htm>Juan Cole

Another quarter heard from.

http://raedinthemiddle.blogspot.com/

"I really feel surprised about the way the elections are being romanticized, as if Iraqis are another kind of creatures who don't give a damn for all the tragedies in their lives, and just care about voting. As if Iraqis are one-track programmed machines that the bush administration created to vote, vote, vote, and cry out of joy.

"If anyone thinks that the current elections are fundamentally different from the ones that used to happen before the war, you are wrong. Maybe at that time Iraqis had one fake option, and now they have 100 fake options."

Blogbudsman: GT meet Juan Cole

Thanks for the link. So, on 5 December 2004, Juan Cole made a number of intelligent and well-informed predictions about the election and its aftermath. About the aftermath, we none of us yet know: it looks like his predictions about the election have proved accurate. Your point?

These elections did not have the repressive nature of the Iranian regime breathing down people's neck.

Excuse me, I just talk to this brick wall over here instead.

If the Iraq election was not even as democratic as one held in one of the most repressive regimes on the planet, it probably wasn't very democratic.

Neo,

"I have a strange feeling that Sistani is not divorced from history like most Americans."

Maybe, that's just the crowd you hang with. Most Americans I know understood that we were fighting the cold war with the USSR and made strategic decisions during that time.

"it looks like his predictions about the election have proved accurate. Your point?"

I predict they will have another election in about a year.

I predict there will be more violence in Iraq.

Please feel free to tell everyone that I predicted that.

Btw, I also predict that our troops would need to be in Iraq for atleast 3 years.


smlook,

I predict that your predictions will not be viewed as having "missed by a country mile" as blogbudsman felt Juan Cole's did. Other than that, do you have a point?

Y'know, it would be nice if people here actually read up about things like, for instance, the actual mechanics of Pakistani elections versus the actual mechanics of Iraqi elections before demonstrating that one is "self-evidently" more democratic than another. If nothing else, this is incredibly lazy.

Musharraf may be an illegitimate military dictator, but the elections in 2002 changed the face of the Pakistani legislature considerably - not for the better from an American standpoint, but certainly reflecting the will of the constituents. The legislators elected might have been far-right militants, but voters knew who they were and what they stood for when they voted for them.

In Iraq, where voters were voting for party lists without knowing which candidates were on them, and a single party list contained candidates ranging from Ahmed Chalabi to Muqtada al Sadr to al-Hakim, it's unclear just what a vote for, say, the United Iraqi Alliance represents, other than allegiance to Sistani's tacit endorsement of it.

The kicker, of course, is that the Pakistani system is itself undemocratic, in that the legislature's power is next to nil, whereas the new Iraqi interim assembly will (hopefully) be a real government with real decision-making authority. But in comparing the elections themselves, the process by which Iraq's assembly has been picked has been a very bad one, and Cole is right to criticize it.

Now here is something to make you go Hmmmm...

Juan Cole:
I said on television last week that this event is a "political earthquake" and "a historical first step" for Iraq.

Juan Cole:
"These elections are a joke," said Juan Cole, a professor of modern Middle East history at the University of Michigan. "The Bush administration has created the worst possible advertisement for democracy because the perception across the Middle East is that democracy means you get a country where everything is out of control," he said.

Seems like he voted for it before voted against it is spreading.

Smlook: Now here is something to make you go Hmmmm...

Not unless you provide links so we know where, when, and in what context Juan Cole said what you say he said.

Seems like he voted for it before voted against it is spreading.

And GWB is leading the charge!

"If the Iraq election was not even as democratic as one held in one of the most repressive regimes on the planet, it probably wasn't very democratic."

Yes, if that were true, it would be true. But it isn't true that the Iraqi election was not even as democratic as the one held in Iran. It was sick hyperbole from someone who knows better. The Iraqi people did not have a repressive ruling regime breathing down their necks. The Iraqi people had a large number of choices. The Iraqi people are not ruled by crazy clerics.

I really shouldn't comment on yet a third thread, given a lack of desire to spend unlimited time here (sorry!), but having read this: "It would be ironic indeed if this reclusive, Iranian Ayatollah turned out to be among the founding fathers (and mothers) of a new, democratic Iraq. Sweetly ironic for some, I think."

I'm wondering where the irony is.

I apologize that I skimmed through the comments, though I did run my eyes over each one, quickly. My only response: Juan Cole has virtues and faults as a commentator on Iraq and Iran (and the Middle East and politics in general). I disagree with a fair amount of what he thinks/says, sometimes most emphatically; but he also has a lot more familiarity with Iraq and Iran than most, and is often worth at least considering, as well. In my opinion.

Iron Lungfish,
In general, I agree with your post, but this statement, a single party list contained candidates ranging from Ahmed Chalabi to Muqtada al Sadr to al-Hakim, jumped out at me.

al-Sadr didn't run as a candidate, did he? I thought he sorta vaguely, implicitly endorsed that list while simulteneously vaguely implying that he could also be construed as being against the elections in general. Did I get that wrong?

Oh, and Sistani's an interesting guy who might be a hero. Juan Cole is a knowledgeable guy with clear opinions (see supra, Gary Farber's take).

I looked back a week, and I can't find any post of Coles' that is out "by a country mile".

How about this:

"These elections are a joke," said Juan Cole, a professor of modern Middle East history at the University of Michigan. "The Bush administration has created the worst possible advertisement for democracy because the perception across the Middle East is that democracy means you get a country where everything is out of control," he said.
There was a joke all right, and the joke turned out to be Gloom Cole's painfully wrong assessment.

There was a joke all right, and the joke turned out to be Gloom Cole's painfully wrong assessment.

I don't follow. Pretty much everything in Iraq is out of control right now. It's true that the election went as well as could be expected -- better, in fact, than I had anticipated -- but that doesn't obviate the perception that Cole is talking about, nor does it mean that everything is suddenly stabilized and hunky-dory.

Now if, five years down the line, Iraq stabilizes... then, yes, you can laugh him to scorn. As it stands, I think your dismissal is painfully premature.

There was a joke all right, and the joke turned out to be Gloom Cole's painfully wrong assessment.

Chas, you might consider what Cole wrote about that quote.

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.)

The dismissal was premature as soon as it was typed...

Sebastian: The Iraqi people did not have a repressive ruling regime breathing down their necks.

No, they had a violent military occupation and a violent insurgency breathing down their necks. Your point?

The Iraqi people had a large number of choices.

And, as others have pointed out, they weren't allowed to know what those choices were.

The Iraqi people are not ruled by crazy clerics.

No: they're currently ruled by a military dictatorship fronted by a puppet dictator.

"No: they're currently ruled by a military dictatorship fronted by a puppet dictator."

It's pretty premature, at best, in my view, to declare Allawi a "military dictator." Do you have some evidence that he's locking up colleagues or shooting them or otherwise Enforcing His Iron Will As A Dictator?

authoritarian?

each sectarian group has its own militia that enforces local laws and customs...fiefdoms?

Gary: I think Jes' saw Allawi in the role of puppet dictator and the US as the militairy dictatorship. But I could be wrong of course.

I would say we've got plenty to complain about and work on in the U.S. without having to exaggerate the charges to a point where they can be mocked. Energy should be saved for real argument and organizing, not exaggerated rhetoric that can be turned back on one's side to discredit it.

Damn, Gary. Where would we be without all of the lovely hyperbole?

I would say we've got plenty to complain about and work on in the U.S. without having to exaggerate the charges to a point where they can be mocked.

Darn, another isolationist ;-)

You should however appreciate the comment in the context of comparing Iraq and Iran in how 'free' their elections were.

did someone say elections?

Syrian Elections

Egyptian Elections

Iranian Elections

Kuwaiti Elections

Gary: It's pretty premature, at best, in my view, to declare Allawi a "military dictator."

Indeed: and I didn't. Puppet dictator was my phrase.

That the US is currently fulfilling all the functions of a military dictatorship in Iraq (and taking on many of its characteristics) is fact, not hyperbole.

"That the US is currently fulfilling all the functions of a military dictatorship in Iraq (and taking on many of its characteristics) is fact, not hyperbole."

I often fulfil the role of a couch potato, and yet I am not actually a vegetable. Asserting that I am is hyperbole, and factually untrue.

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