Elections in Iraq

January 30th, 2005 – 8:36 pm
Tagged as: Uncategorized

Juan Cole has some great comments about today’s election in Iraq, in which he points out some of the realities that you won’t hear much about from the Bush administration (or the major American news outlets):

So if it had been up to Bush, Iraq would have been a soft dictatorship under Chalabi, or would have had stage-managed elections with an electorate consisting of a handful of pro-American notables. It was Sistani and the major Shiite parties that demanded free and open elections and a UNSC resolution. They did their job and got what they wanted. But the Americans have been unable to provide them the requisite security for truly aboveboard democratic elections.

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

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

Are today’s elections in Iraq better than no elections at all? Probably, but that doesn’t make them a magical turning point after which everything will be just fine. The Bush administration will make a lot more mistakes in Iraq (like going over the border into Iran and inflaming the passions of Iraqi Shiites), and there is still going to be a high price paid in blood and treasure to move Iraq forward toward true independence.

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