Sunday, January 30, 2005

The Election in Iraq

Iraqis are voting today in the beginning of a process that, if successful, will lead to democratic constitutional government during the coming year. This will be unique in the Middle East except for Israel, the region's only democracy.

In the south of Iraq, voting is proceeding peacefully. In Sunni areas where terrorists continue to attempt to stop the election people are voting anyway, apparently in large numbers. Despite the violence intended to intimidate them, CNN is showing jubilant Iraqis leaving polling places in these areas, overjoyed at having cast their first-ever free votes.

This is not happening because of the United Nations, or France, or Russia, or any of the other countries who have so strongly opposed U.S. action in Iraq. It isn't happening because of the media, most of which has done everything possible to focus on the negative and obscure progress in Iraq. It's happening because of the United States, which defeated Iraq's dictator and created conditions under which elections could be held.

From the lead editorial in today's Washington Post:

The Bush administration and much of the world will be riveted by the news from Iraq today as millions of citizens head for some 5,000 polling places -- and insurgents try to kill as many of them as possible. ... What is already clear is that the most fateful struggle in Iraq is between the millions willing to risk their lives for a new political order founded on a free vote and an extremist minority whose cause, as succinctly stated by Abu Musab Zarqawi, is "a bitter war against the principle of democracy and all those who seek to enact it." Today, and in the months after the election, it should be the mission of the United States to support that civil majority and help it defend itself against its totalitarian enemy.

Analysts who reduce the war in Iraq to a nationalist "resistance" against a U.S. occupation should be pressed to explain the events of the past couple of weeks: the brutal murders of election officials; the bombings of schools where voting was due; the bloodcurdling threats against those who approached the polls -- and the extraordinarily courageous response by tens of thousands of Iraqis who presented themselves as candidates or volunteered as poll workers. ...

...the new government must clearly establish that violence will not be a means of political leverage in a democratizing Iraq. ... That will require greater will by Iraqis to defend their new government, but it will also require, for the near future, help from U.S. troops. Much as it resents the foreign presence, the emerging Iraqi majority understands this reality -- which is why the violent "resistance" to U.S. troops now is limited almost entirely to those minority Sunnis who also oppose majority rule. When Iraq's majority, as democratically represented by its new government, asks the United States to agree to a timetable for withdrawal, the Bush administration should acquiesce -- as President Bush himself agreed this month. Until that time, this country has a critical obligation -- both moral and practical -- to continue defending the Iraq composed of those brave citizens who go to the polls today.

The polls haven't closed yet, and it will be several days before a fair assessment can be made. No doubt the election isn't going to be perfect. There will be areas under greatest threat from terrorists where turnout will not be as high as everyone would have liked. There will be confusion and administrative errors. There will be conspiracy theories and charges of various kinds of corruption. Much of this won't be so different from post-election complaints common to all democracies.

We have to expect that many in the media will continue to emphasize the negative, and the usual suspects, including American leftists, will continue to do everything possible to diminish Iraqi and U.S. achievements. The U.S. government should ignore this drumbeat of defeatism and stay the course, helping Iraq move from the hope of democracy to it's full realization. That will be a massive achievement, not only for Iraq and the Middle East, but for the world.


Blogger MaxedOutMama said...

Yes, it is a massive achievement, but what's mesmerizing me about this story is the courage of the men and women heading out to vote in Iraq.

How many of us in the West care this much about our right to vote? I guess you could say that those in the Armed Forces are putting their lives on the line to defend our democratic institutions, but so many people over here don't seem to have a clue about what they have.

All I can say is that this day ought to be a humbling rebuke to all those who said that Iraqis were too backward for freedom, and that a dictatorship was the best form of government for them. Anyone who does not react with the acknowledgement that this people deserve the same rights as all other peoples is dead at heart.

8:40 AM, January 30, 2005  
Blogger Gindy said...

So far it seems like a success. As of now they had 60% turnout, 8 million voters according to the news. But, we shall see.

12:28 PM, January 30, 2005  
Blogger howard said...

It's a good story, Tom. The people there are obviously more appreciative of their voting rights than we are in the U.S. -- I recall this past election, when for the first time I can recall, there were actually lines at so many of the polls. I heard more than a few people grumble about having to wait in line, and some even left because they didn't want to wait -- I thought it was great thing to actually have to wait in line to vote, but these folks in Iraq did so under the explicit threat of violence, some even gave their lives to the effort.

It's admirable, and I'm glad that the insurgents didn't get to mount the campaign of election day violence they seemed to have hoped for. One would have to hope this will signal a shift in momentum, a signal to the insurgency that most Iraqis do not share their warped agenda.

12:03 AM, January 31, 2005  
Blogger Kevin said...

I think the vote in Sunni areas is somewhat less simplistic as just terrorist trying to prevent voting.

Correct me if I'm wrong on this, Tom... But, hasn't the UN been working for months now, at the explicit request of the Bush admin, on setting up this here election? How can you say that the election isn't happening because of the UN? Is it really that important to you to slam the UN at every opportunity?

Some 1400 dead American soldiers, thousands more wounded... a large number of them permanently disfigured as the result so that another country on the other side of the world could have elections. Not to mention the tens of billions of taxpayer dollars spent. How many non-democratic countries are you, Tom, willing to sacrifice 1400 more dead soldiers for the cause of giving them a chance at a relatively free and fair election?

It's great for the Iraqi's. But what of the North Koreans? Sudanese Christians? The whole central region of Africa is a bloody, brutal mess. Can we afford to give them all a chance at democracy at the point of a gun?

12:26 AM, January 31, 2005  
Blogger Francesca said...

Trust me, I would celebrate right alongside you if I thought that this election could actually be branded a success. But the polling numbers don't match up to what anyone should be calling "high turnout." When people really trust the democratic process, they come out in droves to vote. Witness South Africa's first truly democratic election in 1994. Voter turnout was 90%. People walked for days to get to the polls. It's clear that people in Iraq were terrified to vote--either because of personal intimidation or because of the genuine threat of violence. Or perhaps they did not think that the election was legitimate. Voter turnout in Iraq in the past few "elections" had been very high, probably also because of fear of the consequences. But this low turnout yesterday (somewhere between 50-60%), is really nothing to toot one's horn about.
Sometime in the spring or summer of 2004, there was talk about what would happen should there be another terrorist attack on election day in the US. The consensus was that the elections would be postponed. That got me a little nervous at the time. But why can't we hold Iraq to the same standards? Terrorist attacks are a daily occurence there. Why not postpone the elections until things are a bit more stable and the populace feels safe? Considering that more than 40 people were killed yesterday in Iraq, it's clear that the fact that elections are being held did not convey peace, stability, and democracy to those who are staging violent acts in that country.

10:55 AM, January 31, 2005  
Blogger Tom Carter said...

My response to Francesca is at her site, Francesca's Liberal Wingnut Corner.

9:36 PM, January 31, 2005  
Blogger Subbu said...

No doubt America's efforts in conducting the elections on schedule are laudable. Hopefully, the outcome of the elections would fall in line with the spirit!

12:03 AM, February 01, 2005  
Blogger Tom Carter said...

Kevin, the election in Iraq didn't happen because of the UN, in any sense. They have had a small contingent there for a while to work on the election, but I can't find evidence that they've done much. The biggest news they made was when the head of their group criticized the U.S. for handing out election information flyers, then the UN quickly withdrew the statement. And I'm not always critical of the UN. In other posts I've commented on the good work often done by their field organizations, for example. But the truth is, it's been a while since the UN did much worth getting excited about.

No, of course I don't advocate attempting to democratize the world by force. I'm not sure I've ever heard anyone say that, in any serious sense. Iran and North Korea remain as serious problems in terms of our national interest, but each case is different and requires a different approach.

Am I willing to "sacrifice" soldiers? Come on, Kevin.

4:55 PM, February 02, 2005  
Blogger Medbh said...

check your facts before you speak.
The Iraqi were voting because they thought that
a) the vote meant the end of the US occupation
b) their food ration cards were withheld
c) US troops had invaded their homes and told them to vote---BTW---were these same soldier's votes counted in the US presidential elections???--many were not, mail delay, it seems
d) the math belies the 72% and the 60% voter turn out--go do some research on Iraq's population
e) my oh my--The International Republican Party, a branch of the US Republican party, finaced much of the campaigns, the candidates--and there were over 7700 candidates--and were in charge of the post election polls-----
f) entire CITIES did not vote
g) polling centers were shut down in many major cities, like Fallujah, as if they have many adults alive to vote, anyway
h) go to the eirag site, and you will see how the elections affected the Iraqi people.
i) the only place where long lines were seen were in places where it was safe to stand in a line--like in the northern Kurdish area--where, BTW, FMG is widely practiced--what is FMG? Female genital Mutilation. The Kurds were always our allies--what is GWB doing about this horrendous practice??

Please do everyone a favor and think, and research what you hear in a bought media, before you spread crap.

Do you know what a Bremer dinar is? research it, I am sure that lots of people are deciding if they should cash their's in now, or what a bit for the chance of a higher return

8:42 PM, February 03, 2005  
Blogger Tom Carter said...

Medbh, thanks for your comment. I'm just guessing here, but it seems you disagree. Was it something I said? Or was it the Washington Post?

9:38 AM, February 04, 2005  

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