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Sunday, January 30

Election Evaluation  

Juan Cole posts his thoughts on the election in Iraq:

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.)

This thing was more like a referendum than an election. It was a referendum on which major party list associated with which major leader would lead parliament.

Many of the voters came out to cast their ballots in the belief that it was the only way to regain enough sovereignty to get American troops back out of their country. The new parliament is unlikely to make such a demand immediately, because its members will be afraid of being killed by the Baath military. One fears a certain amount of resentment among the electorate when this reticence becomes clear.

The most difficult aspect of evaluating this election is that something genuinely good did happen in Iraq, but the mendacity, the American and Iraqi body counts, the cost in treasure and legitimacy to our country and Iraq simply doesn't reconcile. Moreover, I think it is extremely important to note that this election was neither unique nor even particularly new for the Middle East. Prof. Cole: "But this process is not a model for anything, and would not willingly be imitated by anyone else in the region. The 1997 elections in Iran were much more democratic, as were the 2002 elections in Bahrain and Pakistan." Further complicating the reactions of any American is the hysterical invective thrown by some commenters on the right at anyone who has the audacity to make a measured evaluation of the situation on the ground. Could any of these Bush seraphim admit to the public that their pet project in Iraq has been, thus far, less democratic and less legitimate than the stumbling steps toward freedom that have been taking place in Iran for the past decade and more? The comedy of their ambition to march on Tehran is tragic indeed.



Previous Posts:  Books: The Politics of War | Chapter Two  …  Books: The Politics of War | Introduction  …  Books: The Politics of War | Chapter One  …  Reflections on Michael Powell  …  Iraq's Election  …  Books: Blink  …  Just Let It Go  …  My Inner Daffy  …  Fafnir on PrivatizationPrivatePersonalAccounts  …  Advice and Consent  … 

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