Sunday, January 30, 2005

Iraq elections: Don't buy Operation Happy Talk

A number of you have e-mailed regarding today's elections. I checked the e-mails thinking I'd read a few before logging off the computer and getting some sleep.

As I'd just e-mailed someone, I honestly don't posses the vanity required to think the world awaits my weighing in on the topic. (I believe my own personal feelings are quite clear and have been for some time.) However, there's an e-mail griper or stalker who continues to flood the account ( Maybe he thinks he's being humerous? I have no idea. But he's noted what he's done on his blog throughout the day and states that The Common Ills has blown off today.

There are eight posts today. The first two required a great deal of research but they were me blogging on what I was interested in and hoped the community was as well. Six other posts that went up today (this will be the ninth for the day) are on topics the community wanted to address and share. If someone wants to argue that the first two topics are a waste of time, have at it (they may very well be a waste of time) but if, as the e-mailer I'm referring to, someone is attempting to taunt me or trash me, keep the focus on me. The other six posts that went up were a result of community input and they are not a waste nor is it ever a waste to address something the community wants to address.

[The first post, as has been pointed out by seven e-mailers, was also community requested. Rob and Wally had e-mailed -- and were noted in the first post as having done so -- about that front page story. My apologies to Rob and Wally for forgetting them in the midst of my rant.]

This entry is being done because a number of you had e-mailed in the last hour or so while I was working on the last post. I state that because I do not want the stalker/taunter to think he has had any impact on the community. (I don't reply to him anymore. There's little point in that when I'm unable to reply to everyone that writes a genuine e-mail. Hopefully, he'll find someone else to bother/play with.)

As for Iraq's elections today.

I'd asked Rebecca about her own thoughts earlier today (and shared mine to her) in an e-mail. She's blogged her thoughts at her site Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude:

but the reason the elections needed to be held was that we had promised them and promised them. over and over yet somehow we always postponed them -- dangle the carrot and then pull it back.
they've had their elections. that doesn't solve much. that does however give iraqis a sense of ownership. they can press their leaders who may or may not listen. that's not a problem peculiar to iraq - take a look at our own congress.
there's no such thing as a little democracy or a little pregnancy is something i was always told.
i think it's true. having voted, they will press even more. and maybe with them pressing, us pressing, the entire world pressing, we can end the occupation finally.this is their country and our presence there only increases the tensions and the violence.
while we've raided their resources and held a tag sale on pretty much everything (in violation of international law) we've treated them like slow children incapable of making their own decisions.
i don't doubt that they have a puppet government in place now. but they can press that government and we just lost a solid excuse for staying. they have an elected body. why are we still occuyping their country?
and iraqis will look at leaders who are not responsive and get vocal against them. having participated in a flawed election, they will demand accountability. the puppet government, installed by us, will either listen or not.

Ron blogged Saturday his thoughts on the elections at his site Why Are We Back in Iraq?:

Don't lend credence to this farce. This is an embarrassment. This is no way to hold an election. No one should have to face the threat of death in order to vote.
As much as I condemn the neoconservative occupation of a sovereign country even after the government has been dismantled, I sincerely believe that you should have the opportunity to vote for the future of your very lives. Let's have the election as soon as possible, but under rational circumstances.

He also questioned something that I hadn't seen anyone else ask, why wasn't the option of absentee voting offered to Iraqis?

Dilip Hiro has an interesting article available at AlterNet, "Iraq's Electoral Cul-de-sac" which closes with:

"The Americans and Allawi insisted on having these elections to prove they are in control of Iraq," said an unnamed guerrilla leader. "We intend to prove them wrong. The resistance will intensify after the elections and will never cease until the American occupiers leave Iraq."
So the forthcoming poll will likely provide another example of the cure proving to be worse than the disease.

For an overview of what today means in practical purposes, check out this from the BBC that breaks it down in easy to understand form.

We'll hear much of the "record turnout" from the mainstream media, but let's remember what Dahr Jamail (who is not embedded and is not hiding in the Green Zone) stated days ago:

With the "elections" just three days away, people are terrified. Families are fleeing Baghdad much as they did prior to the invasion of the country. Seeking refuge from what everyone fears to be a massive onslaught of violence in the capital city, huge lines of cars are stacked up at checkpoints on the outer edges of the city.
Policemen and Iraqi soldiers are trying to convince people to stay in the city and vote.
Nobody is listening to them.

And let's note as well what Jamail blogged on January 28th:

Like the election and the aftermath, nobody knows for sure what will happen here. Baghdad is on pins and needles. Gunfire cracks in the distance as I finish this. Two distant explosions (the car bombs) rattled the hotel earlier this evening.
The curfews have been extended and all the security measures are now in place.
And, as usual, nobody knows what will happen next in occupied Iraq.
Whereas Baghdad is filled with Fallujah refugees, now villages and smaller cities on the outskirts of Baghdad are filling up with election refugees.

No one knows. I'm not going to play Cokie Roberts and weigh in on what the results meant. The ballots aren't even all counted yet and won't be for some time.

The Third Estate Sunday Review wrote a great editorial on the elections and the occupation weeks ago (no, Beth, I don't remember now if I gave input on that editorial or not) entitled
"'Bring the Troops Home' argues The Progressive, "Nah Let 'Em Stay" says the New York Times" which addressed the Times late call for a delay in the elections.

My opinion, it was by then too late to yet again stop the elections. (Rebecca was to the point and I agree with her post.) The elections were not perfect (they were probably corrupt as Rebecca argues in her post) but they needed to happen and the idea that "fine tuning" futher by our administration would bring about better (if "better" means democratic) results strikes me (my opinion) as beyond naive. They were the best that could happen considering the climate on the ground in Iraq and the administration in this country.

Democracy has not come to Iraq. If you read a headline proclaiming that, be skeptical. Don't fall for Operation Happy Talk that the Bully Boy and his cronies (some possibly paid to print that sort of nonsense) will be pushing. But the Iraqis can use this to begin to take control of their own country. (Which won't be easy with most of the things the administration has done.)

That's not because today was election day. They've had elections before (including in the pre-Saddam era). But that is because what happened today can allow them to call for control of their own country and for the global community to support that call. This is their country. We found no WMD. Saddam will be standing trial. They will soon have elected officials (who may or may not end up being puppet figures). There is no reason for the occupation to continue. (And it should have ended long ago.) (Actually, we never should have gone over there -- my opinion, as are the rest of the statements in this post not attributed to someone else.)

Today is not a seed of democracy, my opinion. I see it as a billboard that everyone in the world can spot and that Iraqis can point to and say, "See!" By that I mean, it's up there, it's out there. And they can insist that their leaders (and the U.S.) live up to the slogan on that billboard. If that doesn't happen, the reaction in the global community will hopefully lead to calls for the occupation to be ended.

(I find the notion of a "seed" very self-congratulatory and xenophobic. Again, elections have long taken place in Iraq. We didn't introduce them to a new gadget, fashion, or concept today. They're quite familiar with elections -- even if we lack the historical knowledge as a nation to grasp that fact.)

The Bully Boy promised elections, the elections have been held. I don't think anyone in Iraq finished voting and went home to suddenly discover clean water or less dangerous check points. But there is that billboard that reads "Iraqis will self-determine." And if that doesn't happen, it will be very hard for the Bully Boy to yet again weasel out. (Although he's suprised me by doing so before so who knows.)

(And please note, writing this means I'll now be up in three hours. Tomorrow morning's post may be very superficial. Also, if you find the billboard example lame, I do as well. But I'm dead tired and it's the best I can come up with on the spur of the moment.)

[Note: This post has been corrected to recognize the fact that I forgot -- Wally and Rob had weighed in on the first post prior to it being written. They were cited in the first entry. I apologize to both Rob and Wally for forgetting their input.]