Tuesday, February 01, 2005

On the Iraqi elections

Marc Cooper, Nation and Los Angeles Weekly columnist and translator for Chilean President Salvador Allende

The Iraqi elections were surreal but on the whole heartening and downright inspiring. I cannot imagine many Americans voting under such horrific conditions, frankly. There are many reasons why the Bush administration insisted on having this vote take place in the midst of a bloody war—and few of them have anything to do with the advancement of democracy. And please remmeber that the Bush administration orginally opposed this type of direct voting having orginally pushed for a cockamamie caucus system. The direct one man-one vote polling was won by the Iraqis, and specifically by the struggle of Ayatollah Sistani.

All in all, I don't think it was fair to force people out into the current atmopshere to vote and that the elections should have been preceeded by enhanced security conditions.

That said, millions of Iraqis disagreed and were willing to brave the risk of car bombs and mortar fire because they hope and want a better future-- something they are absolutely entitled to.

I don’t believe that the invasion of Iraq and the ensuing occupation were justified by the arguments presented by the Bush administration. Nor do I believe for a moment that this administration knew or currently knows what it is doing and is dangerously lost in a fog of dogma.

But the political opening in Iraq, no matter its limited size and the grotesque distortions imposed by the war, is a felicitous by-product of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the U.S. occupation.

Those of who opposed this war and who want to see the U.S. troops withdrawn as soon as possible should unequivocally encourage the tenuous political process now underway in Iraq. We should stand for more and better elections, not fewer. We should be encouraging the writing of a fair constitution, an inclusion of the Sunnis into the process in order to reduce the violence, and a bolstering of civil society (as a safeguard against fundamentalism). If we merely write off yesterday's vote as only potemkin or charade elections we take ourselves out of any serious debate and we degrade the legitimate aspirations of the Iraqi people. Indeed, the more one opposes the war and its pretexts, the more we should support the stabilization of a successful, pluralistic Iraqi state.

There is no “other side” to support. The Bush administration’s cartoonish characterization of the armed opposition is just that -- cartoonish. The insurgency is, indeed, rife with religious fundamentalists, revengeful Ba’athists and a certain foreign terrorist element. We can also be sure that there are other less politically defined “nationalist” strains who are just plain angry and humiliated by the dire economic conditions and by the presence of foreign troops. But taken together, this insurgency offers no evidence of supporting a political process that is somehow more open than the limited process imposed by the U.S.

Fred Kaplan in SLATE

along many avenues of Iraq's journey to democracy (or wherever it's headed), there are many, many miles to go.

And yet, is it too romantic to see signs of real hope in today's election? One thing is clear: The day marked a terrible defeat for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who had declared democracy to be an "infidel" belief. He and his goons passed out leaflets threatening to kill anyone and everyone who dared to vote; they dramatized their threat by killing dozens of police and poll workers in the days leading up to the election. And yet millions of Iraqis—including a fairly large number of Sunnis who live in Shiite areas—defied their fears and voted. Whatever mayhem they inflict in the coming days, it will be hard for anyone to interpret their actions as reflecting the beliefs of "the street."

In the week before the election, several Sunni leaders said they want to participate in the constitutional process in any case. Do these leaders now regret their calls for a boycott of the election? Seeing how badly Zarqawi failed in his effort to halt or disrupt the election, will they now work more vigilantly to pursue their cause peacefully and to separate their nationalist followers from the foreign terrorists in their midst?

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