I wrote 3/4 of an article about the Iraq elections yesterday, only to have it eaten by the tiny hyenas that hide in my computer waiting to pounce when I accidentally hit “ctrl-f4″.
To summarize what I originally wrote: “yeah, what that guy said“.
I don’t have a lot to say about the Iraqi elections because it’s way too early to know exactly what happened and what its ultimate effect will be…
And the Bush invasion of Iraq has managed to overtake the Reagan team in the categories of cynicism, dishonesty, unreliability and media manipulation—and we are reliably informed that we’re going to get the death squads back too. Given the fact that they have purged their remaining truth-tellers, literally nothing they say can be accepted at face value. I suggest that a considerable degree of skepticism about what we are seeing and hearing on Day One might be in order. (The imaginary turnout numbers have already fallen from 72 percent when I checked at 6.00 pm yesterday, to 57 percent this morning. At that rate, they will be negative by Wednesday.)
What’s more, elections do not a democracy make, and democracy is not necessarily the first or most important thing needed in Iraq to make that country safer and more secure—much less to accomplish the goal of reversing the hatred of the United States sown across the Arab world by the malignant policies and pronouncements of the Bush administration.
So yeah, too early to tell, and elections do not necessarily equal democracy (remember, there were elections both under Saddam Hussein and Josef Stalin). Just the fact that the Iraqis are under a military occupation, and face the threat of violence by insurgents (and by the US military) radically undermines the “democratic” nature of these elections. As does the fact that thousands of Iraqis were denied their right to vote, seemingly due to technical problems.
Also, I fear that the voter turn-out was artificially high because of a persistant rumor that people’s food rations would be withheld if they did not vote. I’ve even read reports that these were more than just rumors, but threats used by government officials to encourage voting. If true, this means that the election was less national discourse on the nation’s leadership, and more a referendum on “do you want to watch your children starve to death?”
And with all of the self-congratulation by Bush and the war supporters, it’s important to remember that they’ve re-written history fairly successfully. Today’s triumphalists wants us to forget the war rationale has metamorphosized at least half a dozen times since 2002. Even as the war took off, the US wasn’t looking at democracy, they were looking at installing that lovable con-man Ahmed Chalabi as presidente. And “swopa” has this great post documenting how the US actively opposed democracy in Iraq before finally caving in to popular pressure organized by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani.
At this point, the three key issues of Iraq’s future are the Sunni Arabs, Kurds, and rebels.
The Sunni Arabs boycotted the election en masse, which gives them little representation in the new assembly, little representation in drawing up a new constitution, and little chance of controlling the executive branch. This automatically allows them to call the new government’s legitimacy into question based upon this lack of representativeness. And they will be right, even though this bias was artificially engineered. I don’t know how this will play out.
The Kurds look to have increased autonomy, which is a Turkish nightmare. Turkey has long repressed its own Kurds, and fears that a Kurdish quasi-state at their doorstep could encourage a renewed secessionist violence. Turkey is already making noises about stepping in to put a stop to this.
And the insurgency, what happens there? Iraqi officials have said that it will take about 10 days to count all of the ballots, so it’s not yet impossible for the insurgents to disrupt the election. Since the goal of most of these groups seems to be to drive the US out of the country, I imagine the violence will continue until there are significant signs that the US is planning to leave (if that ever happens).
Even anti-war folks have agreed that this election is a “turning point” for Iraq. There’s just a lot of disagreement about if things change for the better, or for the worse (or, as the world is a complex place, better in some ways and worse in others). Maybe you get something resembling a corrupt, corporate-friendly republic like the United States, maybe you get a years-long civil war.
Like most leftists, I’m torn about all this. On the one hand, I want Iraq to be all peace and freedom and rainbows and puppies made of candy. I want to see the Iraqis melting down tank shells to make “I hear U” ashtrays, and to see Sunnis and Shias dancing in grassy meadows and making babies. I want “Kumbaya” to be their national fucking anthem. But at the same time, I fear that a happy Iraq will encourage the Bush administration to line up Operation Kill for Peace 2, in which more people will die in some other country, and there’s no guarantee of a Hollywood ending. Well, I take that back. BushCo. will probably be lining up their next invasion no matter what happens in Iraq.
Maybe we should be following Naomi Klein’s advice and shifting from “anti-war” to “pro-democracy”. Not like “oh, Lord Bush, you are so wise and we support your selective plans to liberate the world with violence”, but like “we want to hear what the Iraqi people want, we want to get them real democracy, and we want the US to pay reparations to help the country get back on its feet.”
I dunno. Gotta admit, I don’t have any real answers on this one.
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