Saturday, February 05, 2005

What to Make of the Iraq Election?

What to Make of the Iraq Elections?

PEJ News: Post-mortem punditry on this crosses the political spectrum; everyone's takes are necessarily contradictory, while none necessarily wrong.

What to Make of the Iraq Elections?

C.L. Cook
January 31st, 2005

Old hands like the inestimably germane Robert Fisk now seem worried about a possible civil war scenario for Iraq; a prospect he’s til now deemed remote. Juan Cole too, who didn’t believe the desperately repeated Bush administration conviction that an American retreat from Iraq would lead to a chaos of ethnic and tribal conflict, now seems to be wavering. But what about the numbers?

The Turn-Out

The poll numbers vary, but Fisk seemed genuinely moved by the show of thousands of everyday folks walking the car-free city; families quietly making their way to the polls, while bomb-blasts reverberated through the streets. But he didn’t address why so many Iraqis braved the dire predictions in the run-up to this election to make that long walk to the poll.

Dahr Jamail, also in Baghdad, writes of implicit threats to withhold the food rations of those not participating, perhaps accounting for the large turnout. This was accentuated by tales of areas where rations depended on voter registration. Most Iraqis depend on rations, and the situation there, after sanctions, war, and occupation is grim.

But it gets even worse.

Water has replaced electricity and fuel as the most pressing concern in Baghdad. According to Riverbend, the girl blogging from the city throughout the war and occupation, the taps have run near dry. This in the days (J27) preceding the election. Is the message to the Iraqis really: vote, or starve? And, what may happen to those without the blue-dyed voting finger? Would they be fingered as a terrorist to be targeted?

Whose Numbers?

The BBC has just kneeled again to pressure to ‘correct’ a (mildly) rebuking story. In this case, the release of fatality numbers from Iraq. The Beeb had had the temerity to relay figures released from Iraq concerning death ratios; who killed whom stuff. Did the Americans, or the Insurgents kill more Iraqis? No-one mentioned that it made little difference whether it was “coalition” forces, or insurgent murders killing most Iraqis; none of these Iraqis would be getting killed, collaterally or otherwise, had it not been for the patently illegal U.S. invasion. All after the initial crime is necessarily illegal. America is necessarily culpable. But, with a stroke of the facts, 6 is 9 and white is black again. Officially, the election is everything from a "maginificent achievement," to a "tremendous opportunity."

So, what?

A variety of turn-out numbers have been released, but none deny that the Sunni minority was less than enthusiastic. Despite Charlie Rose’s histrionic, near teary, evocation of this “momentous, historic day” tonight, (January 31st) his embarrassed guest, famed humanitarian, Michael Ignatieff’s reaction to Charlie’s demand for affirmation that this was indeed a “symbolic day for the forward march of freedom and democracy” was muted. He suggested instead a cautious continuation of the occupational course.

Robert Fisk makes an interesting observation: The Shia, he reasons, will take this admittedly transparent bobble of democracy for now and pass the ball to the occupier’s court. And should he fumble, the risk is the initiation of a vastly broader Shia uprising. What Fisk seems to suggest is a politically out-manoeuvred America, painted into a corner by their own PR ploy; foisted on their Petard.

So, what to make of it? You tell me.

Chris Cook produces and hosts Gorilla Radio, a weekly public affairs program broad/webcast from the University of Victoria every Monday, between 5-6pm pacific time at 101.9 FM in Victoria, 104.3 on cable, and on the internet at:


BBC apologises over Iraqi figures
Monday, 31 January, 2005

Sistani, the UIA and the Elections
Monday, January 31, 2005

Water Anxiety
Thursday, January 27, 2005

Some Just Voted for Food
Dahr Jamail Inter Press Service
Monday 31 January 2005

Triumph and Tragedy for Iraq
Robert Fisk The Independent
Monday 31 January 2005

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