It will probably be some time before it’s possible to get a good, rounded picture of what happened during today’s elections in Iraq. It will likely take the Iraqi Independent Elecoral Commission many days to provide its “count” of the vote, which would include a figure for the turnout.
But even then, given the lack of any independent observing, many questions may well remain about whether people can generally trust what the Commission reports…
I watched ABC News’s World News Sunday tonight. Peter Jennings was there in a safari jacket, reporting from somewhere in Baghdad’s Green Zone, I think. A high proportion of ABC’s reporting had a cheerleading, distinctly editorializing tone to it. On their website they feature this piece by AP writer Sally Buzbee, which starts out:
- Iraqis embraced democracy in large numbers Sunday, standing in long lines to vote in defiance of mortar attacks, suicide bombers and boycott calls…
Look, I don’t want to impugn the courage that many Iraqi voters showed as they went to the polls today. But I’m not sure that “embracing democracy” was the only– or perhaps, even, the main– thing they were doing as they went there. “Responding to an ayatollah’s command” might equally well, or even better, describe the motivations of a high proportion of the voters.
After all, simply casting a vote is not the essence of democracy. (They got to do that numerous times, under Saddam.) The essence of democracy surely lies in acting from a deep commitment to using deliberation and negotiation to resolve differences, rather than violence; and an equally deep commitment to ensuring the rights of all members of society, including (especially) those with whom one disagrees.
Maybe the people who went to the polls today in Iraq will show those characteristics. I sincerely hope so. But they did not necessarily show them today, simply by going to the voting places.
I think quite a lot of US media outlets have used Buzbee’s piece. Some have used an alternative offering from AP that doesn’t have her cheerleading tone but, more soberly, gives a series of snapshots, from six different parts of the country. Most of the snapshots were penned by people with Arab or Kurdish names.
For his part, George W. Bush saw no need to be either judicious or sober in coming out with his expression of jubilation at the “resounding success” that he claimed the election represented.
Back in October, at the time of the Afghan election, I wrote here that:
- I understand that there are many, many people in the international community who desperately want the inauguration of decent electoral demnocracy in Afghanistan and Iraq to be successful. I am myself one of them. But I fear there may be some people who are so deeply invested in the success of these elections–even though, in Afghanistan, they seemed to be held on terms very vulnerable to US manipulation–that they are prepared to overlook what in other circumstances they might clearly recognize as fatal flaws in the system.
The same is even more true today. Let’s wait and see how credible the rest of this current voting process looks, and what results it generates, before we make any judgments about its worth.
Even more to the point, let’s see whether the election leads to the emergence of an Iraqi leadership that is truly prepared to stand up to US power– and how the Bush administration peole will deal with that.
The Bushies have already drawn one key, defiant line in the sand. Brad Graham and Peter Baker reported in the WaPo today that,
- The Bush administration has for now ruled out creating a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq after today’s elections…