December 16, 2005
Democracy in Iraq
On the day after Iraqis went to the polls this year, for the third time, it is difficult to find news or comment about it this morning on the progressive or liberal weblogs. I observed the same thing previously.
AmericaBlog's top story is about pre-war intelligence.
Buzzflash has alot of stories, none of them about the Iraqi election.
Common Dreams has nothing.
Juan Cole writes about how the large Sunni turnout is actually bad for the Bush administration because it confirms the Sunni opposition to the continued American occupation. No kidding? That's somewhat akin to saying that it's bad for Democrats when all the Republicans show up and vote in Mississippi.
AlterNet has one piece by Larry Johnson entitled Democracy and Delusion in Iraq which was written before the actual vote and discredits it a priori. One of the stunning things that Johnson claims is that the result is a foregone conclusion because the Shiites represent 80% of the country. Well, duhhh.
Here's the lead in The New York Times:
In a day remarkable for its calm, millions of Iraqis from across the country cast ballots today to elect a parliament to a four-year term, with Sunni Arabs turning out in what appeared to be very heavy numbers and guerrillas mounting relatively few armed attacks.
Iraqi officials said initial indications were that as many as 11 million people cast ballots, which, if the estimate holds true, would put the overall turnout at more than 70 percent. With Iraqis still lining up to vote in front of ballot centers as the sun went down, Iraqi officials ordered the polls to stay open an extra hour.
Each time the Iraqis go to the polls to vote, I notice a disturbing quiet among progressive and liberal bloggers and commentators about the actual act of millions of Iraqis voting. Many of us (myself included) spend an enormous amount of time condemning the war, pointing out all its faults, listing the lies on which it is based, and indicting numerous government officials for waging the war.
Nevertheless, each time greater numbers of Iraqis go to the polls and vote, each time we witness "democracy in action" in Iraq, might we not rejoice a little in this positive development? It may be that it is fleeting, it may be that the country will ultimately be torn apart by civil war, it may be that the country peacefully splits into three parts (Sunni, Shi'a and Kurd), but whatever the outcome, these exercises in electoral politics are something we should embrace.
In each human being, anywhere on the face of this earth, and in spite of historical or cultural disconnect, in spite of religious or political dogma, there is a longing to be free, to enjoy deciding one's own fate. Casting a ballot is one of the most elemental ways humans can decide their own fates. In Iraq, this practice has, up until now, only been imaginary. Isn't there something about what millions of Iraqis are doing that critics of Bush might examine and appreciate more closely?
We can't undo what George Bush did. But we can work with what we have now. And while I agree with Nir Rosen's piece, which I published yesterday, that the US military CAN get out of Iraq, and needs to, I also want to support the idea that we, as radicals, as progressives, as liberals, as democrats, ought to support the notion of electoral politics in Iraq, as crazy and as corrupt as it might be at the top. The fact that 11 million Iraqis--stonemasons, housewives and mothers, truck drivers, police trainees, shop owners, teachers--70 % of eligible voters, turned out and voted needs to be celebrated.
Just look at the number of political parties that were on various slates in the Iraqi election yesterday. Even though our democracy has experienced little in the way of multi-party competition, just the fact that such an array of competing parties and interests exists in Iraq ought to be appreciated.
What I am saying is that, despite the wrong or illegal or immoral nature of Bush's unilateral invasion of sovereign Iraq, there are millions of Iraqi men and women who have hopes and dreams of democracy and peace. Here's the best example of it: when they dip their fingers in that purple ink, millions of Iraqi women are sending a message that they want a free, democratic Iraq not ruled by religious bigotry and patriarchy. We need to support those aspirations.