Running Scared: Observations of a Former Republican
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"Losing my faith in humanity ... one neocon at a time."

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Iraq Election Workers Under Fire Literally and Figuratively

posted by Jazz at 1/13/2005 09:55:00 AM

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There is a rather disturbing piece in the Times today about how the Iraqi resistance is attacking elections workers in the runup to this month's highly trumpeted election.
There are mysterious knocks on his door at night. His friends ask him not to visit. He declines to allow even his first name to be published.

This shadowy figure, a young Sunni Muslim from Baghdad, is neither spy nor criminal. He is an election worker helping Iraq prepare for its historic national poll, scheduled for the end of the month.

Threatened, attacked, kidnapped and killed, Iraq's election workers are finding that being at the forefront of the electoral process means surviving the frontlines of an insurgency determined to stop it.

Things are so bad that one of the officials from the Independent Electoral Commission, Adil al-Lami, compared the workers to a clandestine political movement. "They function like an underground," he said in an interview.

I have no doubt that there are many Iraqis (primarily Shiites and Kurds) who want to see these elections happen and are working to pull this off. And personally, I sincerely hope that they do manage to hold an election. I have no real expectation that it will result in any form of legitimate (say nothing of stable) government in the long run, but I still think that it represents our best (and possibly last) opportunity to get our troops out of there and safely back home.

If the people of Iraq can put up their own slate of chosen leaders, there is still a fair chance that the new government will immediately tell the United States to pack up its things and get the hell out. This will, unfortunately, give George W. Bush the golden opportunity to pull the troops out and still walk away whistling with his fingers in his ears, pretending that he wasn't the author of the worst, most devastating presidential blunder ever seen in this country. But if it achieves the goal of Supporting Our Troops by Getting Them Out, then I'll take it.

The voices from the far right side of the aisle will likely still trumpet this as a "victory", I'm sure. Capt. Ed has rightly commented on the tragedy of young election workers being killed in the quagmire of Iraq, but is quick to slip in the now discredited Bush line about how enthusiastic the Iraqi people are about these elections.
Election workers have resigned out of fear or direct threats to their lives, and it's understandable, if regrettable. However, thousands more have remained and want to see the elections move to fruition. They understand that the only way to defeat the Islamofascists that threaten them with a second genocidal darkness is to create a pluralistic and democratic federal government. In that, they are joined by 85% of their fellow Iraqis, who rely on them to help deliver a new day.
The numbers he is citing come from a series of local polls done by the pro-US local newspaper, al-Sabah. However, as Juan Cole has pointed out, those numbers are seriously flawed.
Rightwing pundits ... have taken up this al-Sabah poll as a cause for optimism. But they ignore the I & R findings. The Baghdad poll is flawed for several reasons. First of all, it was limited to Baghdad. Baghdad is about half Shiite and has a million Kurds, and both Shiites and Kurds are very enthusiastic about the elections. So a poll in Baghdad doesn't reflect the resentments in Baqubah, Tikrit, and other Sunni Arab cities. Second, West Baghdad is more secure and more politically oriented that other Sunni Arab areas. Third, we don't know if scientific weighting was done for the poll published in al-Sabah. Fourth, al-Sabah was set up for propaganda purposes by the Bush administration and its staff at one time resigned in protest over all the propaganda.
There were some far more detailed polling numbers (almost entirely ignored by the Bushies) which gave a more revealing look at this sense of "optimism" about the elections. This poll was done by the Intelligence and Research division of the State Department. The poll was conducted in the mixed ethnic cities of Baghdad and Kirkuk; the mainly Sunni cities of Baquba and Tikrit; the Kurdish cities of Arbil and Sulaimaniyah; the mid-Euphrates Shiite cities of Hilla, Najaf, Diwaniyah, Kut and Karbala; and the southern Shiite cities of Basra, Nassiriyah, Ammara and Samawa.
Only 32 percent of Sunni Muslims are "very likely" to vote. Among Shiites, 87 percent said they are "very likely" to vote. Only 12 percent of Sunni Arabs consider the elections "legitimate." Only 12 percent of Sunni Arabs think the elections will be completely fair. 52 percent of Shiites think the elections will be completely fair. 61% of Sunni Arabs are very concerned about their family's safety. 24% of Shiites are very concerned about their family's safety. Among Shiites, 76% would boycott if a figure such as Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani told them to. Only 32 percent of Sunni Arabs said they would boycott simply because a religious figure asked them to. 88% of Sunnis would stay home if they felt voting would put them in danger.
Those high supporting numbers come almost entirely from the Shiite and Kurdish supporters of the U.S. invasion living in Baghdad. The study above shows that nearly half of the Shiites (who are supposedly our allies and the ones we are supporting in the current, unacknowledged civil war) don't have any faith that the results will be legitimate.

As usual, Juan Cole has a more expert take on this situation.
Every path forward has costs. Postponing the elections leaves in place the increasingly unpopular Allawi interim government, populated by old CIA assets, which destroyed its credibility by acting as a cheering section for the US destruction of Fallujah. It could be argued that the Sunni Arab guerrilla war benefits from the perceived illegitimacy of the Allawi government, which has disappointed those who hoped it might restore order.
But, as I said above, I've long since reached the point where I frankly don't care what sort of results the election produces as long as it gets our troops out. We need to bring down the curtain on this act of the tragedy, and get on with the business of repairing the lives of all the Americans who are paying the price for Bush's horrible little adventure.