Saturday, January 29, 2005

I Know, Kids! Let's Have An Election!

The first thing you need to know is exactly what the hell is going on, why, and who's in on it. Knight-Ridder's Washington Bureau has a concise primer on everything you should know about the Iraqi election, including why it matters, who's likely to win, and what the aftermath might be. Here's what you should keep your eye on:
"Will there be a civil war?

It's possible. The Sunnis are the main force behind the insurgency, and they've launched frequent attacks on the Shiites. If the Sunnis get few representatives in the government, support for the insurgency could grow. At the same time there are proposals for fixes after the election, such as appointing Sunnis to the assembly, making sure they're on committees drafting the constitution and seeing that they get important Cabinet posts in the government. Sunnis might be persuaded to support the permanent constitution and join elections at that time.

Will U.S. troops start pulling out after the election?

Probably not. Bush has vowed to stay as long as needed. The election coalition most likely to dominate the vote has dropped demands for the United States to set a timetable for withdrawal. The training of Iraqi security forces has been going slowly and post-election violence is widely predicted."
"The Sunnis are the main force behind the insurgency..." Yet in the latest dispatch from the NYTimes, we hear that an influential cleric who seems to be a weathervane for al-Sadr and the Shiites has called for boycotting the elections, too. Now, I ask you, where does this leave the credibility of the elections at this point, when these two rival factions are both calling on their people to stay away?

And this means nothing but more bloodshed for Iraqis, 17 more of whom were killed today in election-related attacks. Even the Iraqi President has admitted that most Iraqis will be sitting out the election, which only adds further credibility issues to the outcome. But Commander Yellow-Stripe will gird his manly loins and forge ahead with it, no matter how many other people's deaths he has to put up with. You may recall his clairvoyant prediction on the elections from a couple days ago, in which he said:
"I've, you know, heard the voices of the people that presumably will be in a position of responsibility after these elections, although you never know," Mr. Bush said. "But it seems like most of the leadership there understands that there will be a need for coalition troops at least until Iraqis are able to fight."
Looks like they've been doing a perfectly acceptable job of fighting to me. And Bush couldn't be more transparent in his public assumption that everything is going to go his way, with the puppets in place, ready to officially step up to the plate after the bloodbath of the vote is over. And trust me, they will ask us to stay. Bush requires it.

So summing up, it looks like civil war is likely to come (just as the State Department's Future of Iraq project warned back on '02 if suitable precautions weren't taken to secure the place). And we're going to be there for the fun. But now the first official volley has been fired from the "It's time to get out" gallery:
"Besides ending its military presence, Kennedy said the United States must stop making political decisions in Iraq and turn over full authority to the United Nations to help Baghdad set up a new government.
He said an international meeting led by the United Nations and Iraq should be convened immediately in Iraq or elsewhere in the Middle East to start that process.
"We now have no choice but to make the best we can of the disaster we have created in Iraq," Kennedy in a speech to the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. "The current course is only making the crisis worse."
For the last 3 years people with more brains than power have been warning of the parallels to Vietnam.
Now even those with power and no brains should be able to see it.

Update: weighs in with a recently uncovered Iraqi election ballot.

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