Friday, January 28, 2005

Ups and Downs of the Iraqi Election

Well, voting for Iraqi expatriates has begun. I've seen reports of people proudly showing off the ink on their fingers, and people who speak of Belgian disenfranchised from a country that they're no longer comfortable living in.

A Rueters article, Security Clampdown Starts Before Iraq Poll, shows both good things and bad things about the upcoming election. The bad:

Since Wednesday, at least 48 Iraqis and seven U.S. troops have been killed in insurgent attacks. A helicopter crash also killed 30 American Marines and one sailor on Wednesday, the deadliest single incident of the war for the U.S. military.

President Bush has urged Iraqis to "defy the terrorists" and vote in the country's first election since an American-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein in April 2003.

Insurgents have told Iraqis not to vote. The al Qaeda leader in Iraq, Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, says his followers will launch attacks on polling stations and has condemned Iraq's Shi'ites, most of whom are backing the polls. Voters will have their fingers marked with ink -- potentially making them a target for attacks.

Iraq's minister of state for national security said two of Zarqawi's lieutenants had been arrested, including the group's head of Baghdad operations, who was seized on Dec. 31.

...He said that while progress had been made since Saddam was toppled, "for the last month or so and particularly the last couple of days, we have been going backward."

So, as we can see, the bad is pretty bad. I remember callously agreeing with a friend months ago when the January vote was first announced that actually going out to vote would pretty much just be asking to get shot. I dearly wish that we hadn't been right.

But there isn't only a bad side. Despite all the mocking I do of people who say that *any* election is good, at the heart of it, that's actually true. I mock those people because I doubt their motives, I doubt their commitment to helping others. I'll take the results, when they're good, though. A poorly planned, badly run election is a step in the right direction. No, I don't think that we've done this right, not at all, but something's been done, and it means that people can keep trying. I'd like it to be the Iraqis who keep trying, rather than the U.S., though. I'm going to end this post on an up note, with a quote from the Reuters article by an Iraqi woman:
"I have been waiting for this day," Lamaa Jamal Talabani, 60, said outside an Amman polling station. "I have been dreaming of this day to tell my grandchildren that in the first election in the history of Iraq I was the first woman to vote."

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