Sunday, January 30, 2005

Iraq Polls are Open - Live Blogging

Richard @ 11:30PM EST, 1/29

The polls opened in Iraq about 20 minutes ago. Quite honestly, I don't care whether anyone outside of the Green Zone votes or not today -- only that the violence and bloodshed is kept to a minimum.

Talking heads on CNN and Fox are positively gushing. It's like they're the proud parents of the theocracy that many experts predict will most probably evolve over the coming months. As we go through the day, don't lose sight of the fact that this thing isn't about Iraq. It's a dog and pony extraveganza for America. The ultimate reality show, if you will.


Forrest @ 2:45AM EST, 1/30

Signs of a healthy, truly representative government:
AP -- Iraqis Begin Historic Vote Amid Attacks
There were no signs of voting in the Sunni Muslim stronghold cities — and rebel centers — of Fallujah and Ramadi, west of Baghdad. Sunni extremists, fearing victory by the Shiites, have called for a boycott, claiming no vote held under U.S. military occupation is legitimate.
Zogby poll indicates that more than 3 out of every 4 Sunnis will "definitely not vote".

From an Al-Jazeera report, it appears that some of today's violence may appear to be coming from insurgents posing as Iraqi police as 20 vehicles (consisting of an assortment of police vehicles as well as ambulances) have been stolen by insurgents in the last week. Coupled with the hundreds of police uniforms that have gone missing in recent days (thanks k ols from the comments), instead of the police acting as security, we may see "police" gunning down civilians and ramming explosive-laden ambulances into polling places. Also, thanks to the same Al-Jazeera report, I've drawn the conclusion that Samarra must be the San Francisco of Iraq, since the war profiteers and their puppets have deemed the situation there too dangerous to permit voting.

Meanwhile, the head of the local council in Samarra said no citizens would vote because of the poor security situation.

"Nobody will vote in Samarra because of the security situation," said Taha Husain, the head of Samarra's local governing council.

No employees turned up at polling centres in Samarra and police were not to be seen on the streets, an agency correspondent reported.
On a lighter note, there seem to be early signs of voter fraud in Iraq's elections. Sounds like Iraq may need a women's suffrage movement...

Al-Yawer was among the first to cast his ballot, voting alongside his wife at election headquarters in the heavily fortified Green Zone in central Baghdad. As poll workers watched, he marked two ballots and dropped them into boxes, and then walked away with an Iraqi flag given to him by a poll worker.

Richard @ 6:45AM

Up very early on this snowy Sunday -- my wife isn't crazy about driving to work in the snow, and I have the 4WD gas guzzler, so I doffed my chauffer hat about an hour ago and drove her in.

One early impression of the Iraq election has pretty much been confirmed: it's nearly impossible to get any unfiltered news on what's happening. Reports are indicating many people have been killed in attacks on polling stations, and that most Sunni areas are not participating in the election.

Despite these downsides, Minitrue reports that it's all wine and roses in New Iraq™ today. Expect the BushCo bobbleheads to be glowing like newlyweds on Sunday talk shows this morning.

I'm going back to bed for a few hours.

Kate @ 6:00AM Pacific

Top 'o the hour "news" on Los Angeles radio... ROFL! "A Historic Day in Iraq! Spirits are high despite 30 people killed in "insurgent attacks"". It doesn't get better than this, Lovelies. Your entertainment for a Sunday on the Happy Bizarro Planet. During commercial breaks you can read some Rude Pundit goodness

Richard @ 9:30AM EST

Reality or pure bullshit? We blog, you decipher:

An Iraqi election official said Sunday that 72% of the eligible Iraqi voters had turned out so far nationwide.

Adel al-Lami of the Independent Electoral Commission, offered no overall figures of the actual number of Iraqis who have voted to back up the claim.

He pointed out that the percentage of registered voters who had gone to the polls in some Baghdad neighborhoods was as high as 95%.

It's hard to say how that's possible when many polling places didn't even open, almost no one was voting in two of the largest cities, and up to 13 bombings at other polling places were reported. Color me just a wee bit sceptical of Mr. al-Lami's numbers.

Richard @ 10:40AM EST

Interesting how Iraq's election can be hailed as "fair and transparent". Paper ballots and ink on fingers were used in Iraq. For all of the high tech wizardry available to U.S. voters, it seems really difficult to get that same "fair and transparent" feeling about U.S. elections.

Kate @ 8:00 AM Pacific

Free Iraq
"Bush called the Iraqi election "a turning point in the history of Iraq, a milestone in the advance of freedom [sic] crucial advance in the war on terror."
At the same time, however, his advisers have downplayed the importance of Sunday's vote by calling it just the first step toward a new Iraqi constitution and fully elected leadership."

And so it goes.

Update 8:25 Pacific: Robert Fisk: What a Bloody Charade

Richard @ 12:20PM, EST

Let's don't forget that the security lockdown was done with a dual purpose in mind - to keep the streets of Baghdad clear, and to bottle up the flow of information.

The various outlets of Minitrue are falling all over themselves this morning proclaiming success. RoveCo did a masterful job of diminishing expectations over the past month or so. Any result short of Zarqawi's crew lighting off a low yield nuclear device outside of the Green Zone was going to be portrayed as stunningly good.

But let's step back for a moment. Out of 5000+ polling places, pool reporters had access to 5 for filming purposes. One of Allawi's stooges claims "72% of voters voted", with absolutely no facts to back it up, but the SCLM immediately siezes on this as gospel, and obiediently reports the figure. Dozens of people are killed in dozens of polling place incidents, but it's spun as eggs and omlettes.

By the time the complete story slips out, this sham election will be old, old news and any corrections will run on page A-27 of New Pravda.

And a quick question which will surely be asked many times in the coming days: did the ends justify the means? More on that later...

Forrest @ 11:45AM Pacific

72 percent, my ass.

"Turnout figures recently announced represent the enormous and understandable enthusiasm felt in the field on this historic day," a commission statement said.

"However, these figures are only very rough, word-of-mouth estimates gathered informally from the field."
Leave it to American regurgitation media to seize on feel-good rumors and report them as feel-good facts.

Forrest @ 12:15PM Pacific

Sometimes I like the guy, but this time he's just an idiot. John McCain says if the elections are successful, terrorism will decline in Iraq.

"The insurgents know that if we can pull off the election, then their days are numbered."
This just doesn't make sense to me.

Will the Iraq Constitution that is supposed to be written after the elections make terrorism more illegal than it already is?

And what about the question of enforcement? Are the Iraqi police and National Guard going to be more likely to remain on their posts in the face of a strong, well funded and organized insurgency that has support from many of the Sunnis that make up 40% of Iraq's population?

Then there's the question of deterrent. I'd imagine that since Iraq will be a "democracy" based on "freedom", that its Constitution would include some requirements for due process of criminals. Seems to me that the possibility of being thrown into the American gulag system would be a stronger deterrent than actually being treated according to law. A military prison system headed by a man who ignores international law is certainly more frightening than a jury of normal citizens.

Maybe McCain meant that statement to apply only to suicide bombers, those whose days are numbered regardless of the political climate just due to their... uhhh... profession.

Richard @ 5PM EST

The gloatfest in Right Blogistan continues.

Here's what really chaps my ass. The prevailing wisdom in the Land of Wingnuttery is that we on the left were making small animal sacrifices at the alter of progressive politics, in the hopes of Team Bin-Laden upsetting the Bush Machine. That's how the election in Iraq is being played today. It wasn't a test of a people's will to determine their own destiny, but a horserace between good and evil, and those of us on the left were backing the wrong pony.

I'm really tired of this crap.

Anyway, as Forrest pointed out upthread, the leakage in the feel-good story of "72% participation" is starting. Over the next day or two, expect to see that number drop below the randomly selected "legitimacy" target of 50%.

Over 50 people were killed in election day violence, and as usual, untold scores were injured. I'm not sure anymore what constitutes "acceptable casualties" in Iraq. I do know that if even one person was killed in random violence at a polling place during the U.S. elections, the reaction from Washington would have been blood curdling.

How many times today have the Minitrue talking heads stationed in Iraq used the terms "normal day", "mortar fire", "explosions", and "gunfire" in the same sentence? I quit counting. Sorry, Sheppard, that doesn't meet my definition of "normal".

But I am happy, and yes relieved, for the people of Iraq that this day has passed without mass bloodshed. And I hope that in whatever small measure, this process truly represented a step toward, if not the beginning of the end, then at least the end of the beginning.

At this point, what's more important is what happens when the sun creeps West over the Zagros Mountains tomorrow morning. Hope springs eternal. Maybe it's kind of zen how "hope" is a very human attribute that spans all languages and cultures.