By one o’clock in Iraq, at least 27 Iraqis already lay dead. By the end of the day, Al Jazeera reports over 40 dead. As Zarqawi threatened the streets would run with the blood of the electors, this seems to be a victory for the pro-occupation forces, the Americans, and others involved in “securing Iraq.” When the final numbers come back, in what officials tell us could be as long as ten days, up to 8 million ballots are expected to be counted. 8 million voters would total less than sixty percent of the 14 million Iraqis eligible to vote (assuming that the 8 million number quoted corresponds directly to those voting within the country itself and does not include expatriate voters in other countries).
The election in Iraq seems to show little change for the situation there and certainly cannot at this early time be seen as a definite turning point in either direction. However, it is worth noting that, while the sort of spectacularly terrible attacks that Western media and insurgent communiqu?s prepared us for did not happen, there were still a vast array of attacks all across the country. Despite the overwhelming security presence, some 300,000 soldiers and police mobilized to protect the polls, more Iraqis were killed today than any other day in the past week. In fact, more died today even than on the worst day for occupation-related deaths, Wednesday, when 37 American soldiers were killed in attacks across the country.
The 44 Iraqis killed today is a much smaller number than those killed in the bombings in Karbala and elsewhere in March of last year. The elections, as a process, went off with few difficulties. All over Iraq people voted, but all over Iraq as well, people stayed home. At least 43 percent of Iraqis eligible to vote are believed to have stayed home. It could have been a referendum for peace. The election might have been a clear demonstration by the people of Iraq that they are ready to govern themselves through whatever form available. Rather than a clear referendum, the election results and the Iraqi people have demonstrated that despite occupation assurances of security and a free Iraq, the Freedom, as Iraqis are fond of describing it, has presented itself, but democracy seems to have missed the boat.
There is no freedom to vote, and even with freedom to vote, there is no freedom to elect. This election will not be like the one in the United States this past November. This Iraqi election is even less significant for the Iraqi people than the crafting of the American Constitution or signing of the Declaration of Independence was for most Americans of the day. The Occupation forces still provide the last word. Until the Iraqi people are permitted the privilege of self-determination, their can be no free Iraq, their can be no end to the Occupation, there can be no Mission Accomplished.
Self-determination would mean that Iraqis could vote for whom they wanted to vote. Self-determination would mean that Iraqis could choose not to vote, without being harassed by armed soldiers of another nation, if they so chose. Self-determination would mean that all Iraqis equally might have a say in their future, and that each individual could determine his or her future individually.
On Saturday, an elderly Iraqi man was quoted in the Boston Globe as saying that, having ten children and being unsure what to do with the Freedom, having never engaged in a free election in his life, and without anyone from the Coalition or Iraqi Government to school him, had made a decision that he thought the most fair possible. He would direct five of his children to vote for al?Sistani?s party and the other five to vote for Allawi.
This logic is endemic to the ?democracies? put forward by President Bush and the war on terror. In Afghanistan we have tribal elders directing the vote, in Iraq, a slightly more modern country, we have family elders directing the vote. Just ten days ago, during his inaugural address, President Bush informed Iraq and the world that democracy was coming, whether they were ?ready or not.?
In Iraq, democracy may be running a little late, but Bush logic and the Freedom are at the dinner table and moving towards the final course.
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