July 27, 2004

Not the only election

As the US press works their stories about the Democratic convention, and we lefty bloggers compulsively check out what our friends are seeing and doing in Boston, Iraq is also holding something like a convention. As Christopher Allbritton reports from Baghdad, the Iraqis are preparing for their own election. Yet, now that we've moved on from Iraq, there isn't much interest from the US press. Perhaps this is because CentCom is no longer responsible for putting the good news spin on what's happening in Iraq?

It will be like an old-fashioned presidential convention, complete with smoke-filled back-rooms and arm-twisting. Expect a fair amount of political skullduggery and coalition building. Groups such as the Islamic Dawa Party (Hizb’dawa), SCIRI and the Iraqi Islamic Party can be expected to make a religious coalition while the KDP, PUK and INC will be a secular bloc. Further complicating matters is interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s party, the Iraqi National Accord, which has a long rivalry with the INC. Look for some fireworks between those groups as Chalabi’s minions — assuming they show up — try to undermine the INA and weaken Allawi before the parliament ever convenes. Anything to make Allawi look ineffectual strengthens potential challengers’ hands for the elections in January — and you know who (*cough* Chalabi cough, cough) will definitely be looking to fill Allawi’s chair next year. But more grandly, the secular/liberal and the religious/conservative blocs will be the centers of power in Iraqi politics for some time to come, so watch the coalition building start now.

Jaime lists a lot of problems this week’s conference, including security, squabbling over how delegations from the provinces are picked and just general inexperience with democracy. Jumaluddin cautioned that the established parties, such as SCIRI, the INC and others with long experience opposing Saddam Hussein with have a real advantage over the newly formed local parties and independent candidates. They know how to cut deals, politick — and they’re well financed. The problem, however, is that they represent, in total, only about 20 percent of Iraqis (Not counting the Kurdish parties.) That means the majority of non-Kurd Iraqis are up for grabs —- for parties that have no idea how to campaign or operate in a legislative body. I can barely imagine the outrage that will occur when some fledgling party gets its lunch handed to it by, say, Hizb’dawa, after the smaller party trades its votes on some key issue only to get screwed because its representatives didn’t understand the details of the bargain.

Jumaluddin also warned of stealth candidates. As in the United States, where a candidate — for example — runs as a moderate Republican but when elected turns out to be deeply conservative, some members of this week’s conference will attempt to push forward “independent” candidates in the interest of “representation.” These ostensibly independent candidates will be anything but. They will be cats’ paws for the major parties and can be expected to vote reliably with their patrons.

“Iraqis don’t know what democracy is,” said Jumaluddin as he chewed on a truly magnificent Cohiba. Then he told me a joke: An old woman asks her son, “What is this democracy I hear so much about? What does it mean?” Her son tells her that every four years there will be a new president. “Isn’t that wonderful, umma?” The old woman thinks about that for a moment, and then asks, “Does that mean every four years there will be looting and fighting?”

The Iraqis have an odd sense of humor.

As the US heads into the election season, how much will we hear about Iraq? With almost 150,000 troops still in Iraq, it would be good for the American public to continue to pay attention to the happenings in that country. As Colin Powell told Bush, you break it, you own it. Well, we still own it in regards to having a lot more outstanding debts which we ran up when we went into Iraq, and Iraqis and the world are right to expect us to honor the debts we made. And our soldiers deserve to have Americans praying for their safe return until we can bring them back home.

Posted by Mary at July 27, 2004 06:38 AM | Iraq | Technorati links |

You start from a false assumption; that our left wing news was ever 'reporting' to start with. Propagandizing, yes.

If there are ten anti-American, pro-Saddam Iraqis in a group of 100, the NYT will do a feature article on each one. Front page, above the fold.

All positive news is either ignored altogether or relegated to page A22 with a misleading, counter-spun headline to boot.

Virtually every soldier, USAID worker, a congressperson who returns from Iraq says almost the identical thing, "The Iraq I just returned from does not in any way resemble the Iraq that is portrayed in the media."

So how can you miss what never existed?

Posted by: Michael Hiteshew at July 27, 2004 07:24 AM

How nice to find an American site that doesn.t assume that the expressions 'morally righr' and 'advantageous for America' are synonymous.
Martin Baxter

Posted by: Martin at July 27, 2004 12:18 PM

What utter nonsense from Michael. He is spouting Foxs News propaganda where a small number of positive comments come back and say something good. I suppose all the dead U.S. soldiers, all the roadside bombs, the hatred spewed by clerics towards us, the fact that we have to have extreme levels of security for all Americans, the beheadings, the oil lines sabotoged, the growth of a previously non-existent terrorist threat in Iraq, and the complete lack an economic system there are figments of our imaginations. The right likes to call the truth propoganda while pretending they are fair and balanced. It is utter nonsense and a distortion of epic proportions.

Posted by: Scott at July 27, 2004 04:16 PM

Actually Scott, it's a war zone. We took down one of the most brutal and repressive regimes on the planet. I don't see how American can NOT be proud of the fact that these people have been freed from tyranny. I am.

Fox News? Spare me. I prefer my news as unspun as possible. If there's a news program I admire it would be The News Hour (formerly The McNeil-Lehrer Report) on PBS. It's probably the least politically biased news program on TV. For political coverage I prefer C-SPAN for the same reason. Just show me what happened. Don't spin it either way. Don't edit it for my 'benefit'. No 5-second sound bites taken out of context. Just show the event and let everyone speak. Let me and everyone else decide how to interpret it.

I pay attention to a very wide range of news sources. I read sources from all over the world. It's after long consideration and comparison I concluded the NYT is a highly biased source of news. It the American Der Spiegel or Le Monde.

Listen with open ears and an open mind to those coming back from Iraq. It's a very different story they tell. Are we taking casualties? Yes. They're miniscule by historic standards. I don't say that lightly. Our casualties after one and half years in Iraq are equal to a couple of weeks in Vietnam, about one week in Korea, and about one day in WWII.

It's a country of 20-30 million people. We're fighting a few thousand radicals. Five to ten thousand at the most. Probably a lot less. That's less than one percent. To read the NYT and the LAT you'd think the country was in chaos. It's not. Most Iraqise want to build a free, democratic, secular society. They're thankful we ridded them from Saddam and his thugs. Do they enjoy being occupied? Of course not. Who would? But it's a necessary step until they can create a stable enough government. They've got to stand an entire government up from scratch. It's a huge project. It's gonna take a few years. We've got to stay strong and help them through this. That includes us here at home too. We've got to stay strong. The NYT is so focussed on taking down Bush that they're using Iraq as a political football. That's irresponsible. They're willing to sacrifice the most important foriegn policy project we have in front of us in the interest of supporting their candidate. That's what I find so unforgivable.

Posted by: Michael Hiteshew at July 27, 2004 07:10 PM

Clinton's Speech last night was amazing.

"Send Me!"

Have you seen his new website?


Posted by: Ben at July 27, 2004 08:07 PM

As a last comment, Michael, so as to move on, for someone who decries the left and the NYT, you seem to have the Right's spin down pat. No one mentions that we did not go to Iraq to overthrow a despot original. What happened to the WMDs? Ooops, let's not talk about that! It is part of the war on terrorism?! Ooops, we went in; now we have a terrorism problem that has spread to Iraq. Saddam was in cahoots with the terrorists? The 911 panel, which Bush fought even setting up, pretty much shot a hole in that one. So, now we went to Iraq to promote Democracy for a country with a small group of zealots and insurgents. Even the Administration slowly admits the size of the insurgency. And of course, I wonder what the Right's song will be when Iraq slips into either a new despotism or to a Fundamentalist regime in a Civil War.

The most important foreign policy project? Well, that should have been the war on terrorism and the fight on it that the world was willing to support after 911. We chose to ignore that to create a quagmire that was created solely for political reasons. I love how the Right always say the rest of us are acting politically, but it is particularly offensive when stated during a false war that has had no benefit and worsened our standing in the world and the war on terrorism, all done for nothing more than political reasons.

Posted by: Scott at July 28, 2004 01:42 PM