Iraq Vote Preview: Hope & Gory

On the eve of the Iraqi election, the interested observer – or ambitious bettor – needs to digest a potpourri of media to get a sense of the breadth of the story.

The rose-tinted view of the vote comes from the straight-talker-in-chief in his weekly radio address, where he predicted no less than "a turning point in the history of Iraq, a milestone in the advance of freedom, and a crucial advance in the war on terror." Some Iraqi-Americans believe him, or at least want to, according to a moving portrait in The New York Times of expatriate voters in Michigan, who cheered their comrades and shed tears of joy over their ballots.

Elsewhere, there's less enthusiasm—to put it mildly. Iraq's Sunni president says the violence will dissuade many voters, according to The Guardian, while The Times has an influential Shiite cleric hinting that followers should avoid the polls. The BBC features a story about a clash at an expatriate polling station in Australia.

Meanwhile, the killing continues apace, reports The Washington Post in a piece that captures the surreal juxtaposition of election preparations and open warfare:

    In Baghdad, bursts of heavy machine gun fire rattled through central districts at midday, and several heavy explosions shook the downtown area in the afternoon. American fighter jets roared through the skies in a show of force.
    Iraqi police and soldiers set up checkpoints through streets largely devoid of traffic as the nation battened down for the vote, with a nighttime curfew imposed across the country and the borders sealed.
    Seven American soldiers were killed Friday in the Baghdad area, including two pilots who died in the crash of their OH-58 Kiowa Warrior helicopter.

Despite the unrelenting violence, Sunday's vote will go forward, the ballots will be counted, and someone will "win." What's next? Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute has some intriguing advice for the U.S.: Stay, but be nicer:

    The United States has actually done something to bring liberty to those who suffered under tyrannical regimes. Sometimes, though, the American embrace can be suffocating. Iraqis do not want us to disengage but they do want us to honor their sovereignty. This election provides an opportunity for a fresh and, hopefully, more respectful start.

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