New York

Iraq Elex: Turnout Whiteout

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The remarkable success of Iraq’s elections left Bush critics in a stunned silence Monday. The lefty Common Dreams newspage barely mentioned the vote at first; then it added pieces on Sunni participation and the “uncertain future” facing the country. Counterpunch could only note, truthfully but weakly, that only a year ago the Bush administration had actually resisted calls from Iraq’s Shiite majority for immediate elections. Britain’s Independent, which has vociferously drubbed Dubya over Iraq, offered merely a meek editorial saying that, “These elections inspire hope for democracy, but cannot vindicate a misguided war.”

Indeed, the dramatic pictures of Iraqis streaming to the polls were enough to drown out the news of attacks that killed 35 people, as well as the crash of a British aircraft in which 10 died.

Those stirring images might even be enough to blot out any inconvenient details about the vote itself, like the fact that turnout might not have been as high as the first reports indicated. Iraqi elections officials initially said turnout was 72 percent, then dropped their estimate to 60 percent, and finally said they just didn’t know. They still didn’t know even after the first round of ballot-counting was completed on Monday.

Of course, 60 percent turnout would be fabulous by American standards, where voters don’t face the hassles of dodging bullets or getting pat-downs for bombs. And besides, even if the numbers are far lower than 60 percent, they’ll come in too late to alter the first impression created by those dramatic images and a PR onslaught best viewed on the Defense Department homepage today.