Morning Report 2/14/05 Baghdad Bing!


Stripping Iraq’s election down to its bare facts

Two guys from Jersey: If things don’t work out in Baghdad for Ayad Allawi (right) and this henchman, they could get work as Iraqi versions of Tony Soprano and Club Bada Bing operator Silvio. (DOD photo)


It took 150,000 U.S. troops to lock down the country so Iraq could hold an election, and now that the figures are seeping out, can we please hold the applause?

The Bush regime got kudos from practically every quarter after the January 30 vote, but the figures released this morning, if they are to be believed, aren’t quite so breathtaking. Some factoids culled from the Washington Post story:

• In western Anbar province, site of Fallujah, only 13,893 of 574,138 eligible voters cast ballots—about 2 percent.

• Kurdish Iraqi voters turned out in force, which is really no surprise and is actually quite ominous, if you think about it. The Kurds want independence, preferably a secular, pan-Kurdish nation that would be carved out of northern Iraq and parts of Turkey and other countries. That’s something the Turks can’t allow. Look for increasing friction between Turkey and the U.S. over this show of strength by Iraqi Kurds.

• Despite the massive lockdown by U.S. troops, the turnout was no more than 58 percent. Breaking it down, few Sunnis voted, and almost every Kurd voted.

• In the south, where Shiites predominate, the turnout was between 61 and 75 percent. The highest Shiite turnout was in Najaf and Karbala, the two “sacred Shiite cities where the clergy are most influential,” the Post notes. In other words, even with the support of Shiite bigwig Ali Sistani, turnout by the Shia population overall wasn’t so big. And no matter what Sistani says, the holy rollers among the Shiites want an Islamic government, like their brethren in Iran.

This is still a U.S. puppet regime. Of course, you won’t get quite that observation from, say, the New York Times, but at least Dexter Filkins noted in his story this morning:

The prospect of a divided national assembly, split between religious and secular parties, also appeared to signal a continuing role for the American government, which already maintains 150,000 troops here, to help broker disputes.

Yeah, “help broker disputes.” It would be wise to recall our economic stake in Iraq—how we’ve made a bad situation worse. For that, please refer to the excellent work by the International Crisis Group, whose Reconstructing Iraq report last fall points out our monumental mishandling of Iraq’s economy. (See this September 22 Bush Beat item for more info.)

The unquenchable thirst to privatize everything was Jerry Bremer‘s main mission in Iraq, and that was disastrous, just as the Bush regime’s quest to privatize Social Security and education in the U.S. is wrongheaded.

In the case of Iraq, as with practically all political maneuvers, follow the money. But you also have to follow the religious politicking. At least Filkins rightly notes that the religious tenor of Iraq’s next government will be a major bone of contention in the coming months. And then there’s the Kurdish quest for freedom. And then there’s the oil that the Bush regime wants to maintain control of. And then there’s also the question of the sizable Sunni minority, few of whom voted. Are those Sunni Iraqis all “terrorists”? No.

The presence of U.S. troops will continue to be a major irritant to Iraqis. But the whole setup would collapse without our presence. The Bush regime, with its unjustified detour from Afghanistan to Iraq, committed us to at least a generation of misery in Iraq. Unfortunately, it will be more difficult for us to remove our troops from Iraq than it was to leave Saigon in 1975.