Across the Bay

Sunday, January 30, 2005

A New Beginning

I will not say anything about the Iraqi elections that just took place, not because I think they're irrelevant (I don't), or because I think the constitution drafting that follows matters more, or any of that stuff. I won't say anything because nothing I can say can match the pride and joy and courage of the Iraqis who are given the chance for the first time to shape their own future, and they're seizing it snubbing all the death threats and the carnage. All the power to them. In fact, even this piece by Michael Ignatieff, while making some good and gratifing points (though not without its share of paradoxical nonsense, such as how Bush managed to turn democracy into a "disreputable slogan"), somehow rings hollow.

For firsthand reactions, see for instance this post by the guys at ITM. See also their brother's post over at "Free Iraqi." For more, click on the various links on ITM's Iraqi blogroll. See also this story about the experience of an Iraqi-Israeli who cast his vote in Jordan (Pssst, Juanito! Here's your in to claim "Neocon/Likudnik" meddling in the Iraqi vote!). Then, if you must, compare that determination (people walking for miles, some on crutches, many senior citizens, defying terrorist threats and bombings, etc.) and how the Iraqis view these elections and what they mean to them (the emotional reactions, etc.) with Juan Cole's characterization of the elections as "a joke." I would like to see how "the Iraqi mainstream" that Cole supposedly knows inside out, feels about that statement. Needless to say, everyone knows who the real joke is, "expertise" and all.

Addendum: See the nice round-ups by Arthur Chrenkoff and Jeff Jarvis.

Meanwhile, what does the Nutty Professor have to say? "[I]f the turnout is as light in the Sunni Arab areas as it now appears, the parliament/ constitutional assembly is going to be extremely lopsided. It would be sort of like having an election in California where the white Protestants all stayed home and the legislature was mostly Latinos, African-Americans and Asians."

This is either a stupid statement, or a dishonest one. Cole knows that there have been extensive talks (see my "Iraqi Sunnis and the Lebanon Model" post) about a post-election Sunni participation in the constitution drafting process, regardless of the turn-out in the elections. Furthermore, the major two communities (Shiites and Kurds) have reached out to the Sunnis with all kinds of offers and guarantees (set-asides, etc.) to make sure they participate and feel that they have a say and a stake in the future of Iraq (among those making efforts to bring in the Sunnis is Chalabi). Also, the motion first fought for by the Kurds to get a veto to counter a possible tyranny of the majority will now benefit the Sunnis as well (see again my above-mentioned post and the links therein). Furthermore, according to this NYT story, the Sunni turn-out in some districts with large Sunni populations exceeded expectations:

    The figure [57%] was based on national returns, Mr. Ayar said, and included the provinces of Anbar and Nineveh, which have large Sunni populations. The predicted low turnout in Anbar, a hotspot of Sunni resistance to the American occupation, was exceeded to such an extent that extra voting materials had to be rushed to outlying villages, where long lines were formed at polling stations, Mr. Ayar said.

So once again, move along folks, nothing to see here, just a rambling sourpuss poseur.

Update: Greg Djerejian resolves to delete Cole from his blogroll after reading his latest "sour drivel":

    [H]is quasi-pathological distrust and hate of the Bushies has greatly reduced his credibility. Why? Because he too often appears to be rooting for this Administration's policy objectives to fail.
    Believe it or not, some of his policy moves can and do advance the cause of human liberty every now and again. Today was such a day. Cole would have done himself a favor by showing some magnanimity and judiciousness by acknowledging that. Instead, he's further embarrasing himself by penning such sour drivel [quote from Cole's latest post: "I'm just appalled by the cheerleading tone of US news coverage of the so-called elections in Iraq on Sunday."]
    How shabby, ungenerous and low. Meanwhile, I would look forward to an explication of Cole's methodology regarding how each of the Pakistani election of 2002 and the Iranian one of 1997 were "much more democratic" than today's in Iraq. Regardless, read all of Cole's post to get a full flavor of the hoops he will jump through to deny Bush any credit at all for what took place today. It's quite, er, breathtaking.

Be sure to read in the comments section the one by Thibaud. Here's a slice:

    I cannot believe that the head of the Middle Eastern Studies Association is ignorant of the difference between a referendum and a party-list election for a constituent assembly. Or that he is not capable of calculating that California white protestants are not 20% of the state's population but 50%.

    Cole is a small, mean-spirited little man whose hatred for the Bush administration is distorting his judgment. We expect better of a leading scholar.

Also, make sure to read the link in Greg's post to David Bernstein's piece on Cole's "Likud-Baiting" (which I commented on in my "JC Spreads the Love" post below).