From the BBC
Jordan is hosting a meeting of Iraq’s neighbours on Thursday to rally support for Iraqi elections on 30 January. It wants all the nations present to issue a "clear message" to Iraqis that they should vote in the poll, Jordanian Foreign Minister Hani Mulki said.
However, Iran’s foreign minister is boycotting the meeting in protest at comments by Jordan’s King Abdullah. The king accused Tehran of meddling in Iraq and trying to create a Shia sphere of influence in the region.
I’m of the belief that Iraqis should participate in the elections. Boycotting the polls won’t do the Iraqis any good, as it will only extend the current state of anarchy! To the Iraqis out there, I say, make your voice heard: Cast your ballots.
Does anyone out there have any idea what percentage of the Iraqi resistance is Shia?
How about the percentage of Shia vs. Sunni that are willing to take part in the polls?
Just some things to ponder.
Um, No. You are incorrect. I chose to take you up on Maan because you were wrong on that point and you partially admit so here. Because I have challenged you on this point has little to no bearing on my position on your larger point. Do I have to hate everything you say or the overall idea of your argument so that I can make a legitimate point? Can’t someone find fault in part of your discussion? Of course.
And the point I made very early on was simple: It is important to consider the small points you make, as they serve as the foundation for your overall argument. You degrade your position if you do not take everything you say as worthy of consideration and you add to that degradation when you highlight your points by calling them “lessons” and when some of your lessons are wrong.
I mentioned one issue that you represented improperly. Likely I wouldn’t have mentioned it at all except for the attitude that surrounded its delivery. You say I only took two points of your defense. Well, those articles were the ones you said defended your point specifically: “As for the particular snide about no report of anti-Clinton sentiment in Maan …” So I investigated, found and relayed that those two articles did not say what you indicated. So you went to find more proof.
You quote the Post again and cite “prominent tribal and religious leader,” as if that answers your original claim: “I refer you to Maan. Every time a prominent Maan resident spoke out against the Clinton admin’s bombing of Iraq or the impending 2003 war, the entire city would be under siege.”
Here again, neither this article nor the others you cite backup your simple claim that every time a prominent citizen speaks out the city was put under siege. In Maan the situation was much more complex than this, as evidenced by your own proof — article after article describing the events vs. the two sentences you provide. Do you not recognize that your statements — you describe as history — do not tell this story accurately or completely, that you’ve ridiculously oversimplified events? That is the problem with your statement. It creates what I properly termed a “half-truth.”
Don’t you recognize in your own delivery your flip and sardonic tone? If you decide that you want to “educate” those reading what you have to say, don’t you think it’d be best not to take on airs? And if you think you haven’t done so, why don’t you do a quick poll of those of us reading?
No, I’m not taking issue with some of the things you’ve said because I don’t disagree with all that you’ve said. But here, in near the first historical point of your treatise you simplify a story that deserves the full treatment and in so doing what you say becomes wrong. And I point it out for the reason I mentioned earlier: you weaken your position by not fully representing an issue, something particularly noteworthy when you’ve decided to deliver a history lesson.
Telling it like it is.
One of the few op-eds on the elections that I find balanced…
January 9, 2005
How a Vote Could Derail Democracy
By LARRY DIAMOND
IRAQ is about to reach a point of no return. If, as President Bush insists, it goes ahead with elections for the new transitional government on Jan. 30, Iraq may score a huge moral and political victory for democracy over violence and terrorism. More likely, however, these elections will only increase political polarization and violence by entrenching the perceptions of Sunni Arab marginalization that are helping to drive the violence in the first place. This would not be the first instance when badly timed and ill-prepared elections set back the prospects for democracy, stability and ethnic accommodation. Think of Angola in 1992, Bosnia in 1996, Liberia in 1997.
Contrary to the conventional wisdom, the problem is not simply that there is too much mayhem and disorder in significant parts of Iraq. Let’s face it, at some point Iraq will have to hold elections, and foreign terrorists, religious fanatics and diehard defenders of the old order will try to use violence to obstruct them.
Rather, the problem right now is that the opposition to holding elections goes well beyond these irreconcilable spoilers. It includes a great many other actors – many of them moderate and democratic – who believe that elections this month cannot possibly be fair, and who have therefore resolved not to legitimize them by participating.
These people – encompassing a wide array of Sunni Arab civic, tribal and religious leaders – can be brought into the political process. If they were to participate in elections, the insurgent and terrorist violence plaguing Iraq would be substantially reduced. If their exclusion from the political process is confirmed by elections this month, ethnic and religious animosities will only intensify, and the country could well slide toward civil war.
The most serious calls for postponement come from Sunni political forces that oppose not democracy per se, but rather the structure of the transitional political process. Specifically, they object to the electoral system of proportional representation for the new assembly that will choose a transitional government and write a constitution; seats will be allocated not based on geography but on the national vote results. With violence and instability much more pervasive in the Sunni provinces, they worry that polling will be disrupted, hurting Sunni slates’ chance of winning enough votes to qualify for seats.
If turnout is much heavier in the Shiite south and Kurdish north than in Sunni provinces like Al Anbar (which includes Falluja) and Salaheddin (whose capital is Saddam Hussein’s hometown, Tikrit), the Sunnis, who account for about 15 percent to 20 percent of the population, may win only a tiny percentage of the seats. Then, they fear, their bid for a fair share of power and resources in the new system would be crushed. (That the Kurds and Shiites have been subjected to such treatment by the central government for decades doesn’t justify their perpetuating it.)
Sunni political and social leaders are not calling for an open-ended cancellation of the election. They are requesting a one-time postponement of several months, in order to establish the “necessary conditions” for a fair and inclusive vote. They want a more transparent electoral commission. They want citizens to be better informed about the electoral process. They worry that some who have registered to vote are foreigners (mostly Iranians) recruited to back the more militant Shiite parties.
Most of all, however, these Sunnis want electoral districts to be established (perhaps along the lines of the existing 18 provinces), so that each province can be assured of some minimum representation in Parliament, based on its estimated share of the national population. Proportional representation would give each party or coalition a share of the seats in each province equivalent to its share of the provincial vote. (In fact, a version of this electoral system is precisely what I and other experts recommended to the Coalition Provisional Authority early last year, but our suggestion fell on deaf ears.)
Yes, Sunni opposition forces have made other requests that cannot be fully accommodated, including the withdrawal of American forces from Iraqi cities within a month of the election and the restructuring of the current interim government. But the need now is not for pure concession or pure rejection, but rather for negotiation.
Fortunately, it is no longer true, as has often been argued, that there is no one to negotiate with. Over the last few months, Sunni religious, tribal, civic and political leaders have begun meeting and forming alliances. At a conference in Tikrit on Dec. 23, Sunni representatives from seven provinces met, released a statement articulating their concerns and requests, and elected an “executive body” to negotiate on their behalf.
The group’s leadership committee includes Hatem Mukhlis, the surgeon who met with President Bush in the Oval Office two months before the invasion of Iraq and is now a member of Iraq’s interim advisory council, and Saleh Mutlaq, a former senior Iraqi Army officer who was sentenced to death by Saddam Hussein in 1978 for refusing to suppress the Shiite community, then was spared and became a successful businessman. Also prominent in this new coalition is the Association of Muslim Scholars, the principal body of Sunni Muslim clerics, and another recently formed group, the Iraqi National Founding Congress, whose spokesman is a Baghdad University political scientist, Wamid Nadmi.
The members of this Sunni coalition are varied. Some of them are moderate, with democratic credentials. Some are extremely anti-American – Arab nationalists and Islamists who have openly sympathized with the insurgency. The Bush administration is adamant that it “will not negotiate with terrorists” – and will not condone the Iraqi authorities doing so either. But in conditions approximating civil war, you are not going to find many Mother Teresas. You negotiate with agents and sympathizers of violence who decide that they are ready to take a different path.
The Sunni coalition leaders have said that if the voting is postponed and their concerns are addressed, they will call on their followers to participate in the rescheduled elections. Otherwise, they are committed to a boycott, which in the existing climate of violence and fear would likely depress voter turnout to minuscule levels in their provinces.
While Prime Minister Ayad Allawi last week reiterated the call for keeping the elections on schedule, an ever-growing group of Iraqis is now coming to recognize that they must be postponed. This includes two respected Sunni politicians who were members of the Iraqi Governing Council: Adnan Pachachi, who led the drafting of Iraq’s liberal interim constitution, and the moderate Islamist politician Mohsen Abdul Hameed. The advocates of postponement now also include an overwhelming majority of Iraq’s 33 ministers, and last week President Ghazi al-Yawar discussed having the United Nations reassess whether elections should be held.
What is needed now is for all of Iraq’s social and political stakeholders to sit down and talk. The outlines of a compromise are visible. The Sunnis could get a one-time postponement of the vote, an electoral system based substantially on provincial districts, and certain other political and administrative reforms. The leading Shiites, who have drawn together into the United Iraqi Alliance and seem set to win an election no matter when it is held or under what system, could get a commitment on the part of the Sunni opposition groups to end the electoral boycott and to work to reduce the violence, and thus to create a political situation in which their victory will be worth having.
In crises, democracy is not forged through a sudden moral conversion of warring parties to principles of freedom and the rule of law. Rather, bitter antagonists come to see a democratic accommodation as their second-best option – worse than the domination they would prefer, but better than the mutual destruction that they risk through continued strife.
In the coming days, Iraqi political and social leaders have the opportunity to reach across their lines of division and begin to forge such a historic compromise. It is in America’s interest to urge them to do so. If, instead, they plunge forward with elections that leave one section of the country excluded and embittered, we will all be the losers.
Larry Diamond, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and an editor of The Journal of Democracy, was an adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad from January 2004 to April 2004.
Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company