January 30, 2005
Quote of the Day
--Iraqi blogger Rose, a female civil engineer in Baghdad with a three year old daughter, in a post entitled "I Did It, I Voted."
So did many others (perhaps 60-72% turnout). We will have to wait a few more days for the final, official numbers and there will be the inevitable disputes about methodology, or whether enough voters had been registered, or whether the relatively light turn-out in places like Fallujah (though some people voted there too) have a material impact on the election's legitimacy. But any judicious observer, in my view, must be awed and humbled by this wondrous spectacle of Iraqis exercising their vote in such large numbers--in the face of a fanatical campaign of fear and intimidation. As Michael Ignatieff wrote today:
The election in Iraq is without precedent. Never, not even in the dying days of Weimar Germany, when Nazis and Communists brawled in the streets, has there been such a concerted attempt to destroy an election through violence - with candidates unable to appear in public, election workers driven into hiding, foreign monitors forced to 'observe' from a nearby country, actual voting a gamble with death, and the only people voting safely the fortunate expatriates and exiles abroad.
Indeed. Which makes the turnout all the more impressive (and the relative indifference to it in parts of Europe, and certain quarters in America too, particularly underwhelming and sad). We have become spoiled in the West--but other peoples, less blessed with the fruits of liberty now taken for granted by so many--they have again shown today that they will risk their very lives to exercise universally desired rights if only given the opportunity. What a tonic such noble courage--particularly in these cynical times in which swines like a Michael Moore are feted in places like the dumbed-down precincts of Cannes.
All these electoral going-ons in Iraq reminded me of a brief break in law school, when I went back to Bosnia (I had worked in the Balkans in the mid-90s) for a stint as an election monitor in 1998. I was assigned to a town in a corner of northwestern Bosnia called Velika Kladusha. Balkan hands will recall some intra-Muslim struggles had occurred there as between local warlord Fikrit Abdic's militia and Alija Izetbegovic's central party in Sarajevo. I was taken aback by the numbers of people who came out, who hungered for their right to vote. We had to toss bottles of water out to the thirsty crowd that had waited for hours as we registered them at the polling station. It began to rain and the crowd rushed to a covered alcove just outside the door--pushing against a large window-pane that ran the length of the entrance--so that the glass appeared to sway under the pressure of dozens of bodies pressed against it. I was worried the window would shatter--injuring many and making a tense situation much more so. But, I remember thinking, how powerful an image! A press of human bodies, braving local thugs, the inclement weather, the long wait and thirst--to the point that a large window would burst from the sheer human weight--well symbolizing their so tangible desire to vote.
We have seen such tenacity, courage, and optimism today in Iraq--only ten times over. Today, it is not hyperbolic to say, what Abraham Lincoln called humanity's "better angels" triumphed against a fascistic campaign of terror. The ink-stained fingers, proudly displayed by Iraqi voters exiting polling stations, now joins the pantheon of images in the iconography of human freedom's long and perilous voyage. Today is a day of hope, a day of exaltation, a day, above all, where we in the West should be humbled by the courage of the Iraqi people.
UPDATE: An American contact on the ground, closely involved with the elections process, E-mails:
Best anecdote of the day: in Qadissiyah, voters waiting in line fled when an insurgent arrived on the scene with an RPG. He fired and missed. An hour later, the same voters--with more neighbors, friends and family, came back to finish the job. That's why the bad guys lost today.
Yep, it sure is. The bad guys lost because the power of human courage never ceases to amaze. And, of course, because coalition forces (and nascent Iraqi ones) helped make it all possible.
Posted by Gregory at January 30, 2005 03:55 PM
Reviews of Belgravia Dispatch
--New York Times
--an anonymous blogospheric commenter
UPDATE: Comments re-enabled. Thanks!
The UBL Tape
Wanted: More Troops
Questions Re: a Post-Sharon Israel
Zbigniew Brzezinski Speaks
The Former Secretaries Meet POTUS
DeLay Steps Aside
The Rancid Stench of L'affaire Abramoff
The End of the Sharon Era?
English Language Media
New York Times
The New Yorker
Real Clear Politics
Foreign Affairs Commentariat
Non-English Language Press
Katrina vanden Heuvel
The American Scene
Winds of Change
The Reliable Source
Law & Finance
Bull and Bear Wise
Corporate Counsel Blog
Corp Law Blog
Deal Lawyers Blog
New York Observer
Central and Eastern Europe
Across the Bay
Bliss Street Journal
American in Lebanon
B.D. In the Press
The Sunday Times(UK)"If It Makes America Look Bad It Must Be True, Musn't It?"
The Guardian "Trial and Error"
Online Journalism Review "Feeling Misquoted? Weblogs Transcripts Let the Reader Decide"
Online Journalism Review "Bloggers Rate the Most Influential Blogs" (see chart)
The Sunday Times (UK) "Rise of the Virtual Soapbox"
Middle East-Peace Process
U.S. Foreign Policy