Saturday, December 17, 2005

Whats going on in Iraq?

Eleven of fifteen million Iraqis went to the polls on Thursday (12/15/05) to elect their new, homegrown government in an unprecedented, almost miraculous exercise in democratic freedom! The interim government, elected in January, will step down for the new rulers.

There were about 7,000 candidates, from hundreds of political parties, vying for just 275 parliament seats. So it's safe to say the Iraqis have lots of different opinions about how to govern their country. Of course it will be a few weeks before we know the outcomes, but by all accounts Election Day was a success: Which is to say that lots of Iraqis voted and there was very little violence.

Today just about everyone is celebrating. "Happy days!" cheered Salim Saleh to a New York Times reporter. "Before, we had a dictator, and now we have this freedom, this democracy," Emad Abdul Jabbar, a 38-year-old Sunni, told the Times. "This time, we have a real election, not just the sham elections we had under Saddam, and we Sunnis want to participate in the political process." "We are so happy," Sahera Hashim told the Financial Times. "We hope for security, good life. We have suffered too much in the past." The mayor of Ramadi, an insurgent and Sunni stronghold, compared the elections to a wedding: "Right now, the city is experiencing a democratic celebration." Another Sunni man told a Post reporter, "All my neighborhood is voting. God willing, after the elections things will be good."

Moreover we're blessed to have Christian Lowe reporting from the ground in Iraq these days. Lowe is posting dispatches from his two-month stint in Iraq on his blog and they are so well-observed and honest that everyone should read them.

In one post last week, he reported on the horrifying aftermath of an IED. And yesterday he posted his reporting from Thursday's elections:

Calls over the minarets told Ramadians to got to vote. Lines were reportedly long. Some polling stations ran out of ballots. One site had 2,400 people standing in line. . . . An intel Marine told me the other day that this is his third time over here and finally he's seeing things beginning to change. It's weird, because I was having a conversation with a captain yesterday who didn't understand why the public back home doesn't see success here. He sees it in the growing professionalism of the Iraqi army, the gradual disenchantment of the people towards the insurgency, the hatred they're gaining toward the terrorists. These are benchmarks that can't be easily explained. I've been through almost all of the city during the day--granted it's been behind the bullet-proof glass of a Humvee--and life seems relatively normal . . .

Dispatches such as Lowe's don't tell the whole story - but they give us important detail.

Get a graphical, at-a-glance look at Iraq's big election

Blessed are the peacemakers (Matthew 5.9)

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