Sunnis' absence threatens vote
Low participation could undermine election's legitimacy
by Tom Lasseter for Knight Ridder Newspapers
With the first phase of ballot counting in Iraq finished, concerns were growing Monday that many of the country's Sunni Muslims may not have voted.
That would raise the possibility that the election could aggravate the rift between Iraq's Sunni minority and a Shiite Muslim majority that appears to have taken power.
Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, a secular Shiite, called for national unity in a plea that appeared to be directed toward the Sunnis.
"We are entering a new era of our history," he said, "All Iraqis, whether they voted or not, should unite. Our mission is to build Iraq."
Although Sunnis in some areas voted in higher numbers than expected, their overall turnout was low, according to a senior US diplomat in Baghdad. Mainstream Sunni political parties boycotted the vote, and man Sunnis live in the most violent areas of Iraq and are subject to intimidation by insurgents.
"Sunni participation was considerably lower than participation by the other groups, especially in areas where we have seen a good deal of violence, and where intimidation is most easily carried out," said the US diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonimity.
If the final results confirm a low Sunni turnout, it would mean that despite the euphoria and dancing in the streets on Sunday, as much as 20 percent of the population, most of it in the heart of the country, may not accept the results as legitimate.[Ed note: Does that sound like Democrats, or what?] That could provide more fuel for the mostly Sunni insurgency.
The elected assembly will select a president and two vice presidents. The president will then select a cabinet. The assembly will also select a committee to draft a permanent constitution.
Officials on Monday continued to boast that the elections carried on in spite of violence.
The number of insurgent attacks on Sunday, 260, was the highest ever recorded since the US occupation began. Including insurgents, at least 65 persons were killed in the fighting.
On Monday, the jihadist group Ansar al Islam released a tape showing what appeared to be a fighter shooting down a C-130 transport plane Sunday night. The British government has confirmed that the aircraft went down and that 10 died, but hasn't given a cause.
Also Monday, the military said three US Marines had been killed south of Baghdad.
At the detainee center of Camp Bucca in southern Iraq, riots left four prisoners dead and six injured on Monday. The violence came during a search for contraband, according to the U.S. military.
That's how they begin the turnaround. Report the negative facts and use them to promote undermining the positive! You'll notice that the reporter doesn't mention the fact that no one expected the Sunnis to vote for two reasons -- some of them (former Hussein supporters) are part of the insurgency and the Iraqi leadership has already said they plan to give equal leadership positions to Sunnis in spite of the fact that they didn't vote.
This reporter is looking at the situation through the blue-covered lens of American Democratic politics instead of seeing through the unbiased lens of an objective observer, or even the rose-colored lens of the Republicans'.
More blue lenses:
The New York Times reports this morning (Feb 1):
Both President Bush and Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill tried Monday to capitalize on the election in Iraq, with the White House saying it was a ratification of both its political and military strategies and Democrats saying it should open the way for a clear exit plan.
With the State of the Union address scheduled for Wednesday night, both parties appeared to be maneuvering to gain political advantage from a relatively peaceful vote. White House officials said the address was being rewritten to celebrate the images of jubilant Iraqis at the polls as part of a "democratic wave" that has also swept Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories.
Yet in an effort to pre-empt the speech, two leading Democrats, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California and Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, demanded that Mr. Bush use the speech to explain to Americans how long forces would remain in Iraq, and how he would measure success there - terms that Mr. Bush has kept vague. [Ed note: Not if you've been listening!]
"Yesterday's elections were a milestone," Senator Reid said. "But on Wednesday night, the president needs to spell out a real and understandable plan for the unfinished work ahead to defeat the growing insurgency, rebuild Iraq, increase political participation by all parties, especially Iraq's moderates, and increase international involvement.
"But most of all, we need an exit strategy so that we know what victory is and how we can get there."
Du-uh! There IS a clean exit plan in place and it's one we've known all along -- we'll get out as soon as the Baathists and insurgents accept the fact that it's over. That was said from the beginning. Actually I suspect it's to the advantage of the Iranians to be sure the insurgency continues to keep us from looking at their situation more carefully -- if it does. Probably doesn't.
At any rate, what do you say we see more and more of this "poor Sunnis, they didn't get to vote" stuff and somehow, some way, they'll say it's President Bush's fault.
This "exit strategy" stuff is either ignorance or ...well, it's ignorance. Imagine if Pres. Bush announced tonight that he would begin pulling troops out of Iraq tomorrow. The insurgents would probably back off and quit fighting so they could come back in when we leave and re-install Saddma Hussein. Since most Democrats didn't care if he was in there or not, it wouldn't matter to them. But in that case, all of our troops who died over there would have died in vain. I don't think we're willing to see that happen.
So lay off, Libs.