“Iraqi Elections: Bring ‘Em On”

The elections in Iraq are shaping up to be another “Bring ‘em on” moment.

Iraqis are bracing themselves for more violence and the real possibility of extreme danger to those who go to the polls. Carlos Valenzuela, the chief UN elections adviser in Iraq said that “the intimidation of electoral workers by guerrillas seeking to derail this month’s balloting is high and very serious,” According to the Associated Press.

He added his voice to the increasing “Bring ‘em on” refrain by stating that “only a sustained onslaught by insurgents or a mass resignation of electoral workers will prevent this month’s national elections from going ahead.” There’s nothing like an open invitation for more violence.

The Iraqis I speak to are much more concerned about security than about elections. Rather than going to political rallies, or town hall meetings, they are stockpiling food and water for the dreadful days ahead. The Washington Post’s Anthony Shadid captured this frustration when he quoted a mother of a murdered 20-year-old Baiji policeman. “Damn the elections,” she said. “They are just a disaster hanging over our head. What was the fault of my son? He was a very simple and good man. He died because of these elections.”

With electricity at half capacity in many parts of Iraq, water service spotty and the lines for gasoline stretching for miles, elections seem like a cruel joke. Rather than bringing on stability and security, elections are becoming a catalyst for more chaos and violence.

The few who are campaigning openly are doing so outside Iraq” should replace “For the most part they are campaigning …” in paragraph six.

President George W. Bush said he viewed his re-election “as a historical marker for our Iraq policy.” Such a marker is an opportunity to rethink our failed approach to this conflict and find a new way to bring about a peaceful resolution and end the occupation. Instead, last year’s failed policy is suddenly perceived as a mandate by this administration. Never mind that most Americans feel that the Iraq war was unjustified. A new Los Angeles Times poll showed that US support for the Iraq war is at an all time low with only 39 percent of Americans now believe that the war with Iraq was warranted.

And what about the Iraqi elections? There seems to be little regard for Iraqi lives in this macabre experiment cooked up by the Neocons in the Pentagon. And just as we rushed into a war that has cost the lives of tens of thousands of Iraqis and Americans we are rushing into these elections that are sure to cause the death of many more.

What’s even more bizarre is that those who are running for office are doing so in secret. The few who are campaigning openly are doing so outside Iraq”- in Jordan, England and the U.S. At one recent gathering of Iraqi Americans in Washington D.C., agents from party #169 and #107 (Iraqi Unity Party and The Movement of Democratic Society respectively) were making promises of better days ahead. They both chided the current government and its ineffectiveness and assured us of a more secure and prosperous future Iraq. Few attendees seemed convinced.

Iraqis are being promised a dawn of a new era after the elections. Most of us don’t believe such nonsense. We’ve been there, done that. At each turning point we have had our hopes raised only to see them disintegrate. We know that elections in and of themselves are not the silver bullet that will bring about peace and security.

I can’t argue that elections are an important transition toward democracy. However, I can safely predict that elections done badly will exacerbate the current crisis and catapult it into further violence and chaos.