It was strangely heartening to see Iraqis coming out to vote yesterday, even if I myself would not have voted in their place, even if many of their hopes are likely to be dashed as the election "results" become more obvious in the months ahead, and even if their reasons for voting are largely being ignored, or re-packaged as a victory for Bush & Co's "Freedom on the march" propaganda.
Democracy does not belong to the USA alone, nor to the warbloggers excitedly claiming this election as some kind of victory. There is no reason why those of us who opposed the US invasion cannot applaud any movement towards a better Iraq, even one as exaggerated and prone to misinterpretation as this election.
Juan Cole says he is appalled by "the cheerleading tone of US news coverage of the so-called elections."
I said on television last week that this event is a "political earthquake" and "a historical first step" for Iraq. It is an event of the utmost importance, for Iraq, the Middle East, and the world. All the boosterism has a kernel of truth to it, of course. Iraqis hadn't been able to choose their leaders at all in recent decades, even by some strange process where they chose unknown leaders. But this process is not a model for anything, and would not willingly be imitated by anyone else in the region. The 1997 elections in Iran were much more democratic, as were the 2002 elections in Bahrain and Pakistan.Cole reminds readers that these elections were nothing like what Bush & Co originally had in mind, and only happened because of sustained pressure from the Shi'ites and the UN.
Things may gradually get better, but this flawed "election" isn't a Mardi Gras for Americans and they'll regret it if that is the way they treat it.