Published in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review and the Manchester Union Leader, this article also lead to interviews on American radio stations from Washington to Texas
Dateline 08 November 2004
Over the next few weeks, Iraqi government troops and their Coalition allies – from Britain, Australia, America, and countless other countries will be in action to make Iraq safer. In Fallujah, which will continue to see some of the worst fighting, it will be Iraqi and American troops which will be undertaking the most dangerous tasks.
We can guarantee that during this time, while the fighting is at its worst, the faint hearts and pessimists – the French and German governments; the UN; the Democrats; CNN and CBS – will tell us that the effort is doomed. They will say that the Iraqi elections will be a flop, turnout will be low, and that Saddam’s supporters will likely come back to power. They will also tell us that only American soldiers are getting killed, with no reference to the brave Iraqis fighting to take their country back from the terrorists. Here are the top ten reasons why they are wrong.
10. Despite the overwhelming media focus on trouble spots, these are all in the so-called Sunni Triangle, where just 20% of the population live. The fact that all the CNN cameras are in this one area doesn’t make it representative of Iraq as a whole.
9. There are as many people in the Kurdish regions in the north, as there are in the Sunni Triangle. The Kurdish regions have had successful multi-party democracies for 12 years.
8. The majority Shias (60% of the population) are keen to participate. Spiritual leaders, including Ayatollah Sistani have urged people to vote and even calling it a religious duty. Under this doctrine, people who don’t vote can go to hell.
7. The electoral system chosen (national lists) is not particularly vulnerable to intimidation. Votes are counted locally but the totals are calculated nationally, and seats in parliament are awarded in proportion to votes. A gang that intimidates voters locally will have almost no impact on the national vote.
6. A boycott by Sunnis would be counterproductive. In the US, representation is allocated to each state according to population. Under national lists, the weight of any region or strand of opinion is determined by turnout. If Sunnis stay at home, Sunni candidates don’t get elected.
5. The Coalition has trained a new Iraqi army, which is taking on more and more of the security role. Claims by western critics that America alone is keeping the provisional government in power and that 90% of the Coalition military casualties have been American are simply wrong. The Iraqi army is the main force in Iraq now and has suffered more casualties from terrorists than American forces. But the terrorists who attack the Iraqi army have very little support.
4. The turnout is going to be huge. Liberal journalists will report on the day that turnout is disappointing, because they will only be counting in Baghdad. When votes come in from Kurdish and Shia areas it will prove to be even bigger than the American turnout, which itself was up by a fifth from 2000.
3. People in Iraq are fed up with war. They know that the only way to end the series of wars that Saddam led them into is to empower a democratic, probably western-oriented, government to stamp out the Saddam loyalists who are disrupting Iraqi life.
2. More and more people in Iraq have access to the Internet and other free information sources. They no longer have to trust government propaganda. Al Jazeera, and a growing network of Iraqi bloggers – most of whom regard Americans as allies – give Iraqis access to freedom of speech.
But the biggest reason the Iraqi elections will be a success is . . .
1. Western liberals who claim that Arabs don’t want or aren’t ready for democracy are just wrong. What liberals call “western” values are human values. Arabs want to be free and to govern themselves just as much as people in Europe and America do.
Quentin Langley is a British based writer and commentator. He is a lecturer on Cardiff University’s MA in international public relations and international correspondent of Campaigns and Elections magazine.
Copyright © Quentin Langley 08 November 2004