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Iraq: Democracy in Action



People gather outside al-Muitasim polling station following a deadly mortar attack, in Baghdad’s Shiite enclave of Sadr City, on Sunday. (AP)

Low turnout, suicide bombings. All were expected. I am not surprised by the bizarre, fawning and breathless reporting by the media on this. The spin is incredible — I was watching Michelle Caruso-Cabrera’s blathering on about the “historic day of voting” and then mentioning only about 700 votes had been cast in 6 hours in the most violent areas. Does that represent “democracy” or the kindling for civil war?

I then turn to the CBC news on News World International to see some actual reporting and talking head interviews with in-depth discussion of the ramifications of low turnout in specific areas. What is wrong with our news media? Never mind. in a report on MSNBC Iraqi officials predict 57 percent turnout. We’ll see if they are blowing smoke. (WP):

Iraqis voted Sunday in their country’s first free election in a half-century, defying insurgents who launched deadly suicide bombings and heavy mortar strikes at polling stations, killing 27 people. After a slow start, women in abayas – often holding babies – and men formed long lines, although there were pockets with little or no turnout.

Casting his vote, Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi called it “the first time the Iraqis will determine their destiny.”

… In a potentially troublesome sign, the polls at first were deserted in mostly Sunni cities like Fallujah, Ramadi and Samarra around Baghdad, and in the restive, heavily Sunni northern city of Mosul.

By midday, however, several dozen people were voting in Samarra and several hundred people – mostly Kurds – were voting on Mosul’s eastern side, witnesses said. Yet in Baghdad’s mainly Sunni Arab area of Azamiyah, the neighborhood’s four polling centers did not open, residents said.

A low Sunni turnout could undermine the new government and worsen the tensions among the country’s ethnic, religious and cultural groups. Final results will not be known for seven to 10 days, but a preliminary tally could come as early as late Sunday.

In Ramadi, U.S. troops used loudspeakers to urge people to vote. But in Beiji, a Sunni insurgent stronghold in northern Iraq, polling centers were all but deserted.

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BTW, last night I caught All the President’s Men (1976) on cable. It made me nostalgic for real reporting, instead of the corporate lap-dog drivel you see today. Man it was really low-tech then — Woodward (Robert Redford), searching through all these phone books for Kenneth Dahlberg’s phone number. No Googling, folks, but reporters got the job done.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding