Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Day Before The Rest of Their Lives

Today in Iraq things will be tense. This isn't January elections. January was about a step in a process, it was about emotions more than anything else, it was pivotal, and it set the path, but it was not about a 4 year ruling government.

Tomorrow is much different. A four year government will be in place at the end of all the vote counting, which will take days. Everyone I know in Iraq is much more concerned about fraud because the stakes are so high.

The big question on everyone's mind is this: Will the Kurdish parties and one of the other more secular parties, primarily Allawi's, gain enough seats between them to hold in check any of the more radical religious changes that people worry the "Shiite Alliance Party" might try to implement?

This kind of report
is an example of the worries underlying the excitement on voting day this time:

"In Baghdad, the leader of the most feared of Iraq's factional militias seemed to warn of war if the Sunnis won. "We will raise our weapons as we did before if the Baathists come to power again," said Haidi Amery, leader of the officially disbanded Badr militia of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, one of the Shiite religious parties brought to power in January's vote. Some in the Shiite ruling coalition invoke the name of Hussein's Sunni-dominated Baath Party when referring to any Sunni or secular Iraqi, particularly Allawi."

Almost every Sunni had to enlist in the Baath party under Saddam technically or be subject to punishment ranging from blacklisting to much worse, as we know. Some bravely resisted this, or avoided it. But to do so under such a tyranny as Saddam's people outside cannot understand what that meant. Not all Sunnis are Baathists. It is one of the most misunderstood issues, as I talk to people here, average, intelligent, well educated Americans that have only read the MSM for their news, they believe all Sunnis are part of the "insurgency" and are amazed when they hear of how many Sunnis hated Saddam and his baathist ways, and hate the faction that fuels the insurgency as well. And Allawi was just as tough with support for crackdown on the area of Fallujah when he was in power, which is another reason that he is liked by many, he showed he will crack down on either sect when it comes to violence, be it a Shiite linked one or a Sunni linked one.

I know many secular or liberal Shiite that have been completely horrified by the current government in power and would like to see it change, so it's not as cut and dry as people here make it to be.

The worst thing people can do is catagorize voters in this way. I've said before, it's as reliable as predicting the "Catholic vote" here, which usually splits, some are for more liberal social and political programs because they wish that was how the Church was heading, some will vote more conservatively because of their social values, which they fear are being eroded. Yes, there are still a lot of sheep in Iraq following their flock leaders, voting as their local Cleric tells them to, especially in the villages. But also, I have heard of many that go and listen at the mosques and voice what they must out of fear, but will not vote the way they are told. After all, that is their only hope now, that someday they will not have to worry about a reprisal on them and their family for open disagreement in some areas of Iraq, where the Clerics still hold sway over entire villages.

For the 35 and under crowd, this election is especially important. They are more educated, and becoming so all the time. They are more open minded, as youth usually are, and there are many bright stars ready to raise Iraq in the next decade or two if only they feel there is a chance. Let's hope that tomorrow they will be able to give themselves that chance.

My greatest hopes and fears hinge upon tomorrow as well. If a change is not felt, not effected, I fear that following that Iraq will lose many of her best and brightest. But hope can not be killed easily for so many that have suffered so much. There is no reason that Iraq shouldn't be the leading country in the Middle East. But only they can decide to take themselves there, and we should all remember tomorrow that, after decades of tyranny, that is a victory in itself.

2 Comments:

Blogger Mark said...

Kerry,

You read my mind. Yesterday I posted the following on our joint blog site.

Universalism versus Tribalism

Perhaps the struggle we face isn't democracy versus dictatorship so much as universalism versus tribalism.

Today a friend of mine mentioned that in Northern Ireland there is or used to be political parties that were not openly Protestant or Catholic, but everyone knew that each of these parties have a Protestant or Catholic leaning. He seemed to be implying that if the Protestant party won, they would oppress the Catholics and if the Catholics won, they would oppress the Protestants.

Whether what my friend described was true for Northern Ireland or not, it does seem to illustrate the difference between "bare democracy" and "liberal democracy." Bare democracy is where voters get to decide who gets oppressed and who gets to do the oppressing. Liberal democracy gives all of its citizens basic human rights.

In January, when the Iraqis voted in large numbers despite the threat of terrorist attacks, the only news story that concerned me was a translated statement by an Iraqi Kurd who said, "I voted for the Kurds." Let's hope that the Iraqi Shia, Sunnis and Kurds can move towards liberal democracy and move away from tribalism. I think successful democracy has to be universalist in its orientation, not tribalist, though both kinds are often found even in advanced democracies.

1:02 AM  
Anonymous About Health Blog said...

But to do so under such a tyranny as Saddam's
people outside cannot understand what that meant.

2:18 PM  

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