January 30, 2005

Historic Iraq Elections

Well, they finally occured and turnout was probably on a par with US election turnout. Of course, the only thing people in this country have to worry about is a nutjob on the left screaming about Bush=Hitler or a right wing "intimidator" (whatever that is - still waiting for the pictures). On the other hand, an Iraq voter must worry about being beheaded. One of the more overused memes from the last several weeks is what percentage actually would represent a "legitimate" vote. James Taranto has an interesting thought game to play with people who ask this question.

Still, let's say the worst happens and a combination of terrorism and boycotts succeeds in keeping all but a few Sunni Arabs away from the polls. Would that really make the election illegitimate? Before you answer, consider a thought experiment: Suppose that, when South Africa held its first postapartheid election in 1994, Afrikaner turnout had been depressed by similar measures. Would that have made the enfranchisement of a long-oppressed majority any less a cause for celebration?

We know what certain elements of the left would have answered that question and it is disturbing that they are so quick to turn the torch of freedom over to the right. Of course, a post at the DU speaks volumes of how some look at the elections: "They still couldn't reach 99 % Saddam got." The rest of the posts are similarly illuminating, including one discovered by NRO Here are some pictures (and here, here, here, here) which state eloquently what mere words can not. Austin Bay notes that all those Iraqis who are proudly displaying their fingers in photos are sticking their fingers in the eyes of the terrorists/insurgents (or minutemen if you are a Mooreite) who posted pictures throughout Iraq of people who had been beheaded with inkstained fingers.

Iraq the Model has an inspiring post:

The first thing we saw this morning on our way to the voting center was a convoy of the Iraqi army vehicles patrolling the street, the soldiers were cheering the people marching towards their voting centers then one of the soldiers chanted "vote for Allawi" less than a hundred meters, the convoy stopped and the captain in charge yelled at the soldier who did that and said: "You're a member of the military institution and you have absolutely no right to support any political entity or interfere with the people's choice. This is Iraq's army, not Allawi's". This was a good sign indeed and the young officer's statement was met by applause from the people on the street. The streets were completely empty except for the Iraqi and the coalition forces ' patrols, and of course kids seizing the chance to play soccer! We had all kinds of feelings in our minds while we were on our way to the ballot box except one feeling that never came to us, that was fear. We could smell pride in the atmosphere this morning; everyone we saw was holding up his blue tipped finger with broad smiles on the faces while walking out of the center. I couldn't think of a scene more beautiful than that. From the early hours of the morning, People filled the street to the voting center in my neighborhood; youths, elders, women and men. Women's turn out was higher by the way. And by 11 am the boxes where I live were almost full! Anyone watching that scene cannot but have tears of happiness, hope, pride and triumph.

Iraqi expats were able to vote in SYRIA!!! Wonder if the irony will be lost on Syrian citizens who don't have the same opportunity...

Additional Iraqi bloggers with their own thoughts include The Messopotamian:

My condolences to the Great American people for the tragic recent losses of soldiers. The blood of Iraqis and Americans is being shed on the soil of Mesopotamia; a baptism with blood. A baptism of a lasting friendship and alliance, for many years to come, through thick and thin, we shall never forget the brave soldiers fallen while defending our freedom and future.


Today those who were killed in Iraq or wounded among our friends from the USA and other allies, who helped us to reach this day, are with us again to inscribe their names with Gold for ever! Today we challenged the killers and terrorists and foot on them with our shoes!

Diary from Baghdad: "victory"...nuff said. Iraqi elections are a success. Nor can the Arab news: "Nevertheless the very fact that the election is being held, despite all predictions is a defeat for the terrorists and a much needed victory for moderation. The inevitable Shiite majority of legislators must next use their success wisely to plan the future for all Iraqis, regardless of their community. In so doing, they will inflict an even more significant defeat on the men of violence."

Even the Beeb can't hide the obvious -

Excellent updates from Tim Blair, Belgravia Dispatch, Daily Demarche.

President Bush just finished giving a speech on the Iraq elections. One thing I kept thinking was what a shame it would have been to have denied him the opportunity to give that speech. His defining quote was: "The World is hearing the voice of freedom from the center of the middle east." Of course, <a href="http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6886726/'>Kerry said today</a> on Meet the Press: " A kind of legitimacy--I mean, it's hard to say that something is legitimate when a whole portion of the country can't vote and doesn't vote." Compare and contrast. On Fox news, Democrat Bob Beckle wondered "I don't get why any Democrat would want to dump on this election". Similar thoughts here.

Anyway, the tough job is ahead. The elections will be meaningless if there is not progress on the ground vis-a-vis the insurgency. I think we can all hope, both left and right, that this will signal the beginning of the end for the terrorists. Given how weak their response was, I don't think that is an impossibility. The next biggest issue is, irregardless of who won (is there any doubt Shia's will dominate the new government), how will the Sunni's and Kurds be given a share of the power. If they do not feel they have a say in the forming of the constitution and then in the elections next December, the terrorists will be the least of the new government's worries.

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September 28, 2004

Iraqi Bloggers and Milblogs

At a party this weekend, I was asked by several people for a list of Iraqi and military blogs that I frequent. I thought I would put up a quick list of those I find most interesting. As always, follow links from each of these blogs for ever more interesting writing since I am not trying to be in any way comprehensive with this list. Whether one agrees with the viewpoints espoused on the blogs, the one thing that comes through in all their writing is the bravery and heroism these people display on a regular basis. Whether it is an Iraqi blogger who must fear reprisals for their writing or an infantryman who puts his or her life on the line everyday, it is amazing that they can find the time to share their thoughts. I for one applaud every word they write.

Military Blogs

Chief Wiggles
Mudville GazetteSgt. Hook
Dagger Jag
Sgt. Missick
Candle in the Dark
1000 Words from Iraq
Iraq Calling
Life in this Girl's Army
Sands of Afghanistan
My War
American Soldier

Iraqi Blogs

Nabil's Blog
Iraq at a Glance
Iraq the Model
Healing Iraq
Iraqi Letter to America
A family in Baghdad
A Star from Mosul
Life in Baghdad
Kurdo's Blog
Kurdistan Blogger's Union
Baghdad Burning
Raed in the Middle

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May 19, 2004

On Blogs

A good, quick discussion of the benefits blogs have over traditional media. The author, Kevin Drum, does not say that blogs are superior just different. He is quick to point out blogs major flaw - lack of fact checking - although given recent traditional news media shortfalls in the fact checking arena, it may not be that different anyway.

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April 27, 2004

Bloggers as Editors

I think Micah Sifry gets it right with "Bloggers are editors, not journalists". Interesting post.

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April 20, 2004

Blogs Changing Relationship to News

Last summer I had an argument with some friends about how the nature of news and people's relationship to the news was changing in some pretty fundamental ways thanks to the internet. They were quite dismissive of my viewpoint and went so far as to say that things were better when there were 3 news stations that were "impartial." What the old days of media impartiality ignored was that there are always multiple narratives for every story and the narrative will largely be based on who is telling the story and that person/organizations point of view. With few outlets to disseminate the news, impartiality was necessary and the news broadcaster's responsibility was to try and distill a story down to its essence for the recipient to understand. However, this led to a very standardized and often sanitized way of presenting and interpreting a news story. If a narrative did not fit the mold, it was ignored. Let's face it - even though we mostly trusted Peter Jennings and Walter Cronkite and believed what we read in the NYTimes or WaPo, the stories they told were often gray, flattened images of a much richer reality. There was no other choice.

With the advent of 24x7 cable and the internet, the need for impartiality may be rapidly disappearing. Some lament the way news programs tend to have their own spin to every story. I have been one of those people and many of my friends roll their eyes whenever Fox News is mentioned. However, after considering it more, I do believe this phenomenon represents the fact that an average citizen now has the ability to access multiple narratives to the same story and this actually enhances the ability to distill the truth. Impartiality may no longer be necessary and may actually be a detriment to people's understanding of a particular story because it tends to strip out the nuances that are attached to almost every situation.
Impartiality preassumes that some type of "truth" can be arrived at, but it fails to take into account that there are often multiple truths to every issue. With so many outlets now beaming their own versions of the truth for every story, viewers can assimilate the different narratives and weave them into a whole that is probably closer to the truth than what the evening news could ever hope to do on its own.

Blogs and the advent of newsreaders take this news distillation up another notch. The ability to gather the same news story from many different avenues will radically alter how people understand and interact with the news. Instead of a passive process, it has become an active process with users even able to add their own thoughts to a narrative thread.

The danger is that many people will simply isolate themselves with one point of view that they agree with and thus reinforce their own prejudices. This may partly explain why politics in this country has become ever more partisan and shrill. The new form of info "gathering" represented by blogs and newsreaders will require users to become more active and thoughtful in interacting with the data that is presented to them. They will have to do their own leg work in weaving together the narratives to arrive at their own understanding. Ultimately, I believe this can only be a good thing and I believe as people become more comfortable with the technology, and more blogs are born, more people will change from simply being news consumers to news "acquirers."

Anyway, here is a recent Wired article titled "The News, One Entry at a Time", which instigated the above. Enjoy.

UPDATE: Here is a different take on the transfomative nature of blogging from Geoffrey Nunberg.

On the one hand, blogs are clearly a more democratic form of expression than anything the world of print has produced. But in some ways they're also more exclusionary, and not just because they only reach about a tenth of the people who use the Web.

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