Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Getting out the fanatic vote


Four days before Iraqi elections, and the locations of polling stations still haven’t been released, but we now know that there will also be fake polling stations, to lure suicide bombers. Good, because it wasn’t going to be confusing and chaotic enough.

Personally, I doubt there will be all that much violence on election day, but you’d be a fool to count on it, so the threats have done one thing: skewed the participating electorate heavily towards the fanatics. Some of them will be the brave pro-democracy fanatics Bush keeps invoking, some will be other varieties of fanatics; Iraq has rich and diverse assortment of fanatical fauna. But in much of the country, the lack of security has already determined that the electorate will consist of an unrepresentative minority: those willing to risk their lives for their beliefs. Left out will be the “afraid of all the violence” majority.

I passed on a suggestion months ago, I think from a letter to the New York Times, that adding on a referendum on whether the US occupation should end would increase turnout dramatically. Since that didn’t make it onto the ballot, if we are to understand Sunday’s results we need to ask how the voters who are most concerned with that are going to vote. I’m unclear on this. Will they vote for anti-American parties, or will they vote for Allawi and other American puppets on the theory that if the US gets the result it wants it will leave the country alone, much the same way that the Sandinistas were voted out in Nicaragua by a country weary of years of American attacks and economic pressure.

The 4 Brits who were held in Guantanamo for 3 years have been released by the British police, and are now looking forward to selling their stories of American torture (one was told that his wife was being tortured in the next room) to the tabloids. And in response the Pentagon rolled out a spokesmodel new to me, because I think I would have remember the name: Lieutenant Commander Flex Plexico. That’s better than my previous faves, Carter Ham and Michael Formica.

Ah, I’ve just googled him. Flex is a nickname, though not so identified in the news stories. Real name: Alvin Plexico.

The Blair government, responding to a Law Lords decision that its detention of foreigners without trial was illegal because it was discriminatory, will change the law (and opt out of the European Convention on Human Rights) to expand it to include British citizens (which means they can also go after animal rights activists, who are regularly demonized by right-wing newspapers), and allow the government to order house arrest, monitoring bracelets, etc. And there’s surprisingly little outrage evident.

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