Voice from the Commonwealth
Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

A reporter from Iraq telling us more than most of the others about the 'elections' and reporting on them. I quote in full because it is so insightful.

More than 11 million Iraqis went to the polls today to vote for who will run the country for the next seven years. There is one candidate: President Saddam Hussein. Ian Cobain, left, reports from Baghdad.

"As foreign journalists arrive in Iraq they are herded on to buses and taken to the best hotels in town, are assigned a government minder to check on their movements and to prevent conversations with Iraqis in private. They are then invited to sign up to a programme of watching speeches and riding on government-organised tours.

"In the spirit of independence I declined the invitation and with the Times photographer and our minder we went to see the referendum for what it is - a stage-managed charade.

"I wanted to see how the poorer Iraqis would vote. At the first polling station in the suburb of al-Mansour in Baghdad there were scores of teenage soldiers dancing and chanting anti-American slogans lined up to vote in full glare of the television cameras. The second one was much the same. Men in polling booths pricked their thumbs with blood and smeared it on the ‘yes’ box on the ballot form.

"On our third attempt on a trip to Saddam City, a largely Shia Muslim slum on the outskirts of the capital, we realised that the Government's stage managers had again got there before us.

“Ranks of immaculately turned out girls and boys in sparkling uniforms of the state-organised scout movement (in a slum, remember) lined up to chant anti-American nursery rhymes for us. As men and women inside voted they unfolded their ballot papers for all to see. They all had crosses in the 'yes' box.

"On the rare occasions that you do get an Iraqi alone (they are wary about talking to journalists) they are charming and friendly. It's a strange experience witnessing the stage-managed hate of the West one minute and then being asked about the health of David Beckham's newborn baby, Romeo, the next.

"Perhaps it is because we are guests of the Government that we are treated this way, perhaps it is traditional Arab hospitality. It was no different when I was last here during the intense bombing campaign by the British and the Americans in 1998. Apart from one army officer, I was treated with respect and cordiality by everyone, in spite of the fact that my country's aircraft were were bombing them.

"Ask an Iraqi - in private of course - what day the election is and they will answer 'on October 15'. Then when you ask when the results will be known they answer 'Why on October 14, of course'."

< email | 10/15/2002 09:08:00 PM | link

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