The Iraqi election is only a little more than three weeks off, but for Iraqi civilians and American soldiers, that’s got to seem like an eternity. In the last two days, four suicide bombers and multiple guerilla attacks have killed 33 Iraqi policemen, civilians, and government officials. Six American soldiers died on Tuesday alone. The mounting carnage has led to yet another round of questioning as to whether holding an election on the 30th would be feasible, much less advisable. On Tuesday, Iraq’s interim president, Ghazi Yawar, suggested that “it will be a tough call to hold the election,” and suggested the U.N. should weigh in on whether Iraq’s ready for an election.
But Allawi vehemently insisted today that the election would take place as scheduled, and The Washington Post reports that American commanders are trying to downplay the possibility that insurgent violence on the 30th will disrupt voting.
Middle East expert Juan Cole writes on his blog, however, that focusing solely on whether the interim Iraqi government can pull off the election may miss the point. Looking back to yesterday’s assassination of Ali Haidary, Baghdad Province’s governor, Cole suggests that the full significance of recent attacks on Iraqi Government officials has been overlooked. “These killings have often not even been well reported in the US press. But imagine if a group was systematically killing the secretaries of state of the 50 US states, and sometimes got a governor to boot.” Should insurgents continue to succeed at assassinating such prominent officials so regularly, Cole notes, “the real question won’t be whether you could hold elections but rather whether the members of the new government could be kept alive.”
As a break from doom-and-gloom coverage, The New York Times goes to Sadr City in Baghdad to cover the campaign events of Fatah al-Sheik, a “natural politician” running in the upcoming national elections. While many of the names of Iraq’s candidates haven’t been made public for security reasons, al-Sheik is making campaign speeches and glad-handing in the Baghdad slum that only a few months ago was the scene of heavy fighting against American forces. The reason al-Sheik has that luxury, The Times notes, is that he’s running with the tacit support of rebel cleric Muktada al Sadr.
“Now, for local residents anyway, Sadr City may be one of the few places where press-the-flesh stumping is thinkable. Its ethnic insularity protects it from troublemaking strangers, and residents have largely heeded Mr. Sadr’s call, as fighting ended in the fall, to halt attacks.” Besides giving a surreal description of a political campaign in a war zone, The Times piece documents the growing stature of Sadr’s part-political, part-religious and part-paramilitary movement. “‘Moktada is keeping his options open,’ said Ghassan al-Atiyah, a Shiite who returned from exile last year and leads a secular, ethnically mixed election slate. If the elections and resulting institutions take hold, Mr. Sadr will have sway from within; if his followers do poorly or things fall apart, he can say he was not involved.”
Though it’s an excellent article, the Times misses one of the Sadrists most powerful campaign promises, and one they’ve already delivered on weeks before the election: ending gasoline shortages. Juan Cole links to a Lebanon Daily Star article noting that, thanks to the very visible efforts of paramilitary units loyal to the cleric, the two million inhabitants of Sadr City now have one of Iraq’s most functional fuel distribution systems.
That Sadrists’ competency and initiative will likely pay dividends in the election, the article notes, and even employees of the Iraqi government seem grateful. “Civil servant Haider al-Jubori said the Sadrist intervention meant that gasoline distribution was now more orderly and efficient. ‘They saved us from a very long wait — until now, I have been finishing work and then queuing for hours and hours just to get fuel. Now it takes me one hour or less just because we have Sadr’s men controlling this gas station.’”
Jeff Horwitz, a former Salon editorial fellow, writes for the Washington City Paper. More Jeff Horwitz.
More Related Stories
- 6 things you need to know about dark money groups
- Jester clowns Westboro Baptist Church
- GOP: Party of crybabies
- Developers evict historic women's shelter to build luxury hotel
- Guantánamo prisoner on hunger strike cries for help on Twitter
- 3 possible solutions to international tax avoidance
- “I just want the U.S. to send my father home”
- Army weapons engineer tied to white nationalist organizations
- Ted Cruz against the world
- David Vitter's hypocritical, punitive, horrible new amendment
- Louie Gohmert: Women should be forced to carry nonviable pregnancies to term
- Could hackers destroy the U.S. power grid?
- Democrats may be even worse than Republicans at regulating Wall Street
- Eric Holder versus journalism
- A progressive defense of drones
- There's no substitute for government disaster relief
- Holder signed off on search warrant for reporter
- Mississippi could begin prosecuting women for miscarriages
- Mike Judge: "Bowling for Columbine" made me pro-gun
- Closing Gitmo is not enough
- Murkowski: Palin too disengaged to run for Senate
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11
War Room is our political news and commentary blog, with coverage and commentary throughout the day.