Sometimes (like when George W. Bush says so) you go into an election with the democracy you have, not the democracy you might want or wish to have. Just ask the people of Iraq, who are looking ahead to an election on Jan. 30 even though some "pockets" of the country, as interim leader Ayad Allawi put it, are so paralyzed from the threat of violence -- and indeed, the reality of it -- that going to the polls to cast a ballot is but a quaint fantasy.
From the Los Angeles Times' report today on the lead-up to the Iraqi election, such as it is:
"Preparations for the landmark vote have deteriorated in several areas, particularly the western province of Al Anbar and the area around Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city, as some election officials have resigned under threat. 'Certainly, there will be some pockets that will not be able to participate,' Allawi said, 'but we think that it will not be widespread.'"
"President Bush spoke to Allawi by telephone Tuesday, obtaining assurances that the balloting to elect a transitional assembly would be held as scheduled Jan. 30, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said."
Juan Cole estimates today that about 3 million Iraqis won't cast ballots due to poor security. As for the candidates, Cole points out that 18 days out, many politicians on the ballot are still anonymous -- because to reveal themselves would make them targets for guerrillas. Cole's conclusion: The vote should go on, but he adds a major "but" ... "I just don't expect much from it. The resulting government will be of questionable legitimacy, and the guerrilla war will if anything intensify. The elections are like all the other Wizard of Oz spectacles put on by the Bush administration in Iraq since April 9, 2003 -- the appointment of Garner, the appointment of Bremer, the appointment of an Interim Governing Council, the capture of Saddam, the 'transition to sovereignty,' etc., etc. Each of these was supposed to be some magical turning point and the beginning of sunshine and rainbows, and instead the situation has deteriorated every single month for the past nearly two years."