Bush's faith, Iraq's reality-based community

Published January 27, 2005 6:02PM (EST)

President Bush, during his press conference yesterday, regarding this Sunday's election in Iraq:

"I anticipate a grand moment in Iraqi history. If we'd been having this discussion a couple of years ago and I had stood up in front of you and said the Iraqi people would be voting, you would look at me like some of you still look at me, with a kind of blank expression. People are voting. And this is a part of a process to write a constitution and then elect a permanent assembly. And it's exciting times for the Iraqi people."

The New York Times' John Burns, reporting from Baghdad today:

"Dr. Raad al-Naqib, a 46-year-old Sunni dentist who opposed Mr. Hussein, will not vote Sunday when Iraqis will have their first opportunity in a generation to participate in an election with no predetermined outcome. It is, he said, far too dangerous when insurgent groups have warned that they will kill anybody who approaches a polling station.

"Starkly put, Baghdad is not under control, either by the Iraqi interim government or the American military.

"'I would definitely say it's enemy territory,' said Col. Stephen R. Lanza, the commander of the Fifth Brigade Combat Team, a unit of the First Cavalry Division that is responsible for patrolling a wide area of southern Baghdad with a population of 1.3 million people.

"In the week that ended Sunday, according to figures kept by Western security companies with access to data compiled by the American command, Baghdad was hit by 7 suicide car bombings, 37 roadside bombs and 52 insurgent attacks involving automatic rifles or rocket-propelled grenades. The suicide bombs alone killed at least 60 people and injured 150 others.

"Although the American military command has cited surveys purportedly showing 80 percent of Baghdad's residents are eager to vote, many people interviewed by reporters are like Dr. Naqib who say they will stay away.

"In one Baghdad office, only one of 20 people who were asked said he intended to vote; the others, all citing the fear of being attacked by insurgents, either as they walk to the polls -- all civilian vehicle traffic has been banned on election day -- or after they return home. American commanders have included Baghdad among four Iraqi provinces where they say security issues pose a major threat to the voter turnout."

By Mark Follman

Mark Follman is Salon's deputy news editor. Read his other articles here.

MORE FROM Mark Follman

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

War Room