Today's Blogs

Election Day, Iraq

Unprecedented elections in Iraq have bloggers buzzing. They also take a closer look at the torture ban, proposed by John McCain, that gained the president’s approval yesterday.

Election day, Iraq: Yesterday’s parliamentary elections in Iraq were overwhelmingly peaceful, well-attended, and apparently free of fraud. Though results won’t likely be known for several weeks, the security and high turnout gave observers plenty of reason to celebrate.

“History-making in Iraq,” declares conservative firebrand Michelle Malkin. For once, nearly everyone agrees. “December 15, 2005, will be seen as not only an historic election, but the day that combat operations really did begin to come to an end,” predictsPublius Pundit Robert Mayer, in a brief, analytic history of the Iraqi insurgency. “All across Iraq, people are celebrating,” writes attorney John Hinderaker at conservative syndicate Power Line. “Americans should celebrate a little, too.” Open-source venture Pajamas Media has reports from a team of contributors in Iraq. Pajamas partner Iraq the Model also offers remarkable updates from the ground—complete with photos—from correspondents in Mosul, Kirkuk, Baghdad, and elsewhere. At, Iraqi Hassan surveys the ballot.

At the National Review’s conservative roundtable The Corner, Rich Lowry happily reports on impressive voter participation, which, he writes, dwarfed the October turnout in many provinces. Conservative Ed Morrisey is  awed by that turnout. “It will take weeks for the accurate count of votes cast in today’s Iraqi elections to get finalized, but one common strain has come through in all reports during this historic day – the  Iraqis stood together as never before in their history,” he writes at Captain’s Quarters. “The only losers in this election will be those who have told us over and over again that democracy could not be imposed at gunpoint,” he says. “The purple fingers point the way to change the Middle East and turn it into a dynamo of philosophy, production, and freedom.”

Some wonder if the virtual victory parade isn’t a bit premature. “I love the idea of purple fingers against insurgents’ bombs. It makes for some lovely imagery,” admits McJoan, a highlighted contributor at progressive workshop Daily Kos. “But we’ve long since learned that imagery isn’t enough to win this war. …. [A]ll the purple fingers in Arabia aren’t enough to create democracy.” At Informed Comment, Middle East historian Juan Cole calls naive the conventional American wisdom that those participating in elections thereby forsake violence. Invoking the relationship between the Irish political party Sinn Fein and the terrorist IRA, Cole writes that insurgent groups can pursue political and terrorist campaigns simultaneously.

Others harbor reservations about the ultimate result of the elections. “George Bush is right about one thing; this vote is likely to remake the face of the Middle East,” writes Larry Johnson, formerly of the CIA and the State Department, at liberal salon TPM Cafe. Johnson believes that the president is overly optimistic to think that a democratic Iraq will constitute a regional tipping point and predicts that elections will deliver a bitterly sectarian Shiite majority to power. Prominent progressive and TPM colleague Matthew Yglesias wonders if a Shiite defeat might not cause even more problems. “Whether Shiite Islamism has the support of 51 percent of Iraq’s population [or] 49 percent, it’s clearly a social force to be reckoned with one way or the other,” he figures. “Right now, though that force isn’t friendly to the United States, it’s been cooperative, because it’s been ascendant under the new political order we’ve created in Iraq. What does it do if its ascendancy ceases? I have no idea what the answer is, but there’s lots of reason to think it won’t necessarily be very nice.”

Many more observers count the election a success, independent of the eventual outcome. “For the first time in six hundred generations, the people of Iraq are truly free,” cheers Texas writer Jack Harrell at The Shape of Days. “Not by coincidence, not because of some random confluence of events, but because a group of determined visionaries and hundreds of thousands of soldiers from dozens of nations acted with swift resolve to make it so. How can any of us not be rendered speechless by that?”

Big-league conservative thinker Andrew Sullivanis talking, celebrating the elections along with progress for the movement against torture, a longstanding personal cause. “This is such a great, great day,” he says. “Iraqis turn out in massive numbers to move their country forward; and America regains her honor by finally, unequivocally reasserting a ban on torture and adherence to the U.N. Convention on Torture.” For Sullivan, watching “so many Arab and Kurdish Muslims having a chance to actually determine their own future is inspiring. We have so much more work to do; but now we can hold our heads up in pride.”

Sullivan is one of many to celebrate Sen. John McCain’s proposed ban on torture, which gained the support of President Bush yesterday, as another step forward in the war on terror; but bloggers aren’t unanimous in support of that bill as they are in celebration of yesterday’s elections. At The Corner, Andy McCarthy calls the McCain amendment the “Al Qaeda Bill of Rights,” and laments the bullying of the president to get him on board.

Libertarian InstaPundit Glenn Reynolds, on the other hand, praises the bill. “This sort of thing is Congress’s duty,” he says. At Outside the Beltway, staunch conservative James Joyner agrees the amendment represents progress. “This is another long-overdue course correction. For all intents and purposes, the United States already had a ban on this conduct. But by maintaining the legal option, we lost the public relations battle,” he writes.

Liberal Ezra Klein thinks that the torture debate has been a carnival of lies, convenient platitudes, and political doublespeak. “The Bush administration tortures. They believe they need to torture. But instead of coming out and making that argument, they kept insisting that they’d never torture, but would nevertheless be hampered by a law outlawing the practice,” he writes at the American Prospect’s speakeasy TAPPED. “If the administration believes effective prosecution of the War on Terror requires the occasional attachment of electrodes to genitals, they should make that argument. And if the Congress rejects their case, they should veto the bill. The end result – a congressional overturn and the legislation’s implementation – will be the same, but the White House will have stood on principle.”

Read more about the elections in Iraq; read more about the McCain amendment.