Magazine article The Spectator

Baghdad Spring

Magazine article The Spectator

Baghdad Spring

Article excerpt

For a negative interpretation of events in which the rest of the world can see nothing but good, the Guardian's editorial pages are much to be recommended. Sure enough, on Monday, while millions of Iraqis were waking up with stained fingers to the first day of democratic Iraq and enjoying generous tributes to their courage from sometime opponents of war such as Vladimir Putin, Salim Lone, the former director for the UN's special mission in Iraq, was whining in the Guardian about the unfairness of it all. The risks taken by voters, candidates and election organisers, he declared, were in vain: 'A high turnout does not change the fact that this is an illegitimate, occupier's election.' The ballot papers, he complained, were too complicated; individual candidates had been too frightened to identify themselves; the Sunnis, who have been leading the insurgency, were under-represented; but above all the Americans had committed the sin of ignoring the UN and working out the details of the poll in direct consultation with representatives of the people.

It takes some blinkered mentality to write those words on a day when millions defied death threats to turn up at the polls. If this was an Occupier's election' it was one heartily endorsed by the Iraqi people, on a scale which should humble the apathetic voters of the Western world. In the town of Kirkuk the turnout was 88 per cent: what chance of achieving that in Beckenham South, even without posters plastered around the town promising 'You vote, you die'? Notwithstanding the death threats, it should not be surprising that the Iraqis turned up at the polls in such numbers. Who, given the chance to make a stand against the bombers and gunslingers who have been attempting to destabilise one's country, would not want to try to take it? By turning up at the polls, Iraqis proved to the world that they are ordinary human beings rather than the wild-eyed religious zealots it often seems opponents of the war in Iraq would like them to be.

Of course, the Americans have made grave mistakes in their occupation of Iraq. Following an invasion fought with clinical efficiency, there seemed to be no coherent plan for the reconstruction of the country. It is an indictment of some of the decisions made that, according to some estimates, 17,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed. The treatment of some prisoners was a disgrace. The stated reason for going to war in the first place - that Saddam Hussein possessed large arsenals of weapons of mass destruction - has turned out to be a deceit, for which Mr Blair has failed so far to atone. …

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