February 1, 2009
McClatchy Newspapers

Low Turnout in Iraq's Election Reflects a Disillusioned Nation

by Leila Fadel

Voter turnout in Iraq's provincial elections Saturday was the lowest in the nation's short history as a new democracy despite a relative calm across the nation. Only about 7.5 million of more than 14 million registered voters went to the polls.

Interviews suggest that the low voter turnout also is an indication of Iraqi disenchantment with a democracy that, so far, has brought them very little.

Since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 and the fall of a brutal dictator, Iraqis witnessed unprecedented violence in their nation and what they believe is humiliation under a foreign occupation. Even on Saturday, U.S. tanks could be spotted across Baghdad on largely empty roads.

Following elections in 2005 Iraq spiraled into a sectarian war. People cowered in their homes while others literally killed each other in the streets. Many here feel the people they elected were party to or were at least complicit in the violence. The security forces too were feared as sectarian death squads and Iraqis also believed that American raids or passing U.S. tanks sometimes resulted in innocent civilian deaths.

Many blame the U.S. presence in Iraq for sowing the seeds of sectarianism by bringing back exiles to rule them.

Beyond the disillusionment, thousands of potential voters were unable to cast ballots Saturday because official voter lists did not contain their names. Street protests resulted. . . .


Enver Masud, "Iraq: Divide and Rule, 'Ethnic Cleansing Works'," The Wisdom Fund, October 10, 2006

David Model, "Genocide in Iraq,", May 21, 2008

Patrick Cockburn, "Revealed: Secret Plan to Keep Iraq Under U.S. Control," Independent, June 5, 2008

Patrick Cockburn, "Oil Giants Return To Iraq," Independent, June 20, 2008

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, "Spinning Fairy Tales of Baghdad," Independent, December 22, 2008

Deborah Haynes, "Confusion over registration restricts turnout in Iraq poll to 51%," Times, February 2, 2009

Gareth Porter, "Petraeus' Counter-Offensive: Generals Move to Obstruct Obama's Iraq Withdrawal Orders,", February 2, 2009

John Tirman, "Iraq's Shocking Human Toll: About 1 Million Killed, 4.5 Million Displaced, 1-2 Million Widows, 5 Million Orphans," Nation, February 2, 2009

Patrick Cockburn, "A coup for Maliki and a secular Iraq: Voters have rebuffed religious parties - and cemented the power of the country's Prime Minister," Independent, February 3, 2009

[The emergence of Iraq's nationalist movement has been a long time coming. Built around parties opposed to the influence of both Iran and the United States, it began to take shape in the fall of 2007 after a series of US actions: a Senate vote in favor of a proposal from then-Senator Joe Biden to partition Iraq into three mini-states; the brutal killing of seventeen Iraqis in Baghdad by Blackwater security forces; and US support for a law that would have opened the door to privatization of Iraq's oil industry.--Robert Dreyfuss, "Iraq's Resurgent Nationalism," Nation, February 18, 2009]

Richard Norton-Taylor, "Why we went to war in Iraq remains a secret as Straw blocks the release of cabinet minutes," Guardian, February 24, 2009

Anthony Dimaggio, "Seven Years of Wartime Propaganda,", February 27, 2009

[Although the arrest of a Sunni Awakening Council leader and seven of his deputies that triggered the uprising was spun both by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and by the U.S. command as an anti-terrorism issue rather than sectarian repression, it was in fact part of the long-term struggle for power between the Shi'a-dominated government of Iraq and Sunnis who have been disenfranchised.--Gareth Porter, "Maliki Draws US Troops into Crackdown on Sunni Rivals ,", April 2, 2009]

[Last weekend, the Iraqi government arrested an Awakening Group leader of a Baghdad neighborhood, then moved into the area. With the help of US occupation forces, they disarmed the militiamen under his control, but only after fighting broke out between US-backed Iraqi government security forces and the US-formed Sunni Awakening Group militia. This disturbing event is the realization of what most Iraqis have long feared - that the relative calm in Iraq today would eventually be broken when fighting erupts between these two entities.

The US policy that has led to this recent violence has been long in the making, as it has only been a matter of time before the tenuous truce between the groups came unglued. For it has been a truce built on a deeply corrupt US policy of backing the predominantly Shia Iraqi government forces while paying the Sunni resistance not to fight both government and occupation forces.--Dahr Jamail, "The Growing Storm,", April 2, 2009]

[Air Force One only touched down after the whole airport was shut down. Amid ultra-hardcore security, Obama met with General Ray Odierno, the top US commander in Iraq, entered a SUV and stepped down at Camp Victory, the top US military base in Iraq, which happens to be contiguous to the airport. Not even a glimpse of real-life, messy, dangerous Red Zone Baghdad.--Pepe Escobar, "The president makes a victory lap," Asia Times, April 9, 2009]

[Throughout history, those who collaborate with the occupiers of their country tend to end up hung out to dry, or dead. The occupation of Iraq is no different - collaboration and the poison fruits that come of it are on full display for the history books once again. Only now, the rapidity with which this is happening is staggering.--Dahr Jamail, "Laying the Groundwork for Violence,", May 7, 2009]

[ . . . the ongoing attacks by the Maliki government against the Sahwa continue to destabilize the situation in Iraq and allow overall violence to increase with each passing week. We are seeing Sahwa fighters leave their posts in ever-increasing numbers; the US military is literally redrawing the boundaries of cities in order not to move their bases outside of them to respect the Status of Forces Agreement, and there is no sign from the Obama administration that there will ever be a full withdrawal from Iraq, nor reparations made to the people of Iraq.--Dahr Jamail, "Provoking the Inevitable,", May 23, 2009]

[It is said that history is written by the victor. What is not said is that destroying the enemy is only half the purpose of a victor. The other half is the subjugation and drastic alteration of the self-perception of the enemy, so as to gain unquestioned control over every aspect of the subjugated state, its populace and its resources, so that having won victory it can get on with the "much bigger business of plunder," according to Franz Fanon, philosopher, psychiatrist, author and a pre-eminent thinker of the twentieth century.--Dahr Jamail, "Colonizing Culture,", May 27, 2009]

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