This Is A Call

February 4, 2009 at 5:36 pm (elections, iraq, Max Dunbar, Middle East, religion)

I’ve been catching up on the Iraqi elections via the NYT and the Guardian.

There were about 14,000 candidates, 30% of which are female. The turnout was 51% – which seems disappointing, but is apparently quite high for provincial elections. Apparently about a million Iraqis have been displaced by sectarian fighting over the last five years and have not returned to the provinces where they are registered to vote. They’ve got a better excuse than most Britons.

A couple of days ago Jonathan Steele predicted ‘a turn against religious parties’; reporting that:

Only a tiny minority of the more than 14,000 contenders identified themselves as religious, and even the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, changed the name of his list of candidates to the Coalition for a Government of Laws.

The NYT agrees with this:

The relative success of the secular parties may be a sign that a significant number of Iraqis are disillusioned with the religious parties that have been in power but have done little to deliver needed services.

‘This really reflects that Iraqi society is looking for alternatives — they do not necessarily believe that the Islamists should lead the country,’ said Qassim Daoud, a member of Parliament and one of the leaders of an independent, secular-leaning party. ‘The public are interested in services, and this election has shown them that they can change anything by democratic means if they are not satisfied.’

In fact, according to William Shawcross, the theocratic bloc was absolutely hammered:

All the Islamic parties lost ground, especially that associated with the so-called ‘Shia firebrand’, Moqtada al-Sadr, whose share of the vote went down from 11% to 3%. The principal Sunni Islamic party, the Islamic Party of Iraq, was wiped out.

Instead, a new generation of Iraqi politicians is coming forward. Many of them are young and secular. They have lived always in Iraq, not in exile; they are Iraqis with local roots first and foremost – they are not pan-Arabs or pan-Islamists. Nor do they have connections to the US.

So much for the Glorious Homegrown Resistance™.

Norm links to some views from the Iraqi blogosphere but over here there’s been little comment – nothing from the Continuity Eustonites, still less from those tireless anti-imperialists who – what’s that Marx quote that Hitchens always uses? – when ‘learning a new language, they habitually translate it back into the one they already know.’

This suggests that widespread democracy in the Arab world would not constitute, as Sam Harris claimed, a ‘gangplank to theocracy’. One could even extrapolate the view that most Middle Eastern Muslims do not want to live under a theocratic regime: a view also borne out by the substantial migration from Islamic to secular countries.

One thing is clear: the parties of God lost one today.



  1. Jim Denham said,

    This successful, relatively peaceful election, the Iraqi people’s evident enthusiasm for democracy, and the defeat of the Islamist parties must come as a terrible disappointment to those on the western “left” who hoped for permanent chaos in Iraq until the imperialists were forced out and the heroic “resistance” took over. Y’know, people like our favourite public school Stalinist over at the Graun:

    Wonder what he’ll have to say about this victory for the collaborationist friends of imperialism like that yankee agent with the purple finger, pictured above ?

  2. Pickled Politics » But at what cost? said,

    […] at what cost? by Sunny on 5th February, 2009 at 9:27 am     I agree with Max Dunbar that the Iraqi elections at first sight seem like a success. And the news so far is very good. All […]

  3. maxdunbar said,


    I expect the response to be an eerie, whistling silence, with tumbleweed floating across CiF and Lenin’s Tomb, and a single funereal bell tolling in the background.

  4. Euripides Trousers said,

    I don’t understand what this excellent news has to do with “Glorious Homegrown Resistance™”

    Are you suggesting that all the Iraqis who have been fighting against the occupation of their country were Islamic theocrats?

    This article unfortunately seems like a rather cack-handed attempt to take a piece of good news and use it to justify an unrelated opinion held by the author.

  5. maxdunbar said,

    Wasn’t al-Sadr championed to some extent just after the invasion?

  6. Top Stories and Blog Review - 5th February – Politics Unlimited | UK politics news said,

    […] Shiraz Socialist breaks down what seems to be a successful election for secular democracy in Iraq. […]

  7. ChrisC said,

    Fighting against the “occupation” by…killing their fellow countrymen.

  8. maxdunbar said,

    Yes, that is the flaw in the ‘glorious homegrown resistance’ narrative.

  9. resistor said,

    Dunbar writes, ‘Apparently about a million Iraqis have been displaced by sectarian fighting over the last five years and have not returned to the provinces where they are registered to vote.’

    The UNCHR sees it differently,

    ‘UNHCR estimates more than 4.7 million Iraqis have left their homes, many in dire need of humanitarian care. Of these, more than 2.7 million Iraqis are displaced internally, while more than 2 million have fled to neighbouring states, particularly Syria and Jordan. Many were displaced prior to 2003, but the largest number has fled since. ‘

    Where does dunbar get his figures from? Also a real expert on Iraq and Iran (not the neo-con idiot Shawcross) writes,

    ‘It is being alleged by US pundits that the outcome of the provincial elections in Iraq, as far as it is known, indicates a defeat for the religious parties and for Iran.

    This allegation is not true. In the Shiite provinces, the coalition of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and the Islamic Mission Party (Da’wa) will continue to rule. Both parties are close to Tehran, and leaders of both spent time in exile in Iran. Da’wa appears to have become more popular than ISCI. But Da’wa was founded in the late 1950s to work for an Islamic republic in Iraq, and current leader Nuri al-Maliki has excellent relations with the Iranian leadership.

    Da’wa is more “lay” in the composition of its leadership, which is made up of lawyers, physcians and other white collar types. ISCI has more clerics at the top, though it also comprises technocrats such as VP Adil Abdul Mahdi. But Da’wa will need Iranian economic and development aid just as much as previous governments did.’

    Not quite the ‘secular’ victory claimed by Dunbar – who has never let facts get in the way of his support for imperialism.

  10. maxdunbar said,

    The internal displacement figure was taken from the NYT.

    I’m happy to accept that the figure is two rather than one million, that would explain the low turnout.

    And it would be stupid not to accept that religious parties had some kind of support.

    But exactly how does a democratic election, in which Iraqis vote for Iraqi parties in Iraq, count as ‘imperialism’?

  11. NGC 891 said,

    Poor Resistor.

    There can’t be many resistance beheading videos being made now. He’ll have to find something else to wank at now.

    Odious piece of human trash.

  12. On the Iraqi local elections | SKY ROCK INDIA said,

    […] This article suggests that the Iraqi provincial elections have resulted in a swing away from the religious parties. Al-Sadr’s party’s support fell from 11% to 3%. In addition, the prime minister’s party (which is Da’wa – a party of Shi’ite origin) has had to present itself in a more secular form. This does suggest that people have had enough of religious extremism and want an efficient government. {read more}” […]

  13. resistor said,

    ‘But exactly how does a democratic election, in which Iraqis vote for Iraqi parties in Iraq, count as ‘imperialism’?’

    When it takes place under an occupation of 130,000 foreign troops, plus their mercenaries, and when a million have died and more than two million exiled.

    ‘The internal displacement figure was taken from the NYT. ‘

    The New York Times cheer leaded the Iraq War with its star columnist Judith Miller providing the lies and propaganda, which makes it rather stupid of you to rely on it for any facts without checking elsewhere.

    As for your ‘secular’ Maliki, don’t you know he doesn’t do anything without the agreement of Ayatollah al-Sistani? A reliable source is Patrick Cockburn of the Indie.

    ‘Although he fought a secular campaign, on important decisions Mr Maliki does not generally act without seeking the opinion of the Shia Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.’

    I’m afraid the country that will be pulling the strings when the Americans leave will be Iran where Muqtada al-Sadr is studying to be an Ayatollah, where the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (Maliki’s Shia rivals) are based, and where Maliki and his Kurdish ally Talabani are frequent honoured guests. This is also the country that Sean Matgamna wouldn’t mind seeing bombed by Israel. A strange liberation indeed.

    ps do you realise that many devout Shia Muslims, like the lady above, gave their reason for voting as obeying the fatwa issued by al-Sistani?

  14. tcd said,

    lol, great destruction resistor. you are in the circus, but max is just the monkey, denham and vp are the clowns who use his rambling to distract from their more credible campaigns of lies.

  15. Jim Denham said,

    What the fuck are you on about, tcd?

    The simple facts are: the Iraqi people have voted. You “anti imperialists” don’t like the way they voted: they should carry on killing each other, and suppoting clerical fascist groups like like Sadre’s in your “anti-imperialist” opinions…but those pesky Iraqis didn’t conform to what you wanted… you “anti-imperialist” racists..

    Strange thing: left to their own devices, most people tend to like democracy… even those Middle Eastern people who crude Chomsky-ites think don’t care about “western” values. As these elections show…

    despite people like you..l

  16. Harry Tuttle said,

    Max –

    If you read the page resistor provided you’ll note this passage:

    In addition to those outside the country, more than 1 million Iraqis have fled their homes for other areas inside Iraq since early 2006, most of them following sectarian violence sparked by the bombing of an important Shia mosque in the central Iraqi city of Samarra in February of that year.

    Interesting. The UNHCR estimates that of the 4.7 million refugees at least 1 million fled before the start of the war. The source given by your Media Lens stalker does not provide a breakdown of the causes for displacement, suggesting the total numbers are from all causes. If resistor were honest, he would have mentioned that.

  17. voltairespriest said,

    Jim: aww stoppit, tcd is “working for communist revolution in a third world country” via his internet comments, dontcha know?

  18. Harry Tuttle said,

    That’s not entirely true, VP, tcd claims he’s been on demonstrations, and even been shot at with rubber bullets (I’m guessing he took one to the head).

  19. resistor said,

    Because I am honest iI provided a link for you to check my sources, unlike Dunbar.

    Of course people left before the war, there were 10 years of genocidal sanctions where the American and British imperialists thought between 200,000 and 500,000 infant deaths ‘a price worth paying’.

    This is one of the major genocides of the twentieth century. I thought you might have noticed it.

    Finally, you can’t have democracy without elections, but you can have elections without democracy. It’s an important distinction.

  20. maxdunbar said,


    I used the NYT and the Guardian. Two outlets in different countries with different stances on the war.

    Say what you like about the NYT’s op-eds but their journalism is first class. There is a reason the NYT is prestigious.

    Would you describe CiF as a neocon propaganda site just because William Shawcross writes for it?

    I mean what is the point of even commenting here if you won’t read the coverage on which my post is based?

    As for Patrick Cockburn, if he’s the same guy who works for Counterpunch then forgive me for ignoring his counsel.

    Your point about Iran is funny because I’ve never denied that Iran has some influence, and because if there’s an imperial power here it is Iran, not America (didn’t you hear that Obama is bringing troops home, like you wanted?)

    And if clerics want people to vote – then good for them. It seems to have backfired as a strategy though, hasn’t it?

    And finally your point about sanctions – if the government had listened to you, then those sanctions would still be in place.

    Harry (at 15)

    That’s a very good point – any discussion about the Iraq body count has to acknowledge that it’s not just Americans doing the bombing, killing, torturing and displacing.

    But then we are dealing with someone who would be happy to see an entire country destroyed forever in order to score a point in a comments box.

  21. resistor said,

    ‘Say what you like about the NYT’s op-eds but their journalism is first class. There is a reason the NYT is prestigious.’

    There is a reason why you believe ‘the NYT is prestigious’ – you’re a sucker.

    Read this about their ‘first class journalism’.

    ‘if the government had listened to you, then those sanctions would still be in place.’

    I was opposed to sanctions and demonstrated outside Downing Street calling for them to be dropped. The USA and the UK vetoed any attempt to lift them – what’s your point?

    Also you confuse Patrick Cockburn with his brother Alexander. Facts are obviously not sacred to you.

    ‘Would you describe CiF as a neocon propaganda site just because William Shawcross writes for it?’

    No but I would describe someone who takes William Shawcross seriously as an idiot. Here is Shawcross predicting that WMDs will be found in Iraq.

    and then backtracking when they weren’t

    The Americans wanted the SOFA to allow permanent bases, the Iranians told Maliki to hold out until they agreed to leave.

    ‘But then we are dealing with someone who would be happy to see an entire country destroyed forever in order to score a point in a comments box.’

    I think we’re dealing with projection again.

  22. maxdunbar said,

    So you’re against sanctions and war. What action, if any, did you feel should be taken against Saddam?

  23. voltairespriest said,

    Surely the real question is why Saddam Hussein and not Robert Mugabe, Kim Jong-il, Islam Karimov or King Abdullah?

  24. maxdunbar said,

    Because in a choice between

    a) overthrowing no dictators
    b) overthrowing every single dictator
    c) overthrowing some dictators

    we don’t have the resources to do b) and, of the remaining options, c) is the progressive choice.

  25. voltairespriest said,

    It wasn’t a choice made on a progressive basis, or pursued and executed by progressives though, was it? It certainly wasn’t the case that a group of people sat down, drew up a list of the most oppressive dictators in the world and stuck a pin in it to start the Iraq War. They also noticeably didn’t follow up by knocking off any other dictators, either.

    In fact, of the four dictators that I mentioned, only Kim Jong-Il actually appears on any Neocon lists of baddies at all. The other two – one of whom presides over an absolute monarchy and virtual slaver’s state in terms of how immigrant workers are treated, which viciously oppresses women, and the other of whom has his political opponents boiled alive, represent Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan, our partners in peace. This isn’t, wasn’t and never will be about a benevolent mission to support democratic oppositions overseas.

    Further, in terms of progressive politics I’m not so convinced that a Dawa Party government is really something to cheer for, whether it’s better than the Baathists or not.

  26. maxdunbar said,

    I agree that the war was fought for US strategic interests rather than on huminitarian grounds, but you framed the argument on humanitarian grounds and so I gave you the humanitarian case.

    I think that Iraq was a case where US realpolitik and Iraqi interests could legitimately coincide.

    Of course I’d love to see the West cut all ties with Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia, but let’s face it if there was a proposal to overthrow these regimes by force it would simply be howled down.

    In terms of the Iraqi government we’re just going to have to wait and see how it turns out. I think there is cause for hope as well as fear.

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