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Monday, January 31, 2005
Touring the Editorial Pages on Iraq

By Steven Taylor @ 8:58 am

Here are some of the editorial page responses to the elections of yesterday. They are all celebratory and congratulatory to the Iraqis. Most feel the need to provide a caveat elector and point out that the elections don’t solve everything (which we all know, I should think) and there is much hand-wringing over the Sunnis. General comment on Bush administration policy is at a minimum in the pieces in question. The LAT specifically notes that the administration was correct in sticking to the election timetable.

The NYT: Message From Iraq

This page has not hesitated to criticize the Bush administration over its policies in Iraq, and we continue to have grave doubts about the overall direction of American strategy there. Yet today, along with other Americans, whether supporters or critics of the war, we rejoice in a heartening advance by the Iraqi people. For now at least, the multiple political failures that marked the run-up to the voting stand eclipsed by a remarkably successful election day.

The piece starts with a general congratulatory tone, but concludes with much hang-wringing about the Sunnis. While I concur that the political question of how to deal with the Sunni minority, I find the obsession with the Sunnis to be remarkable, insofar as one would think that 20% of the population is somehow more important than the remaining 80%.

WaPo’s lead editorial (A Vote to Persevere) on the subject is more straightforward, while expressing an obligatory “this isn’t the end” quite of statement, the first paragraph of the piece focuses on the most stunning aspect of yesterday’s vote: the courage of the Iraqi voters:

FOR MONTHS news from Iraq has told the story of the extremists, those who destroy themselves to murder others and to proclaim the cause of a religious or Baathist dictatorship. Yesterday the world saw and heard, at last, another Iraq, one in which millions of people from all over the country turned out to vote - even in places where their nominal leaders had proclaimed a boycott, even at polling stations where mortar rounds fell or gunfire rang out. Some danced or distributed chocolates, some wept with joy, others grimly pressed forward as if their lives literally depended on it. A 32-year-old man who lost his leg in a suicide bombing arrived at the polls in Baghdad and told a Reuters reporter, “I would have crawled here if I had to.” There were nine suicide bombings, and at least 44 people died, including one U.S. soldier. But the day’s message was unmistakable: The majority of Iraqis support the emerging democratic order in their country, and many are willing to risk their lives for it.

The LAT piece is similar in tone to WaPo’s, although with some Sunni-concern thrown in a la the NYT: Courage Under Fire

It takes courage to vote with the sound of mortars and gunfire still ringing and memories of terrorist beheadings still fresh. Whatever the final tally of the turnout Sunday in Iraq, the willingness of millions to defy suicide bombers and killers who threatened havoc at the polls provided some unequivocal good news. Not least, the world could honestly see American troops making it possible for a long-oppressed people to choose their destiny.

The DMN proclaimed it “A Magnificent Day”:

Here is what did not happen in Iraq yesterday: the mass murder of voters promised by insurgents.

Here is what did happen: Men and women who have lived under tyranny for as long as they can remember risked their very lives to vote.

Here is the unexpectedly good news: All things considered, it was a magnificent day in Iraq.

Indeed.

USAT provides a list of things that need to be done in their piece (Despite challenges, a day to celebrate democracy in Iraq), but adhere to the general positive celebratory tone of all the pieces:

By any measure, Sunday’s elections in Iraq were a success, though one that brings with it a new set of challenges.

[…]

For one day, however, Iraqis can take pride that they braved insurgents’ threats, bombs and bullets to cast ballots. And Americans who don’t bother to vote even under ideal conditions should take note of the enduring potency of the idea that each person can make a difference. The millions of Iraqis who risked their lives to vote on Sunday were an inspiring reminder of democracy’s appeal — and brought at least the hope of a new beginning for their tormented country.

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