We received the following message overnight:
Dear Powerline: In the October referendum, Salah ah Din province, in the middle of the Sunni Triangle, had the largest percentage turnout of any of the provinces. Yes, they voted overwhelmingly against the new constitution, but the Sunnis were engaged. Tomorrow, all signs point to a large Sunni turnout, again.
In fact, pre-election polls indicate that the next national assembly will have four power blocks, with no single group dominating. If the polls are accurate, the Shia religious alliance will have the largest block, but less than 40% of all the seats. The Kurds and Sunnis each will have 20%, and the Allawi List, a secular block led by former PM Allawi, should take 15%, while minor parties split the rest. Since the new constitution requires a two-thirds majority for many decisions, this means that cross-ethnic, and cross-sectarian compromise will be essential. With power split four ways, a domineering, centralizing government centered in Baghdad – a requirement for a new dictator or strongman – is unlikely to return.
Of course, such fractured power can also hamper forward progress on many national issues, especially when considering that the Shia religious alliance has at least two major factions, as does the Sunni block and the Kurdish block. Still, the elections will be a success, some wind will be taken out of the insurgency, the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police will continue to improve, US combat units will begin drawing down, and Democrats will start a mad dash to take credit for the success. Just imagine, a Middle Eastern country holding three major elections in a single year, voting in a constitution guaranteeing individual rights, and electing a multi-ethnic, multi-religious government.
One final point on turnout: it would likely be even higher without security constraints. Many Iraqis will not be able to make it to polling places due to curfews and travel restrictions. Given the constraints, a 60% turnout will be stupendous.
Name withheld by request
Colonel, US Army Reserve
See also Michael Rubin’s Wall Street Journal column this morning: “Iraqi beacon.”
UPDATE: Lieutenant Colonel John Kanaley writes from Baghdad:
I read with interest the letter from the Colonel in Tikrit. I completely agree with his sentiments. However, there is one point with which I disagree. The Democrats will not rush to claim victory after the success of the third election this year. Unfortunately, at a time when the military needs the support of all Americans, the Democrats are highlighting any negative news out of here for political gain.
As I write this, I am in a briefing room that has CNN on the screen. They are showing a press conference with Democratic leaders providing a “prebuttal” to the president’s speech on the war.
A “PREBUTTAL”!!! They can’t even wait to provide a rebuttal. They are so afraid of success here, they have to express their lack of support before the president even has a chance to discuss the current situation with the election just 12 hours away.
Congressman Murtha continually quotes a poll saying that 80% of Iraqis want Americans out of this country. If a poll were taken at the close of the Revolutionary War, I am confident that 80% of Americans would have said they would like the French out of the U.S. However, that does not convey the gratitude Americans had for the support of the French and a desire to continue friendly relations after the war. Of course the Iraqis want us to leave. They want us to leave after their country is secure, after they have established a firm, legitimate government, and after the terrorists have been defeated.
This is a great and historical period in American history. We will all be proud of our accomplishments once the Iraqis establish the first truly democratic government in the Arab world. Unfortunately, the Democrats will not join in with that celebration; rather, they will continue to degrade support for the military and for the Iraqi people.
John M. Kanaley
Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Embassy-Baghdad