I'm impressed that only several dozen people were killed in Iraq on election day. That's a terrible thing to say, in a way, but I was certainly expecting the day the be a bloodbath, and I'm pleasantly surprised. At one polling station, shortly after a suicide bomber killed several people, the voters didn't want the station to close, and insisted on getting back in.
"I would have been happy to have died voting at the time of this explosion, because this is terrorism mixed with rudeness," said Saif Aldin Jarah, 61...
So the polling place reopened. On the advice of the U.S. troops, the security perimeter was pushed back a block, so people could be frisked twice before entering the school.
Though performing this duty meant standing amid flecks of the flesh of the last officer who had the job, there were volunteers. In stepping forward to do the first round of pat-downs themselves, local residents explained that they could raise the alert if another suspicious stranger approached.
"The police might not be able to recognize residents; we know them better," said Zaid Abdulhamid, an electronics merchant. He was stationed at the head of an alley blocked by the trunk of a date palm, the all-purpose roadblock in Iraq. The Arabic words spray-painted on the surrounding walls read: "No to America. No to occupation" and "Death to anyone who hates Iraq."
I've seen turnout numbers of anything from 60% to 72%. The only thing concerns me is that I have yet to see reports of how that turnout was distributed among Shiite and Sunni regions. I feel like a 60% turnout won't do that much for legitimacy if the vast majority were Shiites. Voter turnout was all but non-existent in parts of Mosul and other heavily Sunni areas, but it was better than expected in many Sunni areas, especially later in the day, as it became clear attacks were few. So this is hopeful news.
We're getting a little smarter on the psychological front, too:
The U.S. government invested heavily in the project but sought to play down its efforts for fear the elections would be seen as an American-engineered process.
Throughout the day, U.S. forces stayed in the background as tens of thousands of Iraqi police officers and soldiers fanned out across towns and cities. For the first time since the fall of Hussein, residents of Baghdad saw Iraqi armor in the streets. The personnel carriers and Soviet-built T-55 tanks were leftovers from the dissolved Iraqi army, now overhauled for service with the reconstituted military.
And why is that important? Well:
In some ways, the joy seemed even more palpable than after Hussein's fall, because Iraqis, not foreigners, were the agents of change.