Monday 20 November 2017

Anti-war squad ignores signs of hope in Iraq

An Iraqi removes posters of candidates from a street in Baghdad yesterday after the election
An Iraqi removes posters of candidates from a street in Baghdad yesterday after the election

David Aaronovitch

IMAGINE for a moment that you've woken up to the election results from North Korea. Or Syria. Or even China. The turnout is above 62pc, and millions of votes have been cast throughout the country for an exhaustingly wide range of candidates from all sorts of political parties and groups. No group will have a majority, so soon negotiations about forming a government will begin.

You'd think it was a bloody miracle. And so it is, and it happened in Iraq at the weekend. The campaign was clamorous, with posters everywhere. There was, as far as we know, no widespread fraud, nor was there violence between supporters of the various candidates. One political alliance is reported to have done well in Baghdad, Najaf and Basra, another in Nineveh and Diyala. Followers of the Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr -- whose uprising was beginning when I went to Iraq in 2004 -- went to the polls, as did supporters of a new Kurdish party, Goran, which is challenging the dominance of the two existing Kurdish parties on the ground that wealth should be better distributed. "The new democracy seems to be taking root," said the man from the 'New York Times'.

We're seven years after Saddam. Seven years in which, in this country at least, nothing seems to have shifted a millimetre. Seven years, I said, seven goddamned years of this stuff! Oh, said a woman writer whom I like and whom I want to like me back, but the Iraq war is the kind of thing that we should discuss for seven years.

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