Abu Musab al-Zarqawi could only muster up 16 suicide bombers in a country of 25 million people to attack polling stations? That's not so good (for him, obviously).
There were over 5,200 polling stations to attack. Given the ferocity of his rhetoric leading up to today's vote, one would have expected hundreds of suicide bomber and mortar attacks.
Here's al-Jazeera's summary of Iraq election attacks.
In an average day in Iraq, there are at least 80 attacks against coalition soldiers.
Officials are holding to the view that about eight million people will vote (out of 14.2 million registered), which represents turnout in the 57 per cent range. UN officials are more cautious about turnout figures.
It appears there are regional patches where people stayed away from the polls. In Sunni-dominated areas, where the insurgency is the strongest, voter turnout was reportedly very low. Some of that is due to effective intimidation.
But there are those who heeded a call by Sunni clerics to boycott the vote. Some are doing so to protest the November assault on Fallujah.
Broad Sunni participation was seen as necessary to make this election legitimate.
I have no idea whether this election will resolve some of Iraq's internal political tensions. It does seem to me that the Islamo-fascists of al Qaeda in Iraq unquestionably lost ground.
While they can continue to behead and carbomb, it will become increasingly clear, to what end? Their death threats alone weren't enough to keep people from wanting to play a role in selecting who governs them.
Rick Salution said in a Friday column not to confuse elections with democracy:
Here's an excerpt:
George Bush has an elections fetish.
He often repeats the term in an empty, adoring, fetishistic way. He grows almost tumescent just saying the words: “People are voting. . . . It's exciting times for the Iraqi people. . . . The fact that they're voting in itself is successful.”
He also tends to use the part, elections, for a grander whole: freedom or democracy, as if elections are democracy, full stop. And note that he said “we're,” not “they're,” having elections.
“Irrationally reverenced” is part of the Concise Oxford's definition of a fetish. What's irrational in the Bush reverence for Iraq's election? Well, the vote is being imposed after an unprovoked invasion and under an occupation that is onerous and humiliating — a set of contradictions that seem evident to almost every Iraqi passerby interviewed by a Western journalist who slips out of his barricaded hotel. It will occur under a virtual lockdown: traffic banned, airport closed, a three-day curfew. Iraqis will vote for 111 different lists, but few candidates are named, out of fear.
The election's promoters, the occupying powers, tortured detainees (the latest photos show UK troops making naked Iraqis simulate oral and anal sex). Jittery soldiers kill families whose cars approach checkpoints. Fallujah lies waste, its 300,000 people living as refugees. You have to really focus on voting and nothing else, to get giddy about this election.
All that is true, but what to make of the simple fact that people risked their lives to cast a ballot? There is something a little magical in that.
But if it's just a cover for putting in place an Iraqi government that's compliant with U.S. interests, it's also a monstrously cynical betrayal of that courage.
And unfortunately, the historical record really isn't on the U.S.'s side if it tries to plead idealism this time to justify its meddling in Iraq.