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October 15, 2005

Iraq Election:You’ve Got To Hand It To Them?


Most news accounts I’ve read have been reporting — as if boilerplate — that the American military is strictly intent on keeping away from, and out of sight of Iraqi polling stations.  (This has also been the policy in the previous elections held subsequent to the American invasion.)

Of course, nobody seems to question the false disguise in such a policy — as if the absence of American soldiers for the day would somehow suggest that there isn’t a pervasive U.S. presence throughout the country — a presence which allows the U.S. to exert maximum leverage over how the country reconstitutes itself.

Given the "out of sight, out of mind" policy, however, what’s telling is that today’s some of today’s news photos aren’t conforming to it.  Is the situation in Baghdad so tenuous (see image above) that U.S. forces cannot afford even the appearance that the election is completely Iraqi owned and operated?


And, if the Pentagon is so sensitive about these impressions as to ban avoid the presence of U.S. troops at or near polling places, why would they possibly allow images to get out providing evidence of American soldiers (as if directly conducting the election) actually off-loading and delivering the ballots themselves? put troops in the position of blatantly conducting the kind of election-related support operations we see in this shot in today’s LA Times?

(revised: 10/16/05 12:20am PST)

(image 1: Cris Bouroncle/AFP-Getty.  Mosul, Iraq.  October 15, 2005.  Los Angeles Times. p. A5.  image 2:  October 15 2005. Khalid Mohammed/A.P. Baghdad, Iraq.  Saturday, October 15 2005. Via YahooNews.)

  • George Myers, Jr.

    My voting machine in the Bronx has been broken for three Presidential elections (the curtain neither opens nor closes w/ the pulling of the lever) and I heard on Cable voting place worker orientation, a voter would have to go to a judge, if the voter thought his or her vote wasn’t counted. I wrote my Congressman suggesting that many voters ought to do that. The order of jury duty used to follow the ballot. I wonder if juries are from voting records there in Iraq as they once were here in the Bronx, NY, where Mick Jagger was once a “copy” defendant, and a part of Tom Wolfe’s “Bonfire of the Vanities” was filmed on it’s courthouse steps. Mr. Wolfe once spoke with Reverend Abernathy in a talk about the origins of urban riots in America, what they thought the cause was, in Buffalo, NY.

  • fotonique

    BAG, you’re trying to have your argument both ways in this post. You criticize the military’s non-existent ban as political camouflage, then, when American troops do show up, you accuse them of exerting direct control over the elections:

    Given the “out of sight, out of mind” policy, however, what’s telling is that today’s news photos aren’t conforming to it.

    On the contrary, current news photos of the Iraqi election, viewed in a broader context, reveal that American troops aren’t showing up in great numbers. If you browse through Yahoo!’s news images, it looks like a Pentagon low-profile policy is definitely in effect.
    A Yahoo! news search for “iraq constitution vote” results in over 260 images. The great majority of these show Iraqi soldiers, civilians, and police preparing for elections, voting, and outside of polling places.
    One thing you don’t see in these photos are very many American troops. In more than 260 Yahoo! search results, I counted 15 images (not quite 6%) showing American soldiers. The only one of these showing armed American soldiers actively guarding a polling place is BNN’s selected shot.
    And once more you proffer:

    …if the Pentagon is so sensitive about these impressions as to ban the presence of U.S. troops at or near polling places, why would they possibly allow images to get out providing evidence of American soldiers (as if directly conducting the election) actually off-loading and delivering the ballots themselves?

    Several assumptions are laid atop another here:
    Assumption #1: The Pentagon is sensitive about images of the American military. Not surprisingly, this attitude is nothing new, nor is it always unjustified.
    Assumption #2: The presence of American troops has been banned. As your own image selections obviously show, American troops have not been banned from Iraqi polling places.
    Assumption #3: Why would the Pentagon possibly allow images to get out? Does anyone think the Pentagon can realistically enforce that level of censorship? Abu Ghraib comes to mind. What other Pentagon motive are you suggesting since images clearly have gotten out?
    Perhaps the truth is no more complicated than it appears: the Pentagon is “allowing images” merely to show that American troops have maintained a low profile during the election (note the above Yahoo! image results.)
    Assumption #4. American soldiers are conducting the election. By a few GI’s unloading boxes of ballots? Surely we can come up with evil intentions than that.
    Your argument needs more evidence than a few isolated photos.

  • readytoblowagasket

    fotonique: Normally The BAG is pretty conscientious about providing links to back up what he says he’s seen and read. This time he didn’t. I suspect that’s because he did not catch up on the sleep he said he needed a few days ago. You are right to say “Your argument needs more evidence than a few isolated photos.”
    As for the rest of your post, however, I don’t get why you equate the policy-makers with the policy-executers (therefore you read a criticism of the Pentagon as a criticism of the troops on the ground). Not differentiating between the two makes for a sloppy rebuttal on your part.

  • The BAG

    I’m not challenging the fact that most photos show the Iraqis in charge, or that virtually all the polling stations did have the Iraqis in charge. What I’m saying is:
    1.) I’m surprised that the military put themselves in a position where photos could be taken (this one from the L.A. Times, for example — which didn’t appear in YahooNews) showing U.S. operations support when they are so scrupulous about creating the impression that only the Iraqi’s are conducting Iraqi election business. (You’re right about my wording. I don’t think they should/would have tried to supress the photograph. I just think the U.S. role in support of the election was probably more visible than they would have liked — and shots like this one do reveal that.)
    2.) I was surprised by the (top) photo from Mosul because (in addition to showing the U.S. hand once again) it indicates that the security situation was deemed so tenuous, the U.S. military felt it necessary for U.S.(as opposed to Iraqi) troops to have to guard this polling station, in spite of the utmost intent on this day to remain out of sight.
    BTW, here’s a passage from one of the stories I was referring to. It is part of the lead NYT articleon the election.

    On Saturday, the 150,000-member American force was much less evident, with perimeter security at the polling centers left mostly to the fast-growing Iraqi security forces.

    In many areas, the only sign of the American military occupation came from low-flying Apache attack helicopters circling over known areas of insurgent strength, and occasional patrols by armored Humvees, with turret gunners scanning the streets.

    Maj. Muhammad Faris Ali, a military intelligence officer responsible for a wide area of northwestern Baghdad, attributed the relative calm to the Iraqi army’s takeover of duties that were still assigned to Americans in January. “We are Iraqis, and we know our people,” he said. “The Americans have a good army, but they don’t know Iraqis as we know them, and that makes for much better security.”

  • fotonique

    The BAG originally suggested that the Pentagon was exerting direct control over the Iraqi election via the active participation of American soldiers on the ground, and posts only two images to back up that claim. Many other photographs seem to show otherwise.
    The BAG mentions the Pentagon once, yet makes several other statements like:

    • “…as if the absence of American soldiers for the day would somehow suggest that there isn’t a pervasive U.S. presence through the country
    • “U.S. forces cannot afford even the appearance that the election is completely Iraqi owned and operated?
    • “…evidence of American soldiers (as if directly conducting the election) actually off-loading and delivering the ballots themselves?

    These sound like a finger is being pointed at American boots on the ground in Iraq, and not just at Pentagon officialdom in Washington.
    On preview, BAG, you explain more about the intent of your post. The clarification helps, but is there any support for the suggestion that American forces were banned by Pentagon order from Iraqi polling places? Or that the Pentagon was somehow surprised by (only a few, mind you) photographs of American soldiers in or near Iraqi polls?
    Poor choice of words? Maybe we all need a little sleep.

  • readytoblowagasket

    fotonique: You’ll see The BAG has addressed his misleading statements, as only he can do properly; it is not for me to put words in his mouth. In fact, I gave you credit for calling him on the points you found vague, which you seem not to have noticed.
    You have quite a robust hair-trigger reaction to perceived criticism of the boots on the ground. Maybe you should give IT a rest.

  • bg

    It sounds like maybe “American style” democracy was in fashion in Iraq, with two of three provinces having the requisite numbers of “NO” voters to scuttle the constitution and the third province, coincidentally in a close contest where it appeared “NO” was winning, at the last minute saddled with the WINNING combination of an influx of outside-the-province voters and closed polling places. Giving the razor thin margin of victory to THE CONSTITUTION!!
    Ain’t democracy, Ohio-style just the BEST!!

  • lytom

    It is pretty clear how involved invading bush is in Iraq. Not to mention rice and others who predict victory before the ballots are counted!
    Occupying forces cannot be called democratic or peace keeping forces, yet they are called that by the representatives of US government. The lie becomes truth.
    The tortures, simple killing of civilians and journalists can be added to the credit of the US/BRIT conspiracy. To make it more spicy, now there are uncovered friendly spy-bombers from Britain, killings of Iraqi soldiers by Brits, blockades of food and water from the town’s population causing exodus and more unsettled population… all the credit to the “democracy spreading” by the USA.
    It seems, that is not enough, army has the honor to defend these policies and their commander in chief by staged theatre for the weak minds at home.
    No end in sight! What is the next plan to upgrade bushes standing?

  • ummabdulla

    “What is the next plan to upgrade bushes standing?”
    Hmmm… that’s a scary thought. It would have to be something major. Another war? A terrorist attack (or at least going to red alert as if it were a real possibility)?

  • Geoduck

    Bombing raids on Syria and/or Iran would be the most likely bet.

  • ummabdulla

    If Bush can actually convince the American public that Syria is some kind of a threat to them, then I’ve got to give him credit…

  • fotonique

    The BAG’s edit is to his credit, and I did notice your agreement that the visual evidence was lacking. My apologies for not acknowledging that before.
    Robust?: I try. Hair-trigger?: Nah, just the opposite, actually. I’m not a Hooah! kind of guy.

  • allynrainyn

    hi to those who have no idea what you are talking about you should just keep your opinions to yourself. the soldier who is off loading the ballots in the second pic happens to be my brother. he was recentley injured delivering the ballots be an iraqi who was not happy about the choice to vote. did it ever occur to anyone they might be there to protect the voters? you do realize the choice to vote is going over not to well. you people see evil where none belongs. maybe you should look at yourselves before you judge others.

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