Juan Cole: Why the Iraqi elections don't mean peace





According to wire services, Sunnis in Fallujah came out to vote:


' not only get rid of the Americans but to also get rid of the Shiite-dominated government.

"It's an extremist government [and] we would like an end to the occupation," said Ahmed Majid, 31."Really the only true solution is through politics. But there is the occupation and the only way that will end is with weapons."

Even in insurgent bastions such as Ramadi and Haqlaniyah, Sunnis were turning out in large numbers.

"I came here and voted in order to prove that Sunnis are not a minority in this country," said lawyer Yahya Abdul-Jalil in Ramadi."We lost a lot during the last elections, but this time we will take our normal and key role in leading this country." '

It is not actually a positive sign for the Americans that Sunni Arabs came out to vote in order to get rid of them, to see if they couldn't get rid of the current pro-American government, to underline that the armed struggle will continue, and to prove that Sunni Arabs (20% of so of the population) are a majority of the country! The American faith that if people go to the polls it means they won't also be blowing things up is badly misplaced.

Consider this news item from Northern Ireland in 1982:


' Sinn Fein, the political wing of the Provisional IRA, has won its first seats in the elections to the new Ulster Assembly.

Gerry Adams, vice president of Sinn Fein, took the Belfast West seat. It is the first time his party has stood for election since the Troubles began.

Mr Adams, 34, made clear that being elected would not stop the IRA's campaign of violence.

"The IRA have said that while the British army is in Ireland they will be there fighting" he said. '


Now let us consider this item from three years later, 1985:

' Thirteen people have been arrested in connection with a suspected IRA mainland bombing campaign uncovered by police two days ago.

The men - who are being held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act - include a 33-year-old from Belfast, suspected of carrying out the attack on the Conservative Cabinet in the Brighton Grand Hotel last year.

It is feared the IRA may have planted devices in a dozen seaside resorts around the UK - timed to go off at the height of the summer season - and a massive police hunt has been launched. '

Could the presence of Sinn Fein, the political arm of the militant Irish Republican Army, in the North Ireland assembly have had an effect on the peace negotiations in the mid-1990s? Sure. But my point is that these campaigns, the political and the bombing, can go on simultaneously for over a decade.



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