**--Not safe for work! (A proven traffic-building technique I learned from Moxie.) 11:38 A.M.
The only way the vote will happen at all is that the US military has forbidden all vehicular traffic, so everyone has to walk for the next few days. This tactic prevents carbombings from disrupting the elections, but it is a desperate measure and not a sign of an election that could be certified as free and fair.
Car bombs are hard to stop, as we may discover in the U.S. someday soon. I don't quite see why making everyone get out of the their vehicles for a couple of days somehow makes an election unfree or unfair. (We should maybe try that policy in a few cities here.) Cole seems awfully eager to pre-tarnish the balloting. ...
P.S.: In the WSJ, Michael Rubin argues that Iraqis are holding ineffective leaders accountable. Allawi presided over massive corruption. He's gone. Jaafari's ineffectual--he'll soon be out too. But what if nobody can do the job, and voters get tired of shuttling between failed leaders (the situation Albert O. Hirschman famously said U.S. auto buyers were in during the 1960s when they would shuttle between GM and Ford's junky products). I agree that elections are the best bet--Hirschman was wrong about the auto market too. Yet it's slightly troubling that, as Cole notes, the otherwise-encouraging ABC News/Time poll found that more than 90% of Iraqis now favor a "strong single Iraqi leader," while support for a government of "mainly ... military leaders" has doubled (to 49%). [They haven't tried Chalabi yet, have they?--ed. There's the Democrats' nightmare.] ... More: One advantage the Iraqis have had, accountability-wise, is several votes (and quasi-votes) in rapid succession. That's arguably just the ticket when a country's starting up--if a leader clearly isn't doing the job, he can be gone in a matter of months (before destroys the nation). But the current election will choose a parliament that is to serve for four years! If those leaders screw up, their government won't make it to the end of their terms. Which means that after Thursday, accountability is in some crucial respect out of the voters hands. ... Wouldn't a two-year term have been better? If the Sunnis are still angry after this vote, do we think they're going to wait patiently four years to have another crack at it? Where's Feiler when you need him? ... 2:27 P.M.
It's regrettable that Rep. John Murtha, who pushed the withdrawal option to the political center, made his move before Iraq's Dec. 15 elections. A U.S. pullout would be far more palatable—politically, strategically, and morally—if it at least appeared to come at the request of the new, democratically chosen Iraqi government. The Bush administration may even have been leaning toward that scenario before Murtha spoke up.
The timing of Murtha's withdrawal speech, it seems to me, only made patriotic sense (as opposed to, e.g., partisan sense or self-promotional sense) if Murtha thought the Iraqi election this week would go badly. A sudden U.S. withdrawal after an ignominious electoral failure would look worse than a withdrawal set in motion beforehand. But if Murtha is pessimistic about the elections he's more contrarian than I'd thought. ... 10:31 A.M.
The Tsunami of Guilt Gathers Force Offshore: