The Adventures of Chester: Live-Blogging the Elections -- Refresh Often!
[All times US Central; Add nine hours for Iraqi time.]
4:25 Well folks, I've turned into a pumpkin. Actually that's not true. I could keep on until the polls close, but Mrs. Chester will wake up and see that I haven't slept and then unplug the computer and check me into an internet program. Tomorrow (Sunday) morning, guest-blogger Steven Vincent will be offering another piece on the election, and The Adventures of Chester will continue with commentary on the outcome later in the day. For more election coverage, go to Iraq Elections newswire and use the editor's links there.
Having been inspired by Geraldo Rivera's (now there's a line I never thought I'd type) comparison of the Iraqi elections to the civil rights movement in the US, here's a final quote for you, from LBJ, before he signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965:
I speak tonight for the dignity of man and the destiny of democracy.So it is today in Baghdad.
I urge every member of both parties -- Americans of all religions and of all colors -- to join me in that cause.
At times history and fate meet at a single time in a single place to shape a turning point in man's unending search for freedom. So it was at Lexington and Concord. So it was a century ago at Appomattox. So it was last week in Selma, Alabama.
4:09am Meanwhile, in Kuwait, security forces have had a shootout with terrorists.
3:55 Just checked the time-zone map on sitemeter. If you are in Iraq and reading this, any updates you have are welcome. Shoot me an email with your own observations.
3:53 Another new photo is up at Cigars in the Sand. The Iraqis are displaying their inked fingers proudly.
3:50 Fox just reported a new suicide bombing in Baghdad killed two Iraqi policemen.
3:46 The latest update to the BBC Reporters' log: Iraqi elections is from Ben Brown in Basra, who notes,
Turnout here has been extraordinary. We've been to a few polling stations in the city centre and we've seen huge queues of men and women who were searched separately.
Some have had to wait for an hour before casting their ballot.
3:37 I guess that answers the bluefinger question: won't be a security issue if everyone has it.
3:36 Wow. That earlier pic is not the half of it. See Cigars in the Sand for several great election day photos. My favorite is the guy being wheeled to the polls. Ryan also writes this:
So far our team has made three round trips to the polling station. For the record, that's 63 Iraqis voting. Every busload has sang and danced the entire drive home.
After a large numbers of explosions this morning, things seem to have gotten quieter (at least in Baghdad). Let's hope it holds.
3:33 Iraq Elections newswire asks about the security aspect of marking voters' thumbs with blue ink. I wondered about this too. Seems like an easy way to identify voters. Wonder how long it lasts . . .
3:17 Here's an opinion piece in Al-Ahram which asks for greater debate between political parties in Egypt. You've really got to wonder how the Iraqi elections will be perceived in the Arab world . . . Next week's MEMRI translations should be good . . .
3:11 Here's a link to the frontpage of Al-Ahram Weekly, an Egyptian newsmagazine. It features four stories, and the one which I read had a pretty predictable viewpoint about the difficulties surrounding the elections.
3:06 About to start plumbing the depths of the Arab news for stories . . .
3:01 Quick admin note: If anyone out there is interested in being on the email list for The Adventures of Chester, just shoot an email to "email@example.com" with "subscribe" in the subject line. You'll get one email a week with details of what's going on 'round these parts. A couple of folks asked to be unsubscribed and then they got another update anyway -- sorry, I was out of town and couldn't fix. I'll take you off the next one. Though I guess if you want to be unsubscribed, you probably aren't reading this. Oh well. By the way, I don't share email lists with anyone.
3:00am This is the midpoint of election day and all the indicators point to a success so far -- lots can still go wrong, but seems to be going off pretty well so far.
2:50 Chrenkoff has a new post up contrasting two emails he's received, one from an Iraqi describing the family getting ready to go vote, the other from the father of a Marine who was injured for life on New Year's Day.
2:45 Just stumbled upon Ali's thoughts (formerly of Iraq the Model fame). Ali is now blogging at Free Iraqi.
2:32 The Fox ticker just reported that 6 car bomb blasts had gone off outside US and multi-national forces facilities near the Green Zone. Said no US casualties had been reported. Maybe that's cause US forces disrupted the attacks such that they were not successful . . . pure speculation . . .
2:24 When I lived in Diwaniyah in Iraq, we had hired some contractors to rebuild the looted university building we were living in. Every now and then, I'd be in my quarters and the head contractor would come in and measure something or check out the electrical sockets. Stuff like that. Once he had his two sons with them and I gave them some candy (melted) that friends had sent me. I talked him up a little as he spoke English enough to get stuff across. He asked me how old I thought his sons were. I would have guessed about 8 or 9 judging by their size. But before I could answer he told me they were 13 (they were twins) and the reason they were so short is because milk had been hard to come by under the sanctions. But this gentleman wasn't bitter about that. He blamed Saddam. Then, using some hand motions and simple English he told me he wished Iraq could be the 51st state in the union. I bet that guy is voting today.
2:22 This bodes well. Rantburg strikes again:
Many Iraqis living near Saddam Hussein’s hometown said they will vote today because the ballot not violence will end Iraq’s occupation by U.S.-led coalition troops.
The small town of Alam, 10 miles northeast of Saddam’s home city of Tikrit, is relatively quiet unlike other Sunni Muslim areas west and north of Baghdad that roil with militancy and fierce opposition to the national elections.
The local leader of one of Iraq’s largest clans here is bidding for a seat in the 275-member National Assembly that will govern the country and draft a permanent constitution.
Mashaan al-Jbouri, who heads the 37-member Liberation and Reconciliation Front, has said the country can be freed from occupation only through peaceful means.
Hasan Mohammed Khazaal, a 24-year-old university student, backed that notion.
"We will have a new constitution and I can get rid of the occupiers through elections. This is the only way to evict the occupiers,’ said Khazaal, who decorated his car with posters of al-Jbouri, the local chief of the Jbour clan.
Al-Jbouri served as the governor of Mosul, Iraq’s third largest city, for a few months after the fall of Saddam’s regime in April 2003. He is now a member of the transitional National Council, a government oversight body.
Maj. Gen. Suleiman Youssef Ahmad, a retired officer who served in Saddam’s army, has gone house to house in Alam explaining to people what elections are and why they should vote.
"I am not only going to vote. I am guiding the people how to do it,’ he said.
Another official, 50-year-old Brig. Gen. Mattar Saleh, said he was voting as a means to get foreign troops out of Iraq.
"We are Iraqis who oppose sectarian division, and our aim is to liberate our country from occupation,’ he said. "I can tell the government that I will elect to ask the occupiers to leave the country through peaceful means.’
2:16 Didn't know Sistani was born in Iran. Interesting:
Although he shaped almost every facet of today’s elections, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani has no plans to vote, one of his representatives said yesterday.
The cleric leads this nation’s 15 million Shiite Muslims, 60 percent of the population, and he may be the most powerful man in Iraq. But Sistani was born in Mashhad, Iran, he is an Iranian citizen, and, according to the rules of the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, he is not eligible to vote, the representative said.
"I assure you Sayed Sistani won’t vote in this election, because he doesn’t meet all the required conditions as spelled out by the IECI," said Sayed Murtdha al Kashmiri, Sistani’s representative in London. "He will not vote, but at the same time, Sayed Sistani obliges every Iraqi to vote in the elections."
2:00am Fox now breaking that a suicide bomber hit a polling station/school in West Baghdad, but the reporter is quick to note that it is 4 hours into polling and the terrorists had promised 400 suicide bombers -- only only a handful so far. Maybe some got to their targets and decided to vote . . . Shepard Smith (I think) also notes that 11 hours into the calendar day of Jan 30th, not a single US soldier has been killed. Let's pray it stays that way.
1:53 More on Geraldo's finest hour: Thanks to an Alert Reader for posting a link to the transcript of Geraldo's report. An excerpt:
GERALDO RIVERA [FOX NEWS]: I don't want to overstate, because I'm very emotional right now. Because I was in that town, just behind me. These GIs have done it, they've created an environment, despite the explosions, despite all the news you've heard of the suicide bomber, snipers, this and that. In this town, in this community, with 15,000 registered voters, we have just returned from the polling place. It is absolutely packed. Roll the video. There are men, women, families coming. They are casting their ballot for the first time. It was so inspiring. It was one of the most amazing things I've ever seen in my entire life. It really is like the Berlin Wall going down in 1989. It really is like the beginning, like the dawn of the civil rights era, when black people could vote for the first time. It is the most amazing sight. Only a hard-bitten cynic, only a person with absolutely no upside to their feeling of optimism, could look askance at what is happening, truly happening today. People are applauding themselves, they look like Rocky coming out of the polling place. There are women voting for the first time, and it's just the most incredible thing. It's so heartwarming to see it.Wow. Go read the whole thing: Iraq, The Vote: 'One of the Most Amazing Things I've Ever Seen'.
1:47 The Fox reporter in Mosul just finished a report and the anchor thanked him for his "bird's eye view of this great event." Would a CNN anchor even deign to call this a "great event?"
1:44 Update from Iraq Elections newswire: Long lines of folks are queued up in Mosul waiting . . . and the Iraqi Election Commission reports that all 5200 polling places opened on time . . .
1:37 Something tells me there are two things wrong with this story in Al Jazeera (Al-Yawer: Most Iraqis won’t vote in Sunday’s elections): 1. Al-Yawer's remarks are out of context, misinterpreted, or mistranslated, 2. Al Jazeera is wrong. Check this out. Apparently it's like Independence Day down in Najaf:
Despite the presence of thousands of special police and Iraqi National Guardsmen, Najaf had the festive air yesterday of a country in celebration.And we don't read enough of these stories, of which there are no doubt plenty:
"This is the glorious day Iraqis have been awaiting so patiently," said Raad Abdali, 26, a police officer standing guard at the al-Shekeri Mosque. "Election day will open like a flower, revealing our future."
The jovial atmosphere offered a marked counterpoint to much of the rest of Iraq, which has been plagued by anxiety and fear, with an intimidation and bombing campaign targeting voters and polling sites.
Like many of the city’s men, Abdullah spent several short stints in prison in the 1980s for being a member of the Islamic Da’wa Party, one of a handful of opposition groups that fought Hussein’s rule from inside Iraq.
In 1991, Abdullah fought in the short-lived Shi’ite uprising that followed the war in Kuwait. For 19 days, he helped run the gold-domed shrine of Imam Ali, a revered pilgrimage destination and a funnel for enormous amounts of money tithed by devout Shi’ites.
Hussein’s army quickly quashed the rebellion, and Abdullah proudly displays the scars from the torture he endured in Abu Ghraib prison: a burn mark across his left shin from a heated metal bar, the disfigured muscle above his left knee.
His posture is awkward from being hung from the ceiling by his arms, which were tied behind his back.
The election, he said, offers a powerful salve against those dark memories. "We are thirsty for this day," he said.
1:26 The Fox ticker is reporting that Qatar is speeding up its plans to privatize Al Jazeera due to pressure from the US government . . . good news by my watch. Watch the left cry foul on this one, but shouldn't they rejoice anytime a state gives up control of a media outlet? I bet the US gov't pressure took the form of something like "hey -- we have spent billions to relocate our CentCom HQ to your country and this is the thanks we get?" I bet the Qatari economy gets a pretty nice injection from the presence of a large US installation . . .
1:20 Posted this a moment ago, but lost it: Just had a thought that if only the self-disenfranchising terrorists had gone the political route, they could hire some DNC operatives to plant false exit poll results in another hour or so . . . Imagine the headlines: "Imprisoned Saddam wins as write-in candidate with 100% of the vote."
1:03 This is Geraldo's finest hour. He can't contain his excitement on the ground in Baghdad -- he just said, "I refuse to speak in measured tones. This is truly exhilirating." And he called this, his sixth trip to Iraq since the war started, as the best one yet. Fox is just letting him go. He just compared the election to the fall of the Berlin Wall and 1776.
12:59 While scouring the internet for news, I just stumbled on the thoughts on one expatriate Iraqi who has just voted in the past few days. Very interesting. See here.
12:48 Here tis: The Watchdogs of Fallujah - By Bing West. Lots of down and dirty on UAVs.
12:37 About that Green Zone attack . . . Several observations to make. First the details: at 7:30pm in Iraq yesterday, 30 minutes after the evening curfew began on election eve, terrorists fired a rocket into the Green Zone in Baghdad and killed two US citizens. Now: Fox was playing video released for the US gov't, downloaded from a UAV that watched the terrorists gather in a group of 7, then there's a puff of black smoke -- probably the launch of the rocket -- then the bad guys scatter away -- perhaps because they've learned to be afraid of counterbattery fire. They obviously didn't know the UAV was watching. The overall effect is like one of those police videos out of LA where the criminals have nowhere to run. The US military found 7 people and 5 of them had explosives residue on their hands. The Fox anchor made some comment to the effect that little info about these UAVs and their capabilities had been released before, but loyal readers of The Adventures of Chester may remember a couple of links way back two or so months ago . . . stand by . . .
12:33 On the Fox ticker: Reuters reports a bomb has exploded at a school used as a polling station in Basra . . . just had a flaskback to those Homeland Security alerts over the summer about documents being found in Baghdad detailing the layout of US elementary schools . . . anyway, no word on casualties in Basra or the size and location of the blast . . .
12:27 Yesterday, US soldiers detained two individuals suspected of polling center attacks. Quote from Central Command:
CAMP LIBERTY, Baghdad -- Soldiers attached to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, detained two suspects at 3:50 p.m., Jan. 29, in the western Baghdad district of Mansour. The pair is suspected of plotting attacks against polling centers in the Baghdad area.
The suspects were detained at a check point where their names were matched to a list of suspects.
The two men are being held for further questioning.
12:18 Friends of Democracy carries two audio clips with info from yesterday in Najaf:
Hussein Al Qadi, reporting from Najaf, sent us two audio feeds in English:I bet the Friends of Democracy bloggers in Iraq are out and about gathering info, etc and we'll have updates later on the FOD site . . .
1. The police and border forces found caches of weapons on farms west and south of the city.
2. Downtown Najaf was closed for the annual Shi'ite festival at the shrine of Imam Ali
12:16 Fox news has removed its breaking news banner about the possible bombings . . . and CNN reports a blast hit behind a polling station . . . (via Iraq Elections newswire).
12:12 Just found a one page roundup of the sentiment among Iraqi bloggers: Try this.
12:08 Just decided to switch the format. Updates now at the top of the post, old stuff at the bottom. . .
12:01 am, Sunday, 30 Jan: Most of the Iraqi bloggers haven't updated since yesterday, but their last posts are worth a visit. All ar dripping with pre-election excitement. See: IRAQ THE MODEL, Hammorabi, Live From Dallas . . .
11:57 CNN and Fox seem focused on Baghdad . . . what about Basra, Mosul, Kirkuk, Najaf? Must find more . . .
11:53 Slightly off-topic, while we wait on word of any bombings in Baghdad: just caught this story on cnn.com about a Marine who has survived nine different bombings intact. Used to be a minot-league baseball shortstop . . .
11:47 The Friends of Democracy site has a great map with the province names of Iraq listed: Friends of Democracy - Iraq Election News - Reports: Iraqi Provinces (Governorates). This is a great quick refresher for anyone who needs some quick situational awareness. Note: as it mentioned often, the four provinces which are not yet declared completely secure are: Al-Anbar, Baghdad, Babil, and Salah ad Din. As can be seen, these are more or less the Sunni triangle . . . great map.
11:42 Fox now says several loud blasts have been reported . . .
11:41 Fox reporting breaking news that a bomb may have gone off at a polling place in Baghdad . . .
Posted by Chester on January 29, 2005 11:43 PM to The Adventures of Chester