Saturday, November 04, 2006

Democracy. Whiskey. Sexy.

Much to be horrified about in the NYT's Chalabi article, but I think this is appropriate at the moment.

A winter rain is falling. Chalabi is standing inside a tent in Sadr City, the vast Shiite slum of eastern Baghdad. He's talking about his plans for restoring electricity, boosting oil production and beating the insurgency. People seem to be listening, but without enthusiasm. The violence here, worsening by the day, is washing away the hopes of ordinary Iraqis. Less and less seems possible anymore. People are retreating inward, you can see it in the glaze in their eyes.

As Chalabi speaks, I pull aside one of the Iraqis who had been listening. What do you think of him? I ask.

"Chalabi good good," the Iraqi man says in halting English.

Whom are you going to vote for? "The Shiite alliance, of course," the Iraqi answers. "It is the duty of all Shiite people." When the election came, Chalabi was wiped out. His Iraqi National Congress received slightly more than 30,000 votes, only one-quarter of 1 percent of the 12 million votes cast - not enough to put even one of them, not even Chalabi, in the new Iraqi Parliament. There was grumbling in the Chalabi camp. One of his associates said of the Shiite alliance: "We know they cheated. You know how we know? Because in one area we had 5,000 forged ballots, and when they were counted, we didn't even get that many." He shrugged.