A few years ago Billy Bragg recorded a song called “All You Fascists,” with words written by Woody Gurthrie during World War II. I don’t know if Mr. Bragg or the late Mr. Guthrie would approve of my borrowing that song’s refrain for this post, but it’s what leapt to mind when I saw this Washington Post report focusing on the efforts of the National Democratic Institute (affiliated with the US Democratic Party) to help prepare Iraqis for democratic elections:
[F]or all the fears that the elections will be defined by violence, the democracy instructors speak ardently of the keen appetite for the vote expressed by ordinary Iraqis. About 80 percent of Iraqis say they intend to turn out Sunday, a polling figure the instructors call credible given the quiet determination they have seen among rank and file citizens.
Substantial evidence of that resolve accumulated in recent months, as thousands of Iraqis defied continued threats to do the mundane work of the elections, training as monitors and election officials.
But the instructors said an episode last October first brought the matter into high relief. The institute had scheduled a workshop on coalition-building at the Palestine Hotel. About 180 Iraqis sent word they would attend.
Moments before the appointed hour, a vehicle bomb exploded in the street outside. U.S. troops cordoned off the hotel as there were reports that a second suicide bomber was cruising the area. The workshop organizers were talking about rescheduling when their cell phones started ringing.
“People were calling to apologize about being late,” the country director said. “The troops were blocking the hotel, but they were waiting outside in the smoke and the wreckage and the body parts.”
In the end, after the cordon was lifted, about 165 people showed up. “At that point,” he said, “I kind of figured there’s something going on here.”
Update: On one side are people distributing leaflets that read, “This is a final warning to all of those who plan to participate in the election. We vow to wash the streets of Baghdad with the voters’ blood… To those of you who think you can vote and then run away, we will shadow you and catch you, and we will cut off your heads and the heads of your children.”
On the other side are ordinary Iraqis who will defy these disgusting threats and go the the polls next Sunday to vote for a new future.
As Orwell wrote in a slightly different context, “I do not have to ask myself whose side I am on.”