Friday (12/10/2004 05: 11:03 PM), Juan Cole wrote on Sunni Arab view of boycotting elections:
This way of thinking ["Taking part in elections like these means nothing but to grant legitimacy to a completely illegal situation."] is completely self-defeating and also historically inaccurate. Nehru would not have been prime minister of an independent India if the Congress Party had not fought elections under British colonial domination. Sistani has the right idea here.
In short, Al-Dhari is wrong that the guerrilla fighters have achieved much positive; he is wrong that cooperating with elections cannot result in independence; he is wrong that the boycott movement is significant outside the Sunni Arabs. The only thing he is right about is that the technical preparations for the elections are problematic.
I was at a public event on Thursday night and someone asked me why the Sunni Arabs didn't just take the best deal they could get. I replied that they think they are the real majority of the country, or that is the public pose (requiring them to invent a million Iranian Shiite infiltrators to explain all those extra Shiites). They think they can push the Americans around and maybe even push them out of the country. They think once the US is gone, they will have a better, not worse chance, at regaining something like their former political ascendence.
In other world, to Cole, Iraqi Sunnis "seem to be living in a dangerous fantasy land." Well, I would say instead that they are living in a double nightmare: option 1, an American for ever lasting occupation; option 2, a Shiite inverted confessional oppression. Indeed, both parts have obviously chosen sectarian politics; numerically conscious Shiites are for the electoral one-man-one-vote majority rule oriented path, and the less secure Sunni minority for the patriotic but potentially authoritarian armed struggle.
Juan Cole gives an impression of fatalistic resignation. Not only does he seem confident in future, US monitored, electoral outcomes, but he gives eventual majority rule and Sistani’s strategy for Shiite confessional hegemony his blessing. But, why "for Christ’s sake" can't all independence forces join in a common vision of future and common strategy of resistance to occupation? Why can't Shiites and Sunnis agree on sharing power (fifty fifty) prior to elections; why can’t they secure genuinely Iraqi elections and bi-confessional federal outcomes?
Can "cooperating with elections result in independence" as Cole says? Yes, but only if prior to it Iraqi independence forces are cooperating with each other. And it’s definitely not or not solely about technical electoral issues, but about basic visions of future Iraq and the sort of democracy most suitable for the country—conventional liberal Western or consociational and Lebanon inspired one.