Juan Cole, a University of Michigan professor and polemicist, sneers at Iraq's local elections on his webpage, paraphrasing a Los Angeles Times article (far more neutral in tone), to conclude: "elections can only be held in Iraq via security arrangements that shut down traffic and interfere with ordinary life in other ways." Evidence of failure? Not quite.
In late December, I was an international election observer in Bangladesh, a country of more than 150 million people. The Bangladeshis were holding hotly contested elections to return to parliamentary democracy a few years after the military stepped in amidst growing political violence in the country.
The Bangladeshis also banned vehicular traffic for safety and secuirty. Turn-out was about 80 percent and pretty much every organization found the elections, while not without room for improvement, to be free and fair. No one questioned the vehicular ban; indeed, many Bangladeshis and many outsiders applauded it.
Mr. Cole, it's one thing to question and debate U.S. policy because of your own philosophical background; it's quite another to pour vinegar on any success Iraq because of a bone to pick with U.S. politics or because Iraqis ignore you. Perhaps it's time to give the Iraqis the respect they deserve.