December 31, 2005


Myth and reality in Iraq (The Boston Globe, DECEMBER 31, 2005)

When Craig Jeness, an official of the United Nations' election-monitoring mission in Iraq, confirmed Wednesday that the Dec. 15 parliamentary elections there were "transparent and credible," he was not only affirming the validity of the vote and the honesty of Iraq's own electoral commission. In a way, Jeness, a Canadian, was also doing a favor for the Sunni Arab political leaders who have been alleging large-scale electoral fraud.

Those leaders had been telling their followers that if they got out the Sunni Arab vote, they would win a share of representation commensurate with that of the major Shiite parties. This forecast was based on a myth that many Sunni Arabs tell themselves: that they are in the majority, as befits their previous role as the dominant group in Iraq's political and economic life.

Since there has been no real census in Iraq since 1957, no reliable figures are available for the current population. Most informed estimates, however, place the Sunni Arab share at 20 percent or less. Some estimates go as low as 13 percent.

Whatever the actual percentage may be, it is almost certain to fall far short of a majority. But it has become a matter of sectarian pride for Sunni Arabs to deny the likelihood that there may be three times as many Shiites in Iraq as Sunni Arabs.

The upshot of this persistent denial of reality is that the grass-roots supporters of the Sunni Arab parties find it hard to accept that, though they turned out in force for the recent elections, preliminary results indicate their parties are likely to gain between 40 and 50 seats in the new 275-seat national assembly. This is about the same portion that the Kurds, who make up roughly 20 percent of the population and who voted in large numbers, expect to receive.

It's as if blacks had gotten 20% of the vote after the end of Apartheid. It'll take the Sunni some time to get used to reality.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 31, 2005 12:32 PM

Most Americans, black and white alike, think that blacks are 40-50% of the population. Yet there are more hispanics than blacks. New math, no doubt.

Posted by: ghostcat at December 31, 2005 4:48 PM

ghostcat has perceived something that most of us never think about.

Back in the '60's, the politicians then in power sought to cement their temporary dominance by creating a huge tax-spend-elect machine. To this end, they parlayed a few outbursts of looting into a system of internal Danegeld.

The Kerner commission and its report essentially concluded that we would have to pay and pay and pay whatever was demanded to avoid a race war. This was a ridiculous lie, of course, as the "riots" had been a kind of theater--a few impacted districts were looted of liquor and televisions, some fires were set, and no more.

Part of the response was "affirmative action," by which the mulatto elite was bought off with quota slots. We recall that in the '70's, Marine Corps officers were rated on their fitness reports on how "enthusiastically" they supported "affirmative action."

Well, Y.O.S. couldn't have been more "enthusiastic," inasmuch as I was a school-trained "Human Relations" instructor. As an additional duty, I conducted a kind of sensitivity training program which all Marines had to undergo. According to the manual, one of the discussion points supposed to be covered was how it came to be that a group making up 12% of the population was entitled to a 50% voice in the culture.

The "school solution" answer--the answer to which the group was supposed to be led by the Socratic method, was that Blacks were so totally other that only a 50-50 cut of the culture would do.

I have not looked into how this 12% population=50% culture equation was presented in other venues, but it is likely that the concept was present throughout the Danegeld movement.

Posted by: Lou Gots at January 1, 2006 6:14 AM