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Bribery in Iraq Elections and NYT Approval

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Well, The Times finally picked up on the story about widespread bribery going on in Iraq’s upcoming elections, and surprise! The article’s thesis is that it’s “no big deal” and “just the way they do things there.” The Times hardly mentions the word “bribe”, preferring instead the far more acceptable phrase “gift”. As you read their “report”, I’d like you to imagine what their reaction would be if, say, Iran had engaged in the same practices:

Across the country, voters are reaping a windfall as candidates in Sunday’s parliamentary elections offer gifts like heating oil and rice. When a candidate recently showed up in a poor village outside Baquba to distribute frozen chickens — in a literal homage to the political slogan “a chicken in every pot” — so many people rushed to get the free birds that many left disappointed after the supply ran out.

You may remember in yesterday’s Guardian a full article describing US darling Al-Maliki’s tactic to win re-election, which was handing out American-made arms to various “tribal leaders”. Now, most people would consider this a serious misuse of American aid, and an extremely dubious election strategy. However, the New York Times is not most people. They bury that story in the middle of the article and select a quote that basically signals their approval of the practice.

When Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki was asked about allegations that he gave tribal leaders pistols, emblazoned with a personal stamp, he openly defended the action.

“Some people criticize me for giving people pistols,” he said during a meeting with security officials broadcast on television. “Honestly, I wish I could give a pistol and a rifle to each one who stood beside the government against the gangs to express our appreciation.”

That’s it. That’s all they have to say on the matter. Again, I invite you to imagine what their reaction would be if, say, Hugo Chavez had been accused of buying votes with guns (US-made guns, no less). I think they’d have more to say.

With colorful language and delectable descriptions of “election feasts”, it’s clear the Times wants us to believe that the elections are going A-OK: everyone is campaigning peacefully, and “Democracy” is taking root in Iraq.

Of course, it wouldn’t do to mention the 352 killed in sectarian violence during the month of February – that would go against their narrative of a happy, peaceful election – so they don’t. Similarly, no one at the Times wants to mention the Kurdish activist who was injured in pre-election violence a few days ago.

Now, I’m sure many Iraqis are thrilled with the prospect of “gifts” in exchange for votes, and I’m equally sure that those “tribal leaders” were ecstatic with their free American guns. But for the New York Times to take these as the hallmarks of a successful election,  and especially for them not to mention the very real violence occurring behind the scenes demonstrates, I’m afraid, how debauched our own democracy has become.

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Written by pavanvan

March 2, 2010 at 3:37 pm

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