Iraqis Use “People Power” to Force Elections Over U.S. Objections

The recent election in Iraq has been another opportunity for the hawks to roll out their “Mission Accomplished” banners, but it is also a rare victory for non-violent people power in a conflict that has mostly been driven by multilateral violence:

[T]he Bush administration opposed one-person, one-vote elections of this sort. First they were going to turn Iraq over to Chalabi within six months. Then Bremer was going to be MacArthur in Baghdad for years. Then on , Bremer announced a plan to have council-based elections in . The US and the UK had somehow massaged into being provincial and municipal governing councils, the members of which were pro-American. Bremer was going to restrict the electorate to this small, elite group.

Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani immediately gave a fatwa denouncing this plan and demanding free elections mandated by a UN Security Council resolution. Bush was reportedly “extremely offended” at these two demands and opposed Sistani. Bremer got his appointed Interim Governing Council to go along in fighting Sistani. Sistani then brought thousands of protesters into the streets in , demanding free elections. Soon thereafter, Bush caved and gave the ayatollah everything he demanded. Except that he was apparently afraid that open, non-manipulated elections in Iraq might become a factor in the US presidential campaign, so he got the elections postponed to . This enormous delay allowed the country to fall into much worse chaos, and Sistani is still bitter that the Americans didn’t hold the elections . The US objected that they couldn’t use UN food ration cards for registration, as Sistani suggested. But in the end that is exactly what they did.

The story of “casual carpooling” warms the cockles of an anarchist’s heart, since it demonstrates well that in the absence of government control and hierarchical organization, even complete strangers can and will self-organize systems of mutual benefit.

Cars heading for San Francisco get filled with people going in the same direction, and the drivers can use carpool lanes to bypass the wait at the Bay Bridge tollbooths and, as lagniappe, save $3 a day.

Now the carpool experiment — though it’s probably unfair to call a activity an experiment — has spread from its birthplaces in Oakland and Berkeley into such far-flung places as Vallejo and Fairfield, growing even as the Bay Area grows.…

Somewhere along the line, a form of etiquette evolved that goes like this: no smoking, don’t use your cell phone, driver chooses the radio station (normally, it’s classical music, jazz or, particularly from Berkeley cars, National Public Radio), and, above all, only the driver may initiate conversation.