Sy Hersh on the Iraqi elections last January:
The January 30th election in Iraq was publicly perceived as a political triumph for George W. Bush and a vindication of his decision to overturn the regime of Saddam Hussein. More than eight million Iraqis defied the threats of the insurgency and came out to vote for provincial councils and a national assembly. Many of them spent hours waiting patiently in line, knowing that they were risking their lives. Images of smiling Iraqis waving purple index fingers, signifying that they had voted, were transmitted around the world. Even some of the President’s harshest critics acknowledged that he might have been right: democracy, as he defined it, could take hold in the Middle East. The fact that very few Sunnis, who were dominant under Saddam Hussein, chose to vote was seen within the Administration as a temporary setback. The sense of victory faded, however, amid a continued political stalemate, increased violence, and a hardening of religious divides. After three months of bitter sectarian infighting, a government was finally formed. It is struggling to fulfill its primary task: to draft a new constitution by mid-August.Uh oh. Read the rest for more.
Whether the election could sustain its promise had been in question from the beginning. The Administration was confronted with a basic dilemma: The likely winner of a direct and open election would be a Shiite religious party. The Shiites were bitter opponents of Saddam’s regime, and suffered under it, but many Shiite religious and political leaders are allied, to varying degrees, with the mullahs of Iran. As the election neared, the Administration repeatedly sought ways—including covert action—to manipulate the outcome and reduce the religious Shiite influence. Not everything went as planned.