A tale of two Iraqs.

From the AP, via the San Diego Union Trib on Sunday:

Bush said last week's voting for parliament will not bring an end to the violence in Iraq, where he has estimated that 30,000 civilians and more than 2,100 Americans have died. But he said Iraq's election, 6,000 miles away, "means that America has an ally of growing strength in the fight against terror."
The New America Foundation's Steve Clemons notes that Bush wasn't the only one dazzled by the shiny purple fingers (UPI via Monsters and Critics):
Happy days are here again. Or so say William Kristol and Robert Kagan, the co-helmsmen of America`s neoconservative establishment. In their upbeat Weekly Standard assessment of the Dec. 15 Iraq parliamentary elections, they ridicule 'sour experts' whom they assert are going far out of their way to explain why 'the peaceful election of a national assembly for a fully self-governing Arab democracy was not a turning point.' But the election, according to Kristol and Kaplan, was no less than an 'eruption of democracy in the heart of the Arab world.'
Meanwhile, another neoconservative fellow traveler, Lawrence Kaplan, writes in The New Republic that while Americans have an understandable affliction of 'milestone fatigue' after all previous celebrated 'turning points' -- ranging from the capture of Saddam Hussein to last October`s constitutional referendum -- failed to trigger a stabilizing cycle in Iraq, Dec. 15 'really was a milestone.' In an assessment echoing Francis Fukuyama`s yesteryear notion on the 'end of history,' Kaplan confidently writes that 'however torturous the path to Iraqi democracy may have been … for America at least, the path ended' on the day of Iraq`s elections.
Contrast that warm and fuzzy appraisal with this report by UPI on Tuesday:
Iraq's elections were marked by widespread intimidation and coercion by paramilitary groups, experts said Tuesday.
"This election appears to have suffered from very many problems. The reports have become overwhelming," Leslie Campbell, regional director of Middle East and North African programs at the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, told a meeting at the Center for American Progress, a think tank headed by John Podesta, President Bill Clinton's former chief of staff.
Campbell said that during the first parliamentary elections under the new Iraqi constitution last Thursday, election monitors had documented "widespread intimidation by security forces affiliated with one group or another.
"Especially in the south (of Iraq), there have been many reports of coercion to vote for the 5-5-5 Shiite coalition parties," he said. "In the north, there is no doubt that Kurdish security forces exerted intense pressure."

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