Hogan's Alley

Friday, December 16, 2005

John Burns On The Election Day Mood In Sunni Areas

John Burns, the NY Times' and perhaps the media's most trustworthy reporter in Iraq has a brilliant piece on their website. Key quote:

Adhamiya, on the east bank of the Tigris River, only a 10-minute drive from the heart of Baghdad, has been so much in the insurgents' grip that American military helicopters have avoided flying overhead for most of the past 33 months. But as whole families gathered to walk neighborhood streets on the way to the polls, and with turnouts at some voting centers surpassing 60 percent barely halfway through the voting day, Sunnis -young, old and in-between, prosperous and middle-class and unemployed, merchants and tribal sheiks and schoolteachers - seemed to relish the chance to take part.

As to the future:

Another thing many Sunnis seemed to agree on was the possibility of a reconciliation between the Americans and the Sunnis, and a distancing of the Sunnis from some of the Al Qaeda-linked insurgent groups. Many were critical of American troops, saying, as Mr. Saleh did, that "they came as liberators, but stayed on as occupiers." But pressed on the question of an American troop withdrawal, most seemed cautious, favoring a gradual drawdown.

"Let's have stability, and then the Americans can go home," said Mr. Sattar, the store owner. Told that this sounded similar to President Bush's formula for a troop withdrawal, he replied: "Then Bush has said it correctly".

Why the difference from the bulk of reporting on the attitudes of Sunni's?

The freewheeling opinions among the Sunnis were hard, at times, to square with the hard-line views widely expressed to reporters on previous trips to Adhamiya, and with the inflexible attitudes common there when Mr. Hussein was still in power. The difference this time appeared to be less a matter of conversion than freedom from threat - the very thing that Ali, the schoolboy, hinted at when he celebrated having a day with his friends when they did not have to worry about the gunfire or bombs that had been common in Adhamiya.