P Diddy launched an oddly phrased campaign to ‘mobilize’ the young voters in last years American election. It had the tag-line ‘Vote or Die’. This phrase may have sounded cool to the target audience, however I didn’t really get it. To me it sounded more like a threat, which is kind of ironic in a way when you consider that this Sunday the people of Iraq are voting under threat for the first time in western style democratic elections, the first elections of their kind in the region.

Occupying forces have stepped up security today in order to try and ward off attacks from groups who see themselves as Iraqi freedom fighters, or in new militarily correct language, ‘insurgents’ who want to try and cause havoc and mayhem on voting day. But with death threats against those who vote and their family the turnout is expected to be low despite some news reports that some thirteen million Iraqi’s have registered to vote.

Apparently to deter people from voting twice, poll workers will stamp hands with indelible ink, something that has been acknowledged as a risk to voters if anti-election ‘insurgents’ want to punish them. Election officials will of course themselves become targets in much the same way that any of the very few named candidates have been. In Baghdad last week election workers were dragged from their car and three executed on a downtown street. Unable to find enough security for election day, U.N. monitoring will largely be conducted from the safe distance of neighboring Jordan, a long way from the threats that face those who might be brave enough to embrace this vote that seems a long way from the idea of ‘by the people for the people’, a cornerstone of democracy.

You can be sure that no matter how small the turnout, how much violence there is, or what the outcome is, the occupying military forces will claim it had been a great success. They say things like “It’s the infant steps of a new democracy.” And “it’s early days for a new Iraq.”

I shall be see and read the coverage on the BBC, but for perspective I shall also look at Aljazeera.net’s English version website, as that often gives the news from occupied Iraq in a quite different light, a network whose name seems to trigger a relationship to terrorism in the minds of those who don’t understand that Aljazeera is merely the CNN of the MidEast. I shall also read blogs (Xanga like websites) by Iraqi’s who are brave enough to write Blogs in these turbulent times.

P Diddy tried to awaken the sleeping voters in the ‘land of the free’, where hanging chads and who won what once made the leaders of the free world look like asses. In Iraq this week, a hanging chad will be the least of the voters concerns as they exit the polls with their hands clearly marked in ink for anyone to see. And while it’s easy for you and I to sit back and rattle of the same old lines of “freedom comes at a cost” we should ask ourselves the question of whether or not it’s a price we would be willing to pay.

Aljazeera.net – Arabic New Network in English
BLOG : Burning Bagdad (the blog of a girl from Bagdad)
BLOG : Free Iraq (a far more outspoken blog against the occupation)
USA today story
Iraqi Insurgents Take a Page From the Afghan ‘Freedom Fighters’
al qaeda  – Made in the USA (Not really related as such)