This morning started for me at 6:45 am. That’s when I heard the first mortar. I laid in bed for a minute, not sure if I’d heard what I thought I’d heard. Then I heard two more. By the time I’d gotten out of bed, found my sneakers and made it downstairs I’d heard two more. After opening all the windows in the office, I headed out to watchmen shack to check on the situation – they said there’d been nine explosions so far. The polls opened at 7am. Within another half hour the smell of sulfur from the explosions hung in the air. The mortaring continued consistently for about four hours before letting up around 11 am. I heard between 30 and 50 explosions today, at least, and those were just the ones in ear shot from my location.
News reports say that at least some of the explosions were sound grenades being detonated to scare people away from polling stations. Latest reports say 38 people were killed and more than 50 wounded between the mortars and IEDs. But people still voted. Iraqis still left their homes and went to their polling stations because they can’t imagine continuing to live like this, and at least some Iraqi’s see voting as a legitimate way to change the status quo.
I don’t know if the election results will be recognized as legitimate, or if the elected politicians will be able to form a new government quickly enough to avoid a potentially disastrous power vacuum. I do know that millions of Iraqis showed incredible courage today by going out and voting, especially in Baghdad, which was the hardest hit area today.