Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Yay Election Day!!!

I have a deep and abiding respect for Election Day. In January 2005, I was the U.S. intelligence officer for a beast called IPOC West, or the Iraqi Police Operations Center for all of Baghdad.

Early in the morning of January 30, dawn of the first elections held in Iraq in over 50 years, the Commander put together a convoy to run around Baghdad and observe it. I jumped at the chance to go out and see it all come down.

And here's what we saw: thousands of people walking, some barefoot, all the way from Abu Grayeb (too dangerous for polling centers) to central Baghdad, over 20K both ways. Under the threat of death, and giddy-happy to do it.

We rolled up on a polling center where a suicide bomber had just detonated, and there were chunks of this guy everywhere. Yes, it was disturbing and disgusting. His head lay on the ground close to where the line to vote snaked. I almost cried when I saw the crowd's reaction--they spat on the head, slapped it with their shoes, stepped over it, and stayed in line.

And this one--a mortar landed close to another line, this one outside our jurisdiction in Sadr City. We heard the excited radio transmissions. Several people in the voting line were injured by shrapnel. They stood up, people tore pieces of clothing and helped each other wrap up their wounds, and they got back in line.

So when I hear folks whine about waiting 45 minutes to vote, it's tough for me not to tell those stories.

I didn't wait at all today, since I went at 3:30, not one of the more active times. I was excited all day--this is the first election since my experience in Iraq. And the first time I've been able to vote since before I joined the Army, which enraged me in 2000 and 2004. Both years, I was outside the U.S.--South Korea in 2000, and Iraq in 2004. I requested absentee ballots as early as July, and received them too late, both times.

I called the county commissioner in New York when I was denied my right to vote in 2004, and ripped him a new one. Do you mean to tell me that when I'm over here wearing this uniform, representing you, that ya'll can't get it together to send me a damn ballot in three months?? It felt like this was the first time they'd run an election! Have we NOT been at this for over 200 years?

So today I voted for the first time since 1996. I will never miss an election again, state, local, or national.