The Devil you know
Reaction from people about the election was varied but generally positive. The same can be said for a lot fot he Arab media as well (which was highly critical of the US occupation and what they considered a farcical election). Ironically, the success of the election, which was resoundingly touted early on in the process by the Bush administration, was seized upon by the Democrats. They said it would be the perfect time to now develop an exit strategy and let the Iraqis get to the business of ruling themselves.
While it will be some time before polls return, there was also a lot of skepticism about the eleciton, particularly among the Sunni Arabs. They felt the process was not fair or useful, particularly since they knew nothing about most of the parties, their platforms, or the candidates they were fielding. The election outcome will determine the representatives in the 275 seat parliament which will be selected by representative democracy. So the number of candidates a party gets into government will be determined by how many votes that party gets rather than by getting people elected in different districts.
There's also been some moves to reconciliation between the Sharon government and Abu Mazen and the Palestinian Authority. This is also right before a report which is to be released apparently citing a decade of unauthorized construction funding for illegal settlements in the West Bank (ummm, are there any other kind?). But hey, can't be a perfect day can it?
I've also watched the documentary "Shake Hands with the Devil" about Canadian general Romeo Dallaire and his UN mission in Rwanda during the slaughter there a decade ago. Dallaire stayed in Rwanda and witnessed the massive genocide even though he could do nothing to stop it. As those who know me best know, I've been deeply interested in Africa for years. I've been wanting to go for ages and finally got the chance a little while ago. My trip was just about the best thing I've ever done, but when you go there and see the horrible condition most of Sub-Saharan Africa is in, it's very trying on your spirit. On top of the unbelievable violence and bloodshed propagated by people like president Kagame in Rwanda1, AIDS has razed entire generations there. Many countries now have average life spans around 35 years because so many people have died. With infection rates around 20%, it's staggering if you consider it... 1 in 5 adults would have AIDS. Social structure and function in these countries is falling apart as well. There just aren't the people to fill roles as teachers, nurses, police or the other important functions of society. It's a strange thing watching millions of people, entire nations even, die slow and miserable deaths.
I did see some news about the success in prevention of mother to child transfer of the disease. Prevention in the US that is, the number of babies being born with AIDS went down from about 2000 to about 200. This is due to the number of successful medicines that can be used to prevent passing the disease to the child (which normally should only happen during childbirth, since the blood of the mother and child never mix before then). These drugs, however, are available in the US, but Africa is another story.
1. Rwandan President Paul Kagame was found to be responsible for the rocket attack on an airplane that instigated the mass slaughter of 800,000 Tutsis by the majority Hutus.