January 12, 2005

The Net Brings American-Style Politics to Iraq

Concerned about the democratization process in Iraq? Want to help elect the right candidates to the new national assembly, and advance that country’s transition to a constitutional republic and civilized society? Thanks to the internet, you need not be a distant spectator. You can give money to journalists, community organizers, and candidates. Jim Hake, an L.A. businessman with a high-tech background and connections to the U.S. Marines, has set up a web site to grease the flow of “soft power” from non-governmental sources (like you) to Iraq. Spirit of America has purchased and delivered Frisbees, industrial sewing machines, drinking water, dental kits, and other appurtenances of the good life. Currently, it is soliciting funds for an Iraq Democracy Project that will supply communications equipment, technical assistance, and micro-grants to in-country community organizations, student groups and bloggers. Donors to spiritofamerica.net disagree on U.S. involvement in the war, but not about the necessity of politics and civil society triumphing over terrorism. Hake aspires to facilitate online election night coverage from Iraq on January 30. On that day, voters will choose among 83 blocs with thousands of candidates for seats to a 275-member national assembly; the assembly is to appoint a government and draft a constitution, which is supposed to be put to a national referendum on Oct. 15, 2005. On the Spirit of America wish list: $1,000 funds a “Best Election Blog” prize in one of Iraq’s 18 provinces. $550 buys a satellite telephone for an election correspondent. $325 buys a Mini-DV camcorder for an election correspondent.” Meanwhile, one bloc, the Iraq Pro-Democracy Party, has an English-language web site soliciting and accepting donations from all over the world at http://english.iraqdemparty.org/. As of December 31, it had collected a little more than $14,000 online. Two of its twelve candidates run a blog, , which has received considerable attention in the United States. The bloggers, a pair of Baghdad brothers, were flown to the U.S. in December and visited President Bush in the Oval Office. This is leverage on a microscopic scale, fleas on an elephant. But things can scale up on the Internet. A flea can irk an animal. Fleas can also multiply.