Democracy Breaks Out at Opening of Iraqi National Conference

From Holden:

I’m sure this is not what the Bush administration had in mind:

A NATIONAL conference, hailed as Iraq’s first experiment in democracy for decades, got off to a rocky start today when more than 100 delegates walked out to protest against fighting in the holy city of Najaf.

Dozens of people leapt out of their seats as soon as UN special envoy to Iraq Ashraf Jehangir Qazi finished his opening speech. “As long as there are air strikes and shelling we can’t have a conference,” some shouted.

Yahya Mussawi, from a Shiite Muslim political grouping that helped defuse a spring uprising by militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr, jumped on the stage before he was forced down by chief organiser Fuad Maasum.

“Part of democracy is that you listen to the Iraqi people. It is time that you heard us and we ask that military operations stop in Najaf immediately and dialogue takes place,” Mr Mussawi shouted. “Listen to us, prime minister, listen to us,” said the protesters, as Mr Maasum announced a 30-minute break in the proceedings.

[snip]

Delegates also demanded that a national council, which the conference delegates are due to appoint, be allowed to impeach members of the interim government if they decided they are not serving the interests of Iraqis.

They also demanded that groups excluded from the event, among them Sadr’s camp, be included.

During the break another powerful voice spoke up:

During the break, mortar bombs exploded in the Green Zone, shaking the building as organisers of the conference screamed at participants to get away from the windows of the convention centre.