When Iraqis speak about the U.S. election -- and it is seldom since there are so many problems in their own country -- they express cynicism, even ridicule, about the vote. One of the best-selling Baghdad daily newspapers, Al Sabah, recently called the U.S. vote a race between an elephant and a donkey, and that was not a reference to the American political party symbols.
"I don't think Iraqis see a difference between Bush and Kerry," said Ahmed Abdel Jabbar, Al Sabah's editor in chief. "Iraqis have other priorities: the daily attacks, unemployment. So they are really more interested in domestic news than what is happening elsewhere."
On Baghdad's popular talk-radio station, Radio Dijla, the hosts have tried to get listeners to talk about the U.S. vote in recent days, but Iraqis steer the conversation back to their day-to-day troubles.
Today, the topic was joblessness. One listener complained that the local employment office is corrupt -- that local officials only give jobs to friends and relatives. Yesterday, the station brought in a lawyer to answer listeners' questions on how to get their relatives released from Abu Ghraib prison.
Politics Are Local
All politics are local in Iraq, as well, in a uniquely Iraqi way. Iraqis interviewed by ABC News had few delusions that a Bush or Kerry presidency will make it safer for their kids to walk to school, easier to find a job or even more likely that their power will stay on long enough to watch the Arab satellite networks' coverage of the U.S. election.
"We'd like Kerry to be different," said Adel al-Dulain, a Baghdad resident. "But no one outside Iraq understands what we're going through."
It is the violence that frightens people most. A leading negotiator for the city of Fallujah, where a major U.S. assault may be imminent, told us that neither Kerry nor Bush wants a peaceful solution there.
"No matter who wins in the U.S., there will be no difference for Iraq. If there is any change in policy, it would be for the benefit of American interests," said Khalen Fakhry al-Jumaily, a senior negotiator. "I advise everyone to find a peaceful solution. Fallujah has become a symbol in Iraq, and an attack will lead to unforeseen disasters. A lot of Iraqis will join the fight."
The story of the Iraqi explosives missing from the al-Qaqaa storage facility has attracted no attention here. The Iraqi media is focused on this undisputed fact: since the United States handed over power to the interim Iraqi government on June 28, there have been 93 car bombings that have killed 568 Iraqi people.
Iraqis believe they know what effect the U.S. election will have in their country -- very little.
"The Americans," one man told ABC News through a translator, "have already caused us more problems than we expected."