The bombs began erupting around Baghdad shortly before the polls opened, and explosions rang out every five minutes by mid-morning.
But throughout western Baghdad province, an area overseen by Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldiers, tens of thousands of Iraqis defied the violence and cast their ballots in the second parliamentary election since the American-led invasion.
The last bomb exploded by 11:30 a.m. And the 21 platoon-sized quick reaction forces from 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division standing by in the event of an attack never received a call for help.
“The (bombers) tried to spread the perception that Baghdad was under siege,” deputy brigade commander Lt. Col. Darron Wright said Monday. “They failed in their attempt to intimidate the voters.”
The 4th Brigade controls American military operations through one of the most crucial areas of Iraq. Its area includes 2.5 million people spread throughout western Baghdad, Taji, Abu Ghraib and outlying towns. Eighteen high-level government buildings sit within the brigade’s area. And it hosted 463 polling sites on Election Day.
In outlying areas of Baghdad province, where bombings were few, Iraqis queued early to cast ballots. But many initially stayed away inside the city itself, likely because of the bombings, until about noontime, Wright told reporters at Lewis-McChord during a video teleconference Monday.
Lewis-McChord units worked behind the scenes throughout the country. Americans helped train Iraqi soldiers on checkpoint control and mass-causality scenarios. They provided intelligence and aerial reconnaissance assets. The 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division in Diyala and 17th Fires Brigade in Basra teamed with their Iraqi counterparts to prepare for Election Day security. The 201st Battlefield Surveillance Brigade collected and analyzed intelligence, and I Corps was running day-to-day American military operations throughout Iraq.
Voter turnout ranged from 55 to 80 percent throughout 4th Brigade’s area, Wright said, which is in sync with the estimated 62.9 percent national turnout the country’s electoral commission announced.
Wright said they observed 30 significant activities throughout its area of operations Sunday; the most deadly was a house bombing that killed six people and wounded four others. The others were low-yield explosives in plastic bottles aimed more at psychological effect than actually damaging buildings or killing people.
The bombs, dubbed Coke-bottle improvised explosive devices, were placed in mixed Shiite-Sunni neighborhoods, and initial indications suggest most were planted by insurgents loyal to al-Qaida in Iraq. The explosions stopped shortly before noon.
Throughout the day, 4th Brigade officials monitored reports and aerial surveillance feeds from a joint operations center with commanders from the 6th Iraqi Army Division. The Americans had placed 21 platoon-sized on Iraqi army bases throughout the province to offer help if requested.
But the only American response needed was from a joint task force of American and Iraqi explosive ordnance disposal and law-enforcement officials tasked with gathering forensic evidence from the various attacks.
“The will of the people triumphed,” Wright said.