02/02/05 — Hallelujah!

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Even those who oppose the U.S. intervention in Iraq must be touched by Sunday’s election.

Despite months of barbarous attacks on Iraqi men, women and children, despite threats of death by the most brutal means, millions of courageous Iraqis went to the polling stations for a taste of freedom.

The turnout was far higher than many had expected, higher than the turnout of voters in an American election.

As we Americans have always lived in democracy, we tend to make the mistake of taking it for granted. In Iraq, there have been decades of bloody autocracy, and the opportunity to vote was not to be passed over by most of those who were eligible.

One middle-aged man broke down in tears while telling a news crew how it felt to be able to cast a ballot in a free election.

Many voted in defiance of threats that their families would be harmed.

The election was a milestone in the history of Iraq and of freedom itself.

Furthermore, it indicated the fallacy of the belief by so many people that a Middle Eastern nation cannot maintain a system of representative government.

It also validated President Bush’s oft-stated conviction that people will choose liberty when given an opportunity.

The Iraqi people live with a truth that many Americans tend to overlook. That is that a large bloc of Iraqis are not represented by the so-called “insurgents” who bomb Iraqi civilians, police and members of the U.S.-led military coalition. They are but a small percentage of the people in Iraq — a murderous minority.

In fact, many of them went from other countries under the aegis of terrorist organizations like al-Qaida. As it turned out, the election was a defeat of the goals that this element promotes.

Sunday’s vote was for members of a 275-member National Assembly. The assembly is to pick a head of state and draft a constitution, which is to be voted on in December. If it is rejected, the process will be repeated.

The success of the election brings us a step closer to the situation in which American and other coalition troops can leave Iraq. It will still be a while before Iraqi police and soldiers can be trained sufficiently to provide security from internal and external forces. But this was a big step in the right direction.

There is every reason for exultation here in America, in Iraq and throughout the world.

Published in Editorials on February 2, 2005 10:33 AM