Sunday, January 30, 2005

A Great Day For Freedom

Sitting here in the United States of America, the nation that gave crredence to the idea that people can rule themselves, a nation which has experienced over one hundred peaceful national elections - if one considers a Congressional election national in nature - and which has maintained a democratic order for some two centuries, it is difficult to appreciate fully what just took place in Iraq. Here are a people who for decades have lived under one of the most vicious tyrannies in the history of the modern world, a people who have not come close to touching the freedom that many of us take for granted, and who have almost literally dwelt in the caves as thei cruel overlords shut them out from any say in their future; and now they are participating in their first real election.

The images of parents bringing their children to the voting booths, of Muslim women participating in the electoral process, and of course the indelible image of the ink-stained index finger being held aloft: these are the images that represent perhaps the most successful part of the allied mission in Iraq. This is not to say that we have achieved all that we had set out to do, or that the insurgency is over, or even that we can confidently assert that we were right to invade in the first place. Things can certainly go off the tracks very quickly, and the next year or so will prove how fertile representative democracy will prove to be in this region of the world.

But for one day our hearts should be full of joy at the imagery of a people experiencing their first taste of freedom. People braved death threats, and worse, in order to participate in a process long denied to them. The courage of these people should never be forgotten nor diminished. Contrast them to the bloody cowards who kidnap men and women and slash their throats, all in the interests of upholding their fascistic ideology. These are the men and women, these brave souls trudging to the polling places, that represent the very best that this region of the world offers, and they are the hope of future peace in the Middle East.

Will it - freedom - succeed? Will they succeed in bringing order to their own lives? I don't know, but I fervently pray that they do. It's not about self-interest, at least not this part of it. I want these people to succeed because they are fellow human beings, as thirsty for security, freedom, and the good life as me, or you, or anyone lucky enough to be born into a free society. They want to live in a world that will allow their children to experience the joys that they perhaps missed out on. Yes, I do believe that stability in that region will in the long-run ensure our own domestic security. But that's not the only, or even primary reason to hope that these elections are the start of a long-term development that brings the men and women of Iraq the peace that they crave.

It's a long way to go. Let's hope we're on the right road.


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