What Now for Iraq?
Vol: 40 Issue: 31 Monday, January 31, 2005
What Now for Iraq?
Anybody with a heart of flesh and blood is still marvelling at the voter turnout following Iraq’s first legitimate election in a generation.
Iraq’s last multi-party election, while not exactly democratic, was held in the 1960’s. Since then, Iraqis have lived under a series of authoritarian dictatorships, the longest of which was the regime of Saddam Hussein.
It still chokes me up to think of their courage. The final figures for voter turnout were a bit lower than the originally estimated 72%, but the actual 60% turnout figure is more than respectable.
The 2004 voter turnout in November for the American elections broke records as George Bush got more votes than any winning candidate in history, while John Kerry got more votes than any losing candidate in history — but in total, that history-making turnout was still only about fifty percent, ten percent fewer voters than in Iraq.
And unlike American elections, Iraqi voters not only had to walk, sometimes for miles, but they had to walk to the polling places knowing that doing so made them terrorist targets.
Think about it carefully — this didn’t take place in a vacuum. Picture the scene from their perspective. The Iraqis who defied the terrorists to vote weren’t defying a concept. Those Iraqis live among the terrorists, probably know some of them, and are known by them.
The terrorists know where they live, and undoubtedly, many of the voters were personally warned not to participate. Yet the voters took the risk, defied the threat, and even banded together to show off their ink-stained fingers that proved they had voted.
This morning, that ink is still staining their fingers, marking them as targets. They knew all this before they went to the polls. They walked by buildings scrawled by graffitti warning them that if the vote, they will be killed. Then they voted anyway.
John Kerry, the man who received more votes than any loser in the history of US presidential politics, said the sixty percent turnout was ‘no big deal’ and warned his constituents not to read too much into the Iraq election.
“No one in the United States should try to overhype this election,” Kerry told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. He questioned the validity of the election, citing the 60% turnout as insufficient to make the election legitimate.
“It’s hard to say that something is legitimate when a whole portion of the country can’t vote and doesn’t vote,” said the junior senator from Massachusetts. (Perhaps he is preparing a case for a ‘do over’ of the November elections until we can get every American voter to show up at the polls?)
When asked if the election meant Iraq was less of a terrorist threat, Kerry told Tim Russert, “No, it’s more. And, in fact, I believe the world is less safe today than it was two and a half years ago.”
But then Kerry remembered that he campaigned on the contention that Iraq was never a terrorist threat, which is why he says he opposed the war in the first place. So he changed his position mid-sentence, telling Russert, “I’m glad Saddam Hussein is gone, and I’ve said that a hundred times.”
While the junior senator from Massachusetts was downplaying the success of the Iraqi electoral process on “Meet the Press” , the senior senator went on “Face the Nation” to remind the nation that, “Iraq is George Bush’s Vietnam.”
(Evidently, Ted Kennedy forgot that the original Vietnam was “John Kennedy’s Vietnam” — since he was the one who started that war in the first place. )
According to Kennedy, Iraq “is a disaster because it’s a result of blunder after blunder after blunder”, he said.
Kennedy enumerated the ‘blunders’, including not having enough troops for post-war operations, disbanding the Iraqi army, having single-source contracts to groups such as the politically connected Halliburton, the prisoner abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib and the US refusal to accept offers by other countries such as Egypt to assist in training Iraqi force, etc., etc.
“Finally they have been unable to make up a plan – they’re making it up day by day. Until Iraqis are going to fight for their own country we are going to have a very, very dangerous situation,” said Kennedy.
Kennedy’s remarks delighted al-Jazeera, Turkey’s Zaman Online, China Daily and Russia’s Interfax, all of whom gave him headline coverage.
Kennedy should cut back on his morning martinis. One wonders what Kennedy thinks would happen if a bomb were to go off 50 feet from a line of American voters. Imagine the scene — people running, screaming in terror, as fast as they could from the polling place.
That happened as Iraqi voters –800 of them — stood in line at a polling place in Baghdad. They remained in line to vote. One would think that people that dedicated MIGHT be willing to fight for their country. They certainly proved (to everybody but Massachusetts politicians) that they were willing to DIE for it.
According to the habitual critics, the Arab Sunnis would boycott the voting, rendering it irrelevant.
According to the faint-hearted, terrorists would make the ballot process impossible to complete.
According to the ideologues, democracy could not be “imposed,” especially without sufficient “liberals,” argued Lawrence Kaplan in the left-wing “New Republic”.
According to reality (a source seldom consulted by the Left), six out of every ten Iraqis not only voted, but gathered together to dance in the streets with joy afterwards.
Another reality largely ignored by the liberal left is the results of a poll conducted by the Zogby group among Iraqis, taken just before the election. It wasn’t COMPLETELY ignored — virtually every leftist news organization from the New York Times to the BBC cited the figure that says between 60 and 80 percent of Iraqis want US troops to leave when an elected government is seated.
But the rest of the results went under the radar, because those results didn’t fit liberal preconceptions about Iraq. When asked the question, “What country would you most like Iraq to be like, 53% chose either the United Arab Emirates (the most Westernized in the Arab world) or the United States.
That means a majority of Iraqis favor moving away from fundamentalism, opting to keep their religion, but not be ruled by it. The UAE model is exemplary of an Islamic Arab country with warm ties with the United States, and that is the model the majority wants to emulate.
Another poll result that went under the mainstream media’s radar was the answer to the question, “Should Iraqis be free to choose their religion?” Sixty-two percent of respondents said that there should be religious freedom in Iraq and that people should be able to choose their own faith.
These are both much too encouraging to deserve any media attention. John Zogby was interviewed about it on Fox News Sunday, and that was the first I had heard about it. When I entered the keywords, “Zogby poll Iraq religion” I got plenty of hits about Zogby’s findings that the majority of Sunnis intended to boycott the election, as well as the ‘majority want us to leave’ question, but only seven returns that directly quoted the response regarding freedom of religion.
But, although the majority of Iraqis want to remain free of Islamic rule, there is a significant minority — 33% — who would prefer an Islamic Republic, so its much too early to sound the ‘all clear’. And we still don’t know the actual results of the election or the political and religious worldviews of the newly elected officials.
The Iraqis may choose poorly, and we may not be happy with the government they end up with. We could still end up with an enemy in Baghdad instead of a friend. But it will be the government they chose. In the event of another war, it will be not be against a regime, but against a willing population.
I admit to being impressed by the election, by the courage of the electorate, and to being encouraged by the results of the Zogby poll.
But God isn’t finished with Iraq yet. The prophet Jeremiah predicted; “And Babylon shall become heaps, a dwelling-place for dragons, an astonishment, and an hissing, without an inhabitant.” (Jeremiah 51:37)
Although Babylon lost its preeminence it had in the ancient world, it remained an inhabited city. When Saddam came to power in 1979, it had a half-million residents. Under Saddam’s rebuilding projects, the city’s population swelled to nearly one and a half million, according to Iraq’s city population figures.
It is my prayer that the new Iraq becomes the beacon of freedom in the heart of the Middle East that President Bush is hoping for.
But the Scriptures seem to indicate otherwise in the last days.
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