Just a word on the Iraqi elections, playing out today. As we who are old hands at democracy watch young democracies unfold, it really is inspirational. All the words and the blood that have been spilled over this war, yet it is so great to see people defy all the threats to come out and exercise their right to vote. Reprinted below is a piece we posted back in January here when the first Iraqi elections took place entitled, “Inshala”. It took us years to come up with the US Constitution. These folks have done it in record time. Let’s hope this is yet another step in what will be a lasting peace in Iraq.
Here’s a link to the proposed Iraqi Constitution — the document they’re voting on today and here’s a link to the AP story on the topic, which explains in pretty good detail all the many Iraqis who are voting in their quest to be free. “I’m 75 years old, everything is finished for me.”, says one voter. ” But I’m going to vote because I want a good future for my children.” It is so powerful at times like these to see how universal human emotions are across the miles, across the globe.
(First Published: January 31, 2005)
“Inshala”, you hear them say over and over again in interviews from the street, from the long lines of voters in Baghdad and Fallujah, their thirst for democracy undeterred by terrorism and violence. “Inshala” (“God willing”, it means) “Peace will come.” “Inshala”, they say, “We will be free.”
We are old hands at this freedom, we Americans. We did this more than two centuries ago when 56 brave men signed the Declaration of Independence — and with it, their own death warrants — and sent it off to the King.
We’re so good at this independence, this freedom that we now export it around the globe, and help others realize its liberating power. In fact, today we are the world’s largest manufacturer and exporter of democracy around the world.
And so in Iraq, we deposed a dictator who massacred his own people and led a reign of repression and terror against those who would be free. The images on TV from Iraq are quite literally unbelievable. The lines stretching city blocks, the ink-stained fingers — the “blue badge of courage” — the families in their finery, gathering in groups to vote, all the while defying the looming and pervasive terrorist threats.
On CNN, even Christiane Amanpour, her husband a top foreign policy advisor to John Kerry, had to admit — yes, even gush — that this was an historic day. For this was not a day of partisanship but of freedom. The winds of freedom were blowing.
This was a day when 8 million people — some 72% of the population –voted, a day that saw 3 dozen people killed in separate attacks, a day that saw voters attacked by a car bomb, assessing the damage and then queuing up to vote once more. This was a day where women were threatened with beheading if they voted, yet they voted in droves. All the threats, the intimidation, the oppression, the terror, blown away by a ballot. What an awesome and inspiring sight. So quiet, so unbelievably powerful.
One woman told of her father, who had been murdered by Saddam Hussein, and how she thought of him as she voted. “What did this mean to you?”, the reporter asked. The woman dabbed at her eyes and answered deliberately. “Freedom…” she said softly, slowly “…happiness … victory.”
Today and every day we remember those who gave their lives in pursuit of freedom around the globe, brave men and women who understood and fought for one fundamental truth: that a threat to freedom anywhere is a threat to freedom everywhere.
There are so many images from yesterday’s vote but this picture from the New York Times says it all. The smile, the dual images of the ink-stained finger and the international sign of peace.
“We will be free”, it says, “And peace will come.”
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