It isn’t over yet, but today there was a resounding victory for freedom and democracy here in Baghdad. Having been here for a while now, many of us have grown weary of the hand-wringers, worriers, pessimists, whiners, and host of others who have been telling us for so long that all is lost in Iraq. Today we witnessed just how courageous the Iraqi people can be and how much they love their new-found freedom.
After listening to the pundits tell us how terrible the Iraqi Security Forces are, today I watched the Iraqi Security Forces stand tall. They protected 1,188 polling sites in Baghdad. Although there were a number of suicide bombers who attacked today, not a single one penetrated the perimeter of a polling site. There were several Iraqi policemen, and several Iraqi soldiers who lost their lives today. But they did not lose their honor or their courage; none of the 30,000 plus Iraqi Security Forces on duty in Baghdad ran away from danger today.
At the site of our first suicide bombing of the day, voters did not lose their courage either. They quickly lined back up at the same site, spitting on the body of the suicide bomber as they passed by in line to vote. A woman came out of line and took the shoe of the bomber and put it on his face- a great insult to an Arab. The same was true at any polling site that had violence. Voters immediately lined up again to cast their vote. How many Americans value their privilege to vote enough to show that kind of courage?
We have listened to many experts talk about how the Sunnis would not participate in the election. Polling sites in Abu Guyreb were moved to Gasaliya because the Iraqi Election Commission was concerned about security in Abu Guyrb. We watched thousands walk down the highway- Sunni Moslems- on the 7 mile round trip to the polling sites so they could vote. All under the threat that terrorists had been making that they would kill anyone who voted. How many Americans would do that?
All over Baghdad the story was the same and I could tell a dozen stories of great courage and determination. Despite the enemy’s campaign of terror, despite danger, threats, intimidation, and the sporadic incidents of violence and terror today, Iraqis turned out in determined, large numbers to vote. The excitement was moving. Even though the terrorists have said they will kill anyone with a “marked finger” (when you voted your finger was dipped in ink to keep people from voting a second time), voters paraded down
the street holding their fingers up in joy and overwhelming pride.
When I told one Iraqi I was sorry that people had died or been wounded today, he just said “freedom has a price, and this is the price that we must pay”. And every Iraqi I talked to said thank you to the United States for this opportunity, for this freedom, and how grateful they were for our help.
I am sure it will only be hours until you start hearing all the “experts”, most of which have never been to Iraq, start trying to convince us that today was flawed, failed, or somehow less than a wonderful day and a blow for freedom. They are the same people who say we are failing here, that you couldn’t do an election on the 30th of January, and on and on. It is true we haven’t “won” here yet. It is not predetermined that we will win, and it will take continued sacrifice and determination on our part. Those who hate freedom and democracy will still fight, many to the death, to try to stop this march to freedom and prosperity by the Iraqis with our help. They are terrified of the thought of a free and democratic Iraq that leads this whole region to a democratic future.
But despite this, I encourage you from here in Baghdad, for at least one day, to ignore the pundits and experts, to enjoy a day where a blow for freedom was struck. Know that somewhere in the world, because of the sacrifice of your friends, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, and countrymen, good won over evil, freedom over terror, and democracy over despotism.
Last June 30, Iraq was given their sovereignty. Today, they earned their freedom. And we should all be joyful for that.
All the Best,