January 30, 2005

Quote of the Day

YES,YES, I did it. I have the courage to do it. (Hat Tip: Glenn)

--Iraqi blogger Rose, a female civil engineer in Baghdad with a three year old daughter, in a post entitled "I Did It, I Voted."

So did many others (perhaps 60-72% turnout). We will have to wait a few more days for the final, official numbers and there will be the inevitable disputes about methodology, or whether enough voters had been registered, or whether the relatively light turn-out in places like Fallujah (though some people voted there too) have a material impact on the election's legitimacy. But any judicious observer, in my view, must be awed and humbled by this wondrous spectacle of Iraqis exercising their vote in such large numbers--in the face of a fanatical campaign of fear and intimidation. As Michael Ignatieff wrote today:

The election in Iraq is without precedent. Never, not even in the dying days of Weimar Germany, when Nazis and Communists brawled in the streets, has there been such a concerted attempt to destroy an election through violence - with candidates unable to appear in public, election workers driven into hiding, foreign monitors forced to 'observe' from a nearby country, actual voting a gamble with death, and the only people voting safely the fortunate expatriates and exiles abroad.

Indeed. Which makes the turnout all the more impressive (and the relative indifference to it in parts of Europe, and certain quarters in America too, particularly underwhelming and sad). We have become spoiled in the West--but other peoples, less blessed with the fruits of liberty now taken for granted by so many--they have again shown today that they will risk their very lives to exercise universally desired rights if only given the opportunity. What a tonic such noble courage--particularly in these cynical times in which swines like a Michael Moore are feted in places like the dumbed-down precincts of Cannes.

All these electoral going-ons in Iraq reminded me of a brief break in law school, when I went back to Bosnia (I had worked in the Balkans in the mid-90s) for a stint as an election monitor in 1998. I was assigned to a town in a corner of northwestern Bosnia called Velika Kladusha. Balkan hands will recall some intra-Muslim struggles had occurred there as between local warlord Fikrit Abdic's militia and Alija Izetbegovic's central party in Sarajevo. I was taken aback by the numbers of people who came out, who hungered for their right to vote. We had to toss bottles of water out to the thirsty crowd that had waited for hours as we registered them at the polling station. It began to rain and the crowd rushed to a covered alcove just outside the door--pushing against a large window-pane that ran the length of the entrance--so that the glass appeared to sway under the pressure of dozens of bodies pressed against it. I was worried the window would shatter--injuring many and making a tense situation much more so. But, I remember thinking, how powerful an image! A press of human bodies, braving local thugs, the inclement weather, the long wait and thirst--to the point that a large window would burst from the sheer human weight--well symbolizing their so tangible desire to vote.

We have seen such tenacity, courage, and optimism today in Iraq--only ten times over. Today, it is not hyperbolic to say, what Abraham Lincoln called humanity's "better angels" triumphed against a fascistic campaign of terror. The ink-stained fingers, proudly displayed by Iraqi voters exiting polling stations, now joins the pantheon of images in the iconography of human freedom's long and perilous voyage. Today is a day of hope, a day of exaltation, a day, above all, where we in the West should be humbled by the courage of the Iraqi people.

UPDATE: An American contact on the ground, closely involved with the elections process, E-mails:

Best anecdote of the day: in Qadissiyah, voters waiting in line fled when an insurgent arrived on the scene with an RPG. He fired and missed. An hour later, the same voters--with more neighbors, friends and family, came back to finish the job. That's why the bad guys lost today.

Yep, it sure is. The bad guys lost because the power of human courage never ceases to amaze. And, of course, because coalition forces (and nascent Iraqi ones) helped make it all possible.

Posted by Gregory at January 30, 2005 03:55 PM | TrackBack (13)

So, where are all the Anti-American idiots now? I wonder if the comments sections will be filled with apologies?
They're probably trying to find a way to get their pouting pictures removed from those 'I'm sorry' websites.

Posted by: Les Nessman at January 30, 2005 05:07 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Re: Les Nessman

The Anti-Vote mass media can best be summed up by this Scrappleface article: Iraqi Voting Disrupts News Reports of Bombings.

Posted by: BigFire at January 30, 2005 05:21 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I still worry this is the opening act to a full-on Iraqi civil war, but it's nevertheless a great day for democracy. Congratulations to all the Iraqis who voted. Tomorrow the hard work resumes.

Posted by: Guy at January 30, 2005 06:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The vaunted Arab Street finally speaks.

Posted by: JP Sobel at January 30, 2005 08:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Too many Americans are complacient and forget the value of freedom which we take for granted, but which our ancestors who first came to this conuntry all understood. We should be thankful to the brave Iraqi's who are teaching us what our forefathers knew.

Posted by: table talk at January 30, 2005 10:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

There actually were anti-vote protests today, in Madrid.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at January 30, 2005 10:26 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Shrewsbury, NJ has a way of locally showing support for Iraqi voters: We're dipping index fingers in anything colored that sticks (preferably purple) and waving 'em in public. I notice that not many known retro-dems participate. Fahrenheit 1/20!

Posted by: John Blake at January 30, 2005 10:51 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Shrewsbury, NJ has a way of locally showing support for Iraqi voters: We're dipping index fingers in anything colored that sticks (preferably purple) and waving 'em in public. I notice that not many known retro-dems participate. Fahrenheit 1/30!

Posted by: John Blake at January 30, 2005 10:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"The vaunted Arab Street finally speaks."

That statement is the best I have come across. The news media frequently cites the "Arab street", but that has never been more than the product of totalitarian regimes and compromised media. With the creation of a new Arab democracy, the feelings and beliefs of the Arab populace will be truly known. .

Posted by: Rick at January 30, 2005 11:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Fahrenheit 130: the temperature at which freedom burns brightly.

Posted by: TallDave at January 31, 2005 12:33 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Rite of passage. Welcome, Iraq.

Posted by: q at January 31, 2005 04:44 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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