Up until now, we have heard only from Iraq’s violent minority. But last Sunday, the silent majority spoke.
Despite weeks of mounting violence, threats from terrorist groups and suicide bombings that materialized, an estimated eight million Iraqis chose to seize control of their own future and cast votes in the first free elections in Iraq in a half a century.
Obviously, a long road lies ahead for Iraq. The insurgents still remain committed to derailing democracy, and more violence is likely. But at least now there is no doubt about the will of the people.
We are accustomed to seeing images of shootings, rocket propelled grenade attacks, car bombs and beheadings coming from Iraq. We can’t blame the media. Such images are much more compelling than ordinary Iraqis doing ordinary things like sitting in their living rooms, playing soccer or going to school.
I can’t imagine New York tabloids would sell many papers if their headlines celebrated people riding the subway, walking their dogs or eating corned beef sandwiches, yet that is how New Yorkers live their lives.
While understandable, the media’s focus on the insurgency in Iraq has allowed the angry left to argue that the insurgents speak for a majority of Iraqis. When insurgents blow up cars in public places and decapitate innocent people on video, the left portrays it as a popular uprising. To the left, it is as if Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is Patrick Henry and his terrorist acts are akin to the Boston Tea Party.
But on Sunday, these cynics of the left were proven dead wrong. Whatever one may think of the decision to go to war or of the American presence in Iraq, it should be abundantly clear that Iraqis want democracy. To all those racists who say that an Arab democracy is an oxymoron, Iraqis have just thumbed their noses at you.
Sunday was not the day of people like Zarqawi. Sunday was the day of people like Najaha Hassan Rahadi, an Iraqi voter who told The Washington Post that she spent two years in jail and saw six of her brothers executed under the rule of Saddam Hussein. “I want to elect a government that represents me,” she said to the paper from her wheelchair.
Another voter, Shamal Hekeib, told the Associated Press, “I am doing this because I love my country . . . We are Arabs, we are not scared and we are not cowards.”
While the official numbers will not be known for days and will surely be disputed, early estimates put overall voter turnout at about 60 percent. This means despite violence that claimed 44 lives, turnout may well have been on par with the 2004 U.S. presidential election. And last year’s presidential election had the highest turnout since 1968.
Even among the minority Sunni population, who were urged to boycott the elections by religious leaders and threatened with death by insurgents, turnout may have been a higher-than-expected 40 percent.
It’s one thing for a person who was against the war in Iraq to argue that, on balance, it was not worth the risk of American lives. But many in the anti-war crowd have developed such a visceral hatred toward anything having to do with America or President Bush that they won’t admit that any good whatsoever has come of the American invasion. Now they will have to explain the Iraqis who walked miles to exercise their right to vote.
There are those who think that the American invasion of Iraq was about killing civilians and torturing prisoners. They will now have to contend with the images of Iraqi voters celebrating in the streets, and flaunting their ink-stained fingers to television cameras.
Now that they are confronted with these images, critics of the war, especially those in the international community, must move beyond their hatred of President Bush. Even France and Germany, who lobbied against the war, must throw their support behind the U.S.-led effort to defeat the insurgency and create a democratic Iraq. They owe it to the silent majority.
Philip Klein, a former Reuters financial reporter, is a journalist based in New York. His articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and The Boston Globe.
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Joseph Hammond
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Emma Elliott Freire