WASHINGTON, D.C. -- By Feb. 1, it will have happened twice in less than four months, though it is more rare than an eclipse of the sun, a shooting star or a volcano eruption. It ought to be celebrated as a magnificent, historic event, but no: the Jan. 30 Iraqi election, like the October election in Afghanistan signifying the birth of a new democracy, and the first vote of a long-oppressed people, is being presented by the media as a dangerous event to be avoided at all costs.
For months, the so-called mainstream media has struggled to depict the Iraqi elections as a fools' errand foisted on the people of Iraq by George Bush. When I was in London earlier this week, the BBC and many European newspapers were predicting an "invalid outcome" because "the Sunni population is boycotting the vote." On Tuesday, Senate opponents of the president's Iraq policy lined up behind former Ku Klux Klansman Robert Byrd and Teddy "the swimmer" Kennedy to pillory Dr. Condoleezza Rice -- and declare Iraq to be "a quagmire ... a total failure."
But despite a pre-election poll of 33,000 Iraqis by the Arabic paper Asharq Al-Awsat, in which 72.4 percent said they intend to vote -- including 33 percent of the population in the heavily Sunni central provinces -- the U.S. media continue to denigrate the process. "Is a 50 or 60 percent turnout enough?" reporters have skeptically been asking the White House, State Department and every U.S. and Iraqi official they can find in Baghdad. But when 60 percent of American voters went to the polls in November, it was considered a "historic" turnout.
All of this misses the point. Though the final tally won't be known for days, Sunday's election is already a success -- a "grand moment in Iraqi history," as the president predicted in his news conference on Wednesday. It is a remarkable accomplishment -- first because the terrorists tried so hard to stop it and failed; second, because more than 17,000 candidates are willing to put their lives on the line, vying for 270 seats in the first freely elected National Assembly in the long history of Mesopotamia; and finally, because so many Iraqi women have braved bombs, bullets, threats and intimidation to go to the polls.
Last October, whole Afghani families walked miles, skirting minefields and defying threats from Taliban thugs, just to vote. Little noted by my "media colleagues" with cameras at the ready to capture the carnage was the amazing moment when Moqadasa Sidiqi, a 19-year-old woman, cast the first ballot in Afghanistan's history. A woman cast the first ballot!
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.