On the night gold dust fell on the stars in Hollywood, millions of men and women were putting their lives on the line in Iraq merely by casting a vote. Hollywood nervously measured the size of the television audience for its Academy Awards ceremony while a different statistic was measured in Iraq, where 62 percent of the eligible voters demonstrated courage at the polls.
Accepting his Oscar for writing the best original screenplay, Mark Boal said he tried, in writing "Hurt Locker," to capture the essence of the experience of "men on the front lines of an unpopular war." He was a journalist embedded with American soldiers before he was a screenwriter, and his story reflected his true-life experiences with the men assigned to the grim and fearful task of dismantling the roadside bombs that have killed dozens of Americans.
To earn its gold, the Hollywood Reporter observed, "Hurt Locker" had to break "the Iraq War Curse." This was a war that had failed to find an audience, and it's a delicious irony that "Hurt Locker," with its celebration of the American soldier, beat out "Avatar," a stale tale of an imperialist America exploiting innocents on another planet.
Neither should we lose sight of the irony that the curse was broken at the moment Iraqis of rival religious sects and political parties defied the terrorists in their midst. The violence continued -- more than three dozen Iraqis were killed on election day. But the elections were nevertheless a triumph of the spirit and the will of the people to satisfy their hunger for freedom.
If the popular culture is a footnote to history, democratic elections are the text, the real thing and the right stuff. No matter how Americans felt, and feel, about the Iraq War, only the most cynical partisans now refuse to share the celebration of the triumph of the Iraqi people. Preserving the democratic way of life is always messy business, wherever it takes place, and it's particularly difficult in the Middle East, where the seeds of democracy are just now taking root in a garden of evil.
Belaboring ire against George W. Bush for going to war in Iraq no longer serves anyone -- including Barack Obama -- well. The surge worked. American soldiers are still there to guard the peace, and the results of the election will determine whether they can be withdrawn according to the ambitious timetable set by Obama.