``At polling centers hit by explosions, survivors refused to go home, steadfastly waiting to cast their votes as policemen swept away bits of flesh.''
-- New York Times, Feb. 2, on the Iraqi election.
WASHINGTON -- Iraqis turned out to vote in great numbers, with great enthusiasm and determination. Surprise. The media have not been as surprised, noted a friend of mine, since the Nicaraguans turned out in their 1990 election to kick out the Sandinistas.
These two elections were 15 years apart, but the herd mentality of the liberal establishment never changes. They were shocked when those revolutionary darlings in Managua, magnet for long-haired Western ``sandalistas'' on revolutionary holiday, lost a free election -- to the candidate supported by the contras.
The liberal cliche of the time was that Third World people care more about food than about freedom. This kind of contempt for the political and spiritual dignity of people who live in different circumstances never goes away. It simply gets applied serially to different sets of patronized foreigners. Today we are assured with confidence that Arabs, consumed by tribe or religion or whatever, don't really care about freedom either.
On Jan. 30, millions of Iraqis said otherwise. They really do care about the right to speak freely and to vote secretly, the ordinary elements of democratic citizenship.
Why weren't Iraqis dancing in the streets on the day Saddam fell, the critics have asked sneeringly? Some Iraqis, the young and more reckless, did dance. Others, I suspect, were too scared, waiting to see how things turned out. Would the U.S. leave them hanging as in 1991? Would it leave behind a ``moderate'' Baathist thug in its place?
Nearly 22 months later, Iraqis seemed convinced that there would indeed be a new day. And that is when the dancing started -- voters dancing and singing and celebrating, thrusting into the air their ink-stained fingers, symbol of their initiation into democracy. It was an undeniable, if delayed, feeling of liberation. Said one prominent Shiite spokesman: ``We are celebrating the end of tyranny.''
As if to make a point even more definitively, it was not the suicide bombers but the voters they killed at the polls who were buried as martyrs. The remains of one suicide bomber were spat upon. Another suicide bomber, reported Iraq's interior minister, was a child with Down syndrome. There are no words for the depths of such depravity, sending an innocent to murder innocents, dressing this poor child in explosives and then leading him to his slaughter.
These are the people that Michael Moore, avatar of the Democratic left, calls the Minutemen. These are the people that Ted Kennedy, spokesman for the Democratic left, says are in a battle with the United States for ``the hearts and minds of the people.''
This is both stupid and pernicious. The U.S. is trying to win hearts and minds; the insurgents are trying to destroy hearts and minds, along with the bodies that house them. They have no program. They have no ideology. They call themselves the ``Party of Return.'' Their only platform is to return themselves to power to continue the rape, pillage, torture and murder of the last 30 years. That appeals to the minority of the minority that profited from these enterprises, and to nobody else.
Their foreign allies, the Zarqawi jihadists, do have a platform, which is to destroy and outlaw democracy as a form of apostasy. The Zarqawi persuasion was put to a test on Election Day. It lost.
Leading Democrats are discomfited by this demonstration of Iraqi support for the Bush Doctrine. John Kerry urges that we not ``overhype this election.'' At the very moment when the first seed of democracy is planted, the Democratic leaders want the United States to turn its attention immediately to withdrawal. Kennedy demands a timetable. Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate leader Harry Reid demand a definitive exit strategy.
This might be terrifying to Iraqis who just risked their lives to get democracy under way, and who still remember the Baathist slaughter of tens of thousands 14 years ago when the United States urged them to rise against their oppressors and then abandoned them. But it will not be terrifying to Iraqis because they know that this is a different time and a different Bush. He won't listen to the Saudis. He won't listen to the Democrats. If the world knows anything about George W. Bush, it is that he does what he says. Iraq's president called this talk about withdrawal ``complete nonsense.'' Which is why the Iraqis could dance.