WASHINGTON -- Iraq's new governing coalition is the most compelling evidence yet that President Bush's decision to topple its terrorist regime was the right course of action for all the right geopolitical reasons.
Four months after Iraq went to the polls to elect a permanent parliament to represent them, Iraqi political leaders -- Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites -- put their sectarian differences behind them to choose a prime minister who is forming a new Cabinet to govern the country.
The decision to put aside deep disagreements for the greater good of Iraq's democratic government, still in its infancy, dealt another sharp blow to al Qaeda's evil efforts to ignite a civil war and plunge the country into chaos.
Prime Minister Jawad Maliki is a hard-nosed leader who has the skills to bring factions together under the umbrella of a greater Iraq. He fought Saddam Hussein in the 1980s and was forced to flee his country to save his life. "He is an Iraqi patriot," said U.S. Ambassador Khalilzad.
For a time there, many questioned whether the Iraqis could overcome their political and sectarian differences to pick a prime minister who was accepted by a broad majority coalition. Months of internal bickering, a surge in terrorist violence aimed at triggering a war between Sunnis and Shiites, and a refusal to even meet with one another led many to predict that perhaps democracy was impossible for the Iraqis.
Last weekend's sudden breakthrough dispelled those doubts. Like the regional and political differences that delayed the Constitutional founding of our own republic, the Iraqis leaders came together in the final moments and breathed new life into their historic democratic movement.
Without expressly saying it, their action declared there would be no civil war -- only a united front in the war to defeat the terrorists in their midst who see democracy as the greatest threat to their insurgency.
At the same time, it was another strategic victory for the United States and for Bush's policy to plant the seeds of democracy in the Middle East region's terrorist-breeding grounds. It was also another dramatic reminder of what his policy has accomplished there -- replacing terrorist regimes with free, independent, self-governing democracies that are pro-West and solid allies of the U.S. war against terror.
This is the central purpose behind what we are doing there. There are those who want to revisit other reasons that were part of the justification for going into Iraq, to eliminate weapons of mass destruction and all the rest. But those reasons, however unproven they may be now, were only ancillary to the core geopolitical goal of turning a dangerous, war-making place of terrorist-run regimes into peaceful allies aligned with the United States and our war against the kind of people who attacked us and are plotting to do so again.
Last week's coalition breakthrough was certainly a victory for our brave soldiers who brought this about. But it was also a victory for the policy that Bush has put in place and for sticking with it through good days and bad, victories and defeats, and the ups and downs of a struggling country that has experienced, in Lincoln's words, "a new birth of freedom."
Bush spoke with the new leaders of Iraq's government Sunday, telling them how proud he was of their selfless actions and urging them to unite their country," reminding them of their "awesome" responsibilities to build a better life for all Iraqis "regardless of their religious status and nature" and "to defeat the terrorists."
Meantime, let us not forget the war against the terrorists in Afghanistan where the latest reports show that the U.S.-trained Afghan National Army is growing in strength and confidence. After months of pessimistic, defeatist stories from the region, NBC News aired a report last week saying "for the first time, Afghan troops, some 40,000 strong, are able to sustain their own fight, supplying their own front lines with food and ammo."
Last week was a bad week for the Taliban. "The ANA inflicted heavy casualties on the Taliban gunmen and held its own during operation 'Mountain Lion,' the biggest joint operation since the start of the war," NBC's Jim Maceda reported.
"They (the Afghan soldiers) finally have something to grab onto, a nation to fight for, a cause worthy of fighting and dying such as we the American soldiers do," said Sgt. Bill Yenser of the 10th Mountain Division.
The struggle to defeat the forces of terror and strengthen the forces of freedom will go on for some time, but last week democracy and freedom won some big victories. George W. Bush had a lot to do with that.