Perhaps four words - resolve, courage, sacrifice and extraordinary - best define the outcome of the elections in Iraq.
The resolve of President Bush and the people of the United States, the courage and sacrifice of primarily the American military and the Iraqi people (as well as the post-Saddam Iraqi leadership), and the extraordinary electoral results.
In the run-up to the election, many among the doubters and naysayers practically cheered for failure. They were all negativism, cynicism and gloom. Remember? From all the predictable sectors - the Old Media (which, somewhere along the way, redefined the terrorists as "insurgents"), Old Europe and even non-Iraqis Osama and Zarqawi the unrelenting cries went up:
Bush is a dunce, interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi a stooge. Postpone the elections. The Sunni Baathists who prospered under Saddam won't vote, the Kurds won't vote, the Shiites won't vote - nobody will vote. Terror is rampant, intimidation high. The Iraqis have no tradition of democracy, no heart for liberty. There will be a bloodbath, a civil war. The outcome will be illegitimate. The election will be "a disaster because it's a result of blunder after blunder after blunder" (Teddy Kennedy).
And: The U.S. lost the war. Elections are unadulterated idiocy. A sham election is not worth the murder, mayhem and horror it will cause. Muslims and Arabs are unsuited for democracy. It's all America's fault: The problem in Iraq is the U.S. generally - U.S. troops in particular. Like Vietnam, Iraq's a quagmire; bring the boys home. Americans don't support the death of Americans fighting for Iraqis who won't defend themselves and don't believe in freedom. . . .
Serial beheader Zarqawi summed it all up in the week before the election. In pamphlets and video threats, he issued a "final warning" to Iraqis, vowed to "wash the streets with the voters' blood" and "declared a fierce war on this evil principle of democracy and those who follow this wrong ideology."
Remember all that terrorist hate and - from the usual sectors - all that smug racism and elitism?
Recall, please, the October elections in Afghanistan: The cynics were similarly pessimistic, yet the first Afghan elections in 5,000 years were a resounding success. Within months, so were the elections in Ukraine and the Palestinian territories, and so are the elections now in Iraq. The Iraqis were supposed to be giving the U.S. and democracy the midfinger salute. Somehow, the stink-finger of dismissive hostility to the very notion of liberty became the blue ink-finger of proud free expression.
Iraqis turned out in droves. Upward of 8 million walked miles, thronged 6,000 polling stations, stood in line for hours, made their choices - and rejoiced in the streets for longer hours thereafter. Iraqi voter turnout was higher than usual turnout in the U.S. Somehow, pre-election predictions about what would happen on Iraq's election day proved as wrong as Nov. 3 exit polls were regarding what would happen here.
Thirty-five Iraqis died - a measure of Iraqi courage and sacrifice. And in all, 1,500 Americans have died - testimony to their courage and sacrifice equal to that of the millions of millions of Americans who preceded them on behalf of liberty for millions from Germany and France to South Korea and Japan, and of course ultimately for the liberty of nearly 300 million now living in the United States.
Some things are worth fighting and dying for, liberty foremost among them.
The unremitting negos said the Bush administration had no plan to "win the peace." Oh? Iraq, the essence of the area long known as Mesopotamia, now boasts its first freely elected National Assembly since Babylon. The Assembly comprises 275 seats filled by individuals elected from among 7,500 candidates representing 111 political parties. That's not a bad start toward getting the peace fully won, but completing the task still means staying the course.
Prior to Iraq's elections in a region where the "winners" too often have killed the losers, the prospective (Sunni) losers proactively set to terminating the likely (Shiite) winners - in addition to every American they could. Desperate Sunni terrorists may keep on, and the forces of freedom may have to keep watering the tree of liberty with the blood of tyrants - as Jefferson reminded us the tree from time to time requires. And the victorious Shiites just might not take out in reprisal against the Sunnis - given that the chief imam at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Sheik Abdulrahman al-Sudaism, cites Islam as "the religion of moderation." We'll see.
Following the elections, Allawi noted: "It's the first time Iraqis have been able to decide their fate and destiny, and to challenge the terrorist forces. This is a good start for democracy, the rule of law, and the stability of Iraq and the whole region."
Said an Iraqi shopkeeper: "I will vote even if it costs me my life."
So who can contend now that resolve, courage and sacrifice have not achieved so far an extraordinary result on behalf of the liberty that - in this world - is the ultimate cause?