Sunday, January 30, 2005

"Today, there's no voice louder than that of freedom"

Congratulations to the Iraqi people for successfully holding their first elections today. Initial reports are saying that 60% of the population voted, which is about the same number as voted in the last Canadian election and we did not have to face violence.

People stood in line to vote understanding the risks that were confronting them, so that their voices could finally be heard. As the Iraqi bloggers Omar and Mohammed have pointed out: the people have won.

For all of those claiming that these elections are irrelevant because of all the problems that remain, I want them to go to Iraq and speak to today's voters and tell them that after everything they've gone through, today didn't count.

Michael Ignatieff's piece in today's New York Times Magazine discusses western defeatism in the face of the election.

"Beneath the fire blanket of defeatism, everyone -- for and against the war -- is apparently preparing exit strategies. Those who were against tell us that democracy can't be imposed at gunpoint, when the actual issue is whether it can survive being hijacked at gunpoint. Other experts tell us how ''basically'' violent Iraqi society is or how tribal it is, as a way of explaining why insurgency has taken root and democracy is dying on the vine. A more subtle kind of condescension claims that Iraq has been scarred by Baathism and therefore cannot produce free minds. All this savant expertise ignores the evidence that Iraqis want free institutions and that their leaders have fought to establish them in almost impossible circumstances."

No, this will not make Iraq a perfect society overnight, but now the Iraqis have had a chance to speak and to say who they would like to represent them in building their new society. How can anyone claim that this doesn't matter? Especially those of us in the West who take that right for granted?

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