Americans snatched the victory from Iraqis. We defeated Saddam, not the Iraqi people. If they were going to take pride in their liberation they would need to feel some ownership of it.
The Iraqis now have their heroic story of resistance. Americans could not vote for them. We could not walk down Iraq's most dangerous highway in their place. Iraqis seized their own future. They have their narrative, their symbols, their victory. John Kerry grumpily says we shouldn't "over-hype" the election, which is just one more grain of sand on the vast beach of reasons why he deserves to remain the junior senator from Ted Kennedy's state. We should hype this to the hilts. Not as a Republican or "neoconservative" I-told-you-so - the pro-war side has gotten too many important things wrong to ever blithely use I-told-you-so and Iraq in the same sentence - but rather as Americans: We should hype this because the heroic effort of millions of Iraqis to un-pry the clenched fists of murderers is the stuff nations are built on. Our public diplomacy requires such hyping.
He's right, of course. This election has reminded me that I've not been entirely taken over by cynicism; it has, in fact, restored my faith in human nature. The scenes of jubilant Iraqis enthusiastically embracing their new right to vote remind me of the scenes of the Berlin Wall being torn down. And they seem to have had a similar effect on a lot of the anti-warriors, too: many of those who opposed the war are nonetheless agreeing that the election is a Good Thing. And, in the face of the footage, those who oppose the election are revealing to the public what utter bastards they are.
Jonah provides a link to this report in The Washington Post:
The young man wore a winter jacket over his explosive vest and approached the polling station with his hands in the pockets.
"Take your hands out of your pockets," said Ali Jabur, the Iraqi police officer in charge of patting down voters on the street outside. The young man obliged by throwing his arms wide, and blew them both to bits.
Three hours later, in streets still littered with the bomber's remains, some very determined voters streamed into the Badr Kobra High School for Girls, intent on casting the ballots that they called a repudiation of the terrorist attacks meant to scare them away.
When the suicide bomber at the high school struck shortly before 11 a.m., the polling site had been growing busy after a slow start. But Hadi Saleh Mohammed, the election official in charge, felt he had no choice but to close it down. There were the wounded to evacuate, a gruesome mess to clean up, security to reassess.
While all that went forward, the voters stood at the end of the block, waiting.
"They wanted to come back in," Mohammed said. "They didn't want to go back home."
This is heroic. Compare the Spanish to these people:
"I would have been happy to have died voting at the time of this explosion, because this is terrorism mixed with rudeness," said Saif Aldin Jarah, 61, a balding man with white hair who leaned on his daughter, Shyamaa, as he shuffled into the afternoon sunlight after casting his ballot.
"When terrorism becomes aimless and without a goal, it becomes rudeness," Jarah said, holding aloft a finger stained purple with indelible ink.
That may be the most damning use of understatement I've ever heard.