The Adventures of Chester: The Voting Rights Act, 2005
[Chester here: This is another post from guest-blogger Steven Vincent. Be sure to check out his book "In the Red Zone" in the sidebar, and his blog here.]
Nasir Hasan once told me that on April 9, 2003--the day Saddam's statue fell in Baghdad's Firdusi Square--he learned that "history can actually smile."
Well, my friends, history has just smiled again.
I write this just after the polls have closed in Iraq. Over 70% turnout, we hear. Minimal violence. Election results, of course, are not yet known--except this: the big winners were the Iraqi people. And democracy.
Let us pause to consider: In a week when we commemorated the liberation 60 years ago of the Nazi death-camp at Auschwitz--on the day that, 72 years ago, Weimar president Paul Hindenburg appointed Adolph Hitler Chancellor of Germany--the forces of democracy and freedom have won their greatest victory since the fall of the Berlin Wall. There are few words to describe the magnitude and magnificence of this moment. Just as there are no adequate words to describe the sacrifices of the Iraqi people and American soldiers that brought the world this moment.
Look at these pictures from Iraq (scroll down). No doubt we'll be seeing many more shots like this. Average people. Two years ago few of us (including myself) gave much thought about them; they were unknown, unseen, blotted out by the abysmal shadow of Saddam Hussein. Yet today, they were the focus of the entire world. Today, the course of history pivoted on their fingertips--fingertips stained not with the blood of tyranny, but the ink of democracy.
And their enemies, what of them? What of those who indulged in grandiose fantasies of "blood baths" and "massacres" rather than engage in the quiet, humble process of elections? They--thank God--could not make good their threats in full. Oh, we can guess their next tact will be to claim the elections were "illegitimate" (unlike, of course, their nihlistic "insurgency"). But, as Osama bin Laden once said, history rides with the "strong horse." In the competition between Al Qaeda and democracy, Al Qaeda lost. Big time. Who's the strong horse now?
What to look for in the next few days: Sunni voting results from areas not under threat of terrorism. If we can determine that Sunnis would have voted if not in fear of their lives, then we can gauge the measure of their committment to democracy. If, as I suspect, it is high, then we must immediately replace the concept of a "Sunni boycott" with "Sunni vote suppression." Boycotts are voluntary acts of non-participation; suppression is when you use force to prevent someone from acting. And if terrorists and their clerical allies suppressed voting, then doesn't that "de-legitimize" their claim to represent Sunni Arabs? In this case, contending that Sunnis didn't vote because they supported Zarqawi and the Muslim Scholars Association would be like saying blacks didn't vote in the post-bellum South because they agreed with Jim Crow and the KKK.
And what of our friends on the Left? I'm sorry they can't share in our joy--because there is no reason they should not. Alas, like the Muslim Scholars Association, they, too, decided to "boycott" the elections. For example, here is what the great lefty website Daily Kos had to say yesterday:
The war is long past lost. Time to pack it in, and save the lives of our men and women in uniform that will otherwise face a barrage of bullets and RPG rounds during their extended stay in the desert.Clearly, Dean-shill Marko Zuniga has an odd perception of liberalism. On a day when millions of Iraqi citizens stood up against the specter of fascism to exercise their rights as free and dignified human beings, Zuniga claims the election is "simply an exercise in pretty pictures." Tell that to the Iraqis who danced and cried for joy at the chance to vote, Mr. Zuniga. Tell that to people who have suffered for decades under a tyrant whose crimes were brutal to the point of madness. Tell that to the men and women who died to make this day a reality.
But Zuniga can't top the outrage posted on TalkLeft. First, the site runs this excerpt from Chris Allbrittion's blog from Iraq:
So far, not as much violence as everybody feared. The question is why? Is the insurgency taking a pass on this one? (It's possible. Our sources in the insurgency say the election will make no difference to them, so why expend a lot of energy?) Is the insurgency much weaker than previously thought? Or is the level of security sufficient to keep it in check? If that's the case, then that is discouraging, too, because the measures that have kept today safe (so far) are truly draconian. No driving, dusk to dawn curfews, states of emergency. If that's what it takes to provide security in Iraq, why erase one police state only to replace it with another?Beneath this tactless, heartless passage, they post a photo of a U.S. soldier in sunglasses. Message received: the U.S. has formed a police state similar to Saddam's regime. Tell that to the Marines, folks.
But let's let that pass. Today is not for us, it is for the Iraqis. No doubt there will be further victories to enjoy and disappointments to mull over in the days to come. For now, let's contemplate the meaning of democracy and the spread of freedom in a hitherto dark land. And let us celebrate, for today history did more than smile. It cheered.
Posted by on January 30, 2005 12:01 PM to The Adventures of Chester