Iraq’s Winds of Change: Rebirth of a Nation

The world will soon witness the rebirth of an independent Iraqi nation – soon free with sovereign elections and leaders elected by and for the Iraqi people. This Iraqi road has not and will not be smooth, but it will be free and it will be the property of the Iraqi people. Tyranny will be only part of Iraq’s history as its people join together to build a democracy from scratch. It will not be Jeffersonian, but it will be democracy. From the cathartic toppling of Saddam’s statue in Baghdad when our troops first entered to liberate Iraq to this weekend’s historic elections, even the most cynical cannot help but feel the spirit of liberation. This spirit is new for two generations that have not felt its likes in Iraq in over 50 years. A thriving Arabic nation of independent voters will certainly influence surrounding nations that share a common language and culture. Such commonality brings a certainty in coming generation and the winds of change among the greater Arab peoples. Winston Churchill once said “Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried.” American democracy even after our 229 years of refinement has its flaws. But to this day, the voting booth is the great equalizer. The starting place and barometer of freedom in a democratic society is that simple vote, which in act, in quality, in power, and in quantity is the same for all citizens. That singular vote is the crux of the freedom of elections for which so many in the Arab world and other places under tyranny continue to yearn. Iraq’s vote will bring a euphoric realization by many of its citizens that they will never again cast a vote out of fear. The Baath of Saddam’s old Iraq were known for tracking down those who vote against them in their sham elections. This Sunday, Iraqi citizens will cast their votes enjoying a genuine expression of life and liberty, which now carries a meaning – of representation, equality, liberty, and individuality. So many have expressed concern about Sunday’s possible turnout. Turnout in a free society often does not correlate to absolute safety but rather to the citizenry’s hunger and appetite for freedom. The price for this election has been high for the Iraqi people and for the coalition. But we should never forget the history of all free nations in the world that rejected tyranny. Never has the occasional resulting complications of democracy caused a people to reflect nostalgic on the oppressive evil of the tyranny they left behind. Sure, there will be a struggle to eliminate the enemies of freedom that continue to terrorize. They will only exploit freedom in impotent attempts to bring back oppression in the form of Islamist theocracy. But the enemies of freedom will simply begin to dissolve when their antagonists are no longer dismissible as foreigners, but rather become fellow Iraqis or fellow Muslims. Their whole mantle of conspiracy and non-Muslim hatred will disappear. We must also never forget, that there are a number of positive signs that liberty, free markets and peace will prevail for the majority in Iraq. The signs of success are there for those who care to see. The Iraqi experience will further succeed more convincingly as so many liberated nations have before it. Saddam created a cohort of terrorists who will certainly continue to throw a few remaining salvos before their death. But they are a dying breed. As we watch the returns there may well be a smattering of violence this weekend. Let us not forget that the majority who will vote and with whom the peace in Iraq lies are moderate peaceful Muslims who seek freedom and democracy and equal treatment and protection for all under the law regardless of faith, race, or creed. We will await in the weeks and months ahead the next steps in Iraq which will include among many the ratification of a new constitution by the Iraqi people. It will be possible for the majority to reject theocracy and accept secular freedoms. They need look no further than Iran to see the abysmal failure in every respect of a system of so-called ‘Islamic’ theocracy. Many Iraqi’s have discussed this failure publicly in the past few months and their desire not to follow Iran. It will be possible for the majority to embrace tolerance for all religions equally with no public preference for Islam. And it will be possible for the Iraqi populace to come to the realization that such universal tolerance and secular acceptance is at the core of Islamic practice. It will be soon clear that to most Muslims, the freedom of religion and the separation of religion and state is compatible with Islam and the Koran. It will all be possible only after this weekend’s election. This column originally appeared online at the Arizona Republic and can be found at this link at the Arizona Republic