“Insurgents” More Committed to Democracy in Iraq Than the American Left
PERHAPS THE MOST STUNNING REVELATION OF THURSDAY’S IRAQI ELECTION IS THIS: SUNNI “INSURGENTS” ARE MORE COMMITTED TO A PEACEFUL, STABLE, DEMOCRATIC IRAQ THAN THE AMERICAN LEFT. As an unprecedented 11 million Iraqis risked their lives yesterday to vote in that nation’s third free election since January, leftists in this country continued to undermine the military operation that permitted those elections to be held and renewed their call for the only measure that could assure their newfound freedom dissolves into an abyss of hopeless violence: immediate U.S. withdrawal.Of course, the attitudes and actions of people in Iraq are driven by the desire for a better life. This is true even of people (Sunnis) who have a history of support for the Saddam regime. Like whites in South Africa, they have learned that the old regime is now gone for good and they have to cope with democracy.
Sunnis Participate in Democracy
If any event could vindicate the president’s policy and demand Americans stay the course, Iraq’s parliamentary election was that event. Since the nation’s first free election in a generation this January, every segment of society has staked its future on the political process – including the “insurgents.” In one year, the most disaffected segments of Iraqi society have become politicized and decided – through charity or resignation – that only becoming part of a pluralistic, tolerant, democratic Iraq will give them any hope for the future.
How radically has Sunni opinion changed toward participating in Iraqi democracy? The Iraqi Islamic Army, an anti-American milita group, safeguarded the polls in Ramadi. Last January, there was a widespread Sunni boycott; yesterday, militants went into local neighborhoods to encourage Sunnis to vote. As a result, Sunni turnout in that city increased 4,000 percent over the October referendum.
The New York Times captured the mood in Sunni Iraq, where reporters found, “A new willingness to distance themselves from the insurgency, an absence of hostility for Americans, a casual contempt for Saddam Hussein, a yearning for Sunnis to find a place for themselves in the post-Hussein Iraq.”
Polls had to stay open an extra hour due to long lines. Some 80 percent of Saddam’s home province voted. Anbar province ran out of ballots as children danced in its peaceful streets. Four times as many people turned out in Tall Afar this time over last. Even in the former terrorist stronghold of Fallujah – where 70 percent of the populace cast ballots this week – Mayor Dari Abdul Hadi Zubaie said, “Right now, the city is experiencing a democratic celebration.” He compared the municipal euphoria to the Arab world’s most joyful celebration, a wedding. (In fact, a Kurdish couple got married at a polling center.)
The desire of the Iraqis for a better life sharply separates them from liberals and leftists in the U.S., who are often driven by their hostility toward George Bush.