It's been just a bit less than seven years since then President George Bush ordered a surprise bombing on the palace of Saddam Hussein. In the interim, Iraq has gone through a remarkable transformation. Only four short years, the violence was so intense that most everyone thought loss was assured and it would soon disintegrate into a failed state or worse. Since, the country has roared back from the brink of uncontrolled chaos and is quickly becoming a model of Democracy and representative government for the Middle East. So, that is the backdrop for the vote in parliamentary elections in Iraq tomorrow. Those elections are nothing like the elections here. Already a car bomb has exploded and Al Qaeda promises to kill anyone that leaves their home to vote.
A car bomb exploded near a bus for pilgrims in the Shiite holy city of Najaf on Saturday, killing at least three people, including two Iranians, on the eve of key national elections, officials said.
Blasts in other Iraqi cities have killed dozens this week, underscoring warnings that insurgents would attempt to disrupt the vote with violence. An Al Qaeda front group issued a statement on Friday saying those who leave their homes on election day risk attack.
We've been here before. For each election, Al Qaeda sets off bombs and threatens anyone that dares to vote. They are successful in taking lives but entirely unsuccessful in scaring anyone from their new found rights.
In fact, as remarkable as the elections themselves will be, the run up to the elections have proven just how far Iraq has come. Their were a series of debates. These debates weren't only broadcast throughout Iraq, but through satellite, broadcast throughout the Middle East. The debates were so provocative that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was moved to call in himself to one of the aftershows and comment on one of the topics being debated.
The station said that they cut seven minutes from its running time to make more
room for advertisements from various campaigns.
And the ads don’t come cheap: 15 minutes of airtime cost $100,000, according to station officials.
The shows are also being seen outside Iraq. Ms. Qaysei said she was pleasantly surprised when Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak, called the station and praised the debate program.
President Bush firmly believed that liberty was a universal concept. His critics mocked him. They said that the Middle East wasn't ready for that kind of freedom. Yet, Iraqis vote in much larger percentages than we do, even though they face the threat of death when they do. These debates are among the most popular television in Iraq. They're our American Idol.
The critics also claimed that Iraq would quickly become nothing more than a puppet of Iran. Those critics were again wrong. They underestimated the sophistication of Iraqi society and politics.
In fact, Iraq's parliamentary system is far too sophisticated for that. While Shia are by far the most dominant sect, it's far too splintered politically to ever cause Iraq to merely be Iran's puppet. There are those Shia that merely want to be Iran's puppet and there are others that are Secular. Both the Sunni and Kurds have no use for Iran. In a parliamentary system, one party can't rule alone and so the interests of Iran must be balanced with the interests of smaller players in order to build a coalition.
That's the most remarkable thing of all. In seven short years, Iraq has gone from a dictatorship ruled by a strong man to a representative government GOVERNED by a sophisticated parliamentary system. The ruling government lead by Nuri Al Maliki is made up of a coalition of six different parties. This election features about six thousand candidates and they are all vying for votes by giving their platforms on issues like the future of Kirkuk.
General Petreaus often said that in counter insurgency there is no one moment where victory is made. Instead, the people reject the insurgents and embrace democracy. We have victory. The election, the debates, and the manner in which the Iraqi people have embraced their new found liberty is victory. No bombs, explosions, or fear will ever make them waver from what they have.