Seed of democracy planted, farmer’s rotten

DKS Editorial Board

The Iraqis have been given a taste of democracy.

Iraq has reached its nadir and is now on the upswing. From invasion to occupation to elections, the guerillas hoped to bring a battered country to its knees Sunday.

It was the other way around.

Sunday’s election in Iraq was the first free one in half a century. Voter turnout was at least 57 percent — not bad for a country where voting could mean being blown apart by bombs.

The New York Times reported a “party atmosphere” in the streets of Iraq, where as many as 8 million people showed up to vote. Some of the polling locations were filled with dancing and jubilation for the new-found freedom.

Iraqis deserve this first step to normalcy, to becoming a democratic country. Our country has a responsibility to see it through.

Though a hardship, we need to continue providing troop support as we train Iraqis to handle their own security. The money must continue to flow in our multibillion-dollar commitment to Iraq. We started the conflict. We must see it through.

It’s difficult for us to relate to a people who faced the stress of disobeying a vicious dictator. Life has been chaos for these people, and our presence hasn’t helped. Many areas of Iraq are still without power, gas and other basic necessities, a situation that didn’t even occur under Saddam Hussein.

The New York Times reported that one Iraqi voter, Musel Aziz, yearned for peace.

“I and my people have taken part in this election,” Aziz said. “We want to lead a normal life, just like people in neighboring countries.”

A simple request that will require much commitment.

The upbeat news about Sunday’s election doesn’t mean all is well. At least 44 people died in suicide bombings and mortar volleys Sunday. Death and destruction will continue, but an overall improvement is on the Iraqi side.

It’s important to remember the positive results of the recent election are no excuse for starting the war. The American people were told in 2003 that Saddam was an imminent threat that had to be dealt with.

We all remember the doomsday predictions made during the 2003 State of the Union Address — predictions that included an estimated 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent. Inspections for weapons of mass destruction have been called off. There weren’t any weapons.

It is incredibly generous, but disingenuous, for us to want to give a country the possibility of a democracy. But we shouldn’t kid ourselves into thinking our goal was freedom all along. President Bush made an intelligence blunder of epic proportions.

A major test of our involvement in Iraq has been passed, and for this we should be applauded. The world will be watching Iraq the next few months, as echoed by Qasim Muhammad Saleh, an Iraqi.

“After casting my ballots, I’m hoping that the situation will improve.”

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.