Ink-stained index fingers put their mark on history Sunday.
Despite the ever-present threat of violence and death, Iraqis voted by the millions. Participation exceeded even the most optimistic forecasts.
Countless Iraqis walked for miles to get to their polling places, and then waited in line for up to eight hours to vote. The overall turnout somewhere between 50 and 70 percent was on a par with the United States, where many voters, under no threat of violence whatsoever, whine that they're being "intimidated" if they have to wait more than an hour.
We bet none of President Bush's U.S. election victories were as sweet as his Iraqi victory Sunday. It could scarcely have turned out better if he wrote the script himself.
It vindicates, at least for the present, his doctrine of spreading freedom and democracy around the world. The huge Iraqi vote will ripple in other Mideast capitals, where freedom and democracy are not so welcome.
Iraqi voters did more than elect leaders to write a constitution; they overwhelmingly rejected the insurgents' campaign to win power via fear and intimidation. So much for Sen. Edward Kennedy's put-down, just days before the election, that U.S. troops were part of the problem in Iraq, not the solution, and should start coming home immediately.
The far-left Massachusetts senator, who has been the face of the Democratic Party in recent weeks, has been all over TV charging that the insurgents were winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, not the Bush doctrine. We wonder if he saw those happy Iraqi voters on TV Sunday, thanking the American people, the U.S. president and the U.S.-led coalition for putting their nation on the road to self-determination.
And what about those European nations, especially France and Germany, which refused to commit troops to help liberate or stabilize Iraq and have disparaged elections in an "occupied" country? Isn't it time they lend a hand? And don't they find it the least bit ironic that elections are carried out in so-called "occupied" lands such as Iraq, Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories, but not in non-occupied nations, such as Syria, Saudi Arabia and Egypt?
The portents are now better than ever that Iraqis will follow up their courage at the voting booths with the courage to join the security forces that are being trained to protect their budding movement toward self-governance. The sooner that task is completed, the sooner an orderly U.S. troop draw-down can begin.
To be sure, there is still much work to be done by Iraqis and coalition forces before representative government can be assured. But Sunday's election was a great start, better than anyone expected. We believe our new Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has it right when she says freedom and self-determination are not just Western values, they are universal values.
If you don't believe that, then just ask those Iraqis who risked death, walked for miles, and stood in line for hours just to have a say in forming their own government.
The Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, Ga.)
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